The Continuing Trauma of A Prioritized Father Figure

Whether he is mentally ill or just a jerk, I am still forced up close and personal to my ill/abusive/maladaptive ex-partner on a weekly, if not daily basis. Even now that I have spoken up for myself to the degree that was deemed a good idea and a sound strategy in court, I have to hear his voice on video calls to/from my children. I can’t say anything negative about him to the children, even to answer their questions about why we don’t perform more activities together. Which makes sense if I was a being a bitter, unfounded, spouting lunatic, but when they ask questions that I can’t honestly answer because the truthful answer might be slightly negative to my abuser, it’s very problematic. I can’t tell them, even when they are old enough to understand, that he got drunk and purposefully locked me out of the house while taunting me that the baby was inside crying for me. I can’t tell them that he is ill. I can’t tell them that their friends’ parents will meet him, sense the vast unbalance, and no longer desire playdates with them.

I have to watch him give himself a reputation in their eyes as “the god cop” who doesn’t dole out the consequences, stability, or the boundaries that they’ll need to be better functioning adults themselves. I have to wait for him to turn his neglect/insensitivity/strange world views/self-focus/instability on them. I have to stomach that they might (at some point, as mostly capable-of-self-defence teenagers) wish to live with this poorly functioning good cop. I have to let them have not just video calls, but two weekends a month in his dysfunctional care, awash in his greedy, lavish, unrealistic sentiments, ideas, mis-perceptions, and actions about the world.

I have to let the children’s teachers invite him to not just to social events where he might turn his misguiding charm and weird social norms on the kids’ friends and their parents, but to official school functions where I have to try and cope not only with his awful presence, but his assertions and attempts to get the teachers and therapists to listen to him. I have to try to nicely communicate his dangers zones with the educators, instructors, doctors, camp counselors, and everyone — without flagging drama or negativity or unfounded bitterness — that there are very real and serious reasons why he has zero custody.

Today is an IEP meeting. Will he rush inside with all of his charm and sparkle turned way up? Will he rush in late? Will he dress up and try to influence them with faux respectability? Will he show up wearing dirty, ill-fitting clothes, with an un-showered smell, crazy hair, and picked-at acne? Will he be on his best behavior, just listening and making brief comments, so that I seem paranoid for even suggesting he might do otherwise? Will he try to make assertions that I’ll have to put in their place, because, “Really, you guys — he gets no input. For really important reasons.” Will he snark at me? Will he successfully provoke my inner mama bear? Will he find a way to seem balanced and reasonable so that they seriously consider his thoughts, which, even if officially stricken remain in their minds? Will he try again to assert that our child isn’t on the autism spectrum? Will he overemphasize how well the child is doing cognitively and play way up the “trauma” he believes the children to be experiencing by the little separation and stability away from him that I have managed? Will he bring up a recent scheduling miss-step that was his but he perceives as mine, which led to him arriving at a children’s event with families and teachers but not us?

Today is my daughter’s third birthday. Will he show up late to dinner and then decline to eat a slice of her cake when she requests it? Will he imply that we’re fat for eating it? Will he imply that it is disgusting junkfood so that she won’t want the cake that she requested either? Is he going to bring up the ten harsh emails he sent yesterday, trying to control and belittle me and the children, despite my sole custody?

He will certainly be a manic, awkward, overbearing clown of spazzy entertainment that the kids will love. They will form a memory that he was the main attraction at the family party with the perfect pink cake and balloons and singing and candles and presents. They will not notice the rest of us planning, providing, and giving examples of how to be socially appropriate adults who make eye contact, correctly read the situation, and don’t roughhouse, wrestle, tickle, and laugh too loudly at every single opportunity. How long will it take my babies to recognize that, not just today, but always, he is an unbalanced, inappropriate heartbreaker full of glitter who will let them down and fail them over and over again, because he’s not capable of doing otherwise. He really can’t read the situation and interact appropriately. Will they ever notice that he does not open all of the life doors for them that need opening? Will they ever notice that he did not demonstrate or teach them to use empathy over arrogance? Will they ever think back and remember me cowering from him while I was trying to make sure that they have everything that they need to learn about being nicely human?

When even just his voice sends my fight or flight “what will happen next???” mode into overdrive, how on earth am I supposed to cope with how he may or may not behave and how our others might perceive him to the detriment of our children? How many of the children’s friends, friends’ parents, and teachers will be subject to his wild rollercoaster ride of charm followed by serious dysfunction? Wouldn’t it be much better for children if — when there is a solid, stable, healthy alternative — we prioritized a much greater separation from unhealthy, conception-related baggage, clearly and empathetically explained at an appropriate level of detail per their age and without stigma? Would they someday grieve for a reduced connection to their genetic father, who is, by virtue of greater protection only a far-off, painful, and tense connection? Or would they enjoy the freedom to someday if ever decide on their own, understanding terms, that he is worth all of the heartbreak, anxiety, and interference to forge their own safely distant relationship?

Will they instead have to ask me why I didn’t tell them more sooner? “Why dind’t you just tell us?” Will they have to ask why I didn’t protect them from the real and certain trauma that he will have caused via my silence and lack of ability to meter out their access to his crazy influence? I hope they don’t come to me with tears in their eyes surprised by how awful he has been, as so many of us have already experienced when he turns on us. I think we’re, as a society and judicial system, over-prioritizing the benefits of the shithead being present in this kind of situation of keeping a mentally ill, unstable, and abusive-parent in the picture at the expense of the stable, healthy alternative who would provide contact as age-appropriate.

It would be so much better if I could give him one weekend a month, a weekly video call, and a few holidays, with much greater peace of mind, when he’s not interfering with the rest of the kids’ lives and bearing his immense pressure and weight on top of us all. I would so prefer that he didn’t get the children twice each summer for two weeks at a time without even a guarantee that his mother will arrive in town to assist him. I wish that a judge could look at him and then at me and then the children, or the pictures and tallies of how many bruises the children receive where, and without a doubt listen and notice and declare who is the healthy child care professional with a stable support network in a good position to care completely for young, vulnerable children … and who has dangerously trashed every family, friend, professional, or other relationship he’s ever encountered, who is using the children and myself for narcissistic attention that he can no longer maintain and receive elsewhere, and should not be left alone with impressionable youth for more than a few hours.

Would it be painful for the kids to get used to seeing the zany good cop who garners their love with mania a little bit less often?

Yes.

Would it ultimately be less painful than all of his negative impacts that he will otherwise push onto them all along the way?

Emphatically yes.

I wish that I would later be in the position of explaining my over-protection to the children (from someone who thusly hasn’t hurt them very much), rather than be apologizing to them later for not enough protection, shielding, and explanations over the years. I’ll be even more devastated if he has enough influence to create more grown humans that share his distorted world- and self-views. I will weep if I must apologize to anyone whom they hurt that I couldn’t prevent an ill, abusive, unstable adult from teaching them some horrifying ways of being in the world. If they never come to resent, and instead they absorb, his lack of focus on empathy, generosity, kindness, humbleness, socially appropriate boundaries, and perspective-taking of any variety, I will be heartbroken, not just over a my continued trauma, nor just the children’s continued trauma, but the worlds’ as well. Knowing their father figure so, so intimately is not worth this continued negative influence. I wish that we could make some changes.

Posted in Feminist Struggles, Parental Titles, Queer Abuse, Queer Divorce, Queer Gender Inequality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Queer Attention To Feelings Is Still Creating Banshees

Some of My Kids’ Voices Are Driving Me Bananas

We spend so, so much time focusing on how to recognize and spend a little bit of time with our feelings. How is it possible that the vast quantities of time spent on helping my kids facilitate their emotions isn’t enough to guide them gently towards happier ground more of the time??? How can it possibly be that their predominant voices are fussy and whiny at best and angry, loud, screeching, screaming, yelling, and fighting at worst?

Do they not have idyllic lives with an experienced hippie parent who gives them endless fresh air, balanced diets, and the ability to express themselves? How is it that this is not enough to guide them gently away from a life without being more than a standard deviation away from an average level of yelling and howling like beasts? Absolute beasts. More that I have seen with other kids – nannying, on the playground, at the library, in the grocery store, etc.

Some of the voicing makes sense due to my five-year-old being slightly on the autism spectrum and my two-year-old learning from his less socially controlled and motivated vocals. But even accounting for that, and all the work I’ve done helping he and I recognize and cope wit his rigid thinking and meltdown triggers, it seems like too much.

Do I spend too much time letting them have gigantic feelings of frustration and outrage in the face of the everyday challenges of a small person? Have I not focused enough on community and sharing and thinking of others? “How do my ears feel when you yell in my face like that?” “Does Eleanor look sad when you scream in her face?” “How do you feel when I get too grouchy and yell at you?” Or perhaps not enough on taking space and breathing and using words when overwhelmed? “Why don’t you snuggle your blanket here for a while and come back out wen you feel like being around people?” “You may stim roughly on your blankie or pillow, but not on your sister.” “Let’s go find a quiet place to recover.” Perhaps not enough consequences for straight up defiance and choosing a scream over a please? “You had lots of warnings and options. You can have a time out in this chair.” And then I come back after enforced recovery and calming time. Have we not practiced enough of “friendly voice” or “polite voice” or voices that “help others listen?” Have I not indulged in enough “natural consequences” such as letting them receive grouchy responses to off-putting demands and howls?

HAVE WE NOT WATCHED ENOUGH DANIEL TIGER????

Which of these or other strategies can be most focused on for best helping them find socially appropriate ways of expressing themselves through voices that both allow them to have their valid tiny person experiences and still avoid what is, I swear, greater than average yelling and screaming and giant, loud, horrible expression that is super hard to deal with for my own sanity and that of society at large??????

When can they potentially begin to have some control over their throats and the big, big, horrible noises that they produce? Which parenting tactics help them explore their own voice control as quickly as possible?

Because I am losing my mind.

