Strongest People I Know

Content Notice: talk of suicide, ideation, judgmental assholes

I had a bad day yesterday. I thought maybe I should end it all. These weren’t plans to actually kill myself. These are the thoughts I live with on a daily basis. Some days they’re easier to ignore. I wondered what was the point of living. Then I heard the news of Chester Bennington’s death. He killed himself. As my friends were sharing how much Linkin Park’s music had helped them in their teens, I also saw a lot of people with no understanding of mental illness, blathering on about “taking the easy way out”.

And it all brought it back to me. That time when I was 15 and attempted suicide. I was called all sorts of names. How stupid could I be to try to kill myself? Don’t I know it would hurt my mother? I started therapy then and have been in treatment since. I’ve had several ideation events. And the guilters were always there. I need to think about my daughter. How much it would hurt my family; my friends. How could I be so selfish?

There’s this idea that people who commit suicide are weak. They couldn’t handle their life and its circumstances. Korn’s guitarist Brian Head Welch said Chester took the “cowardly way out”. I cannot speak for Chester, but I can speak as someone who has attempted suicide. As someone who will always have ideation. Living with mental illness is fighting a war every fucking day. We’re fighting ourselves and also dealing with an ableist medical system. We have to deal with well-meaning people with their empty platitudes. We have to deal with cruel insensitive people like Brian, who think mental illness is just something we can get over.

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Modified version. I will not post the original.

We deal with people making memes shaming the use of anti-depressants. Supposed friends will tell you they are there for you but then walk away from you because you’re “too depressing”. And these people wonder why we don’t feel comfortable sharing our struggles with them.

You want to prevent suicide? You do that by helping us fight the stigmatization of mental illness. You do that by calling out shaming bullshit advice or memes like the above. You do that by examining your own biases and admitting that you too need to learn a thing or two. You do that by demanding better health care and treatment for mentally ill people. You do that by viewing mental illness like you would any other chronic illness, as something that cannot be “gotten over” but instead as something that the person dealing with can learn to cope with. You do that by demanding that therapists are actually well versed in their field, and that they also learn social justice because a lot of depressed people are also marginalized in a lot of different ways and that all plays a part in it. For fuck’s sake learn how to properly tag triggering content. On Facebook, hide links to potentially triggering content in nested comments. Accept that sometimes you will mess up and will be called out and maybe it won’t be as gentle as you’d like. You fight the stigma by NOT centering your feelings but those of the depressed person.

Telling us how our death would hurt someone is just a way to manipulate us by guilting us. We KNOW it would hurt our loved ones. I know my daughter would NOT be better off without me. And you telling me how horrible I am for having ideation just makes me feel worse. You don’t prevent someone’s suicide by reminding them of how horrible they think they are. You end up reinforcing the intrusive thoughts and negative self image.

Some days I don’t like myself very much. Yesterday was a bad day, but I was reminded of my strength. I was reminded of the strength of my friends who are also dealing with mental illness. Do you know how much strength it takes to get out of bed; out of the house? How much strength it takes to deal with assholes who judge you without knowing anything about mental illness?

*******

RIP Chester Bennington. Your music touched many and I hope you’ve finally found some peace. 

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Grace & Frankie: Nick is a Creep

Netflix’s original series Grace & Frankie returned for it’s third season March 24th. I love this program. However, a plot point which begins towards the end of the latest season bothered me and I needed to write this.

Spoilers ahead, content note for stalking and manipulation

Episode 11, The Other Vibrator
Grace and Frankie now have their own company, Vybrant, and they’ve launched a vibrator made specifically for older women. 
They discover another company , Onmi Tech, has stolen their idea. They send a cease-and-desist letter via their lawyer and then have a meeting with the other company’s legal team. It’s during this meeting that the head of the company, Nick, spots Grace. He immediately walks into the meeting.

