Monday, April 13, 2015

Updates (For Those Who Are Otherwise Confused/Freaked Out).

Howdy, readers. So it's been almost exactly one month since my big gender reveal. I thought it could be cool/important to check in with all of you, or at least issue another statement for anyone who really gives a shit about what's been going on with me. The last thirty or so days have been a damn whirlwind; I've learned a lot about myself, and about gender, through personal experience and the magical realm of the Internet. Here's what I've got to show for it:

When I decided to change my name to Max, and come out publicly as transgender, I had basically no idea what was going on-- it's hard for me, at this point, to even clearly remember the path of how I got to where I am now. You may notice that I've cut off my luxurious curly hair, or that I've started dressing more masculine, or that most people are now using 'he' pronouns when referring to me. These are all choices I feel ambivalent about, and I refuse to pretend that I am more certain about this entire process than I am. One of the most alarming observations I've made about the general transgender community is the enormous pressure we put on ourselves (as well as receive from others) to be sure about a particular label for our gender identity. I've just finished my senior project, a 45 page account of my childhood experiences from a specifically queer lens; I came out of that process realizing I didn't like the idea of myself as just a woman, that so much of my pain and suffering as a kid came from trying to live up to the expectations of womanhood. I'm equal parts embarrassed and excited to stand up in front of a room of my smartest peers with all my hair cut off and a new name, probably looking like the epitome of 'existential crisis' in response to a critical examination of my past. Anyone who makes that observation when I speak at SUURA, you are not wrong.

I'm a little embarrassed, too, of my very public declaration of a transgender identity-- not that I don't feel it applies, in the 'umbrella' sense of the term, but that I claimed the identity when I had such a surface level understanding of what being transgender means. By no means do I now have a 'deep understanding' of what it means to be transgender, because I can only try to understand what being transgender means FOR ME. I have absolutely no insight into anyone's gender identity except my own, and the insight I have into my own is patchy and wobbly at best. I now feel the need to add to some of the ideas I put out there before, in attempt to clarify where I'm at with all of this. I sense that this post will be similarly well read as my last one, due to the influx of really dumb questions and comments I started receiving as soon as I changed my name.

Where do I start?

First, I'd like to direct anyone who has the time and drive to learn more about the complexities of gender to brilliant trans-feminist blogger Natalie Reed. She has been the most influential writer in helping me negotiate what I want from the great big world of gender. Check out "How do I know I'm trans?" or "The Null HypotheCis" first, then go from there.

Reed expertly points out in the former essay that, when it comes to being transgender, you don't know; instead, you decide to assert a gender, based on your feelings and desires. I claimed the label 'lesbian' because I have consistently been attracted to women, without ever really feeling attracted to men. I fit the bill pretty neatly. However, when it comes to gender, my experience has been wholly ambiguous; I have navigated it for most of my life with no resources about innovative ways to think about gender, and have managed to express my gender within the confines of the "you are a girl" mentality. I tend to feel more comfortable/motherfucking suave in men's clothing, but I also think I look pretty in dresses (though I am inclined toward them significantly less often). I definitely loved having long hair, though I always saw it as androgynous and even masculine at times. Now, I have short hair, which I also like, though I am not a fan of putting effort into my appearance and now need to take several minutes before I go outside to make sure I don't look like something that fell out of a cat's mouth.

I decided to come out as transgender because I knew 'cisgender woman' was not the term. But all of this focus on what gender identity I should use has completely distracted me from why I wanted to come out as transgender in the first place: to become more in touch with my body. For whatever reason, I have always had a weird relationship to my body. I feel physically awkward almost all the time, for no apparent reason. I have severe social anxiety and a general aversion to going outside. I feel intense anger when I look at my face in pictures. It occurred to me that some of these issues may have roots in a complicated relationship to my gender; I had to admit to myself I had not really thought about my own gender and, most importantly, had not tried any new approaches to my gender to see if a change in that realm could help. My weird relationship to my body is deeply rooted, so it could make sense, if that weirdness were related to feeling pressure to live as a girl.

