What We’re Made Of

Scrolling through my Facebook feed this Sunday I saw that many friends had posted the same article, the discussions occurring on each persons post could not have been more different. Responses were either overwhelmingly in support of the article or vehemently against it. “What Makes a Woman” I read, hm I thought. Sounds like this could be an interesting read. Seeing as the New York Times has been spotlighting transgender stories in a tremendously good light recently, I was excited to sink my teeth into what I thought would be a piece written in the same vein and supportive spirit.


I was wrong.

From the consistent use of Caitlyn Jenner’s dead name to the use of TERF rhetoric, I was shocked that the Times felt this piece of gender policing and transphobia, was enlightened enough to take up the front page of the Sunday Style’s section. I’ve highlighted the parts of this disastrous piece that personally struck me the hardest. But in all honestly I could have just copy and pasted the entire article.

“Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails. They haven’t suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts or woken up after sex terrified they’d forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before. They haven’t had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners’ checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists.”

Transgender women are women. They are not almost and they are not half. If a trans woman is asking you to use female pronouns that is who she is: A female. Cis women do not have it easy in this world. There I said it, and as a staunch feminist I believe it to the core of my bones. But do you know who has it worse? Transgender individuals. I am sorry for every woman who has ever experienced work place harassment, there is no place for it and it is unacceptable. Many trans women won’t experience work place harassment, because many transwomen will never be employed. Transgender folks suffer from unemployment rates that are double that of the rest of society. The National Transgender Discrimination survey found that on top of that, “Ninety-seven percent (97%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job.” And: “Forty-seven percent (47%) had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion.” As far as the job market goes trans people are met with absolutely overwhelming discrimination.

Periods suck. We can all agree there. You know who they really suck for? Trans men. Getting your period unexpected leg is the absolute worse. Getting it unexpectedly while in men’s clothing is dangerous, for you’ve just been outed.

Rape. Rape is horrible, horrifying, life altering, and scarring. Rape is not something that only happens to cis women, and making a statement that alludes to that is erasure to those survivors who are not cis women. The National Center for Lesbian Rights states that 64% of transgender people have experienced sexual assault, where as 1 in 8 cis gendered women have.

“Let me get this right: The word “vagina” is exclusionary and offers an extremely narrow perspective on womanhood, so the 3.5 billion of us who have vaginas, along with the trans people who want them, should describe ours with the politically correct terminology trans activists are pushing on us: “front hole” or “internal genitalia”?”

For trans men and those whose gender doesn’t fit into a nice compact box, genitalia is an extremely sensitive issue. While I was born with a vagina as I grew up and started to realize that my gender was different than that of the gender I had been assigned, I began to feel a distance from what I now simply call my bits. If you are personally proud to call your pee hole a vagina, by all means go for it. No trans or non binary person is demanding that cis individuals change their personal vocabulary. We are instead asking for changes to be made in spaces where we are directly affected.

“Women’s colleges are contorting themselves into knots to accommodate female students who consider themselves men, but usually not men who are living as women. Now these institutions, whose core mission is to cultivate female leaders, have student government and dormitory presidents who identify as males.”


Because of how our society treats both gender and sexuality, many of us don’t have any space to discuss or explore those parts of our makeup until we are far away from our parents. College provides a space in which for the first time young adults are not only on their own but also being taught classes on subjects they never even knew existed. Many young women enter college straight and emerge LGBQ, with the same thought process should they be forced to stay the same? You enter college under the pretense and hope, to stay the same? When has that ever been the mindset attached to higher education?

Women’s colleges are ripe with budding feminists, feminists who (if they are the right kind) will be trans allies for life. In this welcoming environment, trans men feel safe in coming out. There experience in life until this point has been one lived in a female body. The safety and understanding that trans men are met with at women’s colleges is quite unique. If more schools offered the feminist mindset along with a trans friendly campus that had safety codes in place to protect trans students maybe trans individuals would feel comfortable applying elsewhere. Until that becomes a reality trans folks, much like everyone else, will go where we will be accepted.

“Women like me are not lost in false paradoxes; we were smashing binary views of male and female well before most Americans had ever heard the word “transgender” or used the word “binary” as an adjective. Because we did, and continue to do so, thousands of women once confined to jobs as secretaries, beauticians or flight attendants now work as welders, mechanics and pilots. It’s why our daughters play with trains and trucks as well as dolls, and why most of us feel free to wear skirts and heels on Tuesday and bluejeans on Friday.”

