(reposted from instagram for accessibility)

TW: death, suicide attempts, hospitalization, r*pe, IPV, police violence

This moment in time feels like The End for a lot of us. The myriad crises we are facing—white supremacist fascism, climate chaos, ever-mounting COVID-19 deaths and infections —loom apocalyptic, cataclysmic.

Every day is a universe unto itself, yet somehow we string them together, continue putting one foot in front of the other on the long march towards what feels like an ultimate doom.

I want to honor the reality and gravity of our collective situation. We haven’t taken nearly enough space for grief, for feeling these tectonic shifts in ourselves and our human-made world.

A huge chunk of our population has fallen ill and perished within a few months. Black maGes continue to be murdered by police and intimate partners, strangers, anyone. Our country seems on the brink of civil war. For those folks who have died, who will die, this moment is The End.

But for the rest of us, it is not. It is An End. There is a distinct difference.

An End for my personal world has looked like memories of childhood rape flooding back to me in the middle of a school assembly at ten years old.

An End, for me, has also looked like courting The End by swallowing enough pills to kill me multiple times, and being forcibly incarcerated in psychiatric facilities as punishment.

My world has been shattered and remade multiple times, like the Earth in its infancy. And like the Earth, I am continually changing, unfinished. I will meet An End again, just as surely as another cataclysmic meteor will hit this planet in the next billion years.

But: until I die, until The End, I can shift course. I can grow.

Sometimes An End looks like someone we love abandoning us, or losing a job, or getting kicked out of school, or losing secure housing. And sometimes, for some of us, those situations do evolve into The End. But sometimes, for some of us, they don’t. 

Our human-made world is in the middle of An End that could very well evolve into The End of our species if we do not change course. But for now, we are, gracefully or not so, inhabiting the space of An End. And that space is full of so much promise.

Because after An End, there is A Beginning.

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Beginnings are difficult times, messy times, but they are hopeful. We have survived a brush with The End. The possibilities for our lives seem endless.

Beginning anything, any new way of living, requires care and cultivation. There will be missteps & stumbles. Sometimes we might seem to go backwards, looping like eddies in a temporal river.

We can look to the rocks below our feet for reassurance.

For eons, the infant Earth was bombarded with debris from the still-coalescing solar system. Our moon was carved from the Earth’s flesh by a direct hit from another baby planet. After the Earth re-formed itself, it was tilted on its axis, but still here.

(Do you know that feeling?)

Our planet has nurtured life and then watched it nearly die off. It has frozen over and thawed, taken multiple asteroids to the chin, and endured millenia-long volcanic eruptions. Whole worlds have ended and begun anew.

And after all that upheaval? We are here, today, enjoying this world, this Earth, this beauty. Snow-capped mountains and savannahs and rainforests and glaciers. The expansive ocean. Our pockmarked moon at its fullest.

When I feel my anxiety rising, when I am depressed by the weight of human and non-human suffering and death, I allow myself to feel it. I cry as if I am an expression of collective grief.

Then, I situate myself in deep time. Geologic time. The scale at which the earth moves. I remind myself that this is not The End of The World, it is An End of This World.

And we can still shape A Beginning.


A question of time

Where are you allowing the false urgency of consensus reality to overwhelm your senses?

How can you place yourself or humanity in a broader context (i.e., deep time) to let some pressure off?

Why are you convinced that the past should be past? Who taught you the future must remain forever out of today’s reach?

How might allowing yourself to live within a better future today make it more possible for us to achieve collectively?


 

an otherworldly scene. blue-green cliffs and a purple baobab tree are in the foreground. in the background, a rainbow springs from the top of the tree, and it seems as if this landscape exists somewhere in deep space as there are stars and nebulae visible. the moon in all its phases rises in the distance. a small artist tag in the lower right corner says @tashajfierce.

(reposted from instagram for accessibility)

cw: MENTAL ILLNESS, MED WITHDRAWAL

Consensus reality is a postmodern concept, based in the idea that reality is inherently subjective. What we all “agree” is real, is real. That means “reality” is highly influenced by systems of oppression.

We are currently living within multiple consensus realities. The dominant, liberal/neoliberal consensus reality is the WSSCAIP (White Supremacist Settler Colonialist Ableist Imperialist cisheteroPatriarchy), which has us grinding ceaselessly yet somehow still at each other’s necks for scraps, and which is responsible for: the destruction of the planet, the colonization and genocide of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and around the world, the enslavement, colonization, and genocide of African peoples, etc.

There are fascist/alt-right/neoconservative realities which derive from the main consensus reality but are invented fantasies, branches in the timeline. QAnon, for example, believes instead of cishetpatriarchs and capitalists, the world is run by a pedophile cult. Fox News taught us climate change is a hoax, and that COVID-19 isn’t real/was engineered by China, etc.

I clearly don’t agree with the realness of any of that shit. I agree that the WSSCAIP exists, yes. But is it part of what i consider my reality? Not exactly.

What’s real to me? What we human animals need to survive and keep our bodymindsouls thriving. What the non-human animals need to survive and thrive. What plant people need to survive and thrive.  The relationships between all of us, all the things on this Earth of this Earth. The Earth itself, the Sun, the Moon, the relationship between our world and the universe.  Those things are real to me.

Some background: I’m a crazy person. I was diagnosed with a bunch of so-called mental illnesses (bipolar/schizoaffective, DID, BPD, GAD, PTSD, some other stuff) when I was younger, and I was on all sorts of meds for decades. And then later when I was older, I realized they were fucking up my brain and I had to come off them.* It took seven years to withdraw. I had to learn how to deal not only with my underlying craziness but also the craziness that arose in me from the withdrawal fucking up my brain chemistry even more. I faced what i thought was my end numerous times. Slowly, surely, I felt into a way of generative living with my crazy.

I’ve been calling the framework I built around my crazy magical depressive realism, a way of living in the lineage of liberatory madnesses.

Being a magical depressive realist means acknowledging the true, destructive nature of the multiple consensus realities I navigate while, to the best of my capacity, living in and building towards alternate realities. Realities where things that are real are sacred.

It also means accepting and honoring that there are some experiences and affective states that are real, that are created in concert with my bodymindsoul, but somehow exist outside of the bounds of shared reality, and cannot be easily contained by diagnostic labels or symptom profiles, or productively managed by biomedical model-based treatment strategies.

I accept & honor these states & experiences by no longer trying to suppress them in conformance to the WSSCAIP, by caring for myself, allowing my community and pod to care for me, and seeking treatments I can access and that work well for me.

By embodying magical depressive realism I commit to reconciling my personal realities, the universes I hold inside myself, with the realities of others, where appropriate, in order to avoid harm. I am constantly reconciling my reality with the realities of living day-to-day in a world that is hostile to liberation.

