30 June 2018

Why I Take PRIDE

Pride 2018 wraps today.

So naturally it's a good time to talk about me. 😊

Very soon the social media avatars will switch from heart-shaped rainbows to logos with patriotic overlays. Marketing teams will applaud themselves for their inclusive lip-service without acknowledging their own blatant pandering. June will end. Pride 2018 will be over. We'll bring other issues forward and pledge to fight all the good fights.

2015
I enjoy going out for Pride, smiling in the sunshine and doing my level best to radiate love. Pride--the celebration of queer people--is extremely important to me. And I've never explained why. It's actually never even crossed my mind. But this year I felt like switching it up. So gather 'round friends, as I have tales to tell.




I mean it's not just a party.
But it is a party.


I hung out with lesbians before it was cool--and way before I knew what that meant. I remember gatherings of women. I remember watching friendship. I remember witnessing love. I remember being spoiled. I remember being in Vanessa's kitchen after she got a single cross earring just like George Michael. I remember group gatherings without any self-identified men. I remember Vanessa and Shelia and Linda and how they made my mother laugh.

2017
In high school I remember "gay" being used and not understanding it was meant to be negative. I understood it as a declaration or as gossip--but never as an insult. (I was younger than my classmates and blessedly oblivious to social cues.) It didn't occur to me to be cruel. It seemed to me to be gay was to be different. And since I had been labeled different by every metric applied, I decided to align myself with "gay." There. Case closed. It was a decision rooted in logic that didn't have any consequences. I went to college as self-assured as any 16 year old could be.

College introduced me to some of the struggle. My parents had raised me on the realities of racism and sexism but in college I learned there were people whose families outright denied them. I learned people saw queer as not just "bad," but as an absolute worst outcome. It did not compute.

At the same time changes were happening at home. I realized it wasn't just other people who had those kinds of families. I witnessed the struggle for understanding, then for acceptance. I saw rejection and derision. Imagine finally loving yourself and having people turn away from you. Imagine having that which you are be used as a slur and wondering if it's true. I'll never experience that anxiety of coming out. But to me, it seems exceedingly brave.

2018
I participate in Pride because I am proud. I'm proud of the women who first showed me the strength of female friendships. I'm proud of the men who taught me not to be afraid of using my voice. I'm proud of the lesbian, gay, and trans people in my life for unapologetically being themselves. (If I make bi, ace or aro friends, I'll be proud of them too.) I'm proud to be capable of offering support. I was proud to be a black female face waving from a corporate float. I'm proud of all the "different" people who decide to stand together in love.

14 June 2018

Hearing through my eyes


The occasionally influential on Twitter often encourage their followers to every day do one thing that scares them. Personally, I don't mind my anxiety-driven existence. Yet lately that sentiment has held resonance for me. I won't say I've become adventurous because there's no stretch of the imagination that could make that statement true. Instead I'll tell you I've become more accepting of myself and therefore bolder by accident.

I'm more willing to do things I'm not already good at doing. I accept I can't go as hard at the gym as I used to--which was necessary because the alternative was to talk myself out of going at all. I've started saying "no" to my family, rather than take on the stress of their questionable decisions. I'm thinking primarily about my own well-being for the first time. The introspection has made me okay with being "just okay." It's quite liberating. Tonight I realized it can also be terrifying.

I'm taking America Sign Language. It's something I'd been thinking about for months. After coming to terms with giving up one of my two trivia nights,  I couldn't give myself a reason *not* to take an intro class. Our first meeting was tonight. I learned my first lesson about four minutes into class.

I've been excited to sign.
I'd not considered learning to sign.

Just like all my Spanish classes and Italian classes and German classes, my Sign Language classe is immersive. I don't even know if my professor can hear, because he didn't speak aloud once in three hours. He came in signing repetitively, writing on the white board, and passing out syllabi.

He didn't speak.
So we didn't speak.

There were about 40 people in the class and it was silent. I regret to inform you I was not ready for that. I assumed it was a lecture, where the instructor explained ASL syntax and provided nonverbal neumonics to help us retain. I wanted to learn a new language in my own language. My ableism was shameful. Clearly the guilt has pushed me to confess. I got over myself pretty quickly, because he started giving out assignments and looking away--whether to take notes or read handouts--was not an option.