First of all, just because Americans hadn’t heard of transgender people, it by no means that trans folks didn’t exist. The media just didn’t deem us worthy to talk about. What I don’t think cis people grasp is that a trans man, even one who is presenting as a female is STILL a trans man. Catlyin Jenner was always a trans woman. Even in a tuxedo at one of her weddings the person underneath those clothes, they were transgender.

Secondly, trans women are not here to invalidate the progress the trailblazers of women’s rights have made. They are simply asking to not be left out. Transgender women do not pose a threat to, nor does their existence diminish, cis women or the feminist movement.

“If that’s the ultimate message of the mainstream of the trans community, we’ll happily, lovingly welcome them to the fight to create space for everyone to express him-, her- or, in gender neutral parlance, hir-self without being coerced by gendered expectations. But undermining women’s identities, and silencing, erasing or renaming our experiences, aren’t necessary to that struggle.”

I had no idea that there was a keeper to the keys of feminism, and in order to gain admission you had to be cleared. Feminists should “lovingly welcome” all transgender humans because of the simple fact that WE ARE HUMANS. Humans that are more likely than our cis peers to declare that we are feminists and speak out against misogyny and the patriarchy. Why? Because we have to continually explain ourselves. Because we have live a life in fear. Because we can still be fired for being out at work. Because we have a hire chance of committing suicide. Because we have spent our entire lives focusing on gender to a point that it at times it was all overwhelming, to a point where it was daunting and terrifying. Imagine coming to the realization that you were not he you were she. That you were not she but he. Imagine the fear of looking in the mirror and seeing an image that was entirely wrong. Women can uphold and cling to their identifies as much as they’d like, as should trans people.

“Bruce Jenner told Ms. Sawyer that what he looked forward to most in his transition was the chance to wear nail polish, not for a furtive, fugitive instant, but until it chips off. I want that for Bruce, now Caitlyn, too. But I also want her to remember: Nail polish does not a woman make.”

Makeup is marketed at women. Little girls sit and watch their mothers get ready, the sit and watch their favorite celebrities dolled up in music videos and on red carpets. At some point their curiosity reaches the point where they want to imitate what they’ve grown up seeing. And because they are little girls, and because society tells us that women are to wear makeup, that child is given the opportunity to play dress up. A transgender little girl, dressed in boys clothes, expected to have male heroes, and exude some form of masculinity does not have that same chance. She is he to the world, and unless that child has forward thinking liberally minded parents she will stay confined to being a he. Caitlyn never got to wear nail polish as a child. She never got to wear her mothers heels, or try different styles with her hair. She was confined to the body she was born into. And confined to the gender roles that go alongside it. Anyone who knows what it feels like to go without, can understand what it feels like to be her. To be Caitlyn and every other trans person.

You don’t get to decide who calls themselves a man or a woman. You don’t get to decide how that person presents or how that person lives their life. You wouldn’t want anyone doing that for you, why should transgender people be any different?


I’d Ask You To GO But We Never Invited You Anyway

Another day, another attack on Bruce Jenner.


And this time from a magazine that prides itself on being for the LGBTQ community. Oh excuse me, for the lesbian community. I have come to expect ignorance and transphobia from the heteronormative and cis world; it always hits me harder when I see ignorance and hate coming from gay media. Transgender people, much like Black women, are often left out of the battles they fight for the hardest. For how many years did transgender people walk in PRIDE parades while having to be silent? How often are Black women left out of feminist conversations and recognition?

Let me be clear with my words: Transgender people are no more the punchline of jokes than lesbian, gay, or bisexuals. While I understand that the media is set up in this country for us all to be onlookers to celebrities and makes us feel entitled to knowing all of their secrets. There is a difference between knowing what whiskey George Clooney prefers, or say Kanye’s favorite designer of the moment or what leaf Gwyneth prefers to use this week as garnish to her spring salad. And hunting into someone’s gender or sexuality. The reason that there are so many LGBT suicides is because when we are silent we are bullied and when we are out we are bullied. There is no safe space. You are doing nothing more than being a bully when you feed into Bruce Jenner’s is he or isn’t she. If I see any posts on my timeline I will not only delete you but first deliver you a soliloquy fueled with such passion, anger, and pride that it will not only make your head spin but render you absolutely silent. The same silence that too many of us have to suffer with every day. 

How dare a gay publication make a mockery of someones struggle? By calling Bruce, Belinda there is complete lack of empathy and compassion, instead there is transphobia coated in humor. How disgusting.

