you don’t have to be useful / you aren’t here to be productive

trying to figure out what i want to do, work-wise, is… so much. every kind of work i think of doing feels like a trap — like i’ll get in there, maybe even excited about the work, only to discover it makes me want to die as much as the last thing (because what the work is doesn’t really matter, does it). i feel like my brain is constantly wailing: surely this can’t be all there is?

but like… in this capitalist hell state, this is what there is. it’s not all there is, and in my opinion, this is neither the only nor the ideal outcome of a developed state. not that the US actually shows that many markers of development, given the levels of violence against women, massive and widespread income inequality, a government that represents the interests of an extreme minority, and truly embarrassing levels of child poverty, but i digress.

i was listening to my favorite podcast today (Call Your Girlfriend) to an episode about universal basic income (UBI), which is this economic idea that is in use in several high-income countries and many low-income countries, that basically says every citizen will get a certain amount of money ($500-1000) monthly, no questions asked. the money replaces all forms of welfare payments for low-income folks, and replaces what amounts to welfare for wealthy folks — all the tax exceptions and loopholes and mortgage throwbacks they receive that decrease their monthly burden in the same way that welfare payments do. basically, the thought (and the evidence supports this) is that giving people this money flat out will do more to alleviate poverty and provide a financial net for people than the welfare system can successfully do. if you want to get people out of poverty, literally give them money.

i’m all for it. despite capitalist lore, the purpose of a human life is not to function as a cog in the GDP machine for a nation that refuses to supply even basic needs in return. governments exist to serve their people. what people need is access to housing, water, food, education, and health. what people desire is time enough to be happy, to find a mental health balance, to socialize, to create. just think of all the creation and joy humans would be experiencing if only they were given the time. governments need not exist to exploit the humans that live within their borders. governments should absolutely not exist to outright murder or indirectly sanction the murder of their citizens, to steal land and deny rights to indigenous people, to steal labor without compensating the laborers, and so on.

our value as humans does not correlate to our “usefulness” as determined by how much money we can make for our government over the course of our lifetimes. our value as humans is inherent and inalienable. a human being is valuable regardless of: their salary, their job title, their gender, their race, their sexuality, their disability/ability, their immigration status, their willingness to participate in the great capitalist race. we are valuable in and of ourselves, and we deserve to have our basic needs and desires met, and that is a fact.

the dichotomy of knowing and believing this and also needing to work endless hours at something i do not want to work at so that i can scrape by meeting my basic needs is infuriating and deeply depressing. the stress of finding a job that will cover your costs and also be engaging? endless. and that’s where i’m at, folks! thoughts?

 

on video games, depression, and learned elitism

My laptop is broken for the fourth time this year, and along with my ability to effectively HUSTLE! for writing work, I’ve lost access to my Steam account and thus my only two video games. So far I have Stardew Valley and Life Is Strange, two very different games — in SDV, you play a city girl sick of her corporate job who moves out to her late uncle’s farm to try a new way of life; in Life Is Strange, you play a girl who attends boarding school (in maybe Maine or someplace), who learns she can turn back time just in time to discover a deadly hurricane coming toward the town, and also she’s possibly queer and that’s why I’m playing.

I’m somewhat of a noob in everything in my life right now. Like… I’m 23, what the heck am I even doing most of the time?! It feels overwhelming and underwhelming all at once. (Is this it, then?) A noob to life, just floating around, basically. Definitely I’m a noob to (for? about?) video games — these are the first two I’ve played semi-seriously since I was a kid, and then barely. Suddenly it feels like so many people in my life play games — at school this wasn’t the case, but also being at school was… a lot. Also I have never used the word noob this much in my life, okay.

But y’all, how wild is it that video games and media are all kind of about mental health now? In Stardew Valley, you move out to nature because living in the city feels depressing and pointless (hello, hi) and almost every character at some point exhibits symptoms of depression or anxiety. Life Is Strange is about a girl who discovers a superpower — but it’s also about the effects of toxic male violence on women. I’m into it. I like for the stories I consume — and video games, at least a lot of them, are really just liveable stories — to reflect in some way my reality. And games these days are really nailing that. I’m watching my girlfriend play Night In The Woods now, which is about this aggro, depressed, totally loveable character named Mae who drops out of college to return to her dying town and all the people who she left behind, who are stuck there with no sense of forward motion. Like. Okay. How did I not know games could be about this?

