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February 19, 2012

The Story of Loneliness

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:52 am

As long as I’m collating things here that I’ve written privately elsewhere, this is a post that touches on issues of identity, isolation and grief. It’s passed its rawness-expiration-date, so I wanted to make it shareable.

There are two distinct ideas here that should probably be two separate essays…but they came to me together.

. . .

For me, queerness has been a story of loneliness. Always the struggle to be seen. The feeling of walking down a New York sidewalk late at night; most people in my life pass by staring straight ahead, eyes unfocused, in a hurry. I’m standing there. And it’s cold.

All my life, I’ve dreamed of queer community. I’ve dreamed of it like a paradise. Something out there on an island, far away from me. Maybe I can get there by boat. Maybe I can’t get there at all. Maybe if I make it there I can catch a glimpse before I’m told to turn around and go home. Soft, sandy beaches. Long, sunny days. An explosion of color and music and feathers and dancing. Tropical.

It dawned on me at some point that almost everyone I know is queer. Most people I consider close or communicate with regularly are either queer themselves or in a queer relationship. And yet, somehow, my life doesn’t feel like one big Pride parade. I’m still haunted by that loneliness.

And I wonder if, when our communities converge with the intent to celebrate our genuinely beautiful and revolutionary queerness, there isn’t also a bit of desperate loneliness in that explosion of glitter and feathers. Because invisibility is existentially invalidating on a fundamental level or whatever, sure. But invisibility also means just never getting to talk to anyone without a mask on. Never getting to dance with anybody who’s looking you in the eye. Never getting to touch someone’s body and have them touch yours and understand what that really means.

And I wonder, when we converge simply to survive, if maybe that doesn’t always feel like community. If maybe it just feels like being lonely with a bunch of other lonely people nearby.

I started this journal to write about grief. Grief has been singing inside me lately. Today I read a story by Sherman Alexie called “The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore.” There are many things in the story, including a young Indian basketball star who doesn’t make it to college, lots of laughter, Diet Pepsi, and a line about the way boys smell in the summer that reminded me of a lover and made me smile. But what stuck in my heart most was the feeling that, in the whole world, only a very small handful of people like you exist and most of them aren’t doing so well. There’s a different kind of loneliness in that.

A few weeks ago, someone came out to me in a space that I am partially responsible for and told me that the space didn’t feel emotionally safe for them. And all I could tell this person was that they were right. I very much wanted them to feel welcome, but I couldn’t guarantee that the space would be as safe for them as it is for people with more privileged gender identities. And I hated this fact and that there was only so much I could do about it. They felt so isolated by their experience. And I so very much wanted them to stay despite their discomfort, because I feel isolated in that space sometimes too. Later, I called a friend and cried a lot of tears over that interaction. That isn’t true. I didn’t cry; I sobbed.

Last week, I missed several phonecalls in a row from one of the most important people in my life. He’s spending several months on another continent where I can’t call him back. I miss him. Sometimes it’s a physical ache. When I got the last voicemail, I was having dinner with another partner. I broke down in tears and cried on their shoulder. They held me for a long time. “I miss him, too,” they said, even though they don’t know him very well, “I miss him for you. I feel it. I guess compersion goes both ways.” Ironic that sometimes you can’t make someone feel less lonely by being there for them; all you can do is feel lonely with them.

This morning, I was listening to “This is Water“, a commencement address given by David Foster Wallace in 2005, about three years before he killed himself. The speech is about compassion, and in it he describes a scene in a grocery store:

I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermaket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am. And that some of these people probably have much harder, more tedious or painful lives than I do. Again, please don’t think I’m giving you moral advice, or saying you’re SUPPOSED to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort. And if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to. But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights, holding the hand of her husband who’s dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the Motor Vehicles Department who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely. But it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider.

It was the bone cancer that did it. I’d been going along doing something tedious on my laptop with this recording rolling in the background, and then suddenly I was crying. Sitting in a coffeeshop, tears rolling down each cheek. It was something about the way he said, “She’s not usually like this.” It was something about the haunting, hovering loneliness in that imaginary woman’s life. Something about her grief.

