How Is This Our System?

My son, my beautiful sweetheart, who struggles with perspective taking, sensory integration, and social language may never realize that his father tried to teach him dysregulation, not to share, not to empathize with and take care of others, even literal neighbors. He may never know that his dad tried to deny him educational services that were tailored to his needs, because his dad found his needs personally insulting and degrading.


Worse, my brave, strong, glorious daughter may have to look at me as say, “If you knew how awful my dad was, why did you let me go? If you knew how bad it was, why didn’t you save me? Why did you let me have this trauma?”


And I will cry and stutter that I spent much time while she was away crying and wringing my hands that I had to let her go. That I couldn’t tell her negative things about her father. That I told others, many others, how scared I was of her dad. I showed them pictures. I gave them stories. I let my voice shake to tell adults who mattered the utter truth. I left questions open when I had no proof, only strong suspicions and tales of what he’d done to adults and was likely to do to children. How he couldn’t take care of himself much less tiny humans. I railed. I tried. I wept.


But if I had disallowed her to take the monthly three-day or annual two-week visits, I would have lost my majority parenting time and custody. I would have looked bad for my staunch protection. I could have ended up in jail. For defending her and her brother. For being adamant about women and mother’s rights in the face of a very skilled, manipulative, and dangerous gaslighter.


I will someday, after she asks, have to tell my grown daughter how I knew that she felt sad, angry, abandoned, and creeped out by being at her dad’s place. She won’t remember that her first night without mommy’s milk and care and love and snuggles and know-how and stability and comfort was spent alone in the dark where her dad had plunked her, pleased that he had asserted control. She won’t remember when it was that she shifted from having fewer tantrums than her autistic brother to screaming and raging at the world, because it was the only way she had to attempt to get her needs met in her dad’s care. She won’t remember that she came home with tangled hair and clothing two sizes too small, until I let her cut it short to avoid the painful knots in her beautiful curls.


She will not recall when she went from being comfortable in her own skin to anxious about pooping on the potty, mysteriously at the same time that her dad fed her so much starch that she was constipated and he was so uncomfortable with her bottom that he taught her to call her genitals “front butt” and declined to help apply yeast cream to rashes or to help the kids wipe after toileting. That his response to her fear was to read her a book about whiny chidlren being eaten by monsters. She will not recall that there were times that she did not want to leave me but she had no choice but to put on a fierce persona and be more attached to her brother than to mommy who had to encourage her to go with her dad. She will not have a memory of when she learned that adults, not even mommy, are always there to help and protect you.


My son will not understand that I did manage to almost completely protect him for the first three years of his life before he was alone with his father, who may share some of his nuero-atypical preferences against perspective-taking, impulse control, and social cues. My son will not understand that his dad preferred him, treated him marginally better, and was not as fully able to destroy his sense of secure attachment to me. He won’t remember that his dad couldn’t really take care of a girl or a child as young as his sister when they were forced to spend time away from me. That his dad never figured out how to care for children well, especially his sister. That his dad was and is ill, with more diagnoses than the rest of us carry, never able to maintain focus on others despite flickers of love.


How is our system such that I have shown attorneys, social workers, judges, family therapists, family court commissioners, guardians ad litem, and pediatricians the pictures of my babies’ astounding, sad, horrific conditions after their dads care while they glumly admit that he will continue to be left alone with my children???


He’s damaging my babies and he’s nowhere near the line of losing parental rights in our system.


He has hurt adults. He can’t even take care of himself. He is hurting my babies. He can’t teach them how to be whole in the world because he can’t do it for himself.


I have told the stories. I have mentioned how many other adults could testify to how their dad has treated other adults badly and dangerously. They know he has seriously mental health issues. They know that he can’t maintain even work relationships and live up to the clear, formal expectations of employers. But they are afraid of treading on his rights as a father; afraid of preferring an experienced, expert mother with an excellent track record (except being duped by the same clever dude who sometimes appears to have remorse, money, sanity, and power over the justice professionals).


How is the system leaving my kids and myself to be trampled rather than him? How is the system allowing my children to be damaged? How do they not see the obvious, blatant manipulation, power grabs, and gaslighting? He is smart and calculated and vicious and capable of appearing charming. So the entire sentiment of our legal and social system seems to be,

“Well, he’s still their dad.”


