Such Whiteness

Be as miserable as the cavities that lurk behind your pristine white washed teeth and the ancestral secrets that they keep

It’s not enough to just brush but the blood that tarnishes your sink when you floss is too harsh under the fluorescent bulbs in your rent-stabilized home that before you has never known such whiteness

You wave to the right strangers on the street the ones that seem innocent enough

The brown babies who often blush when you wiggle your fingers in their direction

You eat and you eat ignoring the small pain that is ever present

Silence the misery beholden to you and to me

You’ve woken up again and again in the middle of the night to the loud neighborhood kids either in the middle of a celebration or a fight

So unlike the sidewalks in your suburban hometown that as your dad would say got rolled up at night

Strange to be a stranger when your bank account says this is exactly where you belong

Flick your tongue out of habit to the back of your mouth

Fall back asleep and awake to the streets

that never went to sleep

the lingering taste of iron in your mouth

You shower and wash it out

Let the misery overflow and overfill the cup you’ve been told must only hold the happiness and innocence of childhood summers when school felt years away and the sun didn’t set until you were already tucked into bed

Be as miserable as the sky is on days when there is no universe

Just hell on Earth

Monsters

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

Ignore

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:

http://jezebel.com/dont-be-an-idiot-at-the-strip-club-a-strippers-guide-1681793887?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

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.

https://medium.com/gender-justice-feminism/what-happens-if-you-plan-a-strip-club-birthday-when-youre-a-lesbian-the-idiot-speaks-52121eee099c

And Here We Are.

And all at once you feel a merging of what seems like every feeling your body is capable of. This must be living. This must be dying. This must be the answer to why or what or when or how you got here. Here being Earth, here being in this moment, here being with her. 

And all at once you are at peace. You have always been taught that peace and calm is better than war and conflict. But really, at least for you peace comes with conflict. It comes with bumps, it comes with daggers that cut deep. Peace is not the silence of the things that hurt you. It is dealing with those things and not letting them control you. 

You stand next to things that started breathing millions of years ago. And while you are with them your body catches their air. How beautifully overwhelming. Waves crash onto the shore, the way branches crash into the ground. They are not necessarily unkind, they are however completely independent. Nature is a freedom that many of us will never ever even have a taste of. And rightfully so, for look at how we treat her – or him. We are tourists that have overstayed our welcome and instead become parasitic. 

And all at once I am guilty. Look at what we have done. Trees slaughtered for shopping malls and mansions. Who will be filled with consumers who know nothing else but to consume more and more. Mansions that will house families, who will barely say “how are you’s” over dinners that were prepared out of necessity, not out of love. 

The sun and you have never spoken. Yet the sun provides you with everything. Even on the coldest days of winter, there above you beaming, she never stops. 

And all of a sudden you are crying. The tears you hold inside are the fears you wish you could bury the ones you hope one day will die, and leave you feeling more alive. The shore is always changing, because the ocean has no time for the complacency that for humans is simply a way of life. 

For you it’s always been the quest. The search for love, for laughter, for mornings that don’t make you hit the snooze button in anger. Because you are turning over to the eyes you’ve waited all night to see. You have always wanted to shake the insatiability that was so valuable to you as a kid. If you stayed hungry for something more than what you were being given, then what you didn’t have didn’t have to matter as much.

Learn to live with possibility. 

Every heart knows heaviness. God knows, if your heart was further away from your lungs it probably wouldn’t be able to beat. And because of that, for that reason you should never forget to breathe. 

And all at once I know what I want. But am skeptical of if the world will agree. I know that I never want to know what the future holds. I can’t pave a road before I walk it. They say to look before you leap, but I think it’s really that you should invest in the commitment of the water being either much to shallow or way too deep. Nothing is ever as it seems, but that’s what makes this. This life. This struggle, this beautiful yet terrifyingly stabbing sometimes majestic but often times debilitating. This is why your heart need your lungs. You need to breathe in the things that will make your heart sing. Because when you don’t, if you don’t, that’s heartbreak. 

And there is no point in living, with a broken heart.  

The Party

It’s like constantly showing up late to a party; my life that is. A party where everyone else already knows each other. They have inside jokes and stories, have known each other’s partners, had dinner with each other’s parents. A party whose guests accept you yet don’t really know you past the game of flip cup you just played together.

I have always felt late to the party.

My family is my family. There is no confusion in my heart or head that the people who adopted me as an infant fill the roles of mom and dad, of aunt and uncle, of grandparent. They talk of a past that isn’t mine. My ancestors weren’t Russian immigrants. My birth family were never called kykes or denied jobs because they were Jewish. They knew no Holocaust.

