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:



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.”



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:


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.


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.


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.


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:



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.


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:


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.


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.


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:


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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:



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:




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



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.



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?


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

Is It Abuse?

Why is “you are being abused” so hard to utter, suggest, or prove? Do standers-by feel like they are butting in? Unqualified? Incorrect? That they will be summarly dismissed by the survivor/victim? Is abuse incredibly difficult to discern? Scary to talk about? Impossible to show in court?

My partner locked me out on purpose and taunted me through the door while my child cried for me from the inside. He snuggled someone else at our wedding reception. He laughed at me and walked away when I asked for pregnancy support. Over the course of our marriage, he became so depressed, anxious and distracted that he was fired from more than one job, could not maintain a functional sleep schedule in order to help with any of family life, or sustain his own social life. He developed suicidal ideations. He created a hostile home environment by alternatingly ignoring me and then being extremely verbally critical, while accusing me of endless wrongs. He was so fiscally unstable that he purchase electronics and renovation supplies for his own projects, but regularly could not afford groceries and budgeted so poorly that a $20 check to a babysitter bounced. He made the home uninhabitable and unsafe by destroying the living spaces with a renovation that took longer than a year. He became socially isolating by denying me funds to visit my family, forbidding me to visit my family with the children, and by refusing to be socially appropriate at gatherings with my friends.

When finally, I could make no more “I statements” and could make no more allowances for severe mental health issues that were not being addressed and that were being blamed on me, I signed a lease in the same city, almost the same neighborhood as my partner’s house, and offered him 50% of parenting time, in writing, against my better judgement. Despite not believing that he could competently care for the children, I bent over backwards to offer him a huge part in their lives, assuming that his involvement would, on some level, be more beneficial than excluding him, even in his unstable state. He responded by using the right of any parent, even one not providing care to the children, to file a “Status Quo Order” with a judge, which keeps the children in question in the same geographical location that they had been living in for the previous 90 days. He filed this while I was missing paid work to tend to one of our sick children who was home from school; the same sick child that he refused care of, despite not having a paid job.

So the kids and I were stuck with the ill, hostile, forbidding monster while finding a lawyer and paying for a lease on a beautiful, homey refuge that we could not set foot into. He continued to forbid things: attending our children’s friends’ birthday parties if they were 30 miles from home, just across the state line; adjusting our child’s preschool schedule to allow him more stability, which is important for his developmental delays; use of the broken washing machine; trips to the laundromat with the kids or their clothing; use of his pre-marital-estate-spoons; the freedom to open windows in the home; the right to change the settings of the thermostat. He continued to sleep through the children’s care needs and failed to assist with child rearing on most practical levels, while also trying to assert and establish official control over the children’s records, activities, and education. Despite getting a new job, he remained financially unstable and abusive, refusing to provide money for my and the children’s needs, not finishing the family’s 2013 taxes until October of 2014, and refusing to pay for daycare and preschool in a prompt manner.

He called me “stupid,” “pointless,” and took my one known and well-managed diagnosis of OCD to constantly accuse me of having a personality disorder, despite his personal overuse and self-medicating with alcohol or Xanax. If I helped him structure and organize his life, I was “controlling;” if I stopped making suggestions, I was “not supportive” of his disability. If I had opinions,ideas, and feelings, I was critical and argumentative; if I stopped commenting, I was “shutting down.” If I was tender and understanding, I was “treating him like a child” and “going into caregiver mode;” if I gave him some space and tended to my own issues, I was “disengaging.” There was always a title, accusation, or false diagnosis for any action I took that did not follow his plans and mandates, leading me to doubt myself. Maybe all of his unreasonable behaviors and words are average and I really am utterly inflexible and deserve to be miserable because it is all my fault for being “rigid” and naturally unhappy as he claims.

So why hasn’t anyone stepped up to reassure me that I am experiencing abuse in the face of the overwhelming misery that my partner is imposing on me? Plenty of people have weighed in that he is a jerk or mentally ill or incapable of change. But no one has tried to seriously assert to me that he is (intentionally or not) abusive. And I am scared to say it myself. Because what if I am wrong about him being abusive? What if every reaction I have ever had to his slights, outbursts, abandonments and restrictions have been just as bad as his instigations? What if I am guilty by association, just for choosing him and standing by him in difficult times? What if my purportedly difficult personality is justification for each of his actions or tirades? What if his retorts to my finally-said and long-awaited accusations are all true and I am just as bad as he says I am?

