Outsmarting Rainbow Capitalism

This Pride Month, there’s been a lot of criticism towards the LGBTQ folks who buy rainbow things from capitalist entities. I see the purpose of this criticism. These big brands are taking advantage of our community, our marginalization, our need for expression and community strength. Some of them take advantage of us while supporting politicians, policies and practices that further impose injustice and inequality on our community and other marginalized minorities.
The shitty thing about this criticism is that we are seeking inclusion, identity and community. We want a place to exist in our truest expression and feel like the rule and not the exception! We want to be able to feel like we fit in, can be the norm, can be our Selves. In a cis-hetero-normative world, we want to feel trans-homo-ace-bi-etc normal! We want to be identified and identifiable to one another. How do we find this without supporting large corporate hypocrites?
 
The presented alternative to supporting “Rainbow Capitalism” is supporting small LGBTQ and minority-owned businesses who follow this Rainbow “trend”. I put quotes around trend because I lack a better word. It’s not a trend to those of us who live it. It’s validation of our identity and the space we create for ourselves and each other in the world. 
My point is this–it’s not a bad thing to buy a bunch of Pride related things! It’s therapeutic and validating and necessary. But in ANY context, we can be conscious of where our money is going and how it is circulating based on our spending.
In supporting actual members of the LGBTQIA community in their creative and business ventures, we can celebrate our Pride without contributing to our oppression and the oppression of others.
 
I am an LGBTQ crochet artist making things for the LGBTQ community. I am a lesbian woman, a starving artist, making money on handmade goods I create in my small Long Beach apartment. I run the entire business alone, from purchasing to making, social media to sales, shipping to customer service. I make crochet clothing and jewelry year round with the intention of inspiring the people who wear it to be their authentic selves in the world. I love the minimalist style with attention to detail that highlights without overwhelming the individual.
I am a queer designer making Pride attire for my LGBTQ folks! 
I am not the only one.
There are so many artists, in all different types of mediums, who are making clothes, art, drawings, books, zines, decor, tools, and more of your everyday purchases. A great way to find us is through hashtags on Instagram. Another way is through events, maker popups, and queer spaces like queer-owned coffee shops and gay venues.
I will warn, supporting small business is not necessarily cheap. The benefit of corporate capitalism is that mass production is cheap and some of the cheapness gets passed on to the customer. However, spending a little more money in handmade, small business, and local economies ensures that the money will circulate back into your pocket at some point. That money doesn’t go into a CEOs pocket or a trust fund or an off shore account–it helps someone keep their lights on, keep food on their table, gas in their car, etc. Paying a little more for a better quality piece of artwork is worth it. Not to mention it’s more unique, and probably made to last.
Bypassing Rainbow Capitalism by supporting LGBTQ Artists and Makers is an act of political warfare.
If you can’t support myself or other artists monetarily, you can still help us. Your support in the form of likes, sharing and encouragement is helpful and welcome.
Support one another. Support LGBTQ businesses, but additionally support businesses owned by people of color, differently-abled people, and immigrants. Our oppression is all unique, as we all have our own intersectional story, but our struggle is against the same entity–colonialism, white supremacy, injustice, inequality, and toxic capitalism. When we support each other, we all win. 
We are here, we are queer, and we are making things for you. Please, Find us. ❤ 
During the month of June 2018, I am making Pride tops, hats and more for Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Bi, Pan, Non-binary and Ace/Aro representation at a VERY discounted price. I am not making a lot of profit on these, but I want people to be able to afford them and still make it to the capitalist festivals held in our honor. I will be continuing to make and sell these items throughout the year. I will have to raise the price eventually, but I will try to keep them affordable. I also want to find an intersectional LGBTQ charity to donate part of the proceeds to. If you have recommendations, please let me know.
To order a halter top, bralette, beanie, or crop top, please visit my instagram @byOperaHippy and message me about custom orders. You can also contact me through my etsy page (while it’s still up—they’re raising prices so I may be opening my website soon).
Here are some examples of my work. I make all sizes, and can custom a fit to any body type or size.
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Lesbian Pride Bralette // Rainbow Pride Halter
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Trans Pride Halter
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Trans Pride Crop Top
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Lesbian Pride Halter size XL
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Rainbow Spectrum Crop Top
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Yarn for Pan Pride and Bi Pride goodies!!!!
Non binary and Ace available too!
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In Transition

I’m going through a transitional phase right now. I have been for a while, but this part is really interesting.
 