At the same time, I do not abide the pathologization of my (our) personal realities and “negative” human emotions/experiences under the WSSCAIP. I respect the lessons depression, dissociation, and other altered states of being have to teach us about our world.

I understand that magical depressive realism is a radical idea in a world where bipolar, ADHD, psychosis, dissociation, BPD, and other so-called mental illnesses are demonized and blamed for lost productivity and profits, for failed relationships and missed opportunities, for the antics of a white supremacist U.S. president. Our ways of being are inconsistent with capitalism. Our existence is resistance. I want us to refuse to compromise our well-being to gain acceptability or access. Our bodymindsouls are too precious to be mined for resource.

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If you, too, have had your way of being pathologized, I invite you to choose your reality.

Will it be the biomedical reality, the reality of the WSSCAIP, where you are an aberration, a “broken brain”, a useless eater?

Will it be the reality of liberatory madnesses and magical depressive realism, where you can harness the insights our ways of being offer us, to aid in collectively changing the world?

Or will you embrace an altogether different reality, your own unique way of moving towards liberation?


Sources: embodied wisdom, black feminist theory, the sociology of mental illness (ex. Creating Mental Illness by Allen v. Horwitz, [2002, UChicago press]), my ancestors, & so much more.

                  *not the right path for everyone – do what works best for you

 

i want to talk a bit about love and what it means to me on this day for lovers.

love, to me, is inherent to the structure of this universe. hell, even the multiverse potentially, but this universe for sure. i say this because we are able to exist here. the laws of physics arranged themselves into a ruleset that allows the formation of complex life. to my mind that is evidence that our universe is at least capable of love, if not composed of it entirely. and if we are made of the same stuff as the stars, as the universe, are we not also meant to love and be loved by each other? are we not also meant to link ourselves together into constellations of care?

love is the dark matter that holds us together. evil is that which turns us away from love, away from each other. there is no epic battle between anthropomorphized god-creatures that we must choose sides in. there is only the choice to come together and love each other or embrace the systems that are keeping us apart.

when i look at the world as it is currently constructed, i feel a deep sense of mourning. we have been forced so far away from the truth of love. the truth that we are here because we are loved. these systems that we live under—capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, ableism, imperialism, cisheteropatriarchy—are designed to institutionalize evil, to make us forget we are born loved. to make us hate each other and ourselves. they convince us that we must learn to love ourselves despite all odds, or that we must seek love from a partner or a friend, and that we are only worthy of that love if we’ve attained a certain level of social acceptability or popularity or enlightenment. but universal love is accessible to all of us, all the time. it is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the plants and animals we consume for food. we are here because this universe loved us enough to shape itself into something we can inhabit.

in my own spiritual practice i call the universe god, and in a sense that is correct. the universe is so much more powerful than i am, so much more intricate and unknowable, that it might as well be a god. but what i am really invoking with my reference to deity is the idea that love is a force, that the universe itself is a force, and that if we can tap into its love energy we can make magic happen. when we organize together and dream together and work every day at loving each other we are making magic happen. we are counteracting the forces of evil that drive us into our silos of individualism and achievement.

it is from those same silos of individualism and achievement that we are encouraged to love ourselves. self-love is a capitalist substitute for universal love. it is impossible to feel loved consistently in a world built to separate our souls from our minds and bodies, but self-love tells you that you must somehow overcome all the structures set up to separate you from your ability to tap into divinity on your own. that if you only love yourself enough none of it will matter, and if you cannot love yourself you must spend the rest of your life learning how. but universal love tells you that this is all wrong. universal love reminds you that what prevents you from loving is not your flawed psyche, or a lack of will, but the systems of oppression that were constructed to keep you mired in hate.

universal love asks you to look at the earth, at your mere existence on it, and use this as evidence that you are loved.

this philosophy is not dependent on a belief in divinity or magic. if you aren’t about the woo, i understand. but you are reading this, and you are alive. outside of all the bullshit of the human world, life is a gift. it is a result of a specific set of circumstances that may or may not have occurred outside of our universe. i choose to see this confluence of randomness as evidence of love in action.

i believe love is the strongest force in the universe, stronger than gravity or nuclear attraction or even change. when we are tapped into a sense of universal love we are capable of so much. we are capable of dismantling capitalism and colonialism, halting climate change, transforming the world into a place where we can all feel loved and cared for. we can articulate our needs and support others in getting their own met, without shame and bitterness. we can see beyond our immediate crises and into a future where we aren’t making decisions based on the lesser of two evils.

my own magic is centered on harnessing universal love, on bringing people into a mental space where they can realize their divinity and go forward knowing they are loved. and most importantly, knowing they are capable of focusing that love into a transformative force for social change.

on this day of commercial romance and beyond, i encourage you to root yourself in such love. with every single breath.

like all journeys in life, the path to becoming is never linear. bumps in the road can make me shrink to protect against their impact. but here, near the end of the decade, i am leaning into the largeness of myself. i am remembering that vulnerability and authenticity are also protective.

#

this decade began for me with a small death. the marriage i was in ended after nearly ten years, and i had been laid off the year before. with long-term unemployment made feasible due to the governmental generosity extended after the housing crisis, i had time to think and fornicate and make little moves towards becoming myself more fully. i became a writer-writer, you know, the kind that gets paid. i spent summers on the beach sunning my fat body, celebrating my gloriousness, loving queer friends and femmes, going to conferences and parties. i could visualize my future from there: writing a book, touring the west coast, visiting friends in the east and touring there, dedicating the rest of my life to doing nothing but what i was born to do.

but instead–or rather, first–i had to dedicate my life to recovering my self.

i began withdrawing from all my psychiatric medications in the second year of the decade, a process that would take the next six years. during that time i dated a bunch, got another job, went back to college, met my current partner, saw my first article in print, lost another job, got pregnant and incredibly sick and had my first abortion, had the house we were staying in go into foreclosure, moved into a new apartment, grew my own food for a year, became more disabled, became more radical, and became more of my artist self. and somehow, i did all that while weathering the severe emotional and cognitive shifts that came with removing those substances from my neurochemistry.

in the last year of the decade, i graduated from ucla with a degree in sociology. i’ve been unemployed ever since. it has been trying, but it has also afforded me the reflection time necessary to finish the transformation that began in 2010.

