Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dear Governor McCrory (On HB2)

Dear Governor McCrory,

I am writing to express my frustration that you are still upholding HB2 as having a positive impact on the state of North Carolina. I thought maybe you and the GA would finally back down when the economic impact hit--but even after PayPal, the NBA, multiple smaller events including concerts by well-known artists, other states limiting all official state business with NC and now the NCAA have pulled their business away from North Carolina, not to mention the effects on the tourist industry and small businesses... You have still not backed down. You are still supporting a heterosexist, transphobic, classist, racist law and further alienating more and more of the citizens of North Carolina and the rest of the country.

And! You saying that the federal government is acting outside of their power in challenging HB2 is just ridiculous. The whole point of HB2 is overreach over local government!

HB2 can't even be enforced when it comes to the bathroom part... We can't spare law enforcement to bother with checking birth certificates in every bathroom in the state. Nor would it make any sense to hire security guards. And despite what you and the GA seem to imagine, you can't actually tell someone's gender based solely on what they look like. We've been taught that but it's not true. It's one thing to be ignorant because no one's ever taught you differently. But you have no excuse at this point. You are willfully defending discrimination, claiming that you are looking out for the people of North Carolina. This shouldn't, but might, come as a shock to you--you don't get to choose who lives here. 

You are further marginalizing people that are already some of the most marginalized in our society. You are pathologizing gender nonconformity. You have made a "solution" for a problem that doesn't exist.

See, one of the oft repeated justifications of Hate Bill 2 is that it is meant to protect women from sexual assault. Sexual violence is a VERY real problem that is pervasive and incredibly damaging. It does happen in bathrooms sometimes. You know who gets assaulted a lot in public restrooms? Trans and gender nonconforming people. You know who is usually doing the assaulting? Straight, cis-gender men. 

Cis-gender women are indeed sometimes assaulted in restrooms, but here's the thing--HB2 is not going to have any effect on that. Why? Because perpetrators of sexual violence that might be looking for someone to prey on are not going to change their behavior. HB2 does not create an invisible barrier for anyone walking into a restroom. Perpetrators of sexual violence seek out victims in vulnerable situations. A person alone in the restroom, where no one will witness the perpetrator going in--fits the bill. 

But as I mentioned previously, we are not going to have bathroom police at every public bathroom--so is a perpetrator really going to change their mind about following a victim into the restroom based on the sign outside the door? How does that even make logical sense? You are selling the illusion of safety. HB2 is not protecting anyone from sexual assault. Realistically, it could very well increase assaults, because you are sanctioning discrimination. You are telling the bigots of North Carolina that they have the right to know anyone's genitalia and then police where they use the bathroom. When did our genitalia become information we are required to make public? HB2 encourages vigilante justice in one of the most private matters there is--using the restroom.

I know you think you're right. I know how big a deal it is to admit being wrong. I suspect you think this will help you win re-election (of course, had the discriminating voting laws remained in effect, that might even have been true). 

But you are on the wrong side of history. Already in the last six months, HB2 has brought on lasting damage to the state. We will not forget that you led this fight. (Nor will we forget all the other damage you've done to NC, but I don't have time for that in this letter.) Historically, you will be remembered as the governor of North Carolina that cared more about being "right" and maintaining your bigotry than providing a safe and equitable environment for the people of your state.

Is that really what you want your legacy to be?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Good Girls

In no particular order and no attribution to who said these things to me or in my hearing, here are some things I was taught about good girls:

Good girls don't have sex until they're married.

Good girls don't wear tight clothing, short skirts or low cut shirts. Good girls don't show too much skin.

Good girls don't sit with their legs open.

Good girls eat their greens so they will grow Barbie doll hair.

Good girls don't hang upside down from trees or monkey bars so you can see their underwear.

Good girls are polite and say things like, yes ma'am, no ma'am, yes sir, no sir, please and thank you.

Good girls don't talk back.

Good girls are nice.

Good girls don't walk alone at night. 

Good girls go to church.

