small victories

i don’t ever really know what sinks in when i talk to my kids about racism. about sexism. about ableism, heterosexism, cis privilege, imperialism, genocide, etc. i’m just winging it. trying to teach them to recognize their privilege. to see white supremacy, the patriarchy, police officers and capitalism for what they are. me and their daddy try to contextualize it so it intersects with their lived experiences. but who knows. this parenting thing is like making it all up when the script is supposed to be in front of you.

and i’m even more dubious when i talk to my 8 y/o. sure, he grasps more, but he’s not as attentive or empathetic as his little sister. he’s bright. but can still be pretty self centered. i dont know what lessons about the struggles of others really make an impression. which made the other night at bedtime especially thrilling. in an enraging kind of way.

elijah and i were snuggling in his top bunk. it was dark and we were just cuddling quietly. sometimes we talk, sometimes we share stories, but that night it seemed like we were just going to lay there quietly while he fell asleep.

after a few minutes of cuddles e finally broke the silence, startling me a bit. he started with the bold (but totally unshocking) statement that they’d read a racist book in class that day. i was intrigued, curious to see how he’d interpreted our informal lessons. the book is called “betcha” and is a tool for teaching rounding and estimation. elijah was angry because the whole book centers around two boys: one white, one black. and apparently throughout the book the white boy consistently, diligently does his estimation and rounding, thus getting every problem right. while the black boy just sort of guesses: sometimes getting it right but more often getting it wrong. ugh, right? but oh, so run of the mill.

we’ve talked about racism as it intersects with academics, the way teachers will differentially treat white students and students of color. especially black students. about tracking and school suspensions and all other manner of white supremacy in the classroom. and here it was glaring my kid in the face and he saw it for what it was. it’s a little thing, i get that. and he didn’t harass his teacher for reading it–which feels like step two in teaching your white kids to recognize racism. i can’t wait for step two, y’all.

so i’m just going to sit here and appreciate my little one and do a tiny, tiny shimmy of exaltation. and then get back to the work of raising white kids to see the world around them critically and resist the crazy bullshit at every turn.

IUD’s, anthony comstock and bleeding huts

i spent several hours the other day with the fully fabulous caroline, hanging out in the kids playhouse behind morning star, stretching out our achey, menstruating bodies.  caroline pointed out that we were in our very own bleeding hut.  and we rose to the occasion, talking about: sex, lovers, future dreaming, girlfriends and the absurdity of the crusade against reproductive rights and a woman’s control over her own body.  we marveled at how we had survived through our own socialization that women should fear and be ashamed of their sexuality, that we should abdicate control of our bodies to men who  cannot know them the way we do.

it reminded me of the marge piercy book i was reading, sex wars–a historical fiction piece narrated in turn by elizabeth cady stanton the famous suffragette, victoria woodhull the first female stockbroker and outspoken advocate of free love and healthy sexuality, a young immigrant woman who makes quality condoms out of her home to support her family, and anthony comstock the self appointed “right hand of God.”  it is a cast of inspiring female characters who overcome all of this same socialization, who give a big fuck you to society in their pursuit to reclaim their sexuality, their right to control their bodies and to write their own story.  all balanced by the male crusader for morality, anthony comstock, who ruins many lives in his pursuit of “evil.”

yesterday i drove myself to planned parenthood to have my new paraguard inserted, the copper IUD.  i’ve been trying to get it for months and going through the application process for a free one.  so when i got the call the other day, i was stoked.  as i turned into the driveway at planned parenthood i saw what i had never seen there before, a lone protester, a woman holding a depiction of some sort of religious figure.  maybe the mother mary.  as i drove past her i felt fury well up inside me.  just the day before caroline and i had been talking about the voice of choice campaign.  the idea is that people call those protesters who call and harass abortion doctors, etc., speak calmly and respectfully and ask them to stop harassing others.  and in that moment i knew i couldn’t do it; i couldn’t be calm.  i pulled into a parking space and like a peacock, confident and proud of entering this space that that woman and many others hated, i sashayed into the offices hoping she saw my small act of defiance.

as i waited in the lobby beforehand i read more of my book, feeling as if we’d made such little progress in this bitter battle around a woman’s choice and her right to control her body.  thinking that anthony comstock had never died, that he lived on in myriad form.  and i was happy to be taking control of my body.  shivering with power and the clarity that i was doing for myself exactly what i wanted to, i waited for the procedure to begin.  all to the sound of car horns, presumably encouraging on the lone protester outside.