Even as they sense that he’s probably not great. Something is a little bit off here. Everybody knows it’s pretty bad. But none of the adults who have been trampled by this man, including me, have pressed charges at the correct moment. And even if he was accused and convicted of something, still he would retain parental rights and likely unsupervised parenting time. Because,


“Well, he’s still their dad.”


So someday, after straining myself to warn everyone possible about how terrible and dangerous and unhinged he is, I will still have to help my daughter recover from trauma. I will honor her wounds and anger issues and more tears will slide down my cheeks as I describe to her how sorry I am that I was not allowed to protect her from her dad’s dysfunction. How I appeared to encourage her to go with a happy face. That I reminded her always of the importance of empathy and generosity, even though they were used against her by her dad.


Someday my daughter will ask me why I didn’t protect her and I will have to answer. I will not spare our system that doesn’t listen to mothers and women in the face of a horrible man.

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

Grace In The Face

I resent that I have always been flagged as obnoxious or fucked up for speaking against norms that aren’t kind or logical or fitting. I am marked as damaged for bumping up against harmful gender, sexuality, disability, Christian, Midwestern codes of conduct in relatively common ways that happen to many of us who find ourselves inside of social movements asking for recognition, justice, and equality. These internal, integral social transgressions place us on the marginalized fringes of society for being things like loudly queer, feminist, brown, poor, and/or survivors of various traumas get us quickly pigeonholed. And then we dare to make it worse by being outspoken and asking for respect from society and the individuals in our lives. We have the audacity to be our kind, thoughtful, unique selves and not get pooped on for it. We say, “Wait a minute, I want to have sex and make art and analyze science and politics and recover from trauma that wasn’t my fault and talk about it a not be quiet and pristine my entire life, and I don’t think you get to judge me for that.”


When we begin to say these things, eventually we find community, empathy, theory, and character recognition in settings and individuals who have also been judged for not going along with the societal codes that sucked and denied our basic humanity. We can’t believe that there are these kind, thoughtful, logical groups of humans who exist with human flaws but minus the judgement of the ways of living, loving, and adamantly articulating to which we remain subject. And we do. We celebrate Pride in all it’s various forms, to better announce that we, in fact, are not the worst. We become advocates for our entire subcultures and innermost selves.


This constant railing for self worth, full humanhood, and status as a nice, thoughtful people tends to emphasize to more normative acquaintances that we are not the same as they consider themselves to be. Speaking up is painfully familiar to those who have already been judged for being marginalized, but this process seems to convolute and justify the opinions that normative individuals hold about us. Worst is that, as we often try to extend and communicate the same level of empathy and explanation to them, they turn around and deny hearing our perspectives as they reject the marginalization they are perpetrating. I can talk until I am blue in the face about how it has felt to repeatedly stand up for myself as a queer, female, an abuse survivor, or broke mom, etc. and even those closest to me sometimes miss when I am being panned as a human failure for having experienced these things, talking about these issues, or defending myself against giant trends of oppression. Anyone who hasn’t survived these marginalizations find it dramatic, unseemly, and disgusting that we continuously defend ourselves against normative views of our races, genders, sexualities, ethnicity, abilities, etc.


We’re so willing to include others in the affectionate, supportive, articulate, theory-packed, circles that we’ve found and created that we are shocked when they don’t want to be included, and they wash their hands of us and our communication. They hear us defending ourselves against the standard tropes of our society and they think, “Gosh that’s dramatic. It’s not really that bad. *I* managed to stay virginal/white/unmedicated/unabused/straight/etc. Stop talking about how my privileges affect everything about your life in our society. It’s not that bad. You sound crazy for talking about your trauma and how it operates.”


They look down their noses, minimize how the systems operate, pat us on the head, excuse themselves from fortifying oppression, and assume that we are radical loudmouths who should really just go sit down and shut up for once. They patronize us by telling us, how cute, funny, different, talkative, serious, intense, etc. we are, without ever asking themselves, “Gosh, why does this whole, thoughtful, kind human being feel so compelled to keep saying some of these things?” They ask liberal questions like “Why do women stay with abusers?” without more importantly pondering how they are contributing to this and endlessly similar problems by not listening and examining which judgements they make about the marginalized characters telling these narratives.