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Spoken like a true entrepreneur

The whole time he’s in the meeting, he doesn’t take his eyes off Grace, to the point that even when he’s responding to Frankie, he only looks at Grace. He’s told why the meeting is taking place and proceeds to kick out his legal team (which by the way, includes his own son). Grace dismisses her lawyer as well. Grace can already tell this man is interested in her and her intent seems to play this to her advantage. Which, I can get behind. Nick is the type of man who likes to feel powerful and have his ego stroked. If Grace can use her “feminine wiles” to save her company, then by all means. There’s some flirtation and Frankie’s attempts to also be a part of the conversation, which honestly save the whole scene. Otherwise this is a very run of the mill cis hets being bland. Nick suggests he and Grace go to dinner so he can “make this all go away”. Frankie however sees what’s going on.

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I love you, Frankie

Frankie tells Nick they’ll sue him. He says, “Ok, I’ll see you in court”. He turns to Grace and says, “At least I’ll get to see you again.”

Episode 13, The Sign (Episode 12, focuses on Sol and Robert which is why I’m skipping it)

In this episode the women is served cease-and-desist papers from Omni Tech.

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Really, Frankie is the star of the show

Later in the episode, Grace is on the phone with Nick. And well, see for yourself:

Grace: Are you kidding me? You can’t sue us! It was our idea!
Nick: Grace, you said you were gonna sue me, but I never heard from you.
What’s a guy got to do to get your attention? 
Grace: You’re suing me so you can see me?
Nick: I’m being proactive, one of the things you like about me.
Grace: [scoffs] There is nothing I like about you.
Nick: Oh, come on, it’s cute. I’m a scamp. 
Grace: Oh, stop. This is not a game to me. We built Vybrant from nothing in our 70s. And it was just starting to take off. And not filling orders is not good for business. And if you think that I’m going down without a fight, you’re not as smart as you look.
Nick: You think I look smart?
Grace: What is wrong with you?

And scene! (emphasis mine)

So, what do we see here? Nick used the legal system to get a hold of Grace. She and her new company are vulnerable and he knows this. He dismisses her very legitimate concerns by laughing it off. He tries to gaslight her by making it seem like she is the one who likes him, he’s doing this for her, really. This is a joke to him. Like Grace said, she and Frankie built their company in their 70’s. If you’re familiar with the show, you know they’ve dealt with the topic of ageism and how society views (or doesn’t) women over a certain age. This is clearly a way to manipulate Grace. He’s counting on the fact that as an older woman, she’ll feel like she can’t say no.

Later in the episode, Nick shows up at the house, comes in even though Grace never invited him in. Grace tells him Frankie has had a stroke, he shows concern for a second and then it’s back to pressuring Grace to go out with him.

Again, emphasis mine:

Grace: Would you stop playing games with me? Things are hard enough right now.
I can’t even work because of your cease-and-desist.
Nick: I just wanted to see you. Look, Grace, my original offer still stands. Have dinner with me. One little dinner. I’ll drop our vibrator, nobody sues anybody, and we all go on with our lives.
Grace: And what do you expect to get out of this dinner that will never happen?
Nick: Nothing untoward. I want us to get to know each other. Come on one dinner.
Grace: That’s all I’d have to do and you’d drop everything? Stay out of my business? My life?
Nick: Yes.

Then there’s a back and forth about what type of meal, where it’ll be, how they’ll get there, even what they’ll eat. I’m sure it’s meant to be cute. It’s meant to show that Grace isn’t easy and just look at how hard poor Nick has to work to get a simple date with Grace.

After shaking hands on the “deal”:

Grace: Why are we doing this?
Nick: Because I can’t get you out of my head.
Grace: Then you should get a new head.
Nick: I would, but I have great hair.

See? He’s so funny. How very charming.

The “Date”:

Grace arrives and brings along paper work for Nick to sign saying he won’t pursue the lawsuit. Once that matter is settled, Grace begins to tell Nick about herself in a very disinterested tone. Nick offers her alcohol which she at first refuses because “pre-late lunch drinks” had “not been negotiated”. Nick then says he’ll have “to pour out this extremely dry martini with olives flown in this morning all the way from Spain”. Again, if you’ve watched the show, you’ll know a dry martini is Grace’s drink of choice. She asks how he knew that.

Nick: Because I did a little research on you.
Grace: That’s terrifying.
Nick: I got the lowdown on Say Grace.
Grace: Oh, did you?
Nick: Solid growth ten quarters in a row, despite the beauty market’s volatility.
Grace: Well, it’s 11 quarters, but who’s counting?
Nick: We are. It’s so us.