then my nurse/midwife, the woman who would insert the paraguard, came into the room and i was delighted.  she was flipping through my paperwork and it was with a bit of relish that i corrected the intake nurse’s mistake, explaining that i had had sex just the night before and not three nights before as my chart indicated.  she asked me how i was feeling and i said excited.  she asked me again and i said a little nervous.  she knew better than i did what to expect.

it was awesome, and then it was a bit painful.  ok, it was crazy painful for a little bit.  but that’s because the pathway between my cervix and my uterus is a little unusual.  once the midwife figured it all out it took no time at all.  it’s true, my body went into a bit of shock and it took me awhile to get up off the examination table, and then off the floor.  when i got to my feet i slowly walked to where i would pay for the procedure.  i put my debit card on the counter and sat down in a nearby chair.  the woman who processed my payment encouraged me to rest if i needed to before leaving and i reassured her that i was planning to.

i sat in the lobby once again, reading a sex wars chapter about anthony comstock viciously pursuing a well known and highly skilled abortionist.  the chapter follows the arch of his pursuit and her eventual suicide before being sentenced in a court of law.  and i thought of all those people who protest outside of planned parenthood, of all the people that harass abortion doctors.  and i was furious again.

finally i went home and spent several hours laying in my empty house, not able to do much through the pain.  eventually one of my partners picked me up and took care of me through the night.  this morning i woke and felt mostly better; the more painful cramping had subsided and i was back to full excitement about the choice i’d made.  this morning as i was explaining the experience to a male friend, he told me to enjoy my new toy.  i told him with a mischievous smile that i absolutely would.

it feels incredible to be a sexually liberated woman making educated choices for my body.  i still have plenty of learning and growing to do in this area, for sure, but i’ve come a long way.  and i want that desperately for all of the women around me.  now i’m going to feed my body some tea in appreciation of its amazing capacity to heal and accomodate.  ps. i highly recommend sex wars!

no justice, no peace

i haven’t written much lately, not for lack of content, but for lack of time to sit and tell my stories.  or maybe for lack of something else.  and this is a piece i’ve been musing on for many months as i grow more honest with myself.  the first time this common rallying cry caught my attention and started to unsettle me was at the march for trayvon martin here in charlottesville some many months ago.  i simultaneously love and hate this chant.  hate is a strong word, maybe more accurately the words both thrill and frustrate me.  i started to gripe about it then.  and i get that most people are working to figure out what they’re willing to do to try to change this fucked up world and most people will not be where i’m at, but it seems fair that if you’re not actually willing to constantly disrupt the peace, you shouldn’t shout this chant.  because–unless youre one of these racist ghouls that thinks his death was his justice–trayvon martin and his family haven’t seen any sort of justice since he was murdered by george zimmerman.  but we arent in the streets.  we aren’t making it impossible for the george zimmermans of the world to kill the trayvon martins; we aren’t threatening the power structures that exist in such a way that they must be held accountable to us.  well at least not enough of us are.

the definition of justice seems important too.  we’ve been taught to seek justice through legal means, the proper channels for our frustration are paved with enough paperwork to bludgeon an elephant with.  and all along the way we’re convinced to relinquish our freedom and self determination.  will it be enough if george zimmerman is tried and found guilty of trayvon martins death?  can we claim justice for trayvon if more and more brown and black men and women are still being killed by racist cops and vigilantes alike?  i tend to believe that justice for trayvon martin is much bigger than a life sentence in prison.  i think it looks more like a total dismantling of the criminal injustice system in this country, a removal of armed cops from poor communities of color, and maybe a complete removal of cops altogether.  i think it looks like a total destruction of the culture that trains us to view brown and black skin as something suspect, that teaches young men and women of color that they can only be so many things in our culture, most of which are “criminal.”  and if that sounds like the kind of justice we want to be seeking, what do we have to do threaten the peace enough to kick start this change?

out in anaheim they are not letting the deaths of their young men go unquestioned, for days they’ve been marching and making it clear to the police that they are not welcome in their community.  i want this to be happening in more places, i want to be creating police free zones.  i want to be doing more to fight back against the normalcy of killing young people of color.  i want to do more than chant.

