I have huge feelings and I sometimes feel alienated when most people around me appear impervious. It bothers me. It took so long for me to see the misogyny in our culture and begin to cultivate this capacity for feeling. There are so many messages that say such things should be masked, which is like trying to subdue a superpower. For me breaking down and crying in public is the best way to fight the misogyny. Not going to hide a great power just to make other people comfortable.
radfam is a discussion group in minneapolis where you don’t have to justify your definition of family. the nuclear, biological family is not the norm here. instead, we are interested in promoting individual autonomy in defining what family means. we discuss issues that are at the intersection of families and social justice. we are committed to supporting reproductive justice, queer politics and radical family planning, recognizing that these are concepts to be talked about and negotiated in community. we we are interested in including, not excluding you so if there is something in this blog that raises a question for you or if you'd like to make
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excerpts from a blog post that helped me a lot today:
I particularly remember a time when Ezekiel was despondent, hurting, and feeling like transition was impossible after some interactions he had had out in the world. I tried to help, and he told me he was ready to throw in the towel and forget about it. I got very angry. I felt like I had been doing a lot of work and he was ready to throw that all away because of something someone said. That incident blew over, and things got better. The changes slowed down to a manageable pace eventually, and now we are almost never on that roller coaster.
I like viewing a lot of the work of transition through the concept of gender labor, which is “the work of bolstering someone’s gender authenticity, but it is also the work of co-producing someone’s gender irony, transgression, or exceptionality” (see this paper, p. 237). I did hours, days, weeks, and months of work helping Ezekiel to craft and inhabit the gender that he now lives. I still do that work each and every day. I lived between worlds with him, using two sets of names and pronouns for the months in which that was needed. I reinforced and bolstered his male identity when he felt it was weak or threatened. I talked him through dysphoria and despair.
All of this is real labor, and partners need support during that labor. Unfortunately our beloved partners may not be able to be that support, in part because of the heavy lifting they are doing. I am lucky in that Ezekiel and I came into this journey with years of good communication and close connection to fall back on. But even with that, at some low point during transition I felt alone, and wrote “I don’t think I knew how important Ezekiel’s support was for me in this process until I suddenly didn’t have access to him anymore.” (I got him back!)
We all have to navigate these challenging waters in our own way. I haven’t found other people whose experience of transition is the same as my own, but I have learned a lot by listening to other partners of trans* people. But those narratives are hard to find, and the glimpses that we get of trans* partners are usually about the devastating nature of the experience. That is not my experience of transition. I see it as hard, but not harder than other challenges my spouse and I have faced. I see it as initially shocking, but also exciting and wonderful. That’s me, and it may not be you. I think we all need more narratives from partners so that we can start to see the real diversity of experiences that exists out there. We need to hear from people that have been with their partners briefly, for a few years, for 10 years, for 20 years. We need to hear from people who identify as straight, queer, bi, lesbian, gay, or asexual. We need to hear from people with kids and people without kids. We need to hear from people that are married and people that are not. We need to hear from those with happy experiences and painful experiences. I know that that hearing more voices would have made a huge difference to me a year and a half ago.
i had a waterfall of thoughts and feelings after reading the new Queer Dads post, especially this part:
"Sometimes I wonder, who am I to have a kid? Shouldn’t I have thought about this before taking on that responsibility? (I did, but that’s not the point). I never want to see Jetpack even half as crazy as I feel sometimes. But no matter how much I struggle to shut it down, no matter how much therapy I attend or medication I put into myself, I can’t hide it all. That sad and twisted fucked up me is still in here. I can’t just cut it out. And it scares me that someday he’ll see that too, and he’ll resent me for it.
I don’t have any answers for that friend. I don’t have any hopeful closing paragraph for this litany of my own tragic faults. I can try my best, and I will probably fail.”
i thought about my own parents, and all the times i noticed their mental health struggles as i was growing up, and more and more since becoming an adult.
i never resent my parents for their mental health issues, some of which i share. but sometimes i get angry at them for trying to appear normal.
i think the premium that is placed on family life that is free from mental health struggles leads parents to go to extreme lengths to hide some of their more difficult realities from their kids. it can be things like disorders with special names, or the stress of living day to day.
i think the most violent moments of my childhood were ones where a caregiver was trying to shield me from something, because they wanted me to think that everything was just fine.
in fact, things are not just fine. the world is not just fine. i want all kids to know this. we were never really shielding them, anyway.
in contrast, some of the most loving moments of my childhood were moments where the honesty broke through. where an adult would cry and explain why. even if their voice sounded funny and i couldn’t completely understand them. i felt safer with the sense that they wanted me to see and understand some part of what was wrong.
i think the Queer Dads post begins a really important conversation, and i respect the courage to share what is most difficult. i want all kids to know what is not okay (in age-appropriate terms) and i wish my parents had talked to me more about their mental health struggles. but for now, i am grateful that they talked to me some about what was not fine in the world, and that i can experience my anxiety without feeling so alone with it. i now know that anxiety and depression and all mental health issues are political, and that i have others with me in struggle against the society that segregates, isolates, and enforces norms at the expense of health and wellbeing. on most days a bit of honesty and shared experience make a lot more things possible.
some wonderful local organizers sent an email last week to inquire about radfam and other spaces for queer families in minneapolis, and i realized most updates have been shared on facebook rather than tumblr. and that should not be. so it seems a good time to share a few thoughts and an update on radfam:
we are still meeting on the first sunday of every month at 7pm. we have begun to meet in our home (the home of two of us, that is) rather than the minnehaha free space, because a number of people who happened to want to attend radfam also happened to have attended other events at our house and it just felt easier.
the group is still as fluid as ever, with new folks now and then and old folks stopping by once in a while.
…and i think that’s it for now. send messages with questions, comments, or if you want the address or other details.
It’s a common tactic for groups that are under fire to change their name and packaging in order to evade protest. Exodus International has changed its name, but has kept the idea of gayness as a sin and is already promoting its anti-queer, anti-LGBT work in the form of a “new ministry for a new generation.” This is only the most recent example of a longstanding phenomenon. Pro-life groups became Crisis Pregnancy Centers, where they distribute false information to people seeking abortions. The Blackwater security firm rebranded as Xe to avoid the public’s gaze after it was forced to pay a settlements for its human rights abuses, and then re-rebranded as Academi LLC after another settlement. The School of the Americas rebranded as WHINSEC to confuse the thousands of protesters who arrive every year to call for it to be closed.
If you are a visual person, just think Reburger.
All of these organizations’ name changes are meant to throw protesters off their track. Some protesters buy it, some don’t. But the worst is when the protesters celebrate the name change, thus giving free advertising to groups that will continue to harm our communities. One strategy for reducing harm is to create a counter-wave of publicity to expose what is going on, as bloggers did for Kony 2012. These efforts are underway, but there is a long way to go…pass it on…
beautiful Jewish mikveh blessing for pre-surgery and other transitions…used to be a ritual immersion cleansing for the deceased and people who menstruate. there is so much to say. i’m going out to hike in the rain now.
"We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined. We are many identities and loves, many genders and none. We are in between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place. We are crisscrossed paths of memory and destination, streaks of light swirled together. We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all."