When he locked me out, why didn’t anyone *immediately* flag it out loud to me as abuse? It is certainly an uncomfortable idea to put forth and maybe my ears would have been (were?) closed to the notion (did someone say it?), but the friend whose home we were staying in, a registered nurse and mandated reporter uttered nothing of the sort (despite registering her disgust with his behavior). His sister, a police officer who saw me the next day, didn’t mention it as abuse. Not my parents, not my best friends, not a single soul looked me in the eye and had the balls and temerity to tell me that he was abusive and that it would happen again; not until after he had filed for “Status Quo,” trapping me in his house instead of outside of it.

When our trained and licensed couples’ therapist heard about the drunken, middle-of-the-night lock-out and the taunting from behind the closed door, how could he in good conscious continue to treat our troubled relationship as a 50/50 problem? He asked me to continue to make “I Statements” and take responsibility for the state of our relationship, even though I was not the one who was drinking, locking people out, or having outbursts of anger, and he was so ill that he was forming suicidal ideations. When my partner asserted that I was the cause of his depression and suicidal thoughts — for simply trying to discuss the idea that I was so miserable at home that I was considering leaving — how could that therapist have backed him up? How did a therapist with a PHD allow that man to blame his mental illness on me? A Doctor of Psychology took the blame away from depression or other mental illness or neurobiology or society’s response to any illness or the man himself and allowed my partner to believe that I was responsible for his illness and for his resulting feelings and actions. As I wept and my partner fumed and failed to display empathy in meeting after meeting, our therapist did not pointedly address his depression, anxiety or ADHD (which are all official diagnoses that he carries).

When my partner visited the children and I at my parents’ house — during the one time that I managed to leave his influence, in order to gather support for my pregnant and postpartum self — he threatened to leave with our toddler without my permission. When my father asked him to back down, my partner asserted more strongly that he was leaving with my toddler. By the time my father called the Sheriff and the Sheriff arrived, my partner had finally relented that he would not try to leave with the toddler that night. Instead of talking seriously to my partner about how unacceptable his behavior was, or instead of pulling me aside and checking in on me about what was actually going on, or letting me know that my partner’s behavior could constitute abuse, the officer let me (with a white face and clenched knuckles) pass it off as a misunderstanding with no further questions asked. The Sheriff said to my partner that he “obviously didn’t look like a loser” and reprimanded me for having serious discussions within earshot of my parents and suggested that my partner and I should try to work things out away from my parents. In one fell visit, I got the message that my partner was a reasonable person in general, that I was correct to call his behavior a misunderstanding, and that my safe zone of protection and advocacy was not a sensical place for me to remain while deciding what to do about my relationship.

So I followed him back to Oregon, where he promptly failed to make any of the health, safety, and stability changes that he had promised. He blamed me for the uninhabitable house, even as I practiced baby-wearing while cleaning up his dangerous and unbelievable mess. He didn’t have enough money to pay for groceries on a regular basis. He forbid me to take the children on a visit to my family. And when I had finally saw through his unwillingness or inability to change or even discuss his mental health, he declined 50% of custody and parenting time to keep the children and myself trapped in his mess, where we are now.

And even now, as I become able of writing this all down, none of the horrible things he has said, done, or forbidden me to do are enough to make anyone but my parents shout “He’s abusive!” Certainly not a judge or my experienced family lawyer, who knows everything that he has done and said, yet does not see grounds for me to get out of his house and dominance under an emergency clause of abuse. So here I am, at the mercy of a mentally ill man who makes six figures in salary (until the next time he gets fired for being unable to meet job requirements, which he has implied is pending currently), but won’t put any cash in our joint account to cover food or family expenses (despite the fact that I only make $26k per year as a direct care provider).