I’ve noticed something lately that I’m still surprised by. I’ve noticed that when I talk about oppressed peoples as a whole – which, of course, includes most people in some way or another – I’ve started saying “us” instead of “them”. When I talk to my friends about it, I say “we” rather than “they”. I feel a little nervous each time I lay some claim to this universal grief. I worry that someone is going to tell me to get back in my little boat of privilege and go home. But every time I do it, strangely, I also feel a tiny bit less lonely.

Here is one of the lessons about acknowledging grief, I think: It lets us feel the realness of each others’ lives. It lets our experiences of suffering touch each other. This doesn’t always make those lives feel better. It doesn’t result in an explosion of glitter. Sometimes it’s very painful. But it lets us nod to each other as we hurry in opposite directions on the sidewalk in the cold.


P.S. Because I can’t comment on tumblr

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:17 am

While we’re on the subject, I couldn’t let this drop without responding to this post on the problematics of privilege-discourse. Privilege itself is a problematic discourse. I’ve had a number of interesting conversations about this recently and I’d like to document and synthesize them in some way, so consider this post a placeholder.

But, meanwhile, this really isn’t an interesting take on that particular notion. This is mostly just this. Just sayin’.

No. Wait. Actually, I have a point. My point is that this is why this position (problematising privilege-discourse as a form of allyship) can be so illegible. Because, at the moment, the line between solid arguments and derailing tactics is so fine that it’s easy to read one as the other. Of course, the way to make something more legible is talk about it in great detail a lot. (Which is different from the way you make invisible things visible: By talking about them LOUDLY.)

So, y’know. I’ll put that on my To Do list. Right under Save the World. And Get Some Sleep.

“Whiteness is a structure of domination. There is nothing redeemable or reformed about whiteness.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:08 am

The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron: And Open Letter to “White Anti-Racists” – by Kil Ja Kim

A little while back, a friend of mine sent me the above link with a note: “This was really uncomfortable for me to read, and while I agree with most of it, there were a couple points where I was coming up with all sorts of arguments to refute what the author is saying.” She asked for my take on it.

Because my preferred medium is personal correspondence, I sent her a reply and never thought much more of it beyond a vague, “Hm. I should write a real post about this for my blog one of these days.”

Then maymay posted this entry problematising the oft-decontextualized nature of privilege/oppression discourses in a complex kyriarchical system. And, suddenly, I wished I had written a “real” blog post in response. Partly so that I could point to some amazing writing that would likely make people EVEN MORE MAD than maymay’s. 😉 But mostly so that I could respond directly to the following comment:

Think about it: privilege is emptying. For instance, what does it mean to be “white”? It means to be not a person of color. What does it mean to be male? It means to be not female, for that would be “unmanly”!

This is related to a conversation we had the other night about how oppressor identities are inherently debased – which is something I’d like to write more in-depth about at some point. Partly because I know the phrase “oppressor identities are inherently debased” sounds like some obstructionist academic-sounding bullshit, but it’s a really powerful concept for understanding why Scenes are inherently unwelcoming and other very everyday normal human experiences.

But I don’t have time to do that right now. And perhaps I never will. So, in the meantime, I’m just going to make the reply I sent my friend – in its imperfect, de-contextualized, off-the-cuff, written-specifically-for-one-person form – public. For what it’s worth:

Whoa. [That piece] is beautiful. And intense. I definitely got a little triggered and had my defenses flare up at certain points, too. I would love to talk with you about this more.

Short version of my intial thoughts. (Okay, not actually short. Nothing I write is ever short. :P): Her argument is that whiteness itself (not having fair skin, but whiteness as a racialized identity) is inherently oppressive. This argument falls under the umbrella of what I might call “hard radicalism.”

(In analytic philosophy, people differentiate between the “hard” and “soft” version of an argument. The “hard” version is the conclusion you get if you take an argument to its logical extreme; it’s a conclusion that is extremely rational, but it goes against common sense, it feels counter-intuitive to normal human experience. The “soft” version is when you take an argument as far as it can go before your gut response is, “Whoa! That can’t be right! If that’s true, that’s really upsetting! This argument must be missing something” and then you try and figure out what the argument is missing.)

