hey y'all. thank you for the outpouring of support for the suicidal ideation article- it's been a little over 24 hours and my little blog has gotten 3,500 hits. it's been amazing and overwhelming. however, I'm glad that this piece has been helpful and thought provoking to so many folks. I'm taking a break from the internet over the next couple days to rest and recharge. so far most of the discussion has been awesome. I hope people can continue to self moderate, be kind, and listen to each other rather than attacking or prescribing. I also wanted to list a couple resources for folks looking for more info about radical mental health resources. one, http://theicarusproject.net
, is a radical mental health network with some great resources about community support and madness and social justice (they were kind enough to repost this blog. the other, http://fuckyeahselfcare.tumblr.com/,
is a great compendium of some different spots on the internet that talk about radical self and community care. and there's another queer femme of color healing/mental health tumblr that I know exists but I'm hunting to find- hang in there and I'll post when I've got it. And Alexis Pauline Gumbs' http://brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com/
is some of the best Queer Black Survivor medicine I know.when I wrote my article responding to b. loewe's "end to self care" article, I did this, and I'm going to do it again: if you like the piece and have a buck or two (or more) feel free to donate via paypal. I'm a chronically ill, working-class raised freelance writer and organizer. back in the day when more presses and print magazines existed, it was not uncommon for folks to get paid for writing. nowadays, most blogs don't pay for content, and the pool of existing presses and magazines that pay anything continue to shrink. there's absolutely no obligation - but if you like this work and have a little cash
, feel free to drop an offering in my online tip jar. ;) there's a paypal button on the front page of my website, or you can paypal directly to brownstargirl at gmail. (if you make it a "living expense" or "gift" , paypal doesn't take a cut.) I want to donate some of what get to a friend of mine living with chronic health conditions who is attempting to finance a move to a safer housing situation.towards what we are building and all we don't know yet.leah
(please note: this is probably one of the most vulnerable pieces I've ever published. It's a work in progress and I don't feel like it's fully done, but after working on it for six months, I wanted to put it out there to the community- especially at a time when many folks are struggling. please take care as you read it, and please keep in mind that, while I am open to feedback, I would appreciate it if folks could temper critique with kindness)suicidal ideation 2.0, queer community leadership, and staying alive anyway. by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha for my beloved dead, and for Kyle and Wendy, and for all of us still here.trigger warning for discussion of suicide and self harm
I've come to hate it when folks start texting me with cryptic messages saying, "Did you know so-and-so?"
For the past two years, each summer, my beloved community in Toronto has lost someone because they killed themself. This year, it was Kyle Scanlon.
And no, I didn't really know him- not well- but I knew of him. Kyle was one of the first transguys I knew who came out within Toronto's queer community in the late 90s. After he passed, many, many trans folks I know remembered how Kyle had come to their workplace or school and told his story, how he was the first other trans person they'd met. How his story and presence helped them name themself as trans and do what they needed to do to affirm the gender spirit that made them feel alive. Kyle was one of the first workers at Meal Trans, the 519 s ( Toronto's queer community center) free dinner program for broke trans folks. He won awards and did trainings. He was one of those queer/trans community-bred and based leaders that everybody thanks, leans on, asks for favors, and is grateful for.
And he killed himself.
After he died, there were the blog posts saying we had to love each other harder and do better. There were the memorial posts that listed all the Distress Centre hotlines for the province. There were the postings of his various memorial articles in the queer biweekly paper on facebook, and everyone's memories. It's what we do. And it so wasn't enough
Moments like this are grief and crash and immense loss. And they're also - maybe- an invitation to go deeper. To be real about suicide. I mean really really for real for real- about shit that people don't want to go there about, or want to boil down into a simple narrative of don't do it you have something to live for! call 911!
Even the narratives we have that suicide is the colonizer, is the white supremacist capitalist colonialist ableist patriarchy whispering that we should just take our selves off the planet, that narrative has stopped me from reaching for my Ativan and bourbon or cutting when I didn't want to. But it's also not enough.
