Social Conscience on Social Media: Why I No Longer Talk Politics On Facebook

I can’t remember the last time I made a political post on my personal Facebook page. Maybe after the election, when I was so overwhelmed by sadness and fear I had to pour it somewhere. But lately, when that overwhelmed feeling starts to sink in, I turn to local outlets. I talk to my family, my partners, and work things out on my own. I realized recently that I simply don’t like getting political on Facebook anymore. But why?

Part of it is that it feels sort of unnecessary at this point in my relationships. I’ve cultivated friendships with like-minded individuals, so largely, Facebook can just be an echo chamber. I don’t need back-pats for caring about equality, so why post something that everyone already agrees with, that someone else could likely state far more eloquently? I’ll still comment on the statuses of friends, and can sometimes enter debate there–that seems healthy. It feels like I might accomplish something, maybe change a mind. But whose mind am I going to change on my own page? Whose horizons am I going to broaden? Likely no one’s, unless my friends are keeping some very ugly secrets. And social justice isn’t about people praising you for caring about equality, so while I might get some solid thumbs-ups for my thoughts, I don’t need nor want that. I want to change minds. And that isn’t necessary there.

Another reason is that I’m just not as present online as I used to be, and my personal Facebooking is now eaten up posting baby photos. I don’t really do that much online anymore, and all the updates I do make are primarily geared around informing my out-of-state family of how things are going for my newest little one. I know “I had a kid and life got busy” sounds like a lazy excuse, but it’s a very real one, one that accounts for my lack of presence here, as well. Life has simply swallowed me as of late, and it’s hard even keeping up on the news, let alone forming coherent posts about what I’m witnessing.

There’s also the very real fact that most of what’s on everyone’s radar these days is not affecting me. That probably sounds callous, but it’s not what you think. It’s not that I don’t care because I’m not affected, it’s that I know my voice is not the one that matters. Not my oppression, not my place to make it all about me and my soapbox. Admittedly, most of my friends are white, and I think an ugly thing happens when white liberals preach to other white liberals about the evils of racism. By clicking “like” and feeling indignant, we pass off our responsibility in the mechanisms that are making racism a continued threat in our world. I don’t want to be another white person getting congratulated for being “one of the good ones” by a bunch of other white people who simply don’t understand the realities of what’s happening.

So I post baby photos and talk about my eldest going back to school. I share the occasional meme or silly cat video, and I do what I can behind the scenes to support those whose words do need to be heard. And hopefully when life isn’t kicking my ass so hard, I can follow bloggers who do have a stake in the game, and I can share their words instead of cobbling together my own.

Maybe it’s cowardly. Maybe it’s lazy. But in the last several months I’ve gotten two new serious diagnoses that are messing with my world so hard, that sometimes I feel like there is no way I can even crawl out of bed in the morning. But I do it, I get up. I try my hardest to stay informed, to stay invested in a better world. And right now, that has to be enough.

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Snippet: Self Esteem and Social Justice

I wouldn’t say I have good self-esteem, but I generally have good don’t-give-a-damn. That is, while I don’t think I’m amazing, and I know other people don’t think I’m amazing, I just don’t care.

Sometimes that cracks, though, and in being reminded of all the ways in which I do not socially measure up, I start to feel heavy. I feel like a failure, like I’m just not enough, in any way.

I’m not skinny. I’m not pretty. I’m not cis. I’m not straight. I’m not able-bodied. I’m not neurotypical. I’m not I’m not I’m not.

I feel all this weight because no matter how hard I rage against the social standards of what makes someone attractive and good, I’ve still been raised with that same insidious ideal as everyone else. It’s burned into the back of my skull, lurking behind my logic, my opinion, even my instinct, to tell me that I’m wrong, and I’m unworthy.

This is part of why I fight. I fight for people like me, especially those even further behind me in terms of self-acceptance. I fight for the fat girls, for the trans boys, for the queer kids, for the disabled enbies, for everyone still struggling to find who they are and love that person. I fight to dismantle the systems that sear these images into our minds, making us second-guess everything that makes us unique and fascinating. I fight to recreate what humanity sees as beautiful, as worthy.

And it is in that fight that I start to feel amazing.

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Putting In My 40+: Confessions of a “High-Functioning” Cripple

I hate that term, “high-functioning.” It sets up a dichotomy between people like me and those defaulted “low-functioning” disabled people that paints a very negative picture of disability as a whole. I’m a “good cripple,” because I work, I take care of my basic needs. They’re “bad cripples” because they can’t get out of bed or need people to care for them. But hey, I was like that for a while. There was a solid chunk of my life where the biggest accomplishment of my day was moving the 20 feet between my bed and my couch so I could marathon Battlestar Galactica and cry in agony and dejection. I was no less of a person then, no less deserving of respect, than I am now.