Three years ago I came out as bisexual, which was my first attempt to express that I like women. But this year I came out as gay, realizing that so much of my previous “attraction” to men was for the security and validation of their male privilege and not to them as partners. To better explain, I grew up in a household with so much toxic masculinity that I literally believed my wellness, success in the world, ability to be loved, and self worth were all attached to my ability to “catch” a man, or to otherwise be pleasing to them–pleasing to look at, to be around… which to toxic masculinity means meeting the societal standards of beauty, being silent, compliant and agreeable, and super validating to men (none of which came easy or natural to me).
Men have more power than women in the world I come from, and they do in more spaces than not in the world in which we all live. I thought the only way I could get that power, which I believed was necessary for my survival, was through dating men–so I lied to myself to survive in a harsh environment. I needed male attention and validation to feel like I was valid–my entire self worth was placed on it and I couldn’t help it because I couldn’t see it.
 
The environment is still harsh, even though some things have changed and I have moved to a more diverse city. Nowadays I find a lot of comfort in just my new-found identity as a lesbian. Even if I’m not dating, even if I never have another lover in my entire life this is a truth I have fought so hard to find in myself and nobody can take it from me. This is a truth that validates me, my past loves, my life joys, my feelings about the world and myself in it. My feelings about love and my knowledge and awareness of love are validated by my identity. Even the unexplainable mysteries of “why” in my life have an explanation through this truth, and that is how I know it is mine.
As I get to know more members of the queer community I find comfort and welcome and a space to exist as myself in their presence. I’m finding myself more and more. I’m learning about myself in the most basic of ways.
 
Here are some of the things I’ve learned about myself lately:
I’m finding that I don’t like being in a lot of very male dominant spaces. I’m not comfortable in them. I feel almost non-existent compared to masculinity, especially toxic, hyper masculinity. I’m feminine. I’m not a lady in the traditional sense. I burp loudly, I sit with my knees apart, I say “fuck” a lot, and I sure as hell don’t know how to properly place the utensils of a fancy dinner table. I’m not the most “femme” of lesbians either on the strange binary-spectrum of femme and butch that is sometimes thought of as the only possible expression of lesbians. Still, my energy is one of feminine strength. I can’t describe how I mean that. Its one thing I can feel but cannot yet properly describe.
Many spaces put me back into a mind space that is terrifying to me–the one that once led me to contemplating suicide and desperately fighting for reasons not to turn my car into the center divider on the freeway at 70 mph almost constantly.
Straight bars (otherwise known as “Bars” to the hetero-norm) either put me in that space or frustrate me to no end. It is incredible that a group of women can’t go out and have a good time without it either being about men or being interrupted by men.
Drinking was something I did to lose myself and get male attention, so drinking and the culture behind it is not interesting to me. In fact, alcohol just gives me a headache. It used to be that I’d have a headache the next day in the form of a hangover, but now I get one almost as soon as I have a drink.
I see more and more that I am an introvert. I connect with people one-on-one. It is difficult for me to express my truth to large groups, or to feel like I have a space to speak or that my words are even welcome in a large crowd. I can speak to a large audience, but I don’t do well with the social cues of group interaction. It gets difficult for me to focus, to follow thoughts, to be honest to myself and my humor and my nature. I see from a perspective so very different from many people that when they don’t know where I am coming from it is easy for them to misunderstand me, and that misunderstanding is an emotional distance, and emotional distance is something that I feel very deeply and hurts me very much.
I enjoy diversity and differences. I like to see what makes people who they are and often that is best explored through the things we do not have in common or agree on. Most people don’t like this though. I make a lot of people uncomfortable because I make comparisons and they are perceived as judgements. I don’t mean them as judgements. I am simply pointing out differences most of the time. Still, it is one of those things that gets me into trouble in groups. 
I’d rather talk about myself and let others talk about themselves than talk about others. I grew up being taught that it was selfish to talk about yourself. I understand that doing it excessively or without any reciprocation on listening can be a little much, but why would we shy away from talking about ourselves? If we don’t talk about ourselves, how will anyone know us? I know some things can be learned through basic interaction, but other things we literally can’t know without someone telling us. Like, what you feel and how you cope and what you think. The things that happen when you are alone with yourself, those are things that are sacred and special, but they can also be a point of connection tot talk about with others at a later time. I enjoy learning these things about others and I enjoy sharing these things about myself. I enjoy finding that some of these things are shared by many, if not all people, and other things are very specific and different from person to person.
Most importantly I am learning that connectivity is a vital piece of my existence, and learning to have healthy connections is a part of love.
 
There are many things I am still unsure about. There are many pieces of my identity, style, life choices, career path, etc. that I do not yet know or understand. I have been seeking those larger answers for years and am only a little clearer, but still very lost all the time. However, these smaller self revelations are almost more important, and definitely contribute to clearly seeing the bigger picture. In fact, many of those other pieces of myself won’t be clear until I find myself and my truths. Perhaps my purpose is Self Discovery and everything else is an adventurous byproduct (or bi-product, if you’re so inclined).
 
