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the dance floor was the one safe place to have a body

CW: violence, sex, grief, a graphic detail about rape

This morning, I’m out at my neighborhood cafe, where they are playing club music to wake up the patrons. Or maybe in solidarity and grief and resistance. this cafe is queer-owned/-operated, and has sizable queer clientele. A handful of folks come in who I read as queer; we’re subdued this morning. We don’t smile big. We give each other the side eye, we purse our lips in that sort of sad smile that says, I’m grieving, too, even though I’m out in the world trying to look like I have my shit together. The world feels quieter today, muted, and not just because of the fog dampening the trees and the morning commute.

This morning I am grieving like so many of us are grieving because we’ve had a mass shooting hit us in our back yard. Many others of us are grieving because this is only the latest shooting to target someone or some community we love.

My love and I spent early Sunday morning with the New York Times, out on the back deck in the sun. After more than a week of doing everything I could to avoid hearing or reading about the Stanford Rape fiasco, I finally felt like I was ready to look. To open my eyes and look. To pull my head out of the sand and look, read, take it in. I’d been avoiding the news because I didn’t want to be surprised by details of the violence, I didn’t want to hear any more about how a white man’s future is protected by all the white men in power, even though he raped a drunk woman in the bushes and was witnessed in the act. I didn’t yet want to read her letter. I wasn’t ready. I just didn’t have the room in my body for the details, and for the rage that rises up in me every time I even think about it, and I wanted to wait until I did have some room in me before I tried to take in the story. I avoided Facebook even more studiously that usual, not wanting to run into excerpts of the survivor’s letter, into yet another story about the rapist or, even worse, learning the details from some ironic Facebookable image or satirical story.

Just yesterday, sitting on the back porch with the New York Times review section, I ran into yet another article about the case — I suppose I should be grateful that rape is finally deemed newsworthy in this way — and thought, Ok. All right. Fine. I’ll read it. I took a deep breath, and got about a quarter of the way in, until I reached a line that included details about gravel in the victim’s vagina. And then I shouted, “That’s enough!” and turned the page. My beloved looked at me sympathetically as I was shrieking at newsprint.

Until we got in the car an hour after that to drive the 45 minutes to the little church that I fell in love with when I lived in Tiburon, I didn’t know about the violence in Orlando. We switched on the radio, which was turned down low, and heard the whisper of one of the NPR announcers talking about special coverage of yet another mass shooting — and then I grabbed my phone and looked up the news.” It was a gay bar,” I said. “A gay bar.”

~~ ~~ ~~

I still haven’t read anything that explains why it took the police three hours to get into that bar after patrons started calling 911.

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Yesterday, driving down the hill from church and looking out on the San Francisco Bay, I thought about how it could have been us. I thought, Those were kids, the people in that bar — queer youth looking for sanctuary, looking for sweetness and solidarity and, yes, sex.

They were like us, who piled into Anna’s suburban late on a Sunday to head over to the one bar in the Upper Valley that had an “alternative lifestyle” night, who knew that if we timed it just right, the bouncer wouldn’t care that some of us were underage because the bar was going to close in an hour anyway, and we tumbled into the place like a bunch of oversexed puppies and took over (we thought we took over, I thought we took over) the dance floor, and we preened and performed for each other and the “older folks” (who were what, 35?) and spun and bounced and flirted and had one place that we were “normal,” we were the majority, we were right. This place was one of the few sanctuaries I had in the world, one of the places my stepfather would have never thought to try and track me down, one of the places where sometimes I almost even forgot about him and what he had made me into. The club, the dance floor, was my reclamation space, my resistance to incest and rape; it was, for some years, some many years, the only place it felt truly safe to have a body.

I thought about the majority young, majority-Latinx queer folks at Pulse this weekend and what that night, last Saturday night/early Sunday morning, was supposed to be for them. I thought about how hard some of the people in that club had had to work just to walk in the door. I thought about the joy and delight, the sexuality, the history and ache throbbing in that place.

The word we have for the act of violating a place of holiness and worship is desecration. What the shooter did on Saturday night was a desecration.

Where can we go to be safe? Where can we go to let down our guard? As women, as queer folks, and I think even more for my QTPOC beloveds and community, what does ‘safe space’ even mean?

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 I listened to the news yesterday, learned that the shooter was of Middle Eastern descent, and thought, Just wait for what Trump is going to say. Just wait for the Republicans to pretend to be friends of the queer community now. Meanwhile, LGBTQ rights are under assault across the country. Meanwhile, the same politicians who called us perverts yesterday are going to try and use us now to further their cause for war. They don’t care about queer people. They care about power and violence.

Meanwhile, queer men still can’t donate blood unless they’ve been celibate for a year. (In protest of this rule, I myself haven’t donated blood since the 90s.)

I’m afraid of what white gay folks and queers will do, are doing, with news like this. We tend to make it all about ourselves, and only about ourselves — all gay and only gay, forgetting about or actively erasing the intersections. This was an attack on queer folks, yes, and primarily on queer people of color. Yesterday I turned on the radio for a minute, just to be with people who were talking about the horror, and I heard a reporter relay the comments of someone at a rally: “This is our Charleston, SC!” I can only imagine this was a white person speaking, though I might be wrong; I make this assumption because white queer folks have a history of laying claim to Black struggle with entitlement. I had to turn off the radio immediately, because I started shouting again. Queer folks have been under attack throughout human history; we don’t have to appropriate an atrocity committed on Black folks (some of whom may certainly have been queer) in a house of worship (who were targeted for their Blackness in a place of sanctuary by a white man whose actions were not called terrorism and initiated no calls to remove all white men or white people from the country, though because historically violence of this nature is committed overwhelmingly by white men, a case could be made that we might be a safer country if we did just that).

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At the end of last week, while having sex with my beloved, I ran my hands up and down her body, over and over, and felt a kind of thick astonishment that I get to be with this woman. With this woman. It was an old feeling, like I imagine dykes in the 50s or 60s felt, this terrified wonder, this sense of transgressing, of holding something I was never supposed to be able to hold, of experiencing a kind of joy and pleasure I was never supposed to be able to experience. Like I was doing something wrong. Maybe that feeling is my legacy, a kind of queer bone memory. I thought, But why should I be feeling this way today, in 2016, when queer folks have so much acceptance, when no one cares anymore if you’re queer?

