I can’t tell you how old I was when I found myself in foster care. This is something to do with my incredibly stressful and relatively traumatic childhood; at some point, I subconsciously decided it would be best if I just didn’t remember when or how anything happened. So if I seem a little vague about dates, time periods, ages? It’s because I don’t really know. I get flashes, sometimes, though. Snapshots, like the ones I have of the night I was separated from my mother.
- My mother, high on meth, taking us to the San Diego Marshal’s Office in a haze of drug-induced paranoia.
- Sitting at a table across from a female officer who clearly did not know what to do with me, but was very kind and gave me one of her colleague’s meals.
- Being taken out of the room too soon, and seeing my mother thrown up against the wall and handcuffed.
- Being shown to a bed in a dark room filled with beds in the middle of the night. I would soon learn that I was in the Hillcrest Receiving Home. I didn’t know why I was there.
- Being introduced to a woman, Mrs. White, and told that I would be going home with her.
- Not knowing where my mother was, what had happened to her, or if she would know how to find me again.
- Not knowing if she was gone forever.
There are, on average, between 400,000 and 500,000 kids in foster care in the United States in a given year. Some of them have even less to go on than I had, and many come from far worse situations than I ever did. It’s a very rare foster youth who isn’t suffering from trauma, and on average, foster youth are almost TWICE as likely to suffer from PTSD as US war veterans.
Children in foster care suffer from dramatically higher rates of psychiatric, behavioral, and substance use disorders resulting from the abuse and neglect they have experienced, in addition to the traumas of removal from home and the instability of the foster care system itself. However, only about 10-15% of them receive any mental healthcare at all, and virtually none of them receive long-term therapy. The majority of the therapy they receive is short-term, crisis-based care, which is ultimately more damaging than not.
I work for a nonprofit organization called A Home Within. Now, I’m glad I found this org right when I desperately needed a job, but I wish I’d known about it earlier, because after a lifetime of dealing with depression, anxiety, anger, trauma, and the fear of abandonment—much of which was aggravated or added by my time in foster care, I could have benefited from the services A Home Within provides: pro bono, open-ended therapy.
That’s right. We offer free long-term mental health care to current and former foster youth: One child, one therapist, for as long as it takes.
But finding therapists and reaching foster youth takes time, and it takes funds. We have chapters all over the country with kids waiting for services that we are doing our best to provide, and areas where foster carers and youth have no idea we are here for them. We are going to change that. I’m part of a team trying to raise $2500 for A Home Within. I’m working with Faith Grant, one of our most recent additions to the A Home Within Board of Directors. So I am asking you to help us out by donating today, and to help me and Faith out by choosing either her name or mine (if you already know it) from the drop down menu when you do.
Please, help us make a difference in the lives of foster youth.
I was seven years old when A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984. For some reason my babysitter decided it would be fine for me to see it. Yeah, you should probably check in with the people babysitting your kids.
Two things have been true until tonight:
1. I have been fascinated by and have actively sought out horror movies ever since; and
2. I haven’t watched the original ANOES since (I saw the remake; it wasn’t awful).
Oh, let me clarify. I haven’t watched the original since…until tonight. I’m watching it now. Why not? I thought to myself as I chose how to celebrate my favorite holiday. Why not celebrate with the movie that entirely rewired my wee brain when I was a child? It’s possible that I’ll have the answer to that soon, but the movie is only just a few minutes in.
Let’s share a little history. The effect that this movie had on me, a kid who hadn’t even made it to the first grade yet, was striking. It terrified me. I did not yet have the ridiculously macabre and dark sense of humor I do now. I did not have the ability to recognize the sick sense of humor in the horror before me. I just saw Freddy Krueger.
You know the full story by now, but Freddy was a scary-as-fuck dead guy who could kill you in your dreams, and even preschool Whiskeypants knew that was Fucked. Up. Preschool Whiskeypants knew that waking up was hard sometimes. Preschool Whiskeypants had intense nightmares on a very regular basis and was pretty damn sure that it made absolute sense that your nightmares could kill you.
I would spend the rest of my childhood trying to figure out how to sleep safely. While it wasn’t only because of ANOES (there was a host of other factors in my childhood that added to this), this movie hardwired me to believe that sleep left a person altogether too vulnerable. In fact, I think it was out of desperation for rest that my brain created its own coping mechanism: it turned Freddy Krueger into an ally. Freddy would show up in my nightmares and show me the way out. It was the only way my subconscious could work through my absolute terror of the character.
Rewatching A Nightmare on Elm Street right now is giving me a new appreciation for the movie, but the fear that 7-year-old Whiskeypants experienced is still there, 29 years later. It’s not a fear of the movie, with its nigh-hilarious special effects (Freddy has fluorescent green blood? Really?), baby Johnny Depp, and fascinating hairdos. It’s still the idea behind it that gets me. That makes me wonder how well I will sleep tonight.
I guess in some ways, 36-year-old Whiskeypants is still 7-year-old Whiskeypants.
YOU GUYS. Halloween is just around the corner! You know what THAT means: it’s time to scramble to put together the perfect Sexy [Whatever] costume. But what if all your friends are already going as Sexy Nurse, Sexy Nun, Sexy Cop, Sexy Zombie and Sexy Lisa Simpson? DO NOT WORRY. Everything is going to be okay, because my friends and I have pages and pages of ideas for you, courtesy of this lovely comic and an absolutely epic Facebook thread.
