Lies are a lady’s best friends

 

“I’m fine”, I say.
I’m fine, even though I know you slept with another girl last night.
I’m fine, even been tough I know you texted her during the entire movie on date night.
I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, I say
As I dig my stubbly nails so hard in my arm’s flesh

“I’m fine”, I say.

I’m fine, even when you ask me a hundred times per day because I’m hard to read

I’m fine, even as the dark hole at the center of my body threatens to swallow me

Yes, of course I’m fine, I say

As I go to sleep with a pair of scissors in my hands.

“I’m fine”, I say
I’m fine, even after you tell me you’re not sure you want kids WITH ME
I’m fine, even if you just threw a wrench the size of China in my imagined life
I’m completely fine, I say
As a slowly find my way to the bathroom so I can throw up my morning sickness without you noticing

“I’m fine”, I say
I say I’m fine when I mean the opposite
But what exactly is the opposite of ‘fine’?
How can I say ” I feel far from you suddenly ”
How can I say “I’m tired of being strong”
How can I say “I’m sorry I’m not good enough”
Without first admitting to my own frailty?

“I’m fine”, I say
I say I’m fine because even though it’s a lie,
It’s a lie that acts as a Viking shield wall
Against the assaults of my mind
Against a thousand mirror shards reflecting
Guilt, shame, and fear right back into me.

“I’m fine”, I say
I say I’m fine and my fists clench up and my arms tighten and my jaw squares
I cultivate this perfect ice statue that even your summery words cannot thaw
I do not know how to let my guard down with you
Because I fear the cracks that your sunshine might reveal.

MJ L’Esperance

One Woman’s Contra Dance Adventure

I have an early childhood memory of a tap dance class. My aunt offered to take me to one of my cousin’s classes. Unfortunately, all I remember is how I struggled to understand what to do with my feet. The evening concluded in tears and I did not show much interest in continuing.

In middle school, I gave dancing another shot. A friend invited me as a guest to her Jazz dance class. The dance school was in an old, classy building and the dressing room had classic Hollywood vanities with the globe-shaped light bulbs. I think I enjoyed the class, I don’t remember crying. However, I was very self-conscious the entire time.

In high school, I attended a few dances. I always felt relief when it was time for the Macarena and Cha Cha Slide because there were instructions and I know what to do. I’d spend the rest of the time in a circle of dancers, taking frequent breaks in between for wallflower duty.

In my second year of university, I was invited by my friend, Sarah, to go to a “Contra” dance. I had never heard of this before and I was not enthusiastic about dancing, but stepping outside my comfort zone was a top priority for me at the time.

The dance was held in the basement of a church located in Montreal’s Mile-End neighbourhood. I was hesitant, but definitely had fun. There was a live band, the community was very welcoming and many people were happy to help out beginners. In Contra, attention is never focused on an individual person and doing fancy moves is very optional, relieving much of the pressure I had felt in my previous dance experiences. The main thing that helped me get into it was the fact that there were instructions. At every stage of a dance, the steps are: find a partner, get in line, listen as the caller explains the dance steps, then repeat the same sequence for 10-15 minutes with music. The caller continues to give cues after the band starts playing, so you don’t need to worry about memorizing the steps. It is customary to switch partners after every song, which gives everyone the freedom to dance whenever they feel like it.

In recent years, it has also become common for people of any gender to dance any role. Traditionally, women are “ladies” and men are “gents”. Encouraging this practice has sparked a passionate debate about what gender-neutral terms should be used in place of ladies and gents. Popular alternatives include jets and rubies, larks and ravens, sharks and giraffes, etc. This abstraction has helped create more inclusive spaces and also makes dancing more fun, as it gives dancers more options.

These changes have not happened without creating inter-generational tension, but it is rewarding to take part of a living tradition. I enjoy listening to older Contra dancers talk about what was controversial 10-20 years ago because they are all things that are common place today.

As the months went on, I attended more dances with Sarah. I became better acquainted with other dance regulars over post-dance outings. I soon learned about another, very important, dance phenomenon: dance weekends. In particular, The Flurry Festival, a weekend festival that happens every year around Valentine’s Day in Saratoga Springs, NY, about four hours south of the Quebec-Vermont border. It is held in a large convention center, every room is booked with a dance, music workshop or fitness class. Though Contra is the main focus, events include dance and music styles from all over the world. It is a truly magical experience, and this year I’ve been 6 years in a row so far.