#

the last two years of this decade were the first i’ve spent without psychiatric medication influencing my neurochemistry in 23 years. i feel whole, a strange sensation for someone whose self has been so defined by the places where it was broken. i might still be a little broken, but i am not lost.

part of coming into my wholeness has been recognizing the places where i have cut myself away to become more acceptable to someone else, and reclaiming those parts. my marriage ended because our way of being together hadn’t been truly satisfying for years, in part because i cut away too much of myself. its ending opened the door for me to understand why i had allowed that destruction of self to occur. the journey towards understanding it has taken me backward through childhood and adolescent trauma i thought had been resolved and forward into ceaselessly advocating for my whole ass, grown human being intimacy needs. i have told my partner some really scary, really vulnerable things about my gender and my sexuality and my trauma and how all those things are wrapped up, things that i feared might end our relationship. i have leaped forward in asking for changes in our relationship structure with nothing but my faith in his love–and in my ability to be okay alone if i need to be–to guide me.

i am surely being rewarded for the pain i endured at the hands of men, for the universe to send me this man as a gift, this human so kind and open in heart, so willing to shift and grow and change with me.

#

out of necessity, this decade i’ve cultivated an ongoing practice of radical self-love and ferociously transformative justice-making, and i have been reborn in the process. my tether to the divine has been strengthened. i am re-infused with purpose, reconnected to my sensuality. i am so excited for 2020, for my fortieth birthday and beyond, for writing books and touring and fucking and loving on all the magnificence in the universe. for building something durable and rich with my partner. for growing and learning and spending time with plants and animals and feral people. for magick. for letting go of every single thing that doesn’t serve the divine, everything that pushes us further away from loving each other and ourselves and the universe.

happy 2020 y’all! it’s gonna be amazing, you’ll see.

i am on a makeshift writer’s retreat at our out-of-town friends’ home in the mountains of glendale, california. last night, wind gusted against the house, kept me up half-wondering if someone was trying to break in. this afternoon, the rain stopped, and tonight, the wind has calmed down some, but it is still freezing. 50 degrees and breezy. blessedly, they have central heat, which i have cranked up past the point of financial/environmental sustainability because they love me and i know they would want me to be warm, and i love myself and i know that one night with one house doing the most as far as emitting co2 isn’t going to tip the planet past the point of no return. i mean, we’re probably there already.

not as much physical writing has been accomplished as i might have liked, but so much psychic writing has been accomplished. reflection and solitude are crucial for me to access the sacredness within myself that allows me to create. i love our home, but it is small, and it requires care, so it can sometimes be difficult to cultivate long periods of time in which i can just sit and reflect and journal and then write about what i have learned, or translate that lesson into art. particularly when i am depressed or vulnerable to become it, i need hours and hours of consecutive, simultaneous alone and quiet time before the emotions and experiences that trouble me can be documented and moved through. that’s pretty hard to come by, so i am eternally grateful to our friends for lending me their home, and i am eternally grateful to my partner for taking care of the chores at ours and handling the eventual clean-up here.

this ritual is an oldie but a goodie, dressed up with some oils or herbs. use whatever you have available to make it smell good, cultivate the appropriate energies, and/or attract beneficent entities. the plant helpers you select should promote psychic healing, connecting to spirit/divine, clearing unhelpful energy, and accessing your intuition.

you will need:

paper (preferably brown but i used white printer paper cause they ain’t got brown)
pen/pencil
essential oils or herbs (they have the fancy doterra essential oils here so i used those cause luxury lent with love has got to attract abundance)
the oils i used were star anise oil, lavender oil, cinnamon bark oil, rosemary oil, and sandalwood oil.

for 2020, let go of twenty attitudes, beliefs, practices, and/or values that no longer serve you, or that never did.

write each item down on a slip of paper. fold them up and throw them into a bowl. drip essential oils on them until you concoct a fragrance to your liking. (mine was heavy on the cinnamon, lavender, and anise.) use a spoon and stir it up so the oil gets on all the paper. if you’re working with whole or ground herbs, shake the bowl a bit.

take the bowl outside and dump the contents onto a pyre or other firesafe surface/receptacle. light that motherfucker up.

as it burns, imagine yourself lighter. imagine each of those beliefs, values, practices, behaviors, etc. vanishing into the welcoming and forgiving vacuum of space, once again becoming part of the universe. a part of the universe far, far away from you.

remind yourself of your power. remind yourself you are loved, you are love. promise yourself you will reach for the heavens and never settle for the earth alone. but also promise yourself you will stay grounded. that you will press bare feet into the dirt even as your head floats among the clouds.

gather the ashes and bury them in the earth.

thank your body, thank the land, thank your ancestors, thank the divine. àse, amen. peace.

may your 2020 be heavy with prosperity, community, and joy. and may you find something of value in whatever darkness comes.

image showing degree conferral from UCLA: bachelor of arts, sociology, magna cum laudeSociety—other people, systems, institutions, culture—has so much more power over our lives than the average person gives it credit for. Acknowledging its outsized influence is devastating at first, incompatible as it is with a vision of the individual as master of their own destiny, culpable in failure and deserving in success. But there is a freedom in relinquishing our illusions of control. If I am not charge of my destiny, if my class or race or assigned gender or national origin are stronger determinants of my fate than my individual decisions, it matters less what choices I make. I can make the choices society prescribes for me, or I can choose a different path.

A little less than six years ago, I fled back to school hoping that when I finished, I would be able to avoid the stress and disappointment of looking for a job without a college degree. I had just been laid off from my job as a technical support specialist and was already attending community college part time, so it seemed fortuitous, especially since my partner and were talking about me quitting my job and going back to school full time once he found a teaching job. I made the leap and enrolled in a full load of classes at my local community college.

(Society told me going back to school was a respectable choice, the right choice. I should have graduated from college a long time ago, according to chrononormative* standards, anyway, and won’t a college degree give you a leg up in the job market? They can never take your degree away from you, they say, and promise it will all be worth it, all the struggling and debt and biting your tongue.)

There was no way for me to know five years ago that I would be graduating into a job market even more unfriendly to folks like me than I had avoided by entering college in the first place. No way for me to know that I would be made more disabled by my time in academia; definitely no way for me to know that the world as I understood it would effectively be ending in slow motion, that overt and aggressive fascism and white supremacy would be in power all over the world, that the naively hopeful environmental trajectory I thought we were on would be replaced by dire warnings of our dwindling opportunity to halt the inevitable collapse.

But—this is actually an okay place to be, for me. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Even if sometimes it hurts so bad I wish I could sink into the molten outer core of the earth. Systems are failing, nakedly, obviously. That means there is no way for me to blame myself. There is no way for me to be exceptional enough to overcome an actual apocalypse. If I learned anything from studying sociology, I learned that.

At last, finally, and in the end, I understand: It’s not me, it’s society.

###

I once believed that higher education was a refuge for the bookish and bright. Being the kind of learner that prefers to absorb a subject through obsessively researching as much as I can on it, I found only misery in elementary and high school. I felt trapped, forced to learn in a regimented way, forced to adhere to conventions set by long-dead colonizers and bootlickers and other types interested in turning children into compliant cogs in a surplus-generating machine. College, I thought, would be different, would be more open to the kaleidoscope of brains humanity contains. Despite having attended college on and off since I was sixteen, I didn’t have enough long-term experience with it to dispel my idealistic beliefs. I was always too crazy to attend class regularly, always withdrawing mid-semester to deal with some emotional upheaval, some mental collapse. And I was so drugged up and indoctrinated into various mainstream viewpoints that I probably wouldn’t have noticed the reality of it all even if I had managed to spend any length of time at school.