there was also, recently, a hunger strike at red onion state prison–a super max prison in southwest virginia–where inmates tell a terrifying tale of inhumane treatment and widespread physical and psychological abuse.  prisoners made a list of demands that seem pretty reasonable and outsiders were offered ways to take action.  as i was reading through the updates and stories of prisoners, again this common chant started vibrating through my spine, shaking my body.  and i was distraught by the limited possibilities offered to outsiders who wanted to “take action” and stand in solidarity.  its very unclear what continues to happen at ROSP.  officials said the hunger strike was over long before inmates said it was, officials made no mention of the intimidation tactics and cruel punishment meted out to strikers.  and theres been silence for nearly two months.  it seems pretty clear that nothing resembling justice happened at ROSP and again the question of what justice looks like is curious.  is it a regime change that brings little difference to the daily lives of prisoners?  i’d rather be breaking the prison industrial complex.  i in no way believe that imprisonment does anything to address “criminality,” fuck i dont really believe in “criminality.”  i think our culture creates criminals and creates the real people destroying lives as heroes of capitalism and despotism.  i dont want to sit by and make phone calls as men are tortured and left to die slowly in dark spaces.  i want to do more.

i am making this chant my mantra and my challenge.  i’m tired of playing along at being powerless and i am eager to find others interested in taking this chant at face value.  and i absolutely understand that complementary to destroying the structures and systems i oppose i have to be creating and building new containers, new ways to support, care for and build community with each other.  i am excited about doing both.

sex ed

i recently created an okcupid account, largely to learn more about a boy a good friend has started seeing.  but then i got sucked in and found myself embellishing my profile.  and while i struggled with some self messaging stuff, mostly i’ve been able to enjoy the exploration of it all.  and yesterday i got a most unusual and refreshing message.

it was written by a young man who claims to be questioning his faith and just beginning to explore his sexuality.  he makes it clear that he does not want any sort of emotionally connected relationship right now, but is seeking a sexual guide and teacher.  now i am not sure that i am really a suitable fit for him, i feel young in my own sexual evolution, but i am definitely intrigued.  and i have to admit i love the request: both in a self flattered kind of way and in a mad respect and appreciation kind of way.  in a world where men are taught to be sexually dominant, i have super love for a man who is vulnerable enough to admit he doesnt know everything.

it reminds me of an old comment thread about  creating a society of priestesses who teach young men about sexuality.  the current cultural programming around heteronormative sex is pretty fucked up and unhealthy.  my story is certainly unique but i do not think by any means an outlier.  i grew up curious about my sexuality.  in high school i explored some sexual freedom but still found my boyfriends of that time frame self centered in their sexual attention.  in fact my first real sexual experience involved me performing oral sex on a boy i liked, it happened multiple times without any thought on his part–or mine even–of reciprocation.  the sexual story is still strong: sex is for the pleasure of boys and girls are there to serve the pursuit of that pleasure.  yuck.

then i backed away from my sexuality through the first part of college, feeling unsafe with male sexuality.  i held onto my virginity, in that limited vaginal penetration sense, and waited until i felt safe and trusted my partner to honor my body and my pleasure too.  years passed and i thought i had found someone i could trust, i was working up the courage to be vulnerable with him.  and before i could, i was raped by another man.  and i spiraled again, feeling like no matter how much older my partners and i got, there was no escaping the reality that sex was something that would happen to me.  that was something like three years ago now, and i am healing, but it is a tricky process made harder by my well trained inability to ask for what i want, my fear of stating boundaries, my slowly shedding mistrust of male sexuality.

and as i think about how enthusiastically sexual i am now, and how hard that journey has been, how violent and violated, i think of my younger sisters, of the girls in my life.  and i know i dont want any of them to have experiences like mine.  i dont want any of them to feel like the tool of someone else’s pleasure; i dont want them to have their boundaries crossed by boys who may or may not realize what theyre doing; i dont want them to be afraid to state boundaries or ask for what they want.  in fact, imagining any of them in that position makes me want to punch these future, unknown boys.  makes me want to scream and smash things.  makes me want to cry bitterly.

so how do we change the sexual story?  i think boys seeking sexual guides is a brilliant first step.  the idea of a young man really seeking sexual wisdom from a woman makes me effusively happy.  we need to teach our boys that sex is as much about their partners pleasure as it is their own, we need to introduce them to the secrets of a woman’s body so they can be attentive lovers.  but we also need to teach girls that their worth is not determined by their ability to please and attract a man, to keep a man.  we need to teach her that her sexuality is a wonderful, healthy thing, a thing to be celebrated.  that she deserves to feel safe and celebrated by her partners.  that asking for what you want and saying no when you want to say no are both important and acceptable.  we cannot let women continue to fear the repercussions of stating their own needs and boundaries.