Posted in Raising Queer Kids | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Being a Queer Gemini – On Both Ends of Every Binary (Spectrum?)

I can’t even settle on one word for “binary.” Perhaps I mean both “spectrum” and “pair.” That’s how it goes being a Queer Gemini. What can’t I sympathize with? Empathize with? Try to understand? Nothing! Has there ever been a character in book, film, etc. with whom I haven’t at least partially identified? I am not certain when I have felt the most “like myself.” I can always find my twin, staring back at me, from the other side of the teeter totter. I may be decidedly down, but there you are, up and identical, perfectly understandable, and that seems like fun, too.

I recall being a feisty, fiery young person, labeled as a little girl. I vividly remember my shock, surprise, and disbelief that any other children, given a choice, would choose to be girls. I argued and fought, sometimes physically, to prove that girls could do anything, while wishing to be a boy. I experienced and identified extremely strongly with traditional feminine struggles such as being a full human being in the face of beginning to bleed and grow boobs. I was drawn to the lips of girls whose eyes and hearts somehow mirrored my own desires. It was a giant relief to be granted freedom by feminism, lesbianism, and gender studies. The second wave of feminism released me to be any kind of female that I wanted to be. And then it was an equal release to stumble into a radical city and community that often embodied radical Queer theory, reclaiming and expanding gender roles, such as butch and femme. They let me be anything, including a boy. A whole other wave of giddy theory, allowing me to be another version of myself – to fight again, this time for full boyhood.

Full boyhood for me meant not only being girl-crazy, but boy-crazy. Wanting to mirror myself on all the different ends of the gay spectrums. And I found it. To be partnered with a Queer man was extremely liberating as a Queer, just as liberating as it had been to be a womon surrounded by womyn. All the different ways to prance in the world with short hair and painted fingernails!

“But what is drag?” I press my eyeballs into the mirror to ask. “Now how do I perform drag and what is real?”

Is “drag” me delighting in a perfectly tailored suit and tie and lip-syncing to a manly, strutting song? Or is that me being real (if quite priviledged) and drag is me in a dress, allowing my boy self to be as faggy as I’d like to be, putting on dresses and lipstick? I don’t indulge in the latter very often, as it doesn’t appeal to me as often, but does the tension between these two versions of myself in drag perhaps again highlight to all of us that all of our gender constructions are false and our preferences likely to wander?

I would like to ask all reasonable human beings to allow themselves to indulge in experiments that were not handed to them at birth, either trying on feeling pretty or handsome, probably alternately. So that it shouldn’t really matter if I am approaching a jersey cotton dress as a woman with no assumptions made about my abilities or as a dude who is confident and vulnerable enough to allow myself a tender robe. It should not be that I am my most radical self by constantly, obsessively insisting that I only be seen one way, … but it feels like a Queer failing every time I allow myself the flexibility that seems to natural to me.

I feel compelled to claim only one thing, to be all the way staunch and dig my heels in to claim my rights, community standing, and identities. I find myself explaining or hiding or not indulging in anything girlie, which is super unfortunate, as it reeks of stereotypical masculinity and gender-norming. Why can’t I be a boy who buys a dress to wear around the house as pajamas or summer heat-relief? Why can’t I be a woman who makes self-identified straight men doubt their sexual preferences when we make out? Why can’t you be a high femme who marries a man and is still rabidly Queer and attracted to plenty of women?

I just can’t ever do it. I can’t hold the line. I can’t shout “I am a boy!” and then give up on silly little trifles of femininity that feel fun on any given day, or that I want my children to experience as powerful instead of avoided. I can’t only shout “girl power!” or accept the title of “lady” without grimacing and wanting to mutter, “I can be a boy, too.” I would rejoice to wake up and magically have a male physiology, but I’m not willing to stop talking about nursing my babies or having cramps or how we shouldn’t use girls as insults, because I know what that feels like, too.

Do we always have to be adamantly fighting to embody only one new location all of the way, staunchly at one end of the gender spectrum or sexuality continuum? Can’t we allow ourselves to float all the way back and forth and just straight up advocate for health care, bathrooms, and anti-discrimination for all? When do we get to say that? Is that why we’re so radical? Because we don’t just want baby steps but massive, lefty, change? That must be it. I’m not such an outlier because I am a boy. I am extreme because I have always been a boy, and have always been a girl. Maybe I’m just a Queer Gemini, but I really can’t see any other way to be free but to be allowed to be both. Or either. Or both? Either. Both?

Posted in Biology is Funny, You're a boy??? | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On Abuse, Mental Health, and Gaslighting

In my never-ending quest to understand how I arrived where I am – as a single parent, estranged from but still bothered by the once love-of-my-life – and in my never-ending quest to see how many questions I can ask myself without complete answers, I find myself wondering, “How responsible am I for landing here?” Am I responsible for choosing an abuser? Was the problem primarily mine? Is my ex-abuser to blame for his actions or is it a mental health problem? Addiction issues? To which degree are humans responsible for their their actions if they suffer from mental health crises? How much understanding, empathy, and which degree of closeness should we all indulge in depending on responsibility? Are family members, especially spouses, responsible for standing by their mentally ill loved ones? How clearly should I have, was I, am I, or will I be at seeing mental health or jerk-ish, potentially abusive red flags? How responsible is Queer culture for embracing so, so many versions of wild, non-normative, atypical, uncouth ideals?

I make an ideal target, consciously or otherwise, for potential abusers. Let’s say that by pure chance a potential abuser and I are attracted to each other; I have several factors that make me an easy long-term acquisition. Because I pride myself on being a nerd, I, historically, do not detract points for strange conversational topics or cadence. Because I am a caregiver, I extend warmth and extra chances to damn near everyone. Because I am proud to be a confident, slutty, feminist, I didn’t previously deduct personal points for a party opposite me having similar flare for borderline aggressive, sexual, physical initiative. Because I am the daughter of a special ed teacher and a bleeding heart liberal, even if someone had disclosed that they seriously struggle with any of the diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, I would probably have just high-fived them instead of pondering how such an intense struggle could impact me (ok, I have actually done this). And, because I am most definitely a sparkly, faggy, fiesty, Queer, I was and am captivated by non-traditional, spunky, alternative, rogue-ish, drunken debauchery, and I was extremely driven to prove myself as a Queer boy by throwing my cocky, handle-anything swagger against anyone else’s.

I assumed that all Queer humans within our beautiful tornado of theory could and would also be healthy, empathetic adults capable of balance and stability when the time came. I did not realize that my Queer, feminist, progressive, special education ideals also overlap hugely with red flags for potential abusers. I didn’t pause long enough to consider that a mental illness, disability covered by the DSM, or undiagnosable instability also shares a lot of Venn diagram space with both Queer ideals and potential abuse warning signs, with “jerks” that we commonly consider personality flaws.

I extended so much faith in human beings’ abilities to be non-normative-but-whole that I walked directly into a significant mental illness/DSM disability/atypical brain that was dressed as a fun, frisky, quirky Queer. Woah, hey, isn’t that a bit presumptive of me? How do I know that my ex-partner had a DSM disorder? Well, as it turns out, the Queer to whom I partnered myself later discussed that he suffered from intense Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as a child, intense enough that his teachers and doctors asked his parents to consider medication, but his parents declined treatment, and eventually transitioned him to a private school because he had so much trouble in the public system.

Even if I had known this when we met, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I would have (and did) simply extend boundless empathy for a troubled past youth. Diagnoses like this previously rang no warning bells for me. I am completely opposed to stigmatizing those in life who have DSM diagnoses and are actively engaged with their diagnoses, tendencies, and treatments. As it turns out, though, I do want to at least have a radar system for those who do not have an awareness of or interest in how to manage their own manifestations of diagnoses.

Later, after doing a lot of reading and research about ADHD in adults, I now respect it (along with many other diagnoses) as a serious and super valid neurobiology variance that can be extremely disruptive to average adult life. Like so many others listed in the DSM it is not just the tiny tidbits implied by its name. Its difficulty is not only with the ability to direct one’s own focus (which can be intense, in contrast with its name) but also with executive functions (prioritizing and organizing information and series of events), perspective-taking, resisting impulses, and such simple adult acts, which many of us take for granted, as perceiving the passage of time. These can all manifest during a night out spent drunk, late, and cheating by breaking open relationship rules. Or in every day life wreaking havoc on the millions of stable actions and patterns on which we all depend for stability and connection.

When a diagnosis like this is ignored, it can begin to manifest as chronic job loss, lack of listening, constant reasons for not noticing or crossing boundaries, misunderstanding social situations, losing friend after friend, handling money poorly to the point of disaster, and not being able to focus on anything but fetishized lesbian culture and porn. When not successfully treated, it can become the exact kind of problem we try to ignore when insisting that we shouldn’t be giving stigma to mental illness or DSM disabilities and disorders. But it wasn’t just the neurobiology and the implicated tendencies themselves; it was also the lack of interest in addressing, discussing, or trouble-shooting the massive behaviors with anything other than powerful, captivating amphetamines and stimulants.

When serious behaviors that could just spell out that a potentially abusive human who might have some jerk-like personality qualities overlaps with a medical diagnosis that has known strategies and known coping mechanisms that often lead to success that are not being used, or are not working, sometimes one must look deeper and get a bit speculative. What if the disorder or symptoms cannot be addressed because they surpass even the confines of an original diagnosis? Many around me and my partner had casually joked and lovingly speculated that my partner was stunningly similar to the others in our lives who carry a diagnosis somewhere within Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or what used to be referred to as Asperger’s. So, perhaps these behaviors and tendencies were just a part of an even more serious, amplified, missed diagnosis.

