Feminist Friday: Seduce the Playboy: On Overcoming Homonormativity in Yuri!!! on Ice

Editor’s Note: Today’s Feminist Friday post comes from L.M. of The Lobster Dance and I’ll Make It Myself, who I’m very happy to have here with us to chat during Pride Month. In zir discussion of  Yuri!!! on Ice, L.M. shines a light on the ways that homonorativity has dictated media representation of relationships between queer characters and shares the joy of a work that overcomes this by representing a relationship between genderfluid characters.


Screen Shot 2017-01-08 at 11.37.43 PM

Screenshot of Viktor hugging Yuuri before a performance, saying “I love pork cutlet bowls.”

Or, why Yuri!!! on Ice hops off the relationship escalator, disrupts homonormativity, and I CLOSE MY EYES AND TELL MYSELF THAT MY DREAMS WILL COME TRUE

Mild spoilers throughout up to episode 4, major spoiler at end.
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#Sorrynotsorry

Among my social media, I’m beginning to see some whinging about the amount of political posts and some pleas that we “all get along” or “let it go and move on.”

You can do that. You can hide, at least for a while longer. (And make no mistake, it is hiding. It is turning your head from sorrow and suffering and anger.) So you can do that, but I will not.

Some people are *actively in danger.* The man who is our president has advocated sexual assault (grab her by the pussy) and mocked every group from veterans to people with disabilities to women. This opens up a window for all kinds of other violence and crude behavior. If the man who holds the highest elected office in our nation can get there after the public is aware that he’s been doing these things, then Joe Schmoe down in Mississippi doesn’t think he’s going to get in much trouble for grabbing the ass of the woman he works with. (Spoiler alert–he doesn’t.)

So not only do we have a president who creates an atmosphere in which violence–in particular sexual violence, but other kinds as well–is likely to thrive, we also have a president who is already actively working toward anti-intellectualism, ignoring systemic racism, erasing LGBTQ peoples, and removing healthcare protections from those who most need it.

This is not alarmist. We are already hearing the administration deal in “alternative facts.” Bills are already in the works to turn healthcare back over to the states, and we all know how poorly that goes for the poorest among us (hint: really fucking badly). The first pages that were removed and archived from the presidential website were LGBTQ and climate change. There were no replacement policies on the LGBTQ page–none–though the writers were sure to add in a plug for FLOTUS’s jewelry line on her bio page. As someone who is trained to read and teach rhetoric, I will say that we can learn a lot about what the administration values here. IT IS NOT US.

It’s only the beginning of day 3 of this administration. Re-read that.

There are real stakes for me here. I a woman. I need birth control every month to stay healthy, and the insurance that we pay exorbitant amounts to keep should have to cover it. I’ve lived on state assistance and used Medicaid in the past. I live with multiple mental illnesses. I have a child who was premature, who attends a public charter school now. I live in the deepest of the deep south, in a place where coastlines are rapidly disappearing, and my city is quite literally sinking, disappearing underneath me.

There are real stakes for my loved ones here. Many of them identify as LGBTQ and have only recently gained the right to legal marriages. Some of them have used state assistance in the past, and many of them are women. They work hard, these women. And they are tough, so tough, living in places that often try to tear them to pieces.

But even aside from all that–even aside from my own experiences and those close to me–I am a fucking human being, and I am empathetic. I know when something is wrong, and something is very wrong just now, my friends.

Yes, we marched this weekend. We protested. And I saw a fair amount of whinging about that, as well–complaints that what was happening was somehow unpatriotic or that we should just try and “move on.” I keep hearing that echoed–move on.

Listen up: the women’s march was amazing. Unprecedented. Seven continents and millions of women. I’m not sure that it would’ve been possible in an age without social media, truly. (Let me be clear–I also recognize that the march was not infallible, and we should not refrain from criticizing it and working to make our feminism better. We need to listen to those voices that traditional feminism has subdued. Women of color and trans women, for instance, are specifically saying they were marginalized further by some of what transpired. I both recognize the enormity of what happened this weekend and think we can do better. Feminism cannot continue ignoring bright, honest, and powerful voices.)

Now, we have to translate this protest energy into more action, more conversation, more doing. We cannot stop on day 3. So– #sorrynotsorry for clogging your newsfeeds. But don’t expect me to stop anytime soon.

How Purity Culture Almost Destroyed My Life…Twice

Purity culture nearly ruined my life.

