The Discomfort Zone – Are We Recycling Selves in Shame?

2017-01-08-107nc_df_0-2I’ve been struggling for a good while now with certain trends in society. I’ve fought racism and sexism all my life — I started taking hits for doing this as early as fifth grade for the first, and my junior year in high school for the latter.  So, I’m not a novice, exactly to the field of change vs progress.

I think progress is the goal, rather than just any old change that comes along being labeled as progress.  And I’d really rather not watch those I think of as allies doing what is commonly referred to as “eating their own.”  So, I admit, a relatively recent phenomenon in feminism makes me squirm with discomfort: the seemingly harsh take of some feminists about trans-women.  The level of “cut them from our herd” behaviors makes me wince, to be honest.  I first noted it being written about in relation to some pagan conventions, when certain women’s spirituality groups banned trans-women because they weren’t “real” women, weren’t “born” women.(Just as a small linguistic aside?  Let me say the term “cis” for those “real”, “born” women makes me think of the word “cyst”.  Make of that what you will.)

One acquaintance tried to make the case for being anti-trans inclusion by asking me if Rachel Dolezal was black.  No, she isn’t black although she chooses to identify as black.   What does that objectively (if not objectionably) mean?  When I first read about the outing of Rachel as white, I spent a good deal of time trying to get inside her head.  Why would she do such a thing?  I began to speculate and review my own memories and experiences in search of explanation.

As I was graduating high school – with a grade point average artificially reduced because my Principal, who was pissed at me for getting a petition allowing girls to wear pants instead of skirts/dresses only, said in spite of my A-average, I had “too many unexcused absences” and reduced ALL my grades to mere B’s – I read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.  It broke my little all-but-entirely-white heart into little bitty guilt-stained pieces, let me tell you.  I have a grandmother I’d been told was Comanche — though whether she was a “half-breed” or a mere quarter was lost somewhere in shamed white pride in the family.  Oh, reading that book and then soon thereafter following the white cop/FBI confrontations that ended with Leonard Peltier in prison, sure made me wish I could claim another race than white!  This would have been complicated by my blue eyes and blond hair, right?  But that didn’t stop Rachel Dolezal, did it?

So, it made me wonder, if my late adolescent desire to be Indian instead of white (in spite of having only a few drops of Amerindian blood) was motivated by shame?  Was that the motivation, if only subconsciously, for Rachel Dolezal?  And yes, I know some several someones out there on the web will take umbrage and get insulted at the idea that shame could be such a motivation.  Tough.  Shame IS a motivation in society, otherwise slut-shaming and other such egregious behaviors would not exist.  I DID manage to not present myself as anything but what I am — a blend of Northern European with a drop of Amerindian to lend me lactose intolerance, yay? (And coincidentally, much later on being told by an Indian, that I was NOT Indian because I was not reservation-raised.  Gee, I feel so excluded by choices I did not get to make?  Maybe?  So, is a black woman not black if she didn’t grow up in Donald Trump’s hellish “inner city”?)

So, if one makes a leap from feeling such horror of actions done by one’s race can make you wish you were something else, could horror over what things have been done by one’s sex make you crave a different identity?  I have no idea if horror at male behavior could make some men actually say, “You know, I don’t want to be THAT guy – in fact I don’t want to be ANY guy!”  It seems doubtful to me.  Trans people I know say they just knew they were in the wrong body.  A few I have read about might have a point – certain people born with confusing combinations of sexual parts – who might once have been called hermaphrodites, might have had a snap decision made by a doctor or parent in their infancy.  I could easily see that causing them to want to be something other than that random “assignment.”

Feminists have been at lengths to rationally explain that there are two “sexes” determined by physical attributes at birth.  But what does that mean for people with indeterminate sexual bits, eh?  On the other hand, gender, they tell us, is societally imposed bits assigned to those bearing said physical attributes.  My school Principal, seeing bumps on my chest, assigned “wears skirts” to me as a gender attribute to match my physiology, for instance.  Perhaps my demand to wear pants violated some deeply held belief in a Biblical injunction against women wearing men’s clothing?  (Never mind, of course, that in Biblical days NOBODY wore pants!)

