Giving Thanks

Here is the day of giving thanks, and I know so many of you are exhausted or disgusted or both, but I feel so profoundly appreciative despite my sadness and frustration and honestly, my outright expectation of gloom, that I needed to note the things in the world that don’t suck.

First, to my mom and grandma who cooked and cleaned and managed the shit out of Thanksgiving Day for my giant family, extended family, invited and loved guests, and anyone who dined at our table. I didn’t know then how much you gave or how much it was worth, and I’m profoundly indebted to your graciousness and service. So many Thanksgivings, so many complicated memories, and they were all inspired and built on the work you did. I can’t even comprehend your beauty or your motivation.

To my queer community, who know firsthand what brutal times we’re living in, and who go on, every goddamn day, to bring peace and light and less shame to all of the souls in this world: thank you for your leadership, your guidance, and your friendship.

My friends of color: you bring all of the things all of the time and I don’t really understand how or why, but you do, and you are life. Thank you.

To my fellow politicos, who run for office or who get out the vote or who do whatever you think is right for our democracy (whatever of it still exists), thank you for believing in a system that so often doesn’t seem up to your faith in it.

My wife, of course, because she is magical and kind of like a unicorn except when she’s a beautiful, tired, exhausted draft horse who just keeps on keeping on and brings joy to everyone who sees her and knows her.

To my fellow artists who seek truth and beauty and honesty and decadence and all the other things that are good in this world — especially those things that aren’t recognized as good at all.

To my students, present and past and future: thank you for worrying about me. When nothing else seems real, your respect for me and what I do absolutely does.

Thank you to the trans community for never, ever pretending not to be broken. You have no idea what you’ve meant to me. With every moment of clarity, of loneliness, of euphoria and sadness, you bring something incredible to the world, to my world. Thank you for trusting me.

Right now I am thankful for anyone who understands that kindness is power, that truth is difficult, that being who you are and what you are is both the most complicated and liberating thing in the world.

Do the good thing, do the kind thing, do the just thing. And every day give thanks that you can.

Love to you all.

A Year

Last year on May 19th, my mom died at the age of 86 on what would have been my father’s 88th birthday.

Here they are being about as much as a 1950s couple from Brooklyn it is possible to be.

I miss them both so much.

The First Year Without

I was going to wait to post this on the first anniversary of my mother’s death, but I know so many of you out there who are missing your moms today – whether it’s your first mother’s day without her or your 20th – so I wanted to share this to say: I see you. I know. I’m not really sure how I’ve survived this year but you fellow sufferers have been particularly helpful. A special big bunch of love to Ade & Hanna for having been so tender with me.

You don’t always make the best decisions in the wake of a death. Sometimes you have sex with someone you’ll never have sex with again because it seems like he right thing to do. You might drink too much. You might spend too much money on clothes or dye your hair a new color or get a tattoo. You might decide you’re working in the wrong industry all together and quit your job or move clear across the country.

You might sit in your room at 3AM and watch Deep Space 9 for 4 hours solid.

You might wonder about that guy you dumped 25 years ago and wonder, too, how it was you managed to keep sleeping with him despite your inability to agree with him about anything and realize you haven’t had sex that good since then. Nearly, in some instances, but not.

You might surprise yourself by spending an hour digging out your middle school yearbook only to remember when you’re shoulder deep in boxes sitting half in and half out of your closet that you lost that particular yearbook years ago.

You might wonder if your mom got buried with that ring she found that she was convinced he’d bought her for Christmas that year but that you were convinced he’d bought for their 60th anniversary which he didn’t make it to.

You wonder whether or not you will be younger or older than your mother when she gave up on living.

You wonder how it is she didn’t remember the entire year after her husband died, and you wonder if you’ll remember this year that’s now ending. You are pretty sure you don’t want to.

You stop dead in the street when you see a cardinal in a tree. You try to remember what that means and in what culture it means it. It’s a sign that your loved one is nearby, but is that in some symbolic sense, or is the cardinal supposed to be some reincarnated version of your loved one? Are cardinals always representatives of dead people, or are they just birds sometimes? Because I live where they live so either I’m being plagued by dead people or it’s just spring where I live.

You eat whatever you feel like eating. A muffin for dinner seems reasonable. A turkey pot pie for breakfast is also reasonable.

You work out in a regimented, unenthusiastic way but discover after four weeks that you can actually do 100 pushups, that it worked, but you don’t really care of feel any sense of accomplishment.

You feel disposable.

You wonder when someone tells you that you look beautiful whether or not they can tell you’re dead inside, too, or if being dead inside is part of what makes you beautiful.

You remember every disappointment, every betrayal; every loss from a death reminds you of 15 other losses; that guy who said he’d be there for you but who wasn’t there for you once you weren’t sleeping with him, OR the guy who was there for you but who wasn’t after he realized you wanted to sleep with him.

You save muffin wrappers for your old cat who has discovered an explicable joy in muffin wrapper licking.

You drink too much.

You wonder if you think about your mom being dead too much, enough, or not enough. You wonder if you have unresolved feelings about her even though you’ve spent most of your life realizing unresolved feelings for her.

You think about the joy on her face when she gave you your first bike.

You think about that really terrible jacket she gave you for Christmas one year, a jacket so horrendous you checked the tag on the present in hopes that you’d mistakenly opened someone else’s present because please god let no one who loves me think I would like that horrible jacket. You remember your sister watching you try to surreptitiously check the tag from across the room and how she tried to stifle her laughter while you calmly put the jacket back in the box and hoped that no one else saw any of that.

You wonder if that guidance counselor who asked your mother if you were in a cult because you were wearing African mask earrings is still asking parents stupid shit like that. Your mother bought you the earrings, of course.

You wonder if you will ever stop feeling sad.

You wonder if the friends who are there for you are there because they like you or because they feel bad for you.

You wonder if people who really like and admire you are just deluded and whether their feelings for you would be the same if they knew how you spend your time alone.

You wonder if now, with both parents dead, there is some astonishing reality about yourself you are about to uncover. You hope there is. You hope there isn’t.

You think about calling or emailing someone who really let you down to give them what-for.

You listlessly scroll down Facebook liking everything and posting dumb comments or you listlessly scroll down Facebook wondering why people spend so much time on really dumb shit.

You wake up, as if from a trance, after watching 20 minutes of goat videos. You do not feel better, but you are sure you do like goats.

You wonder if your cats can tell when the dead are visiting and simply choose not to notice them or inform you that they are present. Occasionally you are certain they can see the ghost of your loved one right behind your head because they are obviously staring at something that is just to the left of your right ear.

