Sick Again, Still and Always

I don’t talk about being sick to complain. I talk about being sick here because, in real life, I try desperately not to dwell on this. I complain about your usual stuff, weather, the unwanted Monday, but I try not to focus on illness specifically. Thanks to my own behavior, the average person would never know the latest in terms of my body and my pain. In some ways it’s nobody else’s business and this policy works. In other ways, I feel like I have to explain myself. That feeling really kicks in when I talk about working part time.

It’s just a given that I’d be more financially secure and independent if I worked full time, so why not?

I worry that people assume that it’s laziness or for lack of trying. I worry that people feel that this is a choice. I guess in a way it’s a choice, but that’s a tricky term. When I work full time, my quality of life is such that I can’t really live. I give up so much. I’ll paint the picture.

The first time I allowed my schedule to crawl to full time after becoming sick, I was in the most pain I’ve ever experienced. It was one incident that came after months of self-neglect and denial. I remember it vividly. Before the incident, I was crying a lot, from pain. Several nights a week would end in tears. I’d get home and go to sleep. I wouldn’t do things on weekends. I’d cancel. Cry. Wince.

Everything is terrible when it’s that bad. Or this bad, presently. Driving really hurts, my ankles hurt when I brake in stop and go traffic and my wrists feel stiff holding onto the steering wheels. Brushing my teeth? Hurts. Washing my hair? Hurts. Standing after sitting, for any period of time? Hurts. Anything other than lying down? Yeah, pretty much. Now that’s always the case, everything in my life requires a dull ache. But when it’s bad, the cost is a sharp pain. Always.

Years ago this culminated in me, on the phone with my mom, sobbing walking home from work. I had to hang up because my elbow couldn’t support my phone. When I got home, I remember losing my vision, shaking in pain. At some point I fell asleep. I think it was the closest I’ve come to a 10 on the pain scale, seeing as I couldn’t see. Maybe it was a 9, but it was really really up there.

I think about that one time all of the time, since chronic pain means a pain scale is always somewhere in the back of my mind. A few times since I’ve allowed my schedule to climb too high again. Once this meant sub-luxing a shoulder without realizing it, because I was so used to the level of pain. Oops. But usually it’s not that dramatic. Usually it’s just a lot of tears and cancelled plans.

It’s happening again, right now. I’m not working full time, but my body is just adjusting poorly to the seasons. I’m busy, and I love to be busy, but my body is starting to deny me. It’s why I’m not going to the city. It’s why I have to say no to plans, occasionally. Why I scaled down my Mother’s Day efforts this year. I’m terrible at saying no. I’m terrible at staying home. I feel silly, being so frustrated by this but here I am.

 

Last night I burst into tears on my way home, again on the phone with my ever so patient mother. I’d been on the verge of tears all day, because when pain makes your ears ring it’s hard to keep it together. I then sat in my car crying for another 20 minutes dreading the flight of stairs between myself and my apartment. Making Myles carry my laundry upstairs for me. I loathe how pitiful this sounds, but there it is.

I’m hoping this is just a random flare. In fact, waking up with a terrible cold this morning was a huge relief. Old fashioned acute illnesses can cause flare ups in symptoms, so maybe this absolute peak of discomfort is just how my body’s decided to handle this particular cold.

I suppose this is complaining. And that’s obnoxious and so not my intention. But I have to be transparent about this because clearly, it’s going to start interfering again.

I do not like pity.  This is just where I am. And I’m just letting you know.

I am not a woman.

I am not a woman.

I am not only a woman.

I understand womanhood.

I cannot stand womanhood.

I think  I think about this a lot more than a “woman” should.

I don’t know, y’all.

I thought of metaphors, parallels to draw. I thought about a self-deprecating start. I thought about leaving this in the drafts of the notes of what would one day be worthy of a full Facebook status. I’ve decided to just out with it.

I’m non binary.

I’m non binary. I am not a woman or a man. I can’t be either. Not fully, not honestly. Not happily, to be sure.

I don’t know how this sounds to the untrained ear.

I imagine a dismissive nod. I imagine this because I first reacted to the term with (denial) and resentment and disbelief. I, stumbling upon this new vocabulary, kept walking the way that you walk passed a childhood friend you’re desperately trying to avoid. I walked faster because I did not want to be recognized, I wasn’t ready to be caught.

But that was me, catching myself in the act. What about you?

What I mean to say is, I have no idea what you will make of this. You know because you’re you, but I just can’t tell. Do you get it? Do you care? Did you expect it, given all of the ways I’ve allowed myself to change over the last several years? Did you notice when I changed my pronouns to they/them on Facebook? Did you wonder, at all, or did I imagine my own changes? Are you incredulous and dismissive, or is that a figment of my imagination? Are you what I was afraid of? Or are my fears unfounded? Are you bored of this, because it doesn’t matter?