I chose the term transgender because I somehow see myself as an adult male... but confusingly, I also like the idea of my feminine body up against another feminine body in bed. I want to be the boyfriend, the husband, the dad, but I still catch myself wondering if I'll like if my next partner only calls me 'handsome' instead of 'pretty.' I really miss my long hair, but I love the thought that my short hair communicates masculinity to others, in a way I couldn't before (the reaction to my hair so far has been overwhelmingly positive, which I'm not really sure what to make of, other than to be really, really stoked). Part of me misses wearing girls clothes, but since I started going by Max I can't even stand to try on a bra or a thong, which I used to wear regularly; even before I cut my hair, I started binding everyday and wearing boxers. Now that I've cut my hair, I have the constant and overwhelming urge to appear much more masculine, particularly in my face (could this be the root of the self-loathing picture problem? Stay tuned!), as well as the chest region... but it never bothered me that I didn't look masculine before-- did I always care about this and just refused to engage with the idea I could seek more agency in relation to my body, or am I responding weirdly to the pressure to pick one side of the binary and stay there? It's exhausting sometimes, answering people's questions and buying XL boy's clothing and putting a bunch of shit in my hair so that I don't look like a fuzzball, but I do feel fucking cool walking around the city and fully asserting that I am a dude, that I am a transgender dude if that's what I say I am. The idea of living as a trans guy makes me feel happy as often as it makes me feel tired and scared. Is that what I want? Would I be just as happy growing my hair back out, and living as Max, an androgynous or genderqueer person who will most often be read as 'girl'? How much does this matter to me? Is the fact that both options seem valid in their own ways exclude me from qualifying as transgender? If it does, what kind of label am I supposed to claim as my own?

Q: So are you a trans guy? Are you genderqueer? Are you a dude? A girl?
A: I'm Max.

For now, I want and need the freedom to experiment with my gender. In attempt to return the focus to how I relate to my body, and how I relate to all of you, please do call me Max. Just Max is good.

I wrote the previous blog post because I knew I wanted to change my name, and I wanted to tell my story so others wouldn't do it for me. I wanted the people in my life to understand why this name change was important. I hope you'll continue to be patient with my process and not freak out in response to realizing that gender is not innate, but self-determining. My gender is not fixed, and my process of determining may not be linear. So, uh. Hold onto your hats, I guess.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Hooooo, reader. I am scared to write this post. I've been trying to decide how to start this post for weeks.

~*~fifteen minute interlude ensues where I type and delete 45 different openings to this blog post~*~

Okay, I'm just gonna launch into this. Are you ready? I'm not ready. Are you ready? Okay. Okay. Let's go with this. Let's go with:

I have been called "Emma" so many times.

12 years of grade school and four years of college, at the beginning of each class, "is Emma Delsohn here?" I'd raise my hand, nodding awkwardly, refusing to say anything out loud. That's my name, Emma. Emma Caitlin Delsohn, reporting for duty. Emma Caitlin Delsohn, girly as fuck.

Each friend I've made has met me as 'Emma.' Each time I've been grounded, it's been 'Emma Caitlin Delsohn, you are GROUNDED, go to your room." Any time I've been addressed with serious anger, serious affection, serious confusion, serious love, it's been 'Emma.' The greatest emotions I have experienced, and the greatest emotions I have inspired in other people, have all been attached somehow to 'Emma,' this name that I've held for 21 years.

As you can imagine, I'm pretty nervous about changing it.

It has been frustrating, to feel that such a beautiful name, the wonderful gift of 'Emma' my parents chose for me, has served to enforce an idea of myself I do not agree with and find inherently limiting. This is no fault of mine or my family; I have girl parts, and I was raised with the expectation I would identify with them. Such is the case of most humans on this earth, AKA cisgender people. What I've only recently been able to fully accept is that I am actually transgender.

DISCLAIMER: Though I am describing my subjective experience as a transgender individual, there are an infinite amount of ways to interpret and express one's gender identity. Please do not assume that the way I have chosen to perceive and react to my gender has anything to do with the lives of any other transgender individuals. Please and thank you otherwise I'll gag you with my binders to make you stop talking trash.

The way I'll explain it now, is like, okay: When I walk outside in the morning, preparing to start my day, turning the key in the lock of my front door and walking up the basement steps, with my hands in the pockets of my oversized leather jacket and my brow furrowed in anticipation of potential dangers/people I'm expected to say hi to, I see myself as male. Not that I imagine I look physically different than I do, necessarily-- I understand my essence as male. Nevermind that I don't put much stock in essentialism, that I don't think I can be put in a box of purely male or female, but I have always felt that I have a particularly masculine energy. I'm not really sure how else to explain it. Though I do have feminine qualities, and occasionally enjoy exercising said qualities, my feminine side feels more like an act, a deliberate construct I've worked hard to build on my own; I'm aware I look mad good when I put on a dress, but I can't help but feel that when I wear overtly feminine clothing, that I'm kinda naked, or somehow dressing in drag. This is also how I've started to feel when people call me 'Emma.'

