Trigger Warning

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I didn’t diet. I “restricted.” I didn’t feel fat. I felt “body conscious.” I didn’t binge, purge, starve myself, count calories, abuse laxatives, check the scale a dozen times in a morning, or run up and down steps until my feet bled.

I “engaged in behaviors.”

Anorexia was a word I was highly discouraged from using during my treatment for anorexia. Instead, the therapist gave me a book that recommended calling it “ED.” Like an acronym for Eating Disorder. It said I should imagine ED as an abusive boyfriend. Chapter one was called “Filing for Divorce.”

If I hadn’t felt like a victim before, I did then.

The treatment center where I spent the better part of 4 months had adopted these euphemisms as official rules of communication in both group and individual therapy sessions. They replaced “trigger words.”

Before entering treatment, I had never considered a word “triggering.” I knew that when I was anxious, the weird food thoughts got worse. The obsessions became more frantic. And the rituals became less explicable. But the idea that a particularly blunt phrase could send me spiraling into an uncontrolled diet-and-exercise fugue seemed ludicrous.

Or simply unhelpful. Like telling a depressed person, “You shouldn’t talk about being sad. It could make you sadder.”

But as much as I resented the condescension, this deliberate, calculated avoidance of certain terms by otherwise rational-seeming medical professionals started to make me wonder. Am I really that fragile? Like most girls at the center, I had hit rock bottom — the place where it’s impossible to deny that you’ve lost control. Somehow I’d gotten swept up in nonsensical thoughts that carried me, by way of months and months of self-harm, all the way through swinging emergency room doors. Maybe I wasn’t the best judge of my own stability.

I left treatment with heaps more triggers than I had when I entered. A whole, precious collection I could cling to when recovery demanded too much of my delicate psyche.

Developing this stockpile didn’t come naturally, though. My instinct was to talk. To explore. To understand. To describe. There was a gushy, unpretty reality that I wanted to address head on in some attempt to regain control. But when I tried to engage in that culturally heralded battle against disease, I was instead reprimanded for using triggering language.

I fear that damage is done to patients (especially women) by entrenching the idea of trigger words into treatment for eating disorders. They make patients appear weak and irrational. Eventually, they make patients feel weak and irrational. Being forbidden to talk about the feelings you have or the behaviors you have participated in does nothing but foster shame.

Eating disorders are multidimensional—genetic, neurological, and societal factors all play a role. Finding solutions to the first two is the realm of doctors and scientists. But the latter requires vocal, courageous agitators to unravel destructive ideals and expectations built up by our establishments. How are we supposed to shift a paradigm if we live in constant fear of hearing someone say the word puke?

Regulating language does not prepare you for life outside of rehab. Even if words do hold the power to “trigger” something beyond unpleasant emotions, learning how to avoid being triggered is far less valuable that learning how to cope when you have been triggered.

People talk about “safe spaces.” When I was seeking treatment, my safe space became the classroom. It was the one place where the words I used to describe my own disorder and my own trauma weren’t policed. But now even that could be changing.

Language is powerful. It can be moving and ugly and cruel and can conjure the most terrifying monsters. So imagine teaching victims to embrace all that power in language to tell their stories. To confront society with the foul reality of teenage girls with their heads bent over toilet bowls. To make society complicit in it. To wield language like a weapon.

In the kitchen of the treatment center, the walls were covered with happy pictures drawn in colored pencils by former patients. Inspirational quotes like “Fall down seven times, stand up eight!” or “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!” shone down on us as we tried not to mentally add up the calories in foil-wrapped ham sandwiches and fruit juice.

In the middle of the wall, one picture stood out. It had the phrase “You are bigger than your fears!” written in a speech bubble above a hideous, grinning cartoon whale. Trigger warning.

We wondered a lot about the girl who drew that. We hoped it was another girl like us, feeling frustrated and feeling silenced and feeling suddenly so scared of words. Embedding a tiny trigger into a sea of platitudes as an act of subversion. It gave us our own euphemism to use at morning check-in. Instead of feeling fat, we felt “bigger than our fears.”

-Kestrel Wolgemuth, Contributor

This is a contribution post.

Kestrel W

Though not a Butch, Kestrel is a close friend of the TB Team. She’s in Ireland for the moment studying media, international politics, and the difference between ‘water resistant’ and ‘water proof.’ Enjoys writing and making things out of sounds. Long walks on the beach are tricky because sand gets in her Chucks. Follow her on Twitter: @_birdofdoom_

Maturity and Multitasking or Something

Photo Description: Two sides of a highway from an above ground view. Red brake lights are spread across the right side of the highway. White headlights are spread across the left. There are street signs on the right side. There is a mountain in the background and the full moon is visible.

Photo Description: Two sides of a highway from an above ground view. Red brake lights are spread across the right side of the highway. White headlights are spread across the left. There are street signs on the right side. There is a mountain in the background and the full moon is visible.

When I was in grade school, I did the most. I joined all sorts of activities in and out of school and it kept me and my mother busy. And not just her, my grandparents, aunts and uncles all had the job – no, opportunity to shuttle my little ass to and from the rehearsals and practices and games and award ceremonies. It was fun. I had the privilege of a supportive family that encouraged my interests. I am so thankful for that. High School was the same thing, but I did most of the schlepping all on my own starting my Junior year. I stayed active right up until the end there. I was going through a hard time. Along with figuring out what college I was going to go to, my grandmother passed away the April before I was to graduate. I was depressed and scared of the coming changes.

Despite knowing that I wanted to move away from home for college since I started watching ‘A Different World’ I seriously considered staying in Maryland to be close to home and family. I suspected that sort of move would stunt my growth, plus I always thought I was bigger and better than Maryland. (I don’t even kind of think that anymore- but alas, thats for another post.).