Good girls follow the rules and keep quiet.

Good girls are pretty but only because they don't put effort into it.

Good girls are patient.

Good girls keep secrets.

Good girls aim to please.

Good girls will get married and have children.

Good girls want to get married and have children.

Good girls respect authority.

Good girls do what they're told.

Good girls get the highest grades.

Good girls don't stay out too late.

Good girls dont make trouble.

Good girls don't have a problem doing the right thing. They're good. They do what's expected of them.

Good girls don't let their bra straps show. Good girls never go out in public without a bra on.

Good girls dress feminine.

Good girls don't laugh at fart jokes. Or crude jokes.

Good girls don't curse.

Good girls are only friends with other good girls.

Good girls use proper grammar.

Good girls know that if a boy picks on you, it's just because he likes you.

Good girls play hard to get.

Good girls aren't physically violent.

Good girls don't get into arguments.

Good girls know how to and like to cook.

Good girls don't cheat.

Good girls call their grandparents.

Good girls don't laugh too loud.

Good girls don't complain.

Good girls don't get in arguments with their parents.

Good girls don't spit.

Good girls are princesses.

Good girls aren't aggressive.

Good girls don't brag about themselves.

Good girls don't drink or do drugs.

Good girls conform to conventional beauty standards.

Good girls don't kiss and tell.

Good girls don't have one night stands.

Good girls don't even like sex.

Good girls aim to please.

And if someone has sex with another person without consent, that may be called rape, but only if you're a good girl. If you're not, it wasn't rape, it was just sex. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Grief vs. Trauma

I grieved when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and I knew I would grieve when she died. I have grieved for the last three years. Grief is a long, slow journey. My grief work now is very different from what it was at this time three years ago or even a year ago. I have lived three years without my mother's physical presence. I have almost finished graduate school. I have made new friends, I have dated, I have traveled, I have suffered more losses since her passing. And while I of course believe that my mom will always be with me--that does not take away the pain of not having her physically here. But things are different now. The pain isn't so fresh. The feeling of abandonment isn't so strong. I usually describe the loss of my mother as if feeling that gravity no longer exists. I was recently talking to a friend and she asked if that had changed, three years later. I said, it's like I'm on one of the smaller planets/moons in the solar system--so there's some gravity, but it's not the same kind of pull like there is on Earth. In other words, I still feel like I'm floating around, but just not as much.

I am recently realizing that it is not just grief that I have been dealing with since my mom died--I still have a lot of trauma with me from watching her slowly die as the cancer took over her body.

Recently, I had a very frank conversation with a good friend about their mother's cancer and imminent passing. They wanted to know what it has been like for me. And one thing they said really struck me--that when their mom dies, they want to just feel relief.

And I told them--I think that's exactly what my first feeling was. Relief that it was over. That my mom was no longer in excruciating pain. That my family and I no longer had to live in the purgatory between life and death. That, despite how painful the rebuilding would be, we would now be able to continue with our lives. The grief only came later. And processing the trauma, even later.

For the first year after she died, when I would visit my grandparents and dad in Salado in the house where my mother died, I always had nightmares. Every time I was there, as I slept, I was transported to the most difficult days of my mom's illness, including the hospital visits, the chemo treatments, the resulting illnesses, the weakness in her body, the fear in her eyes. I couldn't be in that house and not think about all the painful memories.

When we went to the Christmas Eve service at church in 2013, I couldn't sing the hymns. All I could think about was sitting vigil by my mother's death bed, singing my way through the hymn book. The first time I went through, I skipped the Christmas songs (it was July and I have always had strong feelings about Christmas music only being played between Thanksgiving and Epiphany Day). But the next time I went through and all subsequent times, I sang the Christmas songs too. I had realized it would be the last time she would ever hear them because while the most optimistic estimate was that she had a couple more months, I could feel it would be much sooner and either way, she would not make it to Christmas. So at that Christmas Eve service, I just sobbed.

