Three Poems – Ollie Schminkey

Huge thanks to Drunk in a Midnight Choir! Happy to be part of the family.

DRUNK IN A MIDNIGHT CHOIR

wristbands

hospitals it started as a small dot, no larger than a 12pt letter. then it grew, the blind spot, to encompass the space of my entire left eye, and i looked in the mirror, saw a one-eyed creature and wondered if this made me a myth. and no, i did not stay unseeing forever. i grabbed some carrots and a kiwi and my sister drove me to the hospital, the buildings’ grey blur becoming just grey. and then, i had to pee, and then, the women’s bathroom, and then, the birth name, and then, the nurse asking me if there’s any chance i might be pregnant, and all i wanted to do was take a splintering chomp of my carrot and mutter i ain’t so much as looked at a dick since the summer of ‘84 then wink, slice the kiwi, drink, the blind spot growing, the nurse’s sweet baby…

View original post 342 more words

Practical Ways We Can Stop Centering Everything Around White People’s Feelings

Guante doing the good work once again. Always love to hear what he has to say.

Opine Season

Guante Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

Fun fact: white people’s feelings are magic. They can bring any conversation, meeting or movement to a halt. In a debate, they can outweigh even the most credible, concrete evidence. They can threaten someone’s job. They can even kill. White people’s feelings are one of this country’s most abundant natural resources and important exports.

Because of all this, any conversation about social justice, power, or history is going to naturally settle into orbit around white people’s feelings. And I get it: if we want to really do something about racism in this country, it’s white people who need to change the most, and it’s white people who often have the longest political/spiritual/emotional journey to undertake.

But when social justice education and/or media focuses solely on understanding racism through a white privilege framework, that can recreate the same oppressive structures we’re trying to destroy. When…

View original post 676 more words

Let’s Talk About “Boobs:” A Discussion About Transmisogyny

Hey, everybody.  This post has taken me way longer to write than I ever wanted it to, because I just can’t figure out how to say it.  I’ve thought about it for months, but I can’t find any answers.  So instead of trying to frame it for you nicely all figured out in a little package, I’m going to lay it out, confusion and loose ends and all. 

So, a few months ago Upworthy featured one of my poems, “Boobs.” You can see it here if you’re unfamiliar.  Besides from a few transphobes and the regular haters-gonna-hate, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  I’ve gotten tons of awesome messages from people telling me how much it’s meant to them and how it makes them (a lot of whom are non-binary (and quite a few binary) trans people) not feel so alone in a world where non-binary (and trans, in general) erasure reigns.  For this, I am truly thankful.  The fact that something I said could help anyone at all (let alone be seen by hundreds of thousands of people) astounds and humbles me. 

But I’m not the kind of person who is okay with potentially shitting on someone else, even if it will help people like me.  Soon after Upworthy posted my video, an old friend messaged me, and I asked her if I could share some of her words while trying to explain this to people.  She said yes, and so I’m going to let you into the conversation.  It’s important to know for this conversation that she’s a trans woman, so she has the authority to speak to her own experiences.  It’s also important to know that I drafted this poem about 10 times, and she kindly agreed to check it over to try to detect any transmisogyny (hatred of trans women) I may have missed BEFORE I ever performed this poem for a large audience.  Since I’m not a trans woman, my privilege sometimes gets in the way of me recognizing transmisogyny when it’s present, and since it’s part of her survival to detect it, she has a much better understanding of subtler things that reinforce transmisogyny.  At the time of the initial reading (sometime in March), she didn’t find any lines or ideas that stood out to her as transmisogynistic.  But I think since then, both of our understandings grew as to how subtle transmisogyny can be, and I’m grateful she felt comfortable enough with me to bring up the newly-noticed issues.

The point is, sometimes you do your best to avoid saying things that might further someone’s oppression.  Sometimes you succeed.  Sometimes you don’t.  But you’ve always got to take responsibility for yourself and listen to the people you may be hurting. 