The transitional phase is coming at me in waves of grief and ecstasy. I cannot hide from it or control it. I cannot rush or slow the timing of the waves’ crashes. I cannot hide. I cannot cease existence in the hopes it’ll all blow over. I cannot fear away from the journey that lies before me. I’ve done that in the past and it almost cost me my life. There’s no more hiding.
I’m in transition.

To Be A Lesbian

I just finished watching The L Word all the way through for the first time. I know, I’m late AF to the party, seeing as the last episode aired in 2009. I was graduating high school that year and was NOWHERE close to admitting to myself that I was gay. Not to mention, in my hometown The L Word was seen as some weird, fetish-porn, “gay-agenda” TV show and basically spoken about like a demonic betrayal of all things wholesome and divine.
However, now, as a newly self-recognized and Out Lesbian, I loved watching it. It was so validating! Sure, it’s dated, missing a lot of broader and diverse representation, doesn’t address transphobia within the gay community, and guilty of stereotyping–but it’s also incredible to see a show that just disregards male significance and necessity altogether. It really shows the intimacy of the world of womxn. Lesbians specifically–womxn who do not identify AT ALL through their need to be connected to or validated through their relationships to men (or at least go through the struggles of that being their truth in a world that tells us we need male approval for survival).

It’s insane how cishet-white-male centric our society is–especially in the States. I watch my female heterosexual friends put up with such bullshit out of the men they date and pursue–and I used to put up with such bullshit out of the men I dated. They continue to put up with it though. The need for male acceptance and approval is so strong, so subconscious, and so necessary for hetero survival in this toxic society. Women are taught by society that we need to be accepted into the Male World (aka, the Patriarchy’s Constructed Society, because there is nothing real or natural about it). I see women who won’t call men out on emotionally abusing them or their friends.
How many women put up with emotional silencing or abuse for the sake of financial security? How many more will endure physical abuse or psychological manipulation for security and acceptance in a world run by men? How many do you personally know–because I know soooo many of these women personally. In many ways, I am still one of these women and trying to empower myself out of the mindset every day.
Why are we so trapped?
Internalized fear? I know my father made it seem like if one man didn’t want to fuck me they’d tell all other men in some secret MALE ONLY social network and I’d be forever blacklisted from being in a relationship with any male ever. I was convinced of that, ridiculous as it sounds.
Stockholm Syndrome? Learned Helplessness? We have been so oppressed by the patriarchal forces that be, accepting our roles (shitty and demeaning as they are) is a necessary means of survival without facing the severe internal depression that becomes expressed through “hysteria” and “women’s troubles” and now mental illness. (Not to say mental illness isn’t legitimate, but that we often don’t acknowledge that it’s cause is traceable and many of them are results of abuse.)
So many heterosexual women, even feminists, will cut men slack when they emotionally abuse others or gaslight women into thinking they’ve overreacted or are being overly-sensitive when we call them out for mistreating us–and why? We make it seem like they’re incapable of the emotional depth we have to get over their shit, and aren’t we all one species and one existence? The trap of seeing men as a NECESSARY part of one’s worth, value and ability to succeed is one deeply engrained in the average American woman. Ever so subtle, but undeniably present.

Since coming out, I have been able to see things in my own life clearer. Suddenly, interactions that were once confusing make complete sense. For example, I have always found myself to be the strong, independent girl in the crowd. The one who called men out of their assholery if they hurt my friend (though never able to stand up for mySELF), dead-eyed them for making sexist comments, and didn’t laugh at jokes that degraded other humans. When I was being myself, and not the Self I had to be to be accepted and approved of by men, I was a bad bitch–and I’m becoming that bad bitch again the more I permanently pull away from the belief that I need male acceptance and love to survive and succeed. I’ve definitely had moments of feeling down on my own worth because all of my other friends were receiving male attention and I wasn’t. It has made me doubt myself so much in the past–Am I too cynical? Too harsh? Too aggressive? Intimidating? Miserable? Ugly? Fat? Annoying? What is wrong with me that I can be hilarious and beautiful to all my friends and no men want me? How do I change myself to be more what they want? How do I become submissive, enjoyable, complimentary–fake–for their acceptance?