Many humans with ASD or Asperger’s super, super successfully embrace, acknowledge and engage with their own tendencies, quirks, and, most notably, their strengths … if they’ve had support to do so. But when my partner’s parents had declined treatment and special education for ADHD, they may have also missed opportunities for successful adaptation not just for ADHD, but for what may have been ASD. Now, this is heavily speculative, but if his ASD went unexamined and un-facilitated in WASPy ways that prioritized privilege, ego, and over-emphasized talents over practicing connection, empathy, and responsibility, as with affluenza, perhaps the intense behaviors that later became abusive really weren’t his fault. Perhaps ASD and affluenza are responsible. Perhaps his parents and I are to blame for not noticing sooner. Perhaps we all should really have stronger warning bells and stigma against DSM diagnoses that are completely un-addressed due to snobbery, lack of appreciating deeply empathetic special education teams, and/or actual stigma against wanting to be involved, especially as parents, with a DSM diagnosis.

Perhaps the real warning sign should actually be an adult who cannot thoroughly discuss and take responsibility for their flaws as well as their strengths. Which, incidentally, brings up another diagnosis that is difficult to make, and which, unlike almost every other DSM diagnosis, is almost synonymous with abuse of power (almost all of the rest are correlated more with being victims and survivors of abuse, rather than perpetrators).

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, like all other DSM diagnoses is somewhat problematic in and of itself. For example, should such insistent jerkery be something contained by the Western medical model? Are we just searching for justification and excuses for the occasional shitheads among us? Or maybe we should consider all jerks by definition to be “crazy,” “ill,” or “abnormal.” Should all abuse automatically be treated not punitively but in terms of recovery and learning how to more studiously connect with the rest of society? Are abusers, like narcissists, victims of their own beliefs, wiring, and ill brains?

And who am I to even touch on the tip of the iceberg of DSM diagnoses that my ex doesn’t officially hold? How could I, as a survivor of tyrannical, super sketchy behavior use a tool commonly leveled by abusers at their victims? My abuser did, in fact, level at me, in response to my questioning of his mental health, accusations that I possess not just my actual, recorded, professionally diagnosed “mild” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He insisted, late in the story, that I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder instead, which is much more severe that plain ol’ OCD.

So is my searching for potential logic and causation among problematic behaviors – along with genuine concern (at the time) for his well-being and (now) for my children’s well being during his parenting time – just as much gaslighting as when he deflected and trumped up my mental health diagnosis? How do I know whether or not I am gaslighting or being gaslit?

I sought out my OCD diagnosis in college. I was miserable and wanted a way to stop being afraid of knives, germs, and invisible, panicky doom coming out of nowhere. I used and digested and applied years of therapy, especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to get a really solid handle on my thought processes and on the baseline anxiety that caused my misguided, compulsive problem solving.

I learned what obsessions and compulsions are and how they operate. After I grew sick of applying so much of my energy to my own anxiety and thought processes, I decided to try out a super effective medication for OCD, and I loved it in conjunction with my learned toolbox. I haven’t had anything more than a gratuitous hand washing after taking out the trash, riding the bus, or touching a doorknob in over a decade. So when he accused me of having a personality disorder and of being controlling and obsessive and forcing him to participate in my compulsions, how did I not know for certain that it was gaslighting? When he accused me of abuse for sometimes responding angrily to his behaviors or occasionally calling him a “douche bag?” How do I know that I’m not just gaslighting him now with my accusations of un-adressed mental illness, disabilities, and abuse?

I should have been able to trust that I am an empathetic, born caregiver, and explorer. I should have been able to trust that I am an ex-Lutheran Midwesterner who takes responsibility for everything, even when I shouldn’t. I should have been able to trust how much I had learned about my mental health diagnosis over more than a decade of study and practice. I should have been able to trust my contribution to spousal discussions was enough when I acknowledged many of my own flaws but heard none in return. But that’s the funny thing about abuse. You don’t trust yourself anymore. I chose this person who turned out to be so, so horrible. I chose to ignore maltreatment. How can I trust my own judgment ever again? Well, slowly, and with much external confirmation.

I can look around my surroundings and find, receive, or ask for truly rigorous feedback that frequently matches with the accomplishments and qualities that I hope that I generally possess. My family, my longterm friends, my coworkers and supervisors, and my health professionals, when seriously questioned for feedback, resoundingly, with minor qualifications, can give me example after example of when I have overwhelmingly, repeatedly, in the vast majority of situations acted not just as a responsible adult, but as a kind, warm, and thoughtful human being who looks out for others often more than I do for myself, which is how I got stuck in this recovery from trauma situation in the first place. It is also the reason that I got stuck in this perpetual reason-finding and self-examining loop. It is a test that an actual narcissist could not pass and also would probably not engage in at all.

If unexamined, untreated, un-engaged mentally ill or otherwise diagnosed humans are the ones who end up being capable of forbidding their partners from visiting their families, opening windows, and using the thermostat, perhaps it is not only not gaslighting to be wary of them, but is something we should actively engage in. Perhaps it is only jerks and abusers who do not comb through their tendencies to find their flaws and feedback and tend to them tenderly, diligently, repeatedly. It’s not their diagnosis that should be stigmatized, but their continued lack of perspective, awareness, and course-correcting. Maybe their primary jerky quality is not checking themselves before they wreck themselves.

Maybe there’s a problem with our medical model if we’re trying to use it to excuse terrible behavior, but it doesn’t seem fair to call people “jerks” if their neurobiology means that they really truly can’t help it. I can’t help having OCD, and I’m supremely lucky to have an atypical brain that so mildly gets in my own way. Many with diagnoses more severe than mine (that come with gifts far better than mine), have far less control over their processing, their preferences, their ways of being the world (which are often awesome). In general, those who are mentally ill shouldn’t lose rights to their children, should get accommodations from their employers, and should expect understanding from their loved ones. So what about the narcissists? What if they can’t help their lack of perspective? What about their families, spouses and children?

Are spouses responsible for standing by their partners through thick and through thin? Through health afflictions? Through the disintegration of themselves as functional adults? If he’s not responsible for his condition, and if I’m not responsible for the abuse by virtue of loving him, then perhaps I have simply forsaken my vows. I definitely meant to defend him to the death, to appreciate his sparkles and dorkery, and to transform our lust and love of sci fi into a balanced, life-long adventure. I wouldn’t have backed out of this commitment if he had been diagnosed with cancer, so why am I backing out because he might be a narcissist or have ASD, or, at the very least, if we as a society don’t realize how significant ADHD can be? Why can’t I get easier support? Easier diagnoses of his either medical conditions or abuse? So that there would be either resources for recovery or a more complete escape?

I suppose if cancer went completely unacknowledged, or if cancer forced a potentially great human being to turn into a mean, angry, depressed, unstable, impulsive, controlling, manipulative, lying, puddle of their former selves with behaviors that were scary and unreasonable, we’d all feel differently. If a partner did carry on like an asshole, raging around within complete and utter denial of cancer as it devoured them whole, very few of us would object to a spouse leaving. And when that spouse tried to leave we wouldn’t blame the cancer. We’d blame the asshole, who happened to have cancer, for not dealing with it. And then we’d not stigmatize the cancer that happened to drive their denial.

So perhaps we just need to stigmatize and warn each other about narcissists, or any other person who can’t work on their own shizzle. We shouldn’t hate on anyone with anything along the lines of ADHD, ASD, OCD, etc., but only on those humans who aren’t handling or inspecting any of their own most unpleasant traits, whether they fit within the DSM or not. Perhaps we, as a society, can embrace community members with any unpleasant mental illness traits – such as impulse control, perspective-taking, attention direction, or executive function troubles – as peers at school, work, our neighborhoods, and health facilities geared towards coping and thriving, while also not feeling compelled to excuse all of their behaviors and tether ourselves to them as spouses.

Maybe it is ok if we are wary of some Queer traits, some nerdy tendencies, some diagnostic criteria, some requests for immediate and constant understanding, and of some individuals’ lack of willingness to conform to some important social norms … until those individuals assure us that they are enough on top of their own bullshit to not traipse all over our personal bubbles and vulnerable hearts, with detailed descriptions of times that they were assholes and how they learned from those instances.

Or maybe we should so intensely prioritize empathy, kindness, follow-through, thoughtfulness, stableness, community, and devotion over wildness, lust, arrogance, and pride that we can’t be convinced to attach ourselves as partners to the latter. If we so deeply valued the traits that abusers are not capable of, even temporary indulgences in too much fabulous glitter, ecstasy, orgies, booze, and costumes of every variety would not often put us in the hands of potential abusers for any longer than it takes for them to show their first reluctances to be kind, thoughtful, generous, compassionate, and engaged. And even then we could support them in their efforts to find their ways to value and enact the same positive qualities themselves. Or, if they declined interest in those values, take effective space from them to protect our delicate, butterfly, Queer selves.

I can’t completely abandon the DSM as an important puzzle piece here. I know that it has many flaws. I know that I am not qualified to wield it. But if the DSM and advocating for all of us who find ourselves within its pages to engage in the process of working towards health and connection helps me alleviate even a little bit of guilt for ditching a potentially ill person who was treating me terribly, … or if it helps us strategize how to work with certain clusters of traits and neurobiologies who do not engage with the rest of us easily, so be it.

If it ever helps even one abuser find even the partial roots of their behavior and disconnection, brilliant. If we can improve it to better reflect our angels and not just our devils, super. If it can somehow, someday help us distinguish between jerks and narcisssists and beautiful Aspies and self-examining unicorns and thoughtful PTSDers and Borderline survivors – between those who should just be our valued neighbors versus who we should permanently shack up with based on their engagement level – all the better.

Until then, let’s not confuse Queer ideals, feminist values, progressive optimism, or our own abilities to handle mentally ill neighbors or clients with people that we should marry. Let’s notice warning signs, give wacky neighbors high-fives, and only sign official paperwork with those whose empathy and stability checks out with many other thoughtful, warm, reasonable adults on their and your longterm support team. If all else fails, value and trust your on feelings more than demonstrating how much crap you can handle. The responsibility for not discriminating personally against rampant selfishness, arrogance, and narcissism is broad, and so are the consequences.