Are you ready for this?
If yes, click below (and click again) for embiggenation:
Note: I love Halloween. I mean, really. I LOVE Halloween. The sheer amount of work and creativity that goes into this unholiday is mindblowing and I enjoy it immensely. So even if I didn’t have a host of other issues with the “Sexy [x]” Halloween costume, the sheer consistent laziness of it would irritate me.
I was reading this letter, which is full of very emphatic and violent hate for a neighborhood kid with autism, and I was simultaneously nauseated by what this awful, cowardly woman said and assumed and the sheer number of exclamation points she used to emphasize the hate she was spewing.
I could do one of my usual rants about the shittiness of this woman’s attitude and method of handling the situation, but I think the kid’s mother handled it just fine. So to the next point: I don’t know about you guys, but this is pretty much how my brain filters the use of exclamation points:
Click for Enlargination:
Substitute “friend” for: “co-worker”, “schoolmate”, “partner of someone you know”, or someone in the public eye. For example, Chelsea Manning.
If you don’t already know (maybe you live under a rock or are one of those people who reads snarky blogs and not the news), Chelsea Manning went public today regarding her identity, preferred pronoun, and new name (as reported accurately and sensitively by The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and of all places, MSNBC).
It’s pretty sad that other media outlets refuse, even while reporting on this story, to use the correct pronoun. Hint, it’s female pronouns: “she”, “her”, etc.
What’s playing out today in the media is, sadly, the same kind of thing that plays out at parties, work environments, or in social scenes. There’s always a few people who get it instantly, and a lot more who need to be educated, plus a sprinkling of haters who will willfully resist the truth or argue against. Why? Who knows. Maybe they’re angry that this person looks better in a skirt or a suit than they do.
For the sake of this post, let’s assume most people are in the middle group. You’re a nice person, you want to do the right thing, and suddenly your friend is dating a trans person, or is a trans person, or maybe your kid is trans, or your kid’s friend. What’s the etiquette around what might be (to you) a new name or pronoun?
1. Names have power.
Perhaps you are happy with the name your parents gave you at birth. Perhaps you are happy with the gender and sexual identity presumed for you at birth. Go you. It doesn’t hurt you, your gender, or your sexuality to hold a space where other people can be accepted for who they are.
USE THEIR NEW NAME. ALWAYS.
It can be tough switching someone’s name in your mind. The more you use it, the easier it will become, I promise. A few months in and you won’t remember their old name, which will come in handy in other situations which I will get into a little further down this page.
2. Pronouns have power
USE THEIR NEW PRONOUN. Ignore how the New York Times has a perpetual inability to get this right in any article about a trans person. You should be reading The Guardian anyway. Practice also helps.
3. What if I screw it up?
You’re gonna screw it up. We’ve all screwed this up. Correct yourself and move on. It’s as simple as that. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Know that your trans friend noticed. Yes, we notice every, single time someone does this. The more you bring it up, the worse you look.
If you feel the need to apologize for messing this up, especially if you do it in public, make a private apology to your friend or the person whom you wronged. Own your mistake, don’t tell them it’s their fault because “you’re confusing.” It isn’t their fault, it’s yours. Do the right thing and apologize, in private, and with honesty.
4. How to avoid screwing it up?
If you, for whatever reason, simply cannot get this person’s pronoun correct, then refer to them by their name until your mental reframing of them is more complete. Take a moment and look at this person, really see them, not your impression of them, not your past idea of who they are. At the risk of getting into the land of ‘woo’, look at their essence and be open to being flexible. This person has come a long way; your job is to support them and accept them.
Imagine if every time someone looked at you, they saw you with that horrible haircut you had in Jr. High or High School. No, it’s not the same as gender, but the mental timestamp is just as out of date. Flush your mental browser cache and enjoy your friend’s new look.
Avoid doing that thing where you go out of your way to use their new pronoun more frequently than is necessary. That’s kind of the same as when white people talk about their ‘black friend’.
5. How to be an ally to a trans person?
Do not gossip or share personal information. This means: do not tell other people that this person is trans, their former pronoun, or their former name. To anyone. Even with people you know also share this information. Do you want people talking about your tummy tuck or abortion at a cocktail party to a group of fascinated strangers or co-workers? Didn’t think so.
When someone trusts you (and it is a trust) with their truth, your one response should be to honor that trust by not betraying it.
Before you get angry that I’ve equated a hormonal or surgical transition with something to be ashamed of, know this. Some trans people are very open in regard to discussing their transition. Some trans people use hormones or surgery, others do not. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to transition. Transition is a personal procedure and should be kept private.
People are also comfortable discussing their abortions, the births of their children (in gruesome detail which I like to hear because I like gross stuff), or their colonoscopy. These are highly personal stories and should be shared only by the person who experienced them. That isn’t about being politically correct—that’s just good manners. Don’t be rude and co-opt someone else’s good party story. If other people are gossiping, shut them down. If they gossip about your friend, chances are they’re also gossiping about you.
Do not ask if they are planning to get/have gotten surgery.
Just. Don’t. Think about it. Unless you are their surgeon, it’s none of your business what’s going on down there.