Other arguments that I’d consider “hard radicalism”: Heterosexual sex is always coercive. Having a sexual orientation is inherently transphobic. Getting married reinforces the patriarchy, no matter how you slice is. Monogamy is bullshit. All forms of communication are manipulation. Etc.

Here’s the thing about hard radicalism: Intellectually, I actually believe in most of these arguments. It’s important to be VERY careful about how we define the words we use in hard radical arguments (e.g. there’s a difference between benefiting from white privilege and having fair skin) – but I think they’re logically true. And I’m a philosopher, so logic holds a lot of sway with me. 😛

But, strategically, I understand that it’s a bad idea to talk about hard-radical arguments in mixed company. They’re hard to get your head around at first, so they’re not going to win anybody over who isn’t already thinking along those lines anyway. They’re predicated on the idea that people are rational, which we mostly aren’t. In fact, they’ll probably lose you friends because they’re really unsympathetic to peoples’ feelings. They’re intense and gut-level upsetting – because they basically say: Everything (no, really, EVERYTHING) that we think is nice about being a human is actually a tool the system uses to control us. They’re the Red Pill of radical politics. They’re depressing as fuck.

Until the day when you feel like you’re completely backed into a corner and surrounded on all sides by an impenetrably oppressive system that you can never get out of – then, suddenly, they’re empowering as fuck.

But even though I believe intellectually that hard radicalism makes sense, I still try to ignore it most days because if I really let myself live in that place all the time, I’d probably jump off a bridge.

Intellectually: I think the most elegant piece of this article might be the way that she slams white people for derailing discussions about race by crying about other ways that we’re oppressed, but she doesn’t ever actually claim that racism is the Big Bad of all oppressions. She dances around the edge of playing Oppression Olympics, just enough to really get your hackles up, but she never actually does it. It’s subtle. I’m impressed.

Emotionally: Holy fuck, I REALLY LIKE IT when oppressed people tell people with privilege to fuck off. There’s so little space in our society for righteous anger about oppression, and we have SO MUCH to feel FUCKING ANGRY about. So, I always feel inspired whenever I see it. And as a person with white privilege, yeah, it totally hurts my feelings to be told that me and my white privilege can just fuck the hell off, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. But that’s totally trumped by the fact that, as a person who experiences oppression, it feels REALLY empowering to see another oppressed person telling the people who are oppressing her (including me) to just go fuck themselves.

Holycrap, it’s almost 4am. I gotta go to bed! Thanks for the link. We should totally talk about it more. ❤

ETA: I want to point out that problematizing the privilege/oppression dichotomy in public is tricky territory, because criticizing that discourse in a spirit genuine allyship is an extremely illegible position.

There’s more I want to say about that but it will take me a while to articulate. So, I’m just going to leave it at that for now.

February 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 4:25 pm

Oh. Fuck.

I just realized why I can never seem to invest energy in my job. I’ve been here over ten years, I believe that what we do is more-or-less good work, and yet I still haven’t been able to figure out how to connect to it in any meaningful way. I spend most of my time in the office fucking around on the Internet wishing I was somewhere else. Which sucks because I’m salaried, so it doesn’t matter how much time I spend in the office, it matters that I get the work done. If I spend five hours screwing around on Facebook, that’s just five hours I could’ve spent somewhere doing something else – and I still have five hours worth of work that needs to be accomplished eventually. Usually frantically in the middle of the night right up against a deadline.

I just had this conversation with Dakota about how frustrated I am:

[3:23:20 PM] frozenfoxtale: i’m totally failing to work today
[3:23:50 PM] Dakota: No bueno…anything I can do to help? Want a quick pep talk?
[3:28:35 PM] frozenfoxtale: it’s just so boring 😦
[3:29:29 PM] frozenfoxtale: and then i feel guilty cuz i feel lazy that i don’t want to do a bunch of incredibly boring shit
[3:29:43 PM] frozenfoxtale: i mean, not that fucking around on facebook is, like, exciting
[3:29:45 PM] frozenfoxtale: just
[3:29:49 PM] frozenfoxtale: sigh
[3:29:52 PM] Dakota: Awaw…boring work is…exactly that…boring.
[3:30:09 PM] Dakota: You are not lazy, just disinterested in this particular aspect of your job.
[3:30:15 PM] Dakota: Can’t really blame you.
[3:30:43 PM] Dakota: But if you don’t do the boring parts…it might be harder to do the parts that you do like.
[3:30:55 PM] frozenfoxtale: i don’t know if i like any of the parts 😦
[3:31:12 PM] Dakota: Oh, baby.

