OHMIGOSH! OHMIGOSH! I think it’s cool to announce now… I can’t believe it’s literally been years since I first told my friend Heidi she definitely needed to take her locally-made, vegan cheese from the our friend’s cafe to the outside world. Now, she is growing and growing… And offered me a job doing PR and marketing!!! My official title may be Marketing/PR CheeZe Whiz. I am so excited!
AND ALSO! For a couple years, I have been planning and brainstorming as to how I can support queer students in the after school program that I work for, waiting until I felt more secure of my position and my relationship with the director, before I straight up asked to facilitate a queer support group. I was thinking of facilitating something like a GSA, but more inclusive, but then I learned the after school program had lost their BSU teacher and therefore BSU, leaving a greater need within the after school program for support of marginalized students facing various kinds of discrimination. The idea I’ve come up with is a club called Youth Empowerment and Solidarity, or YES!
My plan for YES! is to do activities centered on strengthening student bonds and relationships, talk about constructive communication (especially non violent communication), talk about conflict resolution with peers and authority figures, discuss key vocabulary that will turn students on to verbalizing their struggles (ageism, homophobia, empowerment, solidarity, autonomy, consent, oppression, marginalization, racism, sexism, etc.), talk about media messages and the importance of dismantling them, talk about the importance of caring for yourself (physical and emotional) and how to care about others, have guests whose experiences will add to the conversations we’ll be having in class (different community leaders and activists), talk to the students about local youth resources (Multnomah County Youth Commission, SMYRC, Portland Youth Summit, Youth Empowered Action, Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls, etc.), read/discuss parts of Stay Solid!, and address/talk about whatever else the students want or need to talk about. This is the poster I made for YES! to promote it within the school…
Since I was a preteen/teen living in poverty with an abusive and neglectful parent, struggling to get out of that environment and better my life, it’s been a dream of mine to become a teacher and to have a positive impact youth, but also to advocate for youth rights. I vowed I would grow up to be an adult that made a difference in the lives of young people. Back then, I thought I would become a biology teacher and just be present for my students. Over the years, I have switched gears a bit. I began to loath the structure of the public education system (as I watched it fail many of my peers and realized its oppressive and inherent flaws) and I fell away from wanting to study biology to become educator, deciding to pursue my own creativity through comics and zines and wanting to teach kids independent publishing, seeking involvement and belonging in those communities… Which was a struggle, especially coming into comics “community” in Portland in my early twenties, as the community was riddled with oppressive, power-hungry dudes that were incredibly misogynist (that special brand of nerdy misogyny with a lot of gate-keeping). But, I started doing indie comics workshops for kids and broadened to teaching general zine workshops for kids. As I had quickly become disillusioned by the comics community, I turned more towards zines, becoming a PZS organizer because that community felt safer, being facilitated by more women and having a Safer Spaces Policy (safer, but certainly not without it’s own problems and crappy people, as I also learned over the years). Along the way, I made a lot of friends, zines, anthologies, and memories. becoming well known as a zinester by volunteering in that community on so many levels and working with youth lead me to be invited into schools to teach. Working with kids to make zines felt so right. Zines encourage literacy in a very engaging way and making their own media is very empowering to young folks. It also opens a dialog with youth as to how mainstream media fails them. Now, my path as a zine educator has helped me fulfill my goal of working with and empowering youth not only with teaching zines, but with other interests, like debate, games class, and social justice activism (my new group, YES!).
In case you don’t know, I am about to turn 30 this month, so I have been doing a lot of reflecting as to where I am at and feeling really happy with my life and excited for everything in front of me (hence this post). I find myself accomplishing quite a few of some of my oldest goals and feeling like my heart and mind are going to explode.