I decided on a very small, very White entertainment trade school parading around as a liberal arts college in Boston. You may have heard of it: Emerson College. I like my alma mater because it introduced me to some of my best friends to this day. It also introduced me to some of the worst people ever. But the tipping point is the radio station I got work at – again, I digress.

Emerson was a place where busy was the point. It didn’t matter so much what classes you were taking so long as you had shoots and sets and zines and events to diddle with when you weren’t in those classes you didn’t care too much about. I had friends that spent every weekend on film sets. I worried for them that they were missing the college experience of just smoking herb and chilling the fuck out.

And I became a professional at the college experience. Let me tell you! I still did my homework and kept up with my activities and clubs but I never overexerted my time in college. I stayed up late to party or wax philosophical with my peers. I would just let the night fade into day as I ran around the dorms or the city and let life happen around me, engaging when it felt safe enough.

Now. Now, I stay up late to catch up with the things I couldn’t get done yesterday. I stay up late to write the things I was thinking about all day at my day job. Or wasn’t thinking about until later. I stay up late to look and acquire music for the DJ gigs I’ve been scrounging around town to get. I’m thankful for those. I need a reason to focus on the music again. Now, is so different though.

I don’t ever want to lose my youthfulness. I’ve never been a carefree youth. But I have some bit of idealism left in me. I cherish that because it still pumps hope into my veins. A lot of disappointment can come around this upper mid-twenties time. I’m starting to feel the pangs of questions I shouldn’t even be asking:

“Why aren’t you where you said you would be by now?” “What happened?” “Why didn’t you stick to the plan?”

The plan, of course, is the one I developed quietly in my adolescence that outlined goals and aspirations I had for myself, and each one was attached to an age to achieve it by. This number moved around, you know? 21 becomes 23 because “Ya know, the economy and stuff…” or whatever excuse you have to fine tune your plan. Sometimes you don’t even speak it. I didn’t. I kept it in. Dreams of Ivy League diplomas and worldwide acclaim for being really good at something or just awesome, that’s what plans were made of!

So here I am, twenty-something, still chasing dreams, albeit a little different than the dreams I thought I’d be chasing and mostly just hoping I can even find the time to get it all done. It’s apparently mature to get it all done. To figure out how to use your time well – “wisely,” they say. I’m still trying to figure it out. I get lost scrolling through tumblr or binge watching Netflix series then all that time management/maturity stuff goes right out the window.

But in all the hustle and bustle, I never want to lose my chill. That’s one of my favorite things about myself. My ability to just chill the fuck out. I mastered it in college and I don’t want it going anywhere. It’s already getting harder and people keep telling me “that’s called growing up.”

I guess I don’t want to grow up too fast.

-B1

Anxiety…

 

The 11 QTPOC Killed in 2015

The 11 Queer and Trans* POC Killed by Feb 25, 2015 *NOTE* Though this image is titled “Murders: Transgender People, 2015. It misleadingly includes the names of people who did not identify as transgender but were apart of the Queer community.**

First, I’m sorry for my absence. Where have I been? I don’t even really know. Here and there. Out in the streets for awhile there, yelling for freedom and justice and to let out anger and pain and fear. I saw people moved to tears by the efforts of “the people” but I sometimes fear it’s too little. I have been lucky enough to be traveling in a lot of circles with activists and citizens of the world motivated to make moves, make change, and create a difference.

I had written up this whole big thing about the people who were shot in and around St. Louis and how the city is still active in showing their anger and displeasure with the corrupt systems we all live under. I mentioned the names of Black men who are no longer alive because ultimately they were taken by the violence that comes from systematic oppression. I wanted to show you that there was a war on. I wanted to prove that my brothers and sisters and gender variant kin all have these targets on our backs and they seem to keep growing. But that’s been deduced already.

Some perspective: It’s been about 6 months since Mike Brown was shot down in Ferguson and nearly 3 years since Trayvon Martin was chased down and murdered in Florida. Both their killers faced no state sanctioned repercussions for their actions. In fact, they got a lot of money in the end from it all. But you already know all that.

I want to talk about the lesser known victims of the system. Only 2 months into the year 2015 and 11 transgender or gender non-conforming folks of color were murdered. That doesn’t include the suicides. That doesn’t include the attempts. That doesn’t include the attacks.

We live in a world, an entire planet, where dark skin matters less and Black skin matters the least. I have to experience it in everything I do and that’s just the point. There is no safety. And when lives are on the line based on a value system that has been intentionally designed to keep you out or at the bottom, you learn quickly what anxiety feels like.

That’s a lot of what I’ve been feeling lately: a heightened, even more intense anxiety. Tension. Pressure. Panic. Worry..

I feel it even when I’m not outside because someone I know must be. And that sounds so dramatic but I also get a stomach ache when I see cop driving around me at night in Los Angeles. Like, what if I get stopped and I reach for something by mistake?  What if I had a bady day and it’s not so easy for me to play along? What if I’m just tired and don’t hear? Can’t hear. Or comprehend. It could just so easily be the worst night ever. I can’t help but replay that scenario in my head. Would people care then?

I couldn’t find the words to talk about what was happening because I was too busy feeling what was going on in the countless American towns and cities where police had unjustly and without consequence ended a life too soon. I was drained from scrolling my news feeds and seeing Queer of color after Queer of color who was killed because of trained ignorance. Some of my Facebook friends had started using the hashtag “I could be next,” and it’s true. The anxiety eventually beats you down to nothing. To hopeless. And it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

The tension between the State and Black bodies has been adverse since even before the beginning of this country. Because, well, this country was built on the backs, blood, tears, subjugation, strength, hope, resilience and creativity of those same bodies. But this post isn’t about Slavery. Hell, it’s not even about the young mean I mentioned in the beginning of this post.