and then suddenly it clicked

[3:31:47 PM] frozenfoxtale: it’s just so…asocial

I am powered by hugs. But I’m motivated by relationships. Pretty much exclusively. Matthew pointed out the other day that this might not be entirely healthy. And he’s right. But if what we value gives us power, I feel totally powerless at this point in my life to do anything that isn’t directly impacting my relationship(s) with a person or people who I care about. Even the aspects of my activism that seem the most abstract and removed from my own communities/experiences are, if you scratch the surface, based on a desire for deeper intimacy with specific individuals in my life.

But I’ve got none of that here. My office is very anti-social and gets more-so by the year. The only thing that motivates me to do any work ever is a sort of vague concern for a positive personal relationship with my boss. But I just don’t care about my job. Yes, we study people. But studying people is not necessarily the same as working with people, much less working with people with whom I have relationships.

I feel like the best job I ever had, even though it was repetitive and physically grueling at times, was working at the Heavy Shop in McMurdo, because there it actually mattered immediately to someone else’s life whether or not I did what I was doing – and the person whose life it mattered to was someone in my community who I cared about.

Asa also made a good point a few days ago that my emotions and my intellect are inextricably intertwined. (As evidenced by how well this worked out. Not very.) I think my feelings and feel my thoughts. This makes me extremely facile at certain types of analysis – especially analysis that centers my own experience as a way to grok the experiences of others in similar or comparable political positions. But it makes me terrible at other sorts of analysis such as, say, figuring out how many summer camps there are in the country. Not because I’m not capable of doing that. But because I don’t care.

And that’s not something that’s going to change – about either my job or about me – any time soon. So. Y’know. Fuck.

I want to do ethnography. I don’t want to work with datasets that are so abstracted and disconnected from the human beings they’re representing that, by the time they reach me, they’re emotionally meaningless.

So, yeah. Grad school. I know.

But for the time being, fuck it. I’m going home to take a nap. I’ll try and force myself to care again tomorrow.

February 12, 2012

You think that’s good?

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 12:25 am

How ’bout a blog post? ❤

February 11, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 7:50 am

Bibliomancy for this morning. Passages drawn at random from “holy books” to meditate on while I walk:

“We must be content then, in speaking of such things and from such data, to set forth the truth roughly and in outline; in other words, since we are speaking of general matter and from general data, to draw also only conclusions merely general. And in the same spirit should each person receive what we say: for the man of education will seek exactness so far in each subject as the nature of the thing admits, it being plainly much the same absurdity to put up with a mathematician who tries to persuade instead of proving, and to demand strict demonstrative reasoning of a Rhetorician.” – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, pg. 3

. . .

Chapter 20 (Annotations)
What difference between yes and no?

Chao-chou asked Nan-ch’uan, “What is the Tao?”
Nan-ch’uan said, “Everyday mind is the Tao.”
Chao-chou said, “How can I approach it?”
Nan-ch’uan said, “The more you try to approach it, the farther away you’ll be.”
“But if I don’t get close, how can I understand it?”
The Master said, “It’s not a question of understanding or not understanding. Understanding is delusion; not understanding is indifference. But when you reach the unattainable Tao, it is like pure space, limitless and serene. Where is there room in it for yes and no?”

I alone don’t care

If good happens, good; if bad happens, good.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching translated and annotated by Stephen Mitchell, pg. 95

. . .

“‘Verily, this is what you dreamed of: your enemies. That was your hardest dream. But as you woke from them and came to your senses, thus they shall awaken from themselves — and come to you.’

Thus spoke the disciple; and all the others crowded around Zarathustra and took hold of his hands and wanted to persuade him to leave his bed and his sadness and to return to them. But Zarathustra sat erect on his resting place with a strange look in his eyes. Like one coming home from a long soujourn in strange lands, he looked at his disciples and examined their faces; and as yet he did not recognize them. But when they lifted him up and put him on his feet, behold, his eyes suddenly changed; he comprehended all that had happened, stroked his beard, and said in a strong voice:

‘Now then, there is a time for this too. But see to it, my disciples, that we shall have a good meal, and soon. Thus I plan to atone for bad dreams. The soothsayer, however, shall eat and drink by my side; and verily, I shall show him a sea in which he can drown.'” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, pg. 136

. . .