They looked like me.
Black like me.

My parents divorced when I was still a baby, and both remarried. Two new families where I felt the outcast. My dad and his wife had a child together and suddenly my life at home was divided. I was a tag along. The third wheel of a family whose house I happened to share. I was a target, and on my own. I threw myself into friends, people who had known each other since they were babies. This was the suburbs, you had your friends from childhood but I was new. I came from the city, wide eyed and mystified by these tight knit circles.

Late to the party once again.

I squeezed in. Loud, opinionated, but soft hearted and funny; it was never hard for me to hop from group to group at school.

I never opened up about my family. My friends were from cookie cutter homes with moms who cooked dinner and dads who played basketball on Saturday mornings with them in the driveway. But every family is good at pretending. Every kid goes to school with secrets slammed behind their locker doors. In reality so few of our families were perfect. So few marriages were working. But being an outcast at school, would make being one at home too even worse.

What does it feel like to have people tell you that you look just like your brother? Have the face of your mother? Your fathers laugh and your families knack for sports?

Tall and black. Thin and athletic. Emotional and sympathetic. Scared and anxious. An extrovert with overwhelming needs to be alone. They are not like me.

My acting teachers always said that I had excellent projection. My dad and his father are easily better than me. Anger that resides in me results in words on paper. Either reading or writing, for me the fighting gets done between a book cover. I want to talk to you for hours. I want to your voice, your past, your choice, what led you here. Why that thing I did triggered you then. And when and if it happens again, how to deflect the tension. Amend it. Jesus would they yell. To see red in someone face as they storm around and pace. My dad would throw tantrums like a child. Break things and curse like a fuming bull charging through the streets. And then he would break. And sigh and often cry and hold me.

If this is the party, I would like to leave.

We deal with death. But we really never deal with death. If life is a joke, death is the punch line that went over everyone’s head. Everyone should feel the feeling of being on a roller coaster without a harness. Because as you feel yourself falling, grieving, twisting and screaming, you realize that you’re going to be ok.

I don’t know what her last words were. But I can guess her thoughts. Summers spent outside painting each other’s nails. Christmas stockings whose contents overflowed on to the mantle. Trips to bookstores where hours were spent, where I was allowed to roam and explore. The smell of coffee every morning as we shared the bathroom getting ready. Flowers.

Always fresh like Spring. Colors like a Pollock. A laugh that was louder than most car horns. Eyelids that were always ready to shed tears. Arms always willing to cuddle. A mouth unafraid to sound off. Love times a million the kind that radiates from so deep within, that you wonder if their is a trap door.

Fall off that coaster into darkness. But realize that breathing eventually becomes easier and the wind around you dies down. As you finally touch down.

I miss you at the party.

If I ran into one if my siblings on the street, would they notice me?

Have we ever crossed paths?

We have the internet now. This is could be so easy.

But do I want it to be?

Do I want to crash another family? Another group that’s had it’s history. Who know each other inside and out and maybe have always thought about; that baby that left them years ago. Maybe wonder how that kid came to be and if they had grown, tall like their father. If they have laugh lines like their mother. Passing thoughts as they have moments alone. But not enough to press the issue. And what about my other set of parents? The ones whose genetics make me into whatever it is this body can be.

Sometimes I walk for hours to quell my anxiety. If I leave town for a day or two when I get back the mundane will feel new. I often feel like a polka dot. The literal black sheep. I fear that they can’t hear me, that I showed up too late for them to get me. I am a vortex of change in every way. My gender picks up where nature left off and strays. My sexuality is magnetic towards so femininity and beauty. The men of my family are so different than the boi I’ve come to be and we all know there’s love there. But it can be so hard to show it.

The backgrounds of our slide show keep changing so rapidly. The projection of his light and not my light and the colors don’t exactly feel right when they bounce off the wall together. Yet they have been told that they are bound and belong together. So they stay illuminated for the party.

Waiting for the guests to leave.