Half of the class time was a documentary. I learned some interesting things about deaf history. By the end, I was once again ready to sign and also ready to learn.

Welcome to my new obsession. I'll do my best to keep you posted.

29 July 2016

The things I've done for Danie

The term "self care" has been very popular in my e-circles lately. If that's not the case for you, that's significant, though I can't fully explain why. If the vitriol hasn't been especially disturbing or if the violence hasn't seemed egregious... if you haven't been pushed to having fat tears plop from your face then I guess I tip my hat to you for remaining an "other," free to exist outside the current tense racial climate currently stretching from sea to shining sea. I'm black, so I don't get to opt out. Also, I concede this recent bloom that has Americans opening up like orchids to display their inner colors has been interesting to watch.

If you haven't shaken your head or creased your brow, it could be because you don't get it and/or you don't care to understand the significance of where we as a country are right now. Again, maybe you see yourself as an outsider absolved of any negative impact and therefore free to be apathetic. Admittedly I'm guilty of seeking/seeing the personal in the political. There are people I have considered friends planning to vote into the White House a person endorsed by a group that would have me swinging from a tree (as in "dead," not "tire swing") because of who I've dated. Calling that knowledge "hurtful" is an understatement. To know I've shared good times with someone who cares so little for me and people like me is beyond disappointing.

I've been stressed. It's not only the deep-seated fear of a nefarious police officer but also the niggling suspicion that - should something happen to me or a member of my family - those who would stand for us would be fewer in number than I had imagined. (And yes, I have imagined.) It's frustrating. I have lived in manner meant to be a testament to the value of my life, to show that I matter. That's to say I believed in respectability politics - right up until I accepted that the idea didn't work in practice. If someone thinks I am lesser, there is nothing I can do to change that. Additionally the onus of being fair-minded should not fall to me.

So yeah, I've had a lot on my mind recently. I've cried and I've prayed more frequently than at any other time in my life. I began to let hopelessness seep in. I thought dark thoughts. I became more cynical. I started to miss my normal self. I had to take action. I had to do things for Danie.

Logging out of Facebook

Probably the best thing for my mental health was logging out of Facebook. True, this post will appear on Facebook, but that's an automated publishing rule that requires zero effort from me. I may stay logged out until November 9th. Maybe longer. I mean I'm not curious yet as to what I've missed in the last three weeks though we all know I'm super into kids and pets in Halloween costumes. So we'll see. As I began to lose faith in humanity, Facebook consistently delivered the most visage-contorting content.

There were times I wanted to comment "so THAT'S what you think of me." There were so many posts that made it obvious people weren't thinking - memes that fundamentally negated each other. But mostly what got to me was the selective heartbreak. Specifically, it was Dallas. I cried for those officers like I cried for Philando Castille and Alton Sterling and Walter Scott. But my "friends" did not. To  be clear, avoiding any post or any comment is understandable. It's a difficult choice to decide to share one's politics. But to stay silent on some deaths - to ignore Pulse or New Orleans only to be heartbroken by Dallas is to say "these humans are worth more than those." I disagree with that. I thought I knew people who disagreed with that. I saw people I thought were just opting out decide to weigh in on Dallas. I saw who was - and who was not - worth their emotion. I wonder what those people are teaching or showing their kids about kids like my nephew and niece, or adults like me and my brother. A (white) friend of mine reached out to have a conversation and just say "hey, I see it." It was monumental. I didn't realize how much I needed to know someone cared until someone did. I checked out before Baton Rouge, so my data analysis is admittedly incomplete. Still, I had seen enough.

Slowed my run to a walk

Pretty!
I do not like running. I tried. I got pretty new sneakers. I accepted help from my running-est friend. I practiced on the treadmill. I switched back to wearing contacts. Yet, I dreaded it every time. I thought of excuses not to do it. I somehow found myself working extra late. I would do an hour of cardio on the stairs and just not have the energy. I wouldn't do my laundry so I would have nothing to wear. My only effective motivation was to see my friend and not be a complete disappointment to her. Don't get me wrong, she was always encouraging. I just don't like to be terrible at things. I'm terrible at running.

Admitting to my friend that I didn't want to run gave me anxiety. She was accommodating of my limits and it was good to see her so frequently. But I was only having fun once it was over. So I rehearsed my reasons. I called her on the phone to explain. She was fine with it (because she's rational) and also came up with a great alternative that actually gets me excited. Now we do stairs. We do a lot of stairs. It's great.