Well now that all makes sense. I never wanted them, and getting their approval was a temporary fix to a much larger problem. Plus male approval isn’t as satisfying as it promises to be when it’s first offered. The attention I sought from men was nothing like what I want (and deserve) from a real, loving, intimate relationship. It’s nothing like what I know Love to be. My reaction to men is nothing to how my body reacts to other Lesbians, or womxn in general. My attraction to men was simply a need for attention that validated that I fit into a world–a world I only wanted to fit into because I was convinced I needed to fit into it to survive. But many other worlds exist, and I’ve found I fit into another one entirely. It’s actually one I’ve been a part of for my entire life–though secretly and in the intimacy of my one-on-one relationships with significant carers in my life–my mother, my best childhood friend and first romantic love, etc. It’s a world I’ve live in, but closeted. Now, it seems the doors have been opened and I’m ready to exist in this world more openly. It’s always been here, but the world is only felt by those who know it and believe in its existence–the world of non-male centrism.

 

My roommate is a brilliant person. She’s a writer, currently in grad school for English. We have had many conversations about the significance of Lesbian visibility. She’s been Out for a long time. As I watched The L Word, she rewatched it with me and we had a lot of conversations. Recently, we were talking about how the word “Lesbian” is not just a term that means “Gay Woman”. If we look at the analysis of words, being a Woman is another reminder of how we are simply seen as an extension of Men, about how our greatest sense of identity (where limited agenda, white feminists seek their empowerment even) is from a word that references to that which we are not–to our Oppressors!

I don’t want you to think I’m saying anyone who uses this word is bad. I’m just proposing that there is another option, and possibly to be aware of these things will help us move forward with more conscious use of our words, especially in regards to our self-identity and self-worth.

Words matter. Their context, origin, and implications validate, create, and instill our beliefs about them. Only half of your brain recognizes a word as a collection of letters strung together. The left brain understands and interprets language, but it is not the knower of conceptual understanding altogether. The right brain, on the other hand, takes these words (strings of symbols put together in a linear fashion and assigned meaning) and assigns them meaning on an experiential basis. The right brain understands wordless concepts outside of time or place. It can understand time and space if necessary for context, but it doesn’t think through things linearly–it comprehends them all at once. Like vision in a fourth dimension would be, the right brain sees all sides of the concept it looks at, all at once. The left brain then interprets that linearly. So if we have a word for something, we have to respect that the development of that word comes from a larger conceptual understanding with a whole lot of context, and psychological and historic implications. Your left brain receives the word, but then your memory recall triggers a whole UNIVERSE (made of many worlds) of meaning and connotation for that word. The collection of these meanings is taught in our use of language for understanding the past, and we are bound to the larger concepts after a certain level of knowledge has been gained.

That said, the etymology of the words “Women, Woman, or Female” does not necessarily prove that they were developed or derived in reference to “man, men or male,” their modern context and implication must be considered. The history of masculinity taking claim of everything must be remembered. When these words were developed, they were developed from the latin, and the “men” and “male” aspects of the words referred to humankind, not to a specific gender or sex. However, since the development of these words, a book has been written and widely regarded as Ultimate Divine Truth which states that the first ever woman was made out of a man’s rib, and that man was created by another masculine figure–God. (Yes, I’m talking about Ye Olde Testament–The Bible.) So while the word “woman” may not necessarily derive from this concept or principle, those brought up in a western, Judeo-Christian influenced society have an unconscious internalization of this concept as a means of our creation. Even those who don’t believe in Christianity will have a hard time reminding ourselves that the principles it instilled in us through societal conditioning aren’t real.

I know a woman who has a bad relationship with her birth father and, convinced that she needs love from a father figure to survive, she told me I needed to seek a relationship with the Heavenly Father like she had and I would feel whole and loved. Now, this may work very well for people who can’t get out of the christian dogma, but I’ve been doubting the details of that Patriarchy since I was about 8 years old so that didn’t sit well with me. On a personal level, I have a relationship with divinity but I think it is a concept beyond simplicity of our concept of gender identification and to assign it masculinity and tell people they NEED to seek HIS approval for an understanding of eternal and unconditional love from creation is just manipulative. God is not a man, and you don’t need HIS approval to feel whole. Frankly to gender the concept of God is to make God small–boxed into a definition that makes the incomprehensible into something minutely understandable.

Now, I’m not trying to say that I am not a woman, or that I am not perfectly happy identifying as a woman overall. In the context of society, I am a Cis Woman. For the recognition and importance of my trans family, I recognize my role of having the outward identity of “woman”. Maybe one day I’ll identify as non-binary but for now I don’t feel that is necessary for me. I won’t claim being misgendered (yet) if someone calls me a woman, because what I am about to propose is not a widely acknowledged concept and it will take time for people to understand it and me to further develop what this means to my gender identity. However, I think it is much more appropriate to say that my entire identity, both sexual preference and gender identity, is embodied in the word Lesbian.