This time around, though, I noticed. I noticed all the ways higher education operates to exclude folks like me, all the ways it demands exceptionalism in the face of its own mediocrity, all the ways it perpetuates a status quo of ableism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism. And as I got further into my upper division major work—sociology—I noticed even more. It became too much to bear too many times to count. The small ironies piled up like so much oppressive detritus, my daily commute a recounting of historical and present-day trauma, my thoughts a running tally of injustices: I am currently driving on a freeway system built by displacing poor people of color, past houses big enough to hold every single houseless person I meet on the way, to a campus more concerned with the appearance of diversity than materially improving the lives of its Black or disabled or queer or immigrant students, to learn about the impact of housing discrimination on intergenerational wealth in whites versus Black folks.

I channeled my anger, my outrage and existential despair, let it flavor impassioned papers and pointed presentations, but it felt hollow, was hollow. It meant nothing, and I knew it. I had to endure the slights, had to make do when my disability accommodations were phased out, had to push myself beyond the point of burnout to finish my degree. Because in my mind, if I didn’t, I’d just spent five years and however many tens of thousands of dollars to have my dreams crushed without even getting a receipt. As much as I wanted to be the kind of bitch that says you know what, I’m good and forges their own degreeless path in life—as much as I had effectively been that bitch for the first part of my adult life out of necessity—I felt obligated to finish, not only for myself but for the loved ones who were sacrificing to help me get through school.

To stay motivated, I told myself that I’d find a job quickly once I finished school. I knew this was a fiction, but it was a necessary one—more than once, the specter of graduating and still being unable to find a job almost convinced me to drop out. I pretended as if this degree really would allow me to navigate the job market with ease, picking and choosing from a panoply of well-paying jobs with full benefits, leapfrogging over my un-degreed competition. But even if that were the case, I was using every last bit of my energetic reserves to reach a finish line that had shifted since I started the race, leaving me in no condition to leapfrog over anything. I spent the first few weeks after graduation pretending it was just another summer, trying to recharge a little before I started my job search.

A manic episode lent me the optimism to apply for a dozen or so jobs and write sparkling cover letters to each. The inevitable fibro flare and depression that followed forced me to acknowledge the truth of 2019’s job market hellscape. Several of the $15/hr-and-under positions I applied to expected me to do free labor in the form of aptitude tests and their ilk. (For some jobs, I did these, because I felt the position/salary would be worth it, and the tests weren’t too egregious. On others, I declined.) Out of the positions to which I applied, only one has even opened my resume—I’ve received no response from that employer at the time of writing, two weeks later. One job I was particularly excited about, one whose qualifications I greatly exceeded and whose hours and duties perfectly matched my needs, had over a thousand applicants at last update. A few jobs have “moved to the next stage in their hiring process” without my resume even being acknowledged.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be jobless for a while, if traditional employment is the way I insist on making my living. I can write about it now, find the silver lining in my misfortune, because it’s been a couple weeks and I’m high as fuck. But realizing that I just spent five years under some of the most extreme stress of my life to basically end up worse off than I started broke me for about a week. My always-tenuous commitment to staying in corporeal form dwindled to nonexistence more than once, but I happily do not own anything capable of killing me in a guaranteed manner, so I’m still here.

(Kidding, kind of. As long as the people who love me are here on this planet, I’m staying in solidarity. But things did get pretty pale in my head.)

I cannot Black excellence my way out of being on earth as worlds crumble around me. I cannot young, Black, and gifted my way into insulating myself from climate collapse, into financial security, into overcoming a system built to oppress and exploit folks like me before leaving us to become casualties of their disregard for life. All I can be is open to learning how to live in different ways, how to ride the waves of change such that I can keep my head above water, keep what’s important in sight. And if I can’t keep my head above water, I can learn to take bigger breaths before I go under.

If I could travel through time, I would impart this wisdom to 34-year-old me on the eve of their decision to go back to school. I would whisper in her ear: Do not give in to fear. Leap. You will find you have wings. I don’t know that I would fly, that things would turn out any better if I threw myself into professional writing in 2014 instead of seeking the comfort of official validation, but I might have avoided destroying my health in order to get it. I really thought I needed the legitimacy of a degree. I didn’t. Turns out what I needed was to finally internalize the idea that it’s not me, it’s society. For accomplishing that, at least, perhaps going back to school was worth it. For what it did to my emotional and physical well-being, decidedly, it was not.

###

It’s the end of the world—at least, it’s the beginning of the end of a way of living based in colonialism, ableism, white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, and cisheteropatriarchy—and that means we don’t have to do things the same way anymore. We never did, but we have even less incentive now that doing things the way we were told to do them has been so starkly revealed as a path to destruction and separation from god, god being that spark of the divine we each hold within us, the glue that binds us to each other and the planet and all beings across the universe. The way of living that tells me that I must depend on a boss or a landlord or a mayor or a president to manage my work, my housing, my community, my people, is the same way of living that has cleaved Indigenous land from Indigenous humans, the same way of living that is rendering the planet uninhabitable for large human populations, the same way of living that I will reject every single day until it has been banished from this earth.

We must reject ways of living that perpetuate systems of oppression if we are to have hope of humanity surviving the catastrophic change that is underway. But since systems of oppression also shape the ways of living we have available to us, this rejection will come with pain and sacrifice, especially for those of us who are subjugated under the same systems. I know this, I been known this, been known revolutionary change is full of what we are taught to perceive as negative emotions and experiences, but that there is growth contained within them. If a little pain, a little discomfort on my part, on our part, could propagate through the system all the way up to the institutional level, could destabilize the systems that oppress us, wouldn’t it be worth it? Especially when—in my experience, at least—pain can be a catalyst for awakening, and a pleasure unto itself.

For me, the desire to be traditionally employed is partially rooted in a genuine concern that my disability might prevent me from being able to manage freelance or self-employed life. Putting the responsibility for finding streams of income on myself and not on some professional who ostensibly knows what they’re doing is a terrifying prospect when I consider how few days out of a month I feel well enough to work on projects. At the same time, I do get shit done despite how I feel. I don’t have to feel good about something in the moment for it to be worthwhile. In fact, the most worthwhile things I’ve done have often been ordeals to get through.