I work really fucking hard now, and I make no secret of it. I’m a special education teacher, a job that I took on in August 2015. It’s been a wild first year, and I’ve learned a lot about myself as I’ve navigated my first full-time job since becoming severely disabled. A lot of what I’ve learned hasn’t been about the job itself, but rather about myself and my ability to navigate it. So here are some of my dirty little secrets about being a full-time worker, full-time crip:

1. It’s not a choice. And if I had the choice, I’d make a different one. Working this job is taxing for the healthiest among us; for me, it sucks up virtually all of my spoons. I don’t work because I just woke up and decided a job would be a nice way to pass the time, I work because I have bills that need paid, a child that needs supported, and a home I’d really like to stay living in. Could I have chosen an easier job? Yeah, and that’s where choice comes in. But I figured if I was going to exhaust myself, I wanted to do it making a difference in the world. I may only have the spoons to be an “armchair activist,” but goddammit if I don’t enter my school building five days a week and advocate for the education of the dozens of students with disabilities who I teach.

Still, would I rather spend my days gently dolling out my energies on household tasks and family obligations? Of course! I can only dream of having the energy to take my kid to the park on a regular basis, keeping nightly dinners cooked, and maybe running the vacuum now and then. Instead I sacrifice all the things I’d like to have to afford all those things we need to have. Rent > pot roast.

2. I’m not always proud of myself. Sometimes I feel like Wonder Woman, not gonna lie. But more than occasionally, working makes me feel like a failure. It’s my failure to prioritize other aspects of my life, my failure to properly take care of myself, my failure to admit my own limitations. It’s also hard to feel like a success when I’m constantly questioning my own ability to get up and do it all over again in the morning. I’d be lying if I said I never took a day off just because I woke up crying, in too much pain and too overwhelmed to face the day. These are the days when I question my entire existence. These are the days when I feel worthless.

3. I’m not really that tough. I put on faces at work. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not what I’d consider a “fake” person–I’m a legitimately bubbly, happy person (somehow). But the face of confidence? The face of competence? And dear god, the face of not being in constant, agonizing pain? Total and complete bullshit. I’ve had coworkers comment on me to each other, saying things like, “She must not really need that cane, she moves so quickly.” This is because of that tough face I put on, the one that just keeps on smiling after something subluxates, that laughs when I get syncope. I’m pretty sure I’ve got my whole school convinced I’m just this side of “normal.” And it’s so far from the truth, I can’t even begin to have the patience to educate them all.

4. My household suffers. The dishes have been piled in my sink for a week. I haven’t folded laundry in two months. I haven’t cooked anything but Tuna Helper in weeks. I can barely see my bedroom floor. My computer desk looks like a landfill. There are tumbleweeds of pet hair blowing around my living room. I could go on, but you probably get the point. All the things I’d like to keep up on, I simply don’t have the energy for. Once all those spoons are gone, there’s no getting them back. I’d love to pretend I live in a sparkling abode that constantly smells of fresh-baked cookies and apple pie, but I’m happy if I can keep everyone who lives here alive and able to shower and sleep in relative cleanliness. It’s an accomplishment.

5. My personal life suffers. I wish I lived a life of Friday Happy Hours and Sunday brunches, but even if that was in my budget, it’s just not doable for me. The most I can really manage is having people to my place for game night, and even that is really a matter of making my housemates issue invites. I do not have the energy to pursue friends for anything, because my anxiety demands social events that are planned and set, and that takes a level of preparation and pursuit that I simply can’t manage. Luckily, I happen to live with those people I love most in the world, so I still manage to feel relatively fulfilled. But still, when I do decide to go out, and the energy expenditure knocks me on my ass, I am starkly reminded of my limitations.

6. My off-time is one giant nap. I wish this was an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. When I get home from work, I nap for 1-2 hours. I go to bed at 9:30, and on the weekends sleep until 10. Saturdays and Sundays I’ll squeeze in a 2-4 hour nap. When at my most desperate, I have pushed desks together and napped during my planning period at work. It is all I can do to stay awake from 7:15am to 2:45pm every day, and I make up for it hardcore the second my butt hits that couch.

7. It still hurts. All the time. This will always bear repeating, because goddammit people need to remember it. Circulating the classroom doesn’t mean my knees aren’t grinding. Walking quickly between classes doesn’t mean my hips aren’t subluxating. Managing effective conversations doesn’t mean I’m not silently getting syncope at my desk. Getting my paperwork filed doesn’t mean I’m having a good day. And dear god, absolutely none of my “high-functioning” behaviors mean I’m not a goddamn cripple.