Then I remembered the number of trans women murdered just so far this year. Then I remembered that I live in a bubble here in the Bay Area — that when I met my sweetheart at the airport in Omaha when I was there visiting a couple of weeks ago, we both hesitated before kissing hello. I put my lips on her forehead instead. Just taking her hand and wrapping her up in my welcoming arms felt wildly visible, potentially dangerous. We laughed about it nervously, but I kept an eye on the people who were keeping their eyes on us. (A few days later, back in the airport on our way out, we passed a man arriving in Omaha wearing a tshirt that read Black Guns Matter – and I was so sad to acknowledge that I was glad to be leaving.)

Then I heard the news about Orlando.

Yes, it’s still transgressive to love and want a woman the way I love and want mine. Yes, there are still plenty of people who want to see queerfolks “cured” or fixed or killed. Yes, there are still plenty of people who “love the sinner and hate the sin. Yes, there are politicians – and plenty of folks in their constituencies – who would happily legislate queerfolks out of existence.

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These are days for grief and rage. We live in a white supremacist patriarchy that privileges access to weaponry over the sanctity of human life, that cares more about the future well-being of a white male rapist than about holding him accountable for his crimes, that over and over deems Black and Brown bodies expendable, that treats gender transgressive bodies as crimes against nature. Change is possible — isn’t it true that change must be possible, that resistance and solidarity and the vision of something different must take precedence over hopelessness and resignation? But today it’s a struggle to pull away from the quicksand of hopelessness.

I have been thinking since yesterday of a poem by Essex Hemphill that I’ve handed out at many of my erotic writing groups – his words speak louder and more clearly than anything else I could say.

American Wedding
by Essex Hemphill

In america,
I place my ring
on your cock
where it belongs.
No horsemen
bearing terror,
no soldiers of doom
will swoop in
and sweep us apart.
They’re too busy
looting the land
to watch us.
They don’t know
we need each other
critically.
They expect us to call in sick,
watch television all night,
die by our own hands.
They don’t know
we are becoming powerful.
Every time we kiss
we confirm the new world coming.

What the rose whispers
before blooming
I vow to you.
I give you my heart,
a safe house.
I give you promises other than
milk, honey, liberty.
I assume you will always
be a free man with a dream.
In america,
place your ring
on my cock
where it belongs.
Long may we live
to free this dream.

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not confused

(I began this last fall, and never posted it, because I couldn’t finish the piece… more about that at the end.)

I’ve been immersed in sexual assault these days. (So much so that I can’t even engage in my usual mild self-harming practice of watching Law and Order:SVU) Who isn’t, though — I mean, when aren’t we all immersed in sexual assault and hostility? When do we get a break?

I read Lidia Yuknavitch’s new book The Small Backs of Children (read it), then her essay Explicit Violence when thinking about how to write about violence without “overwhelming” my readers (a topic we discuss often in grad school — never mind that no matter how explicitly I describe the violence done to me or my sister, how cleanly I can recreate the house we lived in, the reader is never going to be as overwhelmed as we are just living with the memories). One book I read for my Autobiograpy class includes the narrator getting routinely raped by her brother, almost gang raped by older boys at her high school, and pressured into sex by her “boyfriend”– and that’s just in the first 80 pages. Never mind the news: Bill Cosby, sexual assaults on camps, story after story about how the Catholic Church continues to cover up the abuse of children perpetrated by its priests around the world. My dear friend tells me some of what she’s learning in her anti-trafficking trainings, as local organizations ramp up their services in advance of the Super Bowl. I get an announcement from the SFSU security deparment, reporting a stranger rape on campus, which reads like an old-school alt.sex.stories.rape post…

And then there’s the writing I’m trying to do — finding the words for it, writing down the old stories, the stories I haven’t written yet, the parts of my story that appear between the time Before and the time After. I’ve spent a lot of ink these last ten years writing about After, but I’ve done very little writing about During. And writing about the During means being back in the During — means having to remember what it felt like to be a confused 12, 14, 16 year old, being back in that body, being back in that disembodiment.

I’m thinking a lot about writing violence, how violence is portrayed, who gets to wield it unreservedly, even in fiction.

There have been two sharp spotlights of surprise in all this media consumption of violence against women. The first was while my sweetheart and I were watching the Sopranos (please don’t ask how I got myself watching this show that I managed to avoid watching for all these years), and in one episode, a woman simply picks up a gun and shoots in the chest a man (her fiancee) who had hit her in the face. I couldn’t help it — I cheered.

The other while watching Queen Latifah’s portrayal of Bessie Smith in the HBO movie Bessie. The movie gives us Bessie Smith as an absolutely take-n0-shit kind of woman — in one of the earliest scenes (spoiler alert), Bessie is fooling around, drunkenly, with a guy in an alleyway back behind a theater where she’s performing. Her back’s against the brick wall, they’re having a good time, and then he’s trying to pull down her drawers, which she doesn’t want, and she says no. He keeps pressing, pushing her to go further than she wants. She knocks his hands away, and he punches her hard in the face, knocking her over, and curses her. While she’s bent down, and he’s preparing to go ahead and take what she wouldn’t give him, she picks up a shard of glass. She straightens up and stabs him in the side, doubling him over. Then she stands over him and says something like, I said I wanted to fool around, but I didn’t want all that, damn. And it was just getting good, too. Then she kicks him, not hard, just a kind of nudge — a sharp nudge. Her brother bursts out of the back door, frantic — it’s time for her to go on stage. So Bessie leaves the guy bleeding, goes back into the theater, dons her costume, rushes out on stage and sings for a packed house, with a bleeding cut on her head.

I cheered then, too.

There are several moments in Bessie, actually, where we get to see her bashing back on the men who expect her to simply and unquestioningly comply with their wishes, sexual and otherwise. She doesn’t appear to hesitate, just turns the violence they do to her right and exactly back onto them. And because they don’t expect it, don’t expect any woman to fight back, to stand up for themselves, to say no and have the full power of their strength and agency behind that no, the men are astonished at Bessie Smith — I was astonished, too, because I, too, have been conditioned not to expect any woman to fight back, to stand up for themselves, to say no and have the full power of their strength and agency behind that no.

It gets beaten out of us. It gets terified out of us. It gets silenced out of us.