Educate yourself on trans issues.
There are a ton of articles similar to this online, (many of them better written) as well as many, many books on the subject of being trans, partnering with trans people, and the human rights issues faces by trans people. Some of them have contrasting information. Be informed. Read. Use your critical analysis skills and stay compassionate.
Trans teenagers, and adults for that matter, are far more likely to attempt suicide or use drugs/alcohol. This is not because all us trans people are So Messed Up. This is because the world treats trans people unfairly. Transgendered people are more likely to be unemployed or face discrimination on the job. Health insurance companies do their damnedest to deny trans people access to transition-related services, including mental health services, which have been proven time and time again to improve people’s quality of life, personal safety, and economic security. Trans people often lose the support of family and friends and must constantly fight for recognition that their transition is real, necessary, and meaningful.
Never use the word ‘Tranny’
6. As a final note:
Since the default standard mainstream dialogue around trans people is to treat them like the punchline to a joke, I can see why uninformed people might interpret it that way. This is a good opportunity for people surprised by the news to consider how their mental awareness of trans issues is shaped by representations in the media. Compare the coverage, consider how respectful writers and reporters are of names and pronouns.
[Whiskeynote: Don't run from your confusion, your curiosity, your ignorance and your discomfort. Embrace it. Ask questions—mindfully. Read up. Think critically. It can only make the world better for our trans friends, family members, lovers, and even people we have never met.]
Guest blogger T is trans and queer identified, currently owned by two cats, lives in San Francisco, and will occasionally write blog posts if nagged by close friends.
First attempt at agave caramel:
Second attempt at agave caramel:
Oops. I mean:
As my heart is reeling from news of being laid off from my regular church today, I go back to a story. These all start with a story, all rife with feeling and promise. This one's about a church.
In August 1999 I returned from New York. My mother had been dead a year, I was recovering in turmoil from a recently broken relationship that I had thought would last forever (I was 23.
He doesn’t wake you up at 5am…because he can wake you up at 4:30.
When he throws up, he never uses the floor—when your clothes are available.
His kibble is larger than the average kibble—because he’ll eat too fast and boot it immediately if it’s any smaller.
He thinks—and poops—outside the box.
He has the closest thing to opposable thumbs that a cat can have—but he cries pitifully in front of slightly open doors.
He’s not afraid to tell you that you have been neglecting him for at least ten minutes.
He is…the most annoying cat in the world.
Last night, one of my dearest friends called me with some of her thoughts on Trayvon Martin. I asked her to turn it into a blog post; you can find it here. It was sometime later in the conversation that she said, “What can I do? I am one person in the Bay Area. What can I do? Write a blog post?”
I said, “Yeah, write a blog post. And you have to help raise Alex in this world.”
She was quiet for a long time.
Alex is her beautiful 2.5-year-old nephew. He’s lovely, he’s smart, he’s inquisitive. He’s Black. He’s Black in a world where a dead teenager can be put on trial for his own murder because he was a Black kid in a hoodie.
He’s Black in a world where racism is rampant (whatever the old white people on Drunk!SCOTUS seem to think), where people can be killed, imprisoned, pulled over, and denied employment or even so much as the benefit of the doubt upon walking into a store because of the color of their skin. He’s a Black boy being raised by a White mother who is acutely aware of what the outcome of the Zimmerman trial means for her son. [Note: the link is not about her and her family specifically.]
In fact, we live in a world where a man who grabbed a gun, stalked a Black kid, and then killed him was able to claim self defense. Because Black people are so scary that apparently we are always defending ourselves against them, even if all they have to fight with is a package of Skittles and a soft drink.
I am a queer Jewish person of color (with a largely invisible physical disability, because I needed a complete set). I grew up being told that the world didn’t want me here for just about every part of who and what I am. My mother apologized more than once for the fight I didn’t fully realize, as a kid, that I had ahead of me. My girlfriend and I plan to adopt and/or foster one day, and there is a very real possibility that some of our kids will be PoC. I turned to her last night and said, “What will we do?”
She said, in typical White-person-who-has-never-dealt-with-race-issues fashion, “We will just have to make the world better.” And I felt so powerless. Powerless to explain how two people in the Bay Area and their friends will not be able to “fix” racism for our kids. Powerless to even begin to explain the history of racism and how scores of people, organizations, campaigns, politicians, religious figures, celebrities, etc. have been trying to fight racism for so long. About how we still need laws and explicitly stated policies to protect people of color. About how privilege is still rampant and a major issue of contention, especially for those who have it.
Later, she told me she was glad I would be there to help our kids with the “race stuff”, which I found heartbreaking. Because in that moment I became the token go-to. Thank DOG she has a brown person to explain brown things (this is also a major issue wrt the discussion of race and racism–white people still seem to need brown people to explain the issues when the issues, the resources, the information is all right there for the reading [see re: Google searches]). And yet I loved the fact that she recognized that there would be “race stuff”, and that our children would need resources. I love the fact that she wants them to have those resources.
And that’s true whether our kids are female, queer, trans, and/or people of color. These kids have to learn about how they can best navigate in a world that is still unfriendly and dangerous to them. We (as a planet full of people) aren’t teaching boys not to rape*, we are still teaching women and girls not to get raped. We aren’t teaching people not to be racist, we are teaching people not to dress threateningly on top of being Black. We aren’t teaching people not to be homophobic, we focus on places where queers should worry about coming out. We need to teach our children to navigate through that and come out stronger, to support each other even when it is scary, to know when they need help.