Lesbian is a word that stands outside of the traditional need to identify through an attachment or relation to men. My roommate mentioned something this morning about how the word Lesbian is non-human. This isn’t to say we are lacking in what is commonly referred to as “humanity”, or that we aren’t a part of our species, or that we are aliens (though lez be honest, I could be an alien). It means that calling our species “Human” and then giving one acknowledged gender identity in the forced binary the default option of being called “Man” and the other a connection to that with a prefix of “wo” is an immediate means of establishing inequality. It established 1)a binary in an unlimited universe of options and 2)a “Default” and an “Other”. (Another thing instilled in us through Judeo-Christian dogma is the idea that there is a good and evil, and that which is not like you must be against you.)
I want to further this idea by comparing it to the oppression and struggles of Black Americans. They, too, are seen as the “Other” and White is thought of as the “Default”. Everything between is seen as a part of some weird greyscale by White America, rather than seen as the true diversity that racial and cultural diversity is in truth. This has been the case for a long time, far before American Slavery (as the roots of White Supremacy are not strictly North American). The greater piece of toxic society in America doesn’t even really consider Black Culture to be a part of American Culture, calling their own world “America” without being inclusive of any experiences People of Color have with oppression, immigration, racism or prejudice.

This said, I feel the word Lesbian does not attach me to this archaic, binary concept that the word “Woman” with the adjective of “Gay” does. For the sake of society understanding and putting a simplified, reductionist label on me–sure. I guess I’m a homosexual woman. For the sake of a binary believer’s need to understand me–tell yourself whatever you must to get to sleep at night. However, there is so much more to who I am than just being an Other-who-likes-Others.

There is a mindset, an intimacy, and a private world in which non-men exist. Toxic masculinity couldn’t understand it even if we let it in to try (and it has been let in plenty of times, trust). It’s a deep sharing of stories, feelings, pain, pleasure, and endurance. It’s the intimacy of having shared similar oppressions, as well as the multitude of intersections at which our DIFFERENT struggles can be related to with vulnerable empathy and understanding. It’s the inclusion of more and more people into our world–not because they identify a certain way or look a certain way, but because they have become in touch with themselves and their self worth OUTSIDE the world of male approval. This world is ethereal, abstract, made up of feelings and based on the principle of true equality. It is the recognition of Namaste–That which IS in me acknowledges that which IS in you. We are both valid in our existence as we experience it simply because we exist, not because we exist in relation to others. This is a world all its own–like a secret and special club in which our main goal is to live our lives the way we were born to live them, not the way we were taught to live them.

Not everyone in this “club” is a lesbian, and not all those who identify as Lesbians fit into or understand or seek to remain in the understanding of this empathetic existence. However, I find that I know who I am when I am here, and I know who I love and how I love them. I found this world through finally accepting that I am a lesbian. It didn’t come when I accepted myself as a woman–and that never felt like a full or apt definition of my existence.

Another reason I love the word lesbian is the connotations it has been assigned historically. Lesbianism used to be considered a mental illness. Literally, men couldn’t comprehend that women didn’t need or want them and so they decided it was an ILLNESS that could be treated with electro-shock therapy. Let that sink in for a moment. Men were so threatened by the idea that women would leave them, that they could do NOTHING to manipulate them to stay, because some women just weren’t attracted to them at all that (white, cishet, male) Doctors decided it was a condition which needed SEVERE treatment. If we consider this on a large scale, its a disgusting show of dependency, not to mention oppressive AF.

The word Lesbian has also been used as a derogatory slur, along with queer, fag, dyke, butch, and others. Like those words have been reclaimed by our community, the reclaiming of the word “Lesbian” is an act of empowerment for me.

Some of the lesbian community are TERF af, I’ll admit, and seek to make the word more about being a cis gay woman who is attracted to other cis gay women. I’d like to reclaim the world from them too, as this is a grave reduction of the word’s importance. Some lesbians are trans! Some lesbians date trans men! Some lesbians date trans women. Some lesbians care about your genitals and some don’t! Some lesbians fall in love with non-binary folks! Some lesbians are non-binary themselves! Some lesbians even date a cishet male once or twice (or for the first 23 years of their lives in my case). All of these intersections are valid in the identity of “Lesbian”, because being a lesbian isn’t just about being a “gay woman”. That is an outdated definition, in my understanding. I don’t have to be dating anyone to be a lesbian–not a man or a woman or any other gender outside those.

To speak to my sexual preference, I find myself personally attracted to all kinds of womxn. However, I also am constantly having my definition of “womxn” challenged and broadened to be more inclusive of more lives and experiences that differ from mine. I believe that anyone who truly lives their identity and calls that identity womxn IS a womxn and thereby defines the word itself. We are the creators of words, afterall. We control them, and we can’t let them (and such specific, manipulative definitions) control who we are–its unnatural. We are the existence, we are the creator of the word, why would we have to be forced to its definition.