When I allow myself to fully tap into the idea of myself as a predominantly masculine person, I feel stronger and more confident. I know many women who derive power and confidence from their femininity; in most cases, these are the women I've at one point begged to marry me, even though I'm yet to convey any signs of breaching adulthood. I have tried for so long to find a source of greatness within the small part of myself I deem as feminine, and while I love and continue to build my feminine side, it is not something I truly identify with.

When I think of myself as a man, a good man, I am the person I want to be: kind, gentle, patient, honorable, strong, someone who speaks their mind and stands up for what is right. If I am ever lucky enough to find a life partner, I want to call myself a husband; if I am ever doubly lucky enough to have children, I want to call myself a dad. I want the suits and the baseball gloves and the cries of 'grandpa!' in the morning. I don't know if all these wants and ideas mean I'm really a dude in some essential way, or if I'm some sort of girl-guy mashup, but regardless, I wanted to change something to reflect this broader realization. I want an element of my public image to reinforce that even with the adorable girl body I was born with, I can be a fucking awesome dad; I wanted to make a concrete change that would remind me, each time I am addressed, that I can be anyone, that I can go anywhere.

With that being said: Hi. My name is Max. I've already met you, but I'd like you to meet me again.

Q1: So you're a dude now? You were always a dude? Am I dude? What ARE dudes? WHAT?!?!?!
A1: The best way I can explain this is that I feel I have always been a predominantly masculine person, in a decidedly feminine body. I do not feel I am purely masculine; I think most people have both masculine and feminine qualities, but since I was very young I have had the sense that I am more guy than girl at heart, which I attribute a good deal of my initial discomfort/awkwardness surrounding being alive to. I am now simply changing my name to reflect a seemingly permanent part of my identity.

Q2. When I talk shit about you behind your back, which pronouns should I use?
A2. Please feel free to talk about me behind my back using any pronouns you like. At this stage in the game, I am only confident about changing my name to Max, a name that is predominantly masculine but also can be used for a girl. This way, regardless of how I present, I can feel that my name is properly reflective of who I am, rather than in conflict with it more than half the time. I think most people are using she/her pronouns for me, but other people have told me they have switched to they/them or he/him. Whatever you feel most comfortable with is fine. If I decide pronouns start really mattering to me, I'll post another sort of PSA that everyone will no doubt be itching to read.

Q3. Does this mean you're gonna take pills/shots now to become a dude now?
A3. You're referring to FTM testosterone therapy, which is used by some transgender people to change their body to more accurately reflect their gender identity, not "become a dude," as you so crudely put it, dickhead. While testosterone therapy is still certainly on the table for me, I do not feel I need to start that process at this time; I would only start hormones after more extensive research, thought, and counseling on the subject. I am trying to exercise as much creativity as possible in thinking about how I am most comfortable presenting and interacting with other people as well as myself; at this time, my gender identity feels too fluid/ambiguous to commit to a process as irreversible as hormone therapy. Though many transgender people start hormone therapy at a young age, I recognize that I am not in their same position and want to honor my own version of figuring things out, however long that takes.
A3b. I know, I know how hot I would look.

Q4. Why did you choose the name Max?
A4. I have always loved the name Max. I don't know why. Though I've been toying with the idea that I am transgender since age 17, I have found the name change thing to be a huge road block, because I always assumed I'd have to change my name to Edward, Eddie, or Ed (disregard that this logic makes literally no sense). Once I thought of the name Max, everything clicked. I'm stoked that Max uses the last two letters of 'Emma,' so I can continue to pay tribute to the beautiful name my parents chose for me, and that people can still use the nickname 'M.'
A4b. The kid in A Goofy Movie, the gay Jew uncle in The Sound of Music, the nickname for Woody Allen in Annie Hall, and the protagonist in James Patterson's Maximum Ride series: all fucking awesome characters named Max.