Posted in Biology is Funny, Feminist Struggles, Queer Abuse, Queer Divorce | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Not A Small Red Flag

Look at this jerk. Look at him smirking, smiling, scoffing, and condescending during what could be a solemn moment of self-reflection. Is there anyone in your life who reminds you of this man? This narcissistic sociopath?

Watch this:

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/04/martin-shkreli-refuses-to-testify-congress-drug-daraprim

I am very reminded of someone. I am triggered. His demeanor is so familiar to me that my heart beats faster and and get physiologically nervous at his displayed lack of remorse or engagement.

It is hard to imagine that anyone who could do such wrong would be able to trick anyone into believing that they are a lovely human with whom to play house. It is almost incomprehensible to ponder that someone who has done such disgusting wrongs could respond so callously toward those trying to discuss it with him. But there are many kinds of wrongs in this world, and this particular man’s arrogance, smugness, and condescension are not terribly rare.

Individuals who can turn into this beast at a hearing or at your dinner table don’t first show their ugly sides. Their ugly sides, which are mean, hungry, and calloused, are only shown after they use their feelings, thoughts, and charms to captivate their targets into overlooking their inabilities to follow or even recognize important societal and interpersonal contracts of behavior and gentle care. We often believe that we should accept a whole person, because it is the Queer thing to do – to not discriminate against their quirks, mental health woes, or wildness. Their red flags are just normal human flaws that we should queerly embrace. It’s hard to call them harmful upon first encounters or after our heartstrings have become attached.

Imagine that someone smells good and looks good and wants you; they smell really, really good with twinkly eyes and they lean in and the giggle and they talk about the things that you like to talk about. They cater to your wants, and they smell really, really good. Maybe you’re not imagining; maybe you’re remembering. It’s not hard if you’ve ever been in love. There pheromones are present, cooking your brain. The other party is catering to your preferences, is charming you, is trying to hold your attention.

It happens to most of us. It’s very human. It’s intoxicating. I’ve fallen hard several times, mostly for the big brains and silly demeanor, always for the smell – the exact molecules that my nose and brain were looking for. So I took the charm, the wit, the sparkle-y eyes, the big brain, and I ignored the red flags. I am a compassionate, empathetic person, who mostly notices social cues, and can mostly play by important social contracts. I am nice to my servers, my heart aches for those who hurt around me, I chat with my neighbors, I give as much as I can, I attempt to unpack my baggage, to work hard, to take responsibility. I spend a lot of time managing my own mental health tendencies, and I check in with those around me for feedback about how I am doing. When I hurt someone I feel deeply sorry, I say so, and I try very hard to make amends. Because these things are true of me, a complex human being, I assumed that these things would also be true of the human being standing opposite me. I assumed that there would be flaws, but that they would not be malignant. I was wrong.

The red flags were the overlooked signs of something serious. There was not empathy, compassion or perspective taking and generosity with servers, the homeless, the neighbors, our friends, my friends, our families, my family, or me. There were no mutual attempts to handle baggage, admit flaws, and improve serious mental health concerns. There was only privilege, alcohol, narcissism, and spite. There was arrogance and condescension and neglect and accusations. There were lies, broken boundaries, and false promises, but no apologies, not more than momentary ones, nothing backed up by earnestness or attempts to change. Just attempts to keep me, and our kids. Just smug, horrific anger and contempt. When I tried to meet and resist these qualities, I was accused of beginning them.

What I mistook for a smart, funny, Queer free-spirit with average/minimal mental health issues, turned out to be someone so furious, unable to prioritize, unwilling to empathize, selfish, clueless, and vicious that I can be triggered into heart-pounding, mind-numbing fear and vigilance by anyone who acts as self-centered, pompous, privileged, merciless, or narrow-minded as he was. Now I can see him and how he treated me and almost all of his loved-ones. Now I can see his ego everywhere. People in the grocery store wear red flags on their arms where before I just saw slightly ridiculous eccentricities.

I bought all of the bullshit of a jerk because it was branded as smart, funny, and Queer. And he smelled good. But underneath was real malevolence. So let’s all look deeper. Find someone empathetic, sweet, community-minded, able to take perspectives, who gives you zero red flags. The red flags are not minor. They are serious and they may get worse. If someone looks or acts like a cat ready to eat more canaries after they have done wrong, or if they do wrong again, because they have no impulse control or ability to think of others, don’t buy it as Queer. Arrogance and selfishness are not cute, even when they are hard to differentiate from the Pride that we all celebrate. Queers should feel empowered to protect themselves against the serious self-involvement and dangerous mental health flaws of others. Don’t accept any red flags. Don’t subject yourself to unkind Queers, even the hot ones. Don’t endlessly support others through bullshit that they’re not really addressing. Don’t see greedy and cold as a charming quirks.

Posted in Queer Abuse, Queer Divorce | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Raising Queer Tyrants

I am shocked and horrified that my best, most-beloved friends who are parents subscribe to a supposedly emotionally-educated methodology that turns some of their children into selfish tyrants, and I will be telling absolutely zero of them of my revulsion. I absolutely disdain judging fellow parents – its rampant and nit-picky and gross, but here I am doing it. I try not to give a hoot whether your kids eat from a boob or a bottle, if they sit in the car or hold your hand while you run into the store for milk, if you go to a bougie private school or down-to-earth public, if you feed them McDonalds or solely organic tofu. Brilliant! Good for you! If you’re not beating or neglecting them, I usually just look the other way and assume that human kids are resilient and will mostly come find basic human sanity and happy middle ground in life, despite their parents’ styles. Whether or not I’ll want to be friends or close neighbors with them later in life is less certain.

If you’re over-zealously hippie-ing your kids by never telling them “no,” and by never giving them real consequences, or by never demanding that they acknowledge others’ feelings, maybe even you won’t want to be friends with your grown kids. I’m a pretty big hippie myself: I was lucky enough to give my kids plenty of boob milk, I love shoving local, organic vegetables in their faces, and we co-sleep well-past the age that mainstream parents find reasonable. My kids both wear full rainbows of wardrobes, play with both trucks and dolls, and receive entire cucumbers in their packed preschool lunches. I horrify my parents by my choice-giving and feeling-talking as my kids meltdown. And there are a lot of meltdowns in our house. There are two children under the age of five and one of them is on the autism spectrum.

Possibly because there are so many different, wonderful varieties of neuro-atypicals in my life, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to solve many kinds of issues by talking even more about feelings. We talk about feelings when someone is having an emotional reaction, experiencing a sensory sensitivity, challenged to engage in perspective-taking, missing some social cues, unable to direct their own thought focus, or one of many other super common aspects of neuro-atypical life. A huge part of living and loving with toddlers or preschoolers or kids or teens or adults or humans period who are working to learn how to engage successfully in a mainstream world is also learning the damned rules of engagement.

“No,” is an important concept for all humans who are asked to participate in consensual society. Before you can hear the logistical and empathetic reasons for something that is forbidden, declined, or undesirable, you must, in fact, first learn how to respond to “No.” If we want to raise adults who understand how to react, anticipate, and understand, “No,” appropriately, we must raise children who hear reasonable, sensible, eventually-explained, feeling-filled “NO!” When they ask for ever more refined sugar, attempt to pinch their little sisters, scream in response to simple requests form teachers or grandparents, or throwing toy trucks against the wall, they should hear, “No.” Usually followed by an explanation, a discussion of their feelings and possible outcomes, including consequences.

Obviously, I give huge space and allowances for those who are not in a place to self-regulate (aka melting down). We should wait until the biggest feelings have been experienced and settled before we try to talk about them, but the pinnacle of a culture that doesn’t hear, listen to, recognize, respond to, or accept declinations, negative permissions, and consequences is White Dude America. Surely, we don’t want to raise an entire generation of people who resemble White Dude ‘Merica.

Timeouts and similar consequences don’t have to be embarrassing, shameful, or super intense. Sending a child to their room to finish their meltdown doesn’t need to be a horrific jailing in solitary (it’s actually a pretty good sensory solution for an overwhelmed kid). Regulations such as “if X no Y” don’t have to be completely invented and out of place; they can just reinforce the idea “show me that you can handle Y by doing X.” It is okay to have a behavior line in the sand, when “No,” is said, that the consequence becomes immanent. It can still be explored and talked about, but without wishywashy childhood (adorable, cute, funny) tyranny running rampant.

I am not shaming my child when I explain that “people don’t like to play with kids who don’t share.” I am not helping my child ignore his own feelings when I give him a choice between apologizing or exiting the situation. I am not terrorizing my child when I say, “I feel super grouchy when you treated my book like that.” I am creating a human who notices what is happening for others and does not just think of himself. It is important for emotional beings to learn to self-regulate, carry on polite discourse, and understand how to enter a perspective that is not their own.

When we do not require our children to choose between sympathetic displays of perspective-taking and consequences that they do not enjoy, we risk our children not being naturally gifted at empathy and never learning to be good neighbors, friends, and partners. If you have been blessed with an extra sensitive child who rarely stands up for himself and then is so horrified that he hit the kid who stole his doll – bravo! You maybe should be constantly hugging your sweet, tearful moppet after he punches someone.

For the rest of us, they probably need to hear, “NO! You may not hit your sister. You have to take turns. I will help you find something similar, or something to trade. I hear that you want that, but so does your sister and it’s her turn. That’s frustrating, but you may not hit. Hitting hurts, makes us sad and grouchy, and is not ok. I said no. You’re frustrated, let’s take a break. We found a fun book and I asked you to give your sister some space until her turn is done. I said ‘no.’ Hitting is not ok. Time out.” Etc.