What did Trayvon know that night when he left the house to get some candy? Did he know that the world was a dangerous place for him? Did he know what image he needed to present as a visual apology for the color of his skin? Did he know that some deeply racist vigilante nutjob might shoot him to death because of a general distrust of Black people, a distrust that is neither limited to Zimmerman, nor Florida? Would knowing that have saved his life? Where do we find the balance between wishing desperately that Trayvon had been wearing khakis and a preppy button-down shirt and indulging in victim blaming?
What are you teaching your kids? What pieces of wisdom do you have to offer your female, queer, alternative, PoC children? Did you even know that you needed to? If your children are straight, White, and male, what do you tell them about racism, misogyny, rape, homophobia? Do you see a need to discuss these things with them? Are you letting them learn about these things on Facebook?
If so, WHY?
*I don’t mean that boys are born rapists and must be taught otherwise. I mean that boys are not given the skills they need to handle sexual situations appropriately. In fact, society puts a level of pressure on boys and men to be sexually active and dominant that can be pretty unbearable (and ensures that instances of male rape go woefully underreported).
Well, SCOTUS is drunk.
No, really. Obviously drunk.
Those of us who are not just keeping track of the Prop 8 decisions may have noticed the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the funny idea that racism just isn’t an issue anymore. I guess nobody has stopped and frisked Clarence Thomas recently.
So, folks are dismayed and disappointed all over the internet, in my office, and probably in Dolores Park, too. But that’s probably because it’s raining, and Dolores Park in the rain is dismaying and disappointing. And of course everybody is worried about Prop 8–regardless of what the preferred outcome might be.
So, to everybody who is bummed out about bad SCOTUS decisions, look at this fucking cat.
This fucking cat is the cutest. He just wants to take his fucking giant, fluffy, polydactyl paw and rub it all over his fucking adorable face for you. This fucking cat is working it so hard to make you feel better about today. And today’s a fucking bummer. I mean, the fucking VRA isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Seriously, go fucking print that shit out. THERE. You just wasted some fucking paper.
So check it out. This cat’s name is fucking Thumper. He has a fucking RABBIT’S name. How fucking cute is that? He has fucking thumbs on his great big mitteny fuckng paws. His feet are practially fucking snowshoes. I have a fucking SNOWCAT. Thumper just wants to love you. When he rolls over and shows you his fluffy white belly, he wants you to fucking pet it. That fucking belly is not a fucking trap, and it’s so fucking soft you won’t be able to stop petting it. You would feel so much fucking better right now if you just cuddled up and listened to his fucking amazing purr, which gets louder and louder the more you pet him.
This fucking video has music, so if you are at work, wear some fucking headphones. And when you are feeling all pissed off about SCOTUS? Look at this fucking cat.
I am sitting next to my girlfriend watching An American Werewolf in London. She’s never seen it before, and I think it’s essential viewing. Canon.
And it’s just as awesome as the last time I saw it. And the time before that. Just as brilliantly and darkly funny as I remember it. Just as gorgeous. The initial transition scene still fills me with wonder and joy and respect. I still dig Jenny Agutter.
But I think I’ve now seen the movie too many times.
WHAT? WHY? You may yelling at your monitor right now. You might even have thrown your hands in the air in shock and horror. I hope you didn’t knock your water over. …I’m sorry.
Well, it’s that I’ve found myself fixating on things that never bothered me, before.
The first example is the wolfing out. We get to see how intensely painful and disturbing the transition to wolf is for David. And we get to see David transition twice. The first time he’s being stared at by a tiny, surprisingly upsetting Mickey Mouse figurine (what the hell is that doing in Alex’s flat, btw?). The second time it’s in a theater showing awful (but hilarious, of course) porn.
The make up is amazing. The artistry phenomenal. And I? I’ve spent at least 20 minutes wondering whether it would be worse to go through all of that while under the way-too-cheerful gaze of Mickey Mouse or while watching awful porn in a filthy theater.
In case you were wondering, I decided on the porn.
Yes, that took twenty minutes. YES, I AM TIRED.
But what really got me this time around was that scene in the theater. Not the porn or the transition, but Jack. Jack is talking. Jack uses all the letters. Jack says “schmuck”. But you guys.
Jack has no lips. Jack has no lips, you guys.
Jack has no fucking lips. Go ahead and say “schmuck” without using your lips. Say “werewolf”. Say “suspension of disbelief”.
I don’t have much more to say about this, except for to point out that I am watching a movie about a werewolf and his undead hallucinatory friend and the really unbelievable part for me is that somebody is talking without lips.
Deep Thoughts is brought to you by the letter Wine and the number Lots.
I’ve been staring at the title of this post for about 20 minutes, now, and it’s not working. It’s not writing this post for me. It’s not finding any words. It’s not bringing my much-loved, talented, brilliant, and complicated friend back to life. I would prefer, out of the listed options, the last one.
So I guess I’ll just start writing.