Around the time I watched Bessie last fall, I said to my sweetheart, what if women’s violence were a more common response to men’s violence? It isn’t the solution I want for us as a human race, and yet, just today, I want all of us armed with knives and coat hangers and guns and shards of glass. I want all of us put through tae quan do training, I want all of us fully aware of our phenomenal strenghth, not just internally but externally — in our biceps and quads, in our jaws and teeth. How many men would keep shoving their dicks in mouths that are absolutely willing to bite down hard enough to sever flesh from flesh

Do you think men will stop their violence on their own? Do you think they will be peacefulled, yoga’d, west-coast-Buddhist-ed out of it? Do you think those ecstatically-dancing, hippie Burning Man guys aren’t beating their girlfriends, sexually assaulting drunken female rvelers (who thought they were hanging out with friends in a place of peace and love and new possibility), aren’t expecting that the new order will still have them absolutely in control?

Think again.

“Listen, I know this is a bit of a dreary story. But whenever I get told that, by friends, or agents, or editors, or publishers, I think, if this dreary story is hard for you to live with, how are we supposed to live with you?” – Lidia Yuknavitch, “Explicit Violence

Are we still really wondering whether no means no? Are today’s college-age men learning something that their older brothers didn’t learn?  Are they doing it differently? You saw the study last year announcing that nearly a third of college-age men in this country say they’d commit rape if they thought they could get away with it: “When combined with what the study’s authors described as ‘callous sexual attitudes,’ the results suggest a man with a hostile attitude toward women may view “forced intercourse as an achievement,” and a woman saying ‘no’ could be ‘perceived as a token resistance consistent with stereotypical gender norms.’”

Also last year, in a story about affirmative consent (which means that folks get to say yes to sex they want, instead of it being all right for someone to fuck them just because they didn’t hear her/him/hir say no loudly enough), the author wrote: “Studies have found these stereotypes, even in the age of hookup sites like Tinder, to be generally true. Men tend to rely on nonverbal cues in interpreting consent (61 percent say they get consent via body language), but women tend to wait to be asked before signaling consent (only 10 percent say they give consent via body language). No wonder there’s so much confusion.” (“Affirmative Consent; Are Students Really Asking?” New York Times, 7/28/15)

Confusion. Aha — that’s what we’re calling it.

Here’s the thing: They’re not confused. We’re not confused, no matter how long (like, centuries) they’ve worked to convince us otherwise.

Is it any wonder that I can’t listen to the news these days. I look up stories of women who fight back —

And right here is when I stopped writing last fall — I looked up links to those stories of women who fight back against men who are assaulting them, and was overwhelmed with all the stories from around the world of women being attacked by men, page after page after page. I couldn’t read through even a fraction of them just to pick out two or three links, no matter how much I wanted to show you a couple of the women who said No More and “won.” But instead, guess what I found? You know. You know what happens to many women who say no more — they’re jailed for killing the men who’ve been abusing them for years, for fighting back against the rapist (against whom they have to fight back if they want to be taken seriously as “victim” rather than “tease”) — or they’re killed.

There’s a reason many of us keep our old Hothead Paisan books in easy reach.

I just tried again to find those links. And had the same experience. So let me just link here to Home Alive in Seattle — the organization that formed in the wake of the murder of Gits’ singer Mia Zapata in 1993, which offers self defense classes and information rooted in social justice analysis. This is a group of folks who said No More, and are still alive, still fighting, not giving any ground to the folks who want to hold on to the license to rape offered by the so-called confusion about what the words yes and no mean, and yet also holding out hope that a different world is possible (to paraphrase the tagline of the US Social Forum), with heads held high, shoulders back, eyes up, unashamed of our strength, unashamed of our survival, unashamed of all the truths we have to tell, and honoring every bit of the myriad ways we fight back every day of our lives. 

Thank you for your resistance. Thank you for your resilience. Thank you for your words.

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opening to new stories

Thomas King writes, in The Truth About Stories, “Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous.”

What is a story? It is a rehashing of events, a narrative, an anecdote, a lie, a truth. The dictionary isn’t helping me here, just giving me synonyms. What is a story? It’s a telling or a making up. It’s offering an account of an experience, so someone else can can come to know or understand what happened. It’s a fabrication, a weaving into existence something that wasn’t, that didn’t exist, until we put it into precise words.

 Story is contextual. And who determines a story’s context? “She’s telling stories” is the way some folks call us liars. But we know what truths come from storyteller’s mouths.

 Thomas King also writes, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” He repeats this line throughout his slender book, driving the point home: we create ourselves, we know and understand ourselves, through the stories we tell and/or listen to and believe about ourselves, about those like us, about our communities, society, families, world.

Trauma is a story. Identity is a story. Religion is a story. Sex is a story. The body is a story.

Yes, the body is also bone and tissue, chemical reactions, pulses, electrical leaps. The body is fluid and organ, is emergence and excretion, is breath and heartbeat. The body exists as an object in this precise moment, entirely independent of its context, its historical situation, its experiences. Doesn’t it?

Would this body be what and how it is independent of the stories I have told about it? What is my body without its stories, its histories and herstories? What is yours?

Is my DNA a story? My musculature? What can you learn from the story of my skin, her scars and stretch marks, her stains and curves? What can you read in the complicated interweaving of my neuronal infrastructure (which would be transformed if the stories of my body were transformed)?

We use story every day, throughout the day. When someone asks how we slept, we offer a story of deems and waking. When a friend calls to tell us about her morning, she gives us a story, an anecdote. We tell childhood stories, baby stories, coming out stories, the story of how we met, the story of an illness, the story of our experience of abuse, the story of our recovery. When I ask someone, “Do you know my story?” – I have a particular story in mind. I meant the story of my trauma, most of the time – and this is the story of my body.

Every story is an illumination and an occlusion. Every story highlights one side of a situation while leaving out other information. This is out of necessity. We can’t remember or apprehend every detail of a happening or an experience. We remember what’s important – we tell what we remember and, over time, what we remember is what we’ve told repeatedly. We believe our own stories. We can forget that there are other ways to tell, understand, consider those stories – and each different telling provides a different lens through which to consider ourselves and our experiences.

How we tell our stories matters. The words we use for our stories matters. The metaphors and symbolic language, the imagery – all matter, all influence how we perceive ourselves, our bodies, our physical being, our agency, our history and our possibility.

What stories do you have about yourself and your experience that no longer serve you? What happens when you shift, examine or change the stories you’ve been living with, and by, and through? What happens when you expose yourself to other people’s stories, really listen to them, and consider how they compare to your own?

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after awareness, then what?

Good morning — can you feel the hard grey wash outside your window? Is it revealed, or hidden under the blue? I refilled the feeder, and the birds have returned — mostly house finches, a black-capped chickadee or two. The weather’s coming in and I just want to snuggle up on the couch with the puppy, a cup of tea, and Jane Vandenburgh’s The Architecture of the Novel instead of sitting up here at the keyboard, banging against my own book.