Q5. Who are you out to, Max? Should I call you Max in public/to my friends/at work?
A5. Well, okay. In most cases, I am out to everyone, so please feel free to call me Max to anyone you like. The only thing I'm still trying to work out is how I want to handle things at my place of work (shout-out to WC how's it going everyone?!?!?!). If you are reading this and you are a co-worker of mine, for now don't worry about calling me Max at work, as I haven't officially come out there and am not sure if I will. This isn't because I'm worried about acceptance at all; I'm working hardly any hours next quarter, which is my last quarter, and I honestly just feel a little guilty making everyone learn my new name just so I can graduate in two months. I'll figure out what I want to do within the next two weeks and then folks will know what's up.
A5b. If it takes you a long time to make the change in your mind from 'Emma' to 'Max,' don't beat yourself up about it. It's a big change, for me, too, and I'm prepared to be fully patient with this process. I am in this process with you. This process is a jacuzzi and no one is getting out until summertime, when it's too hot to be in the jacuzzi and everyone's brains have finally adjusted to calling me Max.
A5c. Sorry I can't make good jokes right now I'm too nervous.

Q6. Okay, "Max," so I've got the name down and I promise to start calling you it as soon as I convince my brain not to remember you as "Emma" anymore. I'll use any pronouns I feel like when throwing shade, but tell me this-- Why are you posting this long-winded blog post about changing your name?
A6. I am changing my name not to further isolate myself from the mainstream, not to gain attention or declare myself special, but because I want to connect better with the people around me. I want to greet people with less fear, less shame, and more honesty, more clarity. Each time I hear the name Max, it reminds me why I've made this huge decision: I want to continue constructing a self that defends their true nature, that lives and speaks unapologetically, that is unafraid of what will happen when pure intuition and good intention take over. I don't want anyone in my life to feel excluded from this part of me; I want to bring you all in. I want to answer your questions, I want to listen to your concerns, because I want to trust you to see and care about me, as I hope you'll trust me to see and care about you. More than anything, I want you to see more of who I am, random reader at any given corner of the Earth/west coast. I don't want to keep this from you anymore.

So, that's what's been up with me. I'm changing my name to Max as the first step in a long journey of further understanding my identity; from here, I could go in any direction, and I can't tell you how great that feels. I hope that you'll all help me attach the weight of anger, affection, love, confusion, bitterness, S3X!N3$$, regret, horror, surprise, esteem, and whatever other emotions you've got, to my brand new shiny name.

Please do call me Max. I'm so glad we could be introduced.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mercury Isn't in Retrograde.

Recently, a friend of mine told me that Mercury was in retrograde. For those who don't know, including myself, Mercury being in retrograde means that it's spinning backwards or something. There is something backwards going on with Mercury. I refuse to look up anything else about what it actually means for Mercury to be in retrograde, because I had it in my mind that Mercury stopped being in retrograde on February 18th of this year. What I just learned, from looking at the beginning of a Mercury/retrograde article, is that Mercury stopped being in retrograde on February 11th.

Yom Kippur happened a while ago. I was going through a hard time then, too. I decided it was time to get in touch with my tenuous Jewish roots, and would fast all day, to try to make some sort of meaningful contact with myself or with God or whatever. I also had conveniently run out of food, and couldn't really afford to go to the grocery store, so in my mind, everything was working out. That day, I missed class; I walked around campus until I started to feel weak. At one point, I found a little blue Jewish tent outside of our school's chapel. I forget what these are called (see: tenuous Jewish roots), but it is not a huppah, probably. I stood inside the little Jewish tent and felt vaguely comforted by what I figured was religion. Then I walked home and laid in my bed watching Orphan Black until my anxiety overcame me. At around 4, I allowed myself to eat a piece of bread.

After eating this piece of bread, I decided to read a little bit more about Yom Kippur, to see if I could get even further in touch with the Jewish spirits. Upon Googling 'Yom Kippur,' I realized that Yom Kippur had happened two days ago, making mine an ordinary fast, rather than a specifically Jewish holiday sanctioned fast.

My friend Katy succinctly described the meaning of Mercury being in retrograde as "you can't talk to anyone." Apparently, it's a time of phones being disconnected and intentions being misconstrued; you say you've started to date someone Icelandic, I hear you've been carting crates of banana hammocks. I have been telling myself, during the last week especially, that once February 18th comes, maybe I'll feel a little less out of touch with the universe. I've never been one to put much stock in the rotation of planets, or in any singular belief system, but I've thought about Mercury being in retrograde a lot these past few weeks. Somehow, keeping that information to myself felt worse.

Now that I think about it, February 11th through February 17th have been some of the hardest days I've had in a while, and much of the conflicts have been based on miscommunications. Someone broke a personal boundary that I didn't make clear existed; another person I had hoped would want to talk to me today power-walked in the other direction. SOME FUCKING RANDOM NUMBER WITH A 201 AREA CODE WILL NOT STOP CALLING MY PHONE. ANONYMOUS CALLER. WHO ARE YOU AND WHY DO YOU NEED ME. I HAVE NO ANSWERS FOR YOU, ONLY TEARS.

