Thursday, November 17, 2016

Finding Some Fucks To Give: A Primer on Empathy

This piece began a while ago when some white folks hit Twitter to complain that the Netflix production of Luke Cage is racist because it doesn't feature enough white people for their liking. Never mind that entertainment has all but ignored people of color, going so far as to utilize white actors to represent characters meant to be people of color (I'm looking at you...Ghost in the Shell/Aloha/Doctor Strange/Gods of Egypt/Argo/etc etc etc). Luke Cage is a story about a black hero rising up out of a black community. Harlem is gentrifying, but it's still a black neighborhood. When I lived in Harlem, I was the only white person I ever saw on my block. Luke Cage accurately represents the Harlem I know.

This critical response, and so much of what is happening right now, highlights the need for us to pay respectful attention to stories that are unlike our own, of which we have no part. If one is open, you can learn from these stories and enjoy the wider perspective that they may afford you. After all, it is impossible to take in everything that this life has to offer. Engaging with other people's experiences gives us the opportunity to understand something outside our personal universe. This is a form of empathy and an expression of humility. I will never know what it's like to live in another body, and to be born in another time and place, but I can take interest in other people's narratives. I can learn.

On the flip side are those who must constantly have everything around them mirror and affirm their existence. Their identity is wrapped up in being the center of the dominant narrative. They are the leads. They are the heroes. Anything presented outside of that storyline feels like a threat. They have been in full possession of the limelight for always, and are unwilling to give even an inch so that someone else's story may be brought forth. They don't care if this dominance means the erasure of other worthy stories from the pages of history. Their personal experience is Universal Truth. Anything outside of this is Unknown Other, and Other is always wrong. Unknown is terrifying, and fear is alchemized into anger.

This anger is sometimes, horrifically, alchemized into violent action. Marginalized groups have always faced threats to their well being, but those threats are reaching a new fever pitch. As was the case before, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are some who continue to insist that everything is fine. They say we live in a post racial society, they site black on black crime rates and statistics about false rape accusations. They shriek that #ALLLIVESMATTER, ask others to "Give him a chance!" and call others sore losers for protesting the rise to power of a dangerous demagogue. Some well meaning folks plead with everyone to "OMG just like love everyone! Like don't hate you guys!!! Keep it positive!!!!!" all the while continuing to ignore the voices of those whom are in real, actual danger...still.

Absolutely nothing is accomplished by hiding your head in the sand and refusing to humble yourself before real life experiences which you don't share or understand. This may overwhelm you. You may suddenly find yourself plagued with guilt and the knowing that at best, you've been a silent witness to oppression, and at worst, you've been an active participant. You may be so overwhelmed that instead of asking how you can help and beginning it, you decide to disengage. You cannot face the enormity of this. It's too hard and too scary. It's a confrontation of your identity as a person who is sooo totally not racist. It means owning up to your own biases, your own subtle sense of superiority, all the parts of yourself of which you are not proud. It means facing your own shame, which is a brutal beast. Instead of employing courage for this difficult transformative work, you choose to deflect. "They're being dramatic. Everything is fine." "I'm an optimist. Let's just see what happens."

Meanwhile, black and brown bodies, lady bodies, trans bodies, Muslim bodies, queer bodies continue to be the target of a swell of harassment and aggression. You don't have to believe in any of this for it to be true. You can pretend that it's liberal media hype, but we know different. The bodies of people I know and love have already bore this brutality, before and after the election. We have tried to let you in on this narrative. You couldn't hear it. Hearing it meant being cracked open, changed, pushed to action, and the discomfort was too great.