Today, I regularly attend many dance weekends and volunteer at my local Contra dance. My Contra wardrobe contains many fun skirts and dresses, taking up a large portion of my closet space. I’ve even started calling! Since embarking on my Contra dance journey, I have tried other daunting activities with enthusiasm and an open mind, something I never imagined myself doing before moving to Montreal. This is an attitude for which I am eternally grateful as it is present in all areas of my life.

For example, one of the highlights of 2018 for me was a trip Ireland. I rented a car and spent the first few days exploring County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. Among the many amazing experiences I had were two evenings of Irish set dancing. There are enough similarities with Contra that I could participate. I was able to dive right into the culture and had a blast in the company of locals.

While some of this can be attributed to learning and maturing over time, I don’t think the kind of personal growth I’ve experienced would have been possible without a supportive community. In my case, this community is a bunch of Contra dancers.

Sprout

This poem is by War Bunny, an activist trans sex-worker.

A wonderfully strong woman.

She explains her poem thus:

It is a victory chant for those who survived abuse.  It’s actually surprisingly old.

Each paragraph matches what’s written in order. It starts with someone who never really intended this relationship to be something so big in their life, “you were the first of many” implying that the person had multiple choices but stuck with that one because it came first. Despite that, they never really doubted their choice, blinded by the situation. A reference to guitar, knowing where to put your fingers on frets applying pressure to strings to get the right effect, symbolizing the person knowing what button to press to get what they want. In this case, years and years again. The fourth part comes back twice, symbolizing keeping up the mask despite the pain. The relationship continues despite how bad it is simply because nothing is opposing it, but the person telling the story feels trapped and can’t help looking away. However they give in when their abuser tells them to stop because they want to fight back but can’t. They do notice all the escape options surrounding them but something holds them back, feeling like the abuser is holding their life and defense tools hostage. They feel empty, damaged, defeated, and they’re figuring out the other knows too and are probably using this, reaching a point in their victory where the victim just can’t defend themselves anymore, almost inspiring awe. They accepted they were the “big bad” (even though they feel it’s wrong) and they’re trying to figure out what do to next. They manage to get away from this, but they “died” in the process, leaving their life behind, and now that they have nothing left all they can do is watch the other ‘thrive’ the remains. They’re describing what happened exactly that pushed them over the edge. Part four again. They’re gaining momentum, figuring out they don’t need their old tools to fight back, and now that they’re “re-equipped” they’re countering every lines of manipulation the abuser uses. The abuser gives in, quitting on trying to manipulate the person. They attempt a few more time to guilt trip the victim but it fails, only making the now-survivor laugh. They look back upon all the damage this whole thing left them, and in hindsight despite having lost so much they feel like it’s a victory. They really meant the love and time they poured in the relationship, but now that their old life is gone and they’re done grieving, they realize they outgrown the abuser, with newfound maturity helping them through it. And well, the very simple finale.

 

Sprout

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It’s never been my intention

Not that I ever had any

I never wanted your attention

You were the first of many

 

But I never had any regrets

Any fear

Any stress

 

You played your strings along my frets

Every years

I confess

 

Despite my pain I strike a pose

Blood covering the stain

Despite growing ever so morose

Body bruised from the strain

 

We keep on going the distance

Carried by our persistence

Winds blow us into existence

Offering no resistance

 

But I suffer from wanderlust

Still I do just what I must

I resist, but you insist

Defeated, I clench my fist

 

I look away towards the doors

Countless around just like my pores

You make it hard, not to stop and run

But you got my key, my lock and my gun

 

I’m unloaded, baby, just like my heart

I’ve been like that from the very start

But surely you guessed that I’m not hope

Neither am I despair, but I sure am close

 

Though, I must admit

I owe you my respect

You reached a summit

That I didn’t expect

 

Please forgive me, but I’m still sore

I’ll need some time to get to my corpse

You proved me wrong, again and some more

My ghost still got to follow it’s course

 

Maybe one day I’ll be back alive

Kicking around and screaming “I’m back”

But meanwhile I’ll just watch you thrive

I really want to but I can’t keep track

 

You buried me in a haste

Under words I can still taste

Pulled me by the waist

Pushed me, I’m disgraced

 

Despite my pain I strike a pose

Blood covering the stains

Despite growing ever so morose

Body bruised from the strain

 

I’m still standing, and I’m still shooting

Firing you away from my fingertips

I don’t need my gun to be overshooting

I tore up away all of your little scripts

 

Don’t know what to say, now don’t you?