Sunday afternoon I returned home from the movie theater to see that a friend had posted to Facebook: “FUCK THAT.” Being generally in favor of such sentiments, I commented, “WORD.” But then I checked in privately, and was informed that Sparkly Devil, internationally renowned burlesque performer, journalist, and all-around fantastic person, was killed in an auto accident on Highway 101 Saturday night.
My righteous indignation about the Star Trek sequel disappeared.
When I first met Sparkly, I was appalled. She was loud, brash, fierce, socially intimidating to my not-so-inner introvert, who wanted to flee. But my friends adored her, and she kept coming to various social gatherings and I very quickly figured out why.
When people say somebody is “larger than life”, what they really mean is, “almost like Sparkly”. Her creativity was big. Her ability to enjoy herself in any given situation was big. Her love for her friends was gigantic. Her hugs were epic. Her ass apparently problematic. She could bruise you with the enthusiasm of a kiss, blow you away with her insight, make you fall over laughing with her sense of humor.
And that was sometimes before you even got in the door.
But it wasn’t until her wedding, to which I somehow got invited despite the fact that we were not yet close, that I realized what a caring, considerate, deeply emotional and thoughtful person she really was. And it was sitting in the audience for that wedding, watching her make her vows to Bones, that made me realize how fortunate I was to know this woman.
Some of it was just little things. The fact that I was invited in the first place. The fact that, because I had recently injured my knee, and despite the fact that we barely knew each other, she reserved a chair for me in the very limited seating available. The fact that she was patently thrilled that I was there.
Some of it was just her. Sparkly being Sparkly. Effusive, so in love with Bones, so in love with her friends and family, so in love with life. And that’s what it comes down to, with Sparkly. That’s a huge part of why her friends and family are and will remain in denial about the fact that she is no longer with us. She was in love with life.
It’s difficult not to love people like Sparkly. I think that we, as a species, tend to fall in love with people who are in love with life. Those people who seem bigger in some way (no, Sparkly, I’m not talking about your ass).
But when somebody is larger than life, it’s easy to forget how relentlessly human they are.
And Sparkly was human. So very human. She experienced pain and disappointment like the rest of us. She made mistakes. She cried very human tears. She had very human needs. Sparkly wasn’t just larger than life. She lived her life, and experienced life, and was derailed by it just like the rest of us.
The difference for me was, when I grew bitter about life and wanted to tell life to fuck right off, Sparkly would publicly join me in my bitterfest and privately remind me that living life was worth the cost of…well, of living life.
Now life is apparently supposed to be lived without her. And I want her to publicly rage with me at the unfairness of this, and privately tell me that my friends and I are awesome and will totally get through this. I want her to be waiting with all of us for Bones to recover from the accident, I want to be able to hug her close. I want her to be there when he fully regains consciousness, because I can only imagine and dread the despair he will feel when he knows that she is gone.
The last time I saw her, we’d met for dinner. I got sick, and had to cut the dinner short. We were in the process of rescheduling, so we could hang out again, and she could give me advice on where to go in Puerto Vallarta later this year. I owed her either a drink or a bowl of mashed potatoes (look, what you do with your friends is none of my business). She told me she had faith in my ability to have fun regardless. I am going to try to live up to that. Sparkly knew fun.
Her husband, Raul “Bones” Padilla, is still in the ICU. We are all hoping and/or praying that he will come out of this okay, but even if he does, he won’t be okay. He and Sparkly were very much in love with each other, partners. And there will be a plethora of expenses for him and his and Sparkly’s families. Please consider donating to the fund we set up for medical, legal, and burial costs. It would mean a lot to me, to the community Sparkly and Bones created and gathered around them, and to their families.
RIP Sarah “Sparkly Devil” Klein. I love you.
Facebook is just fucking filled with people expressing various levels of bummerhood today. I don’t know what the hell is in the air, but it prompted my buddy Indigo to exclaim (on Facebook): “Dude, are they crop dusting with depressives around here, or what?”
Good fucking question, my friend.
There aren’t enough happy things happening for people right now. So, here. Look at this fucking dog. This dog right here. LOOK AT HIM. He’s fucking happy. Look at that fucking smile. Holy fucking shit, this dog is adorably thrilled to exist right now.
This fucking dog just had a fucking treat. It was stinky and gross and he fucking LOVED it. This dog’s name is fucking Guinness. How fucking awesome is that name for a fucking dog? Guinness is 90 fucking pounds of dog. That’s a huge fucking dog. And all he wants you to do is fucking cuddle and scratch his fucking butt. That awesome fucking place right above his tail. That’s all he wants to be this fucking happy.
Guinness has the best fucking ears ever. Fucking look at them. They are lopsided and fucking soft and you fucking wish you could pet them right now.
So if you are having a fucking awful shitshow of a day?
Look at this fucking dog.
A year ago, I was in the middle of a fantastic evening. I’d gone to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with C and some of my favorite people. C & I had parted for the evening, she to Muni and I to BART and I was turning on my phone and trying to decide if I had enough power to listen to music the entire ride home. I was high on my friends and C’s company, and a relentlessly silly movie.
So I had to read the words on my screen several times before I could make sense out of them.