We must find some fucks to give one another. We must take interest in stories that are completely unlike our own. We must give them space and time, respect and credence. People everywhere are hurting, desperate for change. There is a sickness among us and it is the distancing of ourselves from those unlike us, as if we were made of different materials, as if we all don't just want to live well. People need to able to earn a living to support their families. People need to be able to practice their faith, or love who they love without fear of violence. Not everyone will look like you, or live the same way as you, but they are still worthy of every liberty and protection on offer. There should be no second class citizens here.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a dream that one day soon we will reach out across party lines for the sake of our shared humanity. I have a dream that we will soften and humble ourselves before an unfamiliar story, let it change us, let it be a call to action for the dignity and well being of another. I have a dream that we will unite over an insistence that each body in this country will have the benefit of clean food and water, healthcare, shelter, a good education, and honest work. I have a dream that we will muster the courage to give some fucks about people we may never meet who may be very different from us.

Unanswered needs are still needed. Unattended suffering gnaws away. Those who are desperate remain desperate until something is done to help them. Name calling and blame placing doesn't feed a hungry belly. It's time to get practical. It's time to ask the people what it is they need to thrive and figure out how to make it possible. There is a way through every block. We can do this.

How are you hurting? How can I help?

All bodies rise, together.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Ahh Eww That Lives In You

Over the summer I went out to see some live music. The performer was talented, even a bit over qualified for the small venue in which he played. He had solid showmanship, quipping between songs and telling little stories. Many of his stories centered around women that had done him wrong. While I, too, am guilty of using romance as fodder for writing, I also know this talented performer and his romantic life over a period of years. One night a girlfriend of his did too many drugs and I had to babysit her while she told me her numerous stories about him. Wrong doing is often a two way street. I see you, broseph.

A long time ago my mama taught me something valuable about personal responsibility: If you have similar problems with a variety of people, YOU are the common denominator in every situation. It's not them, darling. It's you.

One particularly heady autumn evening years ago, my friend Rebecca and I met a handsome stranger on the streets of San Francisco. I was immediately attracted to him, and would only later realize that he's a very charming, yes, very handsome, yes, very alcoholic man. They all are. If I had a "type" it would be emotionally stunted and addicted. During one of my stints in therapy, I cried about how incredibly pitiful I feel not being able to trust myself. Even after the depth of heart work I've done, I continue to experience this uncanny ability to find the most beautiful, broken man in the room. Just as recently as a month ago, amidst a big crowd, I zeroed in on a tall drink of architect who is predictably, yes, an alcoholic. The difference this time is that I recognized the red flags and didn't pursue the impulse. Progress!

This is a worthwhile consideration when one desires to change their experience of life. If you are fed up with the way things are, you have to be honest about what part you've played in making them so. There may be factors outside your control, but as the saying goes, we pray for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. We cannot change the circumstances of our birth, or what happened to us in the past, but we get to decide how we are affected by that going forward. Will we continue to let our wounding color how we see ourselves and the world around us? Or will we do the difficult, courageous work of reshaping our sense of self?

This can be quite the undertaking because the wounds we unearth in the excavation are the source of so much pain, shame, anger, sadness, fear. These are not easy feelings to sit with. Whether we compassionately confront them or not, they continue to live in our bodies; they are fugitives being harbored in between muscle fibers and folds of grey matter. They can continue to influence our behavior from the darkness or not. It's up to us.

You can be an emotionally unavailable man, confused by and fearful of the natural need in others for healthy attachment. When this need arises in a romantic partner, you can slur her as needy or, if you withhold love long enough, crazy. You can ache with loneliness, because despite not understanding *how* to nurture others, you retain the need for nurture. You're only human.

You can spin through a series of unfulfilling, disheartening relationships which serve to reinforce how unworthy you are of love. You can pursue the same archetype of person over and over, unwilling to admit that this is but the tip of the ice burg. Deep beneath the surface lies the origin story of your pain. But who would you be without it? Deconstructing this fundamental piece of your identity is mind melting. You can grasp onto your pain like a piece of broken glass; it will make you bleed but you won't have to suffer the tiny death of change.

You can resign yourself to any manner of cyclical unhappiness, not getting what you need because you secretly can't believe that happiness is *for* you. Because that's what this boils down to, isn't it? Whether we cannot give good love, or have trouble receiving it, it's a question of worthiness. We will be drawn to what is familiar, to what reinforces our version of reality, even if that is hurtful to ourselves or others.