I grew up in church. We lived in a small, Mississippi town in the 1980s/90s, the place my father grew up. The entire family went to that church–my grandmother, my aunt, my nuclear family, and even some 2nd and 3rd cousins. We were there every time the doors were open…Literally. On Sunday mornings, we would attend Sunday school at 10, then sit through the church service from 11-12. We’d go home for lunch, and sometimes a friend would come over to play for a few hours. Then it was back to church at 4:30 for children’s classes and another church service from 6-7. After services many of those nights, I would go home with my grandmother and aunt, who often ordered pizza and had dinner with our pastor and his wife. On Wednesdays, we went to prayer meetings from 7-8. During the summer, there was always a week of Vacation Bible School and then another week of summer sleep-away camp.

The church we attended held many of the standard fundamentalist Christian views–especially those of the time. I can remember hearing about the evils of rock music. (When I was very young, much of the ire was directed at Ozzy, who bit the head off  of bats. Later, that disdain and concern would turn to Marilyn Manson, who destroyed Bibles onstage and was always to be found in dark clothing and layers of makeup.) When a new youth pastor introduced Christian rock, some of the church goers were upset. I remember not celebrating Halloween, because it was The Devil’s Holiday. We had an evening hay ride and bonfire in the woods to compensate for the loss of trick or treating–supervised by our parents and church elders, of course.

Sex was something that there was almost a blanket of silence about, though. I barely remember discussing sex with my parents, but I think the conversation was mostly too little, too late. Not that I was having sex (indeed, no–not until I was 19), but I’d already figured out how sex worked long before we discussed it. This was because sex wasn’t often discussed in our house or in our church…even in our community. And when it was, there were very certain parameters for the discussion:

We’d talk about abstinence. In church, we learned about the value of purity: purity of heart and purity of body, which seemed to equal a kind of purity of spirit, of soul. At our local high school, the True Love Waits group gave a presentation to the school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was a member, except that it was an organization for Christians that many of my friends belonged to…I was certainly not an athlete. We were all encouraged to take vows that we would wait until marriage to have sex.

We’d talk about repentance. In church, we were told that we’d all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We were told that if we’d sinned in this way, we could become new again in God’s eyes if we only repented and then continued to abstain.

And we’d talk about consequences. So, so much talk about consequences. Disease a possibility. I remember mapping out how quickly disease could spread. Oh, but there was also the possibility of creating another human…And not being married to that baby’s other biological parent was considered a serious moral failing in our community, not to mention a hardship that extended from mother to child, an assumption that the child’s life would also be difficult. This was compounded by the occasional pregnant girl at school, a cautionary tale walking around with a burgeoning belly, the way the hushed whispers followed those girls.

Complicating this was some family history, maternal guilt and pressures. Secrets I am not at liberty to tell because they are not mine, but secrets that nonetheless affected my life. And then there were rules…So many rules. Rules about what to wear, who to be (or not to be) alone with, what time to come home, what to do while I was out…So many rules.

Only in retrospect does any of this sound extreme. It’s easy to miss the signs when you’re immersed in something.

By the time I was in college, I’d moved away from my hometown, stopped going to church. I’d met people who were different than me, many of them radically so. I’d studied literature and history at a college level. I’d had my first tastes of alcohol, of love, of freedom, of real joy and of real tragedy. But it wasn’t easy, this moving away from my upbringing. It came in fits and starts, with a lot of internalized guilt and shame. I drank a lot, often getting overly-emotional. At one point, I could drink a fifth of alcohol and keep drinking. For all intents and purposes, I was an alcoholic.

I almost destroyed myself. But somehow, I finished my undergraduate degree and moved on to graduate-level courses.

When I moved to attend graduate school, I was in an off-phase of an on-and-off relationship that had pretty much defined my undergraduate career, spanning from the end of my sophomore year of college until I graduated. Eventually, we’d find ourselves in another on-again phase.

And at 24, I’d find myself unmarried and pregnant.

I was terrified. No, I was not a child–not in the typical sense of the word. But my parents were still very much in charge of my life, helping me pay my way through graduate school so that I could focus on the very real task of getting a degree. I had finished course work for my master’s degree, but I still needed to write a thesis and defend it before I could graduate. And my parents were angry. My mother said we’d have to get married, and my dad said that mom was only wanting the best for us, did not want my child to be a bastard. I was unsure of what to do, but my boyfriend said we’d get through it. We were planning to get married one day anyway, we’d just wanted to wait longer.