He calls 911 from work due to panic-attack chest pain, but won’t miss work to tend to the sick children that neither he nor anyone else will immediately release from his shadow. He forbids me to go to birthday parties and laundromats, open windows, use his spoons, and adjust the thermostat. But I was encouraged to attend custodial mediation with him and use more “I Statements” in the face of his continued trill of debate over our family dysfunction. And I have to wait at least another four weeks for a hearing with a judge that *might* release me from his control of myself and my kids. And if the judge believes his intelligent, silver-tongued charm campaign and fails to see him for the malicious mess that he currently is, I still may not be able to keep my kids safe on a daily basis. Because for a long string of reasons, including that he hasn’t hit me or pushed me down stairs, nobody is helping me say that I am experiencing abuse worthy of protection. Potentially because it’s impossible to prove. Or maybe because he’s just an average jerk that I should be faulted for ever loving.

I don’t even have the energy to give this a queer twist.

Posted in Feminist Struggles, Queer Abuse, Queer Gender Inequality | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Year of Celibacy

I was accidentally celibate for a year, more than a year. Very nearly celibate. No orgasms, at least. Not alone and not in the sole act of shared sex that I permitted in a moment of longing for human contact. I wasn’t celibate on purpose. I didn’t set out with a theory or philosophy or steal belt with key in hand. It wasn’t an experiment or intention; I just didn’t feel like using my only personal space in the world to entertain passing fancies, or my only moments of uninterrupted thought on the sexiness of others. In the past, wanking, lusting, fantasy, and lavishing sexy attention on others has been a staple and preferred use of my free time. But this year, I needed more solitude, fortification, and gristle than shared touches or daydreams involved. I kept mine for me.

My internalized Queerness is largely based on my sexuality, gender, and wildness. What happened to my Queerness in the absence of sex, with a lack of throwing my gender happily against the naked belly of real or imagined trysts? Shockingly, it became more mine. There are endless ways to reclaim one’s identity and self hood; I never expected to approach mine via celibacy. Chastity has never been my strong suit – not in humor, not in thought, not in practice – but this year, it has been such a comfort to control something so fully, to deny any claim or access between my legs. It can be such a thrill to say, “No.” “No thanks.” “No way.” To say “suck it,” as a taunt in the face of anyone, anything, or any idea that would demand of my resources at a time and place when and where I have nothing left to give. “No, this energy, this meat, is all mine.”

It can be utterly valid and empowering for any human to find themselves through acts of sex, casual flesh, and true intimacy – beautiful things. But I have had enough of those for a short while. I have enjoyed so many kisses, so many embraces. So many blushing flirtations, so many jokes about your mom. So many women whose names I kind of remembered for a little while, and even a few men. Ribald on-line chats, secret glances, and shared beers with hot knees jostling before the make-out. Delights all of them. But they take time, and energy, and freedom.

My heart is not cold, my crotch is not dry, I am not living the life of a bitter old hermit, scorned and scorning at the world of heartbreak. I am just expending my energies where I please and where is most important to me. For a moment. I have built my castle walls and ramparts where I alone please, taking into account the pleasures of few others, sparing only my nearest and dearest. I have cuddle my children, pinched their chubby legs and drank in their faces, denying few activities or attentions that would make their hearts content. I have reveled in baking and cooking for my loved ones, pouring myself into dishes that can nourish them as well as me. I have kept old friends and made new ones, floating my happy emotions into a shared pool where they multiply at barbecues and toddllers’ birthday parties. I send notes and cards and share conversations with my neighbors freely. I try to hand out heartfelt thanks to all those who have handed me support during this time of my necessary selfishness.

But on the other side of my moat, currently locked out by spikes and wildfire, are all others who would like to share my bed, even for sleeping. I am tending my wounds with low-risk, high-reward snuggles, rather than with ravenous bodies that sometimes take more than they give. I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone in these times of dire energy budgets. As I navigate parenting, partnership, employment, identity, family, and friendship, it is an utter relief to completely dash the requests of at least one category of expenditures. I will give and give and give, but there is a line in the sand where I will stand to keep something for myself. This time, this year, I am keeping my pants on. As it turns out.

Posted in Pregnant Sex | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Should I Be Ashamed?

We queers often tout a proud “No Shame!” policy, “Ever!” We’ve been shamed enough for our deviant sexuality and genders; let’s never use shame as a way of asking others to reflect on themselves. And I often agree. But not always. I think we can and should occasionally be ashamed of ourselves. Sometimes we suck. And should apologize. Because we have done something shameful.