That planet must be retrograding so hard right now, I kept thinking to myself. If only I can make it to February 18th.

In less than an hour, Mercury will continue to be in not-retrograde. Attempts at true communication will continue to prove futile. I will still not feel confident explaining what the word 'retrograde' actually means. As a consolation prize, all following songs have the word 'retrograde' in them. Hopefully Ash Wednesday will cleanse us of our sins.

Monday, February 16, 2015

No Sunglasses.

Today, after I went pee and washed my hands, I decided to look in the mirror. Normally I glance at the mirror, or intuit the presence of the mirror, but I do not directly look at the mirror. I try not to look in the mirror any more than necessary, because when I think too hard about my physical body I start to get freaked out. This may be gender dysphoria, but it also may be plain old genderless fear of mortality. The possibilities for the origins of my physical discomfort tend to be endless. But, I digress: For whatever the reason, today I allowed myself about 20 seconds of concentrated mirror eye contact. What I noticed, while giving myself this eye contact, is I have very nice looking eyes.

My eyes are brown, but they have an orange quality to them, which makes them look unexpectedly bright, I think. When I look closely at my eyes they remind me of autumn. My eyes may have looked particularly bright today because of the fluorescent lights in the bathroom, but, hopefully, they are this bright all the time. My first thought, in response to realizing that I have nice looking eyes, is that I do not think my eyes are particularly special, yet they are attractive in their own right. My next thought was that this means each pair of eyes has an intrinsic, specific beauty-- there is always a reason to fall in love with a pair of eyes, if you are in the position to look for it.

Since I began developing feelings for other people, I have felt uncomfortable with the idea of loving one person at a time. I do not think that because I can experience attraction towards more than one person at once that this means my romantic feelings are less powerful or special. Each love of mine draws its power from its inherent individuality-- that means that each love's power can't encroach on any other love's power. Commitment to monogamy is one thing, because that's related to the physical practice of love, something visible you can measure; I think monogamy makes sense for most people because bodies and hours are finite resources, so folks generally decide they will just pick one person to practice love with, even if they have lots of other potential loves. The pain of heartbreak, then, must come from a decision to stop choosing that person, rather than to stop loving them.

I have been trying to figure out if I have ever fallen out of love with anyone. In each case, I'm not sure I fell out of love, whatever that would be-- I'm not sure love is something that gets created or destroyed, somehow. In my mind, everything I need to fall in love with any person is already there. It's simply a matter of engagement, of looking at the right moment, looking in the right light. So, for me, love is there all the time, I just have to stumble into the right circumstances to recognize it; like our bodies solving math problems with a number system our brains can't access. I have tried to observe the solutions to these math problems many times, in hopes of learning something about the formulas, so I can bend them to my will. All I have gathered so far is that I am inclined towards people who identify as women, and feel positively about music.

So I'll see someone, and then I'm in love, until I decide to remove myself from the situation, until I decide I should force myself to stop looking so closely. I decide this because the logistical side of things has gone wrong somehow-- the person is moving away or I'm moving away, they've realized that my jokes aren't good and I've realized I need more time alone so I can listen to Drake. Often times, I decide that the person didn't look at me the way I thought they should. So one of us will leave. They leave. I leave.

If anything, then, a breakup is an expression of trust. I trust I will find another pair of eyes, a person I can trust with my body and time. I trust everyone I love will find another pair of eyes, too. In the summertime, I must remember not to wear sunglasses, if this really how the world of romance works.

Q: Per your explanation, feeling romantic love is not a substitute for practicing romantic love. What do you do with yourself, when you're sad because there's no one there to hold you while you sleep?

A: Have you ever listened to Drake?

Q: Are you fucking kidding me right n---


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Coconut Oil

Today I bought a jar of Virgin Coconut Oil, because I have heard from various sources (an ex-girlfriend and a roommate) that coconut oil cures and aids all ailments, from dry skin to bad skin to TOXINZ IN THA BLOOD to utter soullessness. I've been feeling a little low on soul recently, plus I still have acne as if I were a small teen. For mainly these two reasons, which were possibly supplemented by another ambiguously dark, self-hating reason, tonight I put some coconut oil on top of my face.