I would call for a boycott of GO Magazine, but as they are a free publication run by dinosaurs who have become completely out of touch with the young queer community, I understand that is completely unnecessary. Much like the Chick Fil A’s and Rick Santorums of the world I will let the ignorance guide their already sinking ship directly into the iceberg of educated acceptance and humanity.

The transgender community has representation. We have allies. And we are better than being belittled on the Internet for means of cheap copy and horrible content. The words that you type online stay there forever. And while in your small community you may be affirmed or upheld for you hatred, those outside of your circles look at you with disgust.

If Bruce is trans and comes out I hope that if (s)he than chooses to change their name it is accepted and loved the way that (s)he and every other trans person deserves. How dare you take that away from someone.

A platform of power is a horrible thing to waste. It is a shame that GO Magazine has chosen to do so.


What is a safe space? When you leave your house or the confines of blogs you are familiar with, how can you navigate through life entering spaces that will keep you, uplift you, and ultimately shield you in some way from anything bad happening to you? Be it physical, verbal, or in writing. The truth of the matter is you can’t. You can hope to be surrounded by people with decency and respect. You can hope to be surrounded by people who don’t see you as a target. People who though they might be strangers, would stick their necks out for you, in the event that something went wrong. People who pause before hitting send on a comment, reversing the words they have just written back onto themselves. Asking: Is this ok?

Isn’t that what humanity is?

Last week I was forced to question. I was forced to question safe spaces, feminist spaces, and internet decency. How to make a long story short? I was home in New York visiting friends and family, and had ultimately decided to have the time of my life. Because well, why not? I was homesick for New York, and planned on using my vacation there to visit all of my old dives, my favorite parties, see friends, and for lack of a better word: rage. So Friday night I did what I had done so many Friday nights in the past, I headed down to the west village with a bevy of friends to cut loose, and lose ourselves on the dance floor.

Monster is a west village institution. It is right across the street from the infamous Stonewall Inn. This corner of the west village is an epicenter for gay history and rights. It is my favorite street to walk down during PRIDE, and until last week was one of my favorite places in Manhattan.

For gay and queer people, finding spaces where we can literally just be has no doubt become easier and easier over the years, but that doesn’t mean that we still constantly have our guard up. Gay bars and queer parties are inherently meant to be spaces where the only thing you have to worry about is running into your ex. Monster has proven to be a gay bar that likes to handle it’s patrons like subway rats. Male bouncers, treating lesbians and trans* people like pieces of trash. I have both been a part of and heard countless stories about these men. Until last week these stories were flags they weren’t blockades. I have spent the past week trying to put that night into words. This is what has materialized:

To the girl on the floor at the bar we know well

I don’t know if you know what happened

After your body fell

My friends and I saw you laying there

Alone and asleep

Dancers were dancing around you

The DJ didn’t stop a beat

Amongst my friends we had a doctor

And those trained in CPR

You could have died there and no one would have cared

I guess a free party only gets you so far

We made a circle around you

And breathed life back into you

In the background the venue shook with music

The drinks continued to flow

With their illegal over pours

I asked the DJ to lower the music

So we could get some order

He told me that the music had to stay on

I turned to a bouncer

Who was standing over you looking onward while my friends did what they could do

He put his hands on me

And threw me aside

He did this while

Doing nothing to make sure you would survive

You should know that no staff member check on you

Until the EMT’s came it was your peers who tried to rescue you

You should know that the bar manager was twenty feet away serving drinks

He never stopped for a second to make sure your heart was still beating

He never bent down over you to see if you were in fact still breathing

He let your body shake to the beat

I wonder if you had been a white man

If the staff would have cleared out the dance floor

But upon seeing another black body laid out

They did what white people usually do in these moments


You should know that the group of people that tried to save you

Are as diverse as could be

We have been attacked by the bouncers here

Based on who we are and what these men apparently see

Attacked both physically and mentally

They have made it clear that we are not welcome here

And after the other night

Showed us that even our lives are disposable

I do not know your name

There were no friends around to tell it

You fell alone

But please know that we did all that we could do

So that we would not lose you

I have had a heavy heart since that night. How can we make sure that the spaces we are in, the spaces we create as queer people, are spaces where we uphold each other? As I sat reeling from that evening another event was happening in my life. My good friend was throwing a 25th birthday party. One in which she was welcoming 60 queers to a strip club. I won’t use this space to talk about how I personally feel about strip clubs, I will instead present the series of events that ensued. After weeks of hilariously fun posts on the group event wall, we began to get serious about the fact a collective of lesbians and queer individuals would be entering a mostly cis space. A space dominated by cis men at that. Many conversations followed. How would we fit into this space? How would we as feminists act in this space? Was there a right way? There was definitely a wrong way. Let’s be responsible adults and talk about these things. This event wall is a safe space. It is a private, by invitation only space, these are our friends, we get each other. Who knew that our conversations would end up polarized by the public?