You assume that other people maybe don’t have as much sexual regret in their lives or that they have a lot more or that for some people sadness doesn’t mean reexamining your sexual orientation, your sexual choices, or excoriating yourself for not sleeping with that very cute woman when you could have. She wanted you. You were scared she wanted a girlfriend. You couldn’t be her girlfriend so you didn’t sleep with her but you wonder if you should have anyway and whether you really should stop considering every last ethical ramification of every possible flirtation, crush, or love affair you’ve ever had.

You wonder if there is anyone in the world who might understand how it feels to hear your mom’s voice on your voicemail still, her beautiful singsongy way of talking, the message she left you only a week or so before she died. You are still amazed at how much she radiated happiness on the phone even when she wasn’t, and how, when you were a kid, she could go from screaming about what a mess this place is to answering the phone with the joy and melody of a bluebird as if she had become a different person in that split second.

You realize you will never hear her say anything new again to you. She won’t see any of the new clothes you just ordered online. But you’re happy she did see that you finally found the perfect raincoat and that a year later you still love it.

You wonder if anyone knows that you kept your hair blue for a year because it was the last color she saw it. No one would have noticed if you’d worn black every day. You know she would appreciate you taking the time to live out this Catholic rite even if it was with blue hair instead of black clothes. You know she would especially like that because she especially liked you.

You wonder if you remember the rosary and if it really would make you feel any better as she insisted it would so many times in your life. Your grandmother did, too, and you wonder how long she’s been dead because once you’re mourning your parents every ghost of your life pays a short visit at least once. It feels like there’s a party but everyone at it is a dead person you’re only remembering.  You don’t even bother to try to find the rosary she left you.

Here is the blanket my grandma crocheted. Here are my mom’s pajamas I wore when I slept in her assisted living facility with her. Here is my father’s sweater which is still surprisingly cooler than almost every other sweater I own.

You don’t clean the catboxes as often as you should and you don’t clean the house ever except for every once in a while when you realize you have to clean something because you have no idea what is clean and what isn’t. You do the bare minimum which is even less than what the bare minimum used to be.

You take a lot of baths or you forget to bathe for days at a time and then having to try to remember when you last took a bath as if the difference between 3 or 4 days ago is somehow not negligible. If you realize it’s only been 3 you decide you can wait another day. You come to all the same conclusions a day later because memory is no longer your strong suit and you walk around on a lot of Wednesdays thinking it’s Tuesday and vice versa.

You become certain that taking a probiotic/vitamin C/valerian/fish oil/whatever really has made a difference in your health.

You say “I hate children” with a hint of rage even though you don’t actually mean it and regret it for weeks and wonder if you should explain that you really don’t to the person you said it to or if that would be protesting too much. It’s not children, anyway, it’s how sticky they are and how the world revolves around them that you hate. You decide to explain what mourning is like to that person who you told you hated children to so that they can realize you’re just full blown crazy. You add a smiley face to the email as if that will make you seem less crazy though the opposite is probably true.

You wonder again about unresolved issues.

You can’t seem to fake a smile or even work up the energy for anger, your most stalwart emotion. You feel mean and unapologetically so except the next day when you wish you could be a nicer more upbeat person.

You realize no one wants to have sex with a sad person, not even you.

You wonder why so many people like Klingons so much when they’re just so patriarchal.

Robin Williams was once told that coke makes you more like yourself and so asked, “but what if you’re an asshole?”  Mourning is the same as coke, then.

You know you’re fine especially when you aren’t at all.

I still don’t know how to do this, to live in a world where the woman with the brightest voice and the brightest smile who was fearful in a way that made her so old and yet gave you a glimpse into how she must have been when she was 7 is dead. I am still in that room with her, sitting and holding hands with her, the TV on or off, the trees and flowers blooming outside as she lay dying in the spring. She loved spring so much but the sun on her face almost hurt her skin at the end, and the cool breeze was an affront that no sweater could ameliorate.

She was already in mourning the whole time I was waiting to be.

I am pretty sure I don’t know how to do this and probably never will. I am also sure I will be doing this for the rest of my life in one way or another.

Tomboys, Gender Non Conformity, & Trans Identity

A few more thoughts about that NYT tomboy article, the various rebuttals, and my post from yesterday.

I have to own that I wanted that mom to be right. For starters, because the world is transphobic and I am too – not because I mean to be but because it’s so easy to be so. It’s how the world is structured.

For example, some folks immediately objected to my using ‘he’ pronouns for this child, but only trans people objected to the child being referred to as ‘she’. And I think that’s precisely because most people still think biology is destiny, and thinking the child’s gender assignment at birth is more natural than the child being trans is, basically, transphobic.

Any assumption that the child being a trans boy is a worse or ‘less real’ outcome than the child being a tomboy is also transphobic.

While all of that may or may not have caused me to be cheering on this tomboy, it’s way more than that, too.

What was disappointing about that article is the way she presented trans and GNC as if they are mutually exclusive opponents of some kind. They are not.

The thing is, I want company. I’ve been gender non conforming in one way or another for most of my life; even when I was as feminine as I could manage – and I tried, I swear I tried – I was often assumed to be a lesbian. These days, when people know that me or my wife is trans, they assume I’m the trans one — though I’m honestly never clear which direction they think I’ve gone/am going in, to be honest. I’m personally thankful that the trans movement has made my own liminally trans/GNC gender a little more legible, but as a result I face another dilemma: people assume I’m trans because I’m GNC.

And that’s the nut of why I and so many others wanted that mom to be both honest and right: because gender non conformity is policed all the time, and it seems sad that the only way to convince others that your gender non conforming behavior or appearance is real is to identify as trans yourself. Gender stereotypes and gender role enforcement are bullshit for everyone whether you’re trans or not trans. A trans woman feeling forced to be stereotypically feminine is as bullshit as a non trans woman who experiences the same patriarchal pressure.

Here’s the thing: I know I’m not trans. Some crossdressers know they aren’t. For the same reasons we trust trans people to know their own gender identities, we know what ours are too. And mine just isn’t binary or nameable or whatever. Sometimes I like Ursula LeGuin’s “bad man” idea. Other times I remember I produce more testosterone than most people born with ovaries. I also choose not to identify as trans because I am married to my wife, who did transition, and who lives with a world of bullshit that I do not. That is, I don’t identify as trans because I respect the authority of the people who I know to be trans, and I am sure my experience is nothing like theirs. That is, I have cis(sexual) privilege, despite not being normatively gendered.