From the beginning, Grace has been rightfully upset about Nick’s behavior. She correctly identifies that his STALKING is indeed terrifying. After another charming  obnoxious back and forth:

Nick: If you’re an expert, explain them to me.
Grace: Oh, God, no. I am a nightmare when it comes to relationships.
Nick: Yeah, well, I read that in the research.
Grace: Where are we going? There’s no restaurants out here.
Nick: We never said “restaurant,” we said “food”. I’m meeting all the criteria of our negotiation.

So, we know that Nick is aware of Grace’s past with Robert. He knows she’ll be hesitant to start anything with him or anyone, so he’ll be prepared to use whatever he can to get her to do whatever he wants. He has so far.

I wish Nick wasn’t in this show. His character is gross, a creep who doesn’t respect boundaries and who is willing to use the legal system to bully Grace. This isn’t cute. It isn’t romantic. It’s stalking, manipulation and abusive. This plot line is extremely common, all you need is to look at the synopsis of any “romantic” movie 

But just because it’s common doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak up about it. I am hoping next season won’t involve Nick but I know better. I just hope I’m proved wrong, because I love this show and I’d hate to have to quit it, but I will if it comes to that.

Dilemma: Explaining Racism to Other POC

So a recent text exchange about white privilege and racism with a potential date (a person of color) made me have a bunch of feels. This is my attempt at parsing them.

Explaining why white supremacy exists to a person of color feels like I’m splainin’ their oppression to them. But he kept blaming racism on mental capacity or ability. I needed to say something about the ableism he was displaying.

He was “not all white people”-ing me and saying “you can have white privilege and not be racist”. Except you can’t have one without the other, white privilege exists because of racism.

I know how frustrating it is having this conversation with a White person. So how does one manage to talk to a person whose facing similar bigotries as you without coming off as condescending? How do you strike that balance of not compromising your message but also wanting to educate them? Personally I’m not a fan of educating White people. My writing is intended for people who are well versed in Social Justice and for people like me so they know they are not alone. This blog serves as a sort of journal and I do not have the desire to explain my existence to someone more privileged than I.

But when faced with a person of color who isn’t well versed in these things, I feel there’s a moral imperative to educate them. Because bigotry isn’t simply “just how the system is”. It isn’t some phenomenon without an explanation. Obviously you’re not going to pick a random person off the street and rant at them but if you’re speaking to someone and they mention the bigotry they face and wonder out loud why it’s happening, it’s a little hard not to want to want to grab them by the collar and just spill your guts about how and why The Man is keeping us all down. I don’t need to reach white people, I need to reach others like me. There is strength in numbers.

Someone who doesn’t understand why bigotry exists but is willing to learn is obviously not the issue. What makes this an issue for me is when faced with someone like Potential Date. Apart from the ableism, his responses smacked of complacency. He wasn’t interested in attacking the root cause of the bigotry. It may be easier to be ableist but it doesn’t do anything to combat the oppression we face. What it does is further stigmatize people who are mentally ill or who have cognitive disabilities.

Potential Date isn’t disabled so he won’t understand why ableism is an issue, at least not right away. Not without someone to explain it to him. So I’m back to my dilemma. I don’t want to waste time educating someone with able privilege but then he’s also a person of color. I feel like he needs to understand. I feel he should understand because he’s faced racism. So, naively, I wish he could just get it. He’s straight and cis and that adds more layers of privilege.

So then I guess the real issue is how do you talk to someone who has privileges over you, but who isn’t at the very top of the racial hierarchy? And if they’re open to talking about it, how do you do it in a way it won’t alienate them? Because I feel that conversation can end up making the other person feel like they’re being talked down to.

As I’m writing this, I have a million thoughts running through my mind. For example, if the text exchange had been about sexism, transmisogyny or homophobia I probably wouldn’t bother to educate him. Because in those cases he’s privileged. But then again, I can’t just separate my transness or queerness, or the fact that I present as “female” from the racial oppression I face. These things do not occur in a vacuum. I’m interested in hearing your take. Is this all just an exercise in futility?

