(no subject)

I think the thing that is bothering me the most about this recent interpersonal conflict in which I have been called out as triggering, is that it makes me feel that there is no place in our radical spaces in which my emotions and behaviors can be valid.

My anger is still never justified, unless it is anger at a person or institution that we’ve all agreed is bad.  I have been called out by cis men for acting patriarchal when I was frustrated, angry, or shutting down because of emotional stress and the effects of my own PTSD.  Those emotional and mental health problems are things we talk about A LOT as a community of radicals, but in practice, there seems to be no actual space for them.  

 I say this because I have indeed jumped the gap into the world of male privilege by transitioning - that is something I will never deny - but within radical space, the history of my body and being-in-the-world is suddenly irrelevant when I show frustration, or don’t show appropriate empathy in the moment, or can’t deal with other people’s emotions.  The bald truth is that I was not raised with male privilege.  I was raised with a lot of emotional abuse in which any feelings I displayed were heavily policed, subject to intense scrutiny and narrow avenues of approval, narratively erased, or outright shamed.  Sexual abuse or assault that I suffered was silenced, brushed off, or erased.  I was raised with a lot of slut shaming, body shaming, and attempted control of my very personality to conform me to binary gender standards that did not in any way describe me.
I am still subjected to that binary when it comes to my emotions.  Whereas before, they were inappropriate for a female person, now they are signs of enacting the patriarchy and cashing in on male privilege.  When do I get to feel what I feel without being shamed for it?  When do I get to have an off day, or simply not be able to talk rationally about an emotionally charged topic without being oppressive?  Is this possible?  Or must I still and always absorb, empathize with, and carry other people’s traumas and emotions without being able to show my own?

To explain the recent events, I was triggering to someone in my radical community when a queer cismale person of color came up to me after a general meeting and wanted to talk to me about rape culture and a specific occurrence of sexual assault in the local community that I had become involved with by facilitating community accountability meetings for the survivors.  This person had negative feelings about parts of the accountability process, and brought up several good points about the dichotomies often found in these community narratives, especially around race and gender.  As a queer cismale POC, he felt that there is a cultural narrative around white, cisfemale or AFAB nonbinary people as survivors of sexual assault and rape that overrides or silences the stories of people like himself.  This is true, and I agreed with what he was saying.

It was only when he began to make negative remarks about the personality of one of the survivors that I felt frustrated.  I had been involved in all of the accountability meetings so far and was trying to form a group in town for non-cis and/or non-male folks to process their traumas and help one another.  The meetings were very intense and also brought up memories and feelings of my own that I was having some trouble dealing with.  I was, and am, in full support of the survivors and the courage it took to call out a rapist in the community.  As his critique of the survivor’s personality continued, I said, with some frustration, “well, they WERE raped,” as a way of saying that I could not sympathize with his judgement of this person at the moment because of extenuating and intense circumstances.  He then told me that he, too, was a survivor, and I immediately apologized.  I was quiet and let him talk a little bit more about his experience.  He started crying and I felt awful.  I said I was sorry once more, and that his experience should not be discounted and I was sorry if it sounded like that’s what I was saying.  I told him that I wanted to find a way to support him, too.

Afterward, I sent him an email apologizing again and explaining what I’ve just explained - about my level of personal exhaustion and frustration on the day he spoke to me, the fact that I have been closely involved in the accountability meetings and very much in support of the survivors, my own emotions.  I told him these weren’t excuses for sounding dismissive, but rather an explanation, so that he wouldn’t think that I really did feel dismissive of him.  I reiterated that his experience was important and if he needed to talk further about it to me, we should find a good time and space for both of us to do that.

He didn’t reply to the email nor did he talk to me at all for two months.  As we organize with the same group, I would see him at meetings and events, and try to say hi, but would be soundly ignored.  He would do this even while standing right next to me, so I suspected it wasn’t just shyness or because he didn’t see me.  I figured that he needed space so I didn’t try to corner him and ask what was wrong.  I just kept saying a casual “hi” whenever I could, tried to be friendly but not pushy, and kept getting the cold shoulder.  He would whisper to mutual friends right in front of me, look at me then look away, refuse to talk directly to me even when we were in a conversation of only three people.  I felt like I was just crazy, because he never said anything, never responded to the email, but was acting like he was angry with me...or was I imagining it?