For example, if we step all over somebody in a mean way that can be construed as “bullying,” I think it’s OK to be (a)shamed. That fear of peer judgment for being a total jerk might just be OK when we have stepped over the line from thoughtful reflection, verbalization, and action into bitchy, unkind, ignorant, drunken, harsh, ism-loaded bullshit. I think that fear of enlightened peer shame is half of what keeps us searching for the next ism to bust. And good for us. Perhaps the appropriate time to use shame is only ever against those who are being stingy, careless and cruel. But what about when I am weak in other ways that fail to meet Queer standards of living?


Should I be ashamed when I am too lazy to walk this paper wrapper to the recycling bin instead of the trash? Should I be ashamed when I don’t boycott a business with shitty practices? Should I be ashamed that I take advantage of privileges that others don’t have access to? Should I be ashamed of the next utterly sentence?


“He never hit me, so I don’t feel absolutely the worst about staying with him.”


My body tells me that I am ashamed: my stomach drops, my cheeks burn and my mouth gets dry. I feel myself getting ready to explain to you, to reduce my own shame in some small way. To convince you that I am a rabid feminist and Queer despite the fact that I am deeply ashamed of staying in my current relationship. That things are really OK. That I still live up to all of our theories, or that maybe I can’t live up to all of our theories and we should expand them.


He never hit me. There were some rough hair pulls years ago. And yes, he also drunkenly locked me out of the house while the baby was crying for me on the inside. Yeah, OK, he tells me that I am controlling. But he is working on his mental health situation. He is drinking less, and acting less hostile. No, he’s not on top of his meds yet. No, he doesn’t have a stable job yet. Yes, the credit cards still pile up.


There was the time last month when he threatened to take the child. To take him and leave. He said it hesitantly, then hotly, then my dad overheard him. My dad called the sheriff. The sheriff came. When the sheriff arrived, I tried to keep breathing and to shake feeling back into my hands. I told him that Chris had taken it back. I let the sheriff leave.


My armpits are overheating. Does it matter that he never hit me? Does it matter that he is trying? Does it matter that I want the kids to know him; that they wouldn’t thank me for cutting him out? Should I be ashamed for giving him more chances?


I think maybe I should be ashamed. I should either be ashamed of not following my own advice to get out of shitty relationships, or I should be ashamed of previously holding a theory that does not take more complexities than “shitty” into account. But which?


I’m old enough now to know that nobody is perfect. But I don’t seem to be old enough to find the difference between an average human who is deeply flawed and needs my understanding and a human who is so flawed that I should leave at all costs. And there are costs. Big ones.


Leaving and then being gone are not free, cheap, or easy concepts. As a previous holder of the theory that “She should get out of there!” I hadn’t really paused longer than to cast votes in the general direction of funding women’s shelters and cheering for women who pressed charges domestically. I hadn’t really accounted for the nights on a friend’s couch (with two kids and all of our mess) (begin the shame here: for choosing this partner, for breeding with him, for failing to cope or make things right), or the travel and moving expenses to be closer to family, the burden on the family who takes us in, or the bother of paperwork that comes from moving children. Nor the mood and emotional transitions of said children. Do you remember how much divorce costs, or how much of any measly paycheck can go just to rent, utilities, food and childcare, and how you don’t qualify for assistance until divorce filings separate your funds?


There is no way to then create an emotional receipt for the toll of leaving a partner and co-parent who is struggling. Even if she was mean, even if she was stupid, even if she was slightly dangerous …. she was struggling. She was smart, beautiful, funny and struggling. As I wrote gender studies papers, I certainly never paused to think that the hypothetical, douchey partners I ranted against might be trying really, really hard to stop the turmoil between them and their loved ones, to right their ridiculous wrongs.


And so I find myself ashamed. I am ashamed that I couldn’t know these complexities without living them, that I don’t have a theory to contain domestic disputes, love, and progress all at the same time. My face is burning because the sheriff had to come and I told the sheriff to leave, … so that I could return with him, away from my family’s safe haven, just because he is practicing new therapy techniques and because the children love him. I am hanging my head because I love him deeply and also because his earning potential is a privileged that I cling to so that I can be my children’s caregiver. I shake in my boots that I am making the wrong decision or that I am making an acceptable decision and my theory is too small to hold it. Which means that I have up until now been judging others the way that I am judging myself, unrealistically and unfairly. I am worried that if I go too far down either of these shameful roads I won’t find myself deserving of a hand up. How shall I resolve my shame?