That’s not to say that everything worthwhile must be painful, or that suffering is necessarily productive—I would never endorse that idea. Sometimes, though, the only way we get out of a destructive situation is for it to become untenable, uncomfortable, painful. Sometimes pain is a friend nudging you: Are you safe here?  Is this what you really need? I’ve been trying to understand what this pain is trying to tell me, this discomfiting space I’m in where I don’t know when I’ll find work, how I’m going to support myself, where I’m going in life when it comes to career.

Before I got my sociology degree, I might have blamed myself for my inability to find a job. I might have taken the metaphorical whip to my own back, expected that I would be able to make up the gap between economic expectation and reality by hustling, killing myself to meet a capitalist ideal of productivity and employability. Now, I know. It’s not me, it’s society. Trying to be middle class, trying to live up to hegemonic ideals of success, is destructive. What I am feeling is in part the shame of not being able to consume the same disproportionate amount of resources as my parents did, the anguish of believing hard work gets you anywhere, the guilt of having held that ideology against the poor and the houseless and other unfortunate souls I probably thought myself better than, the humiliation of having that ideology thrown back in my face when I cannot succeed under the same terms.

(And when I say I, I mean we. None of us are safe here, and this is the opposite of what we need.)

This job market, this disappointment post-graduation, is painful for me to confront. It’s a bit of the same pain I felt when I came to understand that higher education was not a great equalizer but merely a mechanism to perpetuate the status quo, the same pain I feel when I hear people defend throwing families in cages because they violated some law, the same pain I feel when I see folks saying we can’t take radical action on climate change or abolish prisons or dismantle capitalism because it will cost too much or be unfair to folks who paid off their loans or their debt to society or whatever milquetoast excuse the centrists are offering that day. We insist on adhering to the tenets of a way of life that is killing us. I adhered to them by going back to school, even though I had literally no reason to, was receiving no real benefit besides the false sense of security that comes from doing the right thing. If we just work hard enough. If we get a degree. If we are exceptional. If we go high when they go low, if we open a business in a disadvantaged community for three years, if we are silent as the waves of change crash upon us, as the inexorable tide of exploitation pulls us under, we might become one of the lucky ones.

The past is the past. I made my choice, I went back to school, I graduated. But now, I intend to break away, take a different path than the one society prescribes for me. A scarier path, but maybe a more realistic path. A path that I forge myself, with guidance from others who have navigated this chaos longer than I have, successfully. I want to write full-time, or as full-time as my bodymind allows. It isn’t my first choice to make writing my primary source of income—it is partially a function of the reality of the job market—and I may end up needing to find part-time work to supplement my income after all. The more I think about it, though, the more I believe that making writing my full-time job is at least something worthwhile for me to attempt. Writing is where I see myself doing the most good on this planet, and despite the awful state of publishing, I think I have a chance—however tiny—at my version of success. It will be hard. It will involve a lot of rejection and crying jags and questioning whether I ought to just peace myself out and avoid all the misery. It could also be the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. The way I find community. The way I build community and leave a legacy of work for the folks who live after I’m gone. I have nothing to lose, anyway. We have nothing to lose but a world that would see us in chains again.

It’s not you, it’s society. And society is in shambles. What would you do if there was nothing holding you back, if you had nothing left to lose, if everything you thought you knew turned out to be a lie? What will you do now, at the beginning of the end of this world?


* Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories. Duke University Press. 2010.

everything from then on out was going through the motions.
everything from going to work every day to saving for the future to breathing was
a charade performed as defense against the inevitable
a tired eye closed to the light of the oncoming train
a battered heart numb to the cries of the victimized child
a weary soul creaking under the weight of the world
and choosing the path of least resistance.
yet we could not cease going through the motions,
could not stop the motion of the machine grinding towards us
with the threat of growling bellies and chattering teeth.
a few of us figured out that we could stop the motion of the earth
blot out the sun with the moon
compel every human into the street
if we imagined it together.
but most of us were too tired from work
to work on aligning the stars for revolution.
so we waited,
and plotted,
and planned B
all the while praying
for the rest to get as tired
as we were.

    Excerpt from journal of an anonymous Appendage of the Queer Disabled Black Femme Tactical Liberation Body, Third Division (Western Turtle Island). [Archival comments: ….. So, this is written ten years BEFORE the Reckoning. Quantum-temporal collective manifestation or visionary madness? We still don’t understand exactly what the QDBFTLB harnessed to bring us this world, no matter what we might like to think. This begs further research. – taf]
[In the first installment of this series, I talked about my politics in general and how the connections between systems of oppression and my personal experience have become incredibly salient to me. Here I want to talk about how that awakening impacted my attitude towards my various disabilities and how I navigate the world with them.]

I’ve experienced the world in the way I do for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I was officially diagnosed with depression and later bipolar disorder (along with assorted goodies like dissociative identity disorder and panic disorder and PTSD and and and). I’m off psychiatric medication, and for the most part I don’t find my panoply of diagnoses useful anymore, but they were a part of my journey at one point.

It was also around this time–maybe a little before, maybe a little after, my memory of my childhood is hazy–that I was diagnosed with two other disabling conditions: irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. I’ve had digestive struggles since I was very young. I can recall missing a lot of school due to stomachaches that were almost certainly a result of internalized stress and trauma. The fibromyalgia did not manifest itself until I was in my teens, but it came on strong when it did. I needed to use a cane to walk for a long time. (Along with all this, I had extremely debilitating menstrual pain that seemed to take up a majority of the month, I developed PCOS as a consequence of being treated with valproic acid during puberty, and I had various other issues crop up–like sleep disorders and RLS–due to the psych meds.)

My teenage years were mental and physical hell, some of it a byproduct of my not possessing the framework to understand the societal underpinnings of why I was experiencing the things I was, some of it a direct result of my divergent mind and body. I was taught to blame my hellish existence solely on my mind and body. The treatments I was given focused on correcting supposed imbalances in my brain or building tolerance in my body to things I felt I shouldn’t have to tolerate. I eventually got balanced enough or good enough at pushing past the pain that I could get off disability and get a job and tolerate injustice for a paycheck. And I thought I was as close to cured as I could possibly be; I was approximating normal, at least.

When my life fell apart and I along with it, I again sought cure. I thought psychiatric medication was the reason for all my disability, and if I could just get that out of my system, cleanse my system with enough detox and healthy living, I wouldn’t be in constant pain, wouldn’t feel like I needed to curl up in bed after a couple hours awake, wouldn’t feel every single worry in my muscles and joints or every single piece of food pass through my digestive tract.

(That wasn’t the case, either. I’m still very much in pain, very much beholden to my body’s need to eliminate fully every morning before I’m able to comfortably start my day, and very much inhibited by overwhelming fatigue on most days.)