Enough pretext; here’s the conversation:

Her: “”I almost believed in God because I don’t trust nature to make anything this good.” — This line only applies to dfab people and definitely excludes any dmab trans person who’s had top surgery or packs their bra. In other words, trans women are going to get the brunt of this, because this line reinforces the idea that trans women are artificial and fake and unnatural. For me, it says that boobs are so amazing that either God (a concept I’m thinking you find asinine in how you deliver the line) or nature (which automatically excludes dmab people) made them, and anything else is not a thing. It subjects our womanhood to the whim of cis norms, which are also being reinforced by this line.

The penis on the elbow thing, it feels mocking of dmab trans people. For some of us, yes, our penis does feel like a foreign appendage that shouldn’t be there. I get that you’re trying to say “Hey there’s a part that doesn’t really belong here,” but the way it’s conveyed is rooted in transmisogyny. I mean, why’s it gotta be a penis? I don’t see why it would have to be a penis rather than anything else, like a can of air dust, a cutting board, a plate, a chair, or maybe something like wisdom teeth and how they can actually cause bacterial infections and other things if not removed.

That’s all I really wanted to address in the poem. Those are the two lines that really stand out. The rest is up to you now. The damage has already been done, and your influence on the queer + trans community is most likely working as a major player in spaces dominated by dfab trans people, which is pretty much all of them. I hope you’re up to the task of reconciliation. If not, it won’t do anything but benefit you.

Oh, and just thought of this, the penis part of the poem also seems to mock people with physical disfigurements, so it’s also ableist.”

 

Me: “Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about these things. I want to give a thorough response and hear your feedback if you have any suggestions for how to address these things to the broader public.

#1. I’m sorry I put transmisogynistic things in this poem.

#2.I can definitely see how transmisogyny would play into this in the nuances of the line. If I can ask a question (because when I wrote this, I did write it so that it wouldn’t specify gender). The overarching message of the poem is to allow people to have freedom over their bodies and not have gender assumed based off of bodies. I personally would consider any sort of surgery and/or packing under the “nature” category because nature is equated with the real world/ humankind, which I try to make clear with my clear atheistic viewpoint. I have also met trans women who refer to their chest as breasts before hormones/surgery/ etc., so I would include them. Does this make a difference, or is my interpretation of the line irrelevant? Because, obviously, as much as I would love the world to follow my train of logic, 95% of people will picture a dfab body based off of those lines.

#3. I don’t know if you actually expect an answer to this, but honestly, it’s a penis just because it’s an external sex organ that people would notice. It creates an image because there aren’t really any other external sex organs. Also, it’s something I heard someone use to talk about their dysphoria once. If I had thought of the possible implications of this earlier, I would have changed the specification of “sex organ” and used a neutral object.

#4. I am always open to reconciling with people when I’ve hurt them. It’s not my job (or realistic) for me to be perfect. But it is my obligation to learn, get better, and try to undo harm that I’ve done. Even though it is crucial to me to get any type of non-binary representation into the world (since there is pretty much zero), I don’t want to do that by stepping on the backs of other people.

#5. I have another question, if you want to engage in conversation. If not, totally fine. I can definitely see ableism at work; however, the critique of the line following that is that society limits people too much by their bodies and refuses to let people transcend the normative ideas associated with those. Those few lines to me are more about critiquing a society that doesn’t accept bodily variance than mocking the physical abnormality, since the blame is placed on society and not the abnormality. But, once again maybe my logic doesn’t matter, and my inclusion of the physical abnormality is exploitative.

Once again, thanks for your feedback. Do I have permission to use your observations and/or phrasing in conversations with people in the future when I try to talk about this?”

 

Her: “#2 — I think in this case you’ve gotta be honest with yourself about who the majority of your audience is: white cis queers (who are dfab most likely) and dfab trans people. I don’t think your interpretation is irrelevant, but you also have to think about how this audience is going to receive it, internalize it, and then communicate that message to others. It’s important to be super clear, and I don’t think your definition of ‘nature’ is clear enough within the poem, and in a poem like this, especially about trans identity, it might benefit from being stated explicitly.

#3 — I don’t doubt you heard someone use it to talk about their dysphoria. My assumption is this person is dfab, because I really doubt any dmab trans person would talk about it that way for a number of reasons.

#5 — I’d say that in those lines, it’s using physical abnormality in an exploitative way to make a point about trans identity and policing of bodies, which is a bit ironic because it somewhat employs body policing to make a point about body policing.