I didn’t play many video games growing up. Looking back I think there was a degree of intellectual elitism that played into that — my parents fed me “good” books, aka books from the literary canon, books that were met with critical acclaim from those who Know. Actually my little sister was allowed to read “junkier” books than me — she’s dyslexic and her reading level was lower than mine — but the fact remained that they were junk. Fantasy was junk. Science Fiction was junk. “Catch 22” (a book that I have picked up and thrown down, bored to death, at least five times now) was Good. Jane Austen was Good. Dickens, High Literature. I read chunks of the Animorphs series in secret shame; I snuck into our basement to watch W.I.T.C.H. at night when I was meant to be asleep, and only read the manga when I was away from home and my family. I was really discouraged from playing games (not true for my brothers, but definitely my sisters and I were not allowed to play, really) and encouraged to do more “intellectual” or artistic things.

For sure my parents thought they were doing right — filling my brain with high, well-regarded writings. But like… well-regarded, critically acclaimed writing has always just meant the writing of white men, with a sprinkling of mostly-wealthy white women thrown in. And really truly not because they were the only ones writing — but because those are the voices who have been empowered and given value. Happily we’re getting away from that, and the voices of authors of color, queer authors, have finally been receiving mainstream (white) notice. And overall I feel like the idea of The Book as this Great Thing, the idea that nothing new can hold a candle to the old, is just steeped in elitism and classism and racism. And that’s not even beginning to touch on how little guidance most of us were offered while reading books from the canon, many of which are extremely racist and sexist, leaving us to navigate toxic ideas and lessons by ourselves (and muddle ourselves in these toxic ideas that we have to spend years unlearning later! sigh).

Anyways. I am typing this now on a keyboard I bought today for my tablet — it’s baby-sized, truly, and I’m not sure how long I can make this work. New laptop is first on my list of priorities when I finally get some secondary income coming in!

Happy Tuesday, everyone :^)

a small violence (TW: sexual assault/violence; writing prompt)

Prompt: write about a small violence.

 

I tried to do it to myself, the small violence. It was August, and heady. I just wanted to do something meaningless, moorless; I just wanted to have my body do a meaningless act. I didn’t want to bother with emotions. I wanted the kind of solitary feel-nothing hookup sex that everyone else seems to have. I brought him to a party where the theme was finding a date online — I operated through Tinder.  We kissed, and if I had thought harder I should have realized that it would be no good. It was rough, no finesse — rote moves, squeezing chest, ass, rubbing p*ssy through jeans in quick, cyclical succession. (Wearing a path.) We kissed shamelessly against the brick wall holding up my friend’s apartment building; I reveled in the randomness of it, the publicness. I guess I’ve got some exhibitionist in me — I relished the cars behind us, paused for the traffic light, doubtless (blessedly) watching. Anyway.

Later, when his body rose up over mine — I still didn’t realize. He left the lamp on and we removed our clothes, separately, and he rose up over me, stroking on the condom. I lay there and felt as detached as I had wanted — I forgot myself and the reality of my body, forgot the thick heaviness of my middle, weight I’d put on during a recent sad spell, forgot that I had worried I’d feel embarrassed, naked. Then he was on me and that’s when I realized it wouldn’t work. Literally would not work — my body would not let him in.

And the harder he tried to enter — lube and fingers and more and more pressure — it hurt and I felt the frustration rise, a bile, and then quickly, panic. It wouldn’t fit, it wouldn’t work, it hurt it hurt and then suddenly I was back under the boy who raped me, my first time having sex, having sex done to me, even though that time he hadn’t been on top, I had been on top, kissing and then suddenly pain and burning and I was crying but he was still having sex with me and that’s all I really remember. He’d come home with me after we’d danced, after we kissed outside, laying on the dusty ground, after I’d thrown up all over my shoes and some on him too, after I’d begged off and he claimed to have been locked out of his own room and couldn’t he stay in mine? After – after – but really I barely remember.

It’s not uncommon, actually, though I only heard it called by its name a few months ago. Vaginismus. Painful sex, extreme tension — from trauma, from anxiety, my body tightening to wall out intrusion, a sort of inverted vagina dentata. The “cure,” if it’s to be taken as such, is to go slowly, so slowly, with someone you trust. But the reason I chose a boy to fuck, senselessly, is that I wanted the senselessness. I didn’t expect it would be good. I just wanted to drown myself in another body, detach. I couldn’t do that with a girl.

It’s frustrating to have even the ability to be reckless with your own body taken away from you — swallowed, somehow, into your trauma. It’s frustrating that my body won’t do what I want it to, makes me make much of something that I don’t want to have to think about, forces me to look at a trauma I rarely think about and thought I had recovered from and see that it’s lingering (festering, waiting). It makes me feel weak and angry — I didn’t think it would be a big deal but my body made it a big deal. My body feels like it somehow belongs to my trauma, not to me — a small, terrifying violence.