And finally:

“‘I shan’t beat around the bus, Leigh-Cheri. I have been wondering if your mental health could be described as sound.’

‘By whom?’

‘Interested parties.’

‘Depends on their criteria.’

‘Responsibility and–‘

‘Responsibility to what?’

‘–leadership and–‘

‘Since when has leadership been a criterion for sanity? Or vice versa? Hitler was a gifted leader, even Nixon. Exhibit leadership qualities as an adolescent, they pack you off to law school for an anus transplant. If it takes, you go into government. That’s what Bernard says. He says the reason so many assholes to into politics is that it’s a homing instinct. At any rate, I understand that several romantics have started to follow in my footsteps. That makes me some kind of leader.’

‘At last count, seventeen young women and oen young man have locked themselves in their rooms in emulation of your lovesick self-indulgence. Monkeys and apes will attempt to copy any moron’s routine. I wouldn’t be too proud. But that is not my concern. I am trying ascertain if you are playing with a full deck.’

‘It may or may not be full, but at least it’s my deck.'”

– Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

. . .

And now I’m going for a walk in the snow. 🙂

February 8, 2012

A Coming Out Story of Sorts

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 3:34 pm

This started as an addendum to the previous post, but it needs its own space. Here:

ETA: The dynamics of institutional oppression and the dynamics of intimate relationship violence parallel each other. (I need a good source to link for this. Remind myself to dig through some SPAN materials when I get a chance.) It’s frequently the case that, when you’re in an abusive relationship with someone who is “protecting” you, the Big Bad they claim to be protecting you from – while certainly a real threat – probably a) isn’t actually as Big and Bad the abuser claims and b) is less likely to have a dramatically detrimental impact on your life than being stuck in an abusive relationship does.

I’m not condoning victim-blaming here. I’m just pointing out the parallel. As I hear more experiences from people who are or have been actively involved in the BDSM scene, I come to believe more and more that the BDSM scene qua institution tells people that nobody else will ever want them. That they won’t be okay on the outside. That without the conceptual construct of “BDSM” and its attendant community to protect them, they don’t have a chance of finding love and fulfillment.

But I’m living proof that that’s bullshit.

Look at the world we live in. BDSM does not have a monopoly on eroticized violence or quantum consent. Nor does it have a monopoly on navigating those complex waters in thoughtful, conscious, “risk-aware”, empowering, liberatory ways. Despite its claims that something about the way I fuck means “we belong together”, I’ve spent most of my erotically conscious life dodging, ignoring, or actively avoiding the BDSM scene’s ongoing efforts to encroach upon my sociosexual space – while, at the same time, sometimes burning with jealousy for people who seemed to find themselves at home in it. I’ve sometimes done this consciously and sometimes unconsciously, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. I’ve had to do a lot of reinventing of wheels and figuring shit out on my own. I’ve had to ask myself a lot of questions. Sometimes, I’ve felt guilt or confusion about WHY I’m so averse to BDSM qua “community”. Maybe they’re right. Maybe that is where I belong. Maybe I’m just scared. Maybe I’m just being a snob. Maybe there’s something wrong with me for not wanting that. Maybe I do want it but I just can’t hack it. Maybe I’m not good enough.

And yes, I continue to have a pretty complicated relationship to sex and intimacy. (Who the fuck doesn’t?) And yeah, I struggle with that, with fear and guilt and shame about it, with how to even begin to talk to the people I’m intimate with about what I need, don’t want, and fear, and with the repercussions that failed attempts at those conversations have on my relationships and the people I’m in them with.

But I’m okay.

I don’t have as many orgasms as I otherwise might. And that does matter. But I’m not alone, abandoned and unloved, shivering in the cold and being spit on by pervert-hating passers-by. Sometimes, I’m even happy. Sometimes, especially since meeting Dakota, sex feels like an amazing boundless scribble-pad playground where we can explore together – and hold each other and kiss it better when we fall and hurt ourselves. And I’ll tell you a secret: Until about a month ago, I had never had an orgasm in my life that was caused by another person. I’d had them through masturbation, but never from a partner. Now, I’ve had one. It’s only one. But it matters.