Addendum:
This is why dating advice that says to go out and just meet people in meat space doesn’t work. As a loud feminist and sjw is so fucking tricky and most times impossible to meet someone in the wild who is like-minded. Which is why online dating is the way to go for me.

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Grandpa Stories

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandpa lately. I’ve written about my grandma, mom, dad, aunts (including one I didn’t even like all that much), and my younger brother but have only ever mentioned my grandpa in passing. To say he was a character would be an understatement. My grandpa was born in Puerto Rico two years before the Jones–Shafroth Act gave Puerto Ricans American citizenship. He grew up very poor and had to stop his education at the second grade becuase his mother couldn’t afford shoes for him.

He left Puerto Rico sometime between the 30-40’s to NYC. He worked in factories and eventually met my grandma. Coincidentally, they were both from the same town in Puerto Rico, except grandpa was a “jibaro” (a country person) and my grandma was from “el pueblo” (the city). He was trigueño, with what he called “gingy hair” (he meant kinky, but could never quite get it right), and a big nose. That nose! If you want to tell who’s related to him, you’d look at our noses. My mom, my brothers and I all have that nose. I hated it so much when I was little because I was bullied over it. When he went places, it’d take forever to leave because he’d strike up a conversation with anyone. He spoke English to us a lot and I regret not being able to mimic his accent. It was the best. He always wore a guayabera with either a trilby or bucket hat. His favorite cologne was Brut. Which is funny to me now, because a lot of people hate Brut but it always reminds me of grandpa. He was the reason I liked wrestling when I was little. He loved baseball. His favorite team was The New York Mets. 

But anyway, I’ve written about my experiences with child abuse. My grandma was very old school in her thinking. Children were to be seen, never heard. And anything could be a punishable offense, worthy of a few smacks. Grandpa, however, never yelled or hit me. In the 16 years I knew him, I only ever got angry with him once. This isn’t to say he was perfect. The man was incredibly sexist and anti Black as hell. I’ve had to come to terms with these things while also remembering the good things about him. It’s been tough but doable.

So here now, I share some of my favorite grandpa stories

The Godparents who came to Dinner:

When my younger brother and I were little, we used to eat the chicken before the rice and beans. That would always upset grandma. After the billionth time of eating the chicken first, she yelled at us. Grandpa, who always defended me when grandma would get on me, told her to leave us alone. Grandma walked away angry and then grandpa told us: 
When he was little, his family was very poor. One day while he and his brother were eating lunch, his godparents visited. His mom didn’t have anything to feed the guests so she took the chicken off the kids plates.
The moral: Always eat the chicken first because you never know when company will come and take it away.

Brothers are the Worst:

When he was about 7 years old, his brother traded him a nickel for his dime. His brother convinced him that the nickel was worth more because it’s bigger.

The moral: Brothers are assholes and it was OK to be mad at my brothers when they bothered me.

Killer Cows:

When I was about 7 or so, I asked my grandpa about his dad. I knew a lot about his mom but nothing about his dad.

Grandpa: I don’t know much about him. He died when I was a baby.
Me: I’m sorry. How did he die?
Grandpa: a cow killed him
Me: *imagines a cow holding a gun* uh how?
Grandpa: cow kicked him
Me: oh that’s a relief.

 (I thought I had to worry about killers cows)

 

Damn, Ju Cheap:

Every day after school, I’d buy myself a malta and a bag of peanut M&M’s. Grandpa was on a strict diet and wasn’t allowed candy. But that never stopped him from asking me.

Grandpa: What you got dere?
Me: Candy
Grandpa: Can I have one?
Me: Grandpa, sabes que no puedes. Tienes diabetes y te hace daño. Los doctores no te dejan.
Grandpa: Ah, eso cara’ de papa no saben na’. Give me one.

So I’d give him one or two and then, without missing a beat in his accented Enlgish, “damn, nena ju cheap”.

This is one of my favorite memories of grandpa. He always knew better than the doctors and he had the biggest sweet tooth. He always had candy and pudding stashed away and he always shared with me. You will understand then why coupled with his not yelling or hitting me, I liked him better than grandma.

Grandpa died in 2005, by that time I was already living in NYC. I hadn’t talked to him in about a year. He developed Alzheimer’s and talking to us would make him sad and then grandma would have to spend the rest of the day comforting and reminding him why we weren’t in the house.