So, if I am understanding the trans objections of certain feminists, they are against the idea that trans people wear the clothing of their chosen gender as an outward sign of the sexual identity they wish to adopt?  Gender is an artificial and negatively affecting condition and thus to be wore down, ground out, and destroyed, you see?  So the trans idea of men wearing feminine attributes like skirts, bras, make-up only reinforces the subjugating force of gender and must be opposed?  Am I getting this right?  My mind does boggle at this, you see?

I get into these moral dilemmas when ideology seems to completely cut people, who are surely suffering, out of the equation in the service of an idea.  What are these suffering people left on the margins in the pursuit of a perfect ideology, if not some kind of snarling logicality induced collateral damage?  If one assigned this same rational to homosexuality, by saying, for example “Men being fucked like women reasserts gender roles, so by Logic, we canNOT have THAT happening!” it wouldn’t wash, would it?  Oh, wait, something very like that IS what homophobic religious jerks DO say, isn’t it?  We have seen how that played out, haven’t we?

Thus, my problems with being anti-trans because “feminism opposes gender.”  I care about the people it is happening to more than I care about an idea about reinforcement of “gender”.  And what has this to do with a photograph of pretty glassware at the top of this random mental ramble?  Well, those lovely “glasses”?  They were once soda bottles.  They were TRANSformed into pretty, bright, colorful glasses to drink beer, wine, martinis — or water — out of instead.  So, I expect that any day now, we should catch hell from the Mormons decrying the natural non-alcoholic use of that GLASS being TRANSformed into something promoting the use of demon rum, etc, etc, etc.  Recycled soda bottles should only be made into more soda bottles, damn it all!

We are chasing our semantic tails round and round and forgetting people.  This disturbs and troubles me.  There are plenty of oppressors out there, I’ve met them.  It is when I meet them looking like ME that I am most disturbed.  I cannot “see” a trans woman being an oppressor by “reinforcing gender roles” because she is wearing a dress and has her hair permed.  No, I cannot.  I will not.  And no, I can’t just sit on my fingers or keep my mouth shut.  I am deemed an idiot, occasionally.  The reason is, I keep saying things like this: What would the world look like IF everyone actually COULD choose who/what/how to be?  Is that not really a suggestion of what a post-racism, post-sexism world might look like?

And yes, thank you.  I’d rather be an idealistic idiot than a snarling logicality-induced bit of rhetorical rubble.  I’m pretty ashamed to be American in the wake of the November election, but I don’t think I can be anything else.  I’m also pretty ashamed to be a human, in light of human behavior.  So, I will stick with idealistic idiot until I find a wolf pack that will take me in in spite of my inadequate hairiness.

Are You A Warrior?

standing_rockWhat will you fight for? Are you a warrior? Protesting Trump in the streets is futile. So why do you protest him? What does he threaten that you love?

People of color?
Your gay and lesbian friends?
Women’s rights?

Treaty obligations domestic and abroad?
Our planet’s health and ability to sustain us ALL?

So many options, see. Take the defense to that which he threatens — fight to preserve that which you love!

The “Skies Are Crying” Fall of the Old Year

samhain-walkAs I wrote, to almost nobody last week, I began my new year at the New Moon. Sure, the family had a good meal — one of the rare red meat meals for me and the Minotaur — and lit a fire in the outside drizzle. We passed around a horn and “toasted, boasted, and vowed” in sumbel style.  There were serious conversations and light hearted joking as well.  We farewell’d what we wanted gone and greeted what we wanted to carry forward.  It was merry and bright around the fire.

But I didn’t feel merry or bright. I drank a bit too heavily of the passed horn filled with mead we brewed two years ago….meaning more than one single slim glassful in my booze-lightweight age. Earlier in the afternoon before the utter failing of daylight, you see, I had gone to the Labyrinth for year’s end rites there. No names, merely a tolling of the brass bell – once for every year of the current ongoing, never-ending wars and then a silent walk to the center. And then a walk back out, slowly — the intent being that as many old pagan traditions say — tis the day they dead can come back to join the living for a night and I would lead them back on that pathway wherein I walked them inwards.

