Worth It

The “mutual friend” I mentioned in my last post has a medical condition that has affected zir hormones to the point where ze is “chemically intersex.” Ze identifies as “on the spectrum” for both gender and sexual orientation, “not completely cis and not completely straight.” Ze has shared some of zir experiences with others, but does everything in zir power to present as the gender ze was assigned at birth, and as straight. Ze wants to come out, but can’t because ze would be rejected by zir family, church, and community; ze can’t afford to take that risk right now.

Last night this friend shared details of zir condition with me that ze hasn’t been able to share with anyone else, because I’m the only person ze feels comfortable enough with. We talked about the bond we share, how we can understand each other in ways other people can’t, because we’re both somewhere in between male and female, straight and gay. We both know what it’s like to live in a world where everyone wants to put us into one of two boxes, and neither box fits; to be free of those boxes is a constant, painful, terrifying struggle. There is so much pressure to just try and find some way to fit in the box we were each assigned, let it close in around us and smother us. My friend’s struggle is currently to fit in zir box; it is the only way ze can live. As tempting as that may be at times – and believe me, it is very tempting, almost every day – stubbornly, persistently, and repeatedly breaking out of my box is the only way I can live.

I take comfort in knowing ze sees, respects, and can relate to my struggle. And ze told me last night that, since I have the courage to be out, ze can vicariously experience the freedom that brings through me. It gives zir comfort, and hope, and the strength to continue zir own struggle. That is worth every moment of fear, frustration, and uncertainty.

I’m making a difference, just by being myself.

Hoarding

I am a hoarder. There, I said it.

My apartment isn’t just “a mess,” it’s really, really bad. Like probably a health and safety hazard bad. And by probably I mean almost definitely. If nothing else, I keep getting sick – and I don’t think I can blame that entirely on protesting in the cold, while being precipitated upon…

But I digress.

There’s a path through the apartment: You can walk through the front door, down the hallway, into the kitchen, around the kitchen table, and out the back door.

From the hallway you can enter the bedroom and access the near side of the bed. Around the foot of the bed is a bit hazardous, and you can’t walk on the far side at all. I’ve stopped using the armoire on that side for practical clothing storage, instead I use the bed. (Fox sleeps on a futon in the living room, his choice.)

From the hallway you can enter the living room and access Fox’s futon, the TV, my desk, and my piano (if you’re brave). You can access all the important things in the kitchen, but you can’t sit at or really use the table. You can also enter the bathroom, which, umm … I don’t remember the last time I cleaned anything other than the toilet.

Clothes, books, papers, random odds and ends, games, luggage, unwanted/unused gifts, decorative items, items with sentimental value, dirty dishes, trash … It’s pretty terrifying. There isn’t a horizontal surface that isn’t overflowing with random crap – unless you count the floor of the bathtub. Appropriate places to store items are full of stuff we don’t use (regularly), disorganized, and mostly inaccessible. I’m terrified to clean out the refrigerator. (We’ve been living on frozen meals, soup, and takeout.)

This has been a chronic problem my whole life, though it’s never been this bad before. My room would get messy, then I’d clean it, then it would get messy again. My mom would go through the stuff I’d decided to get rid of and say “You’re getting rid of this?!” and I’d feel guilty. Every decision to let go of an item I don’t need, but that could potentially be useful, is a painful struggle. We don’t really get rid of things in this house – when I was growing up, or now. Things go into storage in the basement, the front porch, the garage, the “attic.” When Fox moved in, the corners of rooms and the tops of pieces of furniture also became storage areas. I was raised by hoarders and I married a fellow hoarder and I can’t imagine life as a non-hoarder.

No one is allowed in my apartment. Sometimes Mom finds her way in. She’ll do some compulsive cleaning and make some painful comments until I chase her out. Banji used to come in at least once a year and spend most of a week helping me go through things. It would be a nightmare, but then we’d look around and feel good about what we’d accomplished and I’d promise not to let it get so bad again. Then, within few months …

I couldn’t do that to them again this past year. So the mess just keeps getting worse.

