working toward the beloved community

“Once feminist professors decide a male colleague is sexist and refuse to see any glimmer of positive action on his part that could be the catalyst for change, they collude in keeping oppressive systems intact.”

-bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope

so often i, as a queer person, feel pressured not to be patient with cis straight folks’ ignorance and internalized queerphobia. i’m told it’s not my job to be an educator to them and that people who don’t already get it aren’t worth the time or the effort.  i do agree that the onus shouldn’t be on marginalized people to take charge of the personal growth of their oppressors, for physical, mental, and emotional health and safety reasons on their part, and because people with privilege have a responsibility to learn on their own how to dismantle the oppressive systems they benefit from. however, i freely make my own choice to educate folks and to guide them toward a more just mindset. it’s work that i find necessary and good, and i know that there are queer folks who can’t do what i can do in this way and i owe it to them — and to the queer kids coming up behind us — to do this work.

also, i used to be the queerphobic asshole. what kind of unhappy monster would i be now if there hadn’t been folks out there educating me and people like me? i am so grateful that there were people who could value my personhood enough to guide me toward a better version of myself when i didn’t do a good job of valuing theirs. i am indebted to them for that and will repay it by paying it forward. i hope to always be loved enough to be told when i need to shape up and to always love enough to do the same.

i do struggle with whether it is morally right to allow people who believe my identities to be wrong and corrupt to remain in my life, even though i love them and i know they love me. is letting them believe those things and face no consequences or requests to grow doing right by myself? is that treating myself as a person with immutable inherent worth equal to everyone else’s immutable inherent worth, like i believe i and all others should be treated? is it honoring that worth? does my tolerance of their failure to recognize the validity of my personhood allow them to maintain their harmful attitudes? does it reinforce those attitudes through complacency, even if complacent is not what i’m striving to be? even if i love these people and i want them in my life?

i don’t know.

i don’t know when looking for educational opportunities becomes detrimental. i don’t know where that line is. i keep living in the question hoping that i’ll be alert to that if it happens. or become alert to it if it already has.

what i do know is that i believe not only that people can change, but that people must change if we are to dismantle oppressive systems and live liberated lives. the power imbalances won’t change if only marginalized people recognize the systems and work to live outside them.

i truly believe in the beloved community. i believe in the possibility of creating a world where the equal and immutable inherent worth of every person is recognized and respected. i will always work toward that world, because it’s the one we need and deserve.

living in the u.s. is a nightmare but immigrating here is worse: a guide to making both of those things untrue

things are really bad in the u.s. (and elsewhere, but i live here), particularly regarding this administration’s cruel and continuously-closer-to-genocide immigration policies, and i’m having a really hard time handling it, which it is a privilege to even be able to say. i don’t want to let my despair and fear and horror and sorrow keep me from working to make things better, so i’m putting together these resources because that’s what i’m good at and what helps me feel like i am doing something and can do something to fight these atrocities and help the people they affect. this post is broken down into two parts: hope and action steps.

hope

i’m starting with hope because i’m sure i’m not the only person struggling not to drown in despair and we’ve gotta start with solving that problem if we’re gonna get anywhere, because without believing that things can get better, we can’t work to make them better.

so here’s an article on the importance and necessity of hope/optimism, why we have to hold onto it and how it must be used. a highlight from that article:

Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics.

here’s a fundraiser which was originally started with the goal of raising $1,500 to help families separated at the border and has, at the time of this writing, raised more than $20 million from more than 500,000 donors.

this fundraiser is proof that people care and that they are acting to stop the evil of the trump administration. (this doubles as an action step, you can still donate to this fundraiser, which supports RAICES, which describes itself as the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas.) here’s an article about what RAICES will be doing with this money.

also, the aclu reported yesterday that a federal judge ruled that the trump administration must reunite separated families within 30 days, and children under 5 must be reunited with their parents within 14 days and that families may no longer be separated in the future.