So let me blog instead.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Do you feel unaware of sexual assault? I would like a different tagline. I understand the need for X Awareness Months, so that organizations and government entities can rally around a particular cause, so that issues we would otherwise prefer to ignore get a bit more of the attention, resources and airtime that they deserve.

Yesterday, either online or on the radio, I was confronted with plenty of stories about sexual assault– not because it’s April, or because the media I was engaging with had any heightened coverage of sexual violence, but because people perpetrate sexually violent acts on a daily basis. Continue reading “after awareness, then what?”

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they are protecting power

Good morning, good morning. Here it’s five am, the heater is trying to warm the little office, the quiet is pervasive. I’ve been awake since 3, but only writing since 3.30. A full hour-plus of notebook time feels like a luxury. It is a luxury. I sit with that knowledge.

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Have you seen this week’s SF Weekly? The cover story is about police officers who abuse, molest, rape, and otherwise take advantage of young folks who are participating in the Boy Scouts’ Explorers program. I saw the headline (“Hands-on Experience” (because this story warrants punning for sure) — with a drawing of a cop wearing mirrored shades looking out toward the viewer, his hand on the thigh of a profoundly-uncomfortable young teenage girl wearing in a Boy Scouts’ uniform), felt disgusted with the cover & headline, took the paper anyway. I opened to the story, got through a couple of paragraphs, and then threw the paper down on the seat next to me. Do I really need to read more of this? I asked myself. Then, after a few minutes, I picked the paper back up. What are these kids’ stories? Who’s listening to them? During the long shuttle ride from the UCSF Parnassus campus down to Mission Bay, I did that several times, deciding to give myself a break from this bullshit, and then feeling drawn back to the story, the reporting — yes, yes, like feeling drawn back to looking at a car wreck. What happened there? The language used in the piece made me cringe — a couple of girls described in Lolita-esque tones, asking for it, several situations described vaguely enough that one might come away with the idea that the kids involved were not only consenting participants to the assaults of multiple uniformed police officers, but instigators.

I participated in the Explorer program back in Nebraska, only not with a police department. Instead, I went onto Offut Air Force Base and learned how to program in Ada — we were the Computer Programming Explorers. No ride alongs. No one-on-one time with the men charged with teaching and guiding us. We were always a group on the weekend afternoons when we met (Is that true? I’m remembering other kids in the program, but also remembering working alone with a lieutenant. Anyway, all I learned was Ada, and some of the intricacies of getting permission to come onto an air force base. I remember feeling really privileged, lucky, and nervous. The coding itself was pretty boring, even though I was learning to program in a language named for the first computer programmer, who was a woman, Ada Lovelace.)

After reading this article, I find that the kids in the police Explorer program went off with individual officers, it would appear, for ride-alongs and rape. Not all of them, no. Maybe not the majority. But enough. Enough. And a lot of the officers, at least as reported in this article, got off with warnings — because their departments hadn’t specifically told them, through handbooks or departmental rule books, not to rape or molest or have sex with the young folks they were charged with guiding and teaching about police work (and didn’t they do just that, though?), they couldn’t be expected to know, apparently, that it was wrong. The Explorers programs also got in trouble for not having code or language in their handbooks outlining expectations that police wouldn’t abuse or have sex with the Explorers in their charge — because why would we expect police to know that? They need it in writing. We all know that written departmental codes keep everyone in line. Send a memo next time. That’ll do it.

The Catholic Church. The Boy Scouts. The US Military. Penn State. Syracuse University. Police Departments.  This is not even a fraction of the institutions that are systematically abusing/raping people and/or covering up for abusers.

Yesterday, when I left San Francisco, headed for home across the bay, the corners down across from the Ferry Building were all coated, crawling, dotted, smeared, filled with cops, many of them in riot gear. In the middle of the night, early yesterday morning, the SF Police Department had rousted the folks at the OccupySF encampment and driven them out of Justin Herman Plaza. Then the police and the city destroyed all the protesters’ belongings and scrubbed Justin Herman Plaza clean, sanitized away all markings, all signs that anyone had tried to create a new way of living together in that space named for a man who once said, “Without adequate housing for the poor, critics will rightly condemn urban renewal as a land-grab for the rich and a heartless push-out for the poor and nonwhites” — and who also ‘urban renewal’ed people out of their homes and businesses in the Filmore and SOMA.

The first phalanx of cops in riot gear I saw were standing right next to a B of A down at Market and Spear; didn’t this tell me all I needed to know? They were protecting not the people — not the people who need housing and jobs, not the people who need food or healing — but the banks and an empty public park.

They are protecting power, I thought, and not just the power of those over them in their own hierarchy — they’re protecting their own assumptive access to those they have power over, their right to beat, to abuse, to molest, to take to take to take to take. This is what they get, now, after delivering themselves into whatever humiliations they undertook to rise up the ranks in the police force — don’t they get to take some of what was taken from them?

This is the stone cold bedrock we’ve finally hit, all of us, together, finally, isn’t it? This is what liberation means: someone else can’t just take me, my body, my home, my belongings, my life, my labor, my creative work, my energy, without my consent. Period.

I want the Occupy movement to take this on, not replicate the same sexist dynamics. I want to hear what a vision for a world without sexual violence, a world of equal access to resources, a world of safe housing and food for all would look like — because I can’t imagine it. We must be able to envision what we’re moving toward, and I’m sunk in the mire today. This is the aftermath, possibly part of the underlying aim of so many news stories about so much institutionalized sexual violence: we are surrounded; those in power don’t listen to/believe/take action on our stories; we only can heal in the aftermath — we cannot change the culture that perpetuates these violences.

I know that last line isn’t true. I’m just not able to feel my way into the possibility at the moment. It feels enormous, un-entrenching this assumption (that those in power have the right to harm, at any time, those with less power) that seems to be a part of the human dna.

Please help me — it’s selfish to make this request, but I’m also thinking about my little cousin who was just born, any niece or nephew of mine who might come into the world, my friends’ baby girls who have just landed on this planet — all of the babies that have just come into your lives, too: they deserve more than what this society offers them right now. If you’re writing your visions of a new possibility, of a world utterly rid of sexual violence (which would, wouldn’t it, entail being rid of other forms of oppression, by necessity), then that work, that idea, your vision becomes a part of the collective unconscious.

I’ll keep trying, too.