Mhm, you have my permission to use my observations + phrasing.”

 

You can read some of the conclusions that I drew in the conversation, and here are just a few more that I think are important to emphasize:

#1.  Clarity and specificity are extremely important.  Transmisogyny is taught to us in the ways in which we think about almost everything. Even though I didn’t even mean it as exclusive to trans women, the fact is that most people will receive it that way.  Keeping my audience in mind and the biases they bring with them is extremely important.

#2. I’m able-bodied, and so is the woman I was talking to, so I might not have all this figured out, and I don’t want to speak for communities I’m not a part of.  Obviously, my goal was not to enforce ableism by using disfigurement in a mocking way.  I think we’ve all got that my point was to say that the world is shitty and shouldn’t police our bodies (including disabled people/ differently abled people). I don’t know how to say it better in the poem yet, but I will keep revising and keep trying to make it less potentially harmful. 

 

Overall, you best believe that I am still learning, and there are revisions of this poem to come.  If any of you have suggestions and/or comments, I welcome them! I’m all about having conversations to fight transmisogyny and ableism. Once again, thank you to the woman that took the time to have a conversation with me, and thank you all for reading this.  I apologize again for any harm I may have caused to communities I’m not a part of, and let’s all try to be the most non-oppressive people we can be.  

 

Sending love and thanks,

Ollie

 
 

 

Polyamory: We’re Probably More Boring Than You Think

I have a blog post for you today that is a little more positive than a few of my other posts! I’m going to talk about one of my favourite things in the world: polyamory.  So, I’m polyamorous and have been for a few years now.  (Poly = many.  Amorous = love).  This means that I date multiple people at the same time, with everyone’s knowledge and consent, in committed and loving relationships.  This post will address some common misconceptions and questions that I’ve gotten about being polyamorous, and hopefully it’ll be helpful.  If you have any other questions (that aren’t posed maliciously), I’m willing to answer them this time around, so ask away!

#1.  People who are polyamorous have commitment issues, which is why they can’t just “pick” one person to be with.   I run into this type of thinking a lot (mostly from heterosexual cisgender monogamous people), and I’ll explain things a little here to hopefully lessen the confusion.

First off, I want to stress that I am only representing myself and cannot speak for the entire poly community, and most people that I’ve met each do polyamory a little bit differently.  After all, we’re different people with different emotional and physical desires.

Secondly, the idea that monogamy = commitment isn’t accurate.  Since monogamy is the dominant ideology in our society, people often assume the dynamics and expectational contract within a relationship are, or should be, the same for everyone.  However, each relationship has unique dynamics, and each person has specific needs and expectations.  This means that one person’s “committed” is another person’s “smothered” is another person’s “not trying hard enough,” etc.

This means that the question for me isn’t “are you committed?”  The question is “what are you  committing yourself to, and is this the same expectation that your partner has?”

I am committed to all of my partners in different ways, and we’ve explicitly discussed the expectations and boundaries within our relationships.  For real, though, when I start dating someone new, I ask them the question “What are your expectations of this relationship?”

This question does a few things.  It   A. clarifies that the other person indeed would like to date me    B.  clarifies the level of physical/emotional/mental connection the other person would like to have with me    C. clarifies whether or not the other person is polyamorous or wants to date someone who is and      D. opens up dialogue for them to discuss any boundaries or preferences they might have for our interactions.

This means that I am equally as committed to my partner that I see a few times per week as I am to my parter I see twice a month as I am to my partner who I see once in a while, etc.  I am committed to whatever expectations we’ve agreed on.  Those expectations are just tailored to fit what’s best for each relationship.

#2. People who are polyamorous just want to have a lot of sex.  Well, some people like to have a lot of sex, and some people….don’t.  Some monogamous people like to have a lot of sex, and some don’t.  Some polyamorous people enjoy having a lot of sex, and some don’t.  There’s nothing wrong about having a lot of sex, nor is there anything wrong with never having sex.  There are some of my partners with whom we’ve agreed it would be a good idea for us to open up a physical relationship, and some partners where that’s just not the case.  One isn’t better than the other, and there are many varying shades in between: different types of physical intimacy feel better to different people than others.  Some people don’t ever want to have sex, but they do like kissing or cuddling.   Some people think a certain type of sex is just the best ever.  It all just depends on personal preference and what is consensual and mutually desired in each relationship.