My friend throwing the party, decided to make a bullet point list of the conversations we had been having. In hopes of bringing forth both clarification and comfort. After the events that had happened the previous Friday, this space felt uplifting. No one in our party would be that girl. No one would have to deal with aggressive and insensitive security. How you ask? Because my friend went to the club prior to let them know about the diversity of this crowd. Their would be trans* people, there would be girls kissing girls not for sport but because of love, there would be straight men who were feminist. This was a different crowd than who would normally walk through those doors, and we wanted to be safe. Imagine our surprise when our very private conversation ended up on Jezebel:


Jezebel has always been a place I have seen as an internet safe space. They even did a story on me after I did Barneys Spring Campaign. They were the women warriors of the internet. But just like Monster, they have fallen. They have become bullies, articles feel more like click bait, authors seem more like Regina George’s than Bell Hooks.

When I spoke to the bar manager at Monster he was more concerned with getting back to bartending. This was not managing, it was working for tips.

When I read the comments on Jezebel, the author was more concerned with generating “likes” on her post and making snide remarks. This was not journalism, it was a high school locker room.

I’m not sure if these events collide for you, as much as they do for me in my head. But both occurrences have made me realize that feminism is not inherently good. That feminism is not just a word you can slap on anything an empowered woman says. Because you write for a feminist blog, it does not mean your core is that of a someone who is both strong, and trying to create safe spaces for other women: for all women, no matter their race, class, or birth gender. With that said we must do everything we can not let feminism become a bad word. But how do we do that when some of the loudest “feminists” are actually just bullies that hide behind avatars on blogs?

I realized that just because a bar is historically gay, the people that work for it can not only be transphobic but strongly anti-woman. It is then imperative for the queer community to call out these spaces. It is our responsibility to demand fair treatment, even if that isn’t the popular rally cry. Even if you are then calling out a party you have frequented for years, thrown by one of your friends. Silence will not only destroy you personally, but your lack projection will destroy countless others. We can not speak in absolutes, we have to always leave room for others, you must always leave space otherwise there literally is no room for growth. And what is the point of living if you are not also growing?

*My friend responded to Jezebel on Medium and her words are well worth your time.


Keep this Resolution

When will we start to realize that the youth are the ones who will take us forward? When will we stop and think about the weight of our words, and the ramifications that they have when we as adults preach and push on young minds? Minds that are flourishing and being molded daily. Minds that turn on the news and see uniforms killing their peers. Minds that see news headlines that question a persons very being for being something that does not fit the “norm”.

Today I have finally broken down. 2014 has been a year of civil rights being stricken away from the harmless. Whether at the hands of another, or by the words of another.

We have left another year behind that will aid statistics. Numbers of black youth killed by police, numbers of black trans* women being killed at the hands of bigots. Numbers on numbers that will go into reports, that will go into student papers, into blogs, into newspapers. But these people are not numbers, they are humans.

Maybe this year has hit me especially hard, because I fall into so many of the groups that have been attacked the most, yet seen the least justice. I watched as police were acquitted left at right for killing my brothers. I watched as my transgender family lost more and more members, while the media stayed silent and biased. I heard woman after woman come forward with stories of abuse and rape. I heard voices speak over them. Over all of them. Trying to silence minorities as history has done again and again.

How dare we.

How dare we look at someone who has been victimized, who has seen their humanity ripped from their very soul, and tell them to get over it. Tell them that it gets better. How can we? It doesn’t get better when people remain silent and let these people become statistics.

What is the point of being alive if you do not speak up for the dead? What is the point of breathing if you are using your breathe to spread hate. Or worse nothing at all. Silence is to me as repulsive as racism, homophobia, violence…the list goes on and on. Not the silence of victims, no their silence is understood. The silence of those who have the power to make change – it’s that silence that repulses me. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Youth. You young powerful roots of revolution. You matter. God dammit, do not let anyone tell you that your worth is actually worthless. We are not blessed by geography. We are not all bless by privilege. How can a young black trans* teenager relate to gloss and glimmer of an out person in the media? Do you not remember being young? The influence our peers and our parents played in our lives? Do you remember? That feeling that you were 100% alone in this world? That no one understood you? Now imagine you also felt trapped in the wrong body. Imagine that you were stop and frisked while your white classmates happily swiped their Metrocards.