Especially my heart. This year, for my annual Friendsgiving, I was hosting in my shared home with two amazing life partners. I have been living with my partners Matt and Marco since May and it’s been a very transformative experience. There have been bumps (mainly Marco and myself have wrestled with some baggage from past bad relationships and our childhoods clashing a little bit), as with any relationship transition into deeper intimacy (the deeper intimacy brings out deeper demons), but I have honestly been amazed with Matt, Marco, and myself. We garden together, we’re building a couch together, we laugh together, we cry together, we’re planning comics together, we celebrate together, we chill out together. We also have separate spaces and times, we schedule date nights and alone nights, balancing our desires to be together with time for ourselves. They each have there own rooms that they share with me, but I’m also working on having my own (I’m lagging because I also have the smallest room and I just need to get rid of a lot of stuff before it’s a functional space). When I kicked an abusive partner out of my house a few years ago, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t live with anyone again unless it was multiple partners, thinking that, if more than one partner wanted to cohabitate with me, we’d probably all be having pretty awesome relationships and they would probably awesome people whose goals in life were more like mine. Both Matt and Marco are incredibly sweet, supportive, accountable, and motivated people. I find myself continually inspired by them both and feeling thankful for them both.
I have wanted to have deeper loves in my life for a long time, trying to have healthy relationships and practicing non monogamy (bent more towards polamory) over the years with a lot of trial and error, but I finally feel I am sharing my life in meaningful way with not just one amazing partner, but two. We have shared space, shared goals, shared projects. It all has me feeling incredibly fulfilled and happy, my home is feeling like one of the safest and most wonderful places… It really feels like a home and Matt and Marco are my family. All with room for more.
So, with all this, I am going into my thirties. I think this may be the most amazing decade of my life.
This past weekend, Matt’s mom came to visit.
Primarily, she wanted to visit to come to Matt’s book signing for the work he did on the Plants vs. Zombie comic. For us, it was a chance to humanize ourselves and our life to a woman who is very against who we are and the life we’re living, all while having little to no understanding of us or many things about our lives.
Matt’s mom’s visit was so many things all at once. Pleasant, awkward, fun, stressful, relieving, revealing, and more. I realized that, in a lot of ways, she’s like my own mother, but without the violent abuse and alcoholism and with more of the racism, homophobia, and sexual shaming. She was very polite to Marco and I, saving her fretful, phobic meanderings about our relationship for when her and Matt were alone. But she also said she appreciated that Marco and I were nice to her. Having recently gone through a divorce which involved a large amount of disempowerment and deceit, she is in a tender and vulnerable place. She has a lot of trust issues, which is really understandable. We recognized that and, though a lot of her fears are irrational and due to a lack of experience outside her own circumstances, a lot of what we’re going through is a culture clash. So, we tried to just have fun and hang out with her, to try to give her some experience with us that would be positive. Also, because I love Matt so much, I want to show his mother that, despite our differences, I want to be there for her and to care for her. We went out to eat at some of our favorite restaurants, we made dinner in, we made terrariums, we took her to Multnomah Falls, we traveled to the Newport Aquarium, we showed her our progress on pizza couch, I babysat the neighbor’s kiddo and brought him over while Matt was making dinner, we got her to watch Janelle Monae videos, we sang to her at karaoke, and we had a lot of conversations with her about our lives and our beliefs (and even about how we may want to have kids). The whole time, we we’re battling off colds (mine really hit me Monday, when we went to the aquarium), so I was bummed out that I felt I wasn’t more in top form, more articulate and energetic, but we made do. It’s so intense to feel a longing to include someone who thinks so little of you, but it’s also something I’m quite used to in life. I’m thankful she was at least polite and thankful she felt we were kind. We’re united in our love for Matt, which, I believe, will carry us far.
Debate class is emotionally rough for me this term. I ask my students to steer the topics and, as a result, shit gets real. I am working on writing about this more, but, daaaaamn, I need to facilitate a solidarity club at my school already because our debate topics (or zine/comics topics or pretty much whatever I talk about with these kids) are really these kids working through how oppressive our society is to them. I am grateful they feel comfortable talking to me (probably because I’m one of the few adults in their lives who cares to sit down and actually listen), but this stuff is rough.
I see them trying to hold onto the ideals adults have appeared to celebrate to them as children (being kind, sharing, working together, having empathy for others, celebrating individuality), while also experiencing the frustration and internal conflict that comes from the process of becoming an adult in an oppressive society (full of media messages) that actually gives fuck all about folks being kind, sharing, working together, having empathy for others, celebrating individuality.
Internet feminism. Let’s hop on the train!