(a note on this good news, while it is good news, it does not mean that we’re done fighting! we still need immigration reform and if the trump administration has shown us anything it’s that they’ll commit new atrocities as quickly as they possibly can. also, we have yet to see any families reunited as of yet, to the best of my knowledge at the time of this writing. we have to hold them accountable to this ruling. further, we need to abolish ice to help prevent further injustices and we need to fight the muslim ban which the courts just ruled in favor of. so good news worth celebrating — yes. the end of this issue — no.)

with this all in mind, here’s an article about the necessity of not giving into despair. a highlight from this article:

[People affected by harmful policies] also don’t have the luxury of being numb from the news because in some instances what’s on the news is quite literally killing them. It’s on the rest of us to filter out anything that allows us to become paralyzed and to see what is real, all around us—to take real action to affect the real lives all around us. It’s unfair in the extreme, weary friends, but the fact of the matter is that every time we say we are tired, or giving up, or tuning it all out in the name of self-care, somewhere a Steve Bannon gets a new pair of wings. Or as Barber put it to me, “We lose only when we get quiet.”

action steps

protest: there are rallies being held across the country this coming saturday, june 30th, to protest this administration’s cruel immigration policies. you can find an event near you here.

(i went ahead and looked up the events for places where i know people: seattle, ia | muscatine, ia | iowa city, ia | springfield, il)

if you can’t find an event near you, here’s information on how to host your own.

remember! the executive order that trump signed does not solve the problem! here’s a note from the organizers of the june 30th protests:

The executive order that Donald Trump signed today is not a solution to the crisis created by his administration; it keeps kids imprisoned indefinitely, and doesn’t reunite thousands of separated families. But it does show the administration is reacting to public pressure, so we will continue to increase our pressure for justice at hundreds of events on Saturday, June 30, to say that families belong together—and free.

daily vigils are also being held at the seattle ice office. seattle isn’t alone in this: protesters in portland shut down the ice office there and protesters elsewhere have been following suit. you can do the same, by either joining a protest in your area or starting your own protest. i find protests to be a part of by searching on facebook.

also for those of us in seattle, the stranger has a resistance and solidarity calendar with other events you can participate in.

donate: slate put together the most comprehensive list of organizations working to help immigrants at the border that i’ve come across so far.

if reading and researching that many organizations is overwhelming for you, actblue has crafted a way to donate to many of them at the same time. it will split your donation evenly between the organizations it lists here.

help register voters: we’ve gotta get these motherfuckers out of office, guys. they’re doing evil work. like, this isn’t to say there aren’t flaws with our voting system, because there certainly are, but voting remains an important part of having a democracy and ours will be healthier with more voters participating and with better protection of voter rights.

you can sign up to volunteer with rock the vote here.

the american association of university women has a guide to organizing a voter registration drive and offers their public policy staff as a resource as well.

the league of women voters has action steps to take to protect voting rights and to support immigrants, among other things.

if you aren’t registered to vote yourself, please get registered and please, please, please dear god, turn out for the 2018 midterm elections. the new york times has a guide to the midterms so you can get an understanding of what’s going on, where, and when. the general election will be held on november 6th.

keep arguing with your friends on facebook against these practices: i know it can seem like you’re not getting anywhere when you get into it in the comments, but i promise you that that is good, useful, and important work. i learned almost everything i know about social justice by watching people hash it out with other folks online. you are unlikely to reach the person you’re actually talking to, that’s true, but they’re giving you a platform to lay out your argument and to present materials supporting it to a whole host of bystanders who can be swayed by what you’re saying. i was that bystander; i know the power of those arguments.

also, it’s important not to cede ground to people who would argue in favor of cruel immigration policies (or other cruelties). they don’t need more room to talk, they need less. if you can’t reach them, at least make them hesitant to spread their beliefs, whether they hold them out of ignorance or maliciousness.

i’m hoping to get a post together with resources to help you in having these arguments, but the state of things changes so fucking fast that i don’t know if i’ll be able to do that. if i do, i’ll link it back here.

if you have any other ideas about how we can work to protect immigrants, please list them in the comments. i’ll update this post as needed.

i love you and i appreciate how much you care but please get better at talking about suicide

[this post deals with suicide. please read with care.]

hey guys, as someone who’s been suicidal and who has come frighteningly close to losing people i dearly love to suicide and who has helped people grapple with being suicidal and who loves people who have lost people they love to suicide, i am really begging you to please be more careful about how you talk about it.

talking about suicide *is* important and i don’t want to discourage you from doing that, but please please /please/ educate yourself about the best way to do so before you do or before you share articles that do. teen vogue has some good articles about this topic, including the following:

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-talk-about-suicide-without-adding-to-mental-health-stigma

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-talk-about-suicide-op-ed

also, the cdc has media guidelines to follow for talking about suicide, which we as individuals should also be following, especially when we’re talking about suicide on social /media/. these guidelines, which i have been referring to as i write this, are in an easy to understand format here: http://afsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/recommendations.pdf

a couple highlights from this guide: don’t talk about the details of a suicide. don’t share graphic depictions of suicide.

please do not post articles about people’s deaths by suicide that do not follow the guidelines outlined in the document above.