Usually, this is a neutral walk — even on the years when I occasionally gruelingly read the entire list of names of Us and Coalition dead in both the Afghan and Iraqi wars.  But this year, every step back outward felt like I was walking from a place of peace into a sort of hell.  I felt laden with grief and despair, my mood blackened as the astrologically “black” moon invisible in its orbit.  That dreadful sense of “something dire coming” possessed me and the helplessness of it made my chest hurt.  “Death inbound” is how I characterize this feeling and I hate it so much.  And in less than a week — yes, five Americans dead in our ongoing foreign adventures.

Attachment-1Do I believe in prescience?  Lets say my experience makes comfortable disbelief impossible.  It is somewhat typical at the end of the year — whether in October or December — to question, to formally doubt, to make new choices and discard what baggage one can leave in the dust.  I’d like to leave this grief, this fear, this dread behind me.  But it follows me like a shadow, a vampiric shadow that feeds on the anxieties and miseries of this election.  It is not just fear of a President who reminds me of Beast Rabban (Harkonnen); it is the utter cruelty of his followers in being perfectly ok with his denigration and diminishment of women, immigrants, people of color, gays, lesbians, disabled people, poor people.  One would think that those people have never met real people in their lives!

I cast about for newness, for purpose, for connections as I feel more hermitic than ever.  The German ladies I left over the casual white privileged callousness of one of them want me back — well, five of them want me back.  Can I go back?  It dawns on me that the majority wants me back because I told off the domineering one; but is that the role I want in a circle I had considered friends?  I tell myself it wouldn’t be my only role, but I still fear just becoming a “novelty” of some sort to women I wanted to be friends with on common basis of work, family, and so forth.  I was too under the weather this year to go on the 2 1/2 hour drive a Day of the Dead party; and stricken to realize how few friends I have and all of them very far away.

And yet I find myself considering cutting more connections even in online life.  I am so angrily sick of the Apple i-Phone nonsense of touch-pad failure and no word on Apple acknowledging or fixing it in ever more impossibly expensive phones, for instance.  Thus, as my phone begins to give me grief, I consider shutting off the account entirely and “bundling” in a old school house phone with the equally hated Comcast/Xfinity.  This means I’d be largely disconnected from all online associations – my aging Mac Mini stutters when I use it, and if/when it fails I may not even replace it.  A whole group of semi-connected associations will fall away like autumnal leaves then, too.  I have found that nobody wants to write old style letters…nobody at all.  For years, I’ve sent fifty or more holiday cards on various holidays and got back fewer than a dozen.  Connection apparently is not allowed to take longer than five seconds or cost even forty five cents?

It troubles me that we have the promises of technology about never being disconnected, but it feels as if as humans, we are more disconnected from each other, more isolated than ever before.  Recent reading has told me I am not the only one to notice this with a sense of despair — Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe attributes this biology/psychology skewing trend with facilitating lasting PTSD, depression, and suicide.  We seem to be forgetting how to be people for each other!  So my end of year does feel very dark as the cold rain falls daily now and colored leaves fall to leave monotone firs looming like wraiths in the gray sky.  I remind myself that gray days mean I must try harder to find something light.

But I feel like embracing the darkness, exploring every shadow and misery is what I really will be doing this month before I put up the lights and decorations for Yule.  I’m not looking for a sunshine enema.  I’m looking for the cause of the darkness, I think.  Just typing that makes me want to slap myself for grandiosity.  But there it is, I just can’t get around the feeling and sensation that, to coin off of Tolkien, one must go through the dark mines of Moria to find light on the other side.

It may take some time.

 

The Solace of Cheap Sunglasses

LiveTomorrow is a week since I began crying and couldn’t seem to regain control of my emotions.  Last Sunday evening, a long awaited visit for dinner by two gay friends accidentally coincided with the news horror about Orlando.  The hearth in the living room was ablaze with candles – one for each victim of the murderous hate played out with an assault rifle.  Our welcoming embrace dissolved into tears and trembling.

