Category Archives: In My Own Words

I am afraid, or, 2017: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here

I am afraid on the basis of all of my identities. That fear is not just of Trump himself, but of unchecked Republican control of the executive and legislative branches of our government, and likely soon the top level of the judicial branch as well.

As a black person, I’m afraid that Republican power will continue to deny that my and my people’s lives matter. That there will be no push from the federal government to hold police who kill unarmed black men and women accountable. That we will continue incarcerating absurd proportions of black and brown communities. That the fact that a businessman who was openly supported by the KKK was elected will give racists and white supremacists a larger platform, a stronger foothold, or even just make them more likely to take action in support of their beliefs.

As a woman, particularly as a sexually active woman of childbearing age who does not want to become a mother now or ever, I am worried about what full Republican leadership at the federal level means for reproductive rights. I have an IUD right now, that was made possible by the stipulation in Obamacare that requires all insurance companies to cover the cost of all forms of birth control. If (it pains me too much to say when) Obamacare is repealed, I will be required to pay for the medically necessary removal of my current IUD in 2018 and for the cost of inserting a new one, which can be upwards of $1000, if I choose to stick with this birth control option that has worked very well for me. If I choose to go with a lower cost, but also easier to misuse option, like the pill, I am scared that I’ll mess up and forget to take it one day, or forget to bring it with me on a trip, and then be faced with a potential unwanted pregnancy under an anti-abortion federal government. I am afraid of catcallers and other predatory men feeling emboldened by a president who has bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.

As a queer person, I am afraid that Trump himself doesn’t care about us, as he has released no policy plans for LGBT rights or HIV/AIDS. But I know how anti-LGBT the Republican party generally is: 2016 has seen pushback on marriage equality and adoption rights for same-sex couples, bathroom bills that have devastating consequences beyond just where we pee, endorsements of gay conversion therapy for minors, and a resurgence of “religious freedom” bills designed to allow businesses the ‘right’ to refuse to serve us. Trans women, especially trans women of color, are being killed every week in this country, and I have no hope that they will be protected under our new president-elect’s leadership. In fact, as the people who oppose QTPOCs very existence see how strong their numbers are, it’s hard to do anything other than expect the violence to get worse.

And speaking of the twisting of “religious freedom,” as a non-Christian, I am worried that a conservative majority in all branches of the federal government de facto pushes church and state closer together. I have extended family members who are Muslim (of the black power, Nation of Islam variety, but that didn’t matter to folks who abused and discriminated against them post-9/11). I am afraid for their safety in the red states of Georgia and Florida under a Trump administration.

As the daughter and granddaughter and niece and sister of people who have worked in the casino industry, literally for Trump himself and/or for people like him, I am worried that Republican control means even further erosion of what little safety net is there for our senior citizens who didn’t work fancy desk jobs with 401ks or pensions and now depend on Social Security and Medicare to literally feed, clothe, house, and care for themselves. I am afraid of what will happen to my father and my grandmother. I am worried that people who don’t make living wages will lose the scraps of support they are currently able to receive from programs like SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid, and won’t be able to literally feed, clothe, house, and care for their children. I am afraid that this administration will do nothing but widen the gap between the rich and the poor in this country, and further marginalize the voices of those being trampled upon.

As the daughter of a woman who has held down a full-time teaching job through multiple rounds of chemotherapy in order to keep her healthcare coverage, I am afraid that people will literally die as a result of this election. Obama was able to bring health insurance (albeit imperfect) to hundreds of thousands of people who did not have it before, and made it so that people couldn’t be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. I am afraid that if my mom gets too sick to work, a post-Obamacare America will be one in which she cannot be insured, and my family will have to watch a disease she beat once before overcome her because we can’t afford the treatments.

I feel America’s distaste for people like me, a distaste that ranges from a lack of empathy to a straight-up hatred, writ large this morning, feel it in my bones and in my spirit more heavily than I’ve ever felt it before. This place was built by us, but not for us, and is about to be run by people who aggressively don’t support us. I feel unsafe and unwanted here on the deepest of levels. If I joke or even more genuinely consider fleeing, don’t tell me it’s my responsibility to fight through and fix this. I didn’t break it. I don’t know how to heal the divide between rural America and urban America, between white America and diverse America, between people who legitimately support Trump’s platform and ideas and people like me. I don’t know if it can be healed. I am not hopeful this morning.

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You’ve got to have someone who loves your body. Who doesn’t define you, but sees you. Who loves what [they] see. Who you don’t have to struggle to be good enough for.

Deb Caletti, The Secret Life of Prince Charming

(via KEW)

I don’t know how to express how grateful I am to JJ for being this person for me. We’ve been together for almost three years and I’ve never heard him say a negative thing about my body. On the contrary, he seems to genuinely celebrate/relish in parts of me I typically try to minimize. One of the many reasons I love him.

We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.

