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.

Depression is not a Disease but an Indication that Human Consciousness needs to Change

Voces del Tierra

Robin Williams What Dreams May Come-Robin Williams  RIP

After hearing the sad news of Robin Williams and his suspected suicide, I am really tired of hearing some people refer to depression as a ‘disease’. It is not a disease, but more chemical and emotional imbalance of the brain, normally affected by long-term stress, deep trauma or grief, for some it is difficult to diagnose the root cause. Here is a good article written by Dr John Grohol on defining Depression for those of you that are insistent on calling it a ”disease”.

 Furthermore,  should it really be referred to as a ‘mental illness’ either? Through my research and personal experiences, depression is an understandable psychological reaction to the stress and violent deformities of the modern world.

I have tried a number of conventional and non-conventional methods to treat my own depression and I feel the most valuable activities are spending time in…

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Domestic Violence

I was interrupted from my early morning insomniac reading by what sounded like a woman crying and talking in a very rushed, upset voice. It sounded like it was coming from nearby, but outside. Then the doorbell rang three times; I thought, who could possibly be ringing the bell this early in the morning? I’m not answering it! But then Fox came into the room and said he didn’t know what to do, he’s not officially a member of this household yet but it sounded like someone was calling for help. I was off the couch in an instant – if someone needed help, I wanted to help them.

I went to the door to find a woman on my (enclosed) porch holding her dog. She was crying and shaking with her cell phone between her ear and shoulder, already talking to the local police department. As soon as she saw me she started apologizing and explained that the door to the porch had been unlocked, so she ran in to get away from her boyfriend. The boyfriend had been drinking, hit her, and threw her dog across the street. She was convinced that if she hadn’t gotten away he would have killed her. “Thank you so much for keeping your door unlocked. It saved my life!”

I let her in and locked the door behind her and checked that the other doors to the house were also locked. Sure enough, the boyfriend came and was banging on the door to the porch to be let in. I assured the woman that the most important thing to me was for her to be safe. Mom came over and tried to comfort her as well; that helped me feel more confident that I was doing the right thing. The cops came and arrested the boyfriend and took her in for questioning. Before she left I looked her in the eye and said, “Don’t go back to him under any circumstances.” I really hope that was helpful.

From what I’ve learned, by the time physical violence becomes part of an abusive relationship, the victim’s self-esteem is often so damaged ze has great difficulty living without the abuser – everything from believing hir safety is more important than the abuser to being able to perform basic tasks to care for oneself.

The woman on my porch kept apologizing, said she was “stupid” for staying with the boyfriend for two years, and said she owed me dinner. At the time I interpreted all that as low self esteem, but she seemed very, very agitated – very scared and grateful for safety and compassion. She was able to say that “he makes [her] look like a liar.” She was able to run away and call the cops and assert that she didn’t want to ride in the same car as the boyfriend; these facts give me hope that she will choose to stay away from him, and hopefully avoid abusive relationships in the future. But I’m worried about her, and I don’t feel safe living across the street from an abuser. I was shaking myself for a good half hour after everyone had left.

The whole thing was so surreal, I’d think I’d dreamed it if I didn’t still smell like the woman’s perfume from hugging her. It reminded me of dreams I’ve had in the past, where I tried to run into the house to escape some unknown but terrifying danger or run through the house locking doors behind me (often to no avail). But this really happened – to someone else – and I was a brief witness to it. I provided comfort, a haven, maybe even some hope.

At the time I put my needs aside to help someone in crisis, but now I need to tend to my own needs. Writing this post is part of it but I feel like there’s more – I’m not sure what, though. I think I’m still a bit too shaken to try and sleep. I have a letter I want to mail and a massage appointment I’m thinking of rescheduling. The former is an attempt to reach out to my cousin whose father died in late March, letting him know I love him and support him in doing whatever he needs to take care of himself on Father’s Day. Writing it (yesterday early morning, when I couldn’t sleep) was therapeutic for me because I was able to be honest in it while feeling like I might also be doing some good. The latter is a deep tissue massage intended to relieve the tension in my back, but at the expense of physical pain, emotional upset, and soreness lasting a few days. For a massage to be helpful today, I’d need its focus to be purely on relaxation – not the specialty of my currently-scheduled therapist. I think I’d rather cuddle with Fox, maybe even do something to try and express the crazy mess of emotions I’ve been feeling trying to block out by playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion all hours of the day and night.

Americans for Responsible Solutions

I’m concerned about a letter I received in the mail yesterday. It was from Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly at Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC. They wanted my money, of course, and they had a petition to Congress for me to sign saying I’ll only vote for candidates who support requiring background checks for all gun purchases. Okay, that makes sense to me; considering the hoops one must jump through to get a driver’s license (a privilege, not a right), get a job, receive health care, etc., a 5-minute background check before buying a gun seems like very little to ask. Who knows how many lives it could save?