The big jewel in meditation is the cultivation of curiosity and compassion for our more challenging feelings. It took me a long time to get this component. I became adept at acknowledging and naming feelings, even digging to their roots, but I couldn't love them. I could not make them welcome. They remained fugitives in my body which I tried to evict with anger and frustration. There is a lot of wisdom and information attached to our feelings. Anger, fear, sadness and shame all have much to teach us about how we're hurt and how we have to heal. They can strengthen and empower us by helping us learn how to move forward. Conversely, they can drain us if we continue to funnel energy their way in our resistance. What you resist, persists. The way forward will always be softness and surrender.

This begins by recognizing patterns, and understanding that no matter what other elements are present, we're the consistent variable in every situation we enter. If every woman you date is crazy or every man you date is an addict, consider that these are all unique individuals. They may have things in common, but the one and only thing they *all* definitely have in common is you. Let that sink in for a moment.

We are the Captains of our own joy...or not. Without understanding and taking responsibility for what lurks around your heart, you may find that some aspects of life consistently disappoint. Watch for patterns. When charged, powerful feelings arise, don't push away. Make them welcome. Honor their presence by asking what it is they have to teach. They may feel like poison, the instinctual response being to purge them. However, with courage and patience, we slowly dissolve them and find that at the heart of the poison is the antidote for it. This is productive suffering.

Your pain can poison you, or it can heal you and set you free. Love it up so it can love you back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm Queer, Y'all.

Happy National Coming Out Day!



This will undoubtedly be a surprise to some, seeing as how I've never dated women. It's easy to fly under the radar being femme, and considering that "bi-sexuals" don't get much support from either side, not particularly appealing to make it public. However, it's become very important to make friends with every part of myself. Choosing not to come out is a subtle rejection of the part of me that is gay and always has been. Remaining quiet about this has also continued to afford me hetero privilege which I feel increasingly uncomfortable receiving.

So today in front of the Creator who Loves me as I am, and the Internet, I stand with my community as a proud Queer woman. I love the whole of who I am, and I love the whole of who you are, too.

xoxo

Sunday, August 14, 2016

All That We Owe is Our Joy

I want to live a life of joy with you.

It's all I can think about these days. It's summer in New York and I live in the cutest, most neighborhoody neighborhood in Brooklyn with the cutest dog and the best flatmate, and beautiful light that daily pours through my high up treehouse windows. I've never been quite this happy or healthy. Suddenly, having sort of unexpectedly arrived here, nothing else matters but continuing to live this well.

I want to live a life of joy with you.

Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by my dear friend Lauren Marie Fleming, author and revolutionary in the art of decadence and #bawdylove. She's working on her second season of podcasts and we talked about following our bliss.

A yoga teacher at some point may have told you to Follow Your Bliss, and even if you're not particularly salty or jaded, you may have wondered exactly how one accomplishes this. Where is My Bliss going? Will it leave a trail of breadcrumbs to follow? As with many meant-to-be-inspiring statements issued by yoga teachers with breathy zen, I honestly find this directive nauseating. First, because it doesn't really *mean* anything all on its own. Without substantive discussion, it's grossly trite. Second, because it's too prone to leading people to the misconception that spiritual practice is meant to be a constant state of nirvana. Anyone who's "doing the work" can tell you that that is so often so far from the truth.

The truth is, if you use your spiritual practice to mask, suppress or otherwise ignore your pain, you're partaking in spiritual bypassing. You may have stopped drowning yourself in liquor or snorting cocaine up your nose, but "getting saved" or going to yoga everyday doesn't mean you are somehow magically healed of the wounds that lead you to use in the first place. Modern neuroscience has taught us that we can change and heal our brains, but repatterning our thinking takes time and discipline. Even antidepressants can only take us so far. There is no substitute for sitting still as your let your pain out of the dark and ask it how you can help. It needs room to breathe and if you ignore it, it will rot you from the inside out.