Thanks for the times you write anyway, even when it feels useless. We know, after, that it wasn’t — sometimes after is a long time coming, though.Thanks for your extraordinary vision, the depth of possibility that you hold in your hands.

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(nablopomo #9) how deep are we really ready to go?

graffiti of a girlchild holding on to a bunch of balloons, which are carrying her over the wall the graffiti is painted onGood morning good morning. The wall heater has just kicked on, so I can’t hear the owl that I was about to describe to you — s/he’s out in the pine trees, maybe situated near the top, maybe watching the moon, who-who-whoing every now and again, waking up the air around me this morning.

How is it where you are? I ask this every day, and here’s why: 1) I’m curious (and if you wanted to tell me about it in the comments, I’d love it) and 2) I think it matters for our writing, to know how we’re situated, I mean the details of place, what and where we begin from.

(A note about comments: I love them and am so grateful when you write here. I’m not always able to respond right away, but the responses mean so much to me, and I want to offer a public thank you right here.)

There’s work to do, a talk for next week to prepare (how do you define liberatory, after all?), but I’m here with this quiet page, quiet music, quiet cold air, not quite into the day yet, because it’s still dark out, so that means we’re in the inbetween. Night, early morning, isn’t that the inbetween?

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There are big things I’d like to write about this morning — including the sexual assault awfulness at Penn State and the way sexual violence is being used and ignored at #ows encampments. When does this writing happen?

I set my timer and am just doing it. These subjects don’t go away, but public interest in them does, fades, shifts to the next best public horror. At Penn State, they’re apparently working with the model of the mainstream Catholic Church, which means, allow the pedophile to continue to have access to the children, and to use resources and facilities for his violence, but work, always work, to keep it quiet and hidden. Then they said, well, just don’t do it on campus. Yes, thank you. Take it home, don’t do it here. That way, we’re not liable. We don’t have to call you out or fire you. We don’t have to be accountable.

The truth is that we have plenty of precedent for this, not just the catholic church. This way of engaging power is all around us. Is this part of what the #ows movement wants to change? This is certainly part of the privilege that the 1% wants to hold onto, that many in the 99% also expect to have access to.

Why is anyone surprised at this behavior, at this story? The fact is, I want to be surprised. I want to be horrified. I’m not. It doesn’t feel like a calloused or cynical thing, more like familiarity with what goes on behind the surfaces of perfection and ostensible ethics. (You’ll remember, or some of you won’t know, that my mother’s second husband, the man who violated all of us, he was a child sexual abuse therapist, who wrote articles and small books about treating CSA) — The thing I heard on the news about this coach,  the one who covered for the pedophile, was that his ethics were always impeccable, everyone counted on him to do things the right way.

How do we learn to trust people again, when they never give us the chance to?

There’s more. Don’t stop. I want the details of this story, I want all of those people, those men, the men who colluded with this violence, the men who made it possible for all those boys to be raped, I want them fired, I want them held to account. Maybe jailed, but better would be a public remembrance — don’t forget. What does transformative/restorative justice look like in this case? Do they need to sit in a room with the boys and their families and listen to the damage that they were instrumental in causing? Do they need to not just apologize but provide financial restitution? They wanted to distance themselves from this man’s actions but somehow also, for reasons I don’t understand because I’m not a sports person or because I’m not a man, they wanted to keep him around. What do they have in their own closets? Why not fire him as soon as they learned about the abuse, the violence? Why are the priests moved around from parish to parish instead of fired, released from duty, sent to a monastery where they won’t have access to children, something? What is the investment for those in power, if not  so that those in power can continue to render themselves blameless for their own violences?

Why do we continue to expect more than violence from those in positions of power, when they show us, over and over, that they will violate our trust, our skin, when given opportunity — when we see, over and over, that those around them will shield them, not us.

This is where it gets complicated — we want to change how financial resources are distributed, in and with and through this movement, but we don’t necessarily want to give up our white privilege and we don’t necessarily want to give up our access to women’s and children’s bodies (& to men’s bodies, too). Is that it? What part of cultural revolution doesn’t include a revolution around engagement with racial violence and sexual violence? Deep change means giving it all up, means letting go of the places where you had unearned power and privilege, also — without knowing what will happen after you open your hands and bodies and release.

If the movement doesn’t deal with these structural, cultural places of damage and pain, it will disintegrate. First, because the ‘new society’ being created will look awfully the same to folks of color, all women, all children — change that comes for white men isn’t the only change we need. Second, because those in power, the 1%, will always say that they want to protect women and children, and will use the issue of sexual violence as a reason to attack and dismantle encampments — not because they care about protecting anyone from sexual violence, mind you, but because they want the movement to go away. We’ve seen this already, at occupyoakland and elsewhere.

What are we fighting for at this time of revolution? How deep are we really ready and willing to go?

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The nablopomo prompt for today is this: When was the first time that you realized that your home was not like other people’s homes? I have an old piece of writing to share, in response to this:

I was hunched up against the night, sometimes. I watched all the lights go on inside.  I looked in shamelessly, walked my dog through quiet neighborhoods where nothing was happening inside the houses that would make you want to call the cops.  I looked in and watched dinner times, I watched rooms turned blue flickering with television, I watched straining and want.  I passed by.  I never stood there. I passed by.  The crickets were nighttime and I was safe in them. No one was baking bread. That was a long time ago, back when the fields were real and the houses were wool and the streets outside were gravel and cicada shells swollen with puffs of cottonwood trees, swollen with something. Possibility. Hope.  At 5, there’s nothing but.  At 5, there’s nothing but.  Later, though.  Then.  Now.  Teenager in crimson pants or nothing.  Teenager in bright green anger. Teenager gliding through nothing like hope anymore because the concrete has thrown itself up into roadblocks.

Where can I go with this story, tell the drama of those walks and all they meant for me. They were like a movie but worse, a long-going soap opera, a hope for something new, no, just escape. They were a movie where I’d never be interrupted because it was all in my own head.  This was near the university, not so far from Elmwood Park, where I only went alone when I was older and I learned there was nothing to be scared of, nothing scarier than I might find at home.  This was why I hated winter.  Walks were circumscribed.  The dog got cold and so did I and I hated being all bundled. I hated the ways the windows got frosty and kept me out; I couldn’t see inside, could just see the blue flickering against the ice on the windowpanes.  A pristine kind of privacy. Winter kept me locked out., and in.  Winter kept me too hot in my own head with no time away for distraction.  No crickets.  Still no bread.  Just the cold against the fingers.  Just the frost heaves, just the grass turning dead but still green, too poisoned, too fertilized.  What were those walks but forays into aloneness? What were they but desperation?  I’d defend myself when I got home, learned to gauge what was too much, too long. An hour? Mid day summer vacation only.  Nighttime?  Strictly ten minutes or less, unless I was pushy.  And I usually was.  That was my problem.  Half an hour with the dog meant half an hour of relative freedom, some new breath, something unsupervised.  Not free.  Just unwatched movements, when I could watch alone.