To be a Lesbian is about so much more than the simplified, patriarchal definitions of identity. It is to live outside of the definition of existence which attaches us, our worth, and our identity to others, specifically Men.

To be a Lesbian, for me, is to be Free—

—Free of the mental conditioning, free of the isolated emotional pain, free of the chains that bind me to a false Self I created to survive 20 years in a homophobic environment I couldn’t escape.

Another #MeToo Story….

I’ve been struggling with intimacy more in the past three years than at any other point in my life. I’ve spoken and written and shared about my past experiences of trauma and abuse, but I haven’t really spoken or considered the last time I had sex and how traumatic it was. It’s such an experience I feel I need to share it. Trigger warning–rape, sex, dissociation, oppression, heteronormative fantasies, #metoo.

I met a guy on OKC who seemed really nice and kind. He came from a family that seemed chill, had a diverse past that he seemed unashamed to speak about, and seemed pretty well awakened to some things he’d been through. We had a lot in common. He brought me to Cafe Gratitude for the first time.
The first few dates we went on were very innocent. He was kind and understanding, he was interesting and interested. He took things slow and seemed like a good guy.
He stopped acting like such a good guy after we had sex for the first time though.

The date after our first sexual encounter I let him take me somewhere–a surprise location. I was a vegan at the time and he decided to take me to the San Pedro Fish Market. When we got there, I was peeved. Like–who brings a vegan to a place that hella glorifies and smells of meat? (Not the first time a date had done such a thing btw) But, I went along with it and got some fried veggies–which I didn’t eat because they were definitely fried with the fish and tasted like fish oil and made me wanna puke because I hadn’t had meat in over a year.
I let this all slide, thinking I was just over-reacting or being selfish or too dramatic. I let him take me back to his place for the second time, which was a huge, disgusting mess. The understanding and helpful person I often am (to a fault in the past), I suggested that I could help him clean some things before we hung out and watched a movie.

I was washing his dishes as he picked up some stuff. He came up behind me and started touching me. I was flattered, but also annoyed like–we’re doing something here dude. Can’t you be a little more patient? He would go do some other things and then come back and mess with me–but not ME the brain in the body, the person with cognitive decision skills and autonomy… just the body. I was boobs and ass and curves and vag.
At one point, without warning, he started undressing me. It wasn’t sexy, or cute. It wasn’t slow, or kind. There was no kissing or admiration or care for whether I enjoyed it at all. It was aggressive, forceful. (It should be noted this guy was about 6’4″ and built very muscularly and big. He was easily twice my size.) He pulled my shirt off of me even though I was standing right in front of a window, at night, that was open and overlooking a street. He pinned me against the counter and laughed that I couldn’t escape him. I asked him to stop, he continued. He’d successfully undressed my top half and was working on getting my skirt off. I got more pissed off and told him to stop–which seemed to excite him more. I didn’t have the ability to be more outwardly pissed off. Patriarchal conditioning told me men didn’t like mouthy girls, and I needed a man to survive in this world.
I was seething inside, but also telling myself I’d brought this on, it was somehow sexy, it was a part of some fantasy, I just needed to learn to enjoy it, sex was always uncomfortable when it was new, this was somehow totally normal and fine and I was the one making it seem not fine. (Rape culture, internalized, at its fucking finest.)

He ended up getting my skirt off, making me stand there in his kitchen–naked and powerless, exposed by bright lights and an open window. He picked me up and brought me to his room, there was hardly any kissing. He entered me without permission or a condom or foreplay–making it very painful, dry and unwelcome. It wasn’t even slow or gentle, not even a little–it was quick and forced. I was powerless.
After, I told him it hurt and that I was pissed off and I wanted to leave. He acted sorry for a second, then brought up some girl on his facebook that he had a crush on and started talking about her in front of me. I left, saw him one more time, then cut him off entirely. He reached out once to “explain” but didn’t actually say anything. I refused to see him in person, telling him he could say what he needed to say in text, and he only wanted to see me in person to say what he needed to say. So I never heard his explanation. This was my first real point of empowerment. I didn’t want his explanation. It was an excuse, and what he’d done shouldn’t, couldn’t, be excused.

After this, I decided I was not interested in sexual pursuits unless they were with people I knew very well and trusted–but then I began the journey through my mental health and wellness that I’ve been on for the past few years so sex has been the last of my priorities. My intimacy between now and then has been very limited. I am lonely often, and I wish I could develop sexual intimacy, but I do not trust myself or others in that context so I keep pretty much everyone at a physical distance. This is hard… as a human being I need physical connection and yet I am so traumatized by it that I often reject it and deflect it from even the most platonic of friends.