This is about our proven lack of safety as Black bodies walking around these American streets. And what’s more is that when working with the intersections of Black lives, we need to come together to recognize and stand for every intersection of our people. That would be real rebellion. That would be real change and real hope. Working together goes against the system. But most importantly, the time I feel least anxious is when surrounded by my people’s warm love and embrace. Let’s revolt. Let’s be together.

All power to the people.

-B1

Young Rascals

HarlemBrownstones

My first records were a couple of Young Rascal albums. I found them on a curb outside a brownstone in downtown Albany. They were bright and goofy. Their covers are all the same, the four mop headed, members of the band posing together, dopey eyed, looking straight ahead.

I knew their songs from drives with my Dad. He has an impressive working knowledge of popular songs from the late fifties to early seventies. He’d sing along to songs like “Secret Agent Man” in the car, my siblings would cringe. I thought it a badge of honor, the illest power possible. My Dad told us, “There was nothing else to do, but to listen to music then.”

There were two men sitting on the stoop of the brownstone, the proprietors of the gratis box of records, old appliances, and a pile of clothes. They were huddled together, both in black. They were tiny men. I was wider than both of them. They were old. I didn’t instantly distrust them.

I was with my friend, Sybil. She drove us into Albany to meet up with our little high school crew at a burrito joint, a place I’d spent many hours. It’s one of those places people under a certain age thinks is terribly cool, only to realize later it’s pretty tolerable for a place attracting throngs of adolescents. You want to go back to make amends with the wait staff you were surely obnoxious to.

Sybil drove an old brown Volvo. It was a hair away from the generation of cars where kids rolled around the back seats with wide and sharp turns, and babies sat on their mother’s laps for safekeeping. It had pop out ashtrays, and thick knobs for the radio. Knobs so serious, so hardy, I felt I was turning on the radio for the free world. I had feelings for that Volvo.

We were walking back to her car to head to someone’s house or backyard or basement, when we stumbled on the tiny men and the belongings they didn’t want.

I saw an old antenna TV with a chalky, brown finish and plastic, gray dials. My parents’ house didn’t lack televisions. We had reached middle class prestige, a TV in almost every room of the house. But I imagined this one having supernatural powers. I pictured it turning on in the middle of the night, broadcasting images and sounds of my neighbors’ fighting and fucking and crying and kissing their kids goodnight. I’d tune into it until I went mad, and desperately fail to explain to everyone, “It’s the TV, I tell you. The TV!”

I’d recently read John Cheevers’ “Enormous Radio.”

Sybil tried on a black, gray jacket from Express. She looked like a grown up little rascal, sans bowler hat, in it. She passed it to me. It didn’t fit me either. I couldn’t zip it up.

“You should still take it,” Sybil said.

“Yeah?” I said.

“You look good in it. Wear it unzipped.”

“She’s right. You should. You do look good in it,” the tinier of the men in black said. I kept the jacket on. The tinier man half smirked, half smiled. If you drove over his grin, you’d have a momentary sensation of weightlessness.

I wasn’t sure how, but he made me feel really good. Even though under the jacket, I was a disheveled, seventeen year old in a ringer tee with a dirty, Clash wristband.

“We’re moving and I can’t wear it anymore. You have to take it,” he said. He was incredibly tiny.

There were around twenty records on the curb. It wasn’t until years later, I realized they probably had more records, and were giving away the dregs of their collection. At the time, I thought they had bad taste. There were compilations of TV theme songs, movies I had never heard of, and those Young Rascal records.

The first Rascal album I found was Groovin. Groovin’s cover is what you think of when you think of mid to late sixties album covers. It’s garish with caricature drawings of the band, horsing around with each other. The caricatures are not flattering, the band’s faces are rodentish. If I had found this record when I was twelve, it would have scared me, and I’d have to hide it.

“Those are some fun records,” the larger, tinier man said.

“Very far out,”the tinier man said.

I didn’t start collecting records in earnest until years later, I didn’t have a working record player, and I really didn’t like the Young Rascals all that much.

“Take them. They’re good stuff,” the larger, tiny man said.

He made me believe.

I could hear my Dad singing, “Grooooooovin on a Sunday afternoon.” He’d push “groovin” to its ethical limits.

I took each Young Rascal record from the curb.

“Enjoy,” the tinier, tiny man said. He hit me with that smile again.

I was never happy when I was seventeen. But this guy, he was pulling smiles out of me. He was messing my game up.

I kept the jacket on, plopping the records on top of the old, jalopy of a television, and carried them to Sybil’s car. I rearranged my ransom in the backseat until it was safe.

“I really do you like that jacket on you,” Sybil said.

We got in the car to drive back to the suburbs to reconvene with our crew. It was early summer, some of our friends were college bound in the fall. We spent every waking moment possible together. We chastised friends who were missing in action because they were in love. We stayed up till 5am, talking about nothing in particular, except the most important things ever, and thought we were worldly. We talked about books and music and what it would be like to “get out of here.” We cut Bud Light with cola.

In the car, I checked the TV and records in the rear view window. I dug my hands into the jacket’s pockets. We drove down the main drag of our town. I felt something in the lining of the jacket. I tugged at it.

I hadn’t noticed before the jacket had a pocket in its lining. Westerns and old police procedurals were often on in my parents’ house, my Dad loves them. I knew what those pockets meant; they are brimming with danger and authority. You pull out guns and badges and flasks from those pockets.

I pulled out a pamphlet.

The pamphlet was full of shapes and arrows and annotations, a million little elementary school solar system models splashed over a few pages. Technicolor like the records.

“What is it?” Sybil asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

I turned its pages. Numbered instructions. When to take what pills on what days in what sequences. Symptoms to expect, reactions to be on the lookout for.

I turned the radio on. The knobs were so heavy.

“Groooooooooooooooooooovin.”

I would stay up until everyone was asleep in the house. I wanted unfettered access to the sole desktop computer in the basement.  We’d tussle for  control of it in waking hours. Transitions of power were rarely peaceful or stable. A brother would relinquish power after strategic bursts of needling, only to have a sister perched on my shoulder chanting, “For how long?” and “For how much longer?”