I can not wrap my head around a parents ability to ostracize their own child. But because I know it to be true. I instead think of how we can make that child know their purpose and their worth to this world. When suicide becomes the path for more people than living does we have a massive problem. When black youth feel like they need guns to protect themselves from cops, we have a massive problem.

Adults, be mentors. Your words? They matter. If they reach one kid, or millions; there is a chance you have saved a life. That life is the most precious thing in the world. We can not continue to go on this way. We can not let another year go by with statistics. We must do the work and have the conversations that amount to change.

This year has truly been a fine example of the amount of work America must do in the future. From race relations, to dealing with mental illness, to LGBTQ rights – highlighting transgender youth and trans* people of color. It isn’t enough to call our country broken. The statement falls flat. Our country is a scale that has not known balance since it’s creation. The scale aided by drug wars, race wars, homophobia, classism, and lack of humanity and understanding for those suffering with mental illness has tipped so far on one side that I fear the hope of nationwide balance may never come. Which is why it is so important for groups to gather, discuss, rally, and make change in their communities. The first steps of revolution come from seeds being planted all over. We must act like bees taking carrying pollen from flower to flower. Eventually as a whole we can cover an entire garden, but first we have to attack our first flower. We have to look at our peers as friends and confidants. We have to learn from our past, and understand how certain systems work. Why they are broken, and make clear resolutions about how to change them. I refuse to watch police officers protest a mayor in 2015. I refuse to watch more young black men killed and left to be statistics. Story after story floods the Internet about LGBTQ youth committing suicide because all of their hope has been taken away. Can you imagine having so much of you taken away, that you would rather not be here at all? To actually be convinced that your life was accidental. To feel like you were a mistake. We have to on all sides EMPOWER our youth. Our young girls, our young black men, our LGBTQ community. If you’ve made it this far in life you owe it to a kid to show them that they can too. For each of us walking there are tens more in the ground. Don’t let another young mind become dust in the wind. Resolve to bring resolve into someone else’s life. Resolve to speak out against inequality. Resolve to make someone else uncomfortable at the expense of making somebody else’s light shine brighter. Resolve to make change. As small as you might think your action is, that action combined with the actions of those around you will be the spark that lights a fire. A fire that will burn everything that once was down, and allow us to build this country as it has never been built before. With love.

Nauseous Nostalgia

The fear of loss is a bond that all humans feel. From the loner to the most social, losing whatever it is that gives you breath every day is detrimental. It is one thing to constantly remind yourself to be thankful for what you have, but it is another to actually put breath back into what is providing you with an IV with your daily medicine, the CPR that you have come to depend on. You can love your garden as much as you want, but if you do not water it, the plants you love so much will die. Give and take, take and give, it is so often that our relationships weigh heavier on one of the two.

My grandfather has always lived strongly by one mantra: Listen to what I say, not how I say it. This has run through his blood for as long as I have known him, and probably in him from the first position of power and influence he took on. But things are changing; his wife, my grandmother is suffering from what we will all come to know, the hands of old age. The hands that creep ever so slowly over us, until they decide to do what they want. We fight them off, and sometimes hold hands with them, understanding each other for the moment, getting along for a common good, but eventually we grow tired and they win. This is life, as it always has been, and even the most cocky of us most eventually succomb to our own ego’s and stop the battle. But while we still have fight in us, how do we deal?

For her it is her mind. It is her hands. An artist who is losing control of both. How do we cope? A lesson to be learned. Hear what I say not how I say it. But now these moments, they are so tender. She may not remember the words, but the tone it matters now. Days are not careless anymore. Each one counts, and each one is for her new memories. Forgotten or not, make them count. Imagine that it took decades to realize how important our delivery is. Words are just the forefront of conversation. If you come with a bite, you may receive a bark back. How have we come this far to only learn this now? And if we had known it yesterday, what would it have changed? Would we know more about each other?

When Monet went blind, he let the colors he had spent a lifetime falling in love with guide him through. Just because you have stopped seeing it does not mean the colors don’t exist. Just because you have stopped breathing, it doesn’t mean what you have left behind can’t still exist. As she holds her paintbrush now, she may not have the concentrated, calculated control that she has become accustomed to, but does that mean she has to stop? I think it means she can’t stop.

