They Don’t Care What Kind Of Phone I Have, They Just Want Me Dead

I have an iphone.

Like a lot of parents, my iphone is perpetually out of storage because it is filled to overflowing with pictures of my kid. Like a lot of parents, I check social media on my phone during long days with said child, when I get bored of the endless toddler games of “look I put a truck in the pretend kitchen” and “look I put a truck on the piano” and “would you believe it there is a truck on your arm!” Like a lot of parents, I text my spouse when she’s at work and I’m having a bad day, anything from “oh my god this is the fourth poop today” to “he is begging to go outside and it is so cold” to “this child is the only thing in the universe that makes this worth it.”

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It is an iphone 4, and it is used. It was a gift from a friend when my previous iphone 4 died. I couldn’t afford a brand new phone, but I needed a phone, and she was upgrading (I think to a 5 or a maybe a 6, which I believe she purchased used). My service provider charges me between twenty six and forty dollars a month, depending on how much I use the thing.

My life wouldn’t go without this phone. Its front button is broken, and so I have a lot of weird work-arounds to make it functional. My family does not have a landline. I live in a city with spotty public transportation, and when I’m out, I often need to have my phone with me for tracking the busses (the tracker does not always work, but I almost always need it and sometimes it does work) and to be able to contact someone or call a cab if the busses just never come. In addition to that, I’m a writer, and I often type up first drafts of certain projects on my phone when I can’t use my laptop (this happens more than you might think, when you factor in the toddler). I use my phone to read and respond to work related emails. My family relies on my income as a writer to pay our bills and survive. I also use the phone to contact loved ones, contact our landlord, and even help manage my insomnia.

And my entire family is on Medicaid, my wife and I only because of the Medicaid expansion that came with the affordable care act. And that insurance has literally saved my life. Twice.

I am working as hard as I can, as much as I can, to make money for my family. I have the cheapest possible phone that will meet my needs. I’m not trying to prove that I’m a model poor person here, people can have whatever phones they want. If a poor person has the newest iphone, I don’t think that means they don’t deserve to go to the doctor. And many many people have explained that the price of a new iphone is still much lower than the annual cost of healthcare, that’s not up for debate.

But I do want to mention that I know a whole lot of poor people, and while most of us have phones, and many of us have iphones, I don’t know a single poor person with the new iphone. And even for those of us doing the whole having-a-phone-thing (and you know, a connection to the outside world, a way to make doctor’s appointments, a way to call my mother) as cheaply as possible, it doesn’t magically mean we can afford the actual cost of healthcare, which also happens to be a cost that rich people are never expected to pay. Once upon a time, I believed in the myth of the good poor person. I believed that if I was just frugal and careful, I would never need help. The problem was people expecting luxuries, I thought. The probably was people not spending their money more wisely. The problem was people not working hard enough.

I am tired of working hard and being wise. I am tired of constantly worrying about money. I am tired of living with the knowledge that I am going to lose my insurance because of selfish rich men who don’t care whether I live or die. And I won’t accept the blame for that. I won’t pretend any longer that the problem is somehow me, that income disparity isn’t by design, that paying people less than they can live off of isn’t theft. I won’t do complex magical thinking to to convince myself that hey, if only we didn’t occasionally break down and order a damn pizza, maybe I could have afforded to pay for my own gallbladder surgery.

If you stand at a bus stop in January waiting for a bus that might not come — with people who cannot afford a car, or insurance, or gas to put in that car… people who also cannot afford to lose their job if the bus doesn’t show, but they’re going to anyway — you will see a lot of cell phones. Some of them are smart phones. Some of them look fancy. Some of them are like mine, half broken, but kind of work. Some of them are flip phones. Some of them are the free phones they sometimes hand out from booths on the sidewalk. All of those people holding those phones, they all deserve basic human dignity, they all deserve to go to the doctor when they need to.