Late at night, détente.

I was trying to figure out how many people like me were out there. Figure out what I was supposed to do, and what I was supposed to know. Find those records.

I’d turn on a single light in the basement. I’d stop at the foot of the stairs and wait for a minute. I’d watch the door, expecting the back draft of my Dad throwing it open. I’d sit down on the ten-dollar office chair from CVS and try and think of what I was really looking for.

I’d type and backspace and type and backspace. I’d commit to the search.

I’d turn around, expecting my entire family to be at the bottom of the basement stairs crestfallen in their pajamas with the same questions, “For how long?” and “How much longer?”

These late night sessions on the family computer were seminal. I learned a lot. Often with the help of videos and pangs of guilt.

I, also, found out we have a history. In our history, time is demarked with before AIDS and after AIDS. I found out AIDS is one of our great crises and triumphs and stories we’ve forgotten about ourselves.

I, also, knew about AIDS . I had seen Philadelphia with my family and in civics’ class. I was discussed in health. I watched the news.

I think of those two guys when I get emails to join a team for an AIDS walk. I think of them when friends have called me panicked over the night before. I think of them when I think as every person who has ever had sex does, “what if?” I think of them when I’m out, and local health workers are looking for men who sleep with men between this age and that age to participate in a study. They’re looking for those guys.

I think of them when I pick up And The Band Played On or Melancholia and Moralism to read random passages. I think of them when I see two older, handsome men having dinner. I think of them when I peruse city curbside offerings. I think of them when I look for records. I’m looking for those guys.

Two tiny, men in black on a stoop, giving me my first records. One incredibly tiny, tiny man who made me smile and proud.

Sybil parked on a cul-de-sac, completing the chain of our friends’ cars.

“Where’d you get the jacket?” a friend asked.

I showed them the pamphlet, the TV, and the records.

My friend’s brother said, “It should be alright to wear.” He shook his head. He had been in the same civics and health class. He watched the news.

I wore the jacket through the end of high school. It hangs in the coat closet in my parent’s kitchen, next to the pantry. Sometimes I’ll thrown it on when I’m home for a weekend or holiday. I still can’t zip it up.

I still like being the only person awake in the house. I don’t need the cover of darkness to use the desktop anymore. I’ll get a snack from the pantry and check to make sure the jacket is still where I left it. I’ll tug at it. It’s coarse and soft and safe.

I lost track of the pamphlet long ago. I kept it in my backpack for a while and then my nightstand. I know its somewhere in the many dressers and desks of my parents’ house. I wonder if someone has come across it, and been royally confused and concerned. It’ll find me again, if it needs to.

There have been a handful of times, I’ve tried to reason out what happened to my two friends. I’ll never know. It may be for the best. I doubt the wonder will ever completely disappear.

Those guys were looking out for me. I’ve tried to piece together the telepathic conversation they had about me.

“She’s so little.”

“She has no idea.”

“I bet I can get her to smile.”

“These records will help!”

“She’ll figure it out.”

I thought they were old. They really weren’t. I was just really young. I’ll see young queer kids out and about now. I want to make them smile. They think I’m old.

I wonder if they’ve started their record collection yet.

-B2

 

 

 

 

I Ain’t Half the Man, I Never Was

I Ain’t Half the Man, I Never Was

 

The latter half of 2013 to 2014 was soul crushing. Too many people in my life were dealing with too much, too soon, too all at once. My family was embroiled in past conflicts and rolling into new minefields. I lost a person in my life whom by any measure of fairness or sense shouldn’t be gone. I was heartbroken over a girl who I knew would break my heart, but it wasn’t going to stop me.

At the precipice of the New Year, I spent hours pouring over my horoscope. I binged on the zodiac. It was the type of year that made turning my head to the sky like a young Brando and screaming, “Stelllaaaaar” seem the most responsible, rational choice. I mean, I don’t take astrology seriously, but I take it seriously.

In the past, when I go down an astrological rabbit hole, it’s been spurred on by smaller scale, kismet magic. You know like a deep, philosophical conversation with the woman next to me on the bus who I talked to because she was reading Spanish for Gringos which seemed perfect and she’s cute and it’s weird because she’s blonde and I’m never attracted to blondes. The sort of gift which gives you pause to think, there’s so much I don’t know, and I can’t tell if I want to revel or drown in it. Horoscopes let you do both.

Yearly horoscope. Love Horoscope. Sex Horoscope. Career Horoscope. Horoscope prompted by a terrible year. Horoscope prompted by an intriguing woman. They all add up to the same thing. Tell me where my story is going and how it is ending and if it matches up to what I have in mind. Give me the itinerary. I promise to use it for good. I deserve it. I won’t run away in the way people run away when hit with bouts of clear-cut truth.

All right, maybe not.

 

Perfunctorily tearing through the catacombs of the web for single trinkets of undeniable truth about life is not straightforward. Horoscopes are fractured. They are full of potholes. They always have these doomful asides promising the exact opposite of its former declarations. You have to work with them, poke at them, and come to some personal understanding of how it will fit into the story you’ve crafted before you ventured onto astrology.com. And that’s why I dig it. In the way you poke your tongue at a loose, but a not so loose tooth. It hurts. It feels good. You leave it alone. You plunder it. It falls out. You’ll glad it fell out. You miss poking it.

I combed through 2015 Capricorn horoscopes; searching for the one I’d crown the preamble to my year. The one I’d click with like the woman on the bus. The one I’d think solidly about for three weeks as I go about my everyday life. The one I hold up to the minutiae and constantly think, that shit is so stupid and alternatively, it was written in the stars.