And you know what? After a certain concept has already been explained twenty times, I jump straight to “No. No hitting. Not ok. You may tell her that you are sorry for hurting her and give her space or you can have a time out.” And then just, “No hitting. Timeout.” Because I already explained the feelings part, we’ll talk about it again after your timeout and you, kid, can either engage in the learning curve of enacting empathy or you can have a consequence, so that you don’t grow up to be an adult who doesn’t listen or be polite, and steamrolls over everybody like an American White Dude. And, kid, if you lose your shit, that’s understandable, but you can do it in your cozy bed, away form my ears and where you actually stand a chance of de-escalating and re-regulating so that we can discuss this again.

I guess that all I am saying is that my kids’ feelings are important, but not more important than the others’ around them. I will make sure that my kids understand “No,” and consequences and how to contain their own emotions so that they can at least understand if not absorb someone else’s. They may experience their feelings as they wish, but they will not always receive a hug for being aggressive, a glass of water for declining to share, or an understanding hair tousle for dumping soup on the floor on purpose.

I’m going to stick with, “What is my body doing right now? Does my face look happy with that decision?” as I scowl ominously, so that they learn to recognize how others are experiencing feelings before they grow up to be adults who can’t make friends without sexualizing them, who can’t be pleasant and polite with those with whom they disagree, who get repeatedly fired for not following instructions, who offer to have open relationships and then can’t follow boundaries and guidelines, who constantly embody privilege, who have disdain for their neighbors, or who don’t even notice when another person is uncomfortable. Kids should not always be self-centered, even when they’re experiencing big feelings that they need to experience and learn about.

My dear, sweet babies: nobody should be forced to handle “all of you” without consequences, sometimes we need to figure this situation out right now, you may not find endless ways to “get your mad out,” you must learn to listen to permissive boundaries, I don’t think that you should be spared all of my adult feelings, and you will learn to be a person who takes responsibility for your actions.

Let’s find some happy middle-ground between shaming, embarrassing, and negating versus creating selfish, arrogant, adult babies.

This is what I am opposed to:

Posted in Feminist Struggles, Queer Gender Inequality, Raising Queer Kids | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Memes Should Say, “Get The Hell Out Of There!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cynical memes often put a smirk on my face well before I have analyzed them thoroughly, but when I do pause to analyze them thoroughly sometimes I AM super in favor of their grouchy sentiments. At first glance, I do want to be a grumpy cat. I do want to be furry and frown at things in love-able curmudgeon ways. And then, I seriously DO want both teams to lose during football season. I hope the hyper-masculinized, extravagant, modern day gladiatorial distractions from real issues to fall on their faces and people wake up and join our more thoughtful, harmonious, populist queer movements.

Memes (and emoticons, emojis, Tweets, etc.) in modern life often help us concisely spell out and then examine what it turns out that we actually are believing and enacting. Sometimes, the more positive, queer-seeming, encouraging memes are the least aligned with the actual boundaries, consent, and gender fluidity that we truly believe in. Our contemporary philosophy nuggets are sometimes more queerly apt when they are slightly caustic unicorns pooping rainbows, or sarcastic kittens with hearts for eyes, or tart, third-wave Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl … ,” about re-analyzing Foucault while eating lots of chocolate. It’s not that we shouldn’t be joyous and triumphant and heartfelt, it’s just that many of the saccharine memes hide messages — that are at best hollow, at worst dangerous —  that we should always have our chins up and work harder for everyone but ourselves. I just think that we should prance, dance, and twirl while being extra bend-over-backwards careful not to level anti-self-care advice at those who are already more vulnerable in life. We better acknowledge our priviledges while also growing our spines, not shrinking them.

All of the following are from the last three months of 2015, and much of my ire is reserved for the memes that seem to say “Weird Is Good!”

FB_IMG_1445297100192 FB_IMG_1449252735846 FB_IMG_1444681715108

At first we cheer for them. “Yeah! Wierd IS good! We are weird! And we are good! Everybody should be weird! Screw your norms, stereotypes, and xenophobia!” But wait. Which kinds of “weird” are we actually talking about? Because, we do unequivocally dislike un-examined norms and narrow-minded, exclusionary, pointless adherence to norms. But we are smart enough to know that every group of cool kids possesses group-norming, including us. Social norms exist for a reason, and we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There should never, ever, ever, be reduced access to human rights and basic resources based on even the most outrageous breakages from norms – like murder, rape, Wall Street fraud, etc. – but we do not and should not accept and promote all weirdness.

Perhaps I am being a bit persnickety here, having recently been abused by a proud queer, but phrases such as “don’t hate on my weirdness” are extremely easily used as queer gaslighting phrases. Like, “Hey, don’t be mad that I crossed all of your boundaries, was rude, was selfish, was un-supportive, was XYZ … It’s just me being my weird self. Don’t hate my weirdness. Don’t hate my wild, queer ways.”

I LOVE our queer freak flags, but I think maybe we need to be more specific, and say such things as, “We love fat, wild hair, and well-articulated desires between consenting adults, but we do not accept you blasting weirdness all over us,” lest it lead to such memes as:

FB_IMG_1451263999361

 

Guess what. Just because we are queer, feminist, trans radicals doesn’t mean that we don’t have flaws to address as human beings. Stop disowning your flaws as part of the righteous weird that you expect everyone to accept. It is not charming that we rely so heavily on alcohol and other altering substances. It is not delightful that we operate on “Gay Standard Time,” … always late. And plenty of our weirdness gets worse than that. It is abhorrent that any of us might request that anyone who love us see us as completely perfect with no potential to become dangerous when we don’t acknowledge the moments when we are actually wrong. We deeply need, as a movement and individuals, to be able to confess our misteps, errors, and annoying quirks and make serious amends, before errors lead us to demand acceptance of our horrific “dark shadows.”

FB_IMG_1451264009793

 

Our darkest shadows are not our physical pains or our history of trauma or our well-managed disorders or our clearly articulated boundaries or clear, concrete consenual desires. Our worst shadows are our un-examined, untreated, un-dealt-with, un-controlled actions that effect others against their will.

None of us should subject others or be subjected to another’s darkest shadows for long and without massive apology and self-change. When we reveal our darkest shadows, we should not expect immediate forgiveness, forgetfulness, and certainly not assert that friends and family prove their love by staying up close and personal to our worst shadows. That would not be us queerly accepting a small, lovely piece of thoughtful wierdness, that would be us becoming abusive, predatory, and harmful. We should, in fact, be encouraged to do the exact opposite. When you recognize that someone is hefting their darkest shadows on to you – run like hell. “I am so sorry that your darkest shadows turned out to be unwavering selfishness, sleeping through the day without concern, having massive breaks from reality, not being nice to me, banning me from opening windows or adjusting thermostatts, etc., …. Peace. I’m out.”

Otherwise, we may begin to justify being burried, in the name of being understanding:

You'veBeenPlanted

Yeah, sometimes you have been planted … in a dark hole or a terrible situation, by an abusive turd that you should flee, not patiently assist with your beautiful ability to sprout. Get the fuck out of there.

ThinkPositive

Overthinking is not our biggest problem. Oppressive jerks who do  not assess or take actions on account of their privileges or un-examined flaws are our biggest problem. And it is ok to occupy our minds with them until we have found away out of the poop pile.

You do not need to think positively while someone is heaping and heaping a giant pile of dung on your head. Go ahead and think negative things about that person, and use those thoughts to create action that gets you out of there. You are not required by being queer to support selfish ninnies who return none of the favors that keep you busy. Please, pause to allow yourself to think negatively about jerks.

We must, must, must acknowledge our own privileges and be grateful for the ways in which we have not been cursed by circumstance, and please, for the love of everything notice when we are the guilty party profiting from others’ misfortune, oppression, or otherwise squashing. But we must not misinterpret this in order to level too, too, tooooooo much self-reflection at those of us who already doing more than the lion’s share of emotional, empathetic, and social justice heavy work.

FB_IMG_1444911197602

There are parties in this world who need to do better jobs of filling all relationship boxes and tending to connections and sensitivities. Pause. Assess who in the situation has more power and privilege. Only post and direct memes, theories, philosophies at or about the big cat on top. Do not encourage the vulnerable folks on the bottom to keep overflowing their boxes while begging for scraps. Each meme like this must from now on, read: “To: the relationship slacker who doesn’t already put in way too much effort.”

Otherwise, we delve right into crap advice like this, aimed at the vulnerable, with the goal of retaining something that is clearly causing big distress:

FB_IMG_1445297110860Bullshit. Only build trust with those who deserve it. Only be there for those who return your efforts. Make sure that someone is making time for you before you give them all of yours. Don’t forget how this current situation is similar to past mistreatment. Not all arguments are “normal.” Expect either change or to leave. Do not appreciate another’s flaws that hurt you. Only become best friends with someone who is returning your efforts. Do not, under any circumstances love unconditionally, at least not at close range. Life is conditional. Get the fuck out of there.

We pretend that these ideas are obvious an juevenile, or silly and only fit for self-help books, … but then we educated queers post crap memes that say the opposite. If you find yourself needing this much varying advice all at one time, something is far more wrong than an enabling meme can handle. You better go find some drastic changes instead of pointing this cannon at someone else vulnerable. Stop posting the advice that anybody should stick with something shitty for longer. Advice such as this is not queer and accepting of tiny, awesome weirdness – this is telling someone in desperate trouble to dive in deeper.

Forgiveness

Likewise, while forgiveness is divine, NOT holding onto anger over serious mistreatment does in fact hurt a person. If someone is NOT sorry, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’re trying to forgive someone who has trouble with empathy, perspective-taking, and important social contracts. They need to self-assess, get sorry, make change, and THEN embrace their tiny pieces of weirdness that don’t hurt other people.

When you say or shout these sentiments or other long lost, self-spine-ing things to a person in your life who does not want you to stand up for yourself, they may begin to gaslight you, including with memes or similar sentiments. And the trouble with gaslighting is that they will tell you that YOU are doing it.