It’s worth mentioning that the same people who insist that poor people could afford the cost of healthcare if they just lived without every single nice thing in the universe are the same people fighting to keep the minimum wage low, fighting to block unions, fighting to keep anything down that might make our lives better.

It isn’t about iphones. They just think we deserve to die. They think I deserve to die.

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Resistance and Reality

In just a few short days, the country which I call home will be swearing in a president who ran on a platform of open racism, xenophobia, and fascist ideas… and won by leveraging the fear, greed, racism, and sexism of citizens who lean conservative, with the aid of a a foreign power. It’s a terrifying time to be alive for many of us, but especially those of us who are already marginalized in many ways. I and my family are far from the most affected by the current political climate, but as a poor queer family we certainly are affected by it.

For one thing, it now is extremely obvious that any hope that the ACA would remain was folly, and my wife and I will surely be losing our insurance (look for my upcoming piece on Romper about that). To add insult to injury, our plans to use our insurance to get some long term needs taken care of while we still can has pretty much been foiled by constant illness. Ditto my plans to put a ton of my energy into protesting and other forms of resistance. This week, we need all the strength that we can, and we’re starting three steps behind.

No matter how you slice it, our lives are about to get a whole lot harder financially.

And considering how much power is being given to people with angry and fearful anti-LGBTQIA views, we don’t know what other ways our lives are about to get harder. But we’re extremely nervous, to say the least.

To that end, we are trying our best to complete our second parent adoption process as quickly as possible. It’s one thing we can do to legally protect ourselves as a family a tiny bit, and it’s something we wouldn’t have access to in the event that they managed to remove our marriage rights (which seems unlikely right now, but a lot of things that seemed very unlikely are happening, so we’re not making any assumptions). But of course, it’s expensive. And we’re a poor working class family trying to navigate a capitalist society. All of which is to say, there’s a fundraiser.

You can donate here. I hate to ask for the help, but we’re out of options, and our child needs this. Ultimately, his rights are a hell of a lot more important to me than my pride. And what is there to be gained from being too proud to ask for help anyways? Nothing. I want to believe in a world and a future where we help each other out, and support each other as a community. Crowdfunding is a deeply flawed way to get closer to that right now, but at the moment, it’s what we’ve got. If you’re a regular reader, please consider giving. Even the smallest amount matters. Here’s that link again.

I also have a Patreon now, if you’d rather contribute in a more general way. I’m still figuring out all the nuts and bolts, and working on how to handle the tiers and rewards, but one big thing I’d like to do with the Patreon is support this blog right here. So if you like what you’re reading here, and you want it to keep coming, consider supporting me on Patreon if you can. Expect updates in that regard very soon!

I am writing this on Martin Luther King Jr Day. I want to believe that thing about the arc of history bending towards justice. I want to believe that the people who are pushing so hard against justice are making their last stand, that this is our one step back before two more steps forward.  I want to believe in hope and beauty and resistance and resilience. But I’m also really really scared. And I need to be honest about that.

I’m not well enough to be at a march today, and I’m too behind on bills to take any time off work. But I’m going to resist oppression and fascism however I can. We’re all going to resist however we can. Right? Right.

So This Is The New Year…

When I was fourteen years old, I wanted, for the first time, to make a very big deal out of New Year’s Eve. It was 1999, and for months people had wondered if the world would end, if the computers would panic, if leaping over that imaginary line between 1999 and 2000 would somehow change everything. It seemed like it had to, it was a new millennium, not just a new year. I wasn’t expecting the apocalypse, but I certainly wanted it to be, well, something. I had done the math as a child, and had for years looked forward to this most exciting New Year’s Eve, because when 2000 came around, I would be a teenager and everything would be fun and fabulous. At ten, I had sat in my bedroom and pictured what it would be like when, in four years, my cool teenage self headed off to a totally wild New Year’s Eve party. I didn’t realize that what I was picturing in my head was essentially a Barbie commercial.