A year ago began a time of waiting—less than a week. It was a time of hugs, and of stress, and of quietly and desperately wishing to be able to do something, or help, or find magical healing powers. It was a time of rediscovering an intense dislike of Oakland’s Highland Hospital, of sitting in painfully stark waiting rooms with friends and family while waiting to spend 15 minutes talking to a man being kept alive by machines. It was a time of everyone remembering to express love and appreciation for everybody else, before our oh so powerful minds stepped in once more to protect us from the constant awareness of the fragility and impermanence of life. It was a time of trying to believe in miracles.
The call was made. The machines were turned off. The time of waiting ended.
I wrote this post about Donovan when I was finally able to put something of how I was feeling into words. I wrote this post as I realized I was feeling, but not dealing with, my feels. I wrote this post as I flirted with coming to terms once again with the fact that I cannot protect everybody I love.
And this post? I guess it’s just to say…fucking hell, Donovan. I miss you.
Since I posted “Privilege“, I’ve had a number of discussions with clueless folk about the privilege they do not believe they have or would like to discard because they are tired of being called out on it.
First, I am going to go over some basics (in a list that is not comprehensive):
Congratulations! You have privilege.
White people: You have privilege. You aren’t immediately flagged as potential trouble in stores and airports. You are more likely to get a job than the more melanin-enabled. People don’t assume you will be lazy, or late, or trouble on the streets. You don’t get extra targeted by cops. There is no such thing as Driving While White. You get to wonder why the brown people are upset about racism in movies and tv, because it’s just entertainment.
Men: You have privilege. You don’t worry about being sexually assaulted if you go out alone. You don’t have to automatically wonder if that guy in the elevator with you is a creep. You get paid more than women. Nobody assumes that you don’t know what you are talking about professionally just based on your gender. You don’t have to sue companies for promotions, universities for tenure, newspapers to be allowed to get out of the researcher/secretary pool. You get to wonder why women get so upset when you approach them on the street.
Rich folk: You have privilege, and everybody knows it. You get to wonder how families can possibly live on only $250,000/year.
Straight people: You have privilege. You don’t have to constantly fight for the legitimacy of your intimate relationships. Your right to marry is not up for a vote. Nobody says things like, “I’m not heterophobic, but…”. You don’t have to wonder if your state will let you adopt a kid, or if you will have any parental rights over the kids you are helping to raise. You don’t get bullied, beat up, maimed, or killed for being openly straight. You get to wonder why the queer folk want to deal with the misery and complications of marriage.
Cisgendered people: You have privilege. You haven’t had to go through an extensive (and expensive) medical, psychological, and emotional process just to feel like your body is your own. You haven’t faced bigotry from every single community around you because your outsides don’t match your insides and you need to do something about it. You don’t get bullied, beat up, maimed, or killed for identifying as a gender that does not match the one on your birth certificate. You get to say stupid shit like, “That’s so weird. I would never put myself through that.”
Educated people: You have privilege. You have never had to have somebody read a document to you because you cannot. You have never faced the embarrassment and shame that our culture heaps on the uneducated. You aren’t stuck in jobs that nobody else wants because you never had the opportunity to finish grade school, let alone high school and college. You have never been without a voice. You get to wonder about and mock all the godawful grammar on the internet. (Approximately one in seven people in the US can’t even read this post I am writing.)
Tall people: You have privilege. Just kidding! I know it sucks to be able to reach everything.
Second, I am going to make a point I seem to have to make repeatedly, but never seems to get taken to heart:
The lack of one kind of privilege does not cancel out all other forms of privilege.
Grew up poor as shit, but still straight, white, cisgendered male? Guess what? You still have privilege. Grew up poor, brown, gay, and male? Guess what? You still have privilege. Poor, brown, queer, female with an amazing education? You still have privilege.
I can keep going with the combinations until this looks like an LSAT question, but I won’t, because the LSAT sucks. (I get to make that shitty joke because I get to claim educational privilege.)
Third, I am going to expand on what I discussed in “Privilege”:
It’s just something you have.
No, you didn’t ask for privilege. You aren’t necessarily looking for the special treatment you receive because of it. You may not even be conscious of it. That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it.
The thing about privilege is that the benefits are automatic and not always visible to the privileged. Which is another way of saying, you don’t notice you aren’t being discriminated against. Men don’t notice that they aren’t on constant alert against being sexually assaulted on the street. Straight people don’t notice that they aren’t being treated differently when with their partners.
When you get called out on your privilege, nobody is telling you to change it. Nobody is telling you that you are a bad person because of it. Nobody is saying that it’s your fault. What you are being told is, people who do not field specific kinds of discrimination have a very different perspective on the world than people who do. What you are being told is, what is an intellectual exercise for you may not be for somebody else.
What you are being told is, take yourself out of your privileged shoes and put them in somebody else’s (let me guess—they don’t fit. Kinda uncomfortable, right? You’d like to take them right back off, right? Yeah. That’s what people are talking about when they call you out on privilege). This goes back to my initial post. Because ultimately you need to recognize that you have it. You should acknowledge it. And while acknowledging it doesn’t change the fact that you have it, it does go a long way toward helping you understand where people are coming from when they say, “Dude. You realize you just spilled a bunch of cold unpleasant privilege into my lap.”
Don’t be afraid of those uncomfortable shoes. Seek them out. Walk in them for a minute, if you can. Marvel at the blisters and bruises. So that when you put yours back on, you can appreciate how well they fit, and how comfortable they are. That, metaphorically, is what you should be doing when your privilege is pointed out to you.