According to various Internet, coconut oil may make your acne worse before it makes your acne better. Two months into the post breakup depression that is my January seemed like the most obvious time to try such a daring feat. If I'm gonna feel disgusting for a noble cause that will benefit my future at large, I may as well look disgusting for a noble cause that will benefit my future at large. Does this mean I will approach February with renewed self-esteem and consistent skin tone? Only the coconut oil gods decide.

Right now my face feels oily (spoilers), and I can't shake the sense I've covered myself in lube, which only serves to further emphasize my loneliness, because lube, right? Lubricant. To move more easily, more fluidly. I'm not trying to move. I'm just trying to sit... and... heeeeeaaaaaalllllllll...

My roommate used coconut oil to shave her legs earlier. Apparently coconut oil can be used for that too. I would like to rub coconut oil on all the doorknobs in my house and, rather than making them slippery, see if the oil cleans the doorknobs of rust and somehow makes them easier to use.

Most Internets advise eating coconut oil directly, by cooking with it or putting it in your coffee. A lot of Internets swear by eating it raw, or "off the spoon," when they're in need of a burst of energy, or an extraordinary bowel movement. Several members of the coconut oil acne justice league insist that the best acne treatment requires both topical application and ingestion of coconut oil to achieve desired facial results. My roommate says I should put it on my toast, that she knows people who have tried to eat coconut oil on its own and that it was not good, but I have this unnameable impulse to eat it "off the spoon." I need my coconut oil straight to the dome. I don't want any edible hangers-on. I don't want no scrubs. A SCRUB IS A GUY--

Q: ?????????????

All in all, I'm confident that coconut oil can solve all my problems, personal or otherwise. This necessarily includes the problems of the entire global population, since I consider any problem of the human race my problem, and because separation of individuals is an illusion. Our consistent impulses towards reification are keeping us from experiencing life in any sort of authentic or meaningful way. Though we do need reification to survive and participate in the external world, it remains that I DON'T WANT NO SCRUBS. A SCRUB IS A GUY WHO CAN'T GET NO LOVE FROM ME.

Q: ???????????!!!!??????!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

To The Angels: An Open Letter to My High School.

La Reina High School has about 600 students in it at any given time. Grades 7-12, a private Catholic school exclusively for girls. I am part of the 2011 graduating class. I attended La Reina for 5 years.

Zoom out to my hometown-- the quiet, cookie-cutter suburb of Thousand Oaks, California. A largely conservative city with no original culture to speak of, punctuated by chain restaurants and car dealerships. To help give you an idea of what we were up against, Thousand Oaks is 80.3% white people. The percentage of black people in Thousand Oaks? 1.3%.

I remember no more than 20 black people, in any grade, at any time, attending La Reina High School. I do not remember specifically thinking about racism during high school-- the most I can remember is learning about the Civil Rights Movement in 10th grade U.S. history, in that passive, apathetic way you'd learn about something that happened as long ago as John Smith founding the colonies. I was consumed with thoughts of sex and gender, because they felt personal. But regardless of whether you are white or black, racism is personal. I apologize for arriving late to the conversation. I'm here now, and I'll try to talk the best I can.

If there were any safe spaces for black students at La Reina High School, I do not remember them. I do not remember any discussions of contemporary racist issues. La Reina has, for a long time, failed to address that not all of their students are white, heterosexual, Christian women. I remember, specifically, taking Morality class in 10th grade. This was part of the religious studies requirement we had to complete each year.

I will never forget the chapter in that Morality book that stated that homosexual people should be accepted for who they are, but homosexual acts could not be tolerated. I remember thinking my teacher spoke about homosexuality as if there could not possibly be any lesbian young girls in her class-- that here and now, homosexual people and their problems didn't exist. I cannot help but relate this to the invisibility black people must feel when they attend La Reina High School, or live in Thousand Oaks. If racism was discussed at school, it was not concretely related to the present, or as if racism was not still an issue. Until I got to college and lived in an actual city (Seattle is largely white but it's a huge step up from Thousand Oaks), I did not feel pressed to connect the issues of racism we learned about in school to present instances of racism. This is both my failing, and the failing of the people around me growing up.

However, I'm not writing this as a specific call to La Reina High School as an institution, though I will say every high school should engage in urgent dialogue about specific ways to combat racism, to create safe spaces for black students, to remind students that racism clearly still exists today. This is an open letter to the students and former students of La Reina High School. If you're reading this, we probably know each other, and I'm asking you to join the national conversation about race that's been sparked by Michael Brown's death.