The aggressive, boundary-crossing party in your life may try to tell you that they no longer need to ask for permission, further muddying consent:

StopAskingForPermission

 

Many pieces of feminist, queer, neuro-atypical, patient-centered, and otherwise empathetic and progressive memes are perfectly suited to being used against real victims/survivors by anyone who is vicious or narcissistic enough to abuse or who already struggles with impulse control and self-evaluation. Many of the phrases and memes that gaslighters turn on their less privileged, less powerful subjects are tactics that less privileged, less powerful loved ones beg of someone experiencing a mental health crisis, new DSM diagnosis, addiction, or other self-unaware emergency that affects others deeply and dangerously.

Pause. Assess who had the privileges here. Check all of your own serious flaws. Run them past your trusted safety network. If the answer is that you are repeatedly being taken advantage of, get out of there and don’t let another meme or the dirt bag in your life call you negative for acting, asking, or commenting against their un-examined, un-addressed, continuing bullshit.

It’s ok to look after your future happiness by leaving or demanding change when someone in the present is pooping on you. Even if they tell you that you’re being really negative in the present moment.

PositiveNow

Screw you, pseudo-positivity. I’m trying to ditch this presently sucky condition. If you’re not happy in the present, go ahead and work away from the buttheads and towards your happy future that you are designing.

It’s ok to ask someonewho is negatively impacting you to take occasional, professional tests that are aimed at helping them become functional human beings who would be deserving of your understanding and who wouldn’t poop all over you with their unaddressed deficits. It is ok to expect someone to meet some standards:

DontTestMeEver

Sometimes, those with really intelligent and brilliant minds need to practice mindfulness and empathy.

It’s ok not to be open-minded about a jerk farting in your mouth after you’ve asked them not to. You do not have to be open-minded about assholes living in your personal bubble and treading all over you.

TooOpenMinded

It’s ok to comment, think through, or leave a shit pool when somebody sucks. You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions. You are allowed to feel negatively about that kind of weirdness.

IssueWithActions

If we’re going to post memes all over the place, and if we want to actually celebrate diversity, thoughtful weirdness, and examined atypical behaviors, let’s toss some out there that aren’t so easily gaslit and turned against those of us who already do acknowledge our own privileges and tackle our own BS:

PrivledgeSOmetimesSad

Acknowledge your privileges and only hang out with those who do the same.

DisagreeRootedInOppression

You don’t have to agree with everybody, but don’t believe that you’re wrong if you can see them looming over you in society. Don’t tell jerks that they don’t have the right to exist. It’s ok if you want to love them from afar. Far, far away.

AccustomedToPrivlg

It’s ok to call out or walk away from oppressors even as they stomp their feet and point their fingers at you for your rebuttals.

maya-quote-1-600

Notice what it is that makes certain people stomp their feet, space yourself accordingly far away. Don’t try to be positive and overlook serious red flags in the name of being weird.

JudiDenchKnowsFools

You do not have to remain so, so, soooooo thoughtful that you never ever use expletives against actual fools. While you should not level them willy nilly, you should sometimes stand up for yourself. Get comfortable with whom you believe to be fools. Notice it. Examine it. Do not stay in the fools’ places with them.

ForgiveHindsight

If you were too, too, toooooo understanding in the first place, allow yourself to recover. Provide some self care instead of only care for others.

EyecandyVsSoulFood

We can embrace lust, desire, and sparkles up the wazoo without becoming slaves to them and never noticing what kind of person with which kind of actions are beneath the surface.

NoticeSwordsInNeck

It is ok to say so when you have a sword in your neck.

UnravelTorment

Sometimes, the really valid reason to be negative for a moment is that somebody has been a jerk to you.

EverythingReasonsStupidity

Don’t beat yourself up. Notice whose bad decisions are making you sad and begin working to get away from them. Take a break from them and their poop.

We should sometimes have flowery, cheesy, genuine, sentimental self-care memes that a Second Wave lesbian would say over hot herbal tea:

SelfCare

 

And then don’t let somebody with more privilege than you use it against you. It’s ok to have memes that might get called out like Second Wave righteous anger. It’s still ok to notice gender inequality in self-care:

 

ManFlu

 

We should all follow this advice, not the advice of those who blast themselves in our faces:

 

SafetyForKids

No more keeping quiet on behalf of those who happen to not only be funny weirdos but who are also embarrassed by their drunken abuses. No more overlooking giant red flags when everyone is suspicious but is waiting for our either A.) justification and defense or B.) confirmation or announcement that someone has been awful to us. No more memes that ask us to fill our boxes with positivism and secrets. NO more cramming these things down our throats. Just endless memes about getting out of there and standing up for ourselves instead of others.

But really, just this comic. This is the best comic I have ever seen. Not just for illustrating the use of consent in sexual situations, but for all situations. If somebody in your life can’t follow these guidelines or quickly and easily be shown these guidelines for most topics, get the hell out of there.

metaphors-footer1

 

You don’t always have to be supportive, positive, and minimal. Sometimes, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!

 

*** I have not credited any of these memes to their makers, both due to unreliable claims of creation and so as to not implicate actual creators with my opinions. ***

Posted in Aging Queer, Coming Out Queer, Commercialism, Feminist Struggles, Queer Abuse, Queer Divorce, Queer Gender Inequality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving Portland

Hauling a U-Haul trailer behind a Subaru Forester is going to cost $500 to rent the trailer for a week, decreased gas mileage, the narrowing down of lost possessions that won’t fit into the 6 x 12 hardshell rig, and the addition of a 2” ball hitch to the back of my Subaru Forester, but I thought that the hitch was only supposed to cost $50, maybe a hundred bucks because the dealer can charge more for our trust, which I kind of feel like they should have to pay for. The dealer should be cheaper than other fix-it places, to keep us coming back, but we’re all idiots and the hitch costs $700. Shit. Well, I need it, so I can’t back out. It’s going to take four hours to install? Gah, my book isn’t going to hold me in the waiting room for that long. They must think I am such an idiot that I marked the online registration form box for “wait on premises.” But the clerk’s not holding it against me. He seems to have real empathy for the cosmetic ding that some dummy with a grocery cart gave me.

It’s ninety degrees outside, so I wore flip flops, but my best friend who is also leaving Portland called me from the airport and asked me to run my spare key over to her real estate agent who had locked himself out again and needed to show the house to the assessor, so I was also rushed out of the house wearing crappy jean shorts and a smelly t-shirt that I thought would only be sitting in an air-conditioned waiting room where nobody would judge someone bougie enough to own a Subaru for still being in grungy morning mode. Now I’ll have to dust off my withered bus-finding skills and look like the douche who didn’t in any way prepare to leave the house for whatever more substantial mission is worth transferring from bus to bus to get wherever. I could take a cab, but it would cost more, and, what, am I genuinely that snobby now?

I call my Mom.

“I didn’t realize that getting a hitch added to the Forester would cost so much,” I say.

“Good morning,” she says.

“I know that dealers can charge more, but this dealer is really great and hasn’t overcharged me in the past for other things, so it’s probably the correct price, but I just wasn’t expecting $600 for the hitch alone.”

“I’m sure that’s the right price. We can ask your dad, but every time we buy a car, we negotiate the hitch as part of the deal, so it must be a worthy sum. Let’s ask your dad.”

“Dad,” I groan, “Everybody but me knew that adding a hitch to the car would be more than a hundred bucks. Even Mom knew.”

“Yeah,” he replies, “When do you pick up the trailer?”

“We’ll pick the trailer up after you fly in. I’ll take you out for dinner the night before, and then in the morning we can go pick up the trailer. But even if you weren’t here, I know how to hook it up. I’ve been watching videos about how to cross the safety chains and I know where to hook up the electrical.”

“And you have to be careful driving it. You’ll want to avoid backing it up as much as possible.”

“Yes, my goal for the entire road trip to Wisconsin is not to jack-knife, but I have been watching a lot of videos about how to drive with a trailer. I mean, you’re going to be here, but I have been studying.”

“It’s not just backing it up; it’s that the rear axles will cut turns closer than your car will. … … … You can handle it.”

“I can handle it, but also you will be here. I’m really excited for our road trip.”

“Me too.”

“Talk to you really soon, ok? I have to go catch a bus. Bye.”

Now I need to find the bus and some cash, and then change for the cash to ride the bus. I am going to be a pain in the butt for whichever corner store I can see when I reach a big enough intersection. The first big corner and bus stop I see is the one that my soon-to-be ex-husband told me has been recently rerouting to another bridge, because the bridge was built incorrectly and can’t handle the weight of the buses with enough certainty. So I trudge another three blocks in silly flip flops, to the next parallel route, so that I don’t wait and wait at a stop that has been decommissioned but not labeled as such. As I walk, the re-routed bus that I could have caught zooms around the corner from the other, stronger bridge and promptly collects passengers from the stop that I declined. Dammit. I am no longer grateful for the casual, conversational information that my ex imparted on me as I drove him to our mediation appointment, an act of spontaneous goodwill that I donated when I saw him standing at a bus stop, about to be late to our mediation appointment. I couldn’t leave him just standing there, despite everything he’s done, so I picked him up and was polite about it. Also, if I hadn’t picked him up, he would have been late. I now regret the entire incident.

But I am still in some kind of luck and there’s one of my bank’s ATMs directly in my path. This is unbelievably good luck; much better than paying the $3 fee for a Plaid Pantry portable unit and then sheepishly asking for change after buying an incredibly cheap pack of gum. And, there, in the same block is a sandwich shop that I have read about and have been dying to try but haven’t gotten around to. I can stock my wallet with cash for the next couple of weeks AND check an essential item off of my Portland To Do list that otherwise never would have been considered. I happily march my book and wallet full of two twenties into “Bunk” and gaze happily at the real chalkboard menu board. I love that they are open at 9:30am on a Friday. Wait, why is a sandwich, even a really good one, eleven dollars? For a sandwich? It seems like too much to pay for an on-the-go, bus-change meal. My cash surge isn’t going to last me two weeks at this rate. But I’m in here now, and I’ve always wanted to try a Bunk sandwich. Taking a cab would have been cheaper at this point, but they really are notable sandwiches, and by the time I get home off of the bus I will probably be really ready to eat a pork belly rueben.