The thing that was the most disturbing about this last major encounter was that it was like being in a porn or some romantic film. I was living in someone else’s fantasy. Like, I know I’d seen this all somewhere before. I’d seen someone romantically pulling the clothes off of a woman as she is doing chores and lead her to the bedroom–but to live it with someone as if he is trying to recreate something he’d seen on TV… with no warning, communication, or boundaries… it was absolutely horrific–scarring. I felt out of control. I think I completely detached, dissociated and derealized the situation before it even happened. It’s taken me years to see that this was rape, and that my silence was accepted as consent, my struggle was seen as a part of the role play he was living out with me though he hadn’t asked me, and my words were completely overlooked. I was literally an object to his fantasy. I could have been any woman. He just needed a warm and compliant body.

I don’t see the point in sex in this manner. It’s a grotesque misuse of human connection. It’s a disrespect of who we both are as individuals. However, I know there are women who might have been totally down–hell I might have if situation had been completely different. But he treated me like we were on the same page–he assumed it and acted out of that assumption. Role play is totally cool and some people like it but it must be spoken about out loud. There must be rules and boundaries established FIRST. If you can’t have the conversation, you’re not emotionally mature enough to participate in it safely, and *you’re going to hurt someone*. Period. Same with S&M, and power play, and polyamory or ethical non-monogamy. These things are all awesome–beautiful even! I am super sex positive in the means of supporting what people want for themselves. I see it working for individuals and they love their sexual lives! I know its all valid and good when done with proper consent.
But you can’t, in any situation, ASSUME that someone else is on board just because they are present. You can’t assume based on body language. You MUST have the conversation out loud. Most of the women you know, if not every one of them, have been gaslit to believe that we have no authority over our own bodies. Even politics reenforce this in our minds. If you make the assumption that someone is interested in the same sexual things as you and act on that without a conversation, you’re taking advantage of that person’s oppression. You’re abusing your own power and privilege. You are a fucking rapist and you deserve to be punished–locked the fuck up and put through extensive therapy.

I am not brave enough to reveal the names of those who have sexually assaulted me–and I don’t even remember his name honestly. It’s been years and I’ve ignored it. Maybe I’ll gain that empowerment someday in a call for justice but I know now that the world would and could do nothing for me. The law is against me in this story. The timing is against me. The patriarchal forces that be are too strong.
Still, I share this in gruesome detail because it has the ability to open some people’s eyes to the importance of verbal consent–especially (but definitely not exclusively) in heterosexual encounters. I say that because these are the encounters that we see most on TV, movies, and in real life playing out these kinds of scenarios and making the lack of verbal consent seem like some kind of romantic connection. That’s not real. You may read body language, but you read it based on who you are and how you might react. You may think you know this person, but it doesn’t mean you actually do know them as anything more than a projection of yourself. The normativity of hetero sexual abuse is so harmful.

Frankly, if you can’t talk about sex, consent, etc… you’re not mature enough to have it. You’re not mature enough to act consensually, and I guarantee you will assault someone and think it’s ok and fine because you assumed you knew them well enough and there’s no evidence to hold you accountable. You’d still be fucking rapist piece of shit though.

I know that it’s really difficult and embarrassing to talk about sex sometimes–but it is infinitely harder to recover from rape and go on with a positive or hopeful attitude about sex and intimacy. The damage you could potentially do is not worth sparing your embarrassment for a couple of seconds. Also, if your hard-on depends on the lack of consent and asking consent is going to somehow ruin the mood, you’re turned on by some fucked up rapey shit and you need mental and emotional help so you don’t act on that in a way that will hurt others. It’s fine if you’re turned on by that, some of us can’t help what turns us on. But what you can help is how you know yourself and the tendencies you have to harm others so you can be conscious and outspoken in a way that keeps others from being harmed by you. We need to protect others from our darkness sometimes too, not just ourselves. Our traumas gone unchecked, our fears gone unspoken, these things project themselves out into the world and they harm us and others. The only way we keep others from being caught in our darkness is by bringing light to it ourselves and exposing ourselves for exactly who we are. Secret secrets are no fun. Secret secrets hurt someone–and this is how.

Mental Illness from Within

I feel like mental illness is really difficult for people to grasp if they’ve never experienced it or if they’ve only experienced something slightly, or in a moment of grief or high stress or situational dis-ease, but not chronic mental illness. Many people will try to see it through their own understanding instead of admit its something beyond their experience or comprehension. Many people will see the expression of my emotion and they’ll relate it to their own and project their history on me, like I am simply making a mistake they’ve made and the answer is so simple.