I honestly don’t know. I haven’t been here before.

Coming out as bi has just been part of the routine for me. I’ve done it what feels like a million times. I don’t always know exactly what to expect but there are familiar scripts. I’ve had a couple of shitty reactions but mostly, it’s been positive. I’m anxious, but not too anxious. Coming out as bi feels like walking into a job interview. Things may not be perfect, but I know the gist.

This isn’t the same. This feels more like going to trial. I feel like I’m burdening others with this information, bothering them. I feel like I’m making too much of a simple truth. I am entirely terrified of saying the words out loud. I feel like anything could happen, or nothing. I don’t know what I’m getting into at all.

And yet, what is familiar, is the truth.

When I realized I was bi, there was clarity. I realized that I was experiencing an attraction my straight friends couldn’t recognize. Before I found the term, I assumed that everyone suppressed their same-sex attraction, embraced their opposite-sex attraction and went from there. Whoops! Not true! Turns out some people are straight, and I’m not one of them. I’m monogamous, to be perfectly clear, but I am totally and entirely bi. Finding that vocabulary changed my reality. I suddenly made sense.

And non binary fits the same way. I’ve experienced it all over again. I assumed, for a while, (my entire life), that everyone stresses about their gender.  It honestly blows my mind to think that most people are walking around 100% cool with their gender.  That’s wild. Anyhow, I’ve had the same order of revelations. I realized that lots of people are happy with their gender, much to my surprise. Then I found the vocabulary that described my reality. And suddenly I made sense.

I’ve had the term wrapped around my neck for years. Years of fear and shame and slow understanding. I am years and years into this version of myself.

Now I just want to be honest and seen.

 

I’ve done this backwards. I changed the way I look and dress without saying a thing. I became myself without talking about it. I transitioned silently. Now I’m ready to talk.

I wanted to talk yesterday. International Women’s Day left me feeling every kind of complicated. As an activist, everything feels complex. That’s not particularly new. But as a non binary person, the day felt fraught. I had so much to say. I feel so much for women. With them. And I know womanhood well. And yet, I cannot stand much of my own experience.

However, coming out on International Women’s Day as something-other-than-a-woman felt like a distraction of sorts. I didn’t want to take up that kind of space.

Today, I’ll take up the space. I think I’ve earned it, honestly.

I want to write about this more, and I have the rest of my life to do so. This was a good start, I think.

 

I am not going to change, to be clear. I’ve been here for years.

The change is bringing you here with me. The change is being seen.

Better Call Paul Ryan

I am not one of Paul Ryan’s constituents, however House Speaker Paul Ryan makes many decisions that impact the entire country from a legislative standpoint. 

I want Paul Ryan to allow for a vote on the house floor. Sure I’m not his constituent, so what does he owe me? Very little.

However I am someone’s constituent, and without a vote we are all unheard. I want Paul Ryan to allow other Representatives to do their jobs, it’s all very chicken and the egg.
I called Paul Ryan’s D.C. office not to ask for him to represent me, but to ask him to allow for a vote.

Girl, you have to hear his answering machine. I wrote down a transcript so you could understand that Paul Ryan will let you “express your opinion” about all sorts of things, but not gun control.

Transcript begins:

“Thank you for calling the office of Speaker Paul D. Ryan. Your views are important to us so please listen to the following message to have your voice heard:

To express your opinion on the Syrian refugee crisis press 1.

To express your opinion on President Obama’s healthcare law press 2.

To express your opinion on affirming Congress’s Article 1 Powers press 3.

To express your opinion on Guantanomo Bay press 4.

To hear the speakers statement on 2nd Admendment Rights press 5.

If you would like to leave a voicemail for Speaker Paul Ryan press 6.”
His voicemail is full, spoiler alert. But it appears that Paul Ryan will listen to your opinions plenty, with the exception of gun control reform.

I’ll try again tomorrow, Speaker. But I don’t plan on pressing 5 any time soon.

Reconciliation and The Moon

I can’t really write about sadness anymore here. I am Pulse but I am not interested in hashtags or prayers or moments of silence. We mourn our dead and act as though these untimely deaths are a part of life we just have to get used to. I’m guilty of it too. I’ve hardly written about every mass shooting. I couldn’t possibly keep up. And with nearly 300 people lost every single day to gun violence in this country, I can never remember all of their names.

I became complicit. I let names and hashtags and news stories stay in my periphery because I was tired and weak and ashamed.

What happened in Orlando shook me to my core because I’m queer, plain and simple. I allowed myself to ignore what hurts until I was reminded, brutally, that it could happen to me. And to my brothers, my sisters and my other queer siblings who answer elsewhere. Cold reality has washed over my apathy, and I am so overwhelmed it is tempting to walk away once again.