During this wistful quest, I stumbled upon horoscopes divided by gender. In the years of my casual relationship with the cosmos, I’ve thought it’s a crude approach, and read on. This year it caught my attention. I had this nagging question in my mind, am I Capricorn man or woman?

This question is liminal and impossible and irresistible and downright ridiculous. And terrifically, unimportant/important in the way chasing down gender has tended to be for me. I’ll gain tremendous personal momentum, feeling at ease with and proud of my masculine femininity or butchness or dykeness. I’ll be cruising right along like a dandy, and then I’ll be thrown over my own handlebars. The fall and the get up are revelatory and bruising.

I latched onto this idea of the gender binary via the stars because I needed a new way to bring the last year and a half into focus, a new way to think about the choices I made, and a new way to think about my behavior. I figure it is about as legitimate as any other way we do it on planet earth.

The feminine versus the masculine. This was the conflict that flared up the most when I thought about the last year and a half. As one thing after another happened, I’d turn to my masculinity to hold up my emotional levees. I can’t say this is an anomaly. Since I was a kid with enough self awareness to know I didn’t look or act like most girls and a little more cherubic than most boys, I’ve relied on this stoic reserve to let me endure and survive and cope and figure out who I might be and who I am.

But leaning on that reserve gets me into trouble. I end up scraping for whatever shred of stamina I have left to will everything into being okay, instead of just letting the levees down, and letting myself not be okay. I have always had trouble doing that. I don’t let myself have that sort of strength. Because I’m not allowed to do that because my femininity is flawed.

One of my best friends told me after I bought a turquoise bubbler from a head shop, “You buy the smallest, most feminine things sometimes, when no one’s looking.” Always, when no one is looking.

And it gets me into a bind, I receive accolades from friends and significant others and colleagues because I’m strong and it pushes me to back to the well until it is bone dry and I wish I had more in me. But not because it’s the best or most honest thing for myself or the people in my life, but because its what is allotted for me and acceptable from me. So I still lead with this sort of queer machismo to get me out of the woods, but fuck if I can see the forest for the trees.

There is a push-pull quality to it. I have much work to do to come to a more personal, harmonious union. But outside of my mind and body, I know there is other territory to consider. In some relationships, times, and places the tune playing in the background is bois don’t cry. I like you Bridget, I want the best for your Bridget, but don’t teeter outside what your appearance means. You can’t know what its like to be a gender normative woman, so don’t act gentle or sensitive. You can’t lay claim to that.

I was at a dyke bar a few years ago with some friends. We were taking turns playing songs on a vintage jukebox and egregiously dancing in the back of the bar. I put on J. Holiday’s, “Bed” and body rolled like I was a down and out Fly Girl. It was movie montage worthy.

There were a few older women playing pool beside us. They were old school, stone butches. They looked like Leslie Feinberg and you know they had seen shit in their day. They were beautiful.

The night rolled on with “Wait, do you remember this song?” and “This song make me feel sixteen” and “This will play at my wedding.” The women at the pool table laughed at us a few times, I’m sure feeling nostalgic over and happy as hell they weren’t in their early twenties anymore.

Billy, one of the girls out with our group, pulled me aside, later into the night. She didn’t understand the women at the pool table. “Why do they want to look like that, if they’re women? It doesn’t make sense.” I thought shit, she is on my team, and she is posing a question she doesn’t even realize I’m the subject and object of.

I didn’t say anything to her. I couldn’t answer her question. I didn’t have it in me then.

Capricorn woman? Capricorn man? The question is as useful and imperfect as reading the daily horoscope. I can’t say my tendency to rely on the masculine, even when the feminine is screaming out for me will ever not be a part of my story, but I’m going to poke it as much as I can, and maybe the tooth will drop.

 

-B2

27 Certitudes

  1. In second grade, I fell in love with a girl for the first time. I stole a white faux leather purse from my sister for her. She loved it. She hugged and kissed me on the playground. Then she ran away from me, purse in tow. Love is tough.
  2. People are really cagey about assholes.
  3. Privilege and talent are not mutually exclusive.
  4. Dancing. Dancing is everything. Dancing saves lives.
  5. Some of the meanest people I’ve met work for charities, non-profits, and social justice organizations. They only like people when they are abstract and far away and beneath them.
  6. In our world, if its got a dick, it’s more legitimate.
  7. If you can’t get down to “Like A Prayer”, I can’t trust you.
  8. We should call praying, thinking and thinking, praying. We’d all be happier and closer to the truth about what both are.
  9.  Game recognize game.
  10.  Bless every queer person who came before and made the load lighter.
  11.  HIV/AIDS. We can’t forget about it.
  12. We want truth to be complimentary and easy. The joke is on us.
  13. The world is a straight bar. I found this note in my phone from May 1, 2014 at 5:50pm. I don’t know what precipitated it, but I stand by it.
  14. Bette Midler sang in bathhouses in the 1970’s. The Divine Miss M sang in gay bathhouses in New York City in the 1970s. Nothing has ever made me surer, I was born in the wrong time.
  15.  I wonder what sex felt like before 1980.
  16.  Yeezy taught me.
  17.  Strength is weakness is strength is weakness is strength is weakness is strength.
  18.  Every single person on earth needs to see The Boys in the Band.
  19.  At wakes, nametags listing full name and relationship to the deceased should be mandatory. There’s a real life, dead person in the room. I don’t want to do any guessing.
  20. Butch 1 and I were leaving a bar once during our senior year of college. She told me, “You need to stop fucking with straight women.” A couple of months ago, my friend told me, “You need to find yourself a honest to god, salt of the earth queer woman.” I wonder why I am always sleeping with straight, but not so straight women. It’s fucked up I ask myself this. I don’t subscribe to that shit. I don’t believe in attraction or sex or identity in some single, canonical, or right way. I don’t believe in some queer litmus test. You’ve passed! You’ve failed. I hate when its directed toward me. Am I self-loathing? But I’m not. Maybe. No. Jury is out? Love is tough.
  21. No one needs to see the Four Faced Liar, but if you have, you know my life.
  22. People like queer people. People just don’t like queer people when they do the things that make them queer.
  23. Will there ever be a week, I don’t think about all the iterations of the madonna/whore complex?
  24. We all create master narratives about our lives. We get mad at each other when they are disrupted and challenged. The master keeps on winning.
  25. You want to know the best way to tell if someone is a prick? Ask them the last ten musicians/bands they listened to. If half of them aren’t women, people of color, and/or queer people, they are. And they don’t like music.
  26. Forgiving myself and peeing. The two things I wish my friends could do for me.
  27. Stay on them antics.