I was in Toronto the week after Kyle died, with my family. Everyone was hurting . Some of us at Femme Heartshare Circle were talking about it. About how Wendy Babcock, an amazing street sex worker activist, mama and law student, had died of an overdose last year, and how folks weren't sure if it was intentional or not- and how Wendy's family had used Wendy's history of struggle to discredit her courage in breaking silence to about the abuse she'd survived from them.
One of my friends said, what should we do? Should we have regular red flag check ins with each other, the way we do about relationships? Should I go up to you and ask, Have you been thinking about killing yourself lately? And I thought, if anyone came at me saying, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT KILLING YOURSELF LATELY?, I'd automatically lie and say hell no. The way I have to every single doctor, social worker and most therapists in my life. I don't want anything I can prevent on my permanent record, and I definitely don't want Danger to Self or Others. I've been fighting this my whole life, and I've seen the oppression and hardness that that label can mean to folks in my life who've had it.
But if you normalized it. Because it is normal. This secret. That so many of us wrestle with suicidality. Then maybe, maybe just maybe I'd tell you where it was at.
And maybe we could map the terrain of those ideation places better.
I don't know why Kyle killed himself, and I'm not going to dishonour him by speculating about why he died. I can only talk about how his death, and the regular punctuation of queer and trans and Two Spirit suicides in our 40s in my communities, makes me think.
As a queer or trans or Two Spirit adult, we live within narratives that say that if you just live to grow up, it gets better (Dan Savage is an asshole caveats aside.)
But: what if it gets better and transforms more than you ever expected, but there are also times where it's still crazy, hurts so bad? Maybe hurts worse because it did get better, it got so much better, and also, the struggle did not stop? You ended up sleeping in the back of your station wagon on a mattress pad. Your book went out of print. Your mama died. You were still crazy after all that cum and all those tears. And no one prepared you for a life narrative where maybe struggle and therapy and herbs and miracles healed the pain, but the pain didn't go all the way away. Maybe, as you survived and succeeded, it just got more complex.
Take me. I know it because I am also one of those community leaders. I am one of those community leaders who is 37 now and still sometimes feels so low. My life did get better. I am not the same tortured, dissasociated girl I was. I look good. I'm happy. I'm not strangled by self hatred in the every day every single second of every day way my 18 year old brain knew. I have had the gay sex and art and travel and books and home and all of it. My brain and my spirit and my life and my relationship to trauma has changed, deeply. And I still have suicidal ideation on the regular.
I've had suicidal ideation (where you have repeating thoughts of "I should just kill myself") since I was at least twelve years old. When I was younger- from when I was about 12 to 21- I had periods of months or years where I had to seriously fight suicidality. When I was twenty two, I got away from my abusive family, left the country, made my small, quiet, safe room, and started healing hardcore from the shit I'd grown up in.
Since the therapy and the small quiet safe room and the poetry and the dancing and the friends and lovers and the herbs and the words, since shit stopped being as nuclear fucked up as my childhood was, I don't really really wanna kill myself anymore. I don't have a plan. I don't actively want to do it. I love my life. I am blessed. I am joyful. I am happy. But at times- at times of deep grief, or deep stress, or sometimes even times that aren't even that fucking deep- sometimes, I sit for hours, my wrists on fire with the desire to cut.
I won the Lambda Literary Award this year, and it was one of the best feelings of my life. And three days later, for no damn reason and every damn reason, I left therapy and felt my mood crashing. I tried to drive to a friend's birthday party, but the directions were complicated and I circled five times before giving up and driving home. I crawled into bed at 3 PM and found myself staring at the pillbox on my dresser, thinking, I've got 5 Ativan and a bottle of good bourbon, is that enough?
And I thought, whoa
. And I thought, I am 37 and I just won the Lambda Award. I can't tell people I want to kill myself. On my Facebook status update.