I am young and my activism is small, but I am tired and the world feels unmovable. Activism depends on the self-absorbed hope that you can make a difference, and this is but this is a hope I hold true. The catch is that this belief requires accepting responsibility for the world I call home. With little power comes little responsibility, but responsibility nonetheless. So I feel responsible in part for the state of the world we live in. And entirely helpless. Defeat is an inevitable part of trying in a world this big. The idea is to keep trying. But here we are a week later and I still can’t wrap my arms around my own selfish fearful grief. Instead I wrap my arms around anger, a smaller emotion that is always easier to find. 

This worries me. Anger without reconciliation muddles and grows and turns into hate, something I have no use for. I’m left with the hard work of reconciliation and in all honesty, a bit of reluctance.

I find myself doubting civility. I feel betrayed by forgiveness and even certain promises of kindness sound hollow.

What do I do with kindness from someone who defines me as perverse? How do I share space with someone who thinks of my existence as a threat? And what does that prove? Whom does it serve?

There is history of organized religion praying for us gays to turn a corner. There is an intense hypocrisy and bitterness when those who would pray for my so-called redemption turn around and pray for Orlando. I don’t know what to in the face of these prayers. I don’t want to be changed, I just want to live. I don’t want to be forgiven for the way that I love. That’s not acceptance, it’s a quiet disapproval. My mind turns these conundrums over and over and I become more and more tired. I feel unsafe, unloved and unwilling to share myself.

And then there’s the moon.

For context, several nights a year I send texts, tweets and statuses urging those near my location to go see what the moon is doing right then. I’m enamored on a bimonthly basis at least. The moon is great, and better writers can come close to doing it justice.

Driving home Sunday night was one of those nights of the year. The moon was so gorgeous I wanted to burst, I wanted everyone to see the sky from my passenger seat.

I thought about what I meant by everyone, or rather whom I meant.

The truth is I really meant everyone.

I have to share the moon with everyone. I share the moon with people who think I’d indoctrinate their children with my scary queer agenda. I share the moon with politicians complicit in the face of violence. I share the moon with pundits spitting nothing but unproductive fire. I share the moon with children being taught to fear those who are different. I share the moon with people who believe I am going to whatever hell they believe in. And they have to share the moon with me. 

It doesn’t make everything better. It barely makes everything okay. But I cannot close myself off to the world. Tragedy and violence and hatred demand to be met with hope and strength and love. I will pick up the pieces of myself and force myself to stay involved. And while these wounds heal, the least I can do is share the moon. 

 

If you’re interested in picking up the pieces and moving forward, visit The Brady Campaign and consider making calls, volunteering, or donating.

Adoptee Solidarity, Of Sorts

Everybody deserves a place to call home, children certainly do.

I’ve written here before about my own adoption experience, I’ve always been pretty out in the open about being an adoptee.

I follow my adoption agency on Facebook and recently Gladney has started making an effort to #shareadoption by sharing information of children who need homes. Often these potential adoptees are older and less likely to find forever homes.
The pictures show up on my newsfeed, with links to click and stories to read. A 7 month old with a medical condition that requires extra care, a 6 year old who cannot be separated from their 11 year old brother. It’s made my Facebook feed incredibly painful, seeing these entirely worthy children need homes I can’t provide.

The consequence my bleeding heart, I suppose.

I click on almost every page, reading about the characteristics of these wonderful children as if that could possibly be a measure of the love and compassion they deserve. As if a child’s favorite color or ability to read should be in any way a factor of the life they are given.

It’s been really emotionally exhausting, and I’ve even talked to my SO about just unfollowing the page all together. But I can’t bring myself to unfollow Gladney for my own comfort.

Having a loving family and a place to call home is a privilege, I owe my privilege in part to Gladney, and the rest I of course owe to my loving family.
As hard as it may be for me to read and engage with these stories, it’s infinitely harder to be a child without a family to call your own. So obviously, the least I can do is stay informed and pass the information along-after all, you never know.
So occasionally I’ll be sharing these links on Facebook. I don’t know who is looking to expand their family or open their doors, I do know I really hope that someday I will be in the position to help kids like these.
I’m asking you to do the same. Facebook is a big world, and maybe the right story will fall into the right hands and a family will form, all because of a hashtag. I mean, it’s worth a shot-isn’t it?

Like Gladney Adoption Center on Facebook

#adoptionadvocate

#shareadoption

 

 

By the Bi

Okay, this is it. Bi Visibility Day is upon us-in fact, it’s almost over. So, from your local bi, here are a few friendly reminders:

1.) We’re not looking for threesomes.
Look, threesomes are a thing. And if that’s your thing, all the more power to you. But if you are a straight man on OKCupid, please stop asking us for threesomes. Just stop. You’re ruining the internet and grossing humans out. Stop it, and stop it now.