They can read fiction or listen to pop music or be familiar with classic movies, and still question the real people in their lives about details and vectors that they should understand from how thoroughly the details of beloved characters’ fully fleshed-out lives. Listen to what this song is telling you! Listen to what this book is telling you! Listen to what this film is telling you! Listen to what I am telling you! Notice what complicates the complex, marginalized character, and see how you’re holding those factors against me!


I’m not trying to “be so different.” I’m not just the fluffy, quirky, silly character from a terrible sitcom, who doesn’t show you our underlying struggle. I’m not some token of radical behavior and thought, pushing your buttons just for fun. I am a whole human being trying to tell you what life is like over here, and how we operate better over here, having spent a lot of time trying to remedy these of society’s flaws.


People actually just ARE different, and many cultural codes are far too narrow to include the wide swathes of those of us who act thoughtfully and defensively in much broader circumstances. I’m not some wild card just here to amuse or annoy you. I’ve just been away from home and pushed away from the center long enough to find out that these codes in which I was raised to be fluent, really sucks for a lot of us.


“Look what my lived experience can tell you about our social system!”


Look how it is not just for the real people in our lives, but how it is for these nuanced characters in the arts, how it is for all of us speaking up, so you don’t even have to take my flawed words for it, how it has seeped into every aspect of our social system of communicating and treating people. There are alternatives. We are just as sweet and caring as you are, even as we speak up to tell you that we’re angry and hurt about being trampled upon for so long. Your adherence to wholesome boundaries doesn’t give you a right to doubt my heart, which I am showing to you every chance I get.


“Look at the space I hold for you, that you do not hold for me and mine. Exactly how long would I have to accept bullshit before speaking up before I would pass as not brash in your eyes?”


Because there seem to be so few ways to appease unaccustomed listeners who have not lived and defended themselves on the margins, I now just articulate myself early and often, and that’s valid and justified for you, too. I will be kind, I will be thoughtful, I will be rigorous, I will be warm and affectionate and generous, I will be silly and self-deprecating — I am also allowed to have feelings and defend myself against systems of nonsense that uplift your sense of meaningless propriety. How grateful are we required to be each next time that we get stomped on? Must we gracefully accept that we are frequently seen as whiners, snowflakes, over-the-top, vociferous, outraged, annoying, repetitive, etc? No.


No, we are allowed to be whole, complete, caring, loving human beings who often, often, often speak up and try to explain how it feels to be trapped by so many ridiculous, unrealistic, unkind perceptions of society as a whole. We have cultural differences with those who have never been marginalized, and it’s ok to perform outreach about how we feel, live, work, and communicate together.

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

Female Friendships Are Queer

I deeply value my female friendships. Endlessly. I wouldn’t survive without them. Not only are many of my female friends Queer, and not only do plenty of them not identify as “female” (myself often included), but so many of my closest friendships with men are Queer, that I honestly did not realize the cultural barriers to forming friendships with straight men.

I just feministly and Queerly assumed — and have repeatedly made an ass out of myself over it — that straight men have been culturally empowered to be capable of the same types of warm, supportive, intuitive, sensitive, thoughtful, close, emotional friendships that I have with my female and/or Queer besties. This is a ridiculous assumption for me to have made, for so many reasons: I spend lots of time trying to recognize the specificity of the cultures in which I participate, I’ve spent a lot of time in manly workshops, bars, and warehouses, AND I myself know what it is like to make elbow-elbow-wink-wink eye contact with a fellow butch, boi, or other dudely Queer while the femmes in our lives demonstrate levels of very high stereotypical female affection that even we have considered, “Wow, that’s … A LOT.”

I should have known better. I have repeatedly discussed with my close natal family members that there are cultural tidbits in which we are not all fluent, due to how intensively we were included in the kitchen/garden/nursery/etc. versus garage/hunting cabin/hard physical labor/etc.. So, so, sooooo many times my mom/dad/other natal besties have discussed how I had to fight to be included in my actual interests, instead of just being planted with the women (whose company and culture I also adore and speak somewhat more fluently).