-B2

All of Our Choices

ChalkDrawing

 

Close to two years ago, Butch 1 and I were talking. This was not unusual. We’ve stayed in touch since graduating college and living on separate coasts. We’ve worked around time differences and work schedules to kick it and talk about everything –friends, family, our immediate and future plans, and always, women. We allow each other to be long winded and frenzied and the most extreme versions of ourselves. We back each other up with, “Are you fucking serious?”, or “Homie, I’m sorry.”, or “So fucking awesome.”

Honestly, though, the dilemmas and dramas unfolding in our lives at any given time are usually prelude to a “Can you believe how fucked up shit it is?” conversation. This question in its exponential forms drove us here. We wanted to bring these conversations out of our modest apartments and minds to give them longer legs. When we talked about what we’d call this spot, I remember racking my mind for something with enough panache and muscle to capture our idea and us. Next time we spoke, I went on about how I couldn’t think of anything. Butch 1 with her “I’m easy like a Sunday morning” vibe said, “I was thinking, Two Butches.”

The name brings into focus a ripple circling around everything we do and discuss. We are two people with loaded and discernable identities. Of the identities we share, we are proud, masculine of center, queer women. By the forces of nature and nurture, these identities are personal and political, and for reasons, personal and political, these identities can bend with us and against us. We claim these identities, but these identities claim us. So while we find community and camaraderie as two butches, we know, we are reductively two butches.

There’s friction between these two realities. How do I live my life as a person begot from chance and individual experience and as a person begot from a larger historical and cultural context? When it comes down to it, I know every space and conversation I enter begins with this jumping off point – am I seen me, first and foremost, as a dyke? And it doesn’t mean, a person is assaulting me or denying me a wedding cake. But maybe, I’m taken a little less seriously, deemed a little silly, and a little less important.

This friction leaves us with choices. These choices are illusionary and nebulous and incomplete and regularly framed in terms of personal responsibility. Look at the veneer of questions lobbed at people of minority statuses and you’ll see prejudice disguised as personal choice. A person of color is stopped and questioned under a false or flimsy pretense. Why didn’t you cooperate? If you have nothing to hide, what’s the problem? A woman’s raped. Why did you wear that? Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you come forward sooner? Why can’t you remember exactly what happened? A person rails against income inequality. Why don’t you get a better paying job? Why don’t you work more? Why don’t you work harder?

These aren’t real or equitable choices. These are choices engendered by a dearth of equality. These are the choices presented for people, who despite their personal story, despite arbitrating the balance between who am I as a person outside every possible way we define ourselves, are always reduced to their most essential identity. In this determination, this is never complimentary or celebratory; it’s incendiary. That black kid shot dead? Why was he a thug? Why did he smoke pot? Why did he have no respect for authority?

The virtue of these questions is to malign someone’s humanity, make a person culpable in their suffering, not because of who they are, but because of their identity. Their virtue is to make history an aberration, when it’s cause and effect, and will persist so long as minority identities are a little trivial, a little silly, and a little less important.

For those of us who live within the perimeters of these choices, we are in a continuous state of anticipation, waiting for the time we will be subjugated to these choices. Waiting for the time you will be told to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, unsissy your walk, or tone it down. You flinch; you take in your surroundings because it can happen whenever and wherever. Or to your friend. Or to a family member. Or someone who looks a lot like you.

And though, I may proudly assert my identity as a dyke, I only control a part of it. A lot less of it that I would like. Because my everyday reality is this, I get up and live in a world that does not mostly look like me or identify as me. I get on the train and wonder why the seat next to me is consistently the last seat to be taken by weary commuters. I switch train cars when I’m the object of a not so friendly glare because I still need to get to where I am going. I have to think when I’m in a friend’s car, should I tell them not to fill their tank with Exxon gas, and go a little further down the road. I have to remember I live in a world dictating most of my choices are directly political, whether I like it or not.

But lets back up. Butch 1and I went to Emerson College. I work there now. During undergrad, Butch 1 spent a lot of time in the Cultural Center. At our creamy white college, the Cultural Center was a bastion of not so creamy white people. I did not spend much time there. I dropped in and out irregularly toward the end of my college career. I won’t talk about it too much as I wasn’t there that much.

Close to graduation, I was in the Center, I think I was killing time in between classes. The director of the Center and some underclassmen had put together a surprise award ceremony for graduating seniors. Having never genuinely being part of that community, the director was kind enough to say something about me. It’s stuck with me. “Thank you for not being afraid to come in here.” That was around five years ago, and its taken me that long to fully hear what she said.

I was one of those creamy white college students, and I am now a creamy white twenty something. I identify as a minority, but I am a member of dominant culture. I do look and identify as most people I get on the train with. I do look and identify as most people I see everyday. I am afforded many privileges because I’m white. Up to and including, being thanked for spending time in a certain corner of a liberal arts college, which espouses liberal and progressive ideas.

I’d like to think that my queerness provides with me some insight into other inequalities. But I have to remember to keep this thought in the realm of thinking and not fact or experience. I think I have insight, but I don’t. That is a choice I should not have.