I've noticed some of you have joined the conversation already, at least on Facebook. I want to say to those individual La Reina students that if you have, I'm proud of you. La Reina had a tenuous connection with the outside world, and I'm relieved we both found a way out of it and are now functioning as more conscientious adults.

I have also noticed a lot of you have not spoken up about the Michael Brown case through social media. I recognize that social media is not the only vehicle you can use to contribute to ending racism. However, I paraphrase this brilliant article about 12 things white people can do to combat racism in light of Ferguson, when I say that a lack of education on the subject of race or the fear of speaking out is not a valid excuse to remain on the sidelines of this conversation. I am fucking terrified of saying the wrong thing when it comes to race, because I am white and come from a place of privilege. But I know that I have a moral responsibility to speak out about racism-- as a white person, I am part of a 238 year tradition of black genocide, and I am called to enlighten other white people to their own privilege, and to challenge myself to combat racism in my everyday life.

Black people do not need to be told how fucked up racism is. They have been living in a racist country since the day they were born. We, as white people, are the ones who have to talk to each other about racism. We are the majority in this country. We can only alleviate racism if black and white people unify together, to work for black equality. And we are a long fucking ways away. If you still don't believe we are, let's take an example of racism a lot of people are talking about right now: please educate yourself about police brutality specifically perpetrated against black Americans. A black man is killed in the U.S. every 28 hours by police. Michael Brown was unarmed when he was killed. He was 18 years old.

Several teachers of Michael Brown described the young man as a "gentle giant." He was a teenage boy, with a big life ahead of him, and he did not deserve to die. In the New York Times profile of Michael Brown after his death, Michael Brown was referred to as "no angel."

I write this for young women who the world considers angels-- I'm writing this to white La Reina students, and any other white people reading this, who are given every resource from this nation to achieve their dreams and live the lives they want to.

If you were killed in such a fashion-- no, wait. You would never be killed in such a fashion. This kind of tragedy would never happen to a La Reina girl. And for that reason, it is you, floating high above the fear of becoming a victim of racism, who needs to speak out about why racism is wrong. You don't have to talk about it on Facebook if you don't want to, though I would encourage you to, because the more people you can reach, the better. But simply talking about racism with the people around you is a huge step in the right direction. Explain to your friends and family what's going on in Ferguson (remember that these are protests, not riots). That is your first step. Please consider doing it. It won't be comfortable immediately, but if there's one thing I've learned since my time at La Reina, there are more important things in this life than feeling comfortable. Discomfort is where growth happens.

Okay, so I've convinced you with my superior writing ability and adherence to basic logic regarding how fucked up racism is to take action. What can you do to help, angels?

--Look for ways you can help combat racism in your community. Racism exists everywhere, not just in Ferguson.
--Sign this petition to bring the Michael Brown case to the Missouri Supreme Court, with Darren Wilson as the accused.
--Learn about the seemingly infinite number of microaggressions that happen for people that aren't white every single day. Anyone in a minority group experiences microaggressions. Learn what they are and do not let them become a part of your life. Get brave and call other people out when you catch them doing it.
--If you didn't go out and protest last night, protest today. National responses are being planned throughout the country. Your presence at these protests would speak volumes.
--If you don't want to protest, donate to the legal support fund for those arrested in Ferguson protests standing for Justice for Mike Brown. You may not have time to spare, but I know you have money. Use it.

These are just a few ways you can help. I encourage you to do research on your own about a way you can gain entry into the conversation about racism. What will get you to care? Do you need to know the specifics of Michael Brown's case? Do you need to read more about our history of racism? Do you need to consume more media with black voices? Figure it out, and get back to me. Talk to me about how you can get involved if it helps.  I don't know as much as I could-- I feel like an infant in terms of how well-versed I am in talking about racism and working to fight it. But I promise I am working. I think you should too.

In Thousand Oaks, there are less than 2,000 black people. This painfully mainstream suburb of ours does not reflect our nation. In 2013, the US Census Bureau estimated 45,003,665 African Americans. And for 238 years, our system has failed to protect them. In 2014, that system continues to fail. And it can't change without your help.

Note: If you are black and reading this, and feel like I am incorrect in any way in my thinking or discussion of this issue, please speak with me directly and point out to me where I'm wrong and how I can fix it. I cannot imagine what it is like to be black in America, and I only want to help. You know better than I do how I can help.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Being Nice is Lying.