I slept. I texted a lover I'd had the sweetest access intimacy with to ask about Wellbutrin. I called friends. I called my witch naturopath in Toronto, who saw me, on Skype, for $20, and asked me, 'What does the depression feel like?" I told her it felt like a slow soft river, that it was good I had a lot of great things in my life, but even when I was in them right then, I couldn't really feel them. And when things did get bad, the direct line to Ishouldjustkillmyself
was well marked out. I talked to my therapist, and I started taking 5 HTP, a serotonin precursor.
We believe that working for justice and healing, creating art, and being badasses on our own terms will be part of what heals our hurt. And it is.
But our communities also put enormous pressure on the community based queer leaders we look to, and are. The leadership paradigm that exists within queer and trans social justice communities is still that of the movement/ activist star. As much as we may critique it, we don't quite have another one yet. (Edited to add: When I say "activist star", I want to be clear what I mean. I don't just mean people who are particularly visible or raised up for their leadership- though I think folks in that position face some unique pressures. I think, however, pressure to not be open about depression, suicidality and the hard places we go
hits almost all of us within queer/trans and other identity based communities. We want to have it all together. We don't think it's going to make us more desired or cool or sexy or beloved if we're honest about this stuff. And "community leadership" is sometimes so relative and easy to achieve- it can mean running a small bike program or reading at an event or being the contact person for childcare or any number of things. And for those of us who, because of multiple marginalizations and oppressions, find ourselves feeling the brunt of being undesirable within both mainstream and oppressed or oppositional communities, shit can feel like, well, we're already not beloved, so who will give a fuck if we're not here? (For more info and an amazing analysis about the politics of desirability, and especially how it intersects with transmisogyny, look at this blog post: http://gudbuytjane.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/dating-from-the-margins-1
/) In my experience, sometimes, but not always, we can move from leader to semi-visible to undesired in quick succession in our communities, and back again. Thank you for the feedback that pushed me to be clearer about what I was talking about.)
We have complicated feelings about leaders. We need role models We want to celebrate folks who are talented organizers and artists. And we also dont know how to practice horizontal leadership. We lift people up and pedestalize them- expect them to be perfect and with all the answers. we tear them down, expect them to be perfect. We murder folks who look like and unlike us when we fuck up, make mistakes, aren't able to be always on call, or just politically disagree. And that murder, that cut-eye, that exclusion from chosen family or community- it's some of the hardest and most dangerous things we do to each other. Believe me, I understand that people need to end relationships, set boundaries and not see each other for many good reasons. But when we are each others' safety net, some of the casually cruel exclusion we do is life-threatening.
We don't know how to let people be gifted and imperfect. And when we are those people, going from being a nobody to being a movement star, well, it doesn't leave a lot of room for complexity. Or to feel comfortable being honest about wanting to die when so many people are looking to you for a reason to live.
And our communities are still struggling to know how to care for each other well. For real. For the longterm. Without shame when it doesn't get fixed permanently and forever. When the need for care may be lifelong.
When I've wanted to kill myself- when it's hit strong and knocked me to my knees, familliar- there's also this thing. It's felt like, in that moment, I can feel all the ways I really have been without agency in my life. And in that moment of feeling the deep grief and sadness over the impact of oppression, killing myself has felt like one clear way I can have agency. I can have total control. I can't control the WSCCAP. But I can go to the stars.
And it hits fast. With Wendy, with Kyle and with other folks who've killed themselves in my communities, it's not uncommon for folks to say, I just saw them the other day. They were happy
. They were fine.
And, they might've been. They might've been also holding a lot of hard shit they didn't know how to talk about. And they might've gone from wonderful to deeply despairing fast- and not had room or words to talk about what it felt like for that transition to happen so quickly. Or felt deeply ashamed of freaking out, yet again.
What does it mean for those of us who made things better, who are shaped in the shape of I will come through for you
, who have organized and created curriculum and built programs and won awards and fought and mentored and let folks crash on our couches- what happens when we are, again, the crazy hurting deeply sad inside places? That are so different from the ones maybe so many outsiders know? (And what happens for those of us who are not 'gaymous', and who are also struggling with depression and suicidality?