I really shouldn’t even have to explain that but I feel, often, that I do. I’m not trans because I’m not, just as my wife is trans because she is.

But right now my gender identity (GNC) and her gender identity (trans) are supposed to be part of the same big trans umbrella. Originally the word transgender was meant to be an inclusive term that included transsexual people (along with many others) but transgender has since supplanted transsexual and now that it’s been shortened to trans that’s even more true.

To explain: the definition of transsexual was, in the first place, meant to describe people who had pursued medical/legal/social transition. Transgender was supposed to enlarge and expand that, to include those who couldn’t medically transition or to cover those who were socially dysphoric but not body dysphoric, etc. So it’s awesome that we have an expanded sense of what trans is except that it really isn’t. The thing is, almost every visible trans person is not only transitioned, but they are usually and often binary transitioners (meaning they go from people who are assigned one gender at birth who live as the “opposite” gender after transition). As a result, transgender often effectively means transsexual, even though we don’t use the latter term much at all anymore. The umbrella has collapsed, where every other version of trans that isn’t transition has become ‘less than’.

As many genderqueer, non binary, gender fluid, gender non conforming people, crossdressers, drag queens, sissies and tomboys will tell you: when we don’t claim big umbrella trans it’s because trans is also policed, and only those who choose either binary or medical/legal/social transition are considered truly trans. As another piece explains well, it’s really as if cis/trans has become the next binary, or an emerging binary, except that I’m not entirely sure who’s supposed to be on which side.

So that’s why I don’t identify as trans. I use “gendery” because it seems more accurate. I have a lot of gender(s), and some of them are visible and available all the time and some of them come and go. I was a tomboy as a kid.

What we’re left with, really, is a problem, and perhaps the biggest unspoken wish when I was reading that tomboy article: not only do I want company, but I want to BE, and so do a whole bunch of people like me. And while it’s true that many trans people are open to the idea of others being GNC, I’m not really sure we’re considered real, not by anyone, actually, trans or cis alike.

The reality is that trans people are FAR more comfortable with gender non conforming people than cis people are. There is no trans agenda that “encourages” children to transition. But I’d argue that transphobia is itself the reason that people may want gender non conforming children to transition or for adults who are NB to “choose one or the other” (as if there are only two). Trans/cis is not a particularly useful binary for those of us who aren’t either, exactly; I’ve written before about being cissexual but not cisgender.

Here’s the first clue: maybe a goddamned binary won’t work, because they never do.

I don’t want to feel forced to identify as trans in order for my gender to be recognized, and neither should any kid. So maybe instead of diagnosing this child, we should be thinking instead about how we make space for children and for people who are traditionally gendered or binary, those who are gender non conforming, and for those who are legally/medically trans. We can call it the gender trifecta. Trinities are always cooler than binaries anyway.

The thing is, this girl exists. This tomboy. The NYT author may have been lying or in denial or just transphobic, but even if this particular child is not a tomboy and is trans, that doesn’t mean that other tomboy isn’t out there. She is.

I was her. She is me. That child may also grow up to be a man, a gender normative woman, or any number of other gender choices. What I hope she won’t be is hostile to trans people of any stripe: this is not a contest between; it’s a distinction among. That child is the reason I’m a loud and proud trans advocate; not because I don’t believe in trans people, but because I do: I live right next door.

(much thanks to Paisley Currah and Erica Foley for providing the space and pressure to work out these ideas.)

What Comes Back

It’s been a long year of so many losses, but in a sense, this start of spring, the undoing of wintry death, reminds us too of what won’t come undone just with the passage of time, that some things, and some people, will stay dead, but that other things are still on their way, incoming bits of beauty that are awaiting just the right ray of sunshine to make their appearance known to us.

My mom loved the spring because she loved trees and plants and flowers in ways that I never really understood; she could be moved to tears at the right bud on the right flower making its way through the ground. She loved babies too, of all kinds, and I regret that she never did get to see spring in Wisconsin, the baby bunnies and baby raccoons and ducklings all in the midst of this powerful, powerful green. It’s a little overwhelming for a city kid, and my allergies are a fucking wreck, but it’s still so profound every year, the way this place comes back to life after being so frozen and so cold and so gray for months and months and months.

A former student wrote to me with doubt about writing his life with a lush mother and too many bad bedrooms of his childhood. In the context of Syria, he said, who cares about my bullshit? And you know? Sometimes all we have are the human-sized losses, the ways that we can mourn what we did have and what we never had, to remember that love for each other on the day to day is the only thing that counts.

Some days I am merely thankful that my parents are not here to see what we are doing to each other in the name of freedom and peace. MOABs bring neither, but watching out for each other on a small scale might.

Keep the faith, folks. The world is already a better place than it seems to be sometimes, and so often, good things have to hibernate or disappear in order to come back.

Baby and Bathwater

There is a tendency, I think, for those of us whose goal is creating a world that is a little more self aware of sexism, racism, transphobia, and the rest, to dismiss writers and artists based on a single opinion, utterance, work of art, song, etc.

  • Is all of Kate Bornstein’s work necessarily discredited because she defended the use of the T word?
  • Is all of Dan Savage’s work for shit because of his denial of bisexual existence and/or his transphobia? 
  • Is there any delicacy in recognizing that there was a moment in time in which being “trans amorous” was a radical and trans-positive position? 

I think about this stuff because a lot of what I’ve written over the years could be interpreted as transphobic now, or, at the very least, problematic. Some of it was at the time, too. I am not, nor have I ever been, a ‘respect your elders’ sort of person, but I’m also pretty turned off by the complete lack of historical context some seem to exist in, as if fine-tuned arguments about the nature of transphobia haven’t been happening all along: As if we didn’t debate ‘transgender’ vs ‘transgendered’. As if no one has ever called themselves a transvestite proudly. As if…

To some degree, it’s one of the reasons I feel myself not wanting to write another book about anything trans related; for starters, I think it was useful for a cis feminist liminally trans type like myself to do the work that I did at the time, but now? I think transness is in good hands for the most part, although I’m happy to pipe in when and where it’s needed.

But mostly I feel myself stymied by the idea that anything I might put into the public sphere now would be so roundly shot down on a technicality that it’s really just not worth the effort. I prefer hanging out in this tiny corner of the internet doing my thing, being read by folks who appreciate what I do, and talking to people one on one who might need some help finding resources or the like.

I’m tired of people who have opinions but who don’t do anything or create anything or legislate anything. I feel more much occupied by the work and much less interested in the debate.