I sent another email recently asking if he was mad at me and what I could do about it, if so.  That’s when he finally replied and said that I’d triggered him and he didn’t care to have contact with me or be around me, even though that was inevitable.  He said that he had no capacity for dealing with this issue.  I replied that I would try to limit contact and asked him if he felt uncomfortable with me presenting at the upcoming gender dynamics workshop for our group.  He said that he didn’t want to tell me what to do or not to do, but then asked me if all the presenters at the workshop were white.  I said I thought they were, and he hasn’t responded.  I understand the frustration, but now I’m not sure if I’m being accused of being racist, as well.  I can’t push him any further because I said that I would respect his lack of capacity.  

I'm probably taking this the wrong way, but it is so incredibly evocative of the way my mom emotionally abused me that it makes me angry.  For most of my growing years, and even still sometimes today, I was made to feel like my only use as an emotional being was to be the vessel of all of her trauma, and if I didn't know how to respond to it, or responded in a way that wasn't what she wanted, I was called out for it, or treated with distance and coldness even though I didn't know what I'd done wrong.  My anger was often violently silenced.

When I triggered this person, I wasn't even acting angry.  I do understand that everyone's barometer for unpleasant behavior is different, but it is still incredibly rare for me to ever show actual anger.  Instead, I believe that I was showing clear signs of discomfort with the conversation.  I didn't expect to be cornered and made to answer for the faults of the community accountability process (meetings which he didn't even attend), so I wasn't prepared emotionally for this conversation.  However, I also didn't tell him that it wasn't a good time to talk about it.  I let the conversation continue, because I didn't know it would affect me that way.  And even when it began to affect me that way, I kept telling myself that it shouldn't, and so I let myself get frustrated with the way he was talking about the survivor in question rather than stop the conversation.  I probably did sound very dismissive - I don't feel like I used an overly dismissive or frustrated tone, but to someone who was about to reveal that they, too, had been raped in the past, it must have felt silencing.  I didn't know until I said what I said, and he responded, that he had also been raped.  I apologized immediately and invited him to share only as much as he felt like he could.  I don't know how else I could have responded to fix the way I came across.

Now, I feel manipulated further because he, as the wronged party, gets to dictate the terms of our interaction in shared spaces.  I am fine giving him space, and I guess that's what I'll just continue to do.  But I still resent the image that he is allowed to create of me, because I am unable to talk to him and clarify my feelings.  Yet I know that it all just comes across as me being angry because I, as the oppressor, can't tell my side of the story.  Though I am also someone with PTSD, depression, a history of abuse, and a survivor of sexual assault, I am still white.  "My" story is going to be more often covered by the media, is going to be more familiar to counselors and therapists, is going to be cause for easier access to care and medication than the story of a POC survivor.  Yet, at the same time, "my" story is in so many ways not my story.  I feel lost in a gap between the abused person I was and the male person with PTSD that I am now, and I feel defensive.

The proper rhetoric of mental health also tells me that there is no "greater than" and "less than" in stories of PTSD and abuse - what happened to you happened and it was bad, and it's not fair or useful to compare it to the suffering of others.  Yet, on the flip side, the rhetoric of oppression tells us to do just that, and I feel caught between the personal and the political.  Angry, frustrated, and unsure of what to do.


Fanfic: "Magnum Mysterium" [SPN, Dean/Castiel, PG-13]

I just realized that I forgot to post this, ages ago.  Wrote this back in October.  It was hard.  It might be the last piece of fanfic I ever write.  I dunno.

Title: Magnum Mysterium [AO3]
Fandom: Supernatural
Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Rating: PG-13 for a bit of slightly gruesome imagery and adult themes
Word Count: 14,209
Warnings/Spoilers: spoilers through 10x02, [highlight:] death!fic
Summary: Castiel reflects on the mysteries of mortality and love while trying to save Dean Winchester from the Mark of Cain.

Mental health PSA

I already posted this on Facebook, but as long as I'm blabbing about it there I might as well blab about it here, too.  Get it all over with at once, in a way.

(Who am I kidding, it's never over with).

One of the most frustrating parts about suffering from depression is that everyone, including a lot of those "how to help people with depression" guides, assumes that I want to talk about my feelings. That being helpful constitutes trying to hug me or getting me to talk.