The way you thought you would always be, the parts of you that you thought you would never change; all it takes is the dependency of love and in an instant you are the person you thought you could never be. The thought of someone you love immensely going through a pain that you can not take on yourself is itself the greatest pain in the universe.

Moving across the country, away from my family and my friends has given me the space to crash into so many feelings. Not things that were necessarily buried deep, but things that I could not face or deal with while in such close proximity to those who were part of the memory. I look in the mirror and say hey are you ok? It’s become a daily ritual. I don’t think we talk to ourselves enough. We demand things of ourselves yes, we put pressure on ourselves, we judge and feel sorry for ourselves, but how often do we say: whats up? How often do we check in and get real with ourselves? How often do we attempt to talk ourselves down? Living in New York I learned how to amp myself up. How to look in the mirror and demand myself to look sharp, to smile, and charm the shit out of whoever it was I was about to come in contact with. But never did I say, how the fuck are you and what is it exactly that you want and need out of today. I think it was because I was scared to slow down, being alone with your thoughts is horrifying. But once you take the initial jump, it’s refreshing as hell.

Today is a day that I usually dread. This month actually always proves to be the hardest of the year for me. I have for the past decade hated November. It marks to me the day that I woke up and no longer had my mom. Crazy isn’t it, how twenty four hours is all it takes. One day you’re planning for one thing, and the next…We as humans are in a constant state of change. Even if we fail to recognize it, or try and delay it, change is always happening. Time no matter how much you choose to ignore it will at some point demand your attention. I have tried to avoid the books that talk about grief, how to grief, what year one, two, three, mean. The thing is, the way you remember someone you love will change every time you think about them. Sometimes you will be brought to tears, sometimes you’ll find yourself laughing, and sometimes you will just feel empty. Empty in the way that only death can make you feel. Death and nostalgia. Those two things make me feel so eerily the same. It’s this feeling that sits in your stomach and clenches your throat. I suppose being nostalgic can often feel like dying or at least like you’re letting go of something that you will never get back again. No matter how hard you try what is dead is gone, and what has past is now nostalgia. How mind numbing. How frustrating. How have we not created a time machine yet? That’s all you can think in those moments. We as humans are really so helpless. Just like the planet we live on we are crashing through time and space, hoping not to hit anything that will end us before we are ready. But because we will never know when that might happen, we have to live.

It is such a strange concept to think back on this year and say: I learned to live. I have always been terrified of dying. I have carefully avoided getting too close to those I could fall madly in love with as friends and as lovers, because you see time and nature could take them away from me. But I think that’s selfish. I think it’s stupidity. It is definitely destructive. So though it isn’t yet time for resolutions there’s mine. To love without question, and look inside myself. To fall to nostalgia’s spell when it takes over my thoughts, but not allow it to blanket me and push me away from the present. You are always told not to forget your past, but I think what we should be told, is to respect our past and let it live inside us, but to always keep an extinguisher at a hand when it’s flames tickle us too harshly. Calling us back. You can’t go back, and I think that’s a good thing.

Youth Comes Back Home

One of the first things that you realize is that it smells exactly the same. Smells can bring you right back to any moment, any point in time. They are memories, capsules of people and places. The buildings have the same smell. It’s surreal that after years, for me a decade that everything hits me as if I were twelve again.

Days seemed absolutely endless when you were young. A week spent with friends much like camp, but instead of counselors there were trees. There were endless paths to walk down, endless amounts of water to swim or boat across, and if you wanted you never has to interact with your parents for longer than a kiss in the morning, a wave at dinner, and a mumbled goodnight before bed. You were already a second away from being asleep, and by the time your head did reach the pillow – it was morning.

That’s how days went. They rolled into each other but without a solid end. And then suddenly it was over. A week of memories that would last all year. Friendships that would, have, lasted a lifetime. And scents that even as an adult bring you right back to your first kiss on the dock. Right under the boat slip, before you knew that the lips you were kissing belonged to the opposite gender of who you would ever love later on. That a few years later not more than 100 feet away you would come out to someone for the first time.

Everything can change all around you, and yet you can return to certain places and realize that for them all the change that could possibly happen has already. The mountains, the lake, they were shaped before you were even a beam on a star sending it’s light down to the Earth that would raise something we call humanity. Here you question if you even need anyone. You’d be just as peaceful alone with a boat and a book and maybe a home to love. Love, you found that here. This is where you learned what it felt like to see the person you had dreamed would be forever go off with someone else. You learned what it was to have friends that you could talk to forever, and promised would stay forever, and surprisingly some of them did. Attachment was formed here. The feeling of not exactly knowing why, but wanting to spend a suffocating amount of time with someone else. Because you could be your true self. And summer after summer you found yourself becoming that self. You allowed yourself to be more vulnerable here than you ever would have back home, because you knew here it wouldn’t matter, that people would treat you as if they had always known the person you would end up being.