ETA: Since enough people have the need to make this argument, I feel it ought to be addressed. There seems to be a new “solution” to the use of the word “privilege” that seems to have been created by people who are deeply afraid of the word. I have tried to unpack it in this post, but I guess I can’t stop people just reacting to it instead of seeing that. So let me please state: calling discrimination “human rights violations” instead of using the word “privilege” changes absolutely nothing about the above post. All it does is try to shift focus and say, “I don’t have privilege, these people are simply being wronged.” Not only is the use of “human rights violations” a bit overwrought, it doesn’t work that way. People are being wronged, it’s true. But it is on a systemic level, and thus it is what actually creates privilege. The fact that people are suffering from various kinds of discrimination and lack of safety on a systemic level is the very reason that people who do not suffer—on that same systemic level—experience privilege. Taking the focus off of the privileged for these discussions does nothing to change that, it just makes those who are uncomfortable with it and think people who are using it are calling them bad people feel a little better in the moment. My suggestion is that you stop reacting to the word and start really considering what it means in this context.
I had high hopes for 2012. 2011 was such an unbearable year, I thought that it could only get better. Briefly, it did. And then it all went to hell, for me and mine.
The death toll of 2012 rivaled the first five minutes of a Michael Bay movie. Loved ones and loved ones of loved ones were lost to accident, suicide, illness, and just shitty, shitty luck. When I wasn’t powerless with regard to my grief, I was powerless in the face of grief suffered by people I love deeply and dearly.
My attempts at finding love or even a halfway interested lover failed repeatedly, and early 2012 brought me a very badly broken heart and an utter loss of hope, not to mention a great deal of frustration and confusion. Many of my friends were unlucky in love and went through relationship strife as well.
There were a number of friendship upheavals about which I remain unsure, and I believe 2013 will involve some restructuring.
Things began to turn around for me toward the end of the year. Slowly, like the Titanic attempting to avoid the iceberg.
- I finally got a full time job at an amazing organization, working with phenomenal people and the best office dog in the world. I love my job. And it almost pays me enough to live on.
- As part of a last-ditch attempt to find somebody I might want to date, I showed up to a bar one evening with a book and a thirst for Scotch, and hoped that the woman I’d messaged on OKC wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time. Since I was pretty much over dating by this point, I wore the same unwashed jeans I’d been wearing for the past several days and a shirt I never checked for stains, and I didn’t bother to wait to start in on the whisky. I’ll go ahead and skip to the end of this one: She’s wonderful, hysterical, loving, caring, and has the prettiest, smiliest eyes. We just finished moving the rest of my possessions to her apartment in SF. She likes my cooking. (ETA: She has corrected this statement to make sure I know to call it OUR apartment.)
- My cat Thumper is in good health and happy in our new apartment, which is much smaller than our house in Oakland, but cozier and has many soft and warm things for him to sleep on. He even has his own chair, from which he can observe his neighbor cat girlfriend, Foxy. He and my lady absolutely adore each other.
- I opened up about a very serious topic in a very public forum and was rewarded by a show of love, support, and trust from individuals known and unknown to me.
2012 still sank, but I and many of my friends ended up on life rafts, paddling toward 2013.
I don’t think anybody expects 2013 to be amazing. But I am hoping that we all have the space to recover from losses, strengthen new and old foundations, and remind each other that we love and care for each other, that we are there for each other, and that we may occasionally want to give up on everything, but that we won’t give up on each other.
I can’t help but be a little optimistic; I’m in the best place I’ve been since maybe 2008. I’ve found love and employment, I have a roof over my head, and my cat has the most adorable mitteny paws in the world. Things are not easy; I don’t know if they ever will be. But it isn’t all difficult, and for the first time in a long time I really feel like it’s worth it to keep working, keep fighting, and keep pushing through. I am not in a place where I can say, “Bring it, 2013, I can take whatever you have to throw at me.” I am, however, in a place to say, let’s do this.
So. 2013. Let’s do this.
Uh uh, Right Foot. No. No fucking way do you get to fall asleep while I have to work. I got up at 6:30 this morning so I could take care of business, and that business does not end until 5:00 PM at the absolute earliest. You know that that means? No naps. No naps for me. No naps for my hands. No naps for my goddamn feet. You are one of those feet, Right Foot.
Speaking of which, you don’t see Left Foot falling asleep, do you? Left Foot is on the job. Left Foot is happy to support me in my walks across the office and to the corner store for provisions. You won’t catch Left Foot snoring. Why can’t you be more like Left Foot, Right Foot?
It’s a Monday, Right Foot. That means I really need us all to be working as a team. I understand that you are undercaffeinated, but guess what? We are all undercaffeinated. We all have gone without coffee for over a week. We all are trying to make do with tea and the sleep we are able to sneak in before the girlfriend starts snoring and after I manage to find my earplugs in the dark.
I need to work and I need to walk and I need your help to do it. So, wake the fuck up, Right Foot. Wake up and get through this day with the rest of us. I promise you, it hurts me as much as it hurts you.
Let’s work together on this, Right Foot. I really don’t want to have to outsource your job.