UGH. So, one problem I really have with Sinead’s letter is that it she rather demonizes sex work (I hope inadvertently), which is incredibly problematic, but, despite that, she has a point and some insight… The bigger problem I have with it? Why isn’t the letter addressed to the men and the industry? If Sinead thinks Miley is being used, why condescend to directly and her publicly? Throw the dudes in power and the institution under the bus publicly, call Miley to come over for tea. Maybe I’m wrong, but she’s Sinead O’Connor! Couldn’t Sinead have her manager or agent or whatever call Miley’s and they do lunch or something? If Sinead cares about Miley in this way and is mad at what’s happening, I feel that attacking Miley is a bit… Philosophically misdirected.
I don’t think it’s really montoring behavior, but I want to give her a little respect for trying because, let’s get real, Miley has been doing some problematic stuff.
Amanda Palmer’s letter? Triple UGH. Considering Amanda Palmer’s track record, I’m surprised she’s interested in advocating for anyone in any kind of solidarity. Her past problematic behavior (that she has been terribly unaccountable for) ranges from transphobia, to ablism, to racism,to exploiting other artists, to rapey skits aimed at another female pop star… Does this letter mean she’ll finally apologize to Katy Perry? But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, as it reads to me like she’s advocating for another white, cisfemale popstar about doing whatever the fuck she wants without consideration to anything.
I agree that Miley’s wardrobe being revealing or sexual shouldn’t be something she taking criticism for, but appropriating the experience of sex workers and non white folks to make a buck demands a lot of criticism and leave me with very little respect for Miley… Especially if she is running her show.
And for LOLs at myself… http://www.autostraddle.com/open-letters-an-open-letter-199234/
Yesterday, I had my first day of Zines Class at the middle school I work at. I am so excited for this batch of potential new zinesters and I still have returning students, which always makes me feel so accomplished! This afternoon, I’m teaching Debate and then Puzzles and Games… I love life.
Have I shown y’all the posters that I’ve made for the classes I teach in order to boost enrollment? One features art from Katy Ellis O’Brien, another from Matthew Rainwater, but the Puzzles and Games poster is cheesy photo style, featuring images of girls playing games. The photos amounted to about 2 hours worth of googling, I’m hoping to subtly recruit more girls! Getting kids interested in SUN is really important to me, a lot of SUN classes make up for the lack of arts programs during the school day, as well as help the young people in the school have a constructive place to go with purpose (school work support, skill-building, community-developing) in the afternoons.
I am really excited about ANOTHER year teaching at the school I’ve already spent three years teaching within. I am also really happy to be put in charge of yet another class, Puzzles and Games. I had told the director of the SUN program I work for (who is a really amazing, hardworking lady, you wouldn’t believe how much this woman juggles), that I was really interesting in teaching this more recreational class last year, so I am incredibly flattered and excited it’s now on my plate!
I am hoping to teach a leadership class this year as well, where I can feature some material from Stay Solid!
Supporting Women You Know…. Reciprocation and Integrity in Subcultures and Radical Communities, Where’s It At?
Personally, I feel that the most feminist thing you can do is be a supportive and accepting friend to other women in your life. To defend the women in your life when they’re being torn down by others, to work not to tear down other women, to help other women you know. Even the loud women your other friends are “intimidated” by. I know people think I’m such a strong and independent person and whatever, but this applies to a few people in my life (right now and all the time) and it breaks my heart. I’m sick of being treated like an alien by people who will also call me when they’re freaking out and unhappy. Many people say that reciprocation and respect is important to them, yet seem unable to see where they’re exploitative of certain people in their lives. If you’re more interested in talking to one or all three male people I’m dating than me, it’s time to more closely examine your internalized sexism and get over the fact that I am a woman and I have opinions, ethics, and confidence to speak my mind. Yes, all at the same time. I know it’s hard to believe and it’s really weird, but get over it.
Meeting people in a lot of subcultures and radical communities, I still often approach them as potential new friends who I should try to have solidarity with. This means extending myself to others. It means being honest. It means trying to meet them where they are at. That’s something I believe in, I feel it would be unethical to approach people that I share communities any other way… Yet I am consistently disappointed that most people don’t behave that way, even though many think they do. I recognize that expectation often breeds disappointment, so, while I acknowledge that meeting people where they’re at means that there are people I will want to support that won’t be able to reciprocate that support, I must confess that I am still very weary and I am still learning how to balance having love for myself with loving others in my communities.