Want to use this as your prompt? Give yourself 10 minutes, just 10 minutes, set the timer, put the pen to the page, write straight through, don’t stop and don’t think/edit/censor. Let the words come. More than you might imagine can emerge in 10 minutes.

Thanks for all the questions you’re asking, the places you’re holding open for answers to emerge. Thanks for your deep engagement in complication. Thank you for your words.

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Jaycee and the rest of us

bright purple graffiti of the word LIBERATEThis morning it’s quiet and grey, except for the birds, who are forever providing exception. Last night was some excitement at 11am with two red ticks making their slow, deliberate way through Sophie’s short fur. This will be the one time I praise pesticides, and am grateful for the tick repellent we apply to her neck every month, the stuff that may have kept the ticks from anchoring. Do I know what the pesticide is doing to my pup, to her nerves, to her behavior? I don’t. I trust the manufacturer, which is rarely a wise idea to do implicitly. I weigh the benefits of this poison against the damage that the tick’s poison could do: what a calculation.

Today, Sophie gets to visit doggie day care for the first time — this is the day care’s test run. Wish her heart (and mine) good luck as mama drops her baby off for her first day alone.

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This morning I get to spend a half-hour with Sharon Bray‘s Writing as a Healing Ministry class at PSR; I want to talk about communal freewriting as liberatory practice, for trauma survivors, yes, and for all of us. Sharon gathers up folks who want to lead writing workshops in their faith or other communities and, in a week-long intensive, presents them with many different workshop models, from AWA to poetry therapy and more. Participants do lots of their own writing and exploring, and get to meet facilitators who are out in the world already doing the work. The class sounds like a fabulous opportunity, and she teaches it every year during PSR’s summer session! Check them out!

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The latest People magazine has another cover story about Jaycee Dugard (don’t worry; the link doesn’t take you to the People site, but to HuffPo); the last time I bought People off the rack was when Jaycee had just been found (after a guard on the UC Berkeley Campus saw something odd, took her and her children aside, away from the man who’d held her captive for 18 years, and asked her what was up) and People offered maybe an exclusive about the immediate aftermath as Jaycee returned to the world.

I’m fascinated by Jaycee’s story — there’s a way in which I resonate with her experience, in the sense that she grew up through pre-adolescence and into early adulthood, under the control of a sexual abuser. She was kidnapped at 11, taken from her family, kept by a man and woman, raped and sexually abused for years. She gave birth to two children. This is barely surface; what I’ve just written hardly tells you anything about her. It’s a character sketch, plot details, scratch marks on her face. This isn’t a story.

I would dearly love to write with Jaycee in a workshop. She’s written or co-written a book about her experiences, and I’ll read it, of course, and I’ll also wonder how much more of her story there is to tell. What lives inside and underneath the stories the media and mainstream public all expect/want to hear.

The other thing that fascinates me, though, is the media/public’s engagement with the story of Jaycee Dugard. Here’s one story of child abduction and abuse that’s blown up and given massive mainstream coverage. This is not to undermine in any way the horror that Jaycee went through, but I have this question: Isn’t it true that we are so (encouraged to be) engaged with this story because Jaycee was abducted by strangers, at a bus stop. Her story is safe to publicize, and safe for us as a public to be openly horrified over, because it doesn’t challenge the story that we tell ourselves that children are harmed by those outside the family — any harm that comes to children in the family has to do with parenting differences, the rights of parents to discipline; perhaps the child had it coming, after all. After a story like Jaycee’s, we soothe ourselves by saying that we’ll watch our children closer  and keep them close to home, where they will be safe from the monsters. Our mainstream narrative (and the lies as well) are kept safe.

I want to tell you that I know hundreds of people who were held captive and abused — but not by strangers. These are people kept in their homes, who didn’t have the fantasy, the luxury, of imagining what it will be like when they can see their parents and be safe at home again. These are people who grew up living in two worlds, just like Jaycee, who were beaten and/or tortured; some bore children. Some have scars. The scars on others are invisible. These folks are also telling, also writing, their stories, they are exposing deep truths about our society’s commitment to ‘family values’ — and they will never be seen being interviewed by Diane Sawyer.  Why aren’t we also publicizing these stories? Why don’t these folks have time in Time magazine? (It’s too common, someone might say — everyday, common-place activities, like the rape of kids by parents, that’s not news.)

Jaycee’s story should be publicized — and so, too, should the rest of our stories. In combination, we would show (wouldn’t we?) the lie that is America’s self-soothing story about protecting the children. We would tear the story open, and in that raw aftermath, we would make way for something new to be born.

I want our societal story about rape and sexual violence to shift away from this focus on the monsters outside; I want us to open up the searchlight and see all the harm, all the monsters (who, in the end, look most often like regular people — that’s the most terrifying thing). I want us to have deeper conversations about who is safe, and where, and when. About what protection and accountability look like. About how to move, work, stretch, create, grow into a society that doesn’t feed on its youth.

Take 10 minutes for you today, to write or walk or breathe. Know that your story is important. Understand that your tellings are a part of this new narrative that we’re all working on together — your piece is necessary. Thank you for writing, and for sharing it.

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we’re here, we’re queer, we’re surviving

graffiti of a female face, frowning, serious, strong, with the caption 'recuerda! hoy es el dia!'
"Remember! Today is the day" (click on the image to see more of LD-'s flickr set)

It’s October — LGBT Awareness month (which includes National Coming Out Day on 10/11) and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. How do these national-anything months affect our lives once we’re out of school, away from the programming groups that have a captive audience? It’s the month for NCOD, Take Back the Night marches, times when we announce who we are, what we’ve experienced, what we want to see change.

National Coming Out Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month go together, of course, when it comes to queer kids getting beaten, getting harassed, getting assaulted, getting kicked out — We’re here, we’re queer, and we deserve bodily integrity, we deserve health and safe homes, we deserve not to be bullied, not to be harassed, not to bully or harass others.