When sometimes we ask for help on Facebook and miracles come through, and sometimes we do and our ChipIn falls flat? When we are afraid that we were hurting 6 months ago, and we're hurting now, and what is the tipping point when people start thinking, there they go again, they're always freaking out
I think about the deep stigma of crazy. The reality that even in radical communities where sometimes we are better about loving people who are "too much" we also know the fear of crazy. the reality of community that is love but also just likes to kick it and be casual. Of the post in the house I looked at that said, we're cool with you having mental or physical health concerns as long as you take care of them on your own and don't bring that shit into the house
. I think about how the crazy take care of the crazy and when we're not in crisis ourselves we want a break.
We don't want plattitudes or uplift or people telling us we're loved. I mean tell me. But I know I'm loved. Sometimes hearing that helps. Sometimes I am still deeply, deeply sad.
I don't have the answers, but I am intersted in collectively creating them. I am interested in all of us who dance with dying talking about all the different and real things that suicide can mean to us. All the things that allow us to stay here. And more than that, I am interested in creating models of happy-mostly queer and trans adulthood where we can be leaders and still be vulnerable, where we can be open that it's not happily ever after. Life models that encompass falling apart and reforming not as a failure, but as a life pathway. Ones punctuated with whirlwinds and whirlpools, that Coatlicue/Kali/Oya energy that dismembers. And gifts.
stuff i do every day to feel good:
1. I compliment other femmes, especially femmes who live with systemic oppression, on their presentation. I tell them they look good and I love their eyebrows/hair/dress/whatever. I ask permission first.
2. I try to slow down and be really present
3. Sometimes I just have to get through it, but I try and have a sense of how long it takes to actually do things, and to leave myself wiggle room to be late, have shit not go according to plan, and to breathe.
4. I drink agua de chia, nettle/redraspberry/red clover tea, and cedar tea
5. I cook good food for myself, at home.
6. I stretch
7. I have a really intense gratitude practice that helps me take care of and hold my anxiety.
8. I tend my altar and pray for folks and myself.
9. I keep our kitchen and my bedroom clean and tidy.
10. I hug people.
11. I pay attention to who I want to hang out with, who I want to gift my attention to.
12. I hang out with a minimum 50% femmes of color
13. I don't work with folks I don't work well with.
14. I don't hang out with folks whose ableism, classism, racism or femmephobia make me feel shitty. And I don't feel guilty about this.
15. I tell myself, "Ok, you're not alowed to be on Facebook."
16. I have faith
17. I practice forgiving myself when shit doesn't work out according to plan or perfect.
18. I listen to good music.
19. I go outside and get on the land.
20. I am reprogramming my crisis/ must respond immediately to every email/phone message call like it's an emergency.
21. I say no to shit.
This is the text of the piece I wrote for Mangos With Chili's Beloved: A Requiem for Our Dead
, which premiered this past Saturday at The Living Room Project
, West Oakland, CA. It was, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful shows we've done. It felt amazing to hold the show at a Black queer/trans owned healing space. The room was thick with spirits.
Because folks asked, I'm posting my letter to Gloria here. Enjoy.
Kit Quan, one of Anzaldúa's oldest friends and writing comadres, explained, "Gloria always told me that she was going to stick around for 20 more years. She struggled with diabetes and all its complications daily... but she was so well read on the disease... and worked so hard at managing her blood sugars that I believed we still had more time."
you can be the smartest crip in the world and still die.
hey ma. how you doing?
you died eight years ago.
we both have, had, un/usual bodies. and we live in these times in them.