This morning, I found out about #1reasonwhy. In the last day, many women working in the game industry have been posting on Twitter, each of them sharing their experience as a professional woman working in an industry that, even today in 2012, struggles with sexism and discrimination. Reading their stories was shocking to me, as a woman and as a long time gamer. It made me sad for an industry that I had higher expectations for. But at its core, the AAA game industry suffers from the same assumptions that plague many “old boy’s club” companies: it is a male dominated field that believes they have no reason to market to women, that women can only make “games for women”, and that women don’t enjoy the same things in a game that men do.
This is bullshit.
I am 38 years old, a woman, and a gamer. I’ve been a gamer since I was a child, playing Pac-Man and Frogger. In my teens, I played Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. As an adult, I continue to play “tabletop RPGs”, computer and console games. I don’t play Facebook games. I have no interest in them, when I could be shooting aliens in Mass Effect 3 or Gears of War 3. There is this perception that women only play Facebook games, or that only women play them.
This is bullshit.
A good friend of mine plays Facebook games. A lot of people, both men and women, do. A lot of them aren’t “gamers”, and some of them are. Some of them are kids, and some are grandmothers. My friend who plays on Facebook? She got tired of the limitations and asked me, a gamer, what else she could do. Now she plays Diablo 3 on her PC. I guess you could say Facebook games are gateway games that anyone can play, not just women.
The gaming industry is big money. A best-selling console game now makes as much (or more) money as a blockbuster movie does. No one questions whether or not men and women go to those movies. But apparently the gaming industry believes that only men buy their games that sell over 3 million copies in the first week. Many companies believe they don’t need women to design or contribute to these games, because after all, women don’t buy them.
Leaving aside the completely asinine idea that women don’t have anything to offer a game marketed for men, I think the games industry is really missing the boat by ignoring the female gender. In the distant past, maybe games were something largely played by boys and men, but that stereotype is as incorrect as it is outdated. I think the games industry believes that all they need to make is Call of Duty X: The Same as The Last Nine Games. And you know what? That’s a very successful franchise, but it’s my husband’s least favorite first person shooter, because it is the same damn game over and over! Like many gamers I know, male and female, he is appreciative of more.
I am a girl gamer, and personally, I think games could only benefit from having more real input from female designers, writers, developers, artists, you name it! I’m not saying there aren’t men who do these jobs, and do a great job at them. But I am saying that the games industry is depriving their product of something special when they don’t give women the same chance to contribute on every level. This is true for all of the male players, but guess what games industry? WOMEN PLAY GAMES. More than that, we play the so-called AAA console games!
I am a girl gamer, and here are some of the games I have played or currently play: Gears of War 3, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the entire Mass Effect trilogy, including Mass Effect 3 online multiplayer, the Assassin’s Creed games, the Dragon Age series, Skyrim, Fallout…yes, as you can see I have a “type”, RPG, or roleplaying games. However, I am just really discovering multiplayer online games such as Gears of War 3, and do you want to know why? Because Mass Effect 3, an RPG game that has a recognized female gamer following, took a risk and added an online multiplayer mode. And it was fun! First and third person shooter type games don’t market to women. They should. They should give us characters to care about, a story to enjoy (it doesn’t have to be as big as an RPG story), and female characters to play. I like to play Anya when I play Gears.
I am a girl gamer, and I don’t just share my husband’s Xbox; I have my own damn Xbox. I play my own games. I play games with him. I play games with my male and female real life friends. I play games with male and female players I’ve met online.
I am a girl gamer, and I have friends who are girl gamers. There are enough of us in my own circle of friends that we can have an all-girl team when we play Diablo 3 or Mass Effect 3.
I am a girl gamer, and my husband’s friends text me to play with them as much as they text him, sometimes more.
I am a girl gamer, and often when I play online, there are male gamers who are surprised that I am a girl, that I play, and that I like playing. They ask me how they can get their girlfriends and wives to give it a try, and to answer that, I return to my original point: the game industry needs to wake up and realize they have two genders to make games for and market to.
I am a girl gamer, and I don’t want games about puppies, or shopping, or fashion. I like games where I get to be the heroine and save the universe. I like games where there is a good story, where I care about what happens to the world, the universe, and the characters. I like games where I get to be the badass.
I am a girl gamer, and I like games that have a romantic subplot, or hot male characters to look at, just like men like games with hot female characters. This isn’t necessary for me to enjoy a game, but I think most female gamers and game designers will agree with me when I say it sure doesn’t hurt!
I am a girl gamer, and I like to play online with other gamers. I am learning to be brave and try games I would never have tried before because of the male gamers I play with. Not because of the gaming industry, which doesn’t market these games to me, but because my male gamer friends tell me “If you like X game, you should really try Y, because I think you’d like it.” And sometimes they tell me when I shouldn’t try a game, because they know I won’t enjoy it. Sadly, this happens more often than it should. More often than it would, if female developers were given the same weight as their male counterparts.
I am a girl gamer, and I support female game designers, writers, artists, developers, and more. They should not have to deal with sexism in their field. They should not be condescended to, or minimalized, or ignored. I believe they could bring something special to the gaming industry. I believe they could help make the kind of games that I want to play, that other women want to play, and that men want to play, too.
Wake up, games industry.
In addition to being a gamer geek, Charity Vandehey is a writer, jewelry artist and espresso addict. She’s been writing online in one form or another since 2002. Visit her Etsy store, Byzantium Lotus!