Posted in Feminist Struggles, Queer Gender Inequality | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Dirty Queer Birth

I try to embody the modern Queer ideal of radical flexibility. We are staunch and stubborn when we are defending our communities, demanding to be heard, recognized and respected for who we are. But we’re pretty game to explore most other things. Our notions of gender, sexuality, orientation, -isms, pronouns, fashion, function, flavor and twenty million other categories tend to be pretty fluid. We’ll consider almost anything.

So, while it is not my ideal to have a bonus hole or curvy hips or a feminine pregnant posture, it is my ideal to handle popping my kids out with as much bravado as possible. My first birth was a lesson in flexibility and tenacity in an emergency situation, Queer adjectives I would like to apply to every scenario, including my second, hopefully vaginal birth. I consider it my Queer duty to both stand my own ground and sway with the breeze, like a sapling in the wind. A little gay tree, with pink bark and glittery leaves. And a strap-on tree house front and center. Because our community embraces most gleeful raunch.

Finding myself alone with my toddler in a small, fairly conservative town was not what I expected to have happen near the time of my second birth, but shit sometimes prevails, and I had to hike up my big-boy suspenders and find a midwife who only blinked a few times when I talked about fisting and who would let me try a VBAC labor in a birthing tub. Having found said midwife, I let all of the receptionists and nurses in her clinic comment cutely on my unusual haircut, reminded them not to skip over questions about sexual activity, and endured endless marveling over my decision to finish pregnancy away from my partner, whom they all assumed was “husband,” and didn’t pause to think might be the scummy reason for my rushed, late third trimester move back to the Midwest.

Scummy or not, I wanted Partner present for the birth, to support me in the Queer fashion that – no matter his other downsides – he is very fluent in. When I discovered, in the middle of labor, that he had no intention of arriving in time for our second alien’s emergence, I allowed myself a brief breakdown and then went back to pacing. I found a strip of shade in my parents’ sweltering backyard that would allow me to move around enough to hasten delivery. I held my two-year-old’s hand as we went back and forth, embracing his chubby palm and knowing that he had no idea how extensively upside-down his world was about to become.

When the contractions became fast and strong enough, I kissed my sweet firstborn goodbye, left him with his grandfather and then huffed and puffed as calmly as possible through the forty minute drive from our countryside shanty to the nearest hospital. I clenched my teeth and introduced my (lovely, caring, sweet) mother instead of my partner and co-parent. I let the on-call midwife, whom I had never met before, shove her (adept, expert) knuckles against my pelvic bones to check for dilation and position. I did not cry when my cervix reflected my internal tension by refusing to dilate appropriately. I forced slow breaths and held still while my IV was inserted (a contingency required by my previous emergency c-section). I swayed with my pole of saline drips and stared down the birthing tub while my often-resented uterus squeezed my nerve cells hard enough to get blood from that rock.

When I couldn’t take any more, I let go of my hippie, natural ideals and leaned more heavily on my Queer beliefs. I sloughed off my birth plan and grabbed flexibility by the ankles. I convinced myself that it was ok not to be able to handle any more pain and I begged for the epidural. I wasn’t begging because anyone tried to dissuade me; I was begging because I had played tough for too long and was well past my coping threshold.

I clutched the hand of the straight, wholesome nurse who cared for me despite all of our visible differences. We had nothing in common except our status as those who had and were giving birth. It was more than enough. She and my mother propped up my resilience until the anesthesiologist arrived.

I joked with him like the cool dude that I long to be, even when the first dose of medication was one-sided and only numbed my left hemisphere. When the second dose worked correctly, I was free to converse and slur like the drug-enjoying reprobate that I am. I could giggle with the nurse about bodily functions, ask the midwife about the biology of her hamsters eating their newborns and encourage the medical assistants to read more feminist literature. Being flexible and letting myself fall into relief was the best call I could have possibly made. I enjoyed myself for the rest of my labor, progressed quickly as my body gratefully relaxed and was able to relish the vast quantity of giddy raunch I would expect of myself.