(a personal note about how not to talk about suicide: it is incredibly distressing to me to read people’s assumptions of what being suicidal is like, which are often implicit in the ways they offer care particularly on social media platforms after a celebrity has died by suicide. you are all so well-meaning and i love you for that, but i would truly prefer that you don’t comment about the nature of suicide when you don’t understand it. a good rule of thumb if you have not been suicidal yourself is to assume that you don’t understand it and to avoid speaking about it as if you do.)

the do’s and don’ts section of this web page, below the “how can you help them?” header provides a good guideline on how to talk about suicide with someone who is suicidal, which are also good things to be mindful of when making posts about suicide: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/

if you want to offer help to your loved ones on social media, a good way to do that would be to post the numbers of suicide prevention hotlines. (you can even call one yourself if you’re specifically worried about somebody you love, also, by the way, and they will help you help them.) the u.s. national suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-talk (8255).

this cnn article features more crisis line resources: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/06/health/iyw-suicide-how-to-help/index.html

it is imperative to include information about ways to get help in any discussion you have about suicide.

you can also amplify the voices of people who /have/ been suicidal. a good post to share might be this one, from sam dylan finch, titled “what i wish my loved ones understood when i’m suicidal”: https://letsqueerthingsup.com/2017/09/10/what-i-wish-my-loved-ones-understood-when-im-suicidal/

please share these kinds of articles with care and with proper content warnings, like the one i used at the beginning of this post. these sorts of discussions can be triggering to folks, like they often are to me, especially when i’m not given the opportunity to prepare myself for them.

also, when talking about suicide, please avoid implying in any way that it is the fault of the people who are now grieving that their loved one died by suicide. they are not responsible for it and i promise you they are hurting enough. please be vigilantly cognizant of how many sides of this issue there are.

ouch: body positivity in the time of chronic pain

i have scoliosis. this means that my spine curves side-to-side in ways it really shouldn’t. my spine, being a particular dingus, does this twice, making an “s” and throwing my shoulders and hips out of wack. also, notably, some ribs have joined in the fun recently, popping in and out of place — mostly out — as suits them. dislocated ribs are of the devil xirself.

because of all these structural failings my body insists on having, i live with a considerable amount of pain on the daily. right now, it’s 2 a.m. and i’m curled up on my partner’s couch, distracting myself from how much i’d rather be curled up sleeping next to him but can’t be because my body hurts in every conceivable way and in almost every conceivable place. the degree of pain i’m experiencing tonight is actually less than i often experience, but because all of my joints and many of my muscles ache, i can’t get comfortable and i certainly can’t attain unconsciousness.

frequently, i think that if i didn’t have chronic pain, i could conquer the fucking world. like. i regularly operate under these conditions and i do an awesome job. how much more awesome might i be? feeling robbed of my potential in this way is incredibly frustrating and disheartening, but not nearly so much as the pain itself is. i want so badly to enjoy my life, but it’s exceedingly difficult to do that when the vessel i experience it in hurts all the time. i’m tired of it; i’m burdened by it; i want an opt-out button, but there isn’t one. i’m trapped in this painful flesh prison until i die. sometimes that thought is so overwhelming, i can’t feel anything but that despair.

with my body existing in what amounts to me as a state of constant betrayal, it feels impossible to love it. i want to love it, because that’s a better way to live, but i feel like it never gives me anything in return for that — or, if it does, what it gives isn’t enough. sometimes, i just don’t know how not to be angry with it, even though i know that the anger doesn’t help anything.

there are things i could do to ease this pain and even have some pain-free days. but that involves trusting other people with my body (something i’m not too keen on for a variety of trauma-related reasons) and finding the right person with the right techniques to align my shit, a difficulty that can only be solved by the ever-risky method of trial and error. it also means time and money that i honestly don’t have. (wouldn’t it be cool if this country had universal healthcare.)