2.) Bisexuality is not a phase.
Sexuality is fluid and evolving. Absolutely. But if someone identifies as bisexual, do not wait for them to grow out of it. If that’s what you’re thinking when someone comes out to you, you’re biphobic. Plain and simple. Bisexuality is 100% valid. Got it?

3.) We’re not into you.
To be clear, being bisexual doesn’t mean you’re attracted to all humans at all times. When I came out I kept hearing, “But how are you attracted to everyone?” (This question was sometimes followed by “Just pick a side,” see #1) Relax. That’s not how sexual orientation works. Heterosexual women aren’t attracted to every single man. That goes without saying. (Heteronormativity at work, my friends.) In a similar vein…

4.) We’re capable of monogamous relationships.
If you think bisexuality means an attraction to everyone, everyone is the competition. This can make insecure biphobic humans pretty irrationally jealous. Again, relax. Calm down. Monogamy is tough. Monosexual people can struggle with monogamy as well. In the little representation bisexuals received, they’re often portrayed as promiscuous and unfaithful. These are harmful stereotypes, not realities. Build a relationship on trust and communication, and leave your biphobia out of this.

5.) Being in a monogamous relationship does not deactivate bisexuality.
Bisexuality is not a Facebook page. It doesn’t switch off based on a person’s sexual activity or relationship status. If you aren’t in the middle of sex right this moment, you still identify as your sexual orientation. If you’re single, you still identify as your sexual orientation. It’s not a matter of being a “practicing bisexual.” It’s an identity, with you at all times.

6.) Bisexuality is an attraction to two or more genders.
As stated in #1, sexuality is fluid. Guess what? Gender can be fluid too! This is a biggie. But it also may be where I lose my straight allies, so stick with me. Within the LGBTQ community, some people feel that bisexuality is inherently transphobic. That’s not the case. Transphobic bisexuals exist, but bisexuality is not transphobic. Now, get ready one more flawless segue…

7.) Let bisexual people talk about their experiences.
And then believe them. Bisexual activists make a point of emphasizing that bisexuality is an attraction to two or more genders. Believe us. If we say we’re not looking for threesomes, don’t push the issue. Believe us. If we say it’s not a phase, it’s not a phase. Believe us.

Solidarity and Raising Voices, Then And Now

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Mike Brown’s passing. Mike Brown’s murder. I spent so much time reading about the past year. I wanted to do something, but I’m out of town and couldn’t find anything local. I wanted to write something, but I couldn’t find the words. Everything felt like an assertion. Everything I wrote was mine, but I knew that wasn’t right. The #BlackLivesMatter movement isn’t about me. My place in activism for racial equality is solidarity and raising the voices of activists of color. I don’t have anything to add to this particular conversation.

So instead, I come bearing photos. Over the weekend I visited memorials for the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery and Birmingham. I read about the courage, sacrifices and victories. I thought of the sacrifices since. I thought of the work that still needs to be done. The locations of the photos are in the captions, and images are click-through links to more information. I really recommend all of these stops. It was really humbling.

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“…until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

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Outside of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery Alabama, the memorial was designed by Maya Lin. Maya Lin said the memorial was designed to be “a contemplative area — a place to remember the Civil Rights Movement, to honor those killed during the struggle, to appreciate how far the country has come in its quest for equality, and to consider how far it has to go.” (Click image to learn more about the Civil Rights Center)

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One of three pieces installed along the Voting Rights Trail in Montgomery. Pieces were installed this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. (Click the image for more info)

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Statues at E. L. Posey’s Parking Lot, where organizers carpooled en masse during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (click image for more info)

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Statues at E. L. Posey’s Parking Lot (click image for more info)

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The 16th Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. (for more info click the image)

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This statue, Four Spirits, sits in Kelly Ingram Park on the corner closest to 16th Baptist Church. The statue represents the four girls murdered by the KKK at 16th Baptist, and two of the doves represent two boys who were murdered the same day. Behind them is Martin Luther King Jr. (click the image for more info)

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Four Spirits

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Martin Luther King Jr. in Kelly Ingram Park (click image for more info)

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A statue of police dogs who were used to attack marchers. (click the image for more info)

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The Foot Soldier statue in Kelly Ingram Park.  This sculpture is dedicated to the foot soldiers of the Birmingham Civil Rights movement, the dedication states the following:  “With gallantry, courage, and great bravery they faced the violence of attack dogs, high powered water hoses, and bombings. They were the fodder in the advance against injustice. Warriors of a just cause; they represent humanity unshaken in their firm belief in their nation’s commitment to liberty and justice for all. We salute these men and women who were the soldiers of this great cause. Richard Arrington, Jr, Mayor of Birmingham, May 1995” (for more info click the image)

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Statue in Kelly Ingram Park

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Statue in Kelly Ingram Park reads “I ain’t afraid of your jail.”

The Civil Rights Movement is not confined to history books. I will continue to fight