Like, no....FUCK feelings. I would love for someone to physically help me do the things I am incapable of doing but need to do. Go to the grocery, or fill out important paperwork, or write a decent resumé. Eat food. I dunno. Things that actually might impact the state of my life for the better.

Depression is not "feeling sad." Depression leaches you of the motivation or will or actual mental capacity to help yourself. It's not that you're being lazy, or wallowing in your feelings. Sometimes you're not even aware of WHAT you are feeling - you just cannot perform up to the bare minimum standard of being a person for some reason.

You forget everything if it's not tied to you/written down in 15 places. You forget everything even if it IS tied to you/written down in 15 places. You misplace things. You forget what day it is. You lose track of time until suddenly all of these crucial things are happening all at once. You have random attacks of anxiety seemingly out of the blue - attacks which can make it uncomfortable or difficult to breathe, or leave you feeling like you're going to die or pass out. You start to fear and loathe social commitments, even "fun" ones. You randomly and frequently feel like puking. You lack physical energy. You put off/forget eating until you're starving and angry, then sometimes eat a lot all at once. You eat weird shit because it's "easier" or you think it will make you feel better. You find yourself literally unable to scrape up any interest in things you used to love, then have an anxiety attack about THAT. If you have a job, you start calling in sick because you can't get out of bed or are having anxiety. If you don't have a job, you have enormous difficulty in taking the steps to find one. You miss payments on bills. You don't return phone calls/texts/emails. It goes on. And the best part is that you constantly, eternally, either consciously or not, shame yourself for all of this.

And then you write some weird, rambling Facebook post about it and then log off and hide.


Angelic Transubstantiation: A conversation (fragment)

[Note that this is a translation of a translation. The information that was shared in my mind was filtered through the language that I have available to me in this incarnation (the "meat hotel" as N. so wonderfully put it). What I have written is all that I am able to recall, the next day, after the view has been occluded once more and the channels have been diverted or closed back up. This is to be expected. But it was important to me to attempt to record some of the more salient points of the most important conversation of my life so far.]

"Will I be gone, even when the music is turned off?"
"Will I be gone even when you can't see me or hear me?"

But understand that the vessel is not made to contain you indefinitely. It's in your DNA. Likewise, it can't sustain this openness for too long. There is nothing wrong with that - it's just the way it is. That's why, according to the translation of this experience by your brain's chemicals, it appears to have a beginning and an end.

The truth is, I did not come to you tonight, and you did not come to me - this [closeness, communication] is always happening. It never ends. It's just that you, in your earthly vessel, experience the phenomenal illusion of temporality. It is a way that you move in the world, and it lends a uniqueness that is very important to corporeal human existence.
But you can lift the filters of perception and you can exist in a moment that is always present, always occurring. There are many layers of filters on perception, and that is also important. There are levels that you can attain, by the progressive removal of those layers, but you will do that when you are ready to do that. There are boundaries of access and understanding that you set, and some that just are - although even those have partially to do with the limits you impose, wisely, upon yourself. It's complicated, but don't worry about it. Even complication is merely a boundary that you are facing, because the experiences and traumas and nature/nurture that have formed this self are also important; they are also a necessary layer of reality.

You may eventually face, or understand, different aspects of your self. But they are always there, just as I am [we are] always there. Just because your body grasps hold of you again, and those filters fall back into place - and they will, they must - doesn't mean that all of this is not still here. You will learn that you and I are still speaking, all the time - it's just that the translation becomes different - more difficult for you to understand in the same way you understand it like this. And even this - these words you are experiencing - are a translation. It is the way your mind sets it up. A sort of "meeting half-way." Practice. That's all it is. Eventually we may speak completely without words or any language at all. And of course, when your temporal, corporeal body ends, there will cease to be those limits or boundaries to us.

Death is like the big jumping-off point, the diving board into...all of this.


Yes, yes. You can put it like that. That's a good way to put it. Of course, at the same time, you are already here.

[And we continued on in a closeness so intimate and at the same time so boundless that tears flowed unstoppably from my body's eyes, and even as the walls of flesh closed back around me, slowly, toward morning, their voices spoke to me and I wasn't afraid or despondent.