I tip the clerk an extra dollar for making me bus-worthy change without rolling her eyes and then try not to look to douchey as I take out my phone to text friends about my morning and to take a picture of the menu board for Instagram. At least I will have a book and sandwich and correct change while I stand in the hot sun and wait for a weekend-speed bus. I am going to look like such a jackass when I have to squint to read the fare listings, because that’s how long it’s been since I rode a bus; I don’t even know the fare.

The bus that arrives first – really quickly, actually – isn’t one of the five bus lines that I know from passing them while driving in my neighborhood, but I’m familiar with the street listed on its big display, so I decide to be super carefree and play my cards fast and loose. It takes me to exactly the intersection that I suspected it would, just a few blocks south of where the familiar bus would have plunked me. And at this bus stop I have the extreme pleasure of gazing unabashedly at a cute blind guy with a dopey smile on my face. Because he can’t see me, and he doesn’t appear to need any assistance, I can freely admire his adorable physique, his ability to be very sharply dressed, and his supreme skill at navigating despite his disability, all without having to avert my eyes in order to acknowledge my own privileged perspective on his average daytime routine.

On the down side, he can’t see the book I’m reading and ask me about it in order to flirt until he notices my smelly shirt. The book’s pretty good so far; all about people and their own velocity in love, careers, and life. I am horrified to admit even to myself that I had previously only seen the movie and that I knew it was an awesome book and knew that it might help me better navigate my horrific love life choices, but had been too busy to prioritize it until now. I really could have used this book sooner. I can now only picture Parker Posey as one of the main characters, but it is still nice to have this small moment with print media on the bus; to feel like my younger, more carefree, more competent, child-free self. A moment of freedom.

The kids would have been a huge pain in the butt with whom to unexpectedly walk ten hot blocks to find an ATM, then change, then the bus stop. I am now shockingly relieved that their father surprisingly decided to exercise his last parenting time episode before the kids and I leave town. He’s probably not taking great care of them, but at least I get a jump start packing without the toddlers’ “help.” I already used up the five small-sized boxes that I had purchased to hold the heaviest of our belongings. Why did I think all of my books would fit into five boxes? I knew that none of our bigger furniture would fit into the trailer that we will pull through Yellowstone all the way to the Mississippi. I was planning to just fit what I could into the trailer, and then place all of the bigger items on the curb with a Craig’s List ad for “Free Stuff.” I was already prepared to mention that “I’m leaving town, so I can’t take this ad down when the Free Stuff is gone; you’ll just have to risk driving past to find out.”

Now, with a $800 hitch expense, maybe I will have to decide which big furniture to sell for some petty cash, as one of my besties suggested. But I hate Portland Craig’s List. Everybody loves used things so much here, that Portland Craig’s List is the most expensive Craig’s List I have ever encountered. If you charge more for your rickety used stroller than some rich lady in San Francisco would, that’s how you know you’re too hopped up on Portland spirit. Your stuff is used; stop asking almost full price!!! I will give you $5 for that at a garage sale; not $40, you Portland hipster ass!!!! It makes me want to give things away for free. But now, now maybe I will have to take advantage of it, admit that none of this big furniture is going to fit, and sell that cute little baby rocking chair for $5 instead of free.

Eleanor loved that small, cloth rocker that came with a safety belt just in case things got too wild six inches above the ground. But she’s almost two now; she’s kind of over it and really only wants to follow her big brother into the adult-sized rocker that dwarfs them both. I should just suck it up, take some pictures of the merchandise, and let them go for a few bucks to replace my lost sandwich cash. I can say something witty about how Craig’s List is like a garage sale except that you have to come carry it down one flight of crappy apartment stairs all by yourself.

That one flight isn’t going to be fun for whoever gives me $50 for this queen bed frame. I’m going to miss all of this cheap IKEA stuff that helped make Portland my home. And I am going to miss all of the far-left hippies, and bike lanes, and over-priced ice cream with bacon inside, and the mild winters, and all of the profound weird. I will miss my good friends. I will miss the city chickens and relentless moss. I am NOT going to miss Portland drivers. I am going to scoff at them as I ride another two buses back to the dealer to pick up my stupid Subaru in two hours. I will rage at them and their unsafe temerity as I drive home and stop to pick up a few more small packing boxes to hold all of my expensive gluten-free flours and baking supplies.

I almost step into traffic with my nose in a book, instead of in a text message like a more socially appropriate, modern Portland walker. It’s a good book, though. I know that I should have read it sooner, but my own personal velocity stopped me. This book and the other emotionally well-rounded books my besties and family recommended could have helped me prevent needing an $900 trailer hitch. They all knew that I should under no circumstances gamble again on my n’er-do-well ex, not even for the kids, especially for the kids. Even my mom knew. Especially my mom knew. But I rolled the dice and my kids are now stuck with their dirtbag dad while I schlep around in the flip-flops that I foolishly chose in a rush this morning before I knew I’d be hiking around with them carving a bloody rift between my two front toes.

At least my keys feel light if a little empty without the spare key that I gave to my bestie’s real estate agent in anticipation of our mutual defection, but the probably delicious sandwich bag is appropriately heavy in my sweaty fist. I am excited to stuff it in my gob and weigh it against my past sandwich experiences, in spite of the immense heat that makes a grilled lump of warm, buttery meat and cheese unwise. I proudly hold the chubby, crumpled bag a little higher and show its proprietary Bunk stamp to Shut Up And Eat as I walk past. I flip off their equally or maybe even more so expensive sandwiches. I enjoyed them, but they cost me.

I wonder what my kids are doing. I hope they’re ok. I hope Dirtbag isn’t explaining anything to them. His attempts to make them understand would be wholly negative and infuriating. All I can do for them at this point is let them have a little time with their insane biological connection to their genetic legacy while I gingerly pack their sweet little belongings safely into well-taped boxes. I will get them ready to haul across the country, back home, to Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Jon, and everybody else. When they hug us and squeeze us and tell us that they are sorry for our troubles, I will pull away and smile and point to my expensive trailer hitch. At least I’ll have a trailer hitch.

Posted in Biology is Funny, Commercialism, Queer Divorce | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I Have So Many Questions About Abuse

True to my nature, even in my deep, dark, tempted-to-wallow doldrums, I feel compelled to explore and question. Is that how we came up with the odd-ball “Queer” definition for ourselves? Somebody sat around, opposite a relatively normative douche-nozzle who refused to self-reflect and thusly began questioning ourselves on everything? Are we different simply because we question how we are treated?

What is abuse? Does abuse have a legal, functional definition, in court and homes and relationships, outside of our isolated Gender Studies classrooms or beyond our thoughtfully, ragefully written texts and tomes? Outside of our righteous rants about who should “get out of there” immediately and create a no-good father with zero rights? How many questions can I ask before I sound like a lame episode of Sex In the City, which dates me as seriously old?

Perhaps we need to redefine what “we” see as abuse. Do I mean “we” queer, lesbian, gay, transgender, feminist academics and avid reader-writers? Do I mean “we” the citizens who could theoretically avail ourselves of the judicial system in the United States of America? Do I mean “we” women who find ourselves in intimate relationships with men? Do I mean “we” white people who find everything threatening in life in general? Do I mean “you” viewers who have not yet had occasion to doubt yourselves when someone treats you so badly that you wonder if you do, in fact, have any rights in the face of the outrageous ongoing treatment?

I want to identify – personally or theoretically – where the line in the sand delineates between “asshole” and “abuse.” If I can’t find it, I can’t possibly expect my presiding family court judge to find it. Perhaps I believe that all assholes are abusive. I often identify, at least a little bit, as an asshole, and have previously qualified why I feel this anatomical term works for me as an insult. Perhaps each of us who sets foot in the territory of Assholia is abusive, at least for a little while. But it’s so subjective. When was I being an asshole and when wasn’t I? Maybe that is the bit that is up to a judge.

It is possible that I believe that no one but mothers have a right to their own children, allowing them to leave any abuser that comes along, with a pat on the back and firm handshake from the judge? Nope. That’s not it. Which “mothers?” Birth mothers? Lesbian mothers? Adoptive mothers? Males who raise their children? Whoever has been the primary caregiver? Mothers who hit their kids more than when they panic because the kids ran into a busy street and they were so freaked out that they spanked instinctively to indicate how serious it was? Mothers who are addicted or mentally ill?

Clearly some “mothers” deserve, for the children’s sake, to have the children placed elsewhere. So now I must consider that abuse in a family setting involves what is “good for the children.” What is good for my children? Am I good for my children? I believe so, and I hope that child welfare is slightly less subjective on a societal level. I understand that many professionals have entire degrees that attempt to prepare them to argue one way or another about what on earth is “good” for children. I should not even dare to wade into the deep water. But I have to, because I have children, feel that I have been treated abysmally, that I should be able to escape my abuser, and that this distance would also be good for the children.

If I can acknowledge that adoptive or sperm-donated children might find it very empowering to know their biological parents, is there any possible way that I can deny that my children will benefit from knowing their biological father? To which degree would it be beneficial, and to which degree will they later hate me for either allowing intense exposures versus protectively denying contact? How much does the fact that their father loves them make up for his inability to be a fully functional adult? How much does his historical treatment of me affect his future benefit to the kids? How “benign” can neglect and incompetence be? Which behaviors constitute abuse or asshole-ery so intense that I should be allowed to escape 100% of his purview with my (“our”) children? Does it matter to me that the kids love hanging out with him because he A.) again, loves them a lot, B.) lets them watch endless TV, C.) eat infinite cereal and pasta, D.) can’t wake up when they need him, E.) is late for everything, including the things that are most important to them, and F.) all non-screen-time is a giant party of wrestling and screaming? Is that good for them? The love? At the expense of the rest? It might be. Maybe I should have to stay in close proximity for their sake.