It’s not that I don’t care. I hate it. I can’t deal with it. And I can’t bring myself to truly believe it’s that Fox doesn’t care – he doesn’t really show it, but I think it bothers him, too. And he’s said we need to do something about it … just when the time comes, neither of us does anything. He works a crappy soul-sucking job that doesn’t even pay enough for us to live on, and when he has off he’s too exhausted to do anything except watch videos. He does laundry because there’s no other choice, and every so often he gets annoyed enough to do the dishes. I feel guilty because I feel like I should at least be doing that stuff. But it’s hard enough to get myself to eat something.

And the thing is, on the surface, my life is pretty awesome right now. I have important leadership positions in my state and county Green Parties. I’m friends with practically everyone in the state party leadership – and a handful aren’t just casual friends; I feel a real meaningful connection with them. I feel confident and outgoing and connected with others in ways I’d never imagined possible. I’m doing work that I love, and making a real difference in the lives of others. I’ve grown and healed so much in a really, really short amount of time. I’m making music again. I’m even starting to look into applying for internships, so I can actually begin my career in music therapy.

But the world is a mess and the people who would fix it are divided and the work that we do seems so small compared with what we’re up against. Everyone I love is sad about something – not just sad, deeply dissatisfied with some aspect of their life or struggling with some kind of hardship or worried that they may lose … everything.

I just spent a month learning to love someone I’d been taught my whole life to hate. We’ve both been marginalized and disenfranchised from mainstream Western society, but in different ways. By talking about our somewhat shared experience and attempting to understand each other, we formed this amazing connection. But just as he seemed ready to really open up to me, and just when I felt he’d come to see me for who I truly am … he’s moved across the country. He has yet to tell me why, but I can guess – and it has to do with people he loved betraying him, and feeling powerless to change what’s going on in an organization he’s supposed to be a leader of. An organization he led very well, and changed for the better, but that’s not what some of its most powerful leaders – his former and my current friends – are focusing on.

I … just … regardless of what they may say, practically no one truly sees me as nonbinary, or genderfluid. They see me as the gender I was assigned at birth, and there’s not really much I can do to change that. I try to educate them but it’s exhausting. People I’m close to are starting to use my pronouns, but I don’t think they see me as a nonbinary, genderfluid person whose pronouns are ze zir / they them their. They see me as a [gender I was assigned at birth] who insists that people refer to me using weird pronouns, and they do their best to comply. The vast majority of people – even in the LGBTQ community – can’t even seem to wrap their heads around the idea of there being more than two genders. They may pay lip service to nonbinary people when pressed, but at the end of the day it’s “ladies and gentlemen,” “brothers and sisters,” “men and women,” “he or she.” Even with Fox, we can’t come up with nonbinary terms to describe my roles in the family.

My friend who just moved actually sees me. One of our mutual friends says they can feel it when my gendered energy changes – I gotta admit, that’s effin awesome. Others … they seem to take my word for it, try to respect it even though they don’t understand … but that’s the thing, they don’t fucking understand.

So my clothes are strewn all over the place, the garbage is overflowing with dirty tissues everywhere, I’m feeling lightheaded because it’s 5pm and I haven’t eaten anything all day, I don’t have any surfaces free to cook in my own kitchen, and … you get the idea.

Are you a soldier or a scout? Your answer to this question, says decision-making expert Julia Galef, could determine how clearly you see the world. Imagine for a moment you’re a soldier in the heat of battle — perhaps a Roman foot soldier, medieval archer or Zulu warrior. Regardless of your time and place, some…

via Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong — ideas.ted.com

Building Confidence Through Experience

I’ve been meaning to get back into blogging for a while now. There’s so much, I’m really not sure where to start. And there’s always the intimidation of a blank page… I’ve gone to start a new post many times, then backed out.