Maybe it’s an older vs. younger activist sort of thing and I’m officially middle-aged, but from here on in I feel like I’m going to be asking a lot more questions of critics far and wide: well, what have you done? Who have you helped? Have you created, or tried creating, anything of lasting value? In a sense it’s an age-old problem: This doesn’t satisfy, says the critic; So what have you got? says the artist.

And out goes the bathwater, baby and all.

Working Women

This is my grandma. She was a janitor for a building in midtown, a proud 32 B/J union member, a single mom, and a survivor of domestic violence. The only day she called in sick to work was the day my sister Kathy graduated from NYU because she was the first in our family to do so.

My mother worked as a bank teller, as a cashier, in my sister’s bakery, all while raising 6 children and a grandchild. I don’t remember her ever sitting down when I was a child.

My eldest sister was the first professional woman I knew. She used to come home and hang her dry cleaning in the front hall, and those clothes always seemed to me like a passport out of the shitty part-time jobs the women in my family often had. She has supported nearly every single member of my family financially at one time or another.

My second sister owned her own bakery – working there was my part time job through high school and into college – and went on to get numerous degrees and just returned, at 53, to law school. She raised three kids solo, and now she specializes in disability rights.

My first jobs were babysitting, a newspaper route – I was one of only two girls who delivered papers, a baker’s assistant, a video store clerk, a writing tutor, a canvasser for environmental/consumer legislation, an admin, and now, an educator.

We have never been paid a dollar for a dollar’s work. 

To the working class women in my family, and in my world: thank you.

 

 

 

To You

To all you beauties out there, you courageous resisters, you brick in hand angry queerios, you who are frightened but putting your boots on anyway, and for all of you, too, who are scared to death or who can’t stop crying and who are pretty sure you really can’t do this:

Remember your body. It’s going to be fucking with you. Every little fault line you’ve got, every weakness, whether it’s a lousy appetite or bad sinuses or a serious chronic condition. Your body is going to be yelling at you. Just remember your body feels all of the feels for you. None of us us are getting very good sleep, food has gone bland, and nothing is funny. It’s okay. It’s a hard time.

However you do it, take care of your beautiful selves. You can take it. I promise you can. We’re all going to feel physically bad because we are worrying about a lot. Engage your brain when that feels better. Indulge your body when that does. Honestly, I find myself shouting with tears in my eyes. There will be no consistency of emotion, no way to process, everything is coming at us too fast. That’s intentional on their part, but we’re complicated the way all beautiful things are: you can be furious and terrified at the same time, broken by the gorgeousness of a sunset and full of rage simultaneously.

If there is anything we can do, it’s feel deeply. That’s where our politics come from. Drink deeply. Love deeply. Allow this historical moment to find how intense your emotions can be, to find where that stark skeletal core of you is.

You are made of the sternest stuff, I promise. Keep on. Almost everyone around you feels the same way right now, unaware of what you might say, scared you might start crying while you’re laughing, unable to take even the slightest reprimand or even teasing from a friend but also desperate for it. You want to hug everyone even when you want to be alone, under the covers, with the vice of your choice. Take that time when you need it too. Eat all the motherfucking chocolate. Buy the good vibrator (but don’t be surprised, either, if your libido is on overdrive or dead in the water, or, on alternating days, both.)

We can do this. It’s okay to be scared when you’re sad, okay to be angry when you’re confused, okay to be tired every single minute of the day.For my fellow punk rockers out there: this is our time. We know how to do this. Live on rage, keep it moving forward, invent anything you need. DIY and fuck the lot of them. We got this.

Fight for the person next to you who maybe isn’t as strong or just isn’t up to it right now. They’ll do the same for you. Love to you all.

Not a Temper Tantrum

 

Yesterday, I saw that a relative of mine had posted this just as I was putting my photos of the Madison rally up. I was full of love and confidence and strength, so seeing this was like a punch in the gut. So I wrote this person a letter. 

I saw your post today when I got back from the Madison march and it was like a punch to the gut. Because you’re family, and because I think you are both people who believe in love and kindness and charity, I really want to explain, if I can, what this was all about.

To me, yesterday was such a thing of beauty, and it makes me sad that you live in such a way that you can’t see it or feel it. It was like the very best church, the best picnic, the best party, all rolled into one.

I’m not sure I can ever relate how scary it’s been if you don’t feel that too. But for us, Trump is at best a bully, the kind you might have had to deal with yourselves in school and the kind you’d never want your kids to have to deal with. The stuff he’s said, the way he made fun of that reporter: I think it brought a lot of us back to a person or a time in our lives when we were made to feel afraid for being who we were. Maybe we knew what other people were making fun of. Maybe we didn’t even understand why we were being targeted. But we know the feeling of being afraid and alone in the face of a violent, mean bully, and we know how it feels to shake while you try to stand up for yourself.

And yesterday was a day when all of our friends showed up in that abandoned hallway where we’d been cornered, a day when that one kind teacher you could count on sent the bully away.

We know he’s not going anywhere. We know the bully is in charge now. We know a lot of us are going to get hurt, feel scared, and have our lunch money stolen.

In a sense, that’s all it was: just a brief pause to remind ourselves that eventually, enough of the kids who have been bullied do band together and punch back.

I’m glad if you’ve never needed that.

I’m glad for you if you’ve never experienced that.

I’m glad if it’s something none of your kids has ever faced.

I’m not going to get into the politics but I am going to say one thing: in everything I’ve been reading it seems obvious that we are all getting different information, that fake news sources are out there confirming the most extreme of what we all believe. But my request is this: don’t just laugh at us. Don’t just mock our fear and our anger. Find out what it is. Find out why we’re scared, who stands to lose rights, who is worried about their health insurance, whose marriage may be at risk, whose bodies, whose choices. We are not scared of nothing: queer folks, black folks, disabled folks, trans folks, immigrants – we face fear all the time. This is scarier than usual.

And while I’m sure, at some basic level, the differences between us are about the differences in politics – Republicans believe charity should be a private affair, and Dems feel that a government’s job is to provide care for the least able of us – I’m not sure I understand why or how anyone could laugh at a basic American right to protest, to gather, to remind ourselves that “we the people” doesn’t mean only those of us who can work or marry or bear children, doesn’t mean only the white, the straight, and the able-bodied, but all of us.

This is written in kindness, and with a hope that I might slow down your frustration and mockery of what yesterday was. I wish you could have been there. I wish you could have felt the love and the trust and the incredible feeling of community. It was amazing.

Don’t be the dwarves in The Last Battle. Come join the rest of us in Narnia. Onwards and Upwards.