Following Your Bliss may not always feel blissful. It may mean having to cut off people who take life from you, quitting jobs or habits, and leaving behind all manner of comfort and familiarity. Those who have come to know you in a specific way may resist. You may lose quite a bit in the process of following your bliss. It might be very high stakes. Those who feel they cannot follow their own bliss may become jealous and angry as they watch you shine brighter. If they cannot live better, neither can you. Your ascent will only serve to highlight how trapped they feel. In your bliss, you may suddenly feel like a stranger. In our world it seems as though struggle and dissatisfaction are expected, while joy and pleasure are somehow sinful and suspect. We trust our pain but not our joy, I blame the Christian idea that Jesus suffered and so should you. Bollocks. Let's consult the source: Galatians 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

But what of those who we leave behind, still slaving in the salt mines of misery? If you have chosen to divest from your suffering, there will be people who cannot go where you're going. It's not because they aren't *allowed* but because they're not yet ready to suffer productively. When it comes to suffering, I'm with the Buddha; I do believe that human life presents inevitable suffering to varying degrees. Much depends on how we choose to respond to the stimuli of life, how much we resist or embrace. When we choose to unburden ourselves of the yoke of slavery, it's not that we don't suffer anymore, it's that we've decided to only suffer in ways which will ultimately lead to more freedom.

For example: it's an uncomfortable exercise to sit with my pain. I have suffered mightily in this excavation and rebuilding of my heart and mind. It's required courage of which I didn't even know I was capable. However, I am now living with the highest degree of joy I can recall. I have suffered, but as a result, I now suffer much less. This work has been productive.

Which is not to say that I'm immune to numbing. I don't drink a lot anymore, largely because I recognize my alcoholic leanings. However, I do scroll the internet in a zombie-like trance, which distances me from my pain, but also doesn't bring me much pleasure. That's the problem with emotional anesthesia; it's not localized. The loss of feeling in one place spreads. I might also achieve this with sex/relationships, shopping, food, or even, yes, seemingly healthy things like yoga and spirituality. Whatever I reach for when I recoil from my pain is symptomatic of and complicit to my avoidance. The path that ultimately leads to the alleviation of my pain is challenging, though, while so many quick fix distractions are easily available and socially acceptable. It's much easier to keep our pain tucked away than it is to address it...until it's not anymore. Everyone has a rock bottom to hit. It's just a matter of when.

When we do make a bid for our freedom (a.k.a. follow our bliss), there will be people who won't be able to come with us. As we do the work to transform our experience of life, the people we left behind may continue to suffer as we once did. Witnessing this may cause a sort of survivor's guilt because you got out. This is especially difficult if they agree with you; in their estimation, you abandoned them. Misery does love company and how dare you leave them to be miserable on their own. Perhaps by now you've learned the secret, though:

Avoidable suffering is slavery, and we are meant to be free.

When you gently, directly address your pain, you begin to cut the miserable chains that bind you. This is right and good. You're not a defecting traitor. You're breaking unhealthy cycles and patterning in order to pioneer a new way of living. Your individual choice radically alters the future. What caused hurt before will not be passed down in you. Your individual choice gives permission to others to do the same. Not everyone will warmly welcome this empowerment. Without their pain, they have no idea who they are. Their pain is a badge of honor, proof of what they've been through. Questions of identity are never not weighty. The resistance to them is understandable.

But you're ready.

You've suffered enough. You've hit your rock bottom, and are ready to break the cycle and claim your freedom. Those who find this confrontational believe that you owe them your continued allegiance in misery. They are mistaken. What the world needs from you is your joy. It is, in fact, all that you owe anyone. This following of your bliss will perhaps not always feel blissful, but it is the productive sort of suffering that will set you free...and you are made for freedom.

I want to live a life of joy with you. Please join me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Lies We Believe, or, Shit Colored Glasses

Where to begin it? At the beginning, when the formation of identity began.

We learn who we are and what we're worth by the way we're loved as little people. Little people require an enormous investment of time and attention in order to develop properly. In fact, babies who are not held and loved on enough will stop growing and eventually die. Intimate connection and gentle touch are literally vital to human survival.