And so, I married my son’s father. We weren’t ready to say goodbye to each other, but we were also unsuited to be married to one another. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we were wholly unsuited to one another once we lived together, either. We were married for less than a year, tired of the arguments that had defined our on-and-off relationship. We knew it was unhealthy to raise a child in the turmoil of our arguments, and so we decided not to. We’d raise him together, but separate.

But that was a difficult goodbye. It felt like a death, and in a way it was. It was the death of a relationship, the closing off of a life I thought I was going to live. I didn’t want to be a divorced woman or a single parent. I didn’t want my child to grow up in a “broken home.”

It almost destroyed me, that loss of the dream of a nuclear family with biological mother, biological father, and biological child. That loss also freed me.

But here I am, 7 years post-divorce. I am remarried to someone who I could not imagine life without, someone who is not only a partner to me but an amazing 3rd parent for my son. We have a good relationship with my parents, who have helped me immensely, especially during the time when I was a single mother going to graduate school. And there’s my son…My beautiful boy with a big heart. He has two fathers.

And all is as it should be, finally.

What Having a Disability Taught Me About Bodily Autonomy

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from Rose B. Fischer that kicks off our Feminist Friday postings here at Part-Time Monster. The weekly posts will aim to generate conversation about feminist issues, paying particular attention to intersectional issues. I am incredibly honored to have her posting here about such a deep and personal topic.

I was born with cerebral palsy.  I have limited use of my legs and my lower leg muscles are basically nonexistent.  When I was three, neuromotor specialists began recommending a daily routine of physical therapy to help maintain my level of mobility.

The exercises I’m supposed to do feel like someone is trying to rip my legs apart on a medieval torture device.  As a toddler and young child, I was never given an option to refuse this treatment.  I have no memory of anyone explaining the benefits of this therapy.

I was told I had to do my exercises.

That’s it.

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Monday Re-Run: Body Image, Body Compassion, and Choosing Myself

 

In the hospital after surgery. It's probably not an accident that I can't find any pictures in the swimming cap---they're all locked away at my parents' house.

In the hospital after surgery.

At 5, I had surgery on my left eardrum to repair a hole. The surgery left my eardrum permanently weakened. I had to wear ear plugs and a rubber swimming cap to protect my ears when I went swimming.

And in the South, especially when there’s a pool nearby, we spend a lot of time swimming. There was a pool in our backyard. I looked a little weird in my cap, but I didn’t think much of it until one kid called me “rubberhead” during swimming lessons. Then it became all I could think about.

*****

At 10, I had huge glasses, braces, and hair that was long and frizzy, because my mom had no idea what to do with curly hair. Sometimes the boy I sat next to at lunch would call me Medusa. I had scrawny legs and was just discovering that I was, in fact, awkward.

I didn’t have any curve to my body, and though a few of my friends had started developing (or at least said they had started developing) breasts, mine were nowhere to be found. I became bothered that I had hair on my legs and that most women didn’t, and I asked my mom if I could start shaving.

She was taken aback, of course. I was 10. She expected me to be younger for longer, I think. Bless her, she asked a close family member what to do, and the answer was “if she’s old enough to be self conscious about it, she’s old enough to shave.”

It was a relief to do something grown up, to have some control over my out-of-control, developing body.

*****

At 13, I had no braces and no glasses. I’d grown curves and gone through puberty. I learned to work with, rather than against, the texture of my hair, and for the first time in years I didn’t have hair that made me feel embarrassed.

Instead, I had the kind of hair I could hide inside of. It was long, just past my shoulders, with a deep part on the right so that my hair swung in front of my eyes.

My hair was large and wild.

Hiding inside it turned out to be a good tactic as boys (and men) started to notice my body. Hiding inside that veil of hair allowed me to look coy and flirtatious while hiding my embarrassment at the attention.

That same year, one of my teachers found a note I’d written a classmate in which I’d divulged suicidal thoughts. They called me to the principal’s office to meet with my parents, who took me home. I entered counseling for the first time.

*****

At 17, sitting on my parents' front porch.

At 17, sitting on my parents’ front porch.

At 17, I was tiny and insecure. I was so small, but I felt so large.

I’d been told to watch out for getting fat. In my teenage years, that translated to “you are already fat, so don’t get any fatter.” Looking back, I should’ve seen the absurdity. I was a size 8.