it's October, the day before Halloween. yesterday, a giant storm smashed into the caribbean and all up the east coast. the photos of the subway looked like what I've spent my entire life thinking the end of the world would look like, my generation, growing up on rising waters, climate change, crumbling cities, everyone swarming for a generator and gas and dried food. my friends spend their days using facebook on phones to find gas and able bodied people who can walk 12 stories of dark stairwell to take and replace exhausted batteries for our friend who is on the 12th floor with his ventilator. for the past month I have been waiting to find out if i have ovarian or uterine cancer or not, without health insurence. I stayed up last night til 2:30 am clicking updates on my Facebook close friends feed, looking for updates about the nuclear power plants in Jersey, prisoners stuck on Rikers Island who were not evacuated, and disabled people left in hospitals and nursing homes. I did this while I wrote the outline for an all day disabiltiy training an organization wants to hire me to do. The power was out in aurora's rehab facillity, the food she can eat spoiled. A friend posted shots of Erik Drooker's graphic novel, flood
, where New York is completely submerged by water, saying, we read that in bed in 1995
17 years ago this possibility teased us, now it's a reality I am facing and I have sometimes a lot and sometimes little faith that we will all unite to take care of each other, survive and make something better.
Gloria, I want capitalism to be over already. I want the white capitalists colonialist ableist patriarchy to be over already. I want there to be guaranteed annual income for everyone, a little extra for those who are immune and energy compromised and can only work flexibly and part time. I want guarranteed fre personal care attendent service for everyone who is disabled, older, has kids or needs it. I want health care that is free to everyone, where no one will ever have to raise money on the internet for an ultrasound, IV antibiotics or a new wheelchair to replace the one that was stolen by another desperate crip. Or, as i had to last week, argue with a medical receptionist who doesn't want to give me the transvaginal ultrasound that was ordered by the PA at the queer free clinic, who looks at me and Manish and says blankly, "It's $165 per body part, how many are you getting done?" I wonder if she's counting the ovaries as one or two. 1979: Gloria decides to devote life to writing, takes series of part-time lecturer and writer in residence jobs to buy as much time to write as possible. 1991: Gloria wins NEA grant, uses it to buy house in Santa Cruz by her beloved ocean, Yemaya, so she can visit it daily. A quote from Borderlands: “It is dark and damp and has been raining all day. i love days like this. as i lie in bed i am able to dive inward. perhaps today i will write from the deep core.”
Me too, ma. In these words, I know and feel, your queer disabled woman of color artist hustle. I have worked so many hustles. housecleaner tarot card reader shipping and receiving mini mart cashier test subject landscaper phone sex operator telemarketer flyer girl small time mover crisis hotline counselor, abortion counselor, rape crisis hotline supervisor, admin assistent, tenant hotline eviction counselor, writing teacher, anti-oppression workshop teacher performance artist gynecological teaching associae college lecturer guest lecturer bookstore clerk artistic collective co director transcriber standardized patient journalist
I have felt myself blessed. I have filled a savings account and emptied it whenever anyone needed rent. I have run up credit cards. I have run on debt and payed it off. I have been on income based repayment for forever. I have passed a twenty dollar bill back and forth across the movement. I have driven friends to the hospital and been driven to the hospital.
I have had to work part time and flexible and okay or salvagable when I get sick over and over again. I have done that and called myself lucky. i have travelled all over the country, had marvelous adventures, had lean times and hard times and better times and mostly been so glad that i have a life where i can afford coffee, value village shoes and time to write , where i can have marvelous adventures, where i can be part of changing the world.
I have been banking on the end of this world to happen so I would have a retirement fund, though.
Gloria, yesterday I taught the clinical breast exam to med students. I brag about how hot shit i feel. I know how to teach the tits like whoa and if they listen, they will learn how to detect breast cancer in their patients. I stood there and let these students feel up my tits medically, and i realized i would be getting a $340 check in a couple weeks, and once they graduated, they would be making $150,000 a year. i thought, I should go to fucking medical school.
And this is what I wonder as I look to you and your cohort of marvelous queer women of color poets who died in your 50s and 60s. I look to you more than I do to my biological family for answers. guideposts. life pathways. the miracles we make.
So what do we do, wequeer people of color artists? do we have a full time job and do this on the side? if we do that, do we stop doing the writing eventually? Do do we get academic jobs, hang on by hook or by crook, doing essential war work keeping alive every brilliant student not supposed to be there, but the micro and macro aggressions build up and give us cancer and mental unhealth? Do we get an NEA and buy a house? does our lover take it when we break up cause it's in their name? do all our books go out of print when the small press goes bust? These are all true life stories, based on actual events.