If the answer was simple, it wouldn’t be an epidemic. If the answer was simple, we’d be fine. If the answer was simple there probably wouldn’t be an entire profession, including diagnosis, treatment and research, for us.

If the answer to mental illness was simple, I wouldn’t be sick.

But it isn’t simple.

We’re talking about the most complex organ of the body, the most mysterious, the most adaptive and ever changing. Not to mention, we are being diagnosed based on OUTSIDE appearances and behaviors, though the thing that’s wrong is INSIDE our minds, which can only be accessed through talking to us, and even then you’re not getting the whole story because a therapist who sees me one hour every two weeks couldn’t possibly get the whole story.

Its ok that you might not understand what people with mental illness go through. It’s ok if you can’t handle it, and it’s ok if you don’t learn about it. What’s not ok is that you put your own stories, assumptions, projections, and expectations on those of us who are suffering BECAUSE you can’t or won’t understand it.

The truth, though, from inside the mind of a mentally ill person, is that if I think of myself as a mentally ILL person, and hang out with people who only treat me like that, I will self destruct. I don’t want to be treated like I can’t handle “the truth” or like I’m some loose canon. I’m not and I know I’m not. But when I am in emotional distress, and very aware of it and reaching out for help, I really don’t need to be further isolated by someone who wants to speak to my illness and not to me. I am the person, human being, Rachel–not the illness. Talk to ME. I have BIG emotions sometimes, and those emotions are super tough and a lot of people don’t experience them or have a mind that can shut them down or out. I do not.

I spent much of my life going through periods of suicidal thoughts, grief, big emotions–grief, insignificance, existential worthlessness, constant failure, misunderstood, isolation, dissociation, derealization, terror, suffering…alone for most of it. Its the route of communication that my mind has accepted very readily because its the route of communication that was establishing while my mind was growing and developing.
I will continue to have suicidal thoughts and episodes. It’s a fact. If you’re close to me, you should know that, and let me know if you can’t be there for me in those moments. I can only get better one moment at a time. Yesterday, and this week, I fought my ass off against my illness–and I won. I am alive, and my feelings have passed, and the residue left over is being cleared with this post and a lot of journaling that will follow. But either way, a fierce competitor met me in battle yesterday and the wager was my safety–and I fucking won. So this is a day I should be celebrating and instead I am riddled with shame and afraid I’m messing everything up by being vulnerable, by having emotions, by needing help every once in a while, by being the person I am. I feel ashamed for having fought and won.

Thing is, these emotions I feel aren’t so different than the one’s everyone else feels. And for me they manifest in physical pain, which is also not unique. But they also come with great cognitive awareness–meaning when they happen they affect my mood, and my physical body, and my mind talk. Not everyone lets these emotions be more than a mood, and that’s great they have that capacity. I do not.

Truly, as much of a burden as my illness is, I think it is a godsend to some extent–maybe because thinking of it any other way makes me miserable, maybe because it really is. The fact that I can’t commit to either one as a definite reality is another curse/blessing. Either way, my illness is made easier through vulnerable expression of its thoughts and processing as it happens, unfortunately. But ever since I started being vulnerable I’ve had so many people tell me they were helped by or inspired by what I share. If I can help others through the knowledge I gain from suffering from this illness then it somehow makes the illness more bearable, less of a life sentence and more of a thing of purpose.

Because be assured, this emotional/mental awareness is a life sentence, an absolute prison, if another perspective on it isn’t sought and continuously reminded and affirmed.

I’m not crazy, stupid, unaware, self-centered, or unworthy of compassion and understanding. My perspective is not inherently wrong simply because it is different or seen through the eyes of my experience. I am not a drama queen for feeling the things I feel, I’m not seeking attention, I’m not on a drug bender. I’m not lazy because I can’t get out of the house some days. I’m not a stain on society because I can’t work full time.
I’m really annoyed by people second guessing me simply because they lack the full capacity to understand me or have run out of patience and don’t know how to just say it. Someone told me its not other people’s job to understand me. I guess they’re right. But I take that “job” as a simple piece of connecting with other members of humanity. So if it’s really work that you can’t do, I guess that’s fine for you. I on the other hand empathize with my own abusers to my own demise sometimes, without trying. Perhaps that’s what makes me miserable. Perhaps not. Frankly, that’s between me and my therapist anyway.

Point is, I’m not just reliving the projection of YOUR worst moment in life. If you see me through your eyes and you don’t suffer what I suffer, you’ll always be disappointed. This isn’t even my rock bottom. My rock bottom was way worse than where I’m at now. I am not you at your rock bottom and just missing the simple solution you found to get better. I am actually doing well, for me, whether you can see it or not.

So please, just stop with the assumptions and stigma.