But I felt like I took up so much space sometimes.

People often thought I was older than I was. I carried myself with an assuredness that I didn’t feel. I retreated behind my mane of hair, into my books, and with a close group of friends who understood me.

*****

Just after returning to college from working at camps all summer long.

Just after returning to college.

At 19, I was a college sophomore, in love for the first time. I was engaged, though of course it didn’t last long. I’d let go of the strong religious leanings that I had in high school, and I liked to party. I was beautiful, and young, and free to

do whatever I wanted as long as I could make it to an 8:00 class the next day.

I was a ropes course instructor and a lifeguard, so I swam often. I was very, very pretty, which got me into more than a little trouble, some of my own making and some of others’. I gained friends and quickly lost them, moving from group to group and party to party.

I still hid behind my hair—it got larger over the years. I got my first tattoo, a symbol of peace and happiness.

I went into counseling again for depression and anxiety, and for the first time I was put on medication. It eased many of my symptoms, but I had a significant weight gain from the medicine. And of course, it worked erratically because I wasn’t careful about drinking while I was on the medication.

I gained about 50 pounds. I was lethargic and stopped swimming, so the partying and the new medicine added up quickly. I went to monthly check-ups, but of course I wasn’t quite honest with my doctors about the partying I did.

*****

At my baby shower, which turned out to be just weeks before delivery. My hands and face are obviously swollen already.

At my baby shower just weeks before delivery.

At 24, I was a master’s student with an on-and-off-again fiancee.  My body wasn’t as good as it had been in my early years of college, when I was a ropes course instructor and a lifeguard, but it was still a young, healthy, beautiful body.

I got a second tattoo, this time a phoenix rising, flanked by the words “carpe diem.” I spent a lot of time reading and writing, and the rest of my time partying. Life was challenging but relatively carefree.

And then it wasn’t.

I wasn’t sure, at first, how I felt about the pregnancy. I knew it would change everything about my life, and I hadn’t planned for that to happen quite so quickly. I knew I wouldn’t be so carefree anymore. I knew my body would change. I went to doctor’s appointments, read books on pregnancy and parenting, changed my eating habits, and researched whether I could screw up my baby by coloring my hair and paining my toenails.

But around 26 weeks of the pregnancy, I had to research new topics. I was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction, and I had to find out more about it.

When I next returned to my OB, she determined that I was actually preeclamptic. At 32 weeks, I went directly to the hospital from her office. I’d just been at work the day before, and aside from extremely swollen feet and ankles, I felt just fine. But I wasn’t.

I couldn’t wait any longer than a day to be hooked up to a magnesium drip and two days, mostly to be given vital steroid shots to help my baby’s lungs develop, before his delivery via C-section.

I barely remember seeing my child’s face for the first time. I vaguely remember his first cry. I remember thinking that somehow I’d made my baby sick, that maybe because I wasn’t sure if I wanted him at first, we were being punished.

My brother wheeled me down to see my baby for the first time, and I could only stay for a few moments. At 2 pounds, 14 ounces and 15 1/4 inches long, he was the tiniest baby I’d ever seen. I felt paralyzed by his smallness and crippled by

Holding Little Jedi for the first time ever.

Holding Little Jedi for the first time ever.

his fragility.

I felt like it was my fault that he’d come into the world already fighting. My body couldn’t nourish him properly or give him the place he needed to grow until birth.

For a long time, I beat myself up for that. Why couldn’t my body do what it was designed to do? Could I have done something differently? Why didn’t I get to have a have a healthy baby?

****

At 30, I had moved to New Orleans with my son, The Little Jedi, and my then-fiancee-now-husband, Sam.

I fell down the basement stairs on Halloween and sprained my ankle terribly. I was immobile for almost a week and on crutches for another week, and my ankle still isn’t quite the same. The walks I’d been taking with our terrier could no longer be taken—he is really energetic and needs to move quickly.

I gained quite a bit of weight again during the recovery, and I was bothered by

At 30, getting married in Vegas.

At 30, getting married in Vegas.

how long my body took to heal. A few months later, I would fall again and sprain my other ankle. And a year after that, I tore the meniscus in my right

knee.

Changes were around every corner—my own adjustment to living in New Orleans; Little Jedi adjusting to not living with my parents anymore, living with Sam for the first time, going to daycare/school for the first time, and living in a city like New Orleans after small town Mississippi; leaving school for a new career path; my husband changing jobs; a marriage.