We need to dismantle and reject the idea of the “good cripple,” the one who meets social standards by living in spite of their disability rather than in tandem with it. I do not live a successful life in spite of my disability, and my life is not successful because of those “normal” activities I manage to accomplish. My success exists in waking up every day in the broken body I’ve been given and still loving. Maybe not loving every minute detail of life, maybe not loving my pain, maybe not loving my situation, but loving delicious foods, and sincere hugs, and the warm glow of sunshine. My success doesn’t come from a paycheck; it comes from doing the best with what life has given me, regardless of my functionality.

If I wake up tomorrow and can’t ever go to work again, I am still a good person. No one’s level of ability dictates their worth.

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Snippet: Why We Should Talk Before I Hit That

“Can I kiss you?”

According to most of my students (your average group of community-college-attending young adults), this question is just too cheesy. Apparently the embarrassment you risk in asking it is worse than the rejection you could receive by leaning in for a lip lock and landing on a hastily turned cheek.

This is bullshit.

Why is our culture so anti-consent? Why is the absence of a “no” better than the presence of a “yes”?

Personally, there are two reasons why I’m a fan of consent. One is just an old-fashioned appeal to charm: I find it adorable to be asked for a kiss, rather than be thrust into one unawares. Second, and most important, is that it shows a valuation of my desires, an acknowledgement that my kisses are not to be taken, but rather given.

But this becomes extra-sticky when we move beyond kisses and into sex. Those same students who object to asking for a kiss think you should just “get a feel” for your potential partner’s mood, and enter into sex “naturally.” My question is, what’s so unnatural about discussing it?

I talk the hell out of sex. I will not engage in sex with a new partner unless we’ve covered all the most important topics, including but not limited to: Contraception, STDs and testing, and triggers. This doesn’t kill the mood; to the contrary it helps it flourish. I’m not going to be able to lose myself in the moment if I’m worried about getting knocked up, catching chlamydia, or being fucked through a rape flashback.

With established partners, I believe in continuing to practice radical consent. Kisses are sometimes spontaneous, but sex does not occur unless each party has enthusiastically agreed that it’s a good time, place, and situation. I don’t do nagging for action, pressured excuses, or lackluster fucks. Everyone is going to be fully engaged in the moment or shit isn’t going down. And I have lots of sex–this insistence on consent does not impact my ability to get laid. Rather, it keeps sex a pleasurable experience, rather than a chore or burden.

The assumption that a lack of a “no” is enough to proceed with sexual activity excuses a lot of coercive rape. A person’s body does not exist to be used by others. And this does nothing to touch on the old stereotype of rejection being pressured and pushed until someone just says “fine” to appease their partner’s wheedling. None of this is acceptable; not within the confines of one-night stands, new relationships, or established partnerships. Your partner does not owe you their body, you have no right to it. It is theirs to share or keep private as they so desire.

This is the lesson we need to be raising our children with: That consent is necessary. There have been attempts to label it as “consent is sexy” to get people on board, but it shouldn’t fucking matter if it gets you horny or not; this is about basic respect. And everyone deserves that respect.

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Snippet: On Growth and Social Education

It strikes me sometimes that I should go back through and re-read old posts, because I know on some subjects my eyes have opened wider, and I see more than I once did. There’s no hiding the fact that I’m still socially ignorant–I try to educate myself, but the fact is, I can’t know what oppressions I don’t experience feel like.  This can be in a large sense, such as not experiencing racism, to a more specific sense, like not knowing what it’s like to be a sex worker.

One of the things I’m trying hardest to cultivate is awareness of my own ignorance. I’m trying to know what I don’t know, so I can try to not put my foot in my mouth, not contribute to oppressions I’d like to see eradicated. But I’m gonna fuck up. It’s inevitable. There is no way to be a perfect ally, because no matter how hard you try to understand, there will always be nuances that escape you.

This is also all I ask of those trying to be allies to the oppressions I experience personally. It’s okay to fuck up. What’s not okay is to throw a fit when someone calls you on your fuck-up. Your response needs to be humble, introspective, and apologetic.

So this is my apology for times in the past where I have used this blog to perpetuate ignorance. It’s also an invitation to call me out, because I refuse to silence dissenting voices just because they make me look bad.

And no, this doesn’t mean I’m apologizing to all the men who’ve come here objecting to my feminism. My apology is to the marginalized, abused, misunderstood minorities I’ve wronged, not to the whiny assholes who refuse to acknowledge their own privilege. I’m not apologizing for offending people, because sometimes people deserve to be offended. I’m apologizing for any ways in which I’ve participated in upholding the status quo. We need to shake that sucker to the fucking ground, and I’m going to try my best to help do that.

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Yes, All Lives Matter: Now Can You STFU and Talk About Black People for a Second?

It’s common cultural knowledge at this point that “black lives matter” has gone beyond just a hashtag and become a cultural phenomenon, a slogan that people on and off of the net are embracing to encourage the masses to recognize a very specific point of racial inequality.