Joan Didion | The Year of Magical Thinking

(via Now, You See Me)

This rings so true for me in the wake of T’s death. There is nothing like a person’s passing, especially when that passing is unexpected to make you reflect on the past. I will miss T more than I can say, but either alongside or wholly part of that is missing the way being in T’s presence, laughing and joking and chatting and being welcomed back home by him, made me feel. Reading everyone’s words in memory of him, the experiences they’ve had with him that left impressions on them, has sent me into tears no fewer than 5 times in the past week. We will never be as we were in those moments again. I am going to his funeral tomorrow where I will sob with the loss, and that will be one thing. But I already know that at Reunions, I will struggle to find the courage to walk into the kitchen, and I cannot imagine anything other than being reduced to tears by all that I won’t find there, all that is no longer.

Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

(via the dopest ethiopienne)

THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. I may be in a serious cohabiting relationship, but that relationship does not exist to the exclusion or, really, even to the detriment of my friendships, either those that came before the start of my relationship or those that have blossomed since. I have picked my closest friends to exist in my life now and tomorrow and for as many tomorrows as we have left, however awesome or shitty or meh those days may be, simply because I like them. Because something in me resonates with something in them, something about them makes me wanna say, “This one! Yeah, I really enjoy this one. Let’s be important to one another forever.” And the circumstances of my romantic life don’t cancel these other relationships out or make them matter less. I hope that can always be true.

What makes me feel cherished, loved, and secure?

Spending good quality time together. This is not time where we’re sitting on our computers, basically in separate worlds but next to one another, but time where we’re actively engaging with one another, either having a conversation or doing an activity together, or even just snuggled up in bed not talking. Feeling like quality time is a thing that my partner enjoys, craves, desires, wants as much as possible of.

Touch. Touch is so valuable to me. I feel most connected to a partner when we are in physical contact, even if it’s just holding hands while we’re driving somewhere. JJ makes it very clear how much pleasure he derives simply from having his hands on my body, even from things as non-sexual as my cheeks. Sexual touch brings this to another level, especially when combined with verbal affection. Sex can be an amazing expression of love, and cuddles are just as important.

Attention. I’m giving attention separate emphasis from quality time, because attention can be given from afar. Gchatting during the day while we’re at work, or even when we’re spending time with other people, counts as attention-giving, but not as quality time. Undivided attention is very important to me.  Listening to me, devoting your attention to me to the exclusion of everything else.

Affection. Saying we love one another, expressing gratitude for one another’s existence in our lives, saying things that we appreciate about one another, taking the time for kisses in the middle of life routines. 

Future-Planning. Making decisions about a shared semi-distant future makes me feel secure, be those decisions about leases or vacations, etc. Even just speaking about the future as a thing we will exist as a unit in. 

What do I bring to the table for others?

I offer stability and dependability and rootedness and growth and support and encouragement and love and laughter and silliness and enthusiasm and playfulness and sexual expression. I offer a metric ton of affection, both physical and verbal; it is so important to me to let the people that matter to me know that they matter and why. Oh, and food. I offer a lot of food. I less reliably succeed but try to offer compassion, understanding, and empathy. I offer the ability to build a home. I try to offer the opportunity to embark on an adventure of togetherness. I try to at all times embody an offer to extend myself for the betterment of the people most significantly in my life. I try to offer myself fully in all of my emotionally close relationships; I don’t like to hold back and try to discourage that from my friends and partner. 

These are the things I have offered to JJ. I do not know what that leaves for others outside of him. When I have gone on dates with others or been talking to potential romantic/sexual interests during our relationship, I have often been stumped when said potential interests ask me what I’m looking for. I’m not looking to have multiple relationships; I don’t know what to take from the table I’ve built for JJ to give to someone else. The most honest answer would have likely been that I’m looking for someone to spend time with when I want to spend time with JJ but cannot due to one of his other relationships, and that isn’t much to offer. I usually end up saying that I’m looking for connections and am open to whatever happens, but I’ve never been sure exactly how true that is. I would like to exist in a relationship that does not need bolstering by outside reinforcements.

Are there specific kinds of relationships that I know I am looking for? Kinds that I know I don’t want?

I want a relationship that has all of the elements listed above, and is always progressing towards having more of those things rather than less. I don’t want to regress from one level of life-entwinement to less entwinement. I would like to be as entwined as possible, not to the point where we have to do everything together, but such that we are the people that we spend the most time with, such that we come home to the same place and sleep in the same bed on a daily basis. I don’t want to have to schedule time to spend together or wonder when we’ll next see one another. I struggled with the idea of existing as a periphery relationship ad infinitum at the beginning of my relationship with JJ — I don’t think I would enter into an arrangement like that again. I don’t want to be years into a relationship with a partner and still only seeing them a couple of times a week. I am looking for a partnership that feels like it could last for the foreseeable future, a relationship that isn’t riddled with doubts about its own validity or longevity or health constantly. I want to feel like I am organizing my life around someone and they are doing the same around me; I don’t want to be accessory or supplementary in my partner’s life. 