*****

At 31, my body is scarred. I’m heavier than I’ve been probably ever in my life. My ankles and knee swell after high-impact exercise, and though I’ve stopped smoking, I’m still out of shape enough to be breathless after exercising in small bouts.

But I’ve come to see the value in what my body has been able to do, and I can forgive it for its shortcomings.

I’m choosing not just body acceptance, but body compassion and body love.

For me, this means holding myself accountable for what I put into my body now but not punishing myself for my past. It means that when I make a mistake (or 5 days of mistakes, like when Mardi Gras happens and then my birthday happens), I don’t beat myself up over it.

I have to re-choose body compassion every day.

My instinct is to get discouraged when I don’t meet the goals I set for myself, especially as concerns diet and exercise. But body compassion sets me up to say “oh well” and move along after a screw up. In some ways that’s more difficult for me.

But I choose body compassion.

I choose it because I need to be compassionate with my body before I can truly love my body. I choose it because I have to remember the life that my body has been through before that I can get to the life I want.

I choose body compassion. I choose me.

(This post was part of the first 1,000 Voices Speak for Compassion Link-up.)

I Will Not Pretend I Am Not on My Period to Make You More Comfortable

I’m on my period, and I don’t really care whether or not you know it.

Does that freak you out, that first sentence? It’s possible that it does–freak you out, I mean. Quite possible. It’s taken me a long time to say something so brazen (Is it brazen? I have no idea anymore) in such a very public way.  It freaks me out a little to say it, and I’m a grown-ass woman who has given birth to a child and who has about zero illusions left when it comes to bodily functions.

I’m not sure when I became a woman who doesn’t mind if the world knows that she’s on her period. I think, though, that it happened when I started surrounding myself with women, and especially with women who allowed themselves to openly discuss menstruation, childbirth, and sex.

But periods, though—periods are something that, as a society, we like to have illusions about. I don’t know exactly why this is, and explaining it seems like the kind of thing that could take up more words than I could ever possibly write, because that explanation would have to take into account attitudes, practices, and beliefs that were formed long before any of we humans walking the earth were even thought of. But the important part, for me, is that all of those things work together in an effort to sanitize, to minimize–to hide and to ignore parts of the narrative while exploiting others.

At no point in my life was the cultural ambivalence about periods clearer to me than during my teenage years. I wouldn’t have described them that way then, obviously, but that was the feeling. First, there was the agonizing wait for puberty–reading books like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and chanting along “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” and carrying pads well before I needed them, mostly just because I wanted to feel more grown up. Then, after I actually started my period, there were the years of trying to avoid anyone knowing when I was actually on it.

The sleight of hand method won me over, because I didn’t want to take my bag with me to the bathroom every time, and I always thought that taking my purse only a few days out of the month seemed pretty obvious. I have to say…For a girl who isn’t good at magic tricks, I’ve managed more than my fair share over the years, palming Tampons and panty-liners, sliding them into pockets or tucking them just underneath the long sleeve of my shirt. Lots of pretending, too, especially on road trips: “oh, I really need to go to the bathroom again” or “hey, I could use a snack, why don’t we stop.” On our way home from a school trip one afternoon, I finally insisted that the van stop. I needed to change my Tampon, and I finally had to just be honest about that. My high school boyfriend was so surprised that he hadn’t been able to tell I was on my period. “I usually can,” he said. I wondered how, and he elaborated with some story about how women are usually angrier when they’re on their periods, but I was so pleasant. I have rarely wanted to be more unpleasant than at that moment, but I just laughed instead.

In college, I kept palming my Tampons and hiding my PMS as much as possible, even when it was severe….And sometimes it was severe. I was 19 before I finally admitted that I thought I had a problem, and the gynecologist I finally saw agreed with me. Periods should not be heavy and 8 days long, she told me. Also, they shouldn’t make you cry uncontrollably or feel searing rage. She was mystified that I’d been able to hide that kind of PMS for years and had just dealt with it without seeing a doctor. But until she said it out loud, I didn’t really know that what I was experiencing was different from what other people experienced. My experiences seemed to mirror those in popular culture, certainly those constant jokes about women and their periods. It’s only now that I can see how harmful those images were. How harmful they are.

And so, I’ve stopped pretending. No more. It’s not as though I’m about to go rooftop to rooftop, loudly proclaiming that “I’M ON MY PERIOD.” But I’m also not going to hide it just to make others more comfortable.