My mom and I have together gaped at how the close men in our households repeatedly do not know how to socially appropriately extend invitations, accept invitations, give thanks, and/or plan for emotionally charged gatherings that are warm, caregiving situations. I have asked my dad to include me in a mostly many antique steam engine event at a neighbors’ farm, quizzed him about whether or not it was a potluck, accepted his apparent knowledge that we did not need to bring a lunch contribution, only to show up and immediately understand that he was wrong, had no idea that he was wrong, and that he couldn’t feel the immense social faux pas that was now on me as the supposed female of the party to have obviously not prepared and presented food as a token of companionship. So, I really should have known better than to engage with my straight, male besties assuming that they possessed or wanted the communications to be as warm, affectionate, and sensitive as even the dude-liest of my female and Queer besties.

I remain shocked, slightly wounded, baffled, and delighted by these new dynamics. All of those adjectives so intensely that I have been saving some of my friendship texts so that I can both mull them over myself for educational purposes, to try and speak openly about the cultural differences that exist, and to try to illustrate to my straight, male besties what it is I am looking for. They’re not getting it.

I started by trying to post this comic, about how we females and Queers relate to each other:

Female Friendships are overwhelmingly, openly warm, affectionate, and supportive.

Of course, not all female friendships operate this way, but it is an important benefit of being originally pigeon-holed as female and learning these skills or going through the rocky process of coming out into a culture that embraces sweet emotions more than some others. To take the panic out of the straight male response to my overt, copious affection, I also tried using some YouTube videos that could help point out that there are some common culture tropes of friendship that we can recognize through comedy and satire.

It didn’t work. My straight male besties did not immediately begin learning, understanding, accepting, and sending more emojis, phrases of overt support and kindeness, extra details about their inner emotional life, or the actual, literal word “love.”

I could feel the lack of it, despite my real, articulated coaching:

“We say ‘love.’”

“We are affectionate.”

“We are warm.”

“We snuggle. Openly.”

“I want more warmth from you.”

“I am sad and frustrated.”

“I am experiencing the cultural affection divide again.”

“We talk about how we dreamed, slept, and are physically feeling or wearing.”

“All. The. Time.”

“When you don’t engage in these ways, I feel unloved, hurt, and neglected.”

“Look what my other friendships look like.”

A warm text between Queer friends.

We wake up sending buckets of emojis, reply with more sleepy affectionate emojis, as we also did to say goodnight. Not every night and morning, but a lot, especially when we sense the other guy needs it.

“How did you sleep?”

“What are you making for breakfast?”

“What should I wear to work today?”

“Go get’m, tiger!”

“Here, also, is some info about your nerdy interests!”

A warm, nerdy text from a female friend.

I have, for PTSD and complete lack of interest reasons, never made out with either of the above besties, and yet we send kisses and hugs and snuggles on top of shared, nerdy interests. It doesn’t freak us out. We expect it.

It might freak out some Queers and females who are less Queer, but not most who are close besties. It doesn’t even freak out the besties with whom I HAVE made out or knocked boots. Sure, there’s a period of re-adjustment to The Friend Zone with no dating or further sex, or at least not current sex, or maybe just super casual sex, where-in we are super sensitive to how the other is feeling and projecting, but we still send smoochies and openly, articulately talk about what’s happening. And it’s likely that we’ve thoughtfully, mostly respecting boundaries, discussed the same complex, personal issues with other besties, with lots of details and subtle feelings. Within requested confidentiality, we talk about almost everything, gently guiding and holding each other. Even from a distance. Even once we’re extremely busy parents.

A disgusting, affectionate text from a parent friend.

Endless affection and gratitude in the midst of our grossest, hardest, most overwhelmed times. Not every day, but when called upon.

A stressed out, loving text from a pregnant friend.

So, after demonstrating how friendship *can* look, discussing cultural differences, and articulating what we’re looking for, how do we proceed across the gulf to best-level friendship with straight men? I do not want the answer to be that we do not include them in our top tiers of friendship. Similarly, I do not want to have to accept a friendship wherein I expend far more warmth and caring than I am receiving. I don’t wanna give up on a buddy. I don’t want to feel sad about how a buddy communicates with me.