Maybe Sometimes

I have an idea of my true self
But I have no idea where that self will take me
I know that this self
This person
Is ever changing
I just want to be seen
In the light I project
Which isn’t always the clearest
Or the brightest
My worried mind will often interject and leave me with feelings of anger or worse thoughts that I was either not enough or was much too direct
I get this really bad feeling
When I feel tension
When I feel like my words are misinterpreted
Or your tone was taken out of context
The simple complexities of conversation
What is taken
What is given
What is left as a question
If only we asked
So then we would know
Why that silence just got longer and longer
Why nothing dissipated
But instead chose to grow
Why we distance ourselves from those we once loved
And still do if we were honest
Friends lovers and in betweens
We are whatever we were
We are has been
Used to be
But if we take away the negative
And holes in our conversation
Could we get back to something
Get back to simplicity
Simply

Silently sensitive
I am
Not too proud to be emotional
But
Too cautious to show hurt

But still most things eventually hurt
And because we are not here forever
Maybe we should try not to say words that could break us apart forever

Maybe apologies should come easy
For me they never have
But maybe part of growing up
Is learning lessons we always knew we had to
But never took the emotional space to

Because really who wants to admit they were wrong
Because really who wants to dig into that space that you tucked so far away
That trunk in the attic of your parents house
That you know contains both euphoric memories
And thunderstorms that caught you off guard
And wrecked you in that moment
For a few days
That trunk exists for a reason
Burden can be entirely too much to hold on to
But clarity is something we’re all entitled to

Dust forms on the things we leave untouched
But it doesn’t make them worthless
They aren’t worth less

Shake up a snow globe and watch a million pieces of sparkly nothing illuminate a fairy tale scene
For a moment everything is beautiful
Perfect
Serene
But eventually the glitter falls
And the music stops
What do you then make for that snow globe
Is it now just nothing more than a paper weight
Or is it just as useful when it isn’t putting on a show
When it just is

We can illuminate ourselves
We should illuminate ourselves
But we should remember life isn’t just about the show
You are the shell that holds a million pieces
Shake them wrong
Shake them right
Sometimes calm
But not always
Sometimes strong
But not always

Because nothing
Is always

Untitled Feeling

Dreamy
Like milk swirls in her coffee
Like the rain hitting my face
Like the mixed up blurry thoughts that are my every day
The way I feel when it’s all triggers
When I can’t keep my fingers
From not doing what my brain is trying to say
The triggers that make those coffee swirls need to go exactly a very particular way
It’s all so dreamy
Hitting light switches
On and on and on
Turning door knobs until they feel just right under hands that just might break if it all doesn’t come together
My hands will shake and my ears will ring because inside I’m screaming about how coffee swirls and door handles mean nothing and yes indeed the lights are off and the front door is shut and the bed is made the proper way and the stove is not still flickering because god damn you haven’t used it since last night but –
What
If
Dreamy my thoughts
Click click my tongue against my teeth
Trying to breathe
Easy
Easy
Dreamy
Lay down and count it all out
Odds and evens
Even yourself out
The rain is making you feel fresh and new
Alive with out the panic
Alive without feeling manic
Dreamy

How to Live When it Comes to Dying

I’m at a really interesting point on my year, and it’s only the beginning. For the past few weeks I’ve seen my name – both my birth and chosen name splattered around the internet. It has been overwhelming and amazing. Both feelings simultaneously. I’m trying to understand how to take hold of both of those feelings, and own them.

A few months ago my uncle, great uncle if we’re being particular. Came to the states for his annual holiday visit. He retired to the Dominican Republic years ago. His house there is breathtaking. It sits in the mountains overlooking a rolling rapid river. His house has no actual windows, just shutters so that you can hear the river from basically anywhere in his house. Outside there is a mango tree, he has a swimming pool and a marvelous garden. At night you have to sleep under mosquito nets, which isn’t actually that bad when you have the sound of a river to lull you to sleep.

He is still here now. Not next to that rolling river, but instead in Long Island. He is going though his second round of chemo.

My mom died unexpectantly when I was 14. It was shocking and it was painful but it was brief. My family doesn’t grieve. We do not talk about the sadness that comes with death. The pain associated with loss. The repercussions of what happens to you after someone you love is gone. I went back to school a day later. Went to boarding school a year later. And didn’t shed tears over what had happened for years.

One year, a few days after when my moms birthday would have been. I cornered my dad. He hadn’t called me that weekend to check up on me. My father and I have always had a relationship that wavers from extremely close to painfully far apart. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties not speaking to him. I spent most of that time angry at him for choosing his new wife over me. For allowing her into his families life.

We met for lunch and I ripped into him. I broke down, maybe for the first time in years about how alone I felt. How much I missed my mom, and how much I despised him for not being there. My mom and him were high shook sweethearts. How could he have forgotten her birthday? How could he have forgotten his kid? To my surprise, my father who had always been the type to attack when confronted started crying. He told me he had never stopped loving her, and didn’t know how to voice his loss. His sadness.