**This post is part of a monthly link-up called #WeBleed, a monthly link-up created for women and girls to share their experiences related to menstruation.

Monday Re-Run: Don’t Touch My Hair

At 17, sitting on my parents' front porch.

At 17, sitting on my parents’ front porch.

Don’t touch my hair. My hair is ground zero in a cultural war that insists on perfect bodies, perfect hair, a culture war that privileges the straight and the white and the undamaged. The docile. The normal.

But my hair is not docile or straight.

My hair falls in wild, big curls. Not the kind you see on TV commercials. No, my friend. Those are generally curls that someone spent hours perfecting–glossy, symmetrical, and fake. My curls are natural, which means frizz and flyaways and wishing the rest of my hair would look like that one perfect curl in front.

When I was young, my mother tried to tame my curls, to straighten them with a round brush and a hair dryer and sheer will power. She’d pull half (or all) of it back and pin it up with a hair-bow bigger than my head, likely one made by my grandmother. My hair was never entirely smooth though, and if it was humid outside—-which is basically always in lower-Mississippi where I grew up—-my hair turned into a great big frizz ball. “Medusa,” a boy in my elementary class called me.

I was in the sixth grade when my brother decided to get married. I was to be a junior bridesmaid, and my mom took me to a local hairstylist. She cut my hair and coaxed the big natural curls out into the open. I looked at myself in a mirror, and I didn’t think that was my hair. It couldn’t be my hair, that long and wild and beautiful mess. It was, though.

In the seventh grade, during what can only be construed as a moment of temporary insanity, I cut my hair. I don’t mean a little bit cut—I mean that my hair, which had been past my shoulders, was suddenly so short that it just grazed the tops of my ears.

I punched the only boy I’ve ever punched that year. It was the day of try-outs for our junior high dance team, and I was very nervous. I’d never tried out for anything before, and all my friends were trying out, too. I’d fixed my short hair so that it was pulled away from my face, as per tryout instructions. In science class, the boy behind me whispered “who’d you let mess up your hair.” I turned around and punched him in the stomach, surprising everyone in class, including myself.

In high school, one of the basketball coaches was my health teachers. He was young and handsome, but there was something I didn’t like about him. One day, he asked me if I “had a little sister” in me, if that was why my hair was so curly. It was the first time, but not the last, that people would ask about my race, assuming that my curls were something that fit into categorical boxes of White and Other. Even now, when it happens it surprises me as I think through the invasive nature of the question and all of its implications.

I dyed my hair for the first time when I was 17, choosing bright highlights. As a college student, I colored my hair most every natural color, and several unnatural ones, too. I learned for the first time how to

embracing

At 31, Mardi Gras 2014

straighten my hair without the frizziness. Straightening irons, I discovered, were the key. Good ones. And my straight hair got attention, turned heads that were accustomed to large curls framing my face. Reactions tended (and still do) to vacillate between “oh, why did you straighten it” from the self-professed curl admirerers, those who would like to have curls themselves, to “you should always wear it like this.” But at least no one touched it. When my hair is curly, people can’t resist touching it. Close friends, mere acquaintances, and even strangers have, at various points in my life, just reached over, pulled one my curls so that it stretches to its full, straightened length, and then let it go, all for the pleasure of watching it spring back into a curl.

As I’ve gotten older, moving out of college and into graduate school and now a married woman in her 30s, fewer people have reached out for those strands. A 30 year old woman commands more respect than a 10 year old girl. She has more control over her body, at least the parts of it that aren’t being legislated.

And she can say, loudly “Don’t touch my hair.”

**This post originally appeared in September 2015 at parttimemonster.com

Ladies, We Need to Talk

Ladies, we need to talk.

And I don’t mean that in the sense of “come here, I’m going to tell you something.” Not the way it’s usually meant, when someone says “we need to talk” and then proceeds to berate you for something that you’ve done, or sits down and tells you horrible news.

I mean that in a whole other sense, with emphasis on the “we” and the “talk” part. Emphasis on the communication. Emphasis on our voices, and our ears, and our minds.

We need to talk. We need to talk to each other, to ourselves, to our children and our partners and the world. Despite that old commonplace about how much women talk, our voices are being lost and our words are being twisted and we are growing up ashamed and ignorant and wounded, so many of us. Our bodies are cultural battlegrounds, and we know so little about them.