I also feel more and more empowered to keep trying to deconstruct, queer, experiment with and re-design intimacy through trial and error to find ways that work for me. In the long-run, I feel like that’s worth the sacrifice of not being able to strap on an ill-fitting identity and get pre-packaged answers from BDSM culture. In fact, I’m not sure that’s a sacrifice at all. Even though, in the short run, that means fewer orgasms, more dissociation, panic attacks in bed, and long stretches when I wonder if I’ll ever really understand what ‘good’ feels like.

Some people may read this and say, “But my BDSM is just like that! Exploratory and unique and all that stuff. It’s not like I’m running some kind of script or something!” And, y’know, that might be true for you. But it makes me think of a conversation I had with one of my partners, someone I’ve been with since I was 15, when I told him I needed to stop having sex with boys for a while because my susceptibility to just falling into the “Straight Sex” script and then running it ’til I wanted to peel my skin off was fucking my shit up – and I didn’t know how to break the habit without detoxing for a while.

“What are you talking about?” he said, hurt. “I’m not running some kind of script.”

“Sure. It’s not like we’re having missionary with the lights off every night. But how many times in your life have you, say, had sex that didn’t involve putting your penis into an orifice?”


So often, when we talk about “scripts”, people think scripts-as-in-plays. And there’s something to that. But we’re also talking about scripts-as-in-machines. You may be running all kinds of scripts you’re not aware of, because the script is being run on you by an institution.

And I’m not trying to be on some moral high horse here. It’s not like I checked out the BDSM scene and decided I was too enlightened for it. Despite the fact that, on the one hand, I feel like it’s been trying to seduce me for most of my life, at the same time the Scene was still never genuinely accessible to me. Even when I’ve sometimes wanted it to be. And it isn’t now. Because of the ways in which I’m “rolequeer” (this word helped), and because of things that have to do with trauma, and the relationship between those two things, trying to play in the Scene when I was younger would have been a disaster. The more I learn about the Scene through exposure to other peoples’ experiences, the more I realize this. I wouldn’t be welcome there. I wouldn’t be safe. I wouldn’t be okay. And I feel lucky in some ways, for having dodged a bullet, and incredibly angry in others, because of the fact that the bullet is there to dodge in the first place – and because, in some ways, I haven’t dodged it at all. And I’m still not sure I’m ready or able to talk about either in depth.

But even with all the complexity and insecurity I still feel about everything I’ve just said here: I’m okay. And it feels good to be able to say that out loud. And to believe it, mostly, for maybe the first time in my life. This is how I am and sometimes I’m not okay. And that’s okay. I’m okay.

* * *

It feels important to me to give some credit to maymay here, because many of the frameworks I’m using here reference ideas he’s articulated elsewhere. I think, in fact, that he has some longer pieces that speak specifically to the idea of BDSM Scene-as-institution and what that means for the people in it. I haven’t had the chance to read them yet, but I have read enough of his shorter work that I think I’ve gleaned a lot of those ideas osmotically – partially because his words give me frameworks for talking about feelings that I’ve been wrestling with for most of my life; they go off like lightbulbs for me and are easy to hold onto.

And I suppose, as a complement to those who have written about growing up in the BDSM scene, I’m trying to give a voice to how BDSM-as-institution (both Scene and conceptual framework) impacts one person who grew up “outside” of it – or at least on the periphery. Although, on one level, I don’t think they are very different things. Scenes are all about feeling like you’re on the outside looking in, no matter how far “outside/inside” you actually are. And I still don’t know exactly how to talk about it. But, at some point, I will.

Hate all the systems. Love all the people.

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 2:06 pm

I’m posting this on my own blog, too. It’s a comment from this thread on Alisa‘s blog – which is, itself, a response to this thread on the KinkForAll Denver mailing list.

So, I just put two-and-two together about why some of the conversations I’ve had over the past few days about this subject have left me so frustrated. I keep talking to people who seem like they should Get It – and, instead, they seem hurt and angry and confused about why myself or people who I support are “attacking” them.