My upbringing was largely very loving, but it was also chaotic- marked by addiction and all the behaviors that accompany that. Children of addicts often grow up believing that there is something wrong with them, that they are the cause of the chaos and their parent's behavior. Children are egomaniacs who believe that everything is an extension of them. Some people get taller but never stop believing that. I digress.

My egomaniacal baby brain did a gross misread of my childhood family life. It interpreted the chaos as being caused by some fundamental flaw in my makeup. The story it wrote painted me as a weird, bad girl, and I've spent my life with that false base assumption planted deep in my subconscious, coloring everything I see. Every situation I entered, I would be silently, unknowingly asking the people around me, "Am I okay?"

In no context was this need for affirmation deeper than in my romantic partnerships. And because I had been conditioned to expect love to be hard to come by, I chose partner after partner who withheld their attention and affection. Sick, right? This interplay between desperately wanting to disprove the false base assumption, but also the strict adherence to its rules. Because if love was as freely and easily given as it ought to be, what would we even do with ourselves? If I'm not a weird, bad girl, who am I? How does a happy, healthy, wholly good girl move through life?

This identification of our base assumptions and clarification of our identity is the most important work of our adulthood. If you are moving through your life operated by a false base assumption, you will never clearly see who you are and what you're worth. To some extent, in some way, this will affect every relationship you have, and limit what you feel worthy to receive. It may stall your creativity and confidence. It may strain your relationships as you demand the sort of love and approval that can only come from within. It may cause internal instability as the way you feel about yourself is swayed by what others think about you. It may cause you to suffer mightily under the tyranny of negative self concept.

And we are all worthy of so much more than that.

My breakthrough with this came when I realized that the people who love me aren't idiots. They are intelligent, insightful people whose opinions I value and trust. I'm not a magician who somehow tricked them into believing that I'm worthy of their love. This is classic impostor syndrome: the fear that I am, in fact, deeply inadequate but have somehow fooled everyone around me, and will be exposed any minute now. But the people who love me can't be fooled by my false base assumption. They love me because of, not inspite of, who I am. They see me clearly and their love is a reaction to what they see. They love me because I'm lovable. Full stop.

This is a total script flip. False base assumption dictates that I'm a weird, bad girl, and that everything is messed up because of who I am. Authentic identity asserts that I am happy, healthy and wholly good, and that the love I receive is a response to that. All I've ever had to do to be loved was be exactly who I am- a happy, healthy, wholly good girl.

False base assumptions about our identity keep us trapped in an illusion of inadequacy and unworthiness. They limit our life and cause suffering. But limited love, freedom, and calm feel normal. Suffering feels familiar. Ease and happiness are so foreign they feel frightening. Excavating our false base assumptions causes a total disruption of identity. Questions of fundamental identity are never not weighty. This is not easy work. This is not done overnight. It's not enough to have the revelation that you're actually quite good. You are carving a new neural pathway in your brain each time you respond to life from your authentic identity. First comes the revelation, then the radical restructuring of self concept from the brain on out. Woah, dude.

A caveat to all this: some people *are* fooled by your false base assumptions. Some people buy into the lies you tell about yourself. You act unworthy and they respond by treating you as such. Run from these people. Run far, far away. They will continue to help reinforce the lies. They see you as you secretly see yourself. This is regressive. It stalls evolution.

We need people around us who see our beauty and goodness. They hold this vision for us until we can see it and know it for ourselves. They are the keepers of our Truth. Begin to believe them. You've been starving for an embodied sense of acceptance and worthiness for your whole life. Don't try to take it all in at once. Be gentle with yourself as you integrate this awakening consciousness of your true identity. Watch your mind hawklike for thoughts that would keep you small and self loathing. Ask yourself, "Is this really true?" Listen to the beautiful poetry of David Whyte:

"You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you."

Wake up to who you really are today. It's time to come alive in the full awareness of your goodness.

I am happy, healthy and wholly good.