#3.  But don’t you get jealous? Once again, I’m assuming this could be answered many ways by many different people, but honestly, I don’t really get jealous.  I’m satisfied in all of my relationships, and I have pretty good communication with all of my partners.  Many people assume that jealousy is an instinctual emotion, but that’s actually not the case.  One of my partners explained it very well like this.  So, we have primary emotions such as fear, frustration, dissatisfaction, happiness, shame, guilt, etc.  Then we have secondary emotions such as jealousy, distrust, worry, insecurity, anger, disdain, etc.  This means that we first feel one of the primary emotions, which is a direct response to something happening, and then we feel a secondary emotion, such as jealousy.  For example, when a person sees someone they love kissing someone else, they first feel fear of being left, then they feel jealousy.  Or they first feel dissatisfied emotionally or sexually, then they feel jealous.  See how that works?  The issue often isn’t that the partner broke some sacred rule by kissing someone else; the issue is that one partner feels inadequate, frustrated, or dissatisfied within the relationship, and jealousy/feeling betrayed is a result of those primary emotions.

Does this make everyone who gets jealous a bad person?  No, definitely not.  What it means for me in my relationships is that if one of my partners get jealous, we address the primary emotion.  If one of my partners feels jealousy when I’m talking about another partner, I ask them if I’m paying enough attention to them.  I ask them if they’re dissatisfied emotionally in some way, or if they’re frustrated about something else in their life.  Then we fix that.  This means that we actually address the root of the issue.  Even if I never kissed another person in my life, that wouldn’t make the jealousy go away– the jealousy will only go away once the primary emotion is taken care of.

#4. But I mean, like, STIs? It’s just risky to be poly.  Once again, this is contingent on the faulty assumption that all of us are banging like rabbits.   Also, we are adults that are capable of negotiating boundaries and having safe sex.  We can all only control our own actions.  This is why I believe in boundary-based relationships instead of rule-based relationships (another idea that I learned from one of my partners).  Here’s what I mean.  Instead of saying “I forbid you to have unprotected sex with someone else,” which is ultimately a rule attempting to control someone else’s behaviour, I set a boundary: “If you choose to have unprotected sex with someone else, I am going to choose not to have sex with you.”  In the second boundary-based statement, I am only controlling my own actions and protecting myself from the risk of STIs by responding appropriately to someone else’s actions.  This type of boundary-based communication makes for much healthier and happier relationships, in my experience.

#5. How many people are you dating? Hmmmm that’s a tough one that I get a lot.  Honestly, so many people define dating as so many different things.  Some people consider it dating when they have sex with people, but some people just have sex and aren’t dating.  Some people are dating and never have sex.  Some people consider themselves dating even if they live halfway across the country, and some people don’t consider themselves dating even if they see each other every day, go on dates, and live next door.  Basically, I ask someone if they think we’re dating and if they’d like me to introduce them as my partner.  If they say yes, then I guess we’re dating, whatever that means.  By that count, I’m gonna go with maybe three or four?

#6. That’s a lot of people.  How do you have time for that? Well, I have a planner and excellent time management skills.  If you’re not willing to be scheduled into my life, then you’re probably not going to enjoy dating me.  Also, like, most people have more than one friend, and somehow that works out?  It’s almost like we have time for more than one person in our lives.  (Aaaand the snark comes out).

#7. ORGIES???  Not for me.  Thanks, though.  Maybe later.

Alright, I want to keep this blog post pretty short, but it might grow with more questions in the future.  In closing, healthy relationships are based off of respect, communication, and honesty, regardless of what type or how many people you’re dating.   Also, consent, consent, consent!

Activism And Self-Love

Ashley Allan

For all the folks involved in the work, it is news to nobody that this stuff gets really tough. Some days are excruciatingly difficult, and other days you really wonder if your life will actually leave any kind of dent on these oppressive systems. Being an activist is hard. Living as a marginalized person is hard. In this post, I do not necessarily want to address how to fix everything (because I don’t know how to), but I do want to talk about self-love for activists.