My friend said to me recently, hey, Leah, we're the success stories! nobody ever told us it would mean we were still this broke. dear gloria: i listen for your echo. my life like so many stands in the outline of yours. there's that quote: the dead give up their bodies, the sick amongst us get practice, but i don't think thats exactly correct. I am, we are, living in the altered, everyday normal states of our disabled bodies.
I want to read to you from the letter Aurora Levins Morales
wrote to you- you were in This Bridge
together- which is anthologized in El Mundo Zurdo: Selected Works from the Meetings of The Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa, 2007 & 2009,
as part of "Sweet Dark Places: Writings on Gloria Anzaldua and Disability", which Aurora, Qwo-Li Driskill and myself wrote pieces for. I come back to this piece again and again. I come back to Aurora's words now:
"What I’m really interested in is that state you named after your ancestral goddess, the Coatlicue state, in which a shattering lets in light. Of course being Boricua not Mexica I call it the Guabancex and Oyá state, after the storm goddesses, the deities of creative destruction, of my Taíno and West African ancestors. The landscape of my homeland is regularly uprooted by hurricanes, those wild, whirling, spirals of wind and water spreading out vast arms out to pluck trees and houses and lives from solid land, drive bits of metal right through tree trunks and take giant bites out of cement.
In the structure of a hurricane, the strongest, deadliest winds are closest to the core, but the core itself is clear, calm, full of light. Illness has been one long hurricane season for me, chunks of cement and metal roofing flying through the air, big trees made into heaps of splinters and shredded roots. What takes me to the core, to the place of new insight is listening with all my being to the voice of my own flesh, which is often an unbearable task. What lets me bear it is political, is a deep, ecological sense of the web in which my flesh is caught, where the profound isolation of chronic illness forces me to extend my awareness beyond individual suffering, beyond the chronic pain of my muscles and joints, the endless exhaustion, the mind-bending build up of toxins where nausea and nightmare meet, dragging me from my bed at three am to lift cups of bitter tinctures my lips with cramping hands, and leach the poison from my own liver.
In the steepest pitch, the darkest hour, in the ring of deadly wind, the only salvation is to expand, to embrace every revelation of my struggling cells, to resist the impulse to flee, and hold in my awareness both things: the planetary web of life force of which I am part, and the cruel machinery that assaults us: how greed strips and poisons landscapes and immune systems with equal disregard, how contempt for women, and the vastly profitable medical-industrial complex conspire to write off as hysterical hundreds of thousands of us bearing witness through decades in bed, while we’re told all we need is a change of attitude.
To think, for example, not just about the side effects of anti-seizure drugs, or the need for stable sleep, but also society’s hatred of unruly bodies, the frequent killing of epileptics by cops, and those 20th century eugenicists who built “colonies” to protect society from our bad seed, yes, the same people who sterilized 37 % of all Puerto Rican women of child-bearing age, the same people who traveled to Nazi Germany to lecture about building a master race.
When my body feels as if it’s tearing itself apart, when I’m in the nightmare condition, shaking and nauseated, my vision full of flashing lights, my legs too weak to stand, the only path out is deeper."
There is basically no place in the world to do what we do. except the secret places. the abandonned land. the mined places, our bodies in bed and on the line and sending texts about gas, writing poetry, supporting each other, sharing gas and food. and the world's unexpected changes.
The only way out is deeper. The only way out is what we construct, together. Out of the bones of our best wildest dreams, our cripbrownfemme knowledge. Out of the arc of the bones of your life.
Gloria, lend us your world changing light as we stand at the center of this great shattering that lets in light. The shattering of our bodies. The shattering of the world. All that we don't know yet. All that we yet have to make.
Love you, mama. And thank you.