And so are you.

xoxo

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Notes From The Road: The In Between Places

Planes...
'Franz Kafka, the story goes, encountered a little girl in the park where he went walking daily. She was crying. She had lost her doll and was desolate.

Kafka offered to help her look for the doll and arranged to meet her the next day at the same spot. Unable to find the doll he composed a letter from the doll and read it to her when they met.

"Please do not mourn me, I have gone on a trip to see the world. I will write you of my adventures." This was the beginning of many letters. When he and the little girl met he read her from these carefully composed letters the imagined adventures of the beloved doll. The little girl was comforted.

When the meetings came to an end Kafka presented her with a doll. She obviously looked different from the original doll. An attached letter explained: "my travels have changed me... "

Many years later, the now grown girl found a letter stuffed into an unnoticed crevice in the cherished replacement doll. In summary it said: "every thing that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form."' -a sweet story from a HuffPo blog

Halo from Bali, babes. This week I had the pleasure of driving to the Bali north shore through the lush jungle
mountains, past emerald rice terraces and hoards of monkeys. I will never get over what a joy it is to see wild creatures in the wild. Cages and leashes are the worst.

Once again I was reminded how much I enjoy the journey between destinations. Sometimes it's long, stressful and uncomfortable, but often the scenery is gorgeous and it's exciting to see the space that connects one place to another. I love flying but I will always prefer to be on the ground watching the world go by slower and in detail.

As my travels are beginning to wrap, I find myself in another in between, the place of ending and new beginning. We're always cycling through this moment. It's often challenging and frightening because of the element of the Unknown. My fear of the Unknown crops up massively with the arrival of each new beginning and over the years I've learned that what I'm most afraid of is how the new will change me. Only the most stubborn, hardened people can avoid being reshaped by the events of life. For most of us, and for better or worse, we can't help but change as we dance/stumble/crawl through our existence. I'm always afraid that I will become so different that I will be a stranger among those I love.

Will you still love me when all this is over?

...trains...
As feared and as always, my travels have changed me. The incredible outcome this time, though, is that I am no longer afraid of the Unknown. I stared into the Unknown over and over through my time here and every time the outcome was amazing. I had anxiety about going to Cambodia, exhausted before arrival by the mere idea of having to be on guard against scams and persistent tuk tuk drivers. While there were absolutely scam attempts and a thousand offers for rides, I also met the most incredible people and became flexible in the face of changing plans. I had been warned not to over plan, that I would fall in love with places and people and want to linger, that my minibus would be late or breakdown, that so many unforeseen things would arise and there would be nothing I could do about it.

Cambodia broke my control mechanism. There is order in the apparent chaos that I couldn't understand or control but I didn't have to because I was always taken care of. Our reality is that we're constantly swimming in the Unknown. Variations from regular routine are an oft upsetting reminder that we're actually not in control of anything besides how we react to the stimuli of life and how we treat others.

The Unknown is always shifting and never graspable. We can only ever master the Unknown moment by moment. How do we master a moment? By recognizing that each one offers us the ability to choose our response, and that our response can bring more peace and calm. So when the subway stops underground for awhile and you're tired or late, you can choose to recognize that this variation is a natural part of living in the Unknown and greet it with grace and equanimity. The Unknown isn't a dark room filled with monsters. The Unknown is *for* us. It is a friend who comes bearing gifts supporting our growth and elevation.

Change can feel like death or ruination- sometimes it is- but its true nature is Transformation. One thing is turning into another. It is the butterfly pushing its way from the cocoon. It is the river meeting the ocean and becoming something so much grander and more free than imagined possible. We have to be willing to merge. Surrender. Let Go.

After some struggle against the tide, I was finally able to let go into the world. The extraordinary became ordinary and the new became electrifying. I expected my wanderlust to be satiated by so much time away but it's just so much worse now. When you travel for a long time in a place like Southeast Asia, you meet a lot of well traveled people and they tell you stories about magical places and things and your imagination explodes and your heart skips a beat and Holy God, someone please pay me to travel. I am now wrecked for regular life. There is so much to see and too much to miss. I don't want to stop until I've been to every country and photographed every stray cat and cooed over every baby and eaten every unidentifiable street food. I love this planet and its people so fiercely.