Shouldn’t I expect that women seeking to empower themselves and be anti-oppressive would be a bit more responsible towards their female friends and their relationships? Shouldn’t I expect that dudes who attend panels on ending rape culture wouldn’t spend a couple hours complaining about how I have such a strong personality to one of my partners? Shouldn’t I expect that a sex and consent educator in a sex positive community wouldn’t push the boundaries of a non sober person they’re hanging out with at their house while their asleep? Shouldn’t I expect that other queer radicals who complain about feeling isolated would think about how little they reach out to the same person they’re complaining to about feeling lonely and isolated to? You know, maybe reach out when they don’t have something to complain about, just for fun or because they know I’m going through a hard time? Shouldn’t I expect the people I am supporting to be equally willing to meet me wherever I am at?
The thing is that those people might not think of me as worth their time outside of what I might be able to do for them (listen to their problems, advocate for them on their behalf as mediator, give them a ride, etc). It breaks my heart, but I also don’t want to be closed off to others because I recognize that everyone has to start somewhere in learning how to really build genuine relationships of reciprocation. I also theorize that those people don’t realize what they have to offer in personal relationships. I find that, because I often take on leadership roles in projects or communities, people imagine I have all the answers or that I have magical, self-esteem powers. I think some people don’t reciprocate because they don’t imagine themselves as having anything to offer me. I also imagine that some of this may come from the fact that some people view me as inherently different from them because I am a little bit different from them, so we couldn’t possibly be closer friends, though they are using me as a confidant because their friends are unable to help them in ways they imagine I can help them in whatever moments they’re seeking me out. I think stepping down from some community roles this past summer will help change this a bit for me moving forward, but I hate that I have to pull back in order not to feel like I am overwhelmed by being there for people, simply because they are unable to reciprocate, due to lack of maturity, courage, or knowledge to see how draining and selfish they can be in their personal relationships.
Unsolicited advice? You think you’re an activist, you think you’re a feminist? Start in your own life, deconstruct your biases and oppressive dynamics. Stop struggling to have white male approval above everyone else. Be there for the people you turn to and rely on even when it’s not convenient or when it’s painful and forces you to have hard conversations. Do you feel down on yourself, do you feel disempowered, do you feel unheard? Look around at who is close to you. Do they tear down women they perceive as weird or powerful? Are they willing to listen to women? I will be the first to say I haven’t always practiced behaving like this and it’s something I still find myself needing work on, it’s been a long journey, but it’s something I work really hard towards. I have found that trying to have supportive relationships with other women, even when I don’t imagine that I totally relate to them, has been one of the most transformative experiences in my life for loving myself. I hope that loving the women and other people around me is a journey I never find myself ending…
And I hope to have more people in my life who are willing to respect me as a human, not a stereotype or just another resource for them to use as they learn more about the world and how to empower themselves.
Even though I am complaining, I want to acknowledge that I do have a few really awesome friends, like Katy and Becky and my partners Marco and Matt, who do actually do this. I want you to know how thankful for you that I am. You make me feel so less lonely in this world and you all remind me that there are folks who appreciate the energy I put into my relationships and who will return it… Or tell people trashin’ on me that they’re wrong or they just don’t get what’s up. I would feel much more alone and hopeless and drained without y’all.
The older I get, the more I am fully myself and live the life I want to live, because I have confronted myself and my inner workings. I have confronted my biases (granted, my identities force me to because there is a lot around me that would have me be biased and hate on myself) and I see that they are an issue to be constantly tackled. And the more I am fully myself, the more people simultaneously admire me for being myself while also trying to shame me for being myself.
Let me tell you this:
I rather be myself (happy, realizing my dreams, getting things done in my communities). I rather be sincere, honest, and confronting hard questions within myself and of those around me. I rather be true myself and my values than to be quietly, unhappily conformist and avoidant.
Confronting life is how you let go of what is hard. It can feel painful because we are so often taught to keep our heads down and so many have issues being direct and dealing with honesty, but that is how you come to a real understanding with the folks around you. By confronting and addressing your differences. If you are really incompatible, you don’t have to be around each other, but, if you seek to share space, you gotta work that stuff out by confronting and respecting differences.