Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Upside-Down Narrative of "Power Under Abuse"

This is one of the worst The Discourse 👌 I've ever seen.  The list of "abusive toward people with power over you" traits are basically identical to a list of behaviors commonly displayed by victims of CPTSD.

– telling someone that their basic needs or boundaries are not valid because of their privilege or power.
– using shame inducing social justice language to pressure people to do things they don’t want to do.
– pressuring someone to have sex they don’t want to have, by telling them they are harming you if they say no. ie. “if you don’t have sex with me, you are ___phobic.”
– accusing someone of harming you because they are requesting conflict resolution with you.
– accusing someone of harming you in ways that did not actually happen, or exaggerating harm that did happen. sometimes these accusations are made public through call-outs.
– calling for ostracization or punishment that is not proportionate to the harm done.
– refusing to absorb feedback offered by friends and loved ones who witness you causing harm.
– refusing to accept support from anyone other than the person you are being abusive towards.
– refusing to acknowledge care given to you by the person you are in conflict with and instead characterizing them as only ever having had harmed you.
– leveraging shame or guilt to pressure someone not to set boundaries.
– accusing someone of abandoning you when they set boundaries.
– refusing to set your own boundaries and then making statements like “you made me do this”.
– constantly accusing other people of being oppressive, harmful, abusive, toxic etc, while simultaneously being unwilling to unpack the way you embody these things.
– not acknowledging the struggle, victimization or oppression experienced by the person you are abusing.
– convincing the person you are abusing that they have more power (in general and specifically over you) than they actually do.
– refusing to address conflict in a way that honours the integrity and humanity of everyone involved. ie: not using someone’s current gender pronoun when you call them out.
– stealing from the person you are being abusive towards and either denying you stole, or claiming you have a right to the thing you stole because you have less than the person you stole from (which may or may not actually be true).
– accusing someone of triangulating or breaking confidentiality when they seek support to navigate the abusive dynamic they are in with you
– claiming to be ‘getting support’ and ‘calling in witnesses’ when you are spreading rumours for your benefit.
– weaponizing pop psychology terms like “toxic”, “narcissist” and “empath”, often with little understand of what these words were originally meant to describe. Ie: narcissism is a mental illness which requires diagnosis based on a set of criteria. it’s not meant to be used to describe someone who thinks about themselves more than you would like them to think about you.
– labelling confusion, miscommunication or difference of opinion as gaslighting. 

Yes, it can be difficult for CPTSD victims to realize that the same habits they relied upon to survive ongoing trauma are the very sorts of habits that will destroy healthy relationships.  Yes, CPTSD victims can still be (for example) racist and transphobic, despite otherwise not holding power over.  But that doesn't translate to "this person I hold power over is gaslighting and abusing me".

If you find yourself struggling to cope with the emotional turmoil that can often come with relationships with CPTSD victims you hold power over, maybe exercise that power you hold to take a break to take care of yourself.  Then revisit the issue at a time you both agree on; you setting this boundary might trigger their abandonment issues, but state firmly and compassionately that you want to be able to be emotionally centered and present to provide them the best support you are able, and that requires self-care first.  Remember that no matter how much this might feel like gaslighting, this person is struggling with dark thoughts that make it all feel so very real to them, and that you turning the tables on them to paint them as "the real abuser" will only perpetuate the emotional nightmare they wish they could escape.

Lastly, take a good hard look at yourself.  Are you in denial about leveraging the power you hold over this person?  Are you possibly over-extending yourself and your capacity to provide competent emotional care for another person?  You might actually need to get help to figure out the answers to these questions.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Leveraging Intersex

I’ve been bad about this, and continually need to check myself, but leveraging the existence of intersex people in gender discourse is frequently objectification and erasure both. I don’t need to explain or justify my genitals to anyone - nobody does. And people do know about intersex bodies - they’re fully aware and have enacted great violence upon those individuals to “normalize” them. It’s not that some people don’t think a wide spectrum of humanity exists, it’s that some people think we shouldn’t exist even when we do.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


Every time I try to write about my family, I feel at a loss for words. I see friends sharing so many beautiful thoughts and photos of their families, and I love it. I love seeing the vibrant energy that comes from getting to share life with each other, and I'm glad that you're sharing your happiness and your sorrows with me.

I think of how I would share my own, and I'm overwhelmed with so many feelings and memories to choose from. How do I describe that which takes no words to experience? There is no analysis to dissect the soft touch of lips on neck, of nose pressed to nose, no photoset of the hopeful fearful dreaming of the future.