Love, me

Thankful

This year it is a little harder to be thankful because of the worry in my heart and in my head. I’ve had nightmares for weeks now, and I see how utterly deflated and shattered so many people I love look. The joking on Facebook and in person all feels a little hollow, a little forced, but I’m glad for it all the time. So let me do this little thing, take the moment to see what is, what isn’t yet, what may never be.

I am thankful tonight to have been invited to a thanksgiving dinner by queer friends with their families. I am thankful to have a too-full belly, a warm house, a life companion, and four bundles of fur who share my home. I am thankful I will see more people I care about on Saturday.

I am thankful for the right to dissent.

I am thankful for the social justice activists in my life, especially the elders who haven’t lost hope and who know how to buckle down and get things done. I’m thankful for those younger than me, their energy and fire and keen sense of justice.

I am thankful for those who went to Standing Rock to support the Protectors, and I am very, very thankful for the Protectors.

I am thankful to have time to sit down and think about what I’m thankful for, that I am not so overworked that all I can do with my time off is sleep and eat.

I am thankful to have people in my life who look to me to help them through, and I am thankful for those who get me through in turn.

I am thankful for the love and support people have shown my wife as she embraces a new adventure.

I am thankful to have the memory of the decent people who raised me, my mother and father and grandmother, all of whom I miss every family holiday, but in whose memory I try to make the world a little less mean and a little less scary. I am thankful that both my parents exited this world while Obama was president, and that they were the kind of people who were overjoyed that we had managed such a remarkable thing.

I am thankful for anyone and everyone who has made room for me at their table in this place where I have no family but my wife. I am thankful for everyone who is gracious in being alone or lonely this holiday, and my heart goes out to you. I am thankful to the older man who walked by my house today, who I wished a happy thankgiving to, and who looked at the heart in my window and smiled and winked back at me.

I am thankful for all of you who have had to gather your resources and senses in the past few weeks, who have tried to understand what happened, who have called on me and others like us not to give in to despair. I am thankful for every hug offered or requested.

There are so many things to be thankful for. May we all remember in these coming months that we have enough for everyone to have a little peace and a little joy.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Fuck the Fear.

Fuck the fear. I’m not having it.

It is obvious tonight that America is not ready for the future, for progress, for inclusion. America just pushed back, and hard.

I was born of the white working class and raised by my anti racist, Catholic parents who were born in the middle of the great democratic experiment known as New York City.

And I am worried about the fears of white working class people – Christians and heterosexuals, for the most part – who are scared about the changes, who are scared of people like me and my wife, who are scared of Obama and smart black people, who are scared of faggots and immigrants and Muslims.

It’s because they don’t know us. It’s because they don’t know there is a way to live, to create community and art and love and ethics and beauty despite difference. They don’t know the awesome world we live in, and instead, they live in fear of who they think we are instead of who we actually are.

I have been white and heterosexual and Christian and I was raised, like most of us are, to denigrate queer folks and non-Christians and non whites. So many of us were. What changed me? What changed any of us? It was having the opportunity to be put in situations where I realized fear was something that limited me, that made me mean in ways I didn’t want to be. It gave me faith in things that had nothing to do with my worth – my skin color, my sexuality, my dominance as a Christian American – and so I could make space to welcome more kinds of people, more kinds of living, more kinds of beauty and community.

I also know that marginalized people are who create the world, over and over again. I teach the idea that those of us who do not have dominant viewpoints know not only what we know but also what the dominant folks know: women know how men think because we have to, because it keeps us safe. Black people know how racist white people are because it can keep them alive. And what we know, all of us who live on some liminal edge in this culture, is that we are up against it all the time.

Nothing has changed. Patriarchy, white supremacy, American exceptionalism, homophobia, capitalism and its woes – all of those things were with us yesterday and are still with us today.

We will find ways to persist, to create, to love, to keep each other safe. We will find new ways to combat suffering, to bring beauty and peace to the world.

Because the world, after all, is ours: the underdogs, the marginalized, the hated, the feared.

We know who we are. We know what it means to love deeply, to need beauty, to feel compassionately.

Those are the things that defeat fear. Those are the things that create community, that push progresss, that allow us to live with meaning, to practice love and patience and empathy.

We are it, folks. And we will prevail. Fuck fear. Love deeply, make art, create community, and ORGANIZE. We are better than their fear of us.

And the rest of you? Who voted out of fear, out of racism and misogyny and who are terrified of change, who are so awash in your own arrogance that you can’t even see our humanity? Get over yourselves; the future is coming and your goddamn vote isn’t going to stave it off much longer.

The future is ours. Try to get used to it.

Five Years: August 8th

August 8th, 8am, relieved dad had survived emergency surgery on his aorta. The hospital staff sent mom home after we’d been up while she waited. We did the rosary together, which I had to look up on the internet because I’d forgotten. It made us both feel better. We both, at long last, went to bed after that overnight vigil.

August 8th, 10am, woke up and got the news that he’d died.

Every August 8th since, I’ve called her. Until this one.

 

The one thing I’m sure of is that mourning is fucked. It’s as if you’re okay all the time except you really aren’t there. It’s easier to be unhappy with how things are; it’s easier to be tired.

The hardest thing for me is feeling like nothing really means much at all. How could it? You spend your life bringing home good grades, good news, bad news, news – everything is about collecting apples in your skirt to show your parents that you are okay, that you love them, that you’re managing. So who now is there to show?

When my grandma died so many years ago, my mom and I bonded over that. When my father died we did again. But now, you know? There isn’t that person anymore, the one who is like me in their loss. My mom and I had that in common, and she knew how deep my pain gets. The last week I spent with her, she told me to go back to Wisconsin, to be with my students. She excused me from that pain of watching her dwindle, of watching her disappear. She talked mostly to my father, to other people who weren’t there; the line between her dreams and waking life softened, broke, until there was no line at all. There was so little blood moving her body the muscles of her mouth and eyes didn’t work; she would listen attentively but couldn’t get her eyes to stay open. All systems were failing.

For hours at a time I held her hand. I learned what temperature washcloths needed to be so she wasn’t shocked by the hot or the cold of them. She didn’t really remember any stories; instead, I told them to her and she nodded along. She lived a lot of trauma but a lot of joy, too. Her father used to beat her, her mother, her sister, until he died when she was 18. She helped her mother raise her two younger siblings, and at 20, she met a man whose own father had died when he was 18, who was also the eldest of three. That must have been one hell of a first date, or third, or whenever it was that they figured out that they had all that in common.

He asked her to marry him seven times before she said yes, and he wasn’t that kind of egomaniac. He was barely confident, and it’s always been a mystery to me that he managed to persist so stubbornly. He just knew she was his wife, I think, in a way that superseded any failing on his part or on hers.