You know my words, you know it’s true

I can’t blame you for trying some more

It shook you down right to your core

 

It took me some time but I moved on

I think, deep down, I’m the one that won

I might have been dead but you sure ain’t lively

I’m thriving down here while you sing plaintively

 

“Fly me to the moon”, I meant that sincerely

But now that I’m buried, I’m growing quite nicely

I’m a mighty tree while you’re still a shrub

I’m not sorry that you’re not in my club

 

I’m quite done with this rant

But I needed this out

Like a victory chant

Grown from a sprout

 

 

 

 

War Bunny

 

 

(If you like the skull, you can find the shop here: https://boldmakerstudio.com/collections/skull-trees/geometric-skulls?fbclid=IwAR29IwqCBK40Z9D9conEJUIAQRu7tcEErXlGo8CnMNcIhL-ORftFKSa6YEw)

The dating conundrum: try being a Trans woman…

Dating.

 

When you’re happily in a relationship, you forget what a privilege it is to share time and space with someone who is willingly doing it.

You can take for granted every little aspect of possibilities that get added when you are not a human alone.

 

Not everybody has these privileges, and there is an entire culture dedicated to trying to fix this gap. Dating apps, and websites, groups and events. Advice books and columns. Therapists, retreats, gurus, pickup artists.

Everyone has the magic solution, if you could just follow these easy steps.

 

The problem is, there isn’t actually a magic sauce.

Theoretically, you could see the strength in numbers. Statistically, the more you date, the more likely you are to find someone willing to spend some time with you, but there are some issues with this idea as well.

In truth, dating, and love, are fields just as intersectional, if not more, as the rest.

Attraction is the most justified scene of all our prejudices and cultural notions.

There are ideals of mates, and there follows a hierarchy of potential qualities, or lack thereof.

 

In dating we have the epitome or the nexus perhaps, of our cultural codes, put in action for their very own sake. This is where they come into light. Every other field within which hierarchies can form attenuates it by its own idiosyncratic set of norms.

For instance, the workplace does show to be influenced by racial or gendered norms. But those are only moderators over the norms of performance and the workplace hierarchy (however skewed and replicating patriarchy it lay be). You may be as normatively beautiful as you could, if your performance (or use of soft skills) is null, you may not last very long in that particular hierarchy.
However, dating is where all hierarchies take their meaning.

We are evolved.

Evolution pushed us in a direction of sexual selection.

How this one is done is a complex process which has become heavily codified by millenia of meaning making.

Regardless, at its base, we seek to maximise our profits when we select a mate that may also entail offsprings.

All the codes thus serve for us to find who may be the best fit as a potential mate.

Now, keep in mind, these are somewhat subconscious processes.

You may not look for someone to conceive with.

You may simply be looking to get laid.

But these are recent developments. The codes are a coat of paint on a very very old machine.

 

If dating is easy for you, this is wonderful news. But it may highlight a sort of privilege you may not have been considering.  

Your general adherence to the cultural ideals.

 

I had the chance to speak to a Metis Native, Trans lesbian woman, by her own identification.  

She did not want to be identified by name , however, this is how she depicts herself.

 

Having spoken to her, I believe this is actually pretty accurate.

She shared with me the specificity of her situation when  it comes to dating.

Her identity places her at the intersection of many axis of complexity.

Being Trans, fitting the normative ideal associated with cis femininity is an issue.
Being a lesbian, she struggles with the simple issue of finding partners that also identify  withing that sexual orientation, which is a minority to this day.

Being metis native, she struggles with latent issues of racism, namely the potential dismissal as a potential partner or the ftishisation of her identity.  

 

I initially responded to one of her posts on facebook, and she decided to answer my questions.

For the purpose of the article, let’s call her Mira.

 

Mira

I keep going to clubs thinking it’ll be fun and I’ll meet fun people. Optimistic me needs to stop being so fucking delusional, no one’s interested.

/rant

 

Mahault Albarracin :What kind of clubs do you go to?

Mira

Tonight specifically, Unity. Which now that I’m chill and not anxious and overthinking, makes it obvious. I don’t know why I was surprised no one cared I existed, it’s the Unity.

But generally, any place not straight.

 

Mahault Albarracin: What do you mean no one cared? no one came to pick up on you?