As I continue to pull adulthood further and further down to hide my childlike face, I'm realizing that my maturity is most frequently stunted by my inability to say no. When my sister was born her first word was 'no,' and I still envy her for that, because if you do something once it becomes easier to do it a second time; you've signaled to your brain that you can do this thing and your heart won't spontaneously combust. My first word was "Dad," because I love my dad! My first word was all about recognition and love and accepting that this person in front of me, changing my diaper, had a name, and his name was Dad. The only time I ever had to say "no" to my dad is when he insists he doesn't mind paying for me to fly home for Thanksgiving, even though Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it would require my mom adding an entire vegetarian option to the menu.

I used to think it was a strength of mine, saying no. One time I went to visit my ex-girlfriend at her home in Santa Cruz, and one of her roommates was walking around shirtless and educating the rest of the house about the ways muscles interact with the brain. Just above his belly button I remember he had a tattoo that read "I'm Down." He asked me a question, something along the lines of, "Are you okay? You're sitting there so quietly." And I just nodded as I do, because I was fine and really stoned, and he immediately smiled at me and said, "You've got a chill vibe. You just go with the flow, I like that."

People ask me on a fairly regular basis if I'm okay, because I'm sitting quietly, and I've always said yes, because I am okay. I do like to go with the flow. It's important to me that I know I can adjust to any situation and find some joy in it. Even though I didn't follow the discussion of muscle activity relating to the brain, I stared at the I'm Down tattoo for twenty minutes and I was set. I firmly believe that it is otherwise well-off people, with plenty of material and emotional resources, who constantly try to look beyond what's happening in their own life for fulfillment, that are permanently unhappy.

The problem with finding the beauty in everything, however, is that you become less discerning about what you actually WANT. Want as in, the stuff that gives you goosebumps or makes you want to vomit from excitement and inspires you to write bad slam poetry. But there's a huge difference, I'm realizing, between what I WANT, and what I have figured out how to appreciate.

For instance-- I have figured out a way to appreciate my last General Ed class of college. I sit in the back and I force myself to write, or make a To-Do list, or draw on my hand. The General Ed class is designated productivity time. Sometimes I also count how many times my teacher brings up that he has a PhD. If you showed me a brief five minute clip of the goings-on of this class, and asked me if I thought it was a worthwhile use of time, I'd say FUCK NOOOO! BECAUSE I'M TIRED OF GENERAL ED AND I'M RESISTANT TO LEARNING! But I have to take the class for this other, bigger reason (college degree), so I find a way to make it work.

Recently, however, I have taken pains to identify when I am participating in an activity I don't actually, inherently enjoy, but have chosen to try to appreciate for some other, less worthy reason. I then try to identify if that other reason successfully justifies me spending time on said-activity. For instance, I have several friends who really love the band Sublime.

There are several reasons why any one person could appreciate the band Sublime. Goofy guy vibes! California nostalgia! Catchy lyrics! Comedy and music combine! But after years, and years, of patiently listening to other people listening to Sublime, in cars, at parties, around the bong, HOLY FUCKING SHIT, IT IS A MANDATE, THAT IF WE ARE GOING TO HANG OUT, YOU WILL NOT PUT ON SUBLIME. BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT I WANT FROM THIS WORLD. I WANT FEMALE VOCALS AND SAD HOUSE MUSIC AND RAP THAT REARRANGES YOUR BRAIN AND I DO NOT. WANT. TO HEAR YOU PLAY SANTERIA ANYMORE.

I hate Sublime because I got tired of inventing ways to like it. I am tired of pretending I like things I do not like. And I'm working up to, slowly but surely, embracing this sort of honesty in as many parts of my life as possible. I will, of course, politely express that I fucking hate Sublime, but the fucking hatred will be expressed. It's nothing personal. I still love you if you love Sublime. But unfortunately, we can never marry.

I've always prided myself on how nice I am. I've often considered myself to be a nice person, outwardly. But there is a difference being nice, and being kind. And I'd say about 9.5 times out of 10, being nice is lying.

So, in conclusion, to summarize, in short, in an attempt to wrap it up: I think I've always been uncomfortable with the parts of me others would deem ugly. But there's some ugly stuff going on in me, just like anybody else. And it's too lonely to keep lying about it. Because every second of my life is urgent and worth appreciating, but what I WANT? What I WANT? I want to make out with Emma Watson, and break the taboo that says I can't make out with other people named Emma. And I will not let my propensity for niceness, stand in the way of my dreams.