I am relieved she doesn’t have to miss him anymore.

I am not relieved I will miss them both for the whole of the rest of my life.

Five years ago today the colors of the world changed for me. Nearly three months ago their brightness faded like old construction paper on a grammar school wall. Mourning is looking around at all the things and seeing absolutely nothing that’s there but only what they used to mean, how they used to feel before, how little they signify now. It is waiting to bestow things with meaning again and knowing it isn’t time yet if ever. There is this: what is beautiful is beautiful in ways it never was before, and what’s ugly doesn’t matter half so much as it once did. I’ve stopped caring if anyone likes me or calls me because most of the time people spend their time complaining about things that don’t matter at all.

My love to all of you who have lost all of the parents you ever had no matter who they were or how they were or what they were to you.

What You Can’t Know

I don’t know how to do this. I keep reminding myself that nobody does but I have decisions to make: when to go home, for starters. My 47th birthday is Friday; my great niece isn’t born yet. Everyone wants to know when, Dr. Perl said, but no one can tell you that. So how long do you stay in a room watching her snore, oblivious to your presence? How long is dutiful, how long to repay her for your own life? I put her folded laundry away, wash my own socks and underwear in the sink.

I read.
I try to decide.
I talk to my wife about what to do.
I try to concoct a plan to get my hair dyed blue.
I respond to emails from students: yes, you can have an extension on your paper.

Suddenly there are 24 hundred hours in the day, all of them weighing too heavily.

It’s not when I’ve done what’s right. It’s not even when I’ve done what’s right by me, or for her. It’s more – how do I wait? More, how do I do this with grace? It’s more: could I ever be okay with leaving knowing I might not see her again? It’s knowing I will most likely get the call once I’m back in Wisconsin, based on what odds there are.

It will never feel right to go now, no matter when now is. There is no way to be there when she chooses to slip away. I may just be washing my hands, or typing this thing.

There are no guarantees of anything at all but this forward-moving, inexorable time, all the time, and the living going on living and the dying going on dying. Death is a giant fuck you to control freaks like me.

There is no easy way to do this. There is a way to do this, but it’s wrong. Every way sucks. I am offended by death for being so much, so terrible, but also nothing more than the passage from one minute to the next. I told people after my father’s death that the colors of the world changed. Now, I worry they will blanch, fade, disappear altogether. There is still no way to imagine a world without him in it and yet here I am, in this unimaginable world. It is spring in New York. It is spring in Wisconsin. Somewhere in the light of my mom’s eyes it is still the spring of her own life. Somewhere in there she has just met my father. Somewhere in there they have just conceived me; somewhere in there she is watching them fold the flag in tribute to his service to his country.

And that’s what goes: another link in the long chain of human memory, another lifetime further away from the first person who heard recorded sound or who walked across the Brooklyn Bridge or rode a train or heard a violin played the very first time, a not endless but exhaustively long line of links that lead to the start of things.

There is no way to do this. I’ll do this, with grace or inelegantly, with composure or keening or denial. Joe Heller once said he felt better about dying once he realized people dumber than him had done it. The same is true for mourning, I guess.

I still don’t know when to go or how to go; I still don’t know how to do this.

Here we go.

To Jimmy

That day when you sat, looking tired and wan yet tanned by the sun, on that incline of lawn that sloped up to your house next to mine.

You told me you were sick.

You told me you got sick from the needles you used to do the drug you learned to do in the Army, a drug that let you escape those horrors, one doorway into hell replaced by an addictive other.

You told me in your way that you’d had some good life, the backyard parties of our families, our shared love of beach & brine & sun & sand. I didn’t know you were dying.

Before you died you re-painted your mother’s house and you painted JF high on the chimney I could see out my bedroom window. The other thing I could see was that beautiful pin oak, which was one of the only big trees to survive Sandy. I thought of you all the time when I lived there. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know when you died; just that one day you were there and then you weren’t, and no one told me about your wake or your funeral. They were sparing me something, I think, or maybe there was nothing for you. That’s how it was sometimes then.

Your mom, you know, became a powerhouse – not that she ever wasn’t – but for your sake she started the first support groups for families; she worked to dispel the myths; she demanded answers, research.

She laughed one day so hard in my family’s kitchen when she heard the lyrics

and I think that god’s got a sick sense of humor

when I die I expect to find him laughing

So hard she laughed, too hard maybe. She laughed like she wasn’t a good Irish Catholic lady for a minute. But she was, wasn’t she? So much faith, endless faith she had in the beauty of a laugh or a night with friends and other small charms this sick world offers, and all of that faith despite all of the misery she survived. She was my mother’s best friend. My mom still misses her.

She never met your brother’s child, her first and only grandkid. Your brother did come around, my mom tells me, eventually, to take care of your kid sister after your mom died.

We always felt a little guilty next door. We all lived, flourished in our ways, despite arrests and never enough money and our own invisible family traumas. Somehow we all made it, despite everything. Your eldest brother – that brother, who denied your mother the right of ever knowing her only grandchild – and your kid sister are all of you now.

Today is like that day I saw you – blue skies and a late spring sun, dandelions in grass that can’t grow fast enough.

I’ll be teaching students born years after you died about the disease that killed you tomorrow if I can manage. If I can I’ll tell them about you, but probably I’ll just put up a link so they can read this if they want to. I want them to know about your beat-up jeans and the blade of grass in your hand and in your mouth, your short auburn curls full on your young head. You were younger than I am now, so much younger. You were a picture then, and still are in my head, a young man who never asked why me but only longed, perhaps, for another day in the sun, another cold one, another clam on the half shell.

Just so you know, Jimmy, someone who owned your house finally painted over your initials, and since I noticed I’ve taken to writing or carving your JF where I can. You’re never forgotten, not while I live at least, and I think, I hope, that you’d appreciate that one of us Kramers breaks the law on your behalf as often as she can. I think that might make you laugh, and here I am now, laughing on your behalf but crying for you too.

You would have been 60 this year.  Godspeed and say hi to your mom.

b. May 17, 1956

d. August 14, 1989

Spoon Theory

I’ve been suffering with a lot of pain lately – I’m scheduled for back surgery next week – and I’ve come to relate very personally with a theory I learned via disability studies. It’s called the Spoon Theory, and the basic premise is this: for everything you do in a day, you expend a certain amount of energy and effort. For most people who are able-bodied, there’s an endless number of spoons, but for those with lupus and other conditions that leave them differently abled, there is a set number that they have to guard carefully in order to get through a day.