There’s a campaign that I found to get queer folks to re-associate with their high schools, to be a visible and out alumnus. I wasn’t out, even to myself, in high school.  Instead, I was being regularly sexually assaulted by my mother’s husband, and the only friends I was allowed were the boys who I might date, the boys who my stepfather thought would eventually have sex with me — my entire life revolved around my sexuality, in this hideous and adult-driven way. I had no idea that anything other than heterosexuality and sexual violence could be in store for me. There was no place to explore my own desires or fantasies, to think about how my body worked or why, to consider what brought me joy. Sex wasn’t about joy — it was about endurance and escape. Sometimes there was a moment of connection, and I’m grateful for those — moments that were outside my stepfather’s control, that were about just me and his other person, or even about a momentary wholeness in my body. These were fleeting and sometimes even more painful for my remembering them later, knowing I could never count on them, never get them back.

The It Gets Better campaign wouldn’t have worked for me; that’s not to shut it down or say that it isn’t useful (and click on that link above to see what might have gotten through, though, that message from Aunt Kate) — most of the public awareness campaigns didn’t work for me. We might have a lecture at school about tell someone if someone’s touching you wrong and all of us in the audience would be squirming and embarrassed and cutting our eyes at the kids (the girls) who it was rumored were having to have sex with someone in their family. My stepfather might have given that lecture to our school — he didn’t, but he could have, because that’s the work he did: and he always wanted to be of service. So no one would be cutting their eyes at me, though I’d be looking for it and I was terrified of someone finding out — not because of the shame or embarrassment, but because of his punishment, the way I’d have to repudiate anyone else’s knowledge, the way I’d have to learn how to hide better, more transparently, more in clean sight.

I had no possible sense of a future that didn’t include my stepfather’s control, so there was no place in my life where “it gets better” would have fit. I don’t know what would have worked (except, maybe, for one of his colleagues to have stepped forward, to have paid attention to what they were seeing (my stepfather’s extreme control of his family) and taken action).

Would it have helped if there’d been a campaign specifically aimed at those experiencing sexual violence — for a grown woman to say to a camera somewhere in the world, seeming like she’s looking right at me, somehow more safe for that intimacy of one person speaking to one other person: I never thought I could get away. But I did — finally, I was able to get away from the man/person who was hurting me, and this is how I did it and this is where I got help… Would that have helped me consider my own possible escape? Maybe I would have tucked it away somewhere inside future reference.

I want a hopeful end here, a clear sense of what could work, now, for someone else in my situation. I guess, though, that that’s why I write at all, and why I write under my own name. My survival, my rescue, came incrementally, and it mostly came through reading other people’s stories — it came through a slow awareness that I was not alone, that I wasn’t the only one who’d experienced this kind of isolation and control, that other people went through this and then, later, had a life that they were happy with, that they found pleasure and joy in. It was through reading the coming out stories, the survivor stories, through Dorothy Allison and Maya Angelou, the collections of Take Back the Night readings. Over and over, those voices reached out and caught me, and so I keep on trying to reach out and catch someone else. I needed to know that, yes, something as plain as ‘incest’ and ‘domestic violence’ could be applied to my stepfather’s behavior, that I could find myself and my experiences in that language.

My queerness is entirely interwoven with my incest survivor-ness, and my National Coming Out Day is always inflected with DV Awareness month, so my slogans look like this: We’re here, we’re queer, we’re surviving and We’re loud and raunchy and messy, because finally we can be and Big joyful incest survivor queergrrl.

What does National Coming Out Day look like for you? Do you still have coming out moments? Want to write about one of those as a prompt for today? (Write about whichever one just came to mind when you read that question — share it here if you want)

Or just think about it, and know that I’m grateful for that work you did, are doing, will continue to be a part of today…

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that doesn’t make me a stupid girl: that makes me human

multicolored graffiti that reads, "Developing a voice"
Developing a voice... (click on the image to see more of Cassidy Curtis's pictures)

Thursday is a VozSutra day, talking about the practice of voice.

This morning I woke up when the alarm went off at 5.24, but then hung around in bed for another half hour, sleeping and wrangling with getting up — thinking of lines of poetry.  The only one I can remember now is something about the bright eyes in our vaginas, or the bright vaginas in our eyes. I think it was the latter.

I dreamt of writing a thoughtful-yet-blistering post to facebook (dear god, it’s time for a break when I start dreaming about facebook! that’s terrible!) about transguys taking their shirts off in public. There’d been a whole bunch of photos in a row, guys posting about what they’d done that weekend, and look, I got to take off my shirt, now that I got my surgery and look, you can’t even see the scars, and it was so nice to feel the sun on my chest, finally — and I was just livid, because of the willingness to do this, to share this celebration with all of their female-bodied compatriots who would have been cited or arrested at the same events if they’d taken their own damn shirts off without putting fucking stickers or tape (or something else painful to remove) over their nipples. (It may have been that I had exactly this feeling at Oakland Pride this weekend — just maybe.) Livid because of the willingness, too, on the part of some transguys, to say that transitioning has nothing to do with male privilege. And yet those photographs, that experience, in this country: male privilege. In the dream, F! was worried, didn’t want me to be too something — and so I was thoughtfully crafting this message that wasn’t too angry, but was still clear and a bit angry, but didn’t make anyone uncomfortable, and…as you can imagine, I didn’t get the damn thing posted before I woke up.

What’s this about — this fear of just saying what we think, when we, at the same time, think someone else will be offended.  As female folk (and even here I freeze — is it just female folk? am I being too gender-essentialist?) we’re socialized to be polite and cautious about what we say: don’t lead anyone on, don’t upset anyone. And so we grow up learning to swallow so many things, in so many different ways — we learn how not to speak the things that will upset someone. You know all this already.  The question is, how to unlearn that swallowing.  How to spit it back up and out?

Writing is a help, for me — putting it down on the page, in a notebook, in a thick messy scrawl, with as much intention and emotion as necessary. I remind myself that I don’t have to share it with anyone, and for a very long time, I didn’t. I just kept on going to the cafe, ordering my large bowl of french roast coffee and sitting in the back corner or up front, by the window, just writing in the notebook — trying to figure out how to get it all down, how to say it all the way it felt in my body.