in the meantime, things just keep getting worse. i slipped on ice earlier this week and now every joint on the right side of my body is a mess. every time i injure myself, something made easier to do by how wrong my whole body is from the jump, i lose the strength i need in my muscles to help hold my bones in place as the use of my body becomes further restricted. i hate doctors with a fucking passion, but i’ve been to urgent care twice and the er once in the past six months. there’s never anything to do about what i come in for and i never seem to fully heal. (although maybe i will from that slip, too soon to tell.)

how do i embrace a body that’s so miserable to be in? i know i should — because i don’t have an option, because the chronic pain community deserves an example of how a life can be lived well and a body loved under these conditions (not that i’d be the only one, but still, i’d rather be that), because i might find it in me to go through that frightening trial and error process if i can love me and my body enough. it’s what i feel called to do by the body positivity movement. but i just feel so left out by that. i know this body and bodies like it are worthy of love. but damn if that isn’t hard for me to pull off when this body hurts me like it does.

ways to support the parkland survivors in their quest for gun control

last weekend, i promised my facebook friends that i would take action to support the parkland students in their quest for gun control, rather than laying around crying about how devastatingly we’ve let down our children as that does not un-let them down. i also promised that i would share what i found. i’ve compiled it below.

action steps, in no particular order:

1) march

the parkland students are planning a march on washington, dc on saturday, march 24 (referred to as march for our lives) and are working with others across the nation to organize sister marches. their mission statement can be read on their website here: https://www.marchforourlives.com/mission-statement/

i looked up sister marches in seattle, wa; des moines, ia; chicago, il; and st. louis, mo since those marches are close to where pockets of my friend group reside. if you search “march for our lives [your town/big city near you]” on facebook, you should be able to find a march close to you.

2) donate

resources, also in no particular order:

1) the giffords law center to prevent gun violence is a “policy organization dedicated to researching, writing, enacting, and defending proven laws and programs, [that] is on a mission to save lives from gun violence by shifting culture, changing policies, and challenging injustice.” their website has a treasure trove of research about gun violence and solutions to it. their site rates each state’s gun control laws and suggests pertinent policy improvements.

2) the coalition to stop gun violence “seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement, and effective policy advocacy.” they create policy, take on the nra, and address disarming domestic abusers and preventing suicides.

3) other gun violence prevention organizations, for your further research:

4) other anti-violence organizations, for your further research:

(header image original image courtesy of elvert barnes on flickr)

a life unconstrained

i had breakfast in the diner across the parking lot from the motel i stayed at last night, partly because it was such a Place that i couldn’t pass it up and partly because that’s what my dad would’ve done. he has a thing for diners. i don’t really know what to do with the recent realization that i am much more like my dad than i had even known (i discovered that i make decisions that echo decisions of his that i didn’t know he’d made as a young man – which is…A Lot), so when the urge to embrace it comes along, i’m just going with it. there’s plenty of time for that identity crisis to play out; i see no need to rush it.

like…this is a very place-y Place right? it has a lot of Place Presence

also part of why i keep going to diners is because they’re part of the Great American Road Trip aesthetic and i’m a slave to that. unashamedly a slave to that. see me in the crappy motels and in the kind of diners you can find in every fuckin us town drinking their shitty coffee i’m so down

while i was there, nursing a bad cup of coffee, i called my grandmother. it’s the first time that i’ve called someone while on the road, since i was busy doing the thing i do where i don’t communicate with people. i just get so swallowed up in my internal life that reaching outside of that takes a great deal of effort, often more than i have to spare. i have been texting people though, which honestly is such a Feat that i should get a medal. (in truth, it’s been delightful to get to share this trip that way. well worth the effort.)

but i’m talking to her and she’s missing me and, unlike her, i’m having a hard time getting a handle on the permanence of this situation. i’m moving, isn’t that wild? this trip isn’t just a trip, it’s a move. i know that, but i don’t really Know That, y’know? i’m happy to be moving, don’t get me wrong; it just doesn’t feel real yet.

today is the last day of soultrip – tonight, i’ll be in seattle, my new home. which is of course bittersweet. this road trip has been one of the best times of my life; i haven’t felt as much myself as i have while on it. living life completely unconstrained by anything is going to be very, very hard to give up.

so i’m gonna try not to.