Mira

Just a generalized experience. No one ever seems “into me” or and anxiety makes me think people move away when dancing because I’m bothersome or ugly or something, which I know is just my mind being a jerk. Not that I would care normally, it would even suit me that no one would approach me in any other situations. But seeing others in my life getting approached so often and so easily makes me feel like there’s something wrong about me.

Of course, this is almost made worse by being aware that this is purely just extrapolation and exaggeration of my mind trying to justify my lack of luck, when it’s very likely just that, lack of luck and me just not encountering people who are interested by people like me, probably. Chances are I didn’t do anything wrong at all, and neither did anyone. They’re just not interested in me. Me attempting to be social, dressing nice, dancing well, etc. will do nothing to change that.

Ah, the joy of ease of access to social media when being emotionally compromised.

My relation to dating in general is very, well, dull in a way. I’ve simply just never been very lucky save for one absolute blessing (which honestly is also not perfect, and things I can’t change still affect this relationship in ways that are hard to handle.)

One thing I figured with time is that luck, coincidences, or lack of either is the primary source of relationships.

There is inevitably someone somewhere that is into what and who you are. And I’m not talking about somewhere in the world, but somewhere locally. But the chances of them meeting you in a context where you’re both emotionally available, with the proper will to meet someone new, and good circumstances giving a reason to socialize with them are low.

Some people are luckier than other, whether social and emotional availability is more common for them due to their nature (extrovert traits, neurotypism, natural attractiveness, etc)

Others, which is basically my case, have the opposite of luck. I’m not particularly visible/noticeable nor beautiful. I’m an introvert by nature. I’m on the autism spectrum. Dressing well, developing dancing skills, and so on to attract people doesn’t really work in my case. I’m surrounded with people who are sexually successful, with people consistently being attracted to them. Some of which being of the lucky type, but others being like me technically with only slight variants. Which brings my mind to wander in odd places.

I’m autistic, ‘gifted’, trans, and lesbian. I guess whatever mixes best haha

I’d say this is very much so a direct result of what happens when high intellect, queerness and and desire to be sexually active crosses path.

Having strong logic and analysis skills makes handling a biological/emotional situation worse, sometimes. Because you know exactly what causes you to feel the way you do, but it also means you’re aware there’s nothing you can do about it. Ignorance can truly be bliss, I suppose.

Very often, I become victim of what I jokingly call “nerdzoning”. People connecting so strongly on an intellectual level with me that they cannot see themselves being physical with me.

Thank you for your interest in my experience by the way, it’s odd to have someone be interesting in my nerdy rant against the dating world.

——

As you can see, dating is a function of how one perceives themselves in a complex dynamic web of interconnected codified interaction cues.

Even within the circles that advertise themselves as open to your specific brand of existence, it does not mean you will actually fit the norms.

Every scene has its own set of specific hierarchy idiosyncrasies as well.

You can see this in Bear gay bars, or Kink clubs for example. The types most favored differ with the sub-community you are part of. Nonetheless, certain greater ideals always shine back through the tapestry and make it difficult for some people to connect.

 

The ending of this article may seem bleak, but the truth is I’m not sure yet how to get around this.

As I mentioned before, attractions seem pretty justified for those who live them, and are often subconscious processes.
Being aware of our own prejudices is a first step, but I’m not certain it actually changes the way you perceive others along this codified hierarchy.

Perhaps it will allow you to see other people for who they are on your own hierarchy, one that you choose, as opposed to one chosen for you.

Knowledge is power after all.

Fostering freedom

– How we get hung up

For the longest time, I’ve noticed myself sighing. I look outside and it feels like it calls to me. I think of where I am, and I get an anxiety attack. I think of what I’m doing and I start questioning my every choices, even if I entered them with passion.
I crave motion, change. I think we all do. Excitement keeps us alive.
But just as I crave it, I’ve also always followed the path laid out before me.
I went to school my entire life, chased the grades. I tried to be an achiever of other people’s benchmarks.

Slowly, this became the only available reality.

When I thought about my options, there really only was the one path.
That’s when you get this odd cognitive dissonance. You see the path before you and it feels like the only way, but at the same time, something calls to you. It drives you crazy, makes you miserable.

You start feeling claustrophobic, trapped. And you’re not really sure why.

After all, if this is the only choice, you must be succeeding. Isn’t this what we all want? To succeed?

But what’s success? Is it empty titles? Or is it ultimately happiness?