We went back to Puerto Rico for his funeral. I tell people that it was like the Godfather had died. The whole town was there. People I had never met knew who I was because in Puerto Rico, people can tell who your people are by your “pinta”, basically what you look like. I didn’t go up to grandpa’s casket right away. I couldn’t. If I did, his death would become real and then who would tell me all those silly stories?

I wished I had asked him more about his childhood in Puerto Rico and his time in NYC before meeting grandma. He lived a long life; he was a few months shy of his 90th birthday when he died. I miss him every day. His stories live on in me and I’ve told a few of them to my daughter. We’ve looked at old pictures. She also has his nose.

UPDATE: Fake Goth Banned! Can’t Block Cathy Brennan?

I have written twice before about Cathy Brennan. You may know Cathy Brennan for being litigious, doxxing trans women, cis fuckery and for being a fake goth. And now it seems  she is also unblockable on Facebook. Today, several people tried to block her and they got the same error message you get when attempting to block Mark Zuckerberg. In the posts linked I talk about the double standards Facebook seems to use when deciding what violates community standards and what doesn’t. Posts depicting violent and graphic imagery do not get taken down. Posts containing racial and gender slurs stay up. Pages dead naming trans people? Yup, they stay up because they don’t “violate community standards”. Rape jokes? You guessed it.

But posts calling Brennan a fake goth? Those get you 1, 3, 7 or 30 day bans.

cathy

Cathy says this is because calling her so is “bullying behavior”. But how is it bullying when people are not tagging or messaging her with the meme? Again, my friends and I and several others had her blocked. If you have to make multiple accounts to report people who’ve blocked you, can you call that bullying? No.

Here I’ll provide several screen shots of the error messages. Note: some will be censored to hide names other than Cathy’s, since she’s so doxx happy.

Mine:

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Taken at 12:55AM EST

The following are screen shots provided by friends.

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Error message on desktop site

 

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Mobile app message error

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screenshot

Now, I don’t know if this is due to her using whatever influence she has at Facebook, or if it’s some sort of anti-harassment measure. I’ve seen it suggested that if a lot of people are trying to block the same person Facebook may interpret that as harassment. I’m skeptical of that claim because if anything, multiple people trying to block the same person should be indicative that the problem is the person being blocked. However, seeing how quickly they ban trans people, it wouldn’t be too surprising.

As of 4:14 AM EST, I’m still getting the error message. I will continue to update this post as more information comes in.
UPDATE: Below is a screenshot a friend sent, this was around 4:30am EST

Obsessed, says the woman who consistently searches her name. But she’s the one being bullied, right? Laughable.

Another error message when a friend tried blocking her.

I’m bring told that when attempting to block Brennan facebook redirects you to your block page but it doesn’t actually block her. I tested again at 10:00am EST and I got this

UPDATE February 24th, 2017

As of 1:00pm EST, I can’t see the profile in question. I don’t know if that means the block finally took or if she deactivated the account.
UPDATE 2, 2/24/17 2:22 pm EST

The reason that one profile isn’t currently available is because she was banned.

Cathy your “political opinion” is GARBAGE.

Now, as much as I am enjoying this, this doesn’t mean this is the end. She has multiple profiles and loyal followers. Don’t let this lull you into a fall sense of security.

Keep up the good fight, friends.

Gender Policing Children

I’m writing this becuase I am sick of the constant gender policing my daughter goes through. She has an Avengers lunch box. She got it for her fourth birthday. It’s one of her favorite possessions, but every few days she comes home from school sad because people keep telling her she likes “boy things”. She gets the same type of comments when she wears her Batman jacket. The conversation usually goes like this:

TJ: I’m not going to take my lunch box to school anymore. Everybody tells me I like boy things.
Me: Do you like the Avengers? Are you a boy?
TJ: Yes. No, I’m not.
Me: Alright then. You’re just someone who likes those things.
TJ: They’re what makes me, me.

We have a similar conversation every few weeks. It gets exhausting.
TJ also loves a lot of feminine coded stuff, like Barbies and My Little Pony. Her favorite Disney movie is Frozen. She prefers dresses and skirts over pants. On days when she’s completely femme, there are people who are surprised becuase they’ve seen her with “boy things” in the past. These people seem to forget that children are actual people, and just like people have varied goddamned tastes.