And then, little by little, I started sharing this writing voice with others — at work, at organizing meetings, at open mics, through characters in stories that found their way into anthologies, and then, lo and behold, just in conversation with my lovers and friends. And it’s still a struggle.  It’s a struggle to say something that I know will upset or offend somebody, it’s a struggle not to waver with kind of, I think, don’t you? or try to give voice to every side of an issue at the same time — everyone likes you if you don’t take a clear side, is what I’ve learned, if you just kind of look like you’re leaning toward their side when you’re talking to them. That’s a skill girls learn, I think, and maybe some boys too, something trauma survivors learn, over and over: the ways not to appear a threat, not to appear to have a mind of our own, not to say something that will set someone else off.

I understand the ways that using caution around voice is a self-protective mechanism. And I hold within me the aftermath: that choking, that wishy-washiness, that unreasonable (for me) terror that upsetting someone else means my physical safety is threatened.

For many years, I literally could not have an debate or argument about something I felt strongly about — I’d get so angry, and afraid, too, that I just couldn’t speak, couldn’t find the words I wanted; my mind just went blank. I despaired of ever being able to articulate, extemporaneously, my feelings about, say, violence against women, or rape in movies, or incest anywhere, or queer assimilation or… and, of course, I’d be talking to people who could remain dispassionate about their opinion, which we at my undergraduate institution were supposed to be learning how to do. But how do I stay unemotional about battery and intimate partner violence? Who would want to? Why keep the facade of objectivity, when there just isn’t any such thing as a non-subjective perspective or viewpoint?

I could, of course, easily preach to the converted, and maybe that helped.  The writing, and the talking with folks who shared, and added to/expanded, my feelings and politics and analysis on a particular subject. Listening to other folks talk, folks who could both embody emotion and clearly navigate complex terrain, also inspired me to believe that it was possible to do.

And these morning blogs are another part of that practice –to write what I’m thinking into the computer without too much forethought or editing, sometimes even just stating an opinion without apology: the gall. I learn to be willing to be wrong, learn that it’s not the end of the world if I change or grow, complicate, my opinion. That doesn’t make me a stupid girl: that makes me human.

So, here’s a prompt: Is there something you’re really upset about or affected by right now, something you’d like to find the words to articulate? Can you give yourself 20 minutes in the notebook with that today, letting yourself not make sense, not complete your sentences, get really angry or sad, if you want, or even contradict yourself… this isn’t for anyone else. This is writing work, and it’s your own powerful practice.

Thank you so much for being there, for reading — and for your writing!

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DOE: what if we took back our dangerousness

neighborhood passion flower in the late morning San Rafael sun
neighborhood passion flower in the late morning San Rafael sun

It’s a Wednesday, which is a Declaring Our Erotic day!

Today I’m thinking about the idea of safety, of the psychic/emotional kind — not of the “please don’t tie me up with nylon panty hose because those dig deep into my skin when I pull at them” sort.

This idea of emotional safety, around sex and otherwise, particularly for survivors of sexual trauma, is important, and worth nudging into some.

What is safe? There’s physical safety, and then there’s emotional or psychic safety — there’s knowing that I’m unlikely to get beat when I walk out the door, or when I walk back in, right? There’s knowing, and attending to with enormous gratitude, that there aren’t bombs falling from the sky where I walk to the bus, there are no mines lining the roads that the bus drives to get me to my work, there are no check points, no guards, no ‘insurgents’ — and, too, there’s the fact that in the years that I broke away from my stepfather, there’s been no assault in the night, no agents sent to harm me or those I love — all of which I absolutely feared. There’s knowing there’s a roof over the place I sleep, that I have stability with that place, that there’s food in my cupboard and refrigerator, there’s a bed and a door that locks — these are all markers of physical safety. I can walk around the neighborhood without being worried about stray gunshots from police weapons or other weapons. The amount of privilege I have to be able to say all of this is astounding — to just step back and be aware — measures and measures of physical safety.

(Am I still conscientious and aware when I walk out into the day? Yes. Do I still often walk out into my day with my ears buttoned up with headphones and music?  Yes — another layer of physical safety.)

And so it is that the sort of safety I tend more to be concerned about is of the verbal, emotional or psychic sort, having to do with triggers and rememberings, having to do with communication, how what you say, and how you say what you say, impacts me, and, too, how what I say, and how I say what I say, impacts others. I think about being a ‘safe place’ for other folks, and wanting other folks to be a ‘safe place’ for me, especially my friends and my spouse. That I need them to be safe so that I will be safe —

But yesterday, when I was journaling, I wrote:

What if I’m putting too much energy on safe — on how often I need to be safe, on where safe resides. Can safe be in me, no matter what the other person is doing? How do I step into that place? Safe is in me, of me — that’s a significant shift.

What if there were a way that I knew I was ok, now, in this time, no matter what the person I was with was saying — or, let’s say the person I’m with is doing something that I find triggering, that reminds me of something my stepfather would do: what if that was no threat to my emotional, inherent safety?

I’m not talking about asserting that I’m safe even when I’m getting nonconsensually hit. I’m talking about emotional or psychic safety being something I have access to, even during sex, even when I risk asking my lover for something new or different, even when the other person doesn’t respond the way I hoped they would (or, maybe even worse, when they do respond positively!) — what if that didn’t compromise my sense of safety, my sense of being-ok-ness?

The word safe means, variously, not in danger or likely to be harmed; not dangerous or likely to cause harm; not harmed or damaged; something that does not involve any risk.

And so that last: there again, to my question above about whether I’m putting too much energy on being safe: do I really want a life that doesn’t involve any risk? I actually want to take more risks. What if safe is a knot I’ve tied myself into, this idea that I need or am supposed to be safe all the time: what if I were to let that go, find another word for my emotional wellness that didn’t tie into not taking any risks.

And what about this ideas that girls are supposed to be safe: not dangerous or likely to cause harm.  Sugar and spice and everything nice, all that: what happens when we shove at that idea, some, crumble it, take back our dangerousness?

Safe can be a trap, for me. (It’s a privilege to get to say that, to get to be aware that I want more risk in my life.) Safe, too, can be a way that I control others: what you’re doing/saying makes me feel unsafe.  How often have white women used that to turn a dialogue away from talking about racism, for example?

Sex, for me, always requires risk — and so is never safe, just by definition. What if that’s ok?

Erotic writing has been a way for me to negotiate that risk, that space between safety and desire, a way for me to feel it in my body before I put my body against someone else.  And can help me step off the page, too.

I’m asking this question today: what if I’m ok even if I’m not completely safe — that is, even if I’m taking risks and I can’t know or control the outcome.  What would I do, who would I be, if I didn’t always have to be safe?

What about you?

Thanks for your fierce questioning, the generous work you did yesterday, the kindness you’re going to offer to the world today.