so i may have to defer the request made on okcupid, because i dont yet feel capable of teaching others, but i will certainly consider the role of sexual educator in the future.  and relish it as a future possibility.  and until then i will work with the girls in my life to deconstruct these bullshit stories about our sexuality and our roles as pleasers.  what will you do?

a kiss behind the barricades, or everywhere

i was thinking it would be weird to post pictures of other people kissing, then remembered i have a couple of great pictures of pax and i!

this is in part inspired by one of my favorite david rovics songs, which describes basically how i want to live–fiercely in love and always breaking this shit down–and in part by my enthusiasm for public displays of affection.  it is far too rare that we see a couple kissing in public, let alone full on making out.  whether a symptom of our unhealthy relationship to our sexuality or hangover puritanical norms, it is regularly saddening to me that we are not a more publicly affectionate culture.

for a girl who grew up ashamed of her sexuality, taught that it wasn’t lady like, it has been a delicious journey to reclaim my public affection.  and once you start it’s sooo wonderful.  you get scandalous looks, giggles, nods of appreciation and all manner of wild comments.  i am in the grips of a new romance and a wild honeymoon and have had several charming moments with strangers lately as they catch my lover and i making out pretty intensely in the middle of public spaces.  a week or so ago we stopped in the middle of an intersection (a rarely traveled intersection along another busy street) for a farewell kiss that turned hot and heavy and long.  just as we were beginning to pull apart another man walked into our intersection.  as evan walked away and passed the man, he told evan that we had left a fire behind us.  he was right.  and then just today we were making out again, in a parking lot.  we were on the sidewalk and had been locked in a kiss for a minute or two already when a car pulled into the parking space adjacent to our little patch of sidewalk.  i noticed and waited for the man to cut the engine and pulled just a little bit away from the kiss, fearing that the man in the car would feel trapped by our intimacy.  when he got out, the man, in what i’m sure he thought was an act of camaraderie, joked  with me that evan had “really been laying into me.”  without missing a beat, i looked back at him and told him that i was giving as good as i was getting.  trying to neutralize his inherently sexist commentary suggesting that my male partner was merely acting his sexuality upon me.

and i LOVE it.  i love getting to force this fierce and free expression of desire and love into people’s every day experiences.  and it is at this point that i need to draw out my heterosexual privilege (as it’s been pointed out to me before).  i get that it is so much easier for me to make out in public without the fear of being harassed or exoticized or shamed than it is for people of other sexualities.  and i would love to be working with folks on how to use that privilege to make public displays of affection equally accessible to all people who want to declare their love in that way.  and for now i also recognize that it is really very healing for me to be able to express myself this way.

theres a great scene with me and a former lover making out along the banks of the mississippi river, totally scandalizing a group of older women nearby.  there are many fond memories making out with my lover paxus in small town grocery stores, or in our favorite mexican restaurant where the waiters were slower to serve us.  and i try to encourage this proud and indulgent expression with others as well.  when my parents make out in my presence i taunt them with a tongue and cheek “ewwwwwwwwwwwww,” which almost always gets them to kiss longer.  and my favorite moment on the new jersey turnpike was when, stuck in the horrible traffic jam that is the turnpike, i noticed a vehicle parked in the shoulder.  as we passed we saw the young couple in the car had ditched the anger inducing traffic for a stolen make out session and i cheered them on.

i would love to see more people making out and holding hands and otherwise expressing their love fiercely, honestly and proudly in our culture.  so go on, try it the next time youre with someone youre crazy about.  add some new spark to that old romance or celebrate a new relationship by unashamedly declaring your love to the world.  i promise, you’ll love it.

the enemy within

i have been waiting to write this post for a long time.  some of you have already heard this story, but now i get to tell it on my blog.  about a year ago, a little more now, i got my first tattoo.  when i was growing up this was certainly never anything i imagined doing, i never thought i’d be so compelled to put something on my body permanently.  but then i was riding along the interstate outside of cincinnati ohio two thanksgivings ago and saw something that made me simultaneously laugh in amazement and shiver with fury.