I am an educator and writer who dabbles in multiple forms: essays, short stories, novels, page poetry, and spoken word. Lately, I have been focusing a lot on the essay writing portion while dabbling in page poetry and short stories. My educational efforts have me interning at a public charter school, where I work with this school’s feminist club and GSA (gender and sexuality alliance)…

View original post 1,084 more words

This Sucks, but You’re Probskies Gonna Make It: Dealing With Dysphoria

I feel like this post is important to write.  There’s a tendency for us to feel forced to smile in every picture and reply “fine” to anyone who asks how we are.  But I’m here to tell you it’s a-okay to feel not okay, and right now, folks, I’ve been feeling a lot of not okay.  So prepare yourself for honesty, feels, and a banging good adventure.  YEE-HAW!

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty consistently shitty.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to off myself in the bathroom with the revolver.  This doesn’t mean I’m on the verge of seeking out some small rodent to inflict suffering upon.  This doesn’t mean I need to be hovered over, and you don’t need to do that thing with your eyebrows when you look at me with a face of condescending pity.  It’s quite frankly unbecoming and reminds me of two caterpillars slowly approaching for whatever I’m sure can only be described as caterpillar sexy times.

What this means (not the caterpillar thing; the feeling bummed out thing) is that I have dysphoria and depression (which is really nothing new), and it’ll be fine eventually because things usually always turn out fine.

Let’s talk about dysphoria.  Dysphoria, in basic terms, is the opposite of euphoria.  It’s a feeling of dissatisfaction, discontent, discomfort, and a whole slew of other things that probably have the prefix “dis.”  Gender dysphoria more specifically is when that feeling arises due to the way society is an asshole about your gender and/or biological sex (since society so often fails to make the necessary distinction between the two). In less emotional verbiage, gender dysphoria is discomfort brought on by the gender/ gender roles you were assigned based off your designated birth sex.  I experience a lot of this.

A lot of transgender people undergo a significant amount of dysphoria, and, since depression is a preexisting (but largely well-managed) factor in my life, adding dysphoria to the mix can make life a bit difficult for me sometimes.  I’m not going to go into specifics for the time being, but dysphoria can manifest itself in a lot of negative feelings about one’s body, presentation, image, self, etc.

Imagine if every day you walked into a CVS to get some OJ and the cashier was like, “Hey, Bill, it’s good to see you! How’s your wife?”  And you’re like, “My name is Tom, and my wife died three years ago.”  And the cashier says, “I’m sorry to hear that, Bill.  You’ll have to give your wife my condolences.”  And you say, “BUT SHE’S DEAD AND MY NAME IS TOM.”  And the cashier is like, “Oh Bill, you’re a funny one.  Tell Martha I say hi.  And here’s a dog biscuit for little Sparky.”  And then you have no choice but to stalk and kill that cashier’s entire family.

Okay, jokes on that last part about the stalking/killing, but this is kind of what being misgendered every day of your life is like.  There are all of these people trying to tell me who I am, and I just keep saying “Nope, you’re wrong.  Do better.”  And they keep saying things like “but this is hard for me” and “but I was just basing this off your body…” and “that could make some cis people feel uncomfortable.”  What they don’t realize is that no matter how hard it is for them to get my pronouns or my name right, it is nowhere near as hard as being trans*.  Like, dude, MY WIFE IS DEAD AND I JUST WANT TO BUY THIS ORANGE JUICE AND HAVE YOU GET MY NAME RIGHT OKAY.

That being said, it’s no surprise that sometimes I feel shitty for a while.  And whatever I do to feel not shitty again is my prerogative, and you’re just going to have to trust that I’ve got this shin dig under control.  That being said, anyone else out there who is experiencing a lot of dysphoria, I’m always here to listen, and you are a stallion of awesomeness and can get through anything.  Whatever you need to do in order to feel good, you should do (as long as it’s not shitting on someone else’s identity, and also please try to do things that are healthy for you).  I suggest a hot tea latte green tea with banana and cappuccino from the Tea Garden if you’re into comfort foods/drinks.  I personally am spending a lot of time knitting, avoiding homework, writing poems, researching various surgeries/hormones, sleeping, chatting it up at the garden of the teas, and trying to reestablish balance in my life.  Remember, if you’re unsure if it’s you or the world that’s fucked up, it’s probably the world, because I’m sure you’re cool as hell.  See here: http://binarysubverter.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/trans-101/