I tried to make a list, earlier, of all the things no one told me about my body until they thought I needed to know. Things about menstruation that I didn’t learn until after I’d started having a period; things about pregnancy and childbirth that I didn’t learn until I bought a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting during my 2nd trimester; things about being a girl, being a woman, having a body. I was overwhelmed by how many, how very many things, I didn’t know.

  • I didn’t know that it might not hurt, and I might not bleed, when I lost my virginity.
  • I didn’t know that more than 7 days of bleeding during a period was outside the norm.
  • I didn’t know that my extreme mood swings were more than PMS.
  • I didn’t know that I had more options than Tampons and pads.
  • I didn’t know how birth control worked.
  • I didn’t know that periods weren’t actually gross.
  • I didn’t know I would bleed for 6 weeks after childbirth.
  • I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding beyond that breasts supply milk and babies drink it.
  • On and on, so many things I didn’t know.

Talking about the messier parts of our bodies and our lives isn’t something that we like to do. And if talking about it is difficult, than conversing about it is virtually impossible.

But we need to talk, and we need to talk loudly.

Dear LGBTQIA Community:

dearlgbtqiacommunity

I am not just with you, I am one of you.

It has taken me a very long time to publish those words in a place that people from my hometown would see, where my family could possibly read them. I haven’t necessarily been shy about acknowledging my non-heteronormative identity around friends and in the comments sections of other blogs, but I have never really, at least until last week, published anything on the blog or in my social media that confirmed I’ve dated women.

Obviously, that has been a deliberate decision.

For one thing, I still don’t know what I am, what label to choose. There’s no real definition that fits the complex nature of my sexual identity. I find women attractive. I find men attractive. I find androgyny incredibly attractive. Mostly, though, I am less sexually attracted to people than aesthetically so. Maybe I’m what the kids these days call biromantic demisexual? I don’t know. I don’t really need to name it—but not being able to attach that label means that talking about my orientation is more complicated for me.

There’s another reason that I haven’t really said much, though–because I can easily blend in, I do. Because I met the partner of my dreams and he was decidedly male, because we are both cis-gender, we look like a heteronormative couple.  I hide behind my cis-gender, heterosexual marriage and heteronormative life. It is easy and safe. So many of you do not–cannot–hide. I don’t have to incur the same struggles that so many of you do, something I am always are of.

Many of you lost your lives this weekend because you did not hide. And I want you to know: I see you, and you are brave and beautiful and fearsome.

I am sorry that we’ve failed you, that we keep failing you. I am sorry that your lives are made more difficult–that many of your lives have ended–because of sex and sexuality. I am sorry that I still often say “your” in these discussions instead of “our” because I have a complex relationship with my sexuality and wouldn’t know how to identify myself if I tried. I’m sorry I haven’t been more vocal.

I am with you, always.

**This post is an edited version of a Facebook note I posted this weekend. On it, I listed several ways to give to LGBTQIA organizations in New Orleans and to the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting. I’d like the comments section here to be a place where we post ways to give to the LGBTQIA Community. If you know of an organization doing good work that needs funding and/or volunteers, please feel free to post a link to to their organization here. I’ll start here:
Last Call: New Orleans Dyke Bar History Project, an organization in NOLA dedicated to chronicling the history of lesbian-centered spaces in New Orleans and their virtual disappearance;
GoFundMe for Leonel Mendez, a NOLA local who is in a coma after the Pulse shooting this weekend;
and a GoFundMe for Victims of the Pulse Shooting.

Code Words for Crazy

codewordsforcrazy

I was six when I had my first panic attack.

I’d gone back to my grandmother’s house after church on a Sunday night, something I did often when I was young. On this particular night, the church service we attended focused on heaven—on what it would be like to spend eternity with Jesus and the angels. But instead of being comforted, I was afraid. I didn’t like the idea that forever had no end, none at all, and I felt suffocated by the idea of being in one place forever. It didn’t matter that Jesus or his angels would be there, that the streets would be paved of gold, or that there were be no more sorrow or pain there. In fact, I could not imagine how it would be possible not to experience pain or loss or sorrow if I had to stay in one place for always, especially if those people I loved didn’t make it there, too.

That night, as I crawled into bed beside my grandmother, I started to cry. She asked me why I was crying, what she could do tell help. And so I told her. I told her that I was afraid of forever, that something never-ending was so far beyond my comfort zone and so enormous as to be horrifying. She told me I needn’t be afraid, of course, and somehow she soothed my fears enough for me to go to sleep.