For the first time I saw how he must have felt when she died. For the first time I realized how my stepfather must have felt. I thought about what it would feel like to have the woman you loved ripped from you. I broke down again.

My family doesn’t deal with heart. My dad’s father was a businessman as was his father. My dad and his sister are architects. Their worlds are numbers. It’s funny though because those numbers are highlighted with beauty; of gorgeous buildings. But there are no words. Just images and structures.

My world has always been words. But they have always had to stay written. My household didn’t allow for me to be outwardly expressive. As a kid I read everything I could get my hands on. I would lock myself away and write everything I felt. Everything I wanted to feel. My grandpa often says to me what are you going to do if someone stumbles across your notebooks when you’re gone? They’ll think you were always so angry or so sad. Whenever I write he says I always make a note explaining that’s just how I was feeling in that moment, so no one will take away whatever is in those books as who I am.

That is my family in a nutshell. We have feelings but they are meant to open they are meant to be suppressed.

My uncle is sick. I have no idea how sick because again my family is all business. I don’t know anything about cancer, or really watching someone die. My mom died while I was home, and those sounds still haunt me. I didn’t say goodbye to her. That will always haunt me.

My family speaks about doctors. About surgeries and about medicine. They don’t talk about how he feels. He doesn’t talk about how he feels. And I’m realizing I have no idea how to ask. Conversations are about doctors appointments. About how he feels physically; what foods he can keep down.

He goes to get his chemo treatments in Manhattan he goes alone and comes back filled with medicine – poison. I stop myself before I ask what it felt like. What it feels like to have all of that medicine running through you. What it must feel like to spend the winter of one of your golden years in the cold of New York, when for years you’ve basked in the sun of the Dominican Republic.

I am trying to find the words to let him know that I’m there. If he wants to talk. But I’m failing at those words. He instead asks about me. About gender and about sexuality. He is gay but his experience is extraordinarily different than mine. He grew up in the 40’s. His life was a secret. When he did come out it wasn’t to a world with shows like Modern Family. It was a world where he was a faggot, a Jewish one at that. A world where gay men were the punch line. His love life was not celebrated.

My grandfather tells me about how he felt when my uncle came out. How confused he was that a man could love another man. I was so attracted to women he told me once. I couldn’t understand how he looked at a man and felt those same feelings.

This was my grandfathers first of what would prove to be many surprises in the family. All of my grandparents grandchildren are either mixed or black. Both of their kids; my dad and my aunt married black spouses. My mom who was also white married my father and they adopted me. Years later my grandfather would deal with me coming out of the closet and then coming out again as trans*.

My grandfather and I always push and pull at each other. He, like my father reacts to frustration with rage. They both have horrible tempers that end up isolating them from the people they love the moat. At their core they are both anxious kittens. Kittens cloaked with the mask of lions. My childhood was spent hearing my father roar.

My grandfather always wants to talk business. Even when it isn’t business, it’s business. Everything had an answer. And everything if you break it down for long enough becomes black and white. This way of thinking has proven to be very difficult when talking about gender and sexuality. It has also proven to be difficult when talking about sadness. About the fears associated with losing someone. When I speak about my mom it is one sided. I’ve never felt solace going to my grandfather or my dad. It’s top overwhelming for them.

I want to talk about my uncle. I want to talk to him. It kills me to think that he could be gone, and I will have missed out on knowing someone and equally as important he will have missed out on knowing me. Someone that I love that is. God that is a hard word amongst my family.

My mom would smother me with love. She loved flowers and fruit. The art of Matisse and O’Keefe. We would paint each other’s nails in the summer, outside in our cement coated backyard in Queens. I would struggle away when she locked me in bear hugs. When she would overwhelm me with kisses and tells how beautiful I was.

Those are memories now.

I’m not sure how to share them. I’m not sure who will listen.

My mom died like a wave crashing into shore. It was quick and before I knew it it was gone. Her memory fading into the sand. You can curse at the stars you can curse at the sky but once death takes over well it’s infinite goodbye.

I know that will happen with my uncle eventually. This is his second battle with cancer. He is older this time and this winter is so cold. I’m not counting him out, but I’m realizing how much of a risk life is on it’s own never mind after you add cancer to the mix.

Sometimes we have to realize that we have to reach outside of our own comfort zones to comfort those we love. I am learning how to do that, and I hope that he and I can make contact.