As my baby’s head crowned, I could reach down and honestly shriek with glee about how unexpectedly soft and squishy her scalp was, full of wrinkles and wet, dark hair. I enthusiastically encouraged my mother to get up close and personal with my intense, vulnerable undercarriage and take pictures of absolutely everything, so that I could see them later. I held onto my own knees, let my face do whatever it wanted to and pushed like a maniac with more enthusiasm than I could ever muster while in a leather sling at a sex party.

Joyously, triumphantly, I got to reach down and grab my slippery little pile of love and goo and haul her up to my own belly. She was beautiful and filthy and perfect. In addition to soaking her up from the moment she slithered on out, I got to palpate and then cut our cord. I got to stick my nose all over my sopping wet baby and animalistically notice her as my own. Every single, girlie, normative downside was worth the gory, primitive bonding that she and I performed at her birth. I almost didn’t let the nurses bathe her, because I liked her better when she smelled of only herself and me. Amniotic juice, blood and slime that were only our own was so much better than the cloying, yellow, perfume-y soap.

But we couldn’t stay fresh and slick forever; the crusties had to go. They stitched me up, clapped me on the back, happily murmured something about “not average” and sent us on our way. My big, dirty, Queer happiness could not be over shadowed by possessing a bottom much sore-er than after a marathon of butt sex and spanking. While much, much better than recovering from the major abdominal surgery of a c-section, even I could barely comprehend the disaster-scape in my nethers.

If you think you feel tough when you have a new tattoo or scar, you should try getting something engraved on your fanciest bits. It was a special effect master’s dream come true between my very own legs. Make-up guys must wait their entire careers to be asked to make something that looks so insanely gnarly. Everything framed by my curliest hair was grey; so traumatized that it actually took on the color of dead flesh. Just utterly pummeled. If a huge, fat, meaty butterfly had been preserved in formaldehyde after it had been clobbered with a baseball bat, that was my vaginal area. My ass, oh, my asshole was an elderly boxer after a few rounds in the ring with the plucky new challenger, after the old pro convinces the newbie to hit like he means it: purple-red and punched directly in the eye so hard that the asterisk balloons and puckers away from the rest of the tissue. A ripe and swollen baboon butt in the middle of mating season. Ow. Holy shit. Badass genital danglings.

In the shower, I couldn’t really stoop far enough to see what the situation was or if I still had all of my dissolve-able stitches, so I had to mostly feel it out, tenderly dabbing with washcloths that left my fingers to tell me that I was still bleeding. But I was no delicate damsel sitting silently on a barely noticeable cushion, avoiding the knowledge and broadcast of what I had been through. I borrowed my mother’s antique hand mirror to get a good long view of my accomplishments and then I parked that hardworking keister down on an old school, orange, u-shaped life preserver.

I took what is a stereotypically expected, demanded female right of passage (literally), twisted it and honored it for what it was: the most limber, nitty-gritty, basic accomplishment imaginable. I take great pride in many life events, but I might like a special trophy for taking a situation that I never wanted to attempt and frakking nailing the dismount. Adversity sucked my left one. With girlie parts that I never wanted, in the middle of a parenting process that I never planned on, with salt-of-the-earth caretakers in the room, I had a joyously Queer birth. It was dirty as hell and I loved it.

Posted in Biology is Funny, Birth and Delivery, Hospital Birth, Labor, Recovering After Birth | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Another Adolescence

When I was teeny tiny, I read or overhead grown-ups talking about the poem, “Warning” [When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple], by Jenny Joseph, and thought “Why wait?” I wore purple all of the time, and still do now, along with every other bright hue. I figure that they all match by virtue of all being bright. But I also now have a few good reasons to settle down for a little while. I will keep my obnoxious wardrobe pallet, but I may also nap and sip tea instead of partying quite so hard as I used to.

I settle onto my quiet couch at the end of the day and savor the three minutes of peace that I have after the kids go to bed and before I pass out myself. I keep a few hobbies and precious moments of “me time,” but I orient my days towards chasing chubby knees and kissing sweaty necks. I am remembering how much I enjoy sniffing flowers, cooking macaroni and cheese and pushing swings. I keep track of sunscreen, water bottles, bedtimes, medications and important soccer dates. I genuinely enjoy and try to relax into the pudgy pools of bright blue that squint on my toddlers face before he throws a wild tantrum in a public place, confirming for all that my childrearing skills are as awful as they suspected based on my wild haircut and dirty jeans.