Nearly every time, this saved draft has come up. I’ve tried deleting it – I wrote it in early June for crying out loud! – but still it remains. I read it this morning and nearly cried at the end. I’ve come so far since writing this. I’m gonna go ahead and let it speak for itself:

Today we [Bernie Sanders 2016] started the Get Out the Vote campaign in my state. I’ve been running the office quite informally: working with people as they arrive, giving them lots of individual attention, letting them chat considerably longer than I probably should…

But now things have gotten serious. I’m supposed to track how many volunteers are scheduled for each shift, how many show up, how many canvassing lists go out, how many shifts are completed and lists returned. And that is not all, no, that is not all…

There is one really awesome thing about the shared spreadsheet we’re using to track this stuff, though: the leader of each location is listed under the heading “staging location director.” It felt so good to see my name there, to have a record that I facilitated the efforts of 18 volunteers who knocked on over 700 doors over the course of 12 hours… Including a sudden rush that came right after I’d given out my last list and run out of the literature we’d prepared with voters’ polling locations. I had to remain welcoming and charismatic, think on my feet, print labels, delegate the tasks of prepping literature and training people, and prepare the new lists – simultaneously. Thank goodness K was there to help out! (He followed my lead and provided awesome support.) I managed to keep things running decently well, get people their lists, and remain in control of my interactions with the volunteers… all after getting only a couple hours of sleep!

I’ve decided to own the title; I feel it shows a lot of appreciation for the hard work and long hours I’m investing in a better future. I’ve been doing it without thinking too much about my role in the campaign… I just kind of gradually and subtly shifted from a nervous volunteer to a competent volunteer organizer to the confident director of a staging location! I never imagined I’d be taking such a leadership position; even as I’ve been doing it, I keep thanking the volunteers for showing up and wondering why they keep thanking me for my work. After all, they’re the ones walking miles in the heat for hours just to find that most of the folks on their lists aren’t home… (not to mention that, if they didn’t show up, I’d just be a grumpy person wasting time online)

18 volunteers, over 700 doors. I enabled that to happen. I’ve slowly been learning to accept thanks and say “you’re welcome” instead of trying to turn it around to be like “I don’t deserve the thanks, you do.” K has thanked and praised me about a million times, often in front of other staff or volunteers. It has me feeling like maybe, just maybe, I’m a reliable competent adult whose efforts mean something and are worth acknowledging.

So that was early June. We all know what happened to Bernie’s campaign. It was a really rough time for me. I protested the DNC in Philadelphia: I traveled alone, found my way around a new city, joined giant groups of people I’d never met, waved signs and screamed my lungs out. Somehow, I managed to keep myself from dying of heat exhaustion and dehydration, and I stayed safe. Somehow, I manged not to have a panic attack from being outside alone around thousands of strangers. The sense of solidarity because we were all there for a common cause must’ve helped. 😉

I joined my state Green Party the following weekend. Signed up for nearly every committee, figuring I’d see which one(s) I liked most and get involved in them, letting the others kind of fall to the wayside. Started making connections, but mostly focused in on Jill Stein‘s presidential campaign. Whereas with Bernie I had run one of several offices in my county, for Jill I was the campaign coordinator for my county – and my office was the only one. I doubt we ever had 18 volunteers, much less in one day, and we didn’t have the resources for door-to-door canvassing. But it was a chance to hang out with some friends I’d made while campaigning for Bernie, talk to some rather cool people while phone banking, and learn more about how to organize.

Jill’s campaign kept me sane going into November; it may have saved my life. It kept me focused on the things that are important – the “issues” – immune to the reality show style debacle mainstream media made of the election. It gave me hope, something to work toward. As I attended and volunteered at campaign events, as I became active in the committees I’d joined, I started connecting with other Green Party members – particularly state party leadership. They were thrilled to have someone so eager to volunteer, they kept giving me more and more opportunities, bigger and more powerful roles. It felt awesome.

By Election Night, I knew that I had found a home. We held a fundraiser, which was mostly an opportunity to hear some great speakers, eat delicious food, strengthen our connections, and remind ourselves that there is always work to do. It almost didn’t matter that all of our candidates lost their elections. We had each other, our shared vision for a better future, our determination to make that happen, to never give up. We empowered each other. After feeling isolated for so long, stymied as to how to make new friends, I had joined and remained active in and become a vital part of a group.