What do I consider essential, indispensable elements of a relationship?

(I’m answering this from the perspective of a romantic relationship.) Love. Respect. Acceptance. Support. Emotional Intimacy. Physical Intimacy, including both sensual/sexual and non-sexual touch. An enthusiastic and mutually satisfying sex life. A desire to spend time together, and for that time to increase over the course of the relationship. Enjoyment in spending time together, regardless of activity. The intangible mushy fuzzy goofy silly lovey-dovey mildly obsessive feeling that makes something Romantic for me. The potential for life-entwinement, specifically including the ability to build a home together. The ability to spend nights together, to travel together, to spend holidays together, to appear in public together. A sense of stability or predictability, the ability to envision a future together.

Why do I have romantic relationships? What do I get out of them?

This is my first legitimately romantic relationship. I get out of romantic relationships a lot of things that I also get from friendships, but also some things that are exclusive to romantic relationships, and some things that are exclusive to a certain kind of romantic relationship. I’ve told JJ in the past that I think of my romantic relationships as friendship+. By that I mean that in my close friendships I get emotional support, people to do activities with, feelings of acceptance and support, people to help me with problems or issues, people to celebrate and have fun with, and a feeling of love and like my presence and who I am as a person is appreciated or cherished by this person. Many of my closest friendships also involve a degree of easy physical (but non-sensual/sexual) touch, both currently and historically. I am a very touchy-feely person and I crave physical touch — in my previous lives on campus or in high school, my days were full of small touches in the middle of conversation, resting my head on other people’s shoulders, massages, people playing with my hair, etc. So, all of those things exist both within the realm of friendship and the realm of romantic relationship.

Romantic relationships have elements all their own as well. In a romantic relationship, touch becomes the norm, and sensual/sexual touch is on the table at pretty much any moment. Romantic relationships have a level of entwinement that doesn’t exist in close friendships — I structure my life around them on a daily basis. I have romantic relationships when my feeling of wanting to be around someone goes beyond the way I feel about friends and into a space that wants to be sensual/sexual and life-entwined, when the pleasure I feel from spending time with someone feels like a thing I want to have as much of in my life as possible, a thing to be prioritized over others. Romance goes beyond friendship to say that I want to exist with this person as some sort of a unit, a we. It adds dimensions to the love I experience in close friendships, growing past a love for me as a person and my presence to include a love for my body and a love for the life we are building together. Entwinement brings love and touch and appreciation and companionship and the pleasure of experiencing life with this person into my everyday life, especially when the relationship progresses to cohabitation, which feels like the natural direction a healthy relationship flows towards to me.

What happens if I connect with someone in a way that differs from how I want my poly relationship to look? What message does that send to someone who doesn’t fit neatly into my dreams?

I don’t know what would happen if I were to develop a connection that feels romantic with someone else. It feels sort of impossible. I don’t know how I could develop that sort of connection while being in a relationship with JJ. To do so feels like it would be or have required giving up on some aspect of our relationship. I don’t feel romantic connection…easily or frequently or lightly. It’s not something that just happens for me. Sometimes I think about why I didn’t feel a romantic connection with HB — he fit so many of the boxes that I think I would like in a partner; I was fond of him as a person, we were affectionate and cared about each other as humans, we had amazing and frequent and adventurous sex, but when the time to end it came, I experienced some sadness at the loss of these things in my life but it didn’t feel like a breakup. It hadn’t felt like a Relationship. I didn’t want to pair-bond with him, and he didn’t want that with me; I didn’t think of us as a unit; I didn’t feel goofy and silly and happy when I thought about him or he messaged me — just turned on. I think that my connection with Jerome eclipses the opportunity for that to happen elsewhere.

I don’t walk through life experiencing crushes on a regular basis. I have had exactly one crush in the three and a half years since I graduated college, and one real-life connection that led to an expression of romantic interest by someone else whom I felt interested in as a person enough to go on a date with. Both of these happened prior to my connection with JJ blossoming; not sure if that’s coincidental or correlational. I had more crushes in college, but they were always sort of like I wanted to spend more time around this person and maybe touch them and try to figure out if they liked me, not necessarily with dreamy visions of us dating or being in a relationship or even hooking up; I had no experience with any of those things and could not imagine them, really. Coming to college with almost no experience being desired by someone made holding hands or leaning on someone’s shoulder while we watched a movie a Big Deal to me in a way it definitely is no longer. It should also probably be stated that I pretty much exclusively date/have felt romantic interest in Black folk (with coworker crush from my first year of DC life being the major exception), and I don’t exist in predominantly Black spaces with any sort of regularity any longer, so maybe my lack of interest is in part due to a lack of access. But then again, I felt nothing romantic towards HB, and I don’t think SG existed in my life long enough (or physically/sexually enough) for me to determine whether my interest in spending time with her was platonic or romantic.