Here’s the original post about Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino.

It takes me twice as long to walk to work, for instance. Putting on socks is a kind of torture. I use up a lot of spoons doing ordinary, easy things, and because I’m on pain meds, I lose a few more spoons – not physical ones, but mental ones – loss of focus, inability to concentrate, etc.

I’ve been very lucky: having no chronic physical ailments, and mental health issues that have been helped by decent access to health care. But this recent injury has made me so much more aware of how much the world is designed for people who don’t need breaks to rest, who can sit or stand or walk or sleep when they need to, who don’t have to figure out how to manage limited energy and focus to get through an ordinary day.

I hope I don’t forget once I’ve recovered from my surgery, so that I keep working to make the world a little easier for those who carefully count, and guard, their spoons every single day.

For Bryn

I have not written about Bryn’s death because it knocked the stuffing out of me. We were not close friends, by any means; we knew each other the way two people who do trans work and live in Brooklyn know each other; she hung out with people we know, she dated someone we know, she was at things we went to.

But she was 10 years younger than us, part of a younger set of trans people we met through theatre and writing and activism; I used to say there was something in the water in our part of Brooklyn because it was as if everyone we knew was trans or dating someone who was.

And there is something about being a decade older than a lovely, bright, spiky, vivacious young person that makes you hope that their struggle will not be as hard, that they will find a way to make a good living and find love with someone who respects them, or, if they don’t, that they will find ways to make art that will allow them to feel loved and respected; that they will have friends to drink with and dress up with and at least have great sex with. But mostly, that they will live to be old, at least as old as you are, so that together you might end up at a party and look at the people a decade younger and wish together that their lives might not be as hard, that they will find a way to make a good living…

Bryn had both an old soul and a young, young heart. She was beautiful – the kind of beautiful you tried not to stare at – and she wore her beauty as if it was nothing important. I know it had to be because of the work she did – hair and makeup for others – and she seemed the same about her writing. My memory of her was that she had a “this old thing?” ready for any compliment paid her.

Then you read this, this big hearted, funny, sexy, deeply loving piece that she wrote to her fellow trans women, and you wonder how in the world we will get along without her voice:

“I love your profound insecurity. I love you even when you lash out at the world, at your loves, and at yourself. I love you when you’re hurting. I love the myriad forms your pain takes. I love how funny you can be when you’re ripping someone to shreds with your tongue. I love that when you observe something hilarious that no one else has noticed, because you’re so good at noticing the ridiculous. I email my love to you when you stop talking to anyone for three days. I love your wild and volatile sexuality. I love your quiet and conscious affection. I love your emotional acumen and your emotional black spots that you could drive a truck through. I love female energy, whatever the hell that is, all I know is that you got it. I love getting all our bodies and ourselves over the nitty gritty stuff that our bodies go through, and the ingenious methods we invent to access care. I love how we are each other’s best therapists and worst enemies. I love it when you embarrass me. I love it when you inspire me. I love it when you make me laugh. I love it when you read me the filth. I love it when you make yourself vulnerable. I love it when we feel safe with each other.” 

(You can watch her read this piece at the 33:27 mark of this video.)

I wish there had been something, anything, I could have done or anyone could have done to keep her with us.

Please, my beautiful trans peeps, grow old so that I can run into you at a party and we can look at the younger people in the room and hope against hope that their lives will not be so hard, so full of struggle, that they will find a way… Mostly I want to run into you at a party and wish, with you, that all the beautiful fucked up young people will live to grow old and join us in wishing that next bright generation a bright, smart, glamorous, sexy kind of peace.

Love to you Bryn. You took a piece of this skeptical, disappointed heart with you, and I’m sure you had no idea how many of us loved you. & Love to all of you who knew her well, who knew far better than me what kind of light we have lost. Please take care of each other, and please never ever think twice about reaching out to me if you need to.

Her memorial is on February 6th at Saint John the Divine at 7:30PM. I so wish I could be there. I am hoping those of us who can’t be there might spend the day reading her work, alone or to others, but if you haven’t, make sure you read her Other Balms, Other Gileads.

The Toe Rule for Allies

I’ve been working on trans issues as a non-trans person for long, long time, and there’s really one rule that I find the most useful. Not that I’ve always managed it, but still.

Here’s the deal: when you step on someone’s toe and they say “OW, damn, you stepped on my toe!”, your response is not:

“Why was your toe there?”

“I hardly stepped on it!”

“But I didn’t mean to!”

or even

“Why are you using that tone with me?”

No, when you step on someone’s toe you say “I’m sorry.”

So when you’re called out for being a dick in whatever way – and believe me, I’ve been called out a gazillion times – you check with the toe rule. If you’re responding initially with anything but “I’m sorry, what did I do?” then you’re not responding right.

That doesn’t mean the charge is always just. It doesn’t mean you meant to step on that person’s toe, or that you did it maliciously, or that you make a habit of stepping on people’s toes. You just did, and it’s better to say sorry and sort out the rest later.

Mad Us: The End of Mad Men

Mad Men isn’t about Joan or Peggy or Don or Betty or Roger or feminism or the 60s or NYC or advertising; it’s not about drinking or smoking or the clothes or the era.

It’s about mid-life and it’s for anyone who has woken up unhappy in some unnamable way after the age of 30. It’s for anyone who grew up knowing they were in for a bright future who woke up with a lot of things they wanted and some they didn’t and tried to get out from under this tremendous sense of disappointment. It’s for anyone who expected to live fiercely and die young who didn’t.

Don Draper is in his mid 30s when the show starts in 1960; it ends late in 1970. It is that decade – the decade of the midlife crisis, the U-curve. It’s the decade when you start to look around or are still in the middle of busily building your life – getting that job, the place to live, kids, spouse. It’s when you finally come up for air after aspiring to so much, of becoming an adult of whatever kind you are or avoiding becoming one altogether.

Is that all there is my friends? is what you ask. I have done these things, read these books, started my life, found love, lost it, found it again, with the same person or a new one, maybe settled for stable over passionate.

It is when your body first starts to tell you that maybe you drink too much or need to quit smoking but you don’t really feel old yet; it’s not until your 40s that you realize that perhaps that stiff knee is only going to get stiffer with time, that it’s never going to feel wholly better.

As a woman it’s the moment you realize you have probably already been the most attractive the culture will allow you to be – which has nothing whatsoever to do with how attractive you are, of course – but it’s also the moment when you realize you have some small authority in whatever your world.