I have always wanted to parent. I chose to parent. I adore parenting. I will miss it when my brood is grown. And I strive to recall those facts and record the daily joys that surround me, even as I sometimes miss out on the old kinds of fun that I used to have – adult kinds of fun, simply, accidentally, casually, just by waking up in the morning. I no longer have the energy, time or money to go to all of the shows, restaurants, dances and bars that I’d enjoy. Instead, I have a porch covered in exuberant chalk art, bins full of wholegrain snacks and my palms full of sticky fingers begging me to follow and look. My heart is (often happily) trapped by the wants and needs of little creatures and an adult partner whose requests, sorrows and joys I genuinely want to meet, even if they constantly interfere with my own ability to go climb a tree, take a bath, feed myself or read a book cover to cover in one sitting. I don’t remember the last time that I was certain that any particular pop song was actually new, or even current.

I am pleased with my life as a parent and am thoroughly attempting to soak it up like a sponge, but I do have other daydreams. Some of these dreams, like going to a folk show late at night, can be facilitated by a babysitter, even if it’s expensive and I’m exhausted the next day. I can stay on top of my career a smidgen by volunteering in my field, while I work most other days without pay or any gratitude other than my offspring’s health and variable mood. I can stay as queer as possible by performing my own gender and sexuality 24/7 and by allowing my little minion infinite gender options, which he largely dismisses in favor of normative choices. I can read, write and catch up on all things worldly in the thirty seconds between stick-him-in-the-crib-and-walk-away time and I-fell-asleep-in-my-clothes-again time. All of these tiny selfhood victories are mine, but I also have high hopes for more.

If the gods above and bellow are willing – and I have high hopes that they are, because it is often sunny for Pride – and I live long enough to reach some semblance of retirement, I shall become, again, far less responsible. I don’t work in any field that will afford me the money to have a faaaaabulous retirement in a cruises-and-beach-house sense, but I am going to live it up anyway. Again. A second adolescence, should my body and mind permit.

I will leave my grown children in their own care or with an appropriate institution and/or guardian, with naught but my emergency email contact and a vague travel itinerary. I will work whatever job neccisary to purchase my next trip to a country of my choice that my partner is too scared and dubious of to visit with me. I will carry as much weight in my backpack as my old bones will allow. I will groan loudly and with great relish when I stand up out of my hammock in the morning (pregnancy is great practice for this). I will speak other languages earnestly but very badly. I will devour foods that I had until then only heard about. I will harass my children for grandchildren so that I may spoil them appropriately with treasures that I pick up along the way.

I will lock myself in a tiny shed of my own design, with only sweat pants and junk food (or green smoothies and celery, depending on my mood), to either read or write as long as pleases me. I will fully hydrate myself and then give myself a massive headache with whichever variety of alcohol pleases my depravity, and then I will curse that I tried to drink like a teenager who has a good liver and nothing to do but sleep.

Sleep, of course I will sleep – napping, drooling, snoring. Boom. Twice a day maybe. And stay up late watching Buffy when I have ruined my sleep schedule by dozing. I will struggle to remain liberal and progressive in the face of issues that seem silly and wrong to me. I will live on the ridiculous bingo, gardening and volunteer schedules I have set up for myself and thrive on the happy memories of the intoxicating baby faces that I smothered with kisses. I will fawn over pictures of familial cuteness and tell long-winded stories to anyone who will half-listen.

So, I wear purple ties now, as I stoop down to preschoolers’ lines of sight, and I will help all in my care to dress in purple as they please, but, oh, someday I will wear even more purple again. My cane will be purple, my bubble pipe and rocking chair will be purple. My ointment-stained trousers with fraying suspenders will be purple. The neighbors will turn purple as the grouchy old man with saggy boobs under a purple shirt stands up and swears like a sailor at the weeds encroaching on my herb garden. If I have to use food coloring to make my beer purple, I will. I love my domestic life, but as soon as I can look out for myself more than others again, I am going to build a tree house and streak to it, flipping the bird and flashing my purple tattoos.


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