That was, really and truly, my first indication that I was different…Different from my family, different from my friends and the other kids my age. I thought about things they did not, or at least if they did consider the things I did, they were not bothered by them.

This would become commonplace for me—being troubled by things that did not seem to trouble other people.

*****

I was 13 when I threatened to commit suicide. I wrote a note to a friend, told him about how sad and lonely I felt, how I thought it might be better if I just didn’t exist.

I don’t remember if he meant to show anyone the note, but I do remember that one of my teachers found it. She went to the principal’s office with the note, and my parents were called in. They didn’t understand why I was so sad—but of course, I didn’t really understand either.

I was taken to my first counseling sessions after that. We had to drive half an hour to the closest therapist, because our little town didn’t have any mental health professionals. I don’t actually remember much about the sessions, though I was certainly more than old enough to have a good memory of them. Mostly what I remember is that it didn’t help much, but I pretended that it did.

I spent the rest of middle and high school hiding most of my anxiety and sadness, though there were still times it would rise to the top. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 17, and I had to take the test three times. Mostly, I was too nervous when someone else was in the car—but I also just hated driving. It frightened me. The bad stuff was usually explained away as PMS, or maybe just because I was a teenager, or maybe I was too emotional.

******

When I got to college, everything exploded. I took my first drink of alcohol during my freshman year, and I found that my thirst was difficult to satisfy. I drank too much. I smoked too much. I was too promiscuous. I dated men and women.

The social club I’d joined (which was much like a sorority) ordered me into counseling. I went to a session or two, but I wasn’t really ready to talk, and in any case the focus seemed to be on how much I was drinking instead of why I was drinking so much. The club told me I couldn’t come back without going to counseling. I told them to fuck off, and I spiraled into more drinking, more sex, more fights with my friends and my off-and-on again boyfriend.

I’d reached a point where I felt anxious all the time, and I cried a lot. I saw a psychiatrist, who put me on anti-depressants for the first time and gave me a name for what I was feeling…Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

I always managed to keep good grades, and somehow I found myself preparing to go to graduate school, and then actually going, making a move that I promised myself would help me change things. I felt better than I had in ages.

******

When I was 24 and in the final stages of grad school, I returned home from a summer abroad and very soon thereafter conceived my son. There was pressure on all sides for me to marry before the baby was born—pressure from the people who had been helping me pay bills while I was in school and who would be helping me while he was a baby, pressure that I couldn’t ignore.

And so, at 24 and four months pregnant, I married my off-and-on boyfriend and we moved in together. Our son was born 8 weeks early because I had preeclampsia, and he had to spend 5 weeks in the NICU. After pregnancy and 6 months of pumping-breast-milk-because-the-kid-wouldn’t-latch, I returned to my anti-depressant regimen under the care of a general practitioner.

My son’s father and I didn’t live together a full year before I asked him to move out. The relationship had always been tempestuous, and we knew we did not want to raise our child with both of us so unhappy, so we didn’t.

I returned to graduate school to work on a PhD, and I moved back into my parents’ house. It was only an hour from my university, and my retired mother was willing to stay with my son during my classes and while I was teaching. I stopped drinking, and I mostly stopped smoking. I tried counseling again, but the cognitive behavioral therapy approach to my anxiety didn’t work. I continued on with the anti-depressants and the anti-anxiety medication cocktail, and it mostly worked.

*****

At 32, I live in New Orleans with my child and my second husband, an amazing man who I met at a birthday party for a college friend….Her older brother. I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink very often either. I left graduate school over a year ago.

But not long ago, I admitted to myself and my husband that the anti-depressants had stopped working, that they hadn’t been working for a while. And so I went to a new doctor. He gave me a new word for crazy: bipolar type 2 disorder. Looking at the criteria, the diagnosis is a far better one than MDD or GAD. The medication he prescribed works better. And so here I am, trying to get better.

Over the years, I’ve been called overly-empathetic, pathetic, emotionally unstable, emotionally manipulative, too emotional, bitchy, and a laundry list of other things that were code words for crazy–because I felt too keenly, cried too easily, and fought too hard. Because I panicked.

This new word is a better one, but a harder one to come to terms with. Another word for crazy. A real word. A difficult word. It’s not even a code word for crazy—but maybe that’s good, because I’m finished with code words.