What really happened of course is that my best friend came over to spend the night, and I insisted that we watch the countdown on MTV instead of ABC (we’re teenagers now!). It was, to put it mildly, really boring. A few hours before the clock struck midnight, we all collectively remembered that time zones are a thing that exists. And as the the calendar switched over in other places and nothing imploded, we slowly marched towards anticlimax. At midnight, I tried very hard to get excited. By 12:30 I was a grumpy fourteen year old, who was angry that nothing was going according to plan. Nothing was different, so we went to bed.

***

I’ve been avoiding writing about the current political climate on this blog. It isn’t that I don’t think it’s important, I think it’s very important. It’s just that I didn’t want this space to become yet another place where that man’s name appears a thousand times. I didn’t want to get swept away in the news cycle. Can you believe he said this? Can you believe he did that?

But the reality is, of course, that on November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election. And the personal is political, and the political is personal, and this spells very bad news for American Democracy in general, and my little family in specific. The reality is that we are totally fucking screwed. And since the election, I have lived with a shadow of fear constantly hanging over me. And also since the election, I’ve been more or less constantly sick. I don’t believe that these things are coincidental.

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In December, as the celebrity death toll rose and rose, as things felt more and more hopeless, as it became clear that the Democratic Party would not attempt to save us, and the electoral college wouldn’t save us, and no one would save us…. folks began to personify 2016. In an attempt to cling to some tiny thread of hope for the future, every bad thing that happened was 2016’s fault.

“2016 strikes again!”

Meanwhile, many of us lived with an increasing sense of fear and foreboding. Could the new year possibly bring us anything better? It seemed likely to bring problems that were even worse.

***

After the year 2000 was such a bust, I lost interest in the concept of the new year all together, really. It never seemed like as big of a change as anyone wanted it to be, we all woke up on January first the same people with the same problems we had had on December thirty-first. I was done with my formal schooling by the age of 20, but I lived in college towns, and with my birthday taking place in August, the bigger “new year” change seemed to happen in late summer and early fall.

But then I fell in love with the person who would become my wifespouse. She was born at midnight, the first baby of her birth year. I love birthdays, my own and everyone else’s, so I started celebrating with her, and it started to really matter to me.

Going to a party is hard when you have a one year old, but we get out so rarely, I planned ahead to make sure it would work. We picked an event that seemed to be brimming with hope, and fun, and excitement. I was excited to celebrate the love of my life, and try to pick up a little bit of her relentless optimism in the face of oppression and fear.

Then the entire family got sick.

***

At 8pm on December 31st, instead of getting ready to go out dancing, we were coming home from the children’s ER, with an exhausted toddler who had his very first ear infection. He was so congested that he couldn’t breastfeed, which meant that he was pissed off and my boobs hurt. Nowhere was opened to fill his prescription, and eventually we tried to put him to bed. At midnight, instead of kissing on the dance floor, I was half asleep on our couch (where I could prop up my own congested head) while my incredible partner tried to soothe a screaming baby who just got angrier when I tried to comfort him.

For the first time I can remember, the new year feels new. Everything feels different, and it isn’t an exciting hope filled kind of different. It’s more like falling into cold water. Ten days later, I’m still reeling from it. We are still trying to figure out when we’re going to get to really celebrate my wife’s birthday. The baby can breath through his nose now, but we’re all still so stuffed up, and he’s still terrified to nurse. It may be that he never will again.

And in the midst of all of our illnesses (three cases of the flu, two ear infections, and a sinus infection!) we learn that despite what so many said to comfort us, we are almost certainly going to be losing our insurance very soon. When the Affordable Care Act is repealed, my wife and I will be left without coverage, without any kind of security in terms of health.

As a gay mother who gets sick several times a year, suffers from PTSD, and needs dental work, it’s not a particularly hopeful time. As a defensive pessimist, it’s difficult to find any silver lining in this at all. As a nursing parent, it’s traumatic to deal with sudden physical and hormonal changes on top of everything else. And as a freelancer, my bank account has taken a huge hit from my being this ill. So this is the new year, and what the fuck are we going to do?