I know what a list of names looks like with 49 names.  Four dozen, we say…thinking of eggs, or birthday candles.  I know how reading that many lives names aloud, hearing a voice laughing – and stilled, seeing a face in the mind’s eye as the lights wink out – makes the voice begin to crack and fray.  Monday is the Summer Solstice and the Full Moon.  Public workings and private plans for magic for the dead and the wounded survivors are listed here and there around the internet.  The pagan community writhes with the same convulsions of grief and anger and …well, for me?  A kind of numb lack of understanding, like a child too young to know what death really means: how can any person murder half a hundred and leave another half hundred bleeding and injured?

I am not a pacific person; I am passion filled and storm tossed.  But I love life — I love seeing it on younger faces and older, all around me.  I like the dance of it, the wrinkles and the wild youth of it.  I love the twined hands of lovers walking before me in the park; I don’t care what gender the lovers are or what race or age.  It is the dance of life and love I see blossoming like rainbows after the storms of ordinary life.

Ah, yes, rainbows.  That flag, that shimmer in the air.  I was crying so much that I took out a pair of very cheap sunglasses for all public outings.  A woman my age is no longer pretty in tears, I look red eyed and mascara-raddled.  So dark, dark glasses.  I had no idea how cheap they were, having not worn them before — the emergency pair in the glove compartment.  Everything I look at, in the sunshine – whether a dark car, shiny leaves on a summer tree – takes on the sheen of costly “glass-coat” paint jobs.  The cars fluoresce into rainbow hues, as do trees and shop windows.  Rainbows dance wherever my eyes turn!  I cried more at first.  But then it struck me as a defiant dance of conspiracy in cahoots with my grief and shock.  Nothing can stop the rainbows!

I stopped speculating about whether the shooter was or was not a self-hating gay man.  How tragic, if he was, and led my the religious mania of monotheistic faiths, he so hated himself that he had to clear his conscience with blood.  I told myself to stop thinking about that so-called “minister” who wants a theocracy that can line gays up for shooting.  I am grateful I don’t live where he lives, or getting my need to break his jaw out of my head would be so much more difficult – I told you I am no pacifist.  Why such hate speech should get a free pass in the name of freedom of religion is beyond me.

The hardest bit to purge is the handy ammo these deaths give to the likes of Donald Trump — the “terrorist” label is so convenient.  I have long said that the group called ISIL ( I refuse to defile the ancient name of a goddess with their acronym!) draws many kinds of malcontents who will accept that black banner as an excuse to destroy and kill.  And not because they believe in the “caliphate” — but because they want freedom to be murderers, misogynists, rapists, and destroyers-at-large.  I believe that the shooter in Orlando cast about for a justification, found it and took it to revenge himself on everyone that ever rejected him.

I cannot defuse my anger that more and more Americans die at the hands of men arming themselves with weapons from battlefields.  Half of Congress is unwilling to do anything about it: the alleged meaning of the 2nd Amendment trumping the promise of “life” in the Declaration of Independence.  There is to be a vote on Monday, because the Democrats refused to step down their filibuster until that was agreed upon.  But will there be change, or does the break again come on party lines — declaring the right of the gun nuts to randomly murder at will while those of us in love with the dance of life wring our hands in futile rage?

Because of that vote, I don’t think I can wait until Monday night to put my acts of will and magic out there in the world.  I need to at least attempt to put the idea out there that putting assault rifle ownership ahead of American lives is wrong.  And the idea that calling it religious righteousness means the lives of 49 people dying at a “gay” club has less impact than 49 “other” lives.  Because that is hypocrisy, isn’t it?  Twenty children died and nothing changed.  Nine people in church died, praying – and nothing changed.  Who is perfect enough to not have their brutal bloody death dismissed?

I must make candles in rainbow hues, for the 49 innocents shot to death.  I want to hold them in my heart, in my ethereal arms, and weep –by the waxing moon tonight!