And then my maternal grandfather was on his death bed, less than a year after his eldest daughter died. When we went to say goodbye to him for the last time, I just stood paralyzed in the corner sobbing while my dad prayed and spoke to him. The scene was too familiar. I couldn't be present for my grandfather in those last hours of his life because I was so overwhelmed by the memories of my mother in that same state.

But earlier this year, seeing my paternal grandmother on her death bed didn't cause the same reaction. I was able to be present as I was present during my mom's last days (I think that's one reason I didn't realize how traumatizing the experience actually was--because I was able to be present with her during those last days). In fact, I engaged in the same practices--singing hymns and folding paper cranes.

And just a month and a half later, my client I had been working with as a senior care companion for nine months transitioned into hospice care. My last appointment with her was four days before she died. She did not open her eyes the entire time I was there. She had always loved music and I had sung to her before, so I did the same thing I had done for my mother and grandmother--sang hymns as Ms. E slowly faded away. I was reminded of my mom and grandparents but it wasn't incapacitating. I could be present.

I have been reading a book called Trauma Stewardship (which everyone should read). It has been eye-opening to me. Putting feelings and thoughts I didn't consciously realize I had into plain words. Confronting contributors to my mental health difficulties. Through processing trauma.

I have had a very hard time being present in the last few years. And I'm only realizing recently that it might have something to do with my trauma that I have avoided dealing with in many ways and not just witnessing the trauma of others. So I'm taking the guidance from this book to heart and am hoping to become a better trauma steward from now on.

Monday, July 25, 2016

"Pro-life?"

This morning I accidentally stumbled onto some "pro-life" web pages and got extremely irritated. Because, I'm sorry, but you cannot call yourself "pro-life" if you are only "pro-life" for unborn fetuses (which apparently these websites like to call "preborn children") aka anti-abortion. (The other "pro-life" issues addressed on this website are birth control and euthanasia. I searched for "death penalty" on the website. No results.)

Here is what being "pro-life" means according to the American Life League:

  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-Planned Parenthood because they have facilities that provide abortions
  • Anti-abortions of fetuses that have been screened and found to have a disability
  • Anti-birth control because then the possibility of fertilization is prevented, thereby "killing the preborn child inside of her" (Note: every time I type "preborn" it gets autocorrected to "reborn" because PREBORN IS NOT A THING)
  • Anti-euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide (I wondered if maybe this was where they would talk about the death penalty; maybe euthanasia was meant to include lethal injection, but turns out, no, that's not a life issue they are concerned about.)


Here is what being "pro-life" reportedly does NOT include:

  • Pro-healthier environmental practices to slow climate change
  • Pro-universal basic income
  • Pro-universal childcare
  • Pro-free college
  • Pro-paid maternity leave
  • Pro-"welfare" (in quotes because that includes several programs, such as TANF, SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, etc.)
  • Pro-living wage
  • Pro-gun control
  • Pro-comprehensive sex ed
  • Pro-immigration/pro-refugee
  • Anti-police brutality
  • Anti-mass incarceration
  • Anti-capital punishment
  • Anti-war
  • Anti-imperialism


Because, you know what? It is EASY to be "pro-life" when that means demanding someone else carry a pregnancy to term. But if you are not creating a better, cleaner, safer, more equitable world for that child to live in once they are born--HOW is that considered being "pro-life?"

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On Privilege

It is privilege that makes me a third generation graduate student.

It is privilege that my ancestors made the choice to immigrate and were not brought against their will as slaves.

It is also privilege that my ancestors stole land and resources from the people already here.

It is a privilege that I have been able to travel so much in my life.

It is a privilege that I have had very little to do with law enforcement (I may be generally law-abiding but that makes little difference to POC).

It is a privilege to learn about racism and oppression instead of experiencing it yourself.

It is a privilege to be welcomed into spaces occupied primarily by people of color and seen as a friend.

It is a privilege to have friends and community spanning all colors of the spectrum and residing all over the country and the world.

It is a privilege for me to choose to be a freedom fighter. I truly believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, but it is also a fact that I do live in a country with systems designed to protect people like me.