You think about the plans you made and didn’t achieve and the ones you did and your friends’ plans and what they did and didn’t do. It’s when your friend who always wanted to be a writer becomes one and then realizes they got into it for all the wrong reasons or they got into it for the right reasons but those weren’t the ones that made them successful. It’s when the people who make money realize they need meaning and the people who have lived in the moment and for meaning realize they need some money.

It’s when you wonder if you should have married that guy you didn’t marry or whether that woman you did marry was the right one. It’s the decade when you realize you have young children and that your life is about them now, not so much about you, but it’s also the decade when you realize it never was about them but really about you – what you wanted to be as a parent and what you actually are. It’s about sitting on what it means not to be a parent when you realize you’re never going to be one.

It’s when you buy a metaphorical red sports car or dye your hair red or start running marathons even though you never have before.

That decade is when the sex you had in your 20s starts to look unnecessarily athletic and oddly unfocused. It’s when you wonder if you actually knew what turned you on and what didn’t and whether you actually ever experienced an orgasm the way you have more recently. It’s when you realize that getting older physically isn’t so much about your looks or gravity or love handles but about the quality of your skin. You look at young people and wonder if they know how dewy and newborn they look and why you didn’t realize that when it was true about you.

It’s the decade when people divide themselves into two groups – of those who have lost parents and those who haven’t, and the former group gets bigger every day, every month, and you wish it wouldn’t have to.

Mad Men is about all the bad choices that turned out to be great ones and the great ones that turned out to be delusions and the unwitting way you start to live more carefully even if you don’t intend to. It’s about being in love with the person you don’t have and resenting the person who loves you the most. It’s when wild celebrations start to hum with sadness and when sad things start to make you happy in ineffable ways.

Mad Men is about the people who give up everything to grasp some brass ring, about how things you know are going to go away actually do find a way to go away no matter how much you want to keep them. It’s about telling yourself that someone, somewhere has to be perfectly happy with the choices they’ve made and telling yourself that someone somewhere is a smug asshole who has only ever hurt other people.

It’s about owning what you’re ashamed of and what others shame you for; it’s about how you live out the ways that you’re broken.

It’s about how you let go of what you once had.

It’s about when you want others to be happy because someone should be.

It’s when you stop competing with everyone else and realize you’ve never cared about anyone’s opinion but your own, anyway.

Mad Men
is a story about growing up and growing old, about the deep faith of cynics and the cheap virtue of idealists.

It’s painfully American and remarkably well dressed. It’s about happiness being that thing you have until you need more happiness. It’s about knowing which is the temporary bandage and which is the permanent wound.

It’s about knowing that that is all there is and that’s more than you ever dreamed was possible.

So let’s keep dancing.

Birthday.

So it is mine, today. My 46th. & As many of you know, I share it with my wife: we were born the same year, on the same day, but in two different states (and to two different sets of parents, of course).

There’s something about aging as a writer that makes you more impatient for your own time, so yesterday’s awesome response to my summer writing fund has cheered me immeasurably. I’m so thrilled that so many have responded so kindly, with suggestions for the kinds of things I might offer if I do that IndieGoGo campaign, but mostly because it means people want to read my next book.

I worry, you know, about being this odd cis person writing about trans issues. I don’t like to step on toes and try to follow most of the rules about being a good “ally” – and I put that in scare quotes because I don’t really feel like that. Lately I’ve been using “co conspirator” because it feels a lot more accurate.)

But thank you, all of you. The donations have been awesome & I hope they keep coming so I can stop worrying – that’s really the thing more than anything: getting more distracting thoughts out of your head so the writing can happen unimpeded. I’m really looking forward to surprising you all with what I come up with. This book, more than the others, feels important to me.

Do feel free to spread the word: every little bit counts. & In the meantime, I’m going to start my 46th year.

Anti Cop?

One of the issues that always comes up when police brutality becomes visible – as it has been consistently for this past year – and especially when that police brutality is expressed racially – is that somehow being for justice and against racism makes a person anti-cop.

I grew up white working class so I grew up with men (and maybe some women) who became cops. They were good guys, brave guys, often guys who weren’t scared of a whole lot. They have my unending respect for being willing to step up and try to do some good in the world. Some of my crossdressing friends are police officers or are in other law enforcement. I went to HS with a federal agent whose job scares the fuck out of me, but I’m glad he’s the kind of smart, brave man who can do it.

I’ve worked with the Appleton PD on quite a few occasions. A few of them I count as friends but certainly as colleagues in community building. We throw everything, as a culture, that we don’t want to deal with at them – racism, poverty, domestic violence, addiction, theft, and – as was pointed out to me recently – all of the mental health issues our system isn’t acknowledging, much less dealing with. They are given precious few resources to “solve” a whole swath of problems, and if we listened to compassionate police more about what is needed, we’d hear a lot about educational opportunity, community participation, access to mental health services, even social justice. They know it. They see it.

But I really really dislike having it assumed that as someone whose heart breaks over the broken spine of a young, poor, disenfranchised man of color in Baltimore that somehow I don’t care about cops. I’ve personally had both good experiences — I am, after all, white, currently middle class & newly middle aged — and not so good ones (because I am also queer, female, and have been, many times in my life, a protestor). That is, I am assumed to be on the side of law & order because of some of my identity, and assumed to be suspect because of other parts of myself.

Freddie Gray had pretty much of nothing about him that told the cops he might be on the side of law & order. We create these binaries of identity, assume kinds of legitimacy or don’t, but the issue is that we tend to put an awful lot of muscle and guns and power on the side of those who have more power.

To me the issue isn’t the cops the same way the issue isn’t the media. Both are reflections of our current systems of order and power – who, in a nutshell, is assumed to be okay, who is assumed to be a good citizen, who might be given a second chance, and who gets the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is, poor people live in public. Their lives are, as a result, seen more easily, examined more closely, judged more often. Mental health issues go untreated – even undiagnosed. Addiction likewise.

And so we send in the cops to clean up the messes we’ve created, created not because we’re bad people, not because we’re Republican or Democrats, but that we’ve created in letting these systems that assume some people are okay and some people aren’t, often based on their gender or orientation or race or immigration status.

But no, the fault is not often with the police except for when they – as their own community – protect and defend practices that prey on the least of us. And the least of us, in the US, are still black and poor with less access to good educations, who are often living in families rife with addiction, mental health, disability, and untreated and undiagnosed medical conditions. And maybe it’s because sometimes it’s obvious to me that the only thing separating me and them, my family’s ancestors from theirs, is the color of my skin.

Stay safe, Baltimore: and by that I mean not just the protestors but the police too.