Here’s the thing: until 2017 or so, I’m pretty sure I saw my disability as something I could overcome. Much like all the other characteristics I talked about–my race, my gender, my body size–I saw my disability as something conquerable if I was just exceptional enough. I’m not saying I would have ever verbalized this, and I certainly didn’t think it about other folks. But internalization runs deep, is insidious. Uprooting hegemonic thought patterns takes a lifetime, because they are forever changing and adapting as you change and adapt.

It took withdrawing from psych meds and confronting the continual presence of my disabilities to force me to reckon with their permanence. This reckoning is ongoing. I still sometimes find myself looking back at some mythical time before I became disabled, or looking forward to a time when I might be some shade of healthy, that is to say, less sick. And when I envision me as my best self, too often it’s a vision of myself being productive and able-bodied enough to perform activities like running or cleaning my entire house. The goal is to get to a place where my best self isn’t molded by ableist values. I want to make plans for the future that don’t center on the pain abating or my moods stabilizing.

I’ve realized that up until recently, I was attempting to do one of three things to my disabilities: cure, control, or contain. When cure seemed out of the question, I sought containment through rebellion and self-destruction or control through meds and adopting abled culture; when containment and control became untenable, I set my sights on cure through withdrawing from psych meds and convincing myself my disability was an artifact of their effects. Cure, control, contain is the model for cancer treatment, deadly and alien as we know it, and I knew my disabilities similarly. I hadn’t considered that they were inseparable parts of me, and might have something to offer other than suffering and eventual death.

That these parts of me are disfavored by white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy is not a reflection of their true worth. The parts of me that achieve academically or generate income or do sports aren’t better than the parts of me that were too depressed to finish an assignment on time or that were on SSI or that couldn’t walk without a cane. I don’t need to isolate and berate the so-called deficient parts of me to protect the virtuous parts. All together they make me who I am, and I am glorious because of my disability, not in spite of it.

Now I have the language, the frame through which to extricate the struggles I experience due to ableism and the struggles I experience due to physical or psychological pain. I no longer look at my mind and body as something to be overcome. I’m learning to interact with my bodymindsoul in a tender way, to listen and consider and ask for consent, and not to judge or reprimand when I can’t perform in some way that ableist society has demanded. I’m lowering my expectations, because I wasn’t put on this earth to be productive, and I don’t see the point in playing along. What society has to offer me in exchange for breaking myself at its feet isn’t worth the blood spilled.

My disabilities are foundational to how I navigate the world. Having limited energy shapes my view of what is truly necessary to spend one’s time on, and thus dictates my priorities–growing love and nourishing spirit. My mental illnesses have shaped my understanding of the nature of reality: the relative abundance of sorrow and the rarity of true joy, and how important it is to protect the latter when it crops up. If it weren’t for these supposed impediments, I would likely have spent my life pursuing goals set for me by society rather than building a life guided by transformative love principles and seeking pleasure.

I truly believe my disabilities have something to teach me about how to live wholly in this world, something precious. I need only agree to stop trying to fit them in an ableist box, stop trying to make them small or acceptable or part of an inspirational narrative of overcoming that ties up neat in a bow with me as the cured crazy person at the end.

I don’t remember the first time I was raped, but I know it happened.

I don’t recall when the memory was lost. I can’t answer #WhyIDidntReport.

I do recall remembering exactly what happened, in re-traumatizingly clear detail, two years later: in the middle of an assembly at school on reporting sexual abuse. And then, I did report. Loudly. In the form of a high-pitched yet guttural scream that seemed to have gathered strength from the time the memory sat dormant in my brain.

Around me, other children–other girls, as far as my ten year old self could tell–had also begun to cry (although none quite so spectacularly as I, unfortunately for my social life). The administration at my private Christian school created an after-school support group for all of us. It lasted for six months or so before either they or we decided it wasn’t worth the effort, wasn’t worth re-dredging up our memories over and over with no real resolution. So eventually I forgot, again. At least, I thought I did. But I never really forgot.

I went through a tumultuous adolescence marked with mental instability, self-destructive behavior, and questionable relationships with men and masculine-identified folks. Standard survivor fare; I won’t bore you with those details. What I will say about that time is that I never fully recovered the memory again. I recovered more of it. For instance, during a particularly intense overnight therapy session at a residential treatment facility when I was sixteen, I remembered again where the rape took place, and I remembered penetration. But still, the full awareness of it was, mercifully, kept from me by my psyche.

When I was nineteen I was raped again, and I remember everything about it. It destroyed me, psychologically, but it didn’t reveal the memory of what happened when I was eight. It did, however, induce all sorts of PTSD and dissociative identity issues that forced me to confront my unprocessed trauma. I went into intensive therapy with EMDR, a course that lasted for about seven years. I managed to reintegrate myself, despite not having access to the actual memory of what occurred when I was eight.

Even without details, I can see the shape of the memory. Bordering the gnawing, gaping gaps in the record, there are some clear lines. I remember my excitement over an older white boy thinking this ugly Black duckling was pretty. How good that felt after the years of bullying and torment I endured. How cool I thought I was when we hung out on the jungle gym and flipped other kids off. Him calling me at my house: me, giggling, my mom, hearing me, asking who I was talking to.

And I remember…a nonlinear empty space. (And something involving the lunch tables, something involving something of his inside something of mine. I don’t try to pin down specifics; I truly consider it a gift that I can’t recall what happened anymore.)

Then, I remember my head down in my folded arms after school, crying. A note from him in my third grade yearbook that I think said something about how ugly my hairy armpits were but I could never tell because I scratched it out immediately after I first read it. My grades dropping, my interest in life degrading; partially because I’m not a fan of standardized education, but mainly because my mind was occupied with blaming myself for whatever happened in that empty space. And later, of course, there is the aforementioned mental instability.

What have I learned from this culture about survivorhood and memory? From watching season after season of SVU, from watching now two women in my lifetime testify that a potential Supreme Court justice sexually assaulted them, from the Mike Tyson trial, the Cosby trial, the Very Special Episodes of various sitcoms and dramas? What is important, when you are raped, after a rape? Remember as much detail as you can. (Remember, even, what you were wearing.) Remember not to take a shower, so your body can remember what they left on you, and you can prove this has happened. Remember to try to leave some memory of yourself on them, a scratch, some DNA, some irrefutable scientific proof. And if you can’t? If you didn’t? If your brain’s split-second decision when it realized you were under threat was to shift you into a different state of consciousness while the trauma occurs so you cannot remember the trauma outside of that state? If instead of smells and sounds and sensations there’s just an ominous void where a part of your childhood should be?

What can you do when you’re doomed to know, but never remember?

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I am a survivor of childhood rape. In fact, I didn’t come to terms with it fully until I was raped again. Part of the reason I had difficulty in validating my experience has to do with the importance memory holds in legitimizing one’s status as a survivor, which in turn derives from a cisheteropatriarchal, white supremacist prioritization of the rational and material over the emotional and the spiritual.