I’ve had this gut sense that it has something to do with a misframing of the conversation, but I couldn’t explain what exactly. It just clicked:

The conversation worth having about privilege and the BDSM scene is not only about calling PEOPLE in the scene out for having OTHER privileges wrt e.g. race, class, etc. I mean, talking about those vectors of oppression and how they intersect with Scene-privilege is important too. But making it all about whether the scene is statistically dominated by rich white cis straight people or not, and what that means, is too simple. That rapidly turns it into an argument about Good Scenesters vs. Bad Scenesters, or Good Local Scenes vs Bad Local Scenes. It opens the door for Oppression Olympics A Go Go, and also gives people the “No, but I’m Special!” out, leaving them distractedly obsessing over how to prove their specialness – instead of noticing that the Scene is sneaking up behind them with a hammer.

So, another necessary part of the conversation about privilege and the BDSM scene is about calling The Scene itself out for being an institution. I’ve been sort of starting to get this for a while – thanks in part to some of maymay’s writings giving voice to some “Danger! Danger!” gut instincts that I’ve been suppressing for a long time – but I hadn’t been able to state it quite that succinctly until now. Although now it seems so “Holyshit, duh” obvious when I say it: The Scene isn’t “bad” simply because it reinscribes institutional oppressions from elsewhere. It does do that. But it also inscribes its own unique oppressions, because the Scene is an institution.

One which, like any other institution, constrains and oppresses its participants in exchange for goodies that they supposedly can’t get elsewhere. One which, like any other institution, requires class consciousness and mass solidarity to change. And one that, as with all institutions, most participants are both complicit in sustaining (in ways they need more awareness around) and legitimately trapped in against their will (in ways they need support around).

People who I’m used to being otherwise totally on the ball re: dynamics of oppression can’t seem get their heads around the idea that Scene-privilege is a thing, much less a thing that’s hurting them and other people, because they don’t think of the Scene as an institution. This makes sense. Sometimes, when it feels like one institution (e.g. the BDSM Scene) is protecting you from a bigger, meaner institution (e.g. BDSM-phobic sex-negative kyriarchical culture), it’s easy to slip into believing that your sub-culture is more-or-less benign. But it’s not. Because it’s an institution. And they’re all in cahootz with each other. All of them.

Maybe I’m being polyanna, but there are so many people who are already acting powerfully toward social justice in other areas, who I feel would get the whole thing if they just…y’know, got this.

But how do we shift the conversation?

* And when I say “they” need more support and awareness…I really should be saying “we”. Because, as much as I hate admitting that I’m part of any Scenes, because of my own personal trauma and privileged bullshit both – the fact is that, insofar as Scenes are institutions, they touch my life and that means I’m part of them. And responsible for them. And being hurt by them. And benefiting from them. Whether I like it or not.

(Someone once asked me in the wake of some Occupy actions whether I’m an anarchist. After a long, wandering, cagey conversation about how “anarchy” means different things to different people in different contexts, and the difference between having an anarchic philosophy vs an anarchist identity, etc. etc. etc. I finally said, “Okay. Yes. Yes, I’m an anarchist.”

Then they asked me what anarchism means to ME. And, after some thought, I realized, “To me, it means: Hate all the systems; love all the people.” And it means understanding the ways in which those are the same thing. But that, for me, loving all the people is primary. I want to hate all the systems in ways that are loving toward the people who comprise them. That’s not an answer to my question about how we change the conversation, at all. But it’s a starting point for me to strategize from…)

February 6, 2012

Some Things I Love About My Little Brother

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 5:44 pm

Somewhere on a bus between Denver and Las Cruces, NM, Rebecca receives a text message…

L’IL BRO: Yo. So I’m trying this whole “sit at a bar” thing. So far: pretty stupid 🙂

ME: Lol. Yeah, I’ve never been able to get the hang of that thing. Does it really happen outside of jokes and movies? Keep me updated.

L’IL BRO: Well so far the big excitement is that there’s a dude next to me eating a sandwich.

ME: I’m trying the whole “sleep on a bus” thing, but not really getting the hang of that either. 😛 They’re showing Return of the Planet of the Apes.