Queer / Hungry / Bodies

Last week was Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018, and it’s time we talk about the intersections of queerness and disordered eating.

There’s research that suggests that eating disorders are more prevalent in the LGBTQ+ population than among straight folks. It makes intuitive sense that that would be so in cis-queer relationships we are with people whose bodies more often than not offer a direct comparison to our own. Add in our cultural idea of gender and bodies femme bodies are softer, masculine bodies hard, androgynous bodies are lithe, sharp and the stage is set for all sorts of bodily complexes. If your body does not conform to the societal idea of the gender you identify with, it makes all the sense in the world that you might feel like you need to work to change that, and along the way fall into the patterns and habits and maybe-self-loathing that comprise the lived experience of an eating disorder.

According to NEDA, queer girls are more likely to experience binge-type behavior than their straight peers, and queer boys are disproportionately more likely to experience body dysmorphia and disordered eating, particularly of the bulimic type. A study on college students showed that transfolx are four times more likely to be diagnosed with a restrictive eating disorder, and twice as likely to engage in purging behaviors than their cis-female counterparts (the study does not compare transfolx and cis people generally). And this groundbreaking new study found that over 50% of LGBTQ youth are struggling with eating disorders.

Cultural and gender expectations of bodies do damage in ways that can be largely unseen eating disorders are frequently invisible to the outside eye. We fetishize portrayals of the most extreme cases, and in the most culturally acceptable bodies (cis-white-wealthy-women), and while we in one breath decry the dangers of anorexia, in another we deplore our nation’s rising weight in minute detail. We shame anyone above a size 6 while systematically denying access to health to people of color and poor folks. We receive such a garbled mess of messaging around how our bodies should be that we lose the ability to accept and care for them as they are.

I remember thinking about my body in high school and wondering, worrying, about how to be with another body when I felt, bone-deep, that my body was unworthy. I looked at other girls’ bodies and felt the agony of comparison and was unable to parse out what was actually attraction. I think if I had confronted my queerness for what it was in high school, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it it would have been another terrifying way my body eluded my grasping control, another thing that would open me up to mockery or shame. To further complicate matters, my first girlfriend was this tiny, brutal creature who absolutely did not like to eat. When we first started dating, we would spend all day together in the city and not eat. I didn’t like to eat in front of her because I wanted her to see me as this perfect thing, needless and beautiful, and she didn’t like to eat, period. Thinking of her, of our bodies together, of how I felt having a bigger body than my girlfriend, all proved strong motivation to wait just a little longer, to eat a little less. We had a toxic relationship another thing not visible enough in queer conversation is queer relationship abuse and one that enabled and encouraged my own disordered behaviors.

My experience is anomalous in the sense that ciswomen in relationships with other ciswomen tend not to experience restrictive-type disordered eating; we are actually less likely to do so than ciswomen in heterosexual relationships. Not so for cis-queer men, who, despite only representing about 5% of the total “male” population, comprise 42% of the population of cismen with eating disorders. Toxic masculinity likely plays a role; the “ideal” masculine body type as frequently represented in the gay community is slim, muscular, and often white the weight of the male gaze in combination with an internalized idea that eating disorders are a feminine plague would seem to create a culture of silence for those suffering. Eating disorders, too, are fundamentally a mental health issue, and the queer community is severely lacking in mental health support.

The trans community has shown particular susceptibility to eating disorders. Reporting by Teen Vogue suggests that our cultural norms around gender and bodies combined with the stressors of either coming out in a potentially unsafe environment or suppressing vital parts of one’s identity are key contributors. Trans youth, and all queer youth, are at disproportionate risk of houselessness and unstable home environments due to a lack of familial support; this instability is another contributing stressor. Regulating the body’s appearance through restriction or binging represents a way for trans youth to exercise control over bodies that might not match their gender identity.

Nearly every piece of media that’s been made about eating disorders shows the same story, despite the breadth of the issue and the diversity of experience that exists. I’ve struggled with disordered eating since I was a child and still do; it’s got a lot less to do with my weight in pounds and a lot more to do with feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety all things that the LGBTQ community disproportionately suffers from. Enough is enough. Eating disorders are a queer issue. Eating disorders are a mental health issue. Eating disorders are an access to health issue. Eating disorders are a class issue. Eating disorders are a racialized issue. This EDAW week and each one going forward should work to highlight that.