The view from the top of the stairs.

Went with PokemonGo

I joined PokemonGo the day after it was released. I'm now a level 18 Pokemon trainer. I LOVE it. Love it. First of all, I get a prize for walking as much as I do. It takes 2, 5 or 10 kilometers to hatch an egg. I've hatched quite a few eggs. I recognize that may not make sense to you. Let me back up.

The premise of PokemonGo is (I assume) the same as the game. You trap the pocket sized monsters in tiny balls and only release then when you force them to fight. If you don't want them, you give them to the professor who gives you a candy made from named after the same pocket sized monster that you then use to evolve the monsters you want into stronger fighting machines. It's not noble and it's a testament to our communal naïveté that the concept wasn't perceived as cringeworthy then as it is now. Still, I am here for it.

Players have to venture out into the world in order to advance in the game. I've met people at Pokestops, where I get supplies, including the eggs that have to be hatched by walking. So, yes, some Pokemon are born in captivity. I've walked longer and different routes to gain kilometers and find different Pokemon. It's been a great experience. Don't worry. I pay attention to my surroundings and pull off to the side of the sidewalk to catch my monsters. I never played when it was a card game. So everything is new. It makes me happy, though I have heard people bashing it. I literally got off a bus earlier than I intended because a guy was ranting loudly against PokemonGo and segued into an All Lives Matter defense. I left a Jigglypuff behind and everything. It was too much before 9AM.


#SDCC

So perfect.
I went to San Diego Comic Con for the first time. It will get its own post. There are simply too many discussion points to add to this post - though let's take a moment to recognize how far we've traveled from the sentiment at the start.

SDCC was nothing short of magic. I spent four days in a very happy bubble. I checked in with reality a couple of times to see humans were still being awful to one another and I was happy for my respite.

I've been taking care of myself in other ways as well. I stopped cooking. I don't like it. If I had +1, perhaps. But I'm just me and I can be quite basic when it comes to food. Fine cuisine is not necessary.

I also listen to Hamilton at least once a day. Full disclosure, it's what's inspired me to "write like I'm running out of time," because "I am not throwing away my shot." I mean the cast flat out asks "who tells your story?" It's me!

It's been a rough year. Doctors have just given my grandma three months to live. So it's not about to get easier. Still, I feel prepared. I know what I need to do. I need to remember myself. And take care.

25 May 2016

Running scared

I'm running again. And I'm scared.

I'm scared of falling. I'm scared of failing. I'm scared it's going to be too much. I'm scared it won't be enough. I'm afraid of going it alone. I'm afraid of holding someone else back.

It's been years since I genuinely tried to run. It's been even longer since I considered it "fun." Unfortunately, it's the best way to achieve my goals. Also, it'll be nice to refresh my "Out-of-My-Comfort-Zone-But-Doable" list.

I learned to swim last year, which was terrifying. I mean I didn't really think my instructor would let me drown, but I always felt it was a possibility.

I also started cooking this year. [Read: using a very precise amount of ingredients to follow highly detailed, pictured instructions.] And it's gone well. I've been eating like I think adults should eat and it's been mostly pleasant.

I'm not deluded enough to think the same will be true for running.

I'm running not because I want to, or because I think I'm going to learn to love it. At best, I'm hoping to not hate it. I'm mostly running because I miss Muay Thai. I'm running because I want to survive three minutes against a bag and I'm not going to get there by just walking up and down these hills. Yes, I'm also running to push the anxiety back and to get back into my old clothes and to be able to have a metric for success. But mostly I want to kick a lot of kicks.

So I'm running again. And I'm scared. But I'm also determined.

09 February 2016

You guys. Beyoncé. Is. Woke.

I've never been a huge BeyoncĂ© fan. Initially because her voice didn't move me. Then because she was so "safe black." BeyoncĂ© was the kind of black that appealed to non-black people. She was a blond performer who, under the right filter, was ethnically ambiguous. She sang catchy songs and used her popularity to gain more popularity. In my mind, she was another Oprah - which was not a compliment. I felt they had both gained panhuman fame and used their success to stay safely loved by the mainstream, to essentially stay "safe black." They wouldn't do or say anything that would make white other people uncomfortable. To me, having the resources but choosing not to normalize the black experience was somewhat of a waste. I understand playing it safe to show "we're just like you," and I'm sure Oprah had plenty to overcome without my opinion on what should have been her cause. Still, imagine if Oprah had told her audience "it's never okay to touch our hair." 