When it comes to sharing experiences of rape, we love details; we love when someone’s juicy underbelly of trauma is served up raw for the re-devouring. Narrative structure is important, too. (Make sure it fits the range of acceptable assaults. Make sure you’re weren’t fucking them consensually first or laughing with them first or drinking with them first or flirting with them first. Make sure you’re white, nondisabled, cishet, thin, and attractive.) If you’ve got physical evidence, bruises, bleeding, we’ll of course take those, maybe rub some salt in those wounds for good measure. And you’ve always got to have the corroborating witnesses, preferably of the highest caliber (so not your drunk ex-BFF who’s consensually banging her boyfriend in an adjacent hotel bed and oblivious to your screams).

But when you just straight can’t remember? When your evidence consists solely of a promising life dashed upon the rocks and an empty space? There’s no empowerment to be found there. No statute of limitations to beat out. Neither our society’s system of justice nor the current pop cultural/political moment occurring around sexual assault readily accommodate the slippery nature of trauma memory.

I’m reminded of the difficulty I had in claiming a political identity as a survivor now, in this moment of #MeToo reckoning, with the development of newer hashtags such as #WhyIDidntReport. So many of our methods of personal resistance against rape culture focus on storytelling, splaying your experiential guts onto a screen of various sizes as a form of empowerment. I do absolutely support survivors who want to tell their stories. But as someone who doesn’t particularly want to feed more bodies to the prison industrial complex, and as someone who remembers the name of their rapist but no details in one instance and a bunch of details but no name in the other, I haven’t participated. What would I say? I keep looking out on my feeds to see if any of the stories resemble mine, an empty space; none so far yet.

The confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh was re-traumatizing for me, as it was for so many other survivors. In my case, it stirred up some latent feelings of inauthenticity. In Dr. Ford’s testimony, she leaned on the Western medical-scientific view of memory as primary in determining legitimacy as a survivor, basically stating that she knew she was assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh because of how traumatic memories encode themselves in the hippocampus. I know I was raped because of how the memory encoded itself into everything else in my life. Could I testify, if my childhood rapist were somehow nominated to some public position? Could I sit in front of that kangaroo court and try to plead my broken life against my rapist’s hippocampus?

(This is one reason why I’m an abolitionist. I don’t believe our current paradigm of justice can account for all the ways one can testify. My testimony is embodied, and so my vision of feminist justice involves a de-centering of narrative testimony, particularly when it comes to rape and sexual assault.)

Our (U.S.) society associates forms of knowledge gleaned outside a rational-scientific framework with femininity and Otherness, thus rendering them inferior in a cisheteropatriarchal white supremacist context. Our society is also a rape culture, and so no amount of remembering in perfect detail will ensure that a rapist is brought to what passes for justice here. So why should I, or you, dredge up our trauma on demand and offer it to an uncaring society with no guarantee of return on our investment? Why prop up the idea that a survivor’s memory is ever worth anything under heterosexist patriarchy?

Again, I don’t want to discourage survivors from telling their stories. I only want us to consider what we accomplish, who is excluded when we emphasize this tactic, and what ideas we’re reifying. Even in the best of circumstances memory can be unreliable, and constructing a homogeneous experience of survivorhood is impossible. There are survivors who remember every last detail, who know but cannot remember, whose memories are completely intact but organized nonlinearly, and whose understanding of themselves as having experienced sexual assault is shaped by the impression the event had on their life rather than any recollection of vivid details of the assault. Some of us contain all these and more. A feminist survivors’ movement must de-center the rational-scientific paradigm and consider all the ways we can know we were harmed, or risk perpetuating cisheteropatriarchal oppression.

[CW: suicide, r*pe, internalized fatmisia]

I come to this page with absolutely no idea how to say what I want to say. But I’m here, and I’m gonna try.

First: let me stop assuming that everyone who comes across my work is familiar with my backstory. I’ve realized of late that I write as if the reader has been on this journey with me; I make vague allusions to events but never really flesh them out except in my own head. To describe the journey I’ve been on for the past 9 years will require a lot more context than I’ve been inclined to provide in the past. This will be long, but maybe, satisfying. And aren’t those the best?

Second: let me stop being flip like I was right there. This is silt churning, catharsis. It needs a delicate hand and mind.


I’ve been “political” since I was a young femme. I first got into environmentalism when I was about six. I was heavy into whales and other sea life, and I loved plants and nature and nonhuman animals in general. (I loved human animals too, but I’m trying to highlight that humans are also just animals!) The ozone layer crisis (this was the early-to-mid 1980s) worried the hell out of me and I made my mom buy non-CFC hair spray that she hated because it took so long to wind up. I also put a brick in our toilet tank that I’m pretty sure was still there when we left that apartment.

I ended up starting an environmental club at school, and we brainstormed on what we could do to save the planet with our elementary selves. There was a bad drought here in California at the time and my mom’s bank was giving away these envelopes filled with stuff like water-storing crystals for plant soil and pink food coloring tablets to drop in your toilet so you’d know if it was running and wasting water. I took a TON of them (because no one was taking them anyway) and we handed them out on the street.

My awakening to other issues that impacted my identity took place in popcorn fashion: staggered, bursting into view. At eleven I read about riot grrrl through the Prodigy message boards, and I became a feminist. At thirteen I began learning about Black liberation struggle and our African heritage; and at fifteen I admitted to myself (and my mother) that I was queer. I had been fat, to various degrees, since I was six or so, but didn’t connect the way I was treated because of it to any larger oppression until I was around fifteen as well, because it was around this time that I circled back around to riot grrrl and feminism. Riot grrrl led me to punk, which exposed me to anticapitalist ideas (but it wasn’t until this year that I actually read Marx).

(It should be noted here, that troubling these upper layers of ideology was a dark undercurrent of “pathology”. When I was eight I was raped by an older classmate, and became a survivor. When I was fourteen I attempted suicide for the first time, and became a survivor of a different type. I found feminism for the first time because of my experience with rape, and I found it again because of my experience with craziness.)

Riot grrrl and punk were kind of tarnished for me in the late 90s and early 2000s, around the time I was awakened to trans folks’ struggles. I made a really precious friendship during that period with a white trans woman who had some questions on race and who offered to answer my questions about gender in exchange. I’m still friends with her and I am so appreciative for that experiential skill-share. She and other queer and trans friends of mine were involved in the Camp Trans protests of the Michigan Womyns Music Festival because of their “womyn-born-womyn” policy. They would go around to different artists’ shows who played MWMF and draw attention to the issue. I was still recovering from my second suicide attempt and in some intensive therapy to process a second rape that was inflicted on me in 1999, so I was never able to participate in the protests (and I still feel shitty about it). But I stopped buying the music of all the bands that supported MichFest, which included one of my favorite bands at the time: Le Tigre. Hence my disillusionment with riot grrrl; Kathleen Hanna was a real idol of mine when I was a teenager and seeing her support a space that deemed my friends unwelcome hit me hard.