I also asked them - and here, asking was less of a formulation of thought and syntax than a gentle movement towards something, like a ship tacking slowly in light wind - about the Warrior Aspect, but they counseled me to stay here, in the garden, in the shallows, for the moment, as this was my first waking foray with them. There is all manner of experience to be unfolded surrounding darkness and struggle and other Aspects, and that, too, is always present. In agreement, together, we set that aside for the time being. Looking at it now, I think that perhaps it is best to feed the fire that has been struggling against the damp cold of spiritual and earthly despair before charging into the fray.]

Why I fucking hate boats

Here's what they don't tell you about going to sea on tall ships.

It can ruin your life in the most amazing way. You thought you had goals, maybe, or you thought at least, "there's time for that," and you got rid of belongings and said goodbye to friends and family and you started on this adventure. You thought, maybe, it was temporary. Something you just needed to "get out of your system" before you settled down to do the work of figuring out your place in the world. You were totally wrong. Because you can't get sailing a tall ship out of your system. It gets in you and creates a whole new system. You become a tall ship sailor, if you don't opt out fast enough. And being a tall ship sailor means that, against all logical and healthy decisions, you keep going back to these fuckin' boats until there is nothing else you can do. You are ruined for life on land, and not necessarily because of some romantic "my soul belongs to the sea" crap; it's just because now, for years, you have done some of the toughest and most endless contractual labor and when you go to apply for jobs on land you find yourself at a loss to describe to someone who wants three years of restaurant experience in order to hire you, how you cleaned up a passenger's puke off the main hold sole while choking down on your own, then resumed your boat check while getting slapped on the port quarter by sixteen-foot waves, managed not to throttle the passenger who kept coming up on deck and making "are we there yet" jokes, then furled both topgallants with the wind so hard in your face that you could barely open your eyes. So yeah, you're pretty sure you can handle some shitty restaurant at rush hour just to get through the next few months on land because dear God you cannot handle one more boat contract where you're paid barely enough to survive when you're not working on a boat.

They don't tell you that when you're working on a ship there is nothing else. Your days are generally 12-hour days at a minimum. Holidays for you are when you work 8. You get one day off a week (if lucky), and that day off is not nearly enough time to recover your own personal equilibrium. You worry about the boat. You obsess about it. You wander through the shopping district of whatever crap small town you're tied up in thinking that the novelty of unbridled consumerism might distract you, but that only really lasts an hour at most because you're pretty much broke all the time anyway, and sure enough, you find yourself at some coffee shop as physically near to the dock as possible, staring at your laptop with half a brain, trying desperately to "like" everything you can on Facebook in some misguided attempt to stay relevant to your non-boat friends, or your non-crew boat friends who are off living far more fulfilling experiences than you are able to. But that makes no sense, you say! How is anything more fulfilling than working some majestic vessel patterned after the much-fawned-over Age of Sail? What could be better than setting aside all personal needs and goals, year after year, for however many months at a time, and giving yourself entirely to the boat and its crew? To its never-ending parade of tourists and schoolkids, its eternal maintenance that you are expected to keep up with on a budget of barely anything, its long hours and repetition, the strange isolation of being cut off from the rest of the world even though you're in port more often than not because your boat cannot ever afford to make a trans-ocean voyage just for the hell of it. A boat is like an abusive relationship in some superficial ways: it takes all it can from you, it beats you up physically and emotionally, and you love it, and you would give everything you had for it.

Any other need that might stir in your soul (or in your beaten-up body) is put on a back burner, or relegated to a space of rushed inconvenience. Any work that you needed to do, on your own, for yourself, to make yourself a more well-rounded or healthier person, is pushed away to a closet in your brain with the label "do not open till after contract." If you are somehow privileged enough to come to the world of tall ships already whole and healthy in all your aspects, this does not apply to you. But God forbid you have something that needs looking after - depression, or physical therapy needs, unresolved family issues (good luck resolving them now!), or even sad little non-boat dreams like wanting to write your novel or create art or teach yourself an instrument.
That is not to say that there are not people who can take care of all of these things and still work on tall ships for ages. There are, and they are fortunate. They have achieved some kind of happy hobo Zen or whatever, or at least they have parental money to fall back on when they hit land for a while. But it's those stories that you're going to hear; it's that romantic rhetoric that dominates the conversations about tall ships (that and, "how is the office fucking up this time.") I'm talking about the folks who don't have the perfect balance and still give their blood, sweat, and tears (so many tears) to their ships. Who come back year after year because they realize that, while the pay is indeed terrible, and they don't get health insurance, this is one of the only things that they can do for money that seems like it could be going somewhere.