My concern is with the wording of their message, particularly regarding people with mental illness (such as myself). A quote from Gabby Giffords included in the petition shamed politicians for blocking legislation that would have made it harder for “criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses” to acquire guns. The first sentence on the Americans for Responsible Solutions About page describes the person who shot Gabby Giffords as a “mentally ill young man.” They list who should be banned from buying guns via Criminal Background Checks: “dangerous people like criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill.” It is important to prevent gun ownership by “criminals, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous people.” Even in their Poll where they offer addressing mental illness as a solution that visitors can support, their focus is not on actually helping those of us with mental illness but on identifying and treating us “before they commit heinous crimes.”

People with mental illness are not a threat to society. We’re a threat to ourselves. During a panel on “Guns in America,” Richard Friedman (a professor of clinical psychiatry and director of a psychopharmacology clinic) said that:

only 4 percent of gun deaths annually in the United States can be attributed to individuals with mental illnesses ­— far lower than most people think. If America could hypothetically solve the problem of mental health issues leading to violence, “you’re likely to see a reduction in suicides, not homicides.”

Most of the people who die as a result of gun violence commit suicide; the majority of suicides are committed by people with mental illnesses, such as depression. According to Jeffrey Swanson (a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences), “federal guidelines preventing individuals with mental illnesses from obtaining firearms are ineffective at preventing violent behavior, particularly mass killings.” What we – people with mental illness and society as a whole – really need is proper mental health care to reduce the number of suicides.

This point is also emphasized in Margot Sanger-Katz’s article, “Why Improving Mental Health Would Do Little to End Gun Violence.” The people with mental illness who are at the highest risk of committing violence against another person 1) are unlikely to use a gun and/or commit murder and 2) typically do so early in the course of their illness, before there is an opportunity to “identify and treat” them (to use Giffords and Kelly’s terminology).

There’s a huge risk that the message Giffords and Kelly are sending will perpetuate the untrue stereotype that people with mental illness are violent and dangerous, increasing the stigma we face. That’s really the last thing we need! Their call to use background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses so we won’t commit heinous crimes only addresses a tiny portion of the problem. I’ve made a series of diagrams to illustrate this point:

There is only a small overlap between people who commit violence against others and people who have mental illnesses. Please note that the relative sizes of the circles do not accurately reflect the relative sizes of these populations.

There is only a small overlap between people who commit violence against others and people who have mental illnesses. Please note that the relative sizes of the circles do not accurately reflect the relative sizes of these populations.

Of the small percentage of people with mental illness who commit violence against others, only a small percentage use a gun to do so.

Of the small percentage of people with mental illnesses who commit violence against others, only a small percentage use a gun to do so.

It is rare for a person with mental illness who commits gun violence to have an official diagnosis. It is even less likely that the individual is receiving - or has ever received - mental health care.

It is rare for a person with mental illness who commits gun violence to have an official diagnosis. It is even less likely that the individual is receiving – or has ever received – mental health care.

We need society to provide us with better mental health care and better access to mental health care, so we can care for and avoid harming ourselves.

Preventing violence – particularly gun violence – is a whole separate issue. I suggest looking at our cultural values, particularly how violence / gun violence is portrayed glamorized in mainstream media (TV, news, movies, etc.). Who commits the violence, and against whom? Why? In what contexts? (e.g. gender norms; poverty; age/generational factors; race – including white people; access to education, healthcare, and/or employment; etc.) How can we change society to make it a safer place for everyone?

Maybe the first thing we should look at is the fact that gun ownership is a right, but access to safe, effective, and affordable food, housing, health care, education, employment, and transportation is not!

Love for Women Everywhere

This is an ode
To women around the world
Who have chosen this day
To Rise

My sisters who refuse to be seen and treated
As a commodity
Who demand that their rights
To their own bodies
Be Respected

Who have suffered abuse
Raped, beaten
Underpaid, hidden away
Their sexuality and their lives
Taken

NO MORE!!!

This is an ode
To the Women who Rise
And those who are afraid to

Women bound by the chains
Of mental illness:
Depression, anxiety, eating disorders
Borderline personality disorder, codependency, substance abuse
And too many others to name

Women forced into the sex trade
Constrained to motherhood
Kept out of the public sphere
Their voices silenced

NO MORE!!!

This is an ode
To the Women who Rise
And the men who stand with them

Love for women is not
Chocolate, roses, romance
Respect is not a pedestal
Or poetry

Love for women is Rising
Against violence
Hypersexualization
Devaluation
Forced conformity

Love for women is having courage and strength
To question society
And talk about the things
That scare us into complacency

NO MORE!!!