My queerness does not allow me catharsis from racism. It does not make my privilege more tolerable or less damaging. It does not make me a better person. My awareness of privilege is not clemency. It’s a choice. A choice that I can ignore. A choice I do not have to make. I don’t mean this as a personal accolade. I mean this as fact of life as a white person.

Ferguson presents us with choices. We can view it as a single event with singular consequences. Michael Brown was killed. Darren Wilson killed him. Darren Wilson is not indicted. Darren Wilson resigns. We can, as I personally do, view it as one red-hot star in a galaxy of oppression. Michael Brown is to Eric Garner is to Trayvon Martin is to Sean Bell is to Amadou Diallo is to Rodney King is to James Chaney is to Addie Mae Collins is to Cynthia Wesley is to Carole Roberston is to Denise McNair is to Emmett Till.

But there are more choices. We can examine the quality of our choices. We can contemplate what paradigms are upheld when the choices we have are not good enough. We can remember choice does not by definition or function ensure a fair or moral option; it ensures a minimum of two possibilities.

We can look at the divineness of public discourse around Ferguson, and know we are being set up for more of the same. We can look at Ferguson, and know a lot of the people, whom see this as a single event or side with Darren Wilson, are more than “afraid to come in here.” They don’t have to come in here. They don’t have to make that choice. They are free from these choices.

We’re here because we’re not satisfied with our choices – the ones we have and the ones we don’t and the ones we are forced to make and the ones we have never been able to make, together and separately.

-B2

Won’t Be Broke For Long: “Broke With Expensive Taste” Album Review

 BWET Cover

As far as I’m concerned the debut album of the infamous and newly independent Azealia Banks broke the internet. You can go on ahead with that Kim K/Paper Mag/Booty/Money Shot. For starters, Kim didn’t show us anything we hadn’t seen before (Y’all remember why she became famous, right?). Secondly, I didn’t have the energy to really get into debunking how clueless Mrs. West is to the larger social implications of her participation in that photo shoot. And I’m not shaming her for showing it. I just don’t really give a fuck.

Hold up. Let’s back up. I’ve already said too much about that nonsense.

Azealia Banks came all the way correct on her oft delayed debut album, Broke with Expensive Taste. I was drawn in by the cover immediately: A Black ballerina’s legs clearly cut out over a black cover splattered with gold lettering of Bank’s name and sheet music. It alludes to the hodgepodge we are about to delve into.

I admit, I spent some time listening to the samples she employed and they were vast and far out in some cases. The most obvious being “Nude Beach A-Go-Go.” A lot of other sites have called this track a misstep. And when I first heard it I also had to exclaim ‘WTF!” After about 7 times through the album I was singing a long with the 60′s era pop tune that would have probably fit better in a Beach Boys anthology than this album but that’s another thing I liked about it being placed in the album. It demonstrated Banks doing whatever she wanted and I love to see that empowerment in anyone, but especially women of color.

We hear Banks rap to her signature syncopated beats a few times through this trip. So much of this album thumps. Literally, the beats are heavy with drums and bass. We also get to hear her singing more, which used to annoy me, but was used so effectively in this project that I felt generally pleased when hearing her on the hook.  So when “Nude Beach” comes in seemingly ruining everything, the listener has no choice but to pay full attention again. Azealia won’t allow anyone to passively rock this album. She snatches you up by the collar from the beginning and calls you a bitch and then tells you to deal with it. Maybe that’s not your thing, but I was hooked!

Beyond “Nude Beach,” her very first song, “212″ seemed the most out of place on this album. That track, while still one of my favorites was almost too playful for this album. Someone at Complex suggested it should have been replaced with “1991.” I don’t disagree.  But those are my only complaints really, and I wouldn’t even use a word that strong.

You can tell she tried (and succeeded) in making a radio ready hit in “Chasing Time.” And I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I can spot a radio tune miles away. It’s kinda what I do. Still, it is a masterful combination of Azealia Banks quick-step flow and the simpler pop sound that is accessible to the radio audience, complete with a cute and catchy hook.  What more can you ask for? She even made a video that she released on MTV, so she already knows the game. Hopefully it catches on and the homie can make some bank off the song her former label was not impressed with.

Broke with Expensive Taste is a really good entrance into the hip hop album game. She reached her audience and spoke to us in a way that we all like to hear from her. As for the haters, she displayed her dynamics (can you rap in Spanish, tho?), her skill for legitimate bars and her bravado puts her up there with Nicki Minaj in my eyes. I don’t mean commercially, of course. That’s Nicki’s lane. But as far as women rappers that can gun you down, Banks has her own worthy arsenal.

The album goes everywhere and comes right back to where it started. It’s a different lane of hip hop that syncs her closely to acts like Santigold, M.I.A and Rye Rye as opposed to Iggy Azealia or Nicki Minaj, but I think that’s going to let her give us more authentic (re: better) music and I ain’t mad at that! It’s a refreshing sound for the game and I look forward to the tour that will likely accompany and support BwET.

You can listen to this album through and through. You won’t feel like you need to skip to the next track and if ever you start to feel bored, Ms. Banks is quick to pull you back into her fold.

Just listen to it, okay!? I think if you give a chance, you will totally vibe with it.

Most Notable tracks according to B1:

  • “Wallace”
  • “BBD”
  • “Soda”
  • “Chasing Time”

-B1

 

Creeds

By gladlad

By gladlad

I came out to my parents ten years ago. I wasn’t disowned. I wasn’t sent to counseling. I wasn’t cut out of their wills (to my knowledge). The day after, I got up and went to school. I told a few friends, zoned out of my health class, and got picked up by my Mom after a club meeting. On the way home, she pulled her mint green Buick off the road, not too far from our house and told me, “You know me and your Dad love you no matter what.”

I love trading coming out stories. I know every queer person I meet, I can spar back and forth with over this, whether they are out or not or somewhere in-between.

Oh, I lost it on my parents’ kitchen table!