How do I possibly approach the looming spectre of misrepresentation? When the only positive example of nonmonogamy I know to point to is drawn from the mind of a dirty computer one short day ago, how do I possibly avoid the stereotype threat pressing my own free expression back into hiding?

I live my life as a fake person only seen for how closely I can imitate realness. I know that every story, every image, will be scrutinized for which relationship is the real one. Which person is the person I love the most? Which would I sacrifice everything for? Which part of my life should I stop pretending?

And then I think about the richness and fullness of our lives, and how many people I know are struggling for even a fraction of that, and I worry that I would ever cause another person pain of longing or envy.

So I leave things unsaid. The deep abiding commitment, the joy of flourishing affection, the fear that at any moment it could all be taken away. Maybe one day we all will get to be possible.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sexual Cinnamon Rolls

Growing up in a conservative Christian community, STIs were portrayed as something that happens to people who stray from the right path: total and complete monogamy with 1 single person for life. Condoms are completely unnecessary to learn about under that model; in fact, buying condoms means you're planning to sin, so don't. When I left Christianity and monogamy behind, and joined polyamorous spaces, it would have been a good opportunity to be deprogrammed of this toxic mindset toward condoms.

However, that's not what happened. Instead of condoms and dental dams being stigmatized for their accessory to a sinful lifestyle, they were now stigmatized for their accessory to a relationship lacking in trust and intimacy. Instead of STIs being the wages of sin, they were now a sign of a dirty person. It's really difficult to unfuck one's own mind under those conditions!

Everywhere I turned, the pinnacle of polyamory was "getting" to have sex without a condom with "fluid-bonded" partners. A thin sheet of latex became the barrier surrounding a gated community, separating those deserving of intimacy from those merely allowed the scraps of the bountiful love of the privileged. Relationship rules were written up like homeowners association covenants, ensuring that any interactions with outsiders would be highly regulated in a way that would remind the newcomer of their inherent dirtiness and undeservingness of love and affection, as certain sex acts were elevated higher than others, only to be claimed as if by birthright by those with purest blood.

One of the major factors fueling the recent uprise in STIs is that people won't get tested or treated - the stigma is too great.  Well, no wonder, when having one is treated like the Mark of Cain!  When you stand to lose access to entire communities of support from even admitting you're capable of catching an infectious disease, where's your incentive for confronting something that frequently won't show any symptoms at all?  (I know not everyone can afford medical care; however this is another way that communities could come together, and offer to cover the bill.)

Why is it so hard for us to stop using each other's bodies as tools for our own validation? Why do we insist that partners put our feelings before their own health? #abuseculture Fluid barriers need to become a primary way to show we care about each other's health. You're not a sexual cinnamon roll: too good for this condom, too pure.  We need to stop treating people with STIs as less deserving of intimacy, rather than as being in need of accommodations and support.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

It's not just about the restrooms but because you all keep making it about the restrooms we can talk about that...

Presented to Celebrate Diversity 2017 in Warsaw, Indiana.

I stand with my young child and face two doors, knowing what I need can be found behind both, aware that choosing one over the other is to publicly declare my deepest political allegiances. I casually make my way through Door #1, hoping nobody will notice. “Sir” I look up, and realize she’s looking directly at me. I’ve been found out. “Sir, you want to be over there,” she commands as she points directly toward Door #2, valiantly defending the innocence of the flock of preschool girls we’re both surrounded by. We go into the other room without a fuss. My child peers into a nearby urinal with suspicion at its contents, then up at me. “Mommy, what-” I swiftly brush him into the nearest stall before he can utter any more incriminating words, not knowing how to explain to a preschooler that there is no Door #3 for people like me.

There is a chance that any time you or your loved ones enters a public restroom, that they could be sharing it with a sex offender.  Child molesters, voyeurs/exhibitionists, date rapists - these are all people who buy the same groceries as us, eat at the same restaurants as us, and fill up at the same gas stations as us.  If you were the type to be concerned about safety in public restrooms, and believed that legislation were an effective tool to protect restroom patrons, what could you do about this situation?  If your proposed response is to outlaw transgender people, you just might be Indiana Republican state Senator Jim Tomes. Bear with me, I’m quoting him verbatim: “What about the other sector of society of people that who have all through the decades women been using women’s restrooms and men been using men’s restrooms and kind of like that and kind of expect that level of privacy?”