This is an ode
To Women Around the World
Those who Rise
Those too afraid to
And the men who stand with them

onebillionrising.org

in response to today’s prompt from The Daily Post:

It’s Valentine’s Day, so write an ode to someone or something you love. Bonus points for poetry!

BREAKING: Obama Starts Having The Grownup Conversation About Guns That The NRA Doesn’t Want To Have

BREAKING: Obama Starts Having The Grownup Conversation About Guns That The NRA Doesn’t Want To Have.

It’s so good to see the president taking real action to strengthen gun control, reduce violence, and protect the rights of all Americans to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. I especially appreciate that he acknowledged people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. It’s important for us to have powerful advocates. One of his measures is to improve access to mental health services, something people with mental illness desperately need.

But for the necessary changes to take place, everyone needs to act.

Please contact your senators and representative and urge them to support the changes President Obama has called for.

Guest Post by Fox: Masculinity, Tools of Violence, and Embracing Femininity

Ziya touched on gun violence briefly, and in the weeks since Sandy Hook a whole lot has been said about it and the issue of gun control itself. I’m sure most people have heard enough speculation about Sandy Hook, so I’m going to stick to a matter that perhaps has not been touched on enough – one of the key reasons why the gun control fight has been so hard.

There seems to be, in the American psyche at least, an inherent bond between traditional masculinity and the desire to own/use at least one gun. And for many of these men, the more guns they own (and the more powerful they are), the more manly they feel. I have to imagine this is part of the appeal of hunting, and one of the reasons shooting ranges exist in the first place. And this is a lesson that men learn from an early age – from the moment they are exposed to the flashy duels of westerns or the massive fire fights of many action films and shows, as well as the ads for kid safe guns (like Nerf products).

Certainly, I recognize the other reasons for wanting to own a gun. The ability to defend one’s self and one’s family, especially from a distance, has to be a powerful incentive (particularly since we, as men, are taught that we need to protect our families). But I believe that the gun ownership drive is merely one example of the greater lesson society teaches to men.

That lesson is this: Men are socialized to be comfortable with, and even like, violence and aggression. This includes socialization toward the tools that get used in violent and aggressive acts: fists, bats, hammers, knives, guns, etc. Sure, bats are a critical tool for baseball; just like knives and hammers have their own, non-violent uses. But we don’t often glorify these uses for boys and men. Instead, we show just how much damage these items can do to someone who threatens us. And for the male who has been fed this version of masculinity, any attempt at controlling these urges very much feels like an attack. The perceived aggression begets more aggression, and the cycle promises to never stop.

I myself am no stranger to this sort of socialization. I own a few Nerf guns, and will admit to some curiosity towards learning to shoot a pistol. But unlike many American men, I’ve always seemed to favor the melee items – knives, swords, axes, and other medieval weapons. Even my choice of ranged weaponry (the one I’d love to learn the most), is the long bow. When I was younger, I used to design cool looking swords and axes, with all sorts of interesting blade and hilt shapes. I still have the pictures somewhere of those designs too; one of those designs I was even able to have made in wood to complete a Halloween costume.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve played a number of LARPs (Live Action Role Plays – one of which I helped write), sparred with friends and Ziya (using bokken, foam weapons, and even high-quality light sabers), and I’ve even built up a small knife and sword collection (some meant solely for costuming, and others that can actually be used). So I can understand the weapon collecting many men do. Aside from the actual metal blades, I have a small personal armory of foam and training pieces, too.

But I consider myself different from many men, even though I very much identify as one.

Why? Partially, it’s because I know the difference between fantasy and reality, and so as much as I might fantasize about life in the (albeit romanticized) medieval era, I know that attempting to live that way in the main of life is foolish. Partially, it’s because I was taught how to solve problems through discussion and compromise.

But mostly, it’s because I was never fully socialized into traditional masculine culture. I’ve been surrounded by strong feminine influences; my mother, sister, aunts, and grandmothers are all strong women. So the interdependent, in control, proud woman model that scares so many men today is the norm for me.

I was never taught by my parents that boys couldn’t cry, and I was never talked out of interests that society deems feminine. Nor was my sister ever forced to conform to traditional gender norms. So, I suppose one could say that I am not a man in the traditional American sense of the word.

That’s okay with me though. I wouldn’t want to conform to those norms anyway – from where I’m “standing” they seem like a rather restrictive cage. I rather enjoy the freedom to be who I am, not who society thinks I should be. I thoroughly believe that the more “masculine” aspects of my personality are tempered by the “feminine” ones – allowing me to be a more balanced individual; not another man whose hyper-concentrated masculinity is butting heads with a world that cannot support it anymore.

I sincerely believe that men everywhere would be better off living in a world where there is not just one way to be a man, and where both the “masculine” and “feminine” can happily live at peace in one person.