It is a privilege to choose to fight against injustice when it does not personally affect you. And I mean, personally, as in your person. Because I do take it personally when my friends and community are affected... but that does not mean it happened to me.

As non-members of marginalized groups--and today I am talking about race, so I mean us white people--we have the privilege to choose to take action, but we also have the responsibility. No, maybe we ~personally~ aren't racist (look at all our black friends!), but we still benefit from systems designed for us to prosper at the expense of our non-white community. And if we do not work to change that, we are complicit. We are complicit in the gunning down of POC, especially black men, in state-sponsored violence. We are complicit in the school to prison pipeline.

We will not dismantle white supremacy in one day. But if we make the mistake of thinking just because we don't believe we are racist or the problem is just too big, nothing will change.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

I don't expect this post to make a huge difference. But I am making public my commitment that I will use my privilege and responsibility to fight back against oppression. What about you?

If you need ideas, click here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I'm back!

I'm dusting off this blog! I am currently interning at the NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault for the summer of 2016 and am planning on taking some time to blog on topics related to sexual violence prevention and response, rape culture, intersectional feminism, systems of oppression, and more! Fun stuff, right? The two main reasons I have not written much in this blog in the last few years are

1. I have been very busy with graduate school
2. Writing is a lot harder for me than it used to be. I could go into more detail but the short version is that grief combined with my continuous companions of anxiety and depression for more than ten years has had an effect on my writing.

That second reason has had a lot more to do with my not writing than the first. Yes, I've been busy but writing became such a chore, not just for school but I stopped writing in my personal journal as well. Anyway, at a leadership retreat I attended this spring, one of the goals I set was to seriously work on my writing problem. So this summer, I thought a good way to do that would be to start blogging again. After all, a big part of what I need is just practice!

So watch this space for the summer of 2016! I'll also be posting a long overdue reflection on my trip to Cuba this past winter (and hopefully also even more overdue reflections on the Justice at the Border trip I took to El Paso/Ciudad Juarez in February 2015). And I'll probably post about silly things too, even if it's just to break up the heaviness of a lot of the topics I'll be writing about. And I'll probably also write about how great Beyonce is, because, well, she is.

Welcome to Summer 2016! Thanks for reading!


Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Last Good Day

Mama and I on the Caribbean cruise May 2013


“There's no way of knowing that your last good day is Your Last Good Day. At the time, it is just another good day.” ― John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

What I would consider Mama's "last good day" was two years ago today: July 4, 2013. Most of the family was gathered in Austin for festivities and we had a great time as a family, as usual. One of the last conversations I remember having with my mom before her final trip to the hospital was about going to karaoke for my birthday. We talked about renting some karaoke equipment for a party. After she died, I was using her computer and saw that her last internet search was for karaoke equipment.

The weekend following July 4th was the beginning of the very end; Mama was weak and exhausted. When we took her to the hospital, after running tests it became clear that this was progression of disease and not just reactions to chemo or pain meds. As a family, we made the decision to transition into hospice care on my birthday, July 10th. She left the hospital on the 12th and died less than a week later on the 18th.

The summer of 2014 I carefully planned out to be in Europe on the Don't Postpone Joy European tour. I find I am wishing that had been an option this summer as well. It was a way to honor and celebrate life, my mother's and my own. I'm not doing anything quite that exciting this July, so it's easier to sit here remembering those incredibly difficult last days.

But her last good day, two years ago, I remember having conversations with her about the summer camp I was working for at the time. I remember her joy, as always, of being with family. I remember her conversation with my "cousin" (not by blood but basically) Timothy about being strong in his faith and continuing his journey to greatness beginning college that fall. I remember her smile.

So despite the fact that the memories of July 2013 are largely painful, today I am trying to focus on Mama's last good day. A day when the cancer was still growing and giving her pain, but she was still able to celebrate being alive and her motto: don't postpone joy. The last good day before the very end and one that I am grateful I could share with her.