Black men are being murdered at a startling rate, and even more frightening, it can be at the hands of law enforcement. I’m not talking about hostage-taking gunmen robbing banks and murdering cops, I’m talking about things like what happened to Eric Garner, being unlawfully put in a choke hold while begging for their life. This was ruled a homicide, yet many people feel Garner “had it coming.” They were breaking the law, right? Yes, because suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes warrants murder, amirite?

This is hardly a standalone case. I’m not going to bombard you with links; either you already know what I’m talking about or you can do your own damn research. The point is, simply on merit of being black, people are losing their freedom, losing their lives, sometimes for committing no crime at all.

So people are attempting to open a national discourse, to bring light to these events and get people to understand what unjust tragedies they are. #blacklivesmatter. Right?

Except nearly every time someone uses that hashtag, some white knight rides in announcing that “ALL lives matter.” Well thank you, Captain Obvious. If you hadn’t shared that information I’m sure black people would have banded together to exterminate every other human being on the planet, since our lives don’t matter. Bravo on stopping genocide.

But we all know that shit isn’t the case. #blacklivesmatter =/= #whitelivesdonotmatter. Valuing black lives and valuing non-black lives are not mutually exclusive. What’s being talked about is how black lives are consistently, institutionally, politically, and personally undervalued in a way that specifically white lives are not. It’s calling attention to the inherent racism in the system, not calling for the eradication of everyone who’s not black.

I stand behind the hashtag, and I have people come at me with “all lives matter,” telling me how racist I’m being, how I’m saying white people don’t matter. Newsflash: I am white. My child is white. If you seriously think I’m arguing that our lives don’t matter and someone should come put bullets in our heads, you’re fucking delusional. I’m just acknowledging that the chance of that happening to us is greatly diminished by the fact of our whiteness. If I walked around a white neighborhood at night in a hoodie, donning skittles and tea, a neighborhood watchman wouldn’t deem me a “thug” and murder me in so-called “self-defense.” If my child was playing with what was obviously a toy gun, cops would not point very real guns in their face and risk my child’s life. But this shit happens to black people, purely by nature of being black. And admitting that does nothing to change the fact that I’ve got bucketloads of white privilege.

Others have said it better, but I’ll repeat anyway: Would you burst into a cancer research gala demanding that they acknowledge that “all diseases matter”? Or do you maybe understand that everything has its time and place? It’s time to stop making everything personal, and recognize the cultural trends that are negatively affecting black people. Black lives matter, but society at large doesn’t agree…yet.

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Nonbinary Nomenclature: On Gender and Pronouns

It has taken me years to settle into my identity, but I am now comfortable saying that I am a nonbinary trans person. I have called myself a “nonbinary woman” in the past, because in spite of my personal gender identity, I am perceived as female by most everyone, and that shapes how people treat me. I will always deal with misogyny, regardless of my gender, because I am FAAB (female assigned at birth) and will always be perceived by most as a woman, simply because of my appearance. This perception does not bother me enough to correct everyone, primarily because I do not feel safe doing such a thing. I wish everyone could just know and understand my gender, but that’s not the world we live in. The world we live in is one where trans people are victimized, and that’s something I live in fear of. Taking this step, saying this publicly here, this is huge to me. This is me putting myself on the chopping block and asking everyone to put down the knife.

Still, in spite of a general fear of how strangers may treat me, I am making the effort to use gender-neutral pronouns, not just for myself, but in general. I am tired of misgendering people on an assumption that is as faulty with anyone else as it is with me. I’m tired of calling everyone with breasts “she” and everyone without “he,” as if it’s really that simple. I’m tired of seeing exterior markers of stereotypically gendered characteristics and (egotistically) making the assumption that I can know a person’s gender. I can’t, and I don’t want to make that mistake.

So, everyone is “ze” or “they” to me now. And I ask that others use ze/zir/zirs or they/them/theirs for me (or really any gender-neutral pronouns, I’m not picky). This is going to be difficult to implement, and I apologize in advance for the million times I will fuck this shit up. I might misgender you. I will misgender myself. I will not be able to implement this flawlessly, but that does not mean it should be abandoned. I am going to try my damnedest to make this work, and that includes using these pronouns at work. I am an English educator, and I’m making a huge change to my linguistics; that cannot be done in a vacuum. This is something that will take purposeful implementation, explanation, and discussion, but I trust the maturity of my students, and hope I might even open a few minds with this. Above all, though, I hope I am offering a safety blanket to those who are nonbinary, who are trans and using alternate pronouns, who are binary but assumed the wrong gender. Those marginalized people, they are the ones I am doing this for. Because I want the world to have one less hostile person in it–me.

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