Y'all, this has been one heckuva half of 2015. Talk about a tangle of emotions, I feel like I and others have been put through the ringer lately. I mean, in the past week alone, Jennicet Gutierrez heckled and booed by fellow members of the LGBfakeT community for providing an important voice of resistance in the struggle to end the deportation of trans* migrants, but then, not even 48 hours later, SCOTUS released their decision on marriage, ruling 5-4 in favor of marriage rights being extended to gay couples. The fervor with which this was received prompted many reactions, including many queer people who I am friends with posting messages like, "Celebrate today, work tomorrow," thereby further erasing and marginalizing trans* people who have been pushed to the margins for the past 12+ years since the marriage movement became central to the LGBfakeT political machine (led by the HRC, itself a highly homonormative and gay White cis male dominated space). Of course this didn't rest easy for me...so I raised a bit of a fuss via Facebook, as has become a bit of a habit for my killjoy self.
And then, if that wasn't enough, 8 members of the #BlackOutPride direct action in Chicago were arrested for holding up Chicago Pride for about 20 minutes. They did so to speak to the continuation of White supremacy, anti-Blackness, and anti-trans* sentiment furthered through Pride...and again, many (White homonormative) attendees booed them and told them to "get lost." Yeah, because that's community for you, right? Your own supposed people telling you to "get lost."
And of course this doesn't even begin to get into the continued violent erasure of trans* women of color...or the fact that, while marriage equality is now a legal reality, homo- and transphobia still reign supreme, and people can still be evicted, fired, and have their children taken from them for being gay and/or trans*. Oh, and that whole "trans* panic" defense? Yeah, that still exists as a way to explain away the murder of trans* people.
But #LoveWins, right?
So yeah, this has been a tough couple weeks. On the one hand, I am so overjoyed for my friends for whom this decision means so very much, but on the other hand, I am exhausted, hurt, and sad. I so very much want a radical, trickle up activism that focuses on the most marginalized of us (using Dean Spade's rhetoric here), but at the present moment, that seems so very far from what will continue happening in the near (and likely distant) future.
In a conversation with one of my queer kin today, we were venting about the myriad issues that have torn us up this past week. She--a queer married woman with children--shared many of my misgivings as a single trans* person with no kiddos. As we Skyped, the frustration was visible on our faces. She also shared with me that she had been experiencing intense microaggressions at her workplace and felt like she didn't have anyone to turn to in order to process her experiences. Sure, we could Skype, but there was no one who could be there on a regular basis in person. And for as good as technology is, we both desired to hug each other and just be with each other in real time, which Skype has yet to sort out.
After venting, I asked her two questions that have been on my lips a lot with the people I love. They were:
How can I best support you right now? What do you need?
She looked at me for a bit, paused, and then said: I don't really know right now.
And as I was listening to her, and hearing her sort through what was going on for her, I realized something: I don't know what I need right now either! Here I have been, asking people to name what they need so that I can best support them, when all this time, I don't even know. And it's not that she or I don't know ourselves, or cannot name our feelings...but we just feel so tangled up inside, and are trying to cope with the daily micro- and macroaggressions, that we literally do not have the time to sort through what would feel best for us in terms of moving forward.
As we kept talking, we realized it felt good just to name that we had no idea what we wanted. We had no idea what healing looked, felt, or sounded like for us. We had no idea if we would ever even feel "better," that mythical concept that everyone wishes for you when you express feeling stuck in the muck. And we just left it at that. That we felt stuck, we felt exhausted, we felt hurt and sad and angry and invisible (and yet hyper-visible) and commodified and that our identities had been co-opted and traded recently by others...and this may be as good as it gets.
And so here we were, toward the end of our time together, but nowhere nearer a "conclusion" to our conversation than when we started. And I feel like even this blogpost is getting away from me...but I guess that is part of the point. I guess that #sometimeshealing means honestly not knowing what the eff you need and expressing that. And it means that maybe, just being alongside someone you trust and can express that deep sense of doubt that it will ever "get better" (despite what Dan Savage says) feels good for the moment. And doing that allows you to cope when friends of yours post a John Oliver clip where he vocalizes the intense need for trans* rights, as if trans* people (and particularly, trans* women of color) haven't been saying that stuff for years...but because he is a cis White guy and a celebrity he gets all the praise and attention for "doing the right thing." Ugh...miss me with that! I mean, yay John Oliver for being down for the cause (at least publicly), but for shame that people are heralding him as such a "wonderful person" for saying what has been screamed and shouted from all corners of the trans* movement for literally decades. Decades, y'all.
As someone who researches and blogs about resilience, it feels particularly strange to say, "You know what? Sometimes, I have no idea how to be resilient, if I can be resilient, or what resilience even gets us." And that is putting it mildly. When I have had these thoughts before, I have felt intense shame and even felt fraudulent, as if my not feeling resilient somehow meant that the research in which I was involved was blemished. What has been helpful, though, is to recognize that we all struggle with understanding the value, worth, and actuality of resilience at some point in time. For example, in our working alongside each other during the dissertation study, Silvia shared with me that she worried she would no longer qualify for the study because she didn't feel she ever would be resilient again (as a side note, being resilient was not a criteria for entering the study, but the study focused on narratives of resilience) due to her current situation. Moreover, four out of the nine participants alongside whom I worked (that's about 45%, y'all) left college before graduating...and only one has yet to return. And although I talked about this as a potential sign of resilience, it is also at the very same time a sign that the college environment was pushing these folks away, or disallowing them to be resilient as college students...that the only way they could practice resilience was to actively move away from the collegiate environment and focus on themselves and their lives.
As my pal Dr. D-L Stewart has often said, this is a case of the both/and see-saw that we as trans* people continue to ride...and sometimes healing means not knowing how to get off that see-saw...or if we ever will.
But just acknowledging that today...and hearing it reflected to me in the form of the answer: I have no idea what I need; that was important for me. It allowed me to say the same thing, and not search for an answer when one really wasn't there.
So #sometimeshealing is not-healing...or at least not knowing what healing looks, sounds, or feels like.
And maybe that, in and of itself, is okay. And maybe that, although not a place one can or should stay for a long time, can be a good holding place for awhile as we work to sort through what will allow us to be happy and healthy in a world that very much continues to neglect, abuse, and disavow our mere presence.
This blog is a space where I share my thoughts on trans*-related issues. I also will share my own research as it develops, including papers, presentations, and the development of my dissertation study with trans* college students.