I want to be allowed to peace out, away from the horrible mess of my ex-partner, with my kids, to find our own bliss that doesn’t involve a human tornado of chaos and dysfunction and jackass-ittude. But what concrete acts has he perpetrated that I can or should cite to a judge in order to minimize his contact to a level that doesn’t traumatize me in order to potentially, partially benefit him and the children? Is the only thing that differentiates his awfulness from my moments of not holding my own tongue the plain and simple fact that he holds all of the power and privilege in our relationship? Or is he right and women hold all of the power in family courts?

What question could my lawyer ask so that, on the stand, I could testify:

“Your Honor,

Yes, I told him that he is “a mess.” Yes, I have called him a “douche bag.” Yes, I have raised my voice and asked him who he thought he was. Yes, I left him and took the children with me, but for good reason.

When he broke the rules of our relationship, when he ignored me and insulted me, when he refused to participate as an equal partner in pregnancy, birth, and parenting, when he ordered me not to use his spoons, when he ordered me not to lower the thermostat from 74* F, when he forbid me to open windows or take the kids clothes to the laundromat despite a broken washing machine, when he forbid me to visit my family with the kids, when he refused to be appropriate or nice with my friends, when he told me I should be thankful that he was tapping into his 401(k) instead of maintaining employment, when he refused to help pay for the birth of his child, when he declined to discuss his mental health with me, when he locked me out on purpose and mocked me through the door while my baby cried for me, when he filed a status quo order against the kids’ primary caregiver who just wanted to move 1 mile away, he was a classic white dude, so comfortable with entitlement that he terrorized me with his selfish acts of arrogance.

By not being a white dude, I will never have the presumptive or technical power over another human being that he has had over me, and this fact makes his actions a hundred million times worse than mine. Despite the facts that he is queer and kinky, he has exercised his aggression, intellect, and finances in ways that give him all of the privilege and all of the power. So therefor it constitutes abuse. And he should lose his ability to hold me under his sway, in his state, away from my support network, while I perform the the lion’s share of childrearing duties and he gloats triumphantly.

Because he committed such disgusting offenses with those privileges in hand, he is abusive physically (the locked door) emotionally (neglects and insults), and financially (withholding funds for basic human needs), he should be denied the delight of trapping me near him in ways that may or may not be beneficial to my kids.”

Is any of my theory ethical? How would I give this speech on the stand? Is it the desperate wish of someone who has fallen prey to an average asshole trying to abdicate responsibility for my own choices and thus obligation to stay? Is it clear-cut abuse that we should legislate to protect against? How? What would the words be? Who can tell me where exists the line in the sand that would make understandable how involved of a parent I have to let him be and based on what?

I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT GENDER AND ABUSE.

Or am I really asking for a comprehensive manual about mental health in the context of marriage and parenting? Class? Race? Who can jokingly shoulder-sock whom and tease about “I own you?” Please, someone, create an giant, official FAQ that can help me function as a little Queer parent who needs assistance to decipher which direction is up. Tell me how to convince myself, a judge, and the world that abuse does not look “like a loser” in an undershirt with a potbelly, hitting a hollow-cheeked woman with stringy hair and a trailer park accent. Paint me a picture of two privileged people who pass as average when you see them in their dress clothes for an hour in court. Highlight how you can tell who had the power to more fully damage the other. Accurately predict how the children will feel about their parents’ levels of responsibility and involvement when they are in high school or therapy. Write it into a law that doesn’t screw somebody who is deserving of relief.

 

*** I had to wait and post this until I was out of danger and a judge had thoroughly, almost instantly glimpsed everything that I was afraid that she would not. I am now allowed to relocate back to my family nest of security. ***

Posted in Coming Out Queer, Feminist Struggles, Queer Abuse, Queer Divorce | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Leaning In To Fear

I tried to read The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker. I only put it off for so long because I was scared of reading it. It sounded like too intense of a topic for me. I have relatively low emotional IQ, so I can’t always handle literature about real life topics that mire me. But if Kathleen Hanna cites it in her lyrics and includes it in her extensive bibliography, dammit, how can I keep saying “no?” If my super bestie who has to help me articulate all of my feelings to myself finds it to be one of her favorite books — as a queer, feminist, and family therapist — how long can I delay? Plus, as someone who has now shown, at least once, that I shouldn’t keep pushing myself into close proximity with at least one threatening person, it sounded pretty appealing to learn how to stop myself from throwing myself into risk despite warning signs that The Gift of Fear could have helped me recognize.

 

But I freaked out as soon as I opened it. I lost my shit and didn’t make it past the foreword and introduction. I casually started flipping through the first pages while nursing my toddler to sleep at bedtime. The beginning includes a taught description of how a woman was attacked and raped, but not murdered, because her fear propelled her away from the monster. The author asserts that she could have protected herself even better from the danger and violence had she paid attention to her instinct and intuition which are evolutionary gifts, meant to keep us from harm. If we locked all of our doors all of the time, if we catered to our discomfort of assistance from strangers, if we allowed ourselves to be vigilant all the time, we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be victims of danger as often.

 

(Ignore for a moment that this sounds an awful lot like blaming survivors for submitting to the bad behavior of others. Also momentarily ignore that most violence in any individual’s life comes either from their loved ones and acquaintances or from systemic and societal patterns, not from someone randomly crawling into your home through an open window.)

 

The violence in the Gift of Fear illustration sent me into the pit of despair and panic. Not only is it viscerally hard to read a story about attack on an unsuspecting person, but the shame I felt for giving my ex-partner so many chances to hurt me while I ignored or made excuse for his red flags of “DANGER!” riveted me to the mattress. Not even my 18mo human teddy bear who smells like bliss could keep my heartbeat and respirations from accelerating to a bird-like pace while I kicked myself for allowing and then re-experiencing moments of misery at the hands of my ex loved one. Rabbits have heart attacks in the face of this kind of woe.

 

(OMG, I really DO have post-traumatic stress.)

 

Now, I have very high anxiety in life in general, so, again, combined with a traumatic anecdote, it’s not unusual that I would find myself a little bit triggered. But it is a new experience to taste fear while reading a book about fear as a gift. Because I have spent a lifetime building effective tool sets to cope with my anxiety, I slowed my breathing, reminded myself that not all of my anxiety is realistic, and I shut that panic beast down. My tools didn’t stop me from night-sweating my stress into soggy pajamas and sheets, but I did manage to get a little bit of shut-eye and collect myself. But there is the crux of what I am about to say: that fear experience wasn’t a gift, it wasn’t protecting me, and I didn’t thrive because I listened to it. I pushed it out of the way and it its absence made my life better.

 

As someone with serious, neurobiological, chemical anxiety issues, in order to function as an adult, I have 100% had to learn that my fear is not rational, does not constitute the entirety of my intuition, and can seriously impeded my ability to participate and enjoy aspects of life that are both scary and then fun/educational/empowering/etc. The only reason that I could recover from reading a trigger about fear was because I have learned that my fear is not trustworthy.

 

It may sound like I just need to practice a little moderation and accept that some fear is useful and some fear should be ignored, but when you have had to literally force yourself to breath in the face of a earnest certainty that a bomb is certain to explode under a suburban community foot bridge with no history of any kind of violent risk factors, … success means completely and utterly ignoring instinct in order to discover that my fears were unrealistic. Please, for someone who struggles to decide which fears are valid and which are not, describe which of my concerns and hand washings are unrealistic “contamination issues” and which are sound nursing practices meant to curb the spread of everything from measles to a common cold. And if someone else has to tell me where the line of reason is, how is my feeling an instinctive, evolutionary benefit rather than my logic and statistical analysis?

 

Tell me how to decipher the difference between working through our discomfort of people who are different from ourselves and the willingness to stay married to someone who is not neurotypical (which lead to my mistreatment due to my excusing of basic lack of understanding of common perspective-taking and boundaries). Instruct me how to trust my evolutionary gift of nervousness without crossing the street every time a black man or poor person approaches. How can I feel like a strong, badass female who likes to take myself on solo hiking trips while catering to the suspicion that I am a prime target and I should be afraid? How do we expect children to learn how to be warm, loving community members if they are too afraid to talk to the homeless, schizophrenic, brown, black, poor, and disabled members of society who suddenly classify as “stranger danger” while a white grandmother that we’ve never met can comfortably chat them up, physically fawn over them, and ask super personal questions?

 

I am not utterly down with the concept of fear as a gift. It was not a gift that trauma triggered terror while I was reading. My neurobiology that incorrectly indicates doom is not a gift. The “intuition” that makes me nervous about extending the same smile to “strangers” of different races, classes, and abilities as to little, white, old ladies is not a charming present that I wish to open or encourage for purchase by others. The fear of black men that led a police officer to shoot and kill a fleeing black man was certainly primal, but it was not in any way a benefit to either that cop or to society. That fear was a mistake that could have been corrected by questioning our fears more generally and regularly.

 

I like hiking by myself and walking home after dark. I like interacting with different people in my community. I like walking under foot bridges in well-lit suburban locations that have no risk factors for violence. I like seeing other people walking on the sidewalk without wondering if they themselves are a risk factor. I like leaning in to this fear and recognizing it as an impediment to my adventures and enjoyment of social and civic functioning.
However, perhaps I need to recover from my fearful traumas partially by recognizing that I should have listened to normative reasons for fear more often. Maybe I could have protected myself from much maltreatment by not accepting the adventurous and unusual behaviors of a loved one with atypical neurobiology. It is very possible that The Gift of Fear would teach me these nuances and articulately lay out how to use fear as a tool that doesn’t divide different facets of society. But I am too scared to read it. Should I lean in and ignore that fear in order to learn and read, or is my terror a gift that I should listen to? I’m keeping the receipt.

Posted in Feminist Struggles, Queer Abuse | Tagged , , | Leave a comment