Sorry this isn’t more uplifting.

I have a Patreon now, if you want to support my writing here, and elsewhere!

Hello Cis People, Let’s Talk Bathrooms

I don’t normally blog about trans issues. Why don’t I blog about trans issues? Well, I’m a cislady. I’m like, really really cis. So I figure it’s not my place, not my job, to run my mouth about trans issues. Instead, I do my best to elevate trans voices when I can, and I stick to writing about what I actually have expertise in.

CONTENT NOTE: homophobia, transphobia, and brief mention of rape. Plus lots of swears.

Apparently that’s like, ranting about kids and gender and one children’s album. I’m comfortable with that.

But, we have to talk about all of the bathroom shit (pun intended!) that’s going on. Yesterday, on twitter, I learned of an Oxford, Alabama law even more heinous than the North Carolina law we’re* all pissed (again with the potty puns!) about. Essentially, this law is in direct response to Target choosing to allow trans folks to pee where they’re comfortable. It makes following Target’s policy, or just your own judgement when you have to pee in any store or other public place, a crime for trans people.

Let’s all pause to look at a picture of a cat.

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I think we all deserved that break!

 

Ok, now I am speaking specifically to cis people. Everyone else, you’re free to stay, or free to spend the time you were going to spend reading this looking at even more cat pictures. It’s a big internet out there, enjoy yourself. Cis friends, family, and others, listen up.

This law is literally evil.

This law puts our trans brothers and sisters, and non-binary siblings, in a truly impossible situation. You probably already know this! But for real, we are talking, in many cases, about having to choose between risking assault and risking arrest, just to pee. That is utterly and completely terrifying and you and I cannot imagine what making that decision must be like. These laws are dangerous for all trans people, yes, but they are most dangerous for trans women and for trans people who do not “pass” as men or women. And bear in mind, when you think about this, that the murder of trans women has already been on the rise in this country.

Look, when the fight for “marriage equality**” was going on, some trans folks were upset about it. Lots and lots of cis people, gay and queer folks who wanted their marriage certificates (hey I get it!) but also straight allies, felt like trans people were just complaining. They were just muddying the waters, they were deflecting attention from the struggle. Look, we collectively said, we have to fight the good fight in some kind of order! Marriage just happens to be the thing we are fighting for right now! We will totally do your rights next!

But that hasn’t happened.

The broader LGBTQIA has not, as far as I can tell, regrouped to fight our asses off for trans rights and safety after winning our marriages. Instead, what we did was, we celebrated, and then we went to brunch or something.

That fucking sucks. That’s not ok. We have to do better.

I’m not articulating myself very well because I’m extremely emotional about this.

These bathroom laws, they aren’t really about bathrooms. There is a segment of the population in this country that is extremely uncomfortable with anyone who doesn’t do gender roles the way they think gender roles should be done. We often call these people homophobes, but that’s really a shorthand, because there’s a lot else going on there than just fear of gay-ness. These are folks who are deeply invested in the power structure of the patriarchy, and they don’t want to see it upset. These people fought tooth and nail over the marriage stuff, because as misogynists, they couldn’t see how a marriage between, for example, two dudes, could be anything but unnatural. Yes, they were overly fixated on their own fear of butt-sex. But also, to them a marriage has two distinct roles, roles that are defined by gender, gender that is defined by sex.

They lost the marriage fight, and they’re not over it.

And they’re taking it out on the people who are easiest to scapegoat.

Not only are they doing that, but they’re using the fear of rape to accomplish it. Because the claim behind all of these bills is the same: Some trans women have penises. Some penises commit rape. Your wives and daughters are vulnerable while they’re in public restrooms. Some trans women might just be dudes who are lying about being trans to get access to the bathrooms where your wives and daughter pee so they can rape them.