Jill’s campaign was at least as much about building the Green Party and keeping people engaged with the issues, as it was about having a Green president. In my state, at least, it was actually a huge success. We gained a lot of great organizers (myself included), many new registered Green voters, visibility, and the traction we needed to organize local affiliates throughout the state. People are engaged, motivated, organizing around issues that are important to them, and building coalitions with other activist groups. People say we need a progressive party, a party for and by everyday folk; we need to build it up it so anyone can run for public office … well, the Green Party is doing it. We’re actively recruiting candidates for local elections in 2017 and 2018.

Now I have the honor of serving as vice-chair of one of my state Green Party’s standing committees, which means I’m also part of the state party leadership. I feel a lot of camaraderie in that group; they appreciate my work and, more importantly, value me as a full person – including my imperfections. When I told them I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation, several of them said they’d been there, and I can talk with them anytime. We support each other and collaborate and empower our members to make the world a better place, according not only to the Green Party’s Ten Key Values, but in response to whatever drives each member to work for change.

One thing I’m particularly grateful for is that, after I first started asserting my (gender neutral) pronouns, the state leadership began including pronouns in introductions at meetings. So when the facilitator asks folks to say their name, county, and something relevant to the main topic of the meeting, another item on that list is now pronouns. I think I suggested once that it would be helpful, and from there they started doing it on their own.

This, admittedly, caused enough discomfort “among new members” that the secretary moved for us to stop including the pronouns in introductions. When I was late to the meeting in which we were scheduled to discuss this, the vice-chair reached out to me to encourage me to attend. They all listened as I gave my statement on why it was important, and the motion was unanimously overruled. When someone referred to me with the wrong pronouns, at least two people loudly corrected them, simultaneously, before I could decide whether to speak up. It was glorious.

(Even better are the folks who use my pronouns seamlessly, and/or correct themselves if they make a mistake. My pronouns are ze/zir or they/them/their. I go with the latter in this group because I figure they’re more accessible, but Fox uses ze/zir and I’m happy to hear either.)

So, yeah. The next big hurtle is gonna be public speaking. As long as it’s a group discussion I’m totally confident sharing my ideas, but if I’m giving anything that might remotely resemble a speech … It’s a major area for growth, I’ll put it that way. I was offered the floor at our next statewide meeting to talk about why we include pronouns in introductions, and I accepted. I guess we’ll build from there.

Q&A About Chrissy Metz and Contractually Required Weight Loss — Dances With Fat

Chrissy Metz is one of the stars of the television show This Is Us. As is all too often the case, she plays a fat character who is “struggling with her weight” As is less common, the contract she signed to play the character includes a requirement for weight loss. She says: In our contract, it […]

via Q&A About Chrissy Metz and Contractually Required Weight Loss — Dances With Fat

Transgender Day of Remembrance

I have so many things to write about, I don’t know where to begin. So, for today, here is an article by Transgender Universe about this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. It lists the trans people who have died this year, and in many cases includes the cause of death.

It’s sobering, to say the least. A moment of silence in their memory.

And then we get back to work.

The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

Born Again Minimalist

I was in graduate school when I first heard the term “millennial.” It was at a conference. The session was about how to serve millennial students, because they have different characteristics than the Generation X students that went before them. It was here that I first started hearing things like “millennials need to be recognized for participation,” “millennials feel they are special,” “millennials are sheltered,” “millennials are likely to have helicopter parents,” and more. Society as a whole loves to hate on the millennial generation (those born between 1980-1999), calling us “special snowflakes” and sarcastically referring to us as “social justice warriors,” calling us out for “being offended by everything” and, everybody’s favorite, pointing out how very entitled we are.

Here’s the secret: We’re not.

millennial late for work.jpg

The negative opinions directed at millennials are a perfect example, on an enormous societal scale, of cultural gaslighting.

What’s Gaslighting?

Glad you asked. I learned…

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