PS: If you like Aurora's words, she is currently struggling health wise, and is trying to raise money to cover the costs of in-home rehab to help her walk again, after a series of ableist doctors misdiagnosed somethings going on with her spine. She says, "Since I wrote my call, I spent 10 days in the hospital. turns out i had severely bulging discs pinching nerves in my pelvis, and while I've had some relief from steroid injections, it's still possible I may need surgery, which means more pain, more hospital time, more narcotics I'll have to withdraw from later, and an even longer period of recovery. at this point I've lost a lot of muscle mass from being in bed for 6 weeks. My legs are skinny and wobbly and won't hold me up."
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, she experienced "24 hour power outage, no kitchens, still in turmoil because a lot of food went bad" and she is currently staying in a rehab center. Your contributions at this time are deeply felt and appreciated. Please continue to spread the word - blog, tweet, re-post to Facebook, email your friends and family. Let's keep the momentum going - pa'lante!
You can read more here: http://www.qwoc.org/2012/10/lgbt-elders-disability-and-community-care-call-to-support-queer-brown-activist-aurora-levins-morales/
The Chipin is here: http://supportauroralevinsmorales.chipin.com/support-aurora-levins-morales
. Please support if you can!
image by the Design Action Collective
harsha reminded me of this poem I wrote her after we met for the first time in 2010 after knowing each other for years. she is really amazing. you can check out this:
http://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/decolonize-together/ or this: http://noii-van.resist.ca/?page_id=4225 to see a little of how magic she is. this poem is dedicated to all loved ones who are separated by the hallucination story of the border.
for harsha walia
We hug hard for five minutes on a Vancouver couch.
You lift me up. Giddy gloss of joy.
Were you in Detroit, girl?
Nah, girl, I can't cross the border! No border for me!
you chirp. Scream so loud when I tell you our friend played with my nipples for three hours.
I flash you my bra so you'll talk before me at our gig so I can soak up your light
before you go running to another plane to another BDS conference
My wedding is in four days! Maybe if it was a demonstration it'd be planned!
I can't even walk down the block without the cops yelling at me!
This border is bad meat, a hallucination, a wavering line
a stupid idea. Can't we blink and it'll be gone?
My brown skin marries brown craziness for a piece of paper 2.5 x 1.5 inches
with radio waves embedded in my face that I stick in my wallet
and I can cross it
you passport too, you can't.
Stick your toe over it, back.
Stick your tongue out at the border.
You wave your fingers in a heart around your chest
point it at me,
we hug each other tight on this couch, on this unceeded territory of each other
on the island of forty-seven minutes we have.
I say I'll see you soon you say I hope you will sweetie, I hope
I say, I'm holding you in my heart
travel safe to the BDS conference, girl
brown girl wings wrap around you, sister
brown girls wings hold us safe
lift us flying laughing uproarious brown girl birds flapping wings over the border
thumbing noses and laugh cracking crow throats
a rebel teacher manifesta song in many parts.
start here. or here. or here:
because you buy your youth who's locked up poetry books using your 30% discount from the anarchist bookstore you used to work with when you are hood rich after a successful run of tarot card reading even though two weeks ago you had $37 in the bank.
because you are the kind of community scholar/ theorist who will always live in a movement house and rarely in an ivory tower.
because you knew you would grow up to live in a movement house.
because the movement buys you plane tickets and pays your rent
because when you are in an ivory tower or a community college you are there to save lives and insist on our right to be there.
because when the queer students union and the rape crisis center and the women's center and the multicultural alliance and ethnic studies and (mayyyyybe) the english department and the disabled students union all throw in $150 each to bring you you bumrush the ivory tower and jailbreak students into remembering free and your lecture will be the one the students remember all year and next year that reminds them of free and makes them choose to start something marvelous instead of getting a Master's for no reason.
because you are the kind of teacher who drives her 22 year old car across the bridge to teach her kids instead of flying to new york for the fancy award ceremony and finds out she wins the fancy gay grammies literary award while on said bridge and screams and almost rearends a prius.
because one of your sweeties does a book drive for your youth who is in the prison and hops in their friends car's passenger seat to drive down from portland to give you the books and kiss you.
because there is always room for somebody else in your car.
because you are a community rolodex aunty lifesaver who also turns her phone off so she can take a salt bath, jerk off, watch netflix and dream big and deep.