Do we just try to roll with what we thought was just a stereotype of “Duuuuuude!,” “Brrrooooo!!!” etc.??? I’ve already made missteps there, during an actual role-playing board game with polygonal dice: put a dude buddy too far in The Wedgie Zone; had to apologize without ever getting a full disclosure of the feelings I could sense. Had to sit still with undiscussed feelings and topics. More than once. In order to keep straight dudes as close friends instead of removing them from my top tier of people whom I deeply love.

Are there existing Power Point tutorials for this negotiation???

I think we should talk about it some more, over some herbal tea and Indigo Girls or Beyonce, while we snuggle on the couch by the fireplace, braiding each other’s hair.

Posted in Biology is Funny, Feminist Struggles, Queer Gender Inequality, Queer Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What It Is Like To Live Under A Narcissist

Queers have been here before as a subculture. We have felt backlashes before. We have faced discrimination before. We have woken before on the day after an election to find that all of our intersectional identities have been invalidated by our states, country, and many who proclaim to love us. We know the personal threats and study how they are compounded by race, class, age, ability, and so many other factors. We know what it is to have our lives unvalued, our culture spat upon, genders regulated, and our relationships denigrated. We have watched civil rights movements before ours and we have learned. We know how to protest and survive, and we can show everyone how to do it again.

I have also been here as a human being, this place of suddenly recognizing a vile, dangerous narcissist to whom I am trapped in close proximity. I have been here before. I will never fully escape, and I feel that our nation has just walked into the same trap. We poo-poo-ed important warning signs that can only be seen by those who already know abuse. We allowed the charisma and our own desires to land us not with a jolly, thoughtful rebel, but with a childish, mean, determined narcissist. Blind hatred by others has mired us beneath a horrifying narcissist whom I can now see straight through.

I can tell you a little bit about how it will go:

There will be times where he seems magnanimous. He will sometimes use his charm and sparkle for good instead of evil. But they will be sporadic and hard to predict in duration. They will be dependent on positive attention from those he most desires.

There will be gestures that he makes that will seem for the benefit of others, but it is really about the praise and adoration he seeks to receive.

There will be topics that he does not affect negatively, because they will simply escape his attention. Some things will be spared only by his lack of diligent focus on anything other than himself.

There will be concepts and topics about which he speak positively while crushing them with his actions.

He will blame the victims of anything that goes wrong.

The only things for which he will not take credit will be mistakes.

He will not be thoughtful or generous in any sustained ways.

Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned. When insulted, angered, aroused, or ignored, he will be vicious, selfish, dedicated, and tireless in pursuit of some mark to put back into the “Win” column to save face.

He will sometimes pander to maintain appearances, attention, and accolades, but will never really think of anyone but himself and how he looks in any given situation, hoping that it will finally match his own esteemed self-concept of himself.

He will have outbursts.

He will enact revenges, large and small.

There will be relentless ego.

He will be shocked and will rage when he loses.

He is not stable and will thusly oscillate between using bravado to save face and exploding when he can’t control himself.

He will meant it all. He will be his own best friend and will internally confirm everything that he believes. He will feel things deeply and we will be shocked at his sometimes complete lack of connection with the reality that the rest of us perceive together.

He will take advantage of the skewed perspectives and outlooks of others. He will be surprisingly flexible about catering his internal beliefs for those who bathe him with attention, glory, or money.

He will not change — not from our love, not from our disdain, not from our thoughtful critique. He will smile and accept suggestions when we please him, but will never maintain empathetic connections or concerns for others.

He loves to argue, command, dictate, and shut things down.

He will feel hurt and confused when we accuse him of villainy. He will angrily defend himself instead of reflecting. He will never seek or use treatment.

He will believe that he has defeated us even as we thrive and compassionately rebel.

He will not be impressed by our thoughtful, kind, supportive, essential contributions or protests.

Our community building and maintenance will not make him smile unless we kiss his ass and include him graciously as our hero despite his bile.

I am so sorry. I am so sorry that we find ourselves here, that we couldn’t reach those who can’t see abusive warning signs before they are experienced. That we don’t listen to the lived experiences of brown, queer, differently-abled, young, old, poor, battered, expert people.

This is what it will be like. We’ll survive. We’re survivors. This is what we’ll have to live through. Again.

Posted in Queer Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty, Be Careful: He Is A Beast!