L’IL BRO: Sleeping on Greyhound is fucked. – T.S. Elliott

ME: “So, a man walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich…”

L’IL BRO: Turns out the punchline is really not that funny…

ME: And there’s this dude sitting next to him on his cellphone, just txting and txting away…”

ME: [Insert rest of joke here.]

ME: Punchline: “DUDE, I’m texting my SISTER!”

L’IL BRO: I don’t think that’s even sufficient to get punched. Maybe, I’m texting YOUR sister?

ME: I don’t have a sister, dude.

L’IL BRO: And then I found $5? Thing is, that still wouldn’t cover the cost my beer.


ME: So why are you sitting in this bar, apart from the fact that it’s rife with comic possibilities?

L’IL BRO: 🙂 Long story, but basically what happened is my ex told me I should go to a bar and I listened.

ME: Hah. Okay. Maybe *that’s* the punchline…

L’IL BRO: Still not funny!

ME: It’s postmodern!

L’IL BRO: Your mom is postmodern. How are the Apes on a Bus?

ME: Fairly disappointing. Mostly because I originally thought they were about to show Dune.

L’IL BRO: You could tell the driver you’ve had it with these motherfucking apes on this motherfucking bus

ME: 😀 !

L’IL BRO: You know, the thing I like about talking to you is I can count on you having the same dumb sense of humor I do 😀


ME: You still at that bar?

L’IL BRO: Yeah, it’s not quite as awesome now ’cause the guy is done with his sandwich.

ME: Damn. So now what’s he doing? What do other ppl do at bars?

L’IL BRO: Allegedly they talk to each other but at the moment it looks mostly like an expensive way to drink beer and watch the Lakers


L’IL BRO: Ok, I’m done. On my way home to watch Heroes and pass out on the couch (like I been doing since high school.)

ME: Alright. Sleep well. Thanks for keeping me digital company on my long and lonely late night bus ride. 🙂 I love you.

L’IL BRO: ‘Course. Love you too.

ME: P.S. Heroes wasn’t on when you were in high school, dude.

L’IL BRO: Right?


Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 5:34 pm

I’m doing a little better. Matthew came up for the weekend and we talked a lot and cuddled. We went to the playground with Trevor where we all howled like werewolves. It felt great but left me with a sore throat. It was Trevor’s first time walking in snow, having spent most of his 4 year old life so far living in the South. He was pretty daunted to start, sinking waist-deep in fluffy powder and afraid that if he fell there would be water underneath. He eventually got the hang of it. And then, exhausted, managed to score a ride all the way home on Dad’s shoulders. The two of them might move in with us this June if Siren decides to move out. I think that would be good for all of us. Matthew’s struggling, too, with feeling disconnected and unsupported – especially now that he has Trevor full-time.

It was a strange weekend. Unusually intense. I was in a bunch of physical pain for most of it and processing some kind of inarticulable, somatic trauma that just seemed to come up out of nowhere. Uncontrollable shaking at random intervals. At one point, Elaan found me in bed sobbing and convulsing. “What’s wrong?” I choked out a muffled, “i don’t know” between sobs. “Did something happen?” she asked? “no, i don’t know..i don’t know…” I buried my face in the pillows again as the grief took over. She curled up on the bed and held me until the crying stopped and I said, “Fuck. I really need to blow my nose.” I had these incredible visions of swarms of insects clearing away to reveal that they’ve been guarding something all along. I’m still “seeing” them as much as I usually do, but they’re somehow less terrifying now. “They’re protecting something,” I tell myself, and somehow that makes them more okay. It feels as if some kind of fever broke.

Matthew stayed for Sunday night dinner. Elaan cooked. Yum. Trevor and Shylo spent the whole evening chasing each other around the house, dressing up in Rock Star costumes, making monkey noises and literally climbing the walls. Matthew helped me move the snake’s tank from the loft out into the living room; I think he’ll get a little more attention out there, too. Apparently, everybody’s feeling kinda love-starved lately. “It’s January,” Matthew pointed out in explanation. “Oh. Right,” I said. Except, it’s actually February, of course.

This morning, Elaan asked me to come sit and meditate at Naropa with her before class. I said yes. We dropped Shylo off at the bus. She made both of us a lunch.

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