...automobiles.
In this moment of endings and new beginnings, on the eve of my departure from my north Bali jungle retreat, I sit staring once again into the Unknown. My trust in it is new and I am a bit tentative. What will my life be when I return? I have no permanent home in New York and no regular job. I feel ready for a change of activity, a rebirth of my life's work. I am coming back to a blank slate.

In a sense, though, isn't every moment unformed and ready for molding? Is anything ever as rigid as we think?

Only our unwillingness to evolve or let go stands firm.

The nature of existence is change. I am simply living in a moment which highlights that in a very clear way, but my reality now is my reality all the time. Every day is a blank slate whether we recognize it or not. We encounter distinct endings to chapters but they can come at any moment. Don't be fooled by the look of things. Life is terribly, extraordinarily ephemeral. We are never far away from a reminder that the Unknown is our home and that we are not in control.

How will you choose to receive the Unknown? Will you imagine the Transformation it offers as death? Or will you see that in ending certain things, that it is healing you? That it is setting you free? Will you meet the Unknown halfway by taking a bold, brave step into the darkness?

The Unknown is God. And God loves you with the same ferocity that I do...but even better. Their heart is for you and your freedom and upliftment. God is Love and God is the Unknown, so the Unknown is Love.

Don't be afraid. We are all walking into unfamiliar territory together in every moment. You are never alone. You are loved. And you are changing.

But no matter how much your travels change you, yes. You will still be loved when all this is over.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Whore. Slut. Hoe.

The Internet comments section should almost always be avoided. With few exceptions, these forums are filled with virulent nastiness, and horrendous grammar and spelling. Despite knowing this, I allowed myself to be engaged in conversation (if you can even call it that) on a recent post by Texts From Last Night. For those unfamiliar, TFLN receives submissions of text messages and posts them on social media. The texts almost always cheekily detail drunken misadventures and sexual exploits.

In the text in question, the author writes about coordinating their various dates- one for a spanking and one for sex. Despite the text being wholly gender neutral, the comments section exploded with a long stream of slurs accusing this *obviously* woman of being a slut, among other things. It could just as easily have been a man, but aside from a few reasonable people, everyone immediately decided that this 1) was a woman and that 2) her sexual choices should be judged with incredible harshness.

There were some concern trolls, people without actual medical or epidemiological training, who felt the need to assert that this person was obviously a petri dish of disease, although in the text they mention that they've directed their sexual partner to pick up condoms. Sure, condoms don't protect you 100% but using them makes you considerably safer than not. As one commenter also pointed out, people who are in to kink as a lifestyle are also usually very aware of their sexual health. They are far more likely to be tested regularly and to know their status at all times.

The rest of the group chose to glom on to judging this "woman's" value and morality based on her desire to have multiple sexual partners. Vilifying women for enjoying sex is a nauseatingly tired double standard that I'm done with. I don't have a single bit of patience left for that bullshit. The world is ready for women to finally have full agency over their whole beings, including their sex. It's time and it's happening, and some individuals, both men and (sadly) women, are mad as hell about it. And I don't understand why.

Men who have sex with women, don't you like having sex with women? Isn't that something you want to do? Isn't it something you think about regularly and are usually hustling to obtain? Then WHY IN THE FUCK WOULD YOU SHAME WOMEN AROUND SEX? Don't you see how counterproductive that is? Some of you go out to bars or clubs on the weekend hoping to get laid, and if you do manage to have sex with a woman, do you automatically refuse to respect her because she slept with you? I've seen so many men in these threads comment that they could never respect a woman who slept with them right away, or respect a woman who gave them a blow job. Blow jobs are "demeaning." Women who sleep with men right away are "easy" or "desperate." But you *want* to have sex with them, you *like* getting blow jobs, and if they give you what you want then you will not respect them. Because they've done something demeaning and desperate. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? Mixed messages much?