That’s scary. It scares people.

It scares people who weren’t necessarily afraid of trans people peeing before. It’s designed to do that. It’s created by people in power to stir up their base and terrify them. It is talking to those people on the ground who are vaguely afraid of gender roles not being followed “properly” and saying, “yeah, not only are they ruining marriage, but they might rape your daughter.”

And it’s a fucking lie.

Of course, the point isn’t just to keep trans women out of women’s restrooms. The point is to stall the movement. The point is to hit back, hard, after they lost the marriage thing. The point is to create a culture where trans people are not safe, and especially a culture where non-binary and non-passing trans people are not safe. The message is clear. Fit in, look normal, do the gender binary and do it well, or stay home. They’re trying to turn back the clock and put people back in closets. Of course, they can’t turn back the clock on the marriage thing, so they’re doing it to the most vulnerable among us. That would be: transgender women, non-binary and non-passing trans folks, and intersex people. They are not stupid, they know how power hierarchies work, and they know we won’t fight as hard for those people as we did for middle class white gay men.

We have to prove them wrong.

If we don’t fight for the safety of our trans siblings, then we are nothing but hypocrites and cowards. If you were in any way a part of the struggle for marriage equality, you don’t get to sit this one out. We have to make this our fight and we have to do it now, before it gets any worse. And it is going to get worse.

I know, we are all tired. I know, our oppression is not limited to one area, but occurs on intersecting axis. For those of us who are queer, and don’t have the incredible fortune  to have every other privilege on the planet, we have to spend a lot of time and energy fighting oppression, sometimes just to stay afloat. For me, I’ve got queer/femme/woman/parent/poor/fat to deal with. And in reality, I’m getting off easy, because I’m white.

But we have to take up this struggle. Don’t wait until it becomes “your issue.” What if you sit this one out, because you’re tired, and then three years from now your child comes out as trans? What if your lover does? Hell, what if your mom comes out as trans? You literally never know. We need to try to make the world safer for trans people now, not when it personally effects us.

Especially especially especially because, regardless of what we said, the fight for marriage equality has in many cases made trans folks lives harder, not easier.

***

Ok, that’s great. But what can we do? I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I’m going to share some ideas, but I’m sure I’m missing things (feel free to add to the list in the comments). I think it boils down to leveraging whatever privileges and abilities we do have to help in whatever ways we can, however small.

1.Talk About It With Other Cis People!

Cisgender people are often unaware of trans lives and the threats that trans people face (that is how privilege works). One thing we, as cis people, can do, is be super super clear about our stance on trans issues. If you have relatives who are grudgingly ok with the gays, but skeaved out by trans folks, tell them that’s not ok.
This means more than just sharing memes talking about how stupid bathroom bills are on Facebook. It means having the conversation. It means asking questions. It means piping up when someone in your life says something transphobic. It means doing the emotional labor that our trans brethren are exhausted from doing all the damn time.
“Oh, I can see why you are uncomfortable in public restrooms, lots of people are! But trans people have been using the restroom for a long time without incident, and statistically they are actually more likely to be assaulted than cisgender people. I think your fears are misplaced in this case.”
Your privilege as a cis person gives you the ability to have these conversations safely, even if they’re uncomfortable, and that isn’t always the case for trans people.

2. Always Always Always Use People’s Correct Pronouns When Discussing Them

While you are having those conversations with other cis folk, you may (or may not) want to be somewhat gentle with them. If they’ve never met a trans person (that they know of) they may need a serious case of trans 101 even if they aren’t malicious, and that has to be ok! But you should never compromise on a trans person’s pronouns.
If someone refers to a trans woman as “he” or “it” correct them. Do it every time. You can do it without being a jerk, but still be firm. If they say they have a hard time using correct pronouns (I hear this one all the freaking time!) then say something like “yeah it just takes time and effort.” Putting in the time and effort is part of being a decent human. Using incorrect pronouns purposefully is a form of violence against trans people. Under no circumstances should we condone it, and we definitely shouldn’t engage in it ourselves to make cis people more comfortable. I guarantee you it won’t get your transphobic loved one any closer to accepting trans folk, in fact the opposite is true.