And it could go somewhere. I have more than enough sea time for my license, if I could get all those letters sent to me. I have enough experience do take a job higher up in the chain than Boatswain. But the Catch-22 of tall ships is that you have to sideline the entire rest of your life for long enough that you can make enough money to get the damn license in the first place. And with the license, come the better-paying (though still not sustainably-paying) jobs. I have the time, but not the money. And if money does come in from anywhere, it inevitably evaporates before I can reasonably see paying a huge chunk of it to a maritime school for my AB or certainly my 100-ton. It goes to other things, things that I had to pretend didn't exist while I was on the ship: car maintenance (and having a car helps not only to connect with family and friends who live outside of normal traveling distance, but also with finding and getting work); rent; health care that is becoming more and more of a necessity; mental health care because ignoring your problems in favor of constantly running away to work on tall ships doesn't actually solve them; and whatever left over to try and sustain some kind of human experience beyond the drudging and mundane. Perhaps there are things I want to do, or see, that don't involve tall ships. And perhaps I'll never be able to afford to do or see them ever again because I have figuratively lashed myself to the wheel and I know that I'm going nowhere but back to boats, again and again, while everything else I could have done or been withers and dies.

They don't tell you that if you really want to embark on this voyage, you should either have a really solid set of backup skills and experience for a fulfilling and sustainable job on land once you're too old/broken/tired to keep sailing for a "living," or you should be committed to pursuing the water-borne life with single-minded tenacity, because you're going to have to work your ass off for a long time for very little pay in order to be able to afford to get the licensing you need for a "real" boat job. And, during that time, you will lose touch with non-boat friends; you will disappear from movements and causes that you used to find necessary and important; you will become more alienated from your family, and if you're not lucky enough to have a family full of healthy, not-going-anywhere-soon folks, you might lose out on some of the valuable time that they have left; you will not write that book (unless it's a zine about sailing, and even then you'll have to wait till you're back on land because during your contract you're too tired and/or drunk); you will not spend meaningful time reclaiming your own mental health and figuring out why you are incapable of having healthy relationships; you will not go back to school; you will not pause for breath and ask yourself, with any hope of being able to spend time and effort on an answer, who you really see yourself being in ten years.

Instead, you will find yourself taking that contract because "there's no one else to do it," because you miss your boat friends, because you desperately need even the negligible amount of money it will get you (because you cannot find a sustainable job on land), because "the boat needs you," because you need it, that fucking oh-so-alive hunk of wood or steel - because you let it get to you, way back when you thought it would be a lark, when you still conceptualized it in terms of "adventure" and "romance" and "fun," before it became your life, your friend-base, your distraction, your home, your work, your play, your routine, your incomparable experience; before it broke open the doors to that wandering pathway in your stupid, stupid heart and said, you may move on but you will always know you felt most alive with me, in that moment between 3 and 4 a.m. when the wind picked up and there were buoys all around you that were somehow not noted on the chart and you climbed aloft with rain in your face, swearing at all ships and all seas and furled the fucking topgallant thirty minutes after setting it in the first place and then came down and felt slightly sick and laughed with your watch-mates and shivered and threw out your cold coffee and thought that if this moment could never end, you would never miss all the things you didn't, and couldn't, do with your life because you gave it all away the minute you stepped on that deck for the first time, and you knew it. You knew it would be this way, and now you're so much older and learning about all the things you lost because you live this life - the always-coming-back-to-the-boat and even though the damn boat will still be there waiting if you dared to take a year or two to get your life together, another part of you knows that the whole experience - sea, sails, friends, shitty passengers, awesome passengers, schoolkids, night watches - is made of impermanence, and that every time you step up onto deck it is the same but also entirely different. You will never pass this way again.

But you will always come back, even when it's the worst thing for you. You're afraid of missing it. A tall ship takes a promise from you in return for what it gave you. It demands the choice - the ship or yourself - and its pull will always be stronger, and it will pull until you, like a much-worn line with an ancient long splice, break.