Think back and realize how awkward it all was. How awkward we all were. But no one cared. How amazing to be embraced for the gangly kid you were. Realizing that New York is such a big state, and someone calling themselves a New Yorker did not automatically mean they rode the subway, or in so many cases ever seen a subway. Concrete kids and farm kids, suburb kids and somewhere in between kids. Every day you would meet at group and you were just – kids.

A week without any form of plugged in visual entertainment. The week before you questioned whether you would be able to make it. A week without your favorite shows, without internet, and gossip from friends. You were being disconnected, a terrifying concept for your adolescent mind to comprehend. You would get back home, and your friends surely wouldn’t be able to connect with you. As soon as you woke up from the drive and saw that sign, that sign that said Silver Bay – none of it mattered.

And yet you have stayed away. It has been a bit more than a decade – every summer you tell yourself that you will make it. But somehow the opportunity passes you by. The last time was a different time, it was a hard time, it was goodbyes and tears in everyone’s eyes. It was apologies from family friends, long hugs and forced smiles. Every other week that you spent here is highlighted in your mind, but that one has been lost by the protective mind. Pushed away and deep, almost like a secret you had even forgotten you had made. A promise that you made by mistake, that you would forget this place and that day. But your heart it seems is shifts you easier than you dreamed. As time goes on, those memories come back at random, they catch you when a scent floats by on a breeze. And there you are, 12 again jumping off cliffs your parents would kill you for going near. Learning that stepping off of rocks is the hardest part, that second before the jump, and then suddenly it all makes sense. Suddenly you find yourself seeing that sign for the first time in years. The smells are back and so is that feeling of absolute content. Your youth has come back home.

Let It Lay

In my mind I have always had this dream conversation with my dad. He would sit there and listen to me talk about my childhood. He would take in all of the things I had to say about how shitty things really got. He would let me cry and vent, and support my words. And when I was done, he would say how he saw things, why he thought things had played out the way that they had, and then he would apologize. He would look me in the eye and apologize for all of the bullshit. For all of the late nights I spent being screamed at, for his wife, for his tantrums, for being kicked out. It would be a heartfelt apology, one that meant he had sat down and thought about all of these things, and realized that maybe a good chunk of my teenage years were unfair. We would then hug and kiss, and maybe go out to dinner, or go for a walk, or really do anything because MAGIC, the air would be so crystal clear for us. Right?

My life has always seemed to be a stream of connections and unsettling disconnects.

Recently I have come to realize that 1. My dad will never apologize. 2. I no longer need him to.

If you met a stranger, and that stranger told you that they loved you, what would you say? At large family gatherings I often feel that way.  The way in which there are people I see maybe at most once a year, but when we embrace or leave each other at the end of the day “I love you’s” can be heard, under the rifling of jackets, the packing away of leftovers. It is engrained in all of us, that we love our family. We do this without question and without much thought; because you are SUPPOSED to.

As I get older my life begins to have more and more layers. And with those layers, come secrets. There is no doubt that there are some members of my family who I can dive into those deeper layers with, but there are others who stay at the surface. We stay on the surface. There are other family members who I have a much deeper more blood stained relationship. And there comes a point, where you don’t so much as give up, but you let go.

We are taught that blood is thicker than water. That there is nothing more bonding than a family, and therefore nothing that you should hold on to harder. Just like in marriage family is “for better or for worse”. Can it maybe be time that we moved past this thought? I will in no way say that family ties should be cut for simple fights, traditions and culture are engrained into us, and when we have families that uplift and hold those things true, well than we are in luck. But not all families are this way. Just because you are related to someone does not mean that you like them; but it does mean that you love them? This concept seems so crazy when you put it on paper and think about it. Those who come from overall great homes may not be able to grasp the concept of not wanting anything to do with a family member, but for those of us who grew up in fragmented homes, the idea does not sound far fetched.

Maybe because I am queer, and embrace many thought systems that cis society shuts away, this whole idea of breaking up with family makes perfect sense to me. The same way that poly relationships and pansexuality make perfect sense to me. If someone is making you excruciatingly unhappy why on Earth would you keep them around? If your friends boyfriend was abusive, would you encourage your friend to stick it through because he does at the end of the day love them? We do not apply the same rules to those we meet in life, to our families. We are taught to be tethered to our roots. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, you do not turn your back on family. But is that really healthy?