Don’t worry about people who are actually predators and convicted sex offenders; the real danger has been me all along!  Nevermind that if there really were an epidemic of cross-dressing voyeurs peeping under bathroom stalls, Fox News would be plastering their mug shots all over scare pieces in a never-ending parade of shame.  Meanwhile, the true stories of abuse and violence against transgender folks in public spaces get pushed to the back pages of the news.

I don't like the men's restrooms because I'm not a man, I’m nonbinary. I am familiar with the women's restrooms, but I'm not a woman, and I raise far too many suspicions in there now for my comfort anyway. I have gotten very skilled at finding single-user restrooms wherever I go, but I will use the men's room now if it's urgent, and carry myself with the confidence of a mediocre white man in a generally successful attempt to blend in.

I’m disturbed by a trend lately, where some men gleefully plot for (or at least dream about) pushing themselves into women's restrooms in an attempt to get kicked out. Sometimes it’s cis men [“cisgender” means someone who is not transgender]. These cis men are attempting to “prove” that anyone can “fake” being trans simply by throwing on a dress. Sometimes it’s trans men posting selfies, and then "surprise! I have a vagina!" It's supposed to “prove” that they don't belong in women’s restrooms because they "look like a man". The problem is that all of this harms women. Many trans women are suspected of “faking” their genders and that's why these laws are being passed in the first place. They are enforced by targeting women who “look like men”, which hurts all women, trans and cis alike. Plus, at its most basic this trend an example of cis and trans men forcing their way past women’s stated boundaries in an attempt to intimidate them to get their own way. What if masculinity were used for justice instead of violence?

In many states, there has never been a law explicitly against using the "wrong" restroom.  So why after over 100 years of trans people in multi-user public restrooms - yes, we've always been using them, even if you didn't notice - why now do we suddenly have this deep and urgent need for laws to segregate and outlaw us?  Honestly, it's for the money.  This is a great way to scare people into donating money to the political campaign or advocacy organization of their choice.  I'm including pro-LGBT orgs here: many of them use fear tactics to profit from our situation too.

Even if laws were passed explicitly to protect people like me, we still wouldn't be safe.  Laws can only provide recourse against harms already caused, for those of us who can even afford legal action, but they don’t change the hearts and minds of those who act against us.  The fact is, we cannot be safe in a society that demands segregation.  I mean that in the fullest sense.  We cannot be safe in a society that demands “separate yet equal” restrooms.

Racial segregation dates back to 1849; the first separate gendered restroom ordinances came 40 years later, in 1887.  When you dig into the arguments presented when proposing these gendered restrictions over the past century, you will find that it wasn’t about protecting women from men, it especially wasn’t about protecting black women from white men, it was always about protecting white women from black men by demonizing blackness. Segregated restrooms have always been racist as well as sexist, and as such will always be unsafe.

I again want to make it very clear that the root of the violence against my people isn’t the laws, it’s the prevailing mentality of a society that accepts a certain order of things as “normal”, and anyone who deviates is deemed in need of correction. In a society where all genders were valid and deserving of equal recognition and protection, it would be unthinkable to demand some of us to hide ourselves while others flaunt your “normal” genders every chance you get. You accept gender segregation because you don’t see us as real people.

For example: a friend of mine on Facebook recently posted that she defended the right of trans women to use the women’s restroom alongside herself, but she wanted to ask all trans women to please place the seat down after they were finished. Several of her friends chimed in their complaints in the comments. I think they thought they were being cute, but the message was clear: normal women keep the seat down, fake women leave it up. It never occurred to them that if a trans woman leaves the seat up, then leaving the seat up is a normal way for women to use the toilet, because trans women are women, not objects for your scrutiny.

Separating us out as not normal, not like you, not fully people leaves us vulnerable even in places that aren’t segregated by gender, even in places designated specifically for us. Stonewall Inn, site of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, is famed as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. In March of last year, a transgender woman went into the single-user restroom of Stonewall Inn, and video surveillance shows a man following her in there, where he then attacked and raped her. There are no safe spaces for people who are deemed less than human.

Two years ago, I spent the weekend traveling the beautiful Ozarks of Missouri with my child and my transgender wife. We stopped at a gas station to fill up, and we needed a bathroom break. It was a tiny place with a single-user restroom on the exterior of the building, so we sat on the nearby bench to wait our turn. The man standing next in line before us refused to budge. Soon he was joined by another man, forming a barricade. A woman came out and begged him not to start anything, to just let us go. We quickly realized they were targeting us, refusing to let us access the single-user restroom, willing to escalate to violence if necessary. They didn’t see a family with a child. They didn’t see people. They just saw some deviants with fake genders. We will never be safe until we are real.