Marriage and Other Sensitive Subjects (Like Peach-Os)

So my life right now is like busy times seventeen hundred unicorns.  Like not busy, but BUSY.  This is a good thing, most of the time. Sometimes being busy can stress you out, where you just want to sink down onto the floor and fill tiny vials with your tears and then sell them as unicorn sweat to people Craigslist.  But then sometimes being busy is like snorting a bunch of pixie stick dust and you’re like BRING IT ON, WORLD, FIGHT ME!!!! And then you sing the part of that one Front Bottoms song where he yells “I will remember that summer as the summer I was taking steroids.”  Except there will be no steroids.  Only pure, unadulterated (okay, probably adulterated) ASS-KICKING ENERGY.

One of the many things I did this week was attend a group created by one of my friends called Queer Theory Wednesday.  It is held on Wednesdays, and you guessed it, we talk about queer theory.  One of the topics we raged about (I mean, discussed) was same-sex marriage.

Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should have the right and opportunity to get married if they so choose.  But I also think that right now we need to stress the difference between an option and an obligation, and what this current “option” does and does not do.  There are many reasons to get married and so many reasons not to.  Also, a fact that many people don’t know is that same-sex marriage does not guarantee queer people equal rights. For example, if a trans* person wants to get legally married and change their name (from a legal name to their real, chosen name) it will cost them over $4000.  That’s right.  And since many trans* and other types of queer people are close to the poverty line (in short version, because of systematic oppression), there are many classist implications that still prevent people who want to get married from doing so.  Not to mention polyamorous relationships that the government still doesn’t (and likely never will) recognize. Here is an awesome article that sums up some of my thoughts:

http://queeringthemind.com/2013/10/28/now-that-were-married-can-we-go-back-to-being-queer/

You also may have heard about this little thing called ENDA. Basically, if ENDA passes in the House (it already passed the Senate), queer and trans* people will finally have some basic protections.  These basic protections include things like not being able to be fired from your job purely based on your gender expression or sexual orientation.  Many people don’t know that this is not already the case.  In at least twenty states, you can still be legally fired from your job based on your sexual orientation.  In thirty-one states you can be legally fired for your gender expression.  Whoa, right? (Also, big shock, one of them is Texas).

I think that is really messed up.  Really, really messed up.

Same-sex marriage, while nice for those who are religious or want their relationship to be validated by the state (or can afford either of those things), does not pay the bills, my friends.  It’s also not quite saving all the lives I want it to.  In fact, (prepare yourself for a shocking and unacceptably high statistic), 41% of trans* people try to commit suicide at some point in their lives, compared to the 1.6% national average.  I think that issue deserves a little more attention, here.

I know this might have been a lot to digest.  And some days, when I think about how the cards are so stacked against me, it’s upsetting.  It hurts to live in a world that sometimes feels like it couldn’t give two shits about my existence.  But this is called the Optimistic Pluot. And I recognize that problems can’t be solved by mere optimism -we need people to actually do things about them- but optimism helps me, personally, to not become part of the 41%.

So here’s a great .gif my best friend made of my hands during my poems.

Yay!:) If you don’t know what poems these are from, you should check out my poetry on the internets.

Sometimes you’ve just got to focus on the ones that love you in order to get through the tough stuff.  Also sometimes you need to rage and then have all your friends send letters and phone calls and show up with their own bodies on your congressperson’s doorstep until finally all people will be treated with some basic human dignity.

But what can we do about this, Renee?? Don’t worry, one of the next few posts will include ways in which you can be a better trans* ally.  For now, let’s focus on being aware of the ways in which we are privileged and the ways in which that privilege contributes to systems of oppression (we’ll get into that more later as well).

Oh dang it! I almost forgot about the Peach-O thing.  Mid-bite, I was informed they are not vegetarian. (I’m a vegetarian).  They have ground up cow bones in them.  GROSS.