3. Give Money If You Got It

Here is where you can donate to Trans Lifeline. They’ve seen an increase in calls due to the anxiety and fear caused by terrible bills and laws like these (which is, sadly, part of the point of them). If anyone knows where else to give money PLEASE PLEASE share it in the comments and I’ll add it to the post.
And let me just add that if you felt it was important to donate to the cause of marriage equality, and you aren’t sure if you’re going to donate to anyone about this, maybe you should seriously rethink that? (Unless of course, you’re facing severe economic hardship that you weren’t facing back then.)

4. Call/Email Elected Officials

If elected officials are considering anti-trans legislation, contact them. Elected officials want to be elected again in most cases, which means that while they’re more than happy to do lots of shady things for money, they do actually care what voters think of them. If you can, tell them.

(If anyone has numbers/email addresses we can add to this, let me know and I’ll add them!)

5. Uplift And Boost Trans Voices On The Issue

Yes, we need cis people to be talking about this, but that is not all we need. We also need to hear directly from those affected by it. Cis people who do not see trans folks as fully human won’t do so if they never hear from trans folks themselves. As long as trans people are a hypothetical idea to them, they’re free to demonize them. And besides that, trans people deserve to have a voice in their own issues, just as anyone does.

(I need to take my own advice on this one, will add links here later, feel free to share in comments.)

6. Be A Bathroom Escort

I just learned about this on twitter! If you are a cis woman, you can offer to be a bathroom escort for trans women who feel unsafe. This is probably most applicable in places with these heinous laws, but even in places without, this conversation is contributing to more vocal transphobia and I wouldn’t be surprised if trans women all over were feeling pretty unsafe right now.

If you are in Detroit, and I’m where you are, I will pee with you.

7. Do Not Try To Make This About Cis People

I am seeing a lot of cis people responding to these heinous laws with things like “not only trans people but also cis people who don’t look butch/femme enough could be affected!”

Stop. It.

These laws are bad all around, yes, but they are specifically aimed and keeping trans people unsafe in public spaces and that is what we need to talk about. Yes, they may have side effects that hurt others, but those people will have recourse, and also benefit from an overwhelming amount of privilege that trans people simply do not have access to. When you move the focus off trans people affected, and make it about cis people, regardless of what your intent is, it sounds like you are saying that the problem with these laws is not that they put the most marginalized of us in danger, but that they might also negatively affect a privileged person.

Stop it. You know better than that. Trans lives and experiences matter, and they should be the first thing that matters when they are being attacked. And y’all, this shit constitutes an attack.

***

That’s all I got right now, but I’m %100 sure I missed things so please let me know where my blind spots are. Let’s be kind to each other. Here’s another cat picture, a couple notes below that.

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Notes:
*if you’re not pissed off about HB2, I’m honestly not sure why you’re here? I’m assuming that if you are reading, you’re a decent person.
** I put “marriage equality” in scare quotes on purpose, because the marriage equality movement did not create actual equality in marriage. What it did, was to expand marriage rights from a narrowly defined exclusive group to a sight more broadly defined (but still exclusive!) group. We need to not forget that.
*** This should go without saying, but I will not tolerate any anti-trans sentiments in the comments. That includes “devil’s advocates” and people just bringing shit up “for the sake of argument.”
**** If I fucked something up, trans folk are MORE THAN WELCOME to let me know in the comments. I’m trying hard, but I am an imperfect ally. Happy to make changes and issue an apology if I made a misstep.
***** These laws are aimed at trans people, and that’s primarily what I’m discussing here, but it should be remembered that they are probably JUST AS DANGEROUS for intersex people in most cases.