Boom. 
Game changer.

Oprah is off building a different type of relevance now and I don't have cable so I don't follow. But that's not why I'm here. I'm here to eat crow, bow down and apologize to Queen Bey. I'm sorry I doubted you, BeyoncĂ©. I now recognize your genius. You Keyser Soze'd a beautiful long con that resulted in a Black Panther lady rally on America's largest stage. You are not "safe black," BeyoncĂ© You are "woke black." And I am solidly behind you.


This matters

If you've asked yourself why Beyoncé's Super Bowl 50 performance was so important, I'm genuinely happy for you. Your naivete tells me you didn't grow up aware of the microaggressions against black women. I did and I assure you it was demoralizing.

Think of the shows you watched growing up. How many of those shows featured no one who looked like you? My parents didn't allow us to watch shows that didn't have any black people as main characters, so I missed a lot of what friends consider old TV staples, including Full House, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Friends and Seinfeld. I would eventually sneak in some Dawson's Creek and Party of Five. And I thanked God we got two on ER. I consider myself fortunate that by the time Sex and The City became popular I had no interest in show scenarios that had no interest in me.

Representation matters. If you've always seen what could be a version of yourself, I don't think there is a way to get you to understand how a lack of representation feels. If you shared physical traits with the hero or the villain or the heartthrob or the head cheerleader or the sexy older teacher or the deli owner or the fireman then you cannot understand what it's like to simply not be there. All those multifaceted characters and my only placement was as the sassy friend. And let's be real; the sassy friend never gets a love interest. To always be perceived as ancillary in the mainstream and to never see someone like you come into her own is disheartening.

Then came 2016 Beyonce, aka Woke BeyoncĂ©. 
Full disclosure, I became a fan of 2014 BeyoncĂ©, aka Feminist BeyoncĂ©. She paved the way for my imminent descent into fangirldom over Woke BeyoncĂ©

The video

If you haven't watched the video, this is not going to make sense. (But there are think pieces for context.) She released a video for a new song on the Saturday before the Super Bowl. I didn't pay much attention. I assumed she'd be playing it at half time and that I'd hear it then. The video, more than the performance, made this a thing for me. It's beautiful and powerful. But I'm glad I missed it at first.

I watched the half time show and was so focused on the look and the choreography that I didn't catch the lyrics. Also, I felt it was unfair that Feminist BeyoncĂ© and her crew didn't get to wear pants while all the men did. Then I noticed the blackness of it all - and by that I mean the hair. There was natural hair everywhere. (Hair, if you didn't know, is a very charged topic for black women.) And while it bounced freely, there was much precision, you could call it "militant." I heard self-aggrandizing lyrics about slaying. But I saw unconceited unity. 

I later watched the video, and was compelled me to repent. 
BeyoncĂ© is woke. 
She has always been woke. 

BeyoncĂ© used "safe black" to infiltrate. She sang about dating and love and sex and insecurity and generally basic topics. She helped define and uphold ethnically ambiguous beauty standards. She's been an undeniably proper celebrity - a mostly wholesome mom who is pro-woman but not anti-man. She was even welcomed back to the Super Bowl after breaking it just three years ago. "Safe black" opened the door and Woke BeyoncĂ© walked through it. She used America's largest stage to pay tribute to Malcolm X and the Black Panthers (and Michael Jackson). During a moment when the message was supposed to be saccharine and inclusive, BeyoncĂ© made black women the center of something special. 

We don't ever get that. 

I'm aware lots of groups don't ever get that. I hope they do. Because the feeling - the feeling of being seen as a main character on the main stage - is legit remarkable.

BeyoncĂ©'s voice still doesn't give me goosebumps or pull emotion from my soul. But she will continue to get my support. She's given us the best thing since The Wiz, Live. We have lyrics celebrating afros and wide noses. We have a video asking cops not to shoot us. We have a partially politicized Super Bowl halftime show. And we have all the eyes that have been trained to fall on BeyoncĂ©. 

It's like xoxo.