Beauty, Be Careful, He Is A Beast

I’m not a Disney hater. I’m not a Disney lover. I don’t forbid my kids from watching Disney stuff, nor from owning other trademarked, plastic-y, main-streamed moral, gender normative, skinny-body-promoting tropes. There’s some good stuff in there. There’s some super shitty stuff in there. But until recently, I only saw the average shitty stuff in there, like implying that all girls should be femme-y and thin, and that too many Bad Guys are black or brown.

Now I see Emma Watson in the classic yellow dress, all lithe and precious, getting ready to fall for and caress Beast in the new live action movie. Ruh roh. Not only do I cringe because she is far too young for me to think she’s undeniably hot, but because I am now wary of beasts preying upon intelligent, liberal paramours who are prone to accepting too many differences. I know now that most beasts don’t get better; they often get worse than even their initial, charismatic abuse. We’ve acknowledged “rape culture;” maybe it’s time to see some “domestic abuse culture.”

I try not to be so cynical. I used to just cheer for Belle. Yeah, girl, you be super bookish and smart and brave and sweet and tough all at the same time, especially in the face of all of that aggressive, abrupt growling. Yes, Belle, stand between your unusual love and the villagers who are foolishly afraid! … Because there are so many invalid, stupid, oppressive reasons to be afraid of other human beings.

But should Belle have to place her body, mind, and heart alone on the line for a creature who has immense power over and minimal niceness towards her? Is that risk one we should celebrate or normalize? Should we really be leading our (especially girl) children to believe that they can change a scary love interest? Is it, in almost any case, realistic to imply to anyone that most villains are just mis-understood and will or can quickly become decent romantic partners when given many, many chances?

I move along the margins of society. Almost all of my beloveds are exceptional and marginalized in some way: queer, brown, speak English As A Second Language, old, fat, mentally ill, neuro-atypical, non-monogamous, differently-abled, poor, under-educated, obnoxiously overly educated, artists, freaks, addicts, stoners, sickly cripples, etc. I wouldn’t have it any other way. These are my favorite people. My natal and chosen family. The best people I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t fathom that others don’t overlook their non-normative aspects to see their shiny, beaming, rainbow-filling unicorn hearts!

I am so used to accepting exceptions and bucking so many norms of society (yay!) that I have accidentally made too many, in my house, in my personal space, in a partner who was supposed to be a peer. I came to believe that I could facilitate any behavior, any outlook, any wildness, any glimmer of hope of a human being hiding inside. I excused red flags and giant, sparkling, warning signs as just non-normative. I assumed that any ol’ amazing freak was capable of being a whole, healthy, loving, supportive adult.

I still want to believe that. But instead of a lone, susceptible, vulnerable romantic partner taking on the bulk of a very risky situation marred by aggression, roaring, callousness, and despair, we should warn all of our inner and outer Belles to not take on that challenge alone. To be wary of beasts. Not to stand with the villagers, pitchfork in hand, but to also not leap into intimacy, kissing, fucking, and rhapsodizing about the silver linings of a captor and isolator who can’t pass the basic social requirements of her safety network of nearest and dearest.

Yo, Belle, you should be more careful with that beast. If he holds you in any way captive or isolated, it’s a serious problem. If he growls and snarls at you, it’s not a sign that you should try harder to impress him, because he’s just misunderstood. If he is actively aggressive, unfriendly, and unempathetic towards others, you should not insist that he is worthy of your complete trust and your most vulnerable heart and soul. Sure, stand up for him in the face of those who deny the importance of his life and story, but don’t date the jerk.

It’s ok to notice when you are faced with a beast. You don’t have to fish for and rescue everyone’s potential. Just offer some resources, vote for better healthcare and domestic support options for all, expect initial kindness from all humans you plan to make out with, and get the eff out of that castle! The magic isn’t worth the horrors that you would have to literally live with. Find a romantic partner with a heart of gold AND the ability to maintain a kind, thoughtful, stable lifestyle with more than just yourself.

It is the place of a village and activists and caregivers and friends and politicians and therapists and vocal neighbors to defend Beast and encourage him to engage in healthy ways, not the sole responsibility or impossible task of one vulnerable person trapped domestically up close and personal with all of the dangers and consequences of a beast who is not seeking self-change.

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

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?


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?


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:

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.

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