because of how you say boo boo. sugar. sweetie. sweet pea. honey pie. kid. hey star. hey glitter genius. how you doing? no, how you really doin? did you guys break up? no, mama, ask for $500, not $50! you got this! have you eaten? can I get you some water? do you need a ride? do you need to talk? do you want one of five million herbal tictures in my purse?
because you teach with your tits and your tie. you gender is one of your best gifts to your students. you show them another way to be girl or boy that is hope lodged right by their gallbladder.
because of how you chant
you got this you got this you got this
i got you i got you i got you i got you
because teaching your youth how to steal copies from Office Max and office supplies from crap data entry jobs is part of your curricula.
because you publish books. teach in living rooms, jails and lecture halls. leave zines on the bus.
because your youth not killing themselves and growing up to be happy queers who make art is your PhD and McArthur Genius
Because you will stll get a real MaArthur Genius. Just like Octavia did.
Badass Resilience: Black and Brown Femme Survivor Love and Desire Affirmations
By Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Keisha Williams
I recognize and celebrate the Love I encounter everyday
I love myself unconditionally (no matter what)
I do not hurt myself, or act in ways that contribute to my self-destruction, the self destruction the world wants me to take part in. I also do not act in ways that are destructive to my community, because we are interdependent.
I have the power to heal, by myself and collectively, the trauma my body and spirit hold due to abuse and oppression.
I attract only healthy relationships.
All my relationships are loving and harmonious (including the one with self).
I release any desperation and allow love to find me.
I have the power to have my heart’s desire.
If I can figure out what I want, I can figure out how to get it
I make a beautiful life for myself out of my heart’s desires
My body is a site of pleasure and power.
Divine sex and love is my birthright. The ancestors wanted me to get down.
I understand that I am connected to All (everything).
I am a being whose home is among the stars, i am brilliant and full of light (darkness)
There is never anything to worry about.
I focus on my power, not my powerlessness.
I trust myself.
And when I believe and trust in myself, so do others.
I express my needs and feelings despite fear.
I embrace the velocity of change.
I trust in the process of life.
I am at peace.
I get to be surprised.
I get to make a new story.
Hey y'all. Thank you for the outpouring of support and conversation that the article and everyone else's has prompted. It's been amazing and a bit overwhelming. I'm taking a break from the internet today to regroup. I'm shy about doing this, but at the prompting of a friend, I'm gonna say, if you like the article, I'm uninsured, am the daughter of a mom with ovarian cancer from growing up in industrial Massachusetts, and I currently need to raise $160 to cover the cost of an out of pocket pelvic ultrasound to screen for some symptoms I'm worried about while I'm waiting for my free Alameda county health insurance to kick in, which could take a couple months. If you like this article and have $5 (or more) consider donating at the Paypal button on my website. Thanks!
here's some links to some other brilliannt folks who have written brilliant things about ableism, class, healing, all of it.
Dori Midnight on healing that's accessible and grassrootshttp://poeticoverthrow.blogspot.com/2012/10/an-end-to-able-bodied-rhetoric.html
my beautiful friend Aaron on class, cripness, parenting and so much elsehttp://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/on-gimp-time-activism-and-commitment/
<3sprinkles on being a crip on state disability, time, energy and organizinghttp://organizingupgrade.com/index.php/modules-menu/community-care/item/737-care-is-the-core-of-change
Subhash on the importance of not being a 25 year old organizer dying of overworkhttps://www.facebook.com/notes/brunhilda-christopher/my-response-to-an-end-to-self-care/10152210543650232
my beauitful, beautiful friend Bruin writing about what happens when being a burnout activist makes you sick, and then the community doesn't show up to go to your doctor's appointments with you.http://adriennemareebrown.net/blog/2012/10/15/how-about-a-beginning-of-self-determined-care/
Adrienne Maree Brown nails it, as always.http://www.spectraspeaks.com/2012/10/response-to-an-end-to-self-care-community-care-how-about-an-end-to-the-martyr-complex
/ amazing post about mental health and martyrdom.