seattle is brand new territory for me. it offers me a life completely free from any of the expectations implicit in a place that knows me. i have a couple friends there, but they’re the type who will let me be as many versions of myself as i need to be before i find the one i like the best. nobody else knows me and therefore no preconceived notions of who i am exist.

i am trying to keep myself from having preconceived notions, too. life can be anything. it doesn’t have to look the way i’ve always thought it would, or the way society expects it to look. since i have the opportunity to build a life from scratch, i’m damn well going to make the most of it. i know that this is a rare gift – one i might never get again – and i don’t intend to let it go to waste. god or the universe or whoever gave this to me and i’m too grateful to squander it.

yesterday, i was in a portland bookstore: powell’s city of books, which takes up an entire city block in downtown. it is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best bookstore in the world. i spent hours there, feeling faint among the towering stacks of books in color-coded rooms.

this is only PART of ONE ROOM

the purple room housed a christianity section that was four aisles large that in turn housed a mary magdalene section, the presence of which nearly knocked me off my feet. in the rose room in the ya section, there was an end display of lgbtq ya books, with a sign reading “i ❤ queer lit” – the heart was colored in rainbow; i had to work very hard not to cry. in the queer-specific section, which included queer theory, i found a shelf dedicated to bisexuality. seeing the word in print is always such an experience.

FOUR. AISLES. OF BOOKS ABOUT CHRISTIANITY goddddd. (also not to self-plug like an asshole, but to self-plug like an asshole: there are more pics of this bookstore on my instagram @ky_cochran just sayin’)

the store is so big and so wonderful and so completely captivating that i got lost and definitely thought about living in the literature section for the rest of my life, curling up to sleep on the hard floor near wuthering heights.

since the trip is nearly over and my being employed again is a close reality, i told myself i could spend too much money on books. once decided, my trip through the stacks became an exercise in self-creation.

i grabbed a queer ya novel because i’ve been out of the fiction game for a long, long time and the only place to start there is in queerland. (i confess to having very little interest in het…anything.)

i picked up a mary magdalene book that my other mary magdalene book had recommended (and one of the few on the shelf that portrayed her as a woman of color on its cover and like…if you’re portraying mary magdalene as a white woman on your book i’m…not gonna buy it…because you’re wrong from the get-go). i got a couple books of poetry — ross gay, for joy, and sappho, for queer — and a book about bisexuality that i’ve been eying for two years.

these books all address facets of the person i’m working to become – or to embrace. i’m finally in a place where i feel free to really be queer in a way i didn’t feel like i had the opportunity to before and i’m also finally at a place with my faith where i can shape and build and express it any way that i want and feel with surety that it is mine. the faith of my childhood and teen years was prescribed to me more often than not and i struggled, in the years after the death of my aunt, to get a handle on what it meant or might mean to me. and to be queer and a woman of faith at the same time? goddamn revolutionary.

i know that it is going to take a real effort not to fall back into old patterns or paths — which is why the books. i don’t want to do what is familiar; i want to do what is right. but i know that the pull of familiarity is strong as shit (how many diners have i eaten at while i was on the road???), so i’m declaring seattle my “try it” place, the land of new experiences. and i’m gonna make my friends — and my books — hold me accountable to that.

i want to be happy, goddammit. i deserve it. i won’t let my potential for happiness be overrun by apathy or fear. while i don’t know what exactly my happiness might look like, i do know who i want to be. i want to be good and compassionate, sympathetic and empathetic, i want to be hopeful and encouraging, to be someone who believes in kindness, to be a person who loves unreservedly and to great lengths – both herself and others. i know how much work those things take, i’m more intimately familiar with that than ever, and i am willing to put that work in. and i am willing to cut out anything that hinders those things.

i also know that i have been dying for the chance to be my full self in a way the midwest and my life trajectory therein were not allowing. now that that chance is within reach, i will not waste it.

best yet, i know now, with an absolute certainty, that i can lose damn near a whole goddamn life and still come out better afterwards. so what’s to stop me from reaching for everything my hands might grasp?

low tide high time

[there are other people on this beach, sand crunching between their teeth the same as yours but what the ocean says to you, she says only to you.

from me, she is requesting silence, but her tone brooks no room for argument. i let the waves lap over my feet and swirl around my ankles. graciously, she does not take me into her undertow.

instead, she sweeps the noise in my head out to sea with the other sharks. she likes things in their place.

it is hours before they swim back.]