By the time I was twenty-five (2005) I had finished intensive trauma processing and was looking ready to enter the workforce (again, after a brief stint from nineteen to twenty). Once I entered the workforce again, my politics started to slowly bleed out the window. The more it looked like I was going to be able to be a productive member of society, maybe be able to have a career and an investment portfolio or whatever, the less I cared about radical shit. I never became a conservative or anything, but I definitely was trying to be normative. I was trying to fit in with the folks at my office, who were all obsessed with the milestones of life, with meeting societal expectations, but they didn’t know it. And neither did I, because my political awareness never actually ran that deep. I hadn’t made all the connections. I hadn’t rooted my understanding of these systems and their impact inside myself. I still thought that if I just tried hard enough, I could overcome. Because I was exceptional. Or at least, I could be, if I got my shit together.

I lived in this way for about four years, striving, considering myself middle class, considering myself on my way to something: acceptability, or respectability, or maybe even prosperity. But my body began to protest again, straining under the pressure of normality, a reminder. In 2008 I had a reproductive health scare and a lot of associated pain; in March of 2009 a doctor’s negligence in not treating my hypothyroidism led to my gallbladder needing to be removed. To top it off, I was laid off from my job a few months later.

And then, because disruption loves to cluster, my marriage unraveled. I was left alone with myself and what I had accepted as my life. That pain catalyzed me to really begin the work of decolonizing my mind. In response to years of repression, I spent a few summers on unemployment being queer and fat and Black and loving it. I also started to reconsider a lot of things about myself, starting with the origin story of my crazy. I still wasn’t making the deep connections yet, though. I acted as if I loved myself, as if I had begun to fully embrace all of my being, but that was just the confidence of others flaking off onto me. Once I was still and alone, I didn’t really know who I was.

(A year or so after my ex left is also when I started withdrawing from all the psych meds I had been on. Having been unemployed for a couple years, and coming into a full realization of how fucked the health insurance system in the U.S. is, I was really worried about being so dependent on it. Meds aren’t cheap, and the doctor visits to refill the meds are even more expensive. Plus, I disputed that I actually needed them, to be honest. Part of my newly reborn radical consciousness thought my craziness was a product of the meds, and that I didn’t have any debilitating problems before that. That’s not the case, but I’ve already talked about that elsewhere.)

The generosity of the government started to run out, so I folded myself back into acceptability and went back to work. I was eating well because I was trying to support my body through the withdrawal, and my mom had gotten breast cancer so we both went vegan together. As a result of these changes (and my increased activity level because I took a lot of walks to quell boredom at work), I lost a bunch of weight from 2012-2013. I also met my current partner. In spring of 2014, I went back to college for computer science. Again, I was sure I was on my way to something. It wasn’t as much about respectability this time, but it was definitely about prosperity. I really thought I was going to be financially stable, wealthy even.

Nah. I just got laid off again. And I got pregnant, and got awful all-day morning sickness that made me drop another twenty pounds. By the time I got an abortion, I weighed as much as last I did when I was ten years old. So that was wild.

(I think, though, that getting laid off that time was the last boot out of respectability I’m gonna take. I’m really not trying to go back.)

I ended up going back to school full time after that and that’s where I’ve been since. I now live with my partner in an apartment, because the big house my mom and I got went into foreclosure and we had to split. Having to actually manage a two person household, make sure rent and lights are paid, etc. has definitely radicalized me. There’s so much I probably knew was bullshit, but didn’t have to navigate until the last 3 years. Going back to school also helped me make more connections and understand how oppressions are related and perpetuated in a much more native way. And, honestly, this motherfucker who is currently President of the U.S. made me realize a few things about how useless civility and conflict avoidance are, and how norms are kind of bullshit. (I wanna write about that, but later.)

What brought all this up for me was that recently I started wearing sleeveless stuff again. Before this summer, I hadn’t worn anything sleeveless since 2011 or so. Back then I was writing about fat a lot, which led to me hanging out with a lot of amazing fat femmes. I felt bolstered by their beauty, and like I said before, their confidence was contagious. If you asked me in 2011 why I was wearing sleeveless shirts I’m sure I would have answered with something that was proudly body-positive, something quotable. It was a veneer, because I didn’t really know in my soul why. I’ve worked so long and hard to subjugate this body and contort it into proportions that society deems appropriate. I’ve done it as a punishment for my perceived fault in being raped, I’ve done it as a form of self-harm in order to soothe, and I’ve done it under the guise of health. Why would I not consent to hiding the evidence of my failure?

I told myself it was because my the skin on my arms is all wrinkly and crepey and hanging now since losing and regaining so much weight. I told myself I should have learned to love myself earlier so I wouldn’t have fucked up my skin with dieting. I told myself all the things that would convince me that this was my problem, that it was my fault, and I should take the L and wrap up my arms and probably my whole body and also just drop off the face of the planet because I was never meant to survive anyway.

But this summer is so fucking hot. And THAT is not totally my fault. In fact, I have spent my whole goddamned life ringing the alarm bell about environmental shit. That’s one thing I’ve never lost sight of. And the heat finally drove me to connect the dots and uncover my body again. I realized that if these capitalist motherfuckers are going to burn down the planet in their own quest for prosperity, I’m not going to consent to covering up my fat in this blistering heat, sweating it out in penance for not meeting a standard of beauty. That realization opened the literal floodgates. I’d already been spending the last year or so thinking about all the fuckshit I do to myself that makes my life worse in exchange for upholding the status quo. But my body hate and shame is deep rooted, entwined with shame about being a survivor of multiple rapes and assaults and as a result being sexually dysfunctional for the majority of my life, placing others’ pleasure and comfort ahead of my own. It took being off the meds for an extended time, I think, to catalyze this for me. Being able to think a bit more clearly, and also the benefit of age, has seared the connections between the way I treat myself and systems of oppression/social control into my mind. I can never go back.

Y’all, can I just say that I hope the rest of the world wakes up faster than I did? How I be around this stuff, writing about this stuff, but not actually knowing this stuff in the core of my being? I still, still don’t feel like I have this wholehearted embrace of every part of my body, but I am resolute in my intention to sit with my discomfort. I have a reason, now. I know why I’m doing this. I’m a child of god and I deserve to live my life without the fetters that humanity has laid on me. I am glorious, even if I can’t see it through the veil of socialization into white supremacist capitalist imperialist cisheteropatriarchy.


I invite you to join me as I work through this process of self-reflection & transformation. Next up: breaking down my attitudes about my disabilities & divesting from a cure/control/contain model.