I went with her on a field trip and the amount of gender policing that went on was mind boggling.Some girl classmates were playing and a little boy came by and asked if he could get a turn. One girl told him no because it wasn’t a boys’ game. I told him he could play. The game? Wizard of Oz match three.

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Screenshot of a board from The Wizard of Oz Match 3 game

 

Another boy said he didn’t like flowers because they’re for girls. At one point I was sitting on a blanket with a bunch of girl classmates and one another boy sat down with us. His mom came along, grabbed him while saying, “why are you here with all these girls. They’re all playing girl games. Go play with the boys”. The girls were telling me about school.

I’m constantly told not to judge parents who restrict their children’s play based on perceived gender. Frankly, I’m going to judge you. You’re raising your child to believe in harmful stereotypes. Stereotypes which lead to trans and gender non-conforming people getting harassed and killed. We have states trying to ban trans people from using public restrooms. All because we reduce people to their genitalia. Then your children spread these bigoted thoughts and make children like mine afraid to express who they are.

If gender is so innate why are cis people so afraid of a boy who plays with dolls? Of a girl who loves trucks?

I’ve seen a lot of cis parents claim that Target making their toy aisles gender neutral is silly because gender isn’t a big deal and the people asking for these things are overly sensitive babies.

You wanna know who are the overly sensitive ones?
Cis people who can’t handle their son wanting a Barbie. Cis people freaking out about which bathroom trans people use.

Apparently gender while being so innate is also very fucking fragile and anything could make children go into gender questioning chaos. And if that child tells their parents and the world they are trans, they can get killed for it. But yeah, keep making it sound like people asking to pee in peace and gender neutrality in media are the bullies in this.

Gender Stereotypes & Abuse

CN: gender stereotypes, abuse, SA, fat phobia, victim blaming/shaming, size shaming, r*pe apologia, uncensored use of the word r*pe, toxic masculinity, ableism

“Is he bigger than you?”, is usually the first question people ask after finding out I’m a victim of domestic violence. They tell me I couldn’t have been abused because I’m bigger than my abuser. They said I could have fought him off. I’m not believed because I’m not petite or thin.

To these people, victims aren’t supposed to look physically strong. To them, violence is always physical.
I tried fighting back but it angered him. So much so he left me with a fat lip. Afterwards he wouldn’t let me leave the house until the bruise healed. So I did everything I could to avoid the beatings. But as any victim of domestic violence knows, that isn’t always possible.

I’ve been told that I couldn’t have been raped because I should have been able to fight him off. If I didn’t fight him off then I must have wanted it. This type of reasoning is victim blaming. Whether they meant to or not, these people are saying that since I didn’t fight hard enough I deserved what happened. They’re saying there is such a thing as “true rape”.

This type of thinking is fat phobic and size shaming because you’re saying that because of my size, I should have never been a victim. Except, as previously stated violence isn’t always physical. He made me afraid by various means. This type of thinking is ableist as well because I am physically disabled and fighting him or anyone off would be impossible. It is also transmysoginistic because I am about as tall as most men and fat so I’m not seen as feminine enough. Then of course, there’s the sexism of “you’re too ugly to fuck”. Forgetting that rape is never about sex, but about power, this trope suggests that rapists rape because they were physically attracted to their victims. This trope goes as far as to suggest that fat women should be grateful they even got the attention.

Now, think about the media you consume.  Think of the Henpecked Husband and Tiny Guy, Huge Girl tropes. Why is the idea of a “domineering” woman, usually taller than her husband funny? It’s because men are supposed to be in charge. Size is thought to be in direct relation to strength and men have to be strong, otherwise he isn’t a man.  Women are supposed to be small and meek.  Are you getting the picture?

These tropes exist because we live in a patriarchal society which values toxic masculinity and enforces a strict and rigid gender binary. And so, I will continue to get these questions. And I will continue to ask these people why they think I deserve abuse. Hopefully that way they’ll understand that what they’re doing is revictimizing me. At the very least, I’ll enjoy their faces as they try to justify my abuse to my face.