in a fateful glance up from my book i saw a billboard on the side of the interstate.  on it was a picture of a stern looking, finger
wagging uncle sam.  he pointed intimidatingly down at the highway talking about searching out the “enemies within.”  for a moment i was stunned by the blatant return to mccarthyism.  not that i didnt know we had been sterotyping and classifying and eliminating anyone who threatened the status quo for years between now and the “red scare,” but now we were advertising about it on the side of the interstate.  i was shocked.  and appalled.  oh that combination of clueless white person emotions.

and then i was more.  i was angry because i could imagine the people uncle sam was threatening with that finger, that finger that, when pointed at the right person, could be a death sentence.  i was furious that we live in a society that deludes itself with notions of “national security.”  as if more guns and more bombs and more murders make us safe.  as if its not that very mentality that threatens lives.

and then i was amused.  i was self indulgent.  because if they’re actually paying attention i too, with my striped socks and colorful dresses, with my chin hair and my insidious wiggle, with my child nurturing and friend healing, i too am an enemy within these unrelenting and well defended borders.  and i want uncle sam to be shaking in his patriotic combat boots.  because that pointing finger is also an indication of their fear.  their misguided, dangerous fear.  and i understand it is a privilege to self identify as someone uncle sam should be afraid of, and not only to self identify but to write this story in a public format.  because i do not come from a people systematically persecuted and oppressed and killed by the scared little boy that uncle sam is.  because thats all our militaristic, terrorist hunting is: the posturings of a little boy who wants to maintain control and only knows one way to do it.  through fear, intimidation and  murder.

that night as we sped between the two sides of cincinnati, i made a promise to myself.  that forever and always i would act in ways that defined me as an enemy of this state.  and i felt so connected to that identity, to that promise and lifestyle, that i wanted to have it written boldly on my body, so that i couldn’t back out, so that it was something i carried with me always.  i chose a spot on my body that is mostly hidden, but that i can see regularly.  and that i can share as i want to.  and with my beautiful friend lesley, in a totally female owned and operated tattoo parlor in denver, i got my first tattoo last february.

and it is an identity piece that corresponds to my affinity for the graham greene short story “the destructors.”  in which a band of adolescent boys in post wwii england destroy, from the inside out, a building.  piece by piece, they dismantle the house until it falls apart all on its own.  i’ve always loved that image.  of slowly, thoroughly and thoughtfully destroying a beautiful but broken facade.    of working inside the structure to actively destroy it.  i am excited about living that every day.

and yes, i now have plans for at least two more tattoos.  one that my sisters and i will all get together–russian dolls: i’ll get the largest, molly the middling one and samantha the smallest.  the other will be the foreshadowing word “okupat” which appeared etched onto the breast of a faerie drawn onto my wall by a magical friend.  i will get it also on my left breast, along with a black ink city scape, but only after i’ve earned it by successfully squatting an autonomous zone somewhere in the states.  which is my longer term plan to fulfill my role as enemy within.

wanted: someone who can hang

so this is fun.  ive been musing about what i’m looking for in a new romance.  and today i’ve been playing with what an honest want ad would say.   and its pretty preposterous.  but for a girl who’s always struggled with asking for what she wants or being able to express what she wants, the exercise of writing it all down is somehow healing.  and wildly amusing.  i think it would look something like this:

young woman with chin hair and an expressive wiggle who is into challenging and uprooting oppressions and social violences.  who is more interested in nurturing relationships than building a career.  who wants to break shit down in order to rebuild the world.  who often prefers the company of children because they are closer to their true selves and because they still remember how to weave magic.  who is dreaming of squatted community and autonomous zones, of green bean teepees covered in fireflies at dusk, who likes to play and laugh and be silly.

seeking young, male partner outlaw.  must be willing to face their oppressive behaviors and take responsibility for their dark side.  must be sexually enthusiastic, someone who likes to seek consent and play rough.  should be ready for an adventure at all times and know how to make magic.  needs to be able to joyfully navigate open relationships and willing to attempt poly processing.  should be able to speak in fever dreams, should be passionate enough about something to defend it.

perks would include: being willing and able to throw me around on a dance floor, an understanding and enthusiasm for autonomous zones, someone who self identifies as a feminist, someone who loves kids, someone who can tell me stories, a willingness to sing in public, general silliness.

and there’s probably more, but its fun to explore what it is i’m really wanting and to be able to express it.  and its sort of funny to see how headachey or slightly impossible my desires around a new lover actually are.  but in case you know anyone who can hang, you can direct them to this blog.

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