I lost it in the back seat of my dad’s Toyota Corolla with my best friend from high school!

I’ll do it when it’s right for me.

I don’t know if I’ll ever do it, do it.

Much has been said about the significance of coming out since the dust cleared on Christopher Street to closed-door parent teacher meetings. A decade out, I don’t dwell too much on the time before I was out or the moment I chose to cross the line of demarcation between myself and truer self. I don’t remember much of it. Mothers, supposedly, forget the pain of childbirth. I’ve forgotten the pain of my second birth.

But it does makes me think of church.

I attended mass almost every Saturday growing up. Skipping church was better than missing school. I saved the vague ailments kids feign to get out of tests and book reports for Saturdays from 5pm to 6pm.

“Mom, my stomach hurts.”

“How?”

“It hurts.”

“Is it a sharp pain or achy?”

“Its sharp. Like right in the middle.”

“You seem fine.”

“I need to lie down.”

“I’ll have Dad stay with you.”

“He doesn’t need to.”

“What if something happens?”

“Nothings going to happen.”

“You said you don’t feel well. Something could happen”

“Its fine.”

My mom knew it was bullshit, but she’d let it go .The hour or so I’d have the house to myself was glorious. There were no Risky Business moves or cracks into the liquor cabinet.

I’d tuck myself into a corner of the couch in the TV room, and mull over all the things I never thought I’d be allowed to think about. Church was hard for me because I knew who I was and what choices were left for me. Church was an encapsulation of life waiting for me on the other side. Religious rites of passages were not only at stake; all rites of passage were.

This has and hasn’t changed in the last ten years.

Now, I go to mass once a year on Christmas Eve with my family. We arrive to church two hours before service to beat out other fair-weather Catholics for seats. The waiting is painful. I see classmates from high school in billowing beige suites and red blouses. They look like their parents. They look like my parents.

But I look forward to the service.

The cadence of mass is comforting. Its rhythms and beats are hard-nosed and dense. Mass is stern and cold, but unambiguous and communal. I, mostly, remember the refrains.

There are no surprises in church. I can close my eyes and be five, sixteen, or twenty-six. Christ has still died. Christ has still risen. Christ will still come again.

After the homily is the Profession of Faith, the sweet spot before Eucharist. Among avowing belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a small turn of phrase, I’ve always been fascinated by. So it goes,

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the
resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
“The communion of saints” is a spectacular phrase. It always resonated with me. Liturgically speaking, it refers to all living and deceased Christians, but it would be a moneymaker of a gay bar.
“The communion of saints” is what I think about when I think about coming out. And what I do remember about before being out. I’d imagine the pantheon of family I was joining and would be joined by Oscar Wilde. The kid down the street. Some of the people I’ve slept with.

Time, place, privilege, religion, and family orient every coming out. Some are rehearsed and choreographed, some are done clumsily and brazenly, and some happen without consent. Some are happy stories. Some are sad. Most are somewhere in-between.

But we all get confirmed in a new church with a new liturgy with new sacraments with new refrains.

-B2

The (Feminism) Trap Game

From Youtube

In Trap We Trust via YouTube

Recently I found a post on the blog Feministing.com by a writer who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine named Sesali Bowen. She first came upon Trap feminism by way of exploring hip hop feminism and hood feminism. “Neither term” she writes  ”truly speaks to my inner feminist hoochie; nor explains the complex, sex-positive, financially ambitious, and self-affirming components of my feminism. But through these lens, I’ve been able to identify other spaces that do. Trap music is one of them.”

For those not familiar with Trap Music, it’s fun, party music about all of the vices you can handle while blowing money fast. It also talks specifically and often violently about the trap, which is a place where drugs are sold. But you can dance really fun to it. The beats go hard and the energy is always live!

As a lover of all types of music, including and sometimes especially trap music, this idea of trap feminism really resonated with me. I am a staunch believer in the autonomy of all people, I currently work towards making all spaces that I occupy feel more inclusive and comfortable enough that everyone can do what they want in them. I don’t think that should be any different when talking about making money selling drugs, dancing on poles or dare I say it, sucking dick.

In my world view, all of those people should not only be allowed to do what they want(except the drug dealer – another post will deal with this), but should be respected in the work they are doing. And it is work! Sex work is a job like any other job: you go, do what you are paid to do, and then you leave. The middle part is the same sort of exploitation people working minimum wage for mega corporations experience. The only real difference is sex workers are getting fucked with their clothes off.

And sure, that sounds inflammatory and hyperbolic, but it’s really not. Our discomfort  might be more closely tied to our prudishness about nudity and sexuality or some major influence from religion (and now society) about the way women are “supposed” to act. But it’s a job that many people in it do because they feel they have to. Others, and this sect exists in both, really enjoy what they are doing. They feel the job benefits them financially as well as fulfills them. And that’s awesome! I am about everyone having the opportunity to do that.

That’s how I see trap feminism. It is so extensively and especially inclusive that even groups previously thought to be disrespectful to the cause of feminism, like trap rappers, can be seen through a lens that actually respects women. We need to make them see that more consciously, but nothing is perfect and this is a work in progress.

I want to direct you to the song “Make it Rain” by rap group, Travis Porter, Sesali mentioned this in her piece too.

The song begins: “You wanna see some ass/ I wanna see some cash/Keep them dollas coming/ And thats gon’ make me dance”

Transaction! Hello!  Who is winning here? The dude throwing hundreds of dollars OR the woman who was already going to be naked anyway? But this is not even about defending strip clubs right now, or even sex work. This is about saying those people can be feminists too!

Usher has this new song out with Juicy J, who must have a word on any track about an exotic dancer, and it’s about being cool with dating a dancer.
He even sings “Shawty, I don’t Mind. If you dance on a pole/That don’t make you a ho…”

Need I say more?

That is what trap feminism can do for the world. Be about it!

-B1

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