I look at certain members of my family who are miserable. They have exactly what society wanted them to – a home, cars, a spouse, kids etc. But what they do not have is inner peace or sanity. I look at so many of the adults in my family and their relationships with their parents and just shudder. No one ever broke the cycle. This is not to say breaking the cycle is packing up all of your shit and never being heard of again, but no one ever sat down with anyone and had that dream conversation that I used to pine for, with my dad.

Maybe the problem is, that we put all of the pressure on those who enter our life, and not enough on those who have always been in it. We expect girlfriends or boyfriends to change bad behaviors, otherwise we leave them. We call out friends on their bullshit, and give them ultimatums. How often do we do that with family?

Both my grandfather and father have always said this one phrase to me: Listen to what I say, not how I say it. Which is word by fucking word, absolute bullshit. It is them giving up on pursuing ways of checking themselves before blaring out hurtful words at others. It is them checking out so hard in fact that they have left all of the sorting, unpacking, and understanding up to you. It is selfish as all hell, but it is also the way that they have chosen to be. Now I love both of these men dearly, but it is this mindset that has severely hindered us being able to have conversations centered around emotions as opposed to black and white subjects like finance.

Family unlike friends provide for us. For better or for worse, your parents did probably feed and clothe you as a child (some more than others). Your family is basically obligated to make sure that you make it as a human. That obligation I feel makes some parents absolutely lose their minds. The obligation of taking care of, sculpting, minding after, and BEING A GOOD PARENT to a kid. Jesus. I am too young to know what qualities an individual most possess to be a good parent, but I am old enough to know that I have met a lot of folks who do not fit the basic criteria. But society tells them to have children, so they do, and then their kids spend their lives waiting for apologies that they will never receive.

Telling a straight cis man who has been life tracked to have a good job and 2.5 children, that he is not fit to be a good parent, sounds like a quick way to end up nursing a wound. The media still to this day shows women as milk machines, who are meant to throw dinner parties, shuffle the kids off to school, have dinner on the table, build a rocket ship for Timmy’s science fair, etc etc. Of course we as individuals and many of us as feminists have moved away from this all American ideal, but that is only SOME of us. To many people that is the future that is expected of them. They will go home to family on the holidays and be asked about jobs, and about their love life. But what if we DID start telling certain people that they should maybe wait out parenting for a bit. Get their own shit together before they tried to (literally and metaphorically) start taking care of someone else’s.

How are people like my dad, who came from mindsets like my grandfathers, supposed to raise emotionally stable children?

At what point will we as a society see the importance of therapy and mental health diagnosis? You know that friend who often refers to her mom as crazy? What if her mom had the means to see a therapist before she had kids, and was therefore able to find the trigger of that “crazy”?

It’s funny, growing up I ran away a lot. I would drop off the face of the Earth and go sulk in unknown cities. My family would always say: Running away won’t solve anything. Thinking about it now, I realize that while I have always had the literal flight response those who I am close to in my family run away in their own ways. They run away into their own heads, and don’t talk about things out loud. Which then creates tension whose core you are totally unsure of. Just because we aren’t yelling, doesn’t mean that everything is ok. In my house it was either screaming, or silence. There were no casual conversations, no dinner time laughs, we were all separate bodies barely co-existing. The thing is I don’t think my dad sees this at all. Sometimes I wish I could dive into his head and see how he replays scenes, scenes that I play over and over in my head and try to break down, burn, and forget.

It is terrifying to realize that some of the memories that haunt you the most, are forgotten by everyone else who was there.

Relating to people is one of the hardest things we are faced with in this life. Understanding when to let things go is something I feel we will all always battle with. For better or worse we all have our own egos to cradle and defend. Our own egos that get in the way of us saying: I’m sorry. The words of our parents ring in our ears without us even realizing. The weight of fights we had years ago sit with us. I can still remember the worst nights of my life. You can too. But it is what we do with those residual feelings of pain, how we finally figure out how to extinguish those flames, yet still realize that those embers may never fully turn to dust. Realizing that love is just as much the most amazing feeling in the world, and the feeling that will cause more pain than hate. It is the love we inherently have for our families that will break us again and again. That is. until we get right with ourselves. You are not always right, but you are in control of steering yourself towards what seemingly is.