Then of course if you turn a guy down for sex, or aren't a blow job kind of girl, you are also in the wrong. We know we're being judged for our sexual choices. How could women miss that when even other women will call you a slut? So there is an understandable hesitancy to appear easy. No one wants to be judged. It feels bad. And then so called Nice Guys complain bitterly to women about how we're grouping them in with the rest. #NOTALLMEN they cry! "Some of us are Nice Guys!! Don't lump us in with the others! What a bigoted slut you are!!"

This is not an exaggeration. Nice Guys say shit like this everyday on the accounts of many of the feminist bloggers I follow. They are worse offenders than men who just straight up honestly hate women.

On one hand, I can't blame them. I know that the patriarchy teaches men that a huge portion of their value and identity as a man lies in their ability to get and please women. A woman with full agency over her person can say Yes but she can just as easily say No, and that's a huge risk for masculine identity. The story goes that if you, as a hetero man, can't obtain sex from women it makes you less of a man. Rejection of all kinds hurts, but this cuts deep into gender identity and that's a particularly vulnerable, sensitive area to have challenged. Of course men might be inclined to react poorly to women not affirming their masculinity by having sex with them. There's a lot at stake when your sex is saddled with that much emotional baggage.

On the other hand, I'm tired of women's bodies being battlegrounds upon which the war of masculinity is fought. We don't exist to affirm your identity! We're not here to please you! As adults, it's on each of us to spend time exploring who we are beyond the identities imposed upon us by gender, family, culture, ethnicity, nationality, etc. Being a man means so much more than fucking bitches and getting money...right? Doesn't it? Wouldn't that be so depressing if that's all there was?

And of course there is more. If nothing else, homosexuality informs us that masculinity is not defined by men having sex with women. Homosexual men don't generally have sex with women and they're still men. Being a man is so much more than what you do with your penis, fellas. It's up to you to discover what that is without leaning on others to define you.

Experience has taught that of course it's #notallmen. I'm not a rigid, extremist idiot, and I have so many lovely men in my life who do well by women. What sets these men apart is that they don't operate in the world with a sense of entitlement to women's time and attention. They have made the effort to get to know themselves, and their identities don't depend on how others respond to them. They have work they enjoy, friends, faith, passions and hobbies. Basically, they're well rounded individuals. Men and women alike are tasked with doing this work to know ourselves well, growing the beauty and working out what isn't working.

This inner examination and awareness can be difficult, though. It requires quite a bit of vulnerability to face yourself honestly and learn who you really are beyond constructs and expectations. So angry men and women, mired in their own patriarchal oppression, opt to say awful things about strangers on the Internet to make themselves feel better...I suppose. Is that the purpose? I wonder if that works for any length of time. Has tearing someone else down ever built anyone up? Does anyone benefit from this?

No.

So stop. Stop being awful to each other, in general, but please stop raging against the free expression of female sexuality. What are you hoping to accomplish by putting women down for enjoying sex? You do realize that this hurts you, too, men who want to have sex with women? People don't like doing things they feel shame around. If you shame female sexuality, women aren't going to feel good about having sex with you and you will be having less sex. This is a terrible game plan. You're doing it wrong.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to think deeply about how you view sex in general, female sexuality specifically, and how all this plays in to your masculine identity. For women, you have homework, too! I challenge you to think deeply about how you view sex in general, female sexuality specifically, and how all this plays into your feminine identity.

How you view others and how you choose to treat them as a result says everything about you and nothing about them. Calling someone a whore doesn't do a damn bit of good for this world. Knock it off. Do better.

Men, if you want to help, please start calling out other men for their disrespectful behavior towards women. We need your voices and support. The bigoted men whom we women try to dialogue with are stubbornly hateful. They will not listen to us. But, perhaps, they'll listen to you.

If you happen to be a really good man who was raised or has learned how to nurture, please find a way to teach other men. If you're a man who wants to learn this, find a mentor- a well respected man who loves well.

We can build a better world for us all, but it'll only be done with love. It starts today, with you.