Don’t get me wrong, they ARE correlated.
But not in the wrong way. Following an empty title, forgetting to have it bring you to your ultimate goal won’t bring you happiness.
The question really is: What is your ultimate goal?

designecologist-781651-unsplash

– Socialisation to root

Before we tackle this important question, let’s discuss why we get hung up this way.

For everyone, but perhaps more specifically for women, society dictates a fixed set of rules.  Who you should be, what you should look like, who you should be with.
And those rules aren’t meta rules either. They’re usually very strict scripts with concrete examples bombarded in the media.

In fact, you can see yourself clearly in a template of a life.

How many women have I heard desiring the white picket fence in principle, but when questioned, realising they had no real intention to fulfill the smaller goals that would allow it to happen.
These scripts are especially restricting for women because they are in part meant to subordinate.
As woman, you must be subordinate to the men around you, to your duties as a life bearer towards society, and generally as a gatekeeper of your contextual values. You are also encouraged to tie yourself to many more people, women are social animals, community pillars, bearers of responsibility. These can become heavy, and keep you from freedom.

To add to this, our idealized notion of success is simplified to a parable, we forget to interpret because of the pressure to achieve it.

So for me, this translated into believing I had to go to university, and continue studying until I found a job.
But this script had no real end, because I had no real goal.

I had never stopped to consider what I may want for myself, since I’d always followed a script.
This loop thus led me nowhere, and i continued to follow it for infinity, since leaving it meant reaching an unknown.
And we are not socialised to handle the unknown.
We are socialised to project known everywhere, to seek out the known. The normative.  So once again, it’s worth asking, if you accept the unknown, and look into your own unknown, what do you want?

In this sense, freedom can take many forms. It can be unshackling yourself from your roots, or it can simply be ensuring more wiggle room for yourself to make meaningful decisions.  

-Main factors to take into account

Once you’ve figured that part, the hardest is nowhere near over. But at least you can start to draft a plan.

What should this plan take into account?

I found that the main aspect to consider was financial security. This will entail not having to be dependant on anyone, and feeling secure enough that you can make decisions based on other factors than survival.  But this can take many forms for many people.
For some, it means securing a job you’ll be able to take with you. For others, it means reducing your expenses to the bare minimum, and relying on social networks. Whatever it is, it usually is the first step.
Once you have this base, calm sets in, and you can see father, and allow unexpected to hit you.

mohamed-nohassi-485412-unsplash.jpg

The second aspect is usually emotional ties.How will you handle change in relation to the ties you have. Can the people in your life accept that you will now effect some decisions? Will they accept a form of distance, however it may manifest?

Or could they follow you? Is this something you want? Would you relinquish a part of your freedom to maintain certain ties?

You will have to make compromises, and some of them will be hard. But the relationships worth keeping are those that are flexible enough to allow you to grow and move without fearing to be lost.

Then come the legalities. Those are mostly related to travel, but they can also apply to getting out of the normative lifestyle you are in now. Perhaps you wish to get off the grid. Perhaps, no matter your choice, you need certain papers, and those can be hard to come by, or the process can be difficult and long.

Thinking about this is important, but can be done calmly once you have everything else settled.

-It’s always better tomorrow

Now you’re all settled. What’s the hold up?

Well, we tend to be afraid to enact change. We think about it, we plan it out carefully. But this is simply to push it away longer.
You know you could go. You know you could make that change, but it’s so comfortable here. Your existential angst is bearable, when compared to the fear of the unknown.

But this comfort is an illusion. It’s a defense mechanism to pull you to sleep. There’s a reason you wanted this change to begin with. And the more you wait, the more you teach yourself that this is who you are. That you can’t really do it.
The more you put off your goals, the more you become this person who can’t. You identify to it.
But it’s not true. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Who you are, is you want to be, give or take a few privileges.

Mostly if you have the means, use them. You CAN break free, if you listen to your initial desires.
If you stop silencing the voice that went counter to the normative scripts.

-Dealing with Fear

Now, we’ve mentioned it several times before. Fear is probably your greatest enemy here.  You fear the unknown, and you fear the potential knowns that you dislike.

The what if.

But you can also realize that your entire life has gone by with you not actually really knowing what was coming next. You had a script you were following, but there was no certainty the script would actually come to fruition. We’re not on a treadmill. In fact, you probably had to work hard to get to where you are today. You pulled resources you didn’t know you had sometimes.

This is all well and good, and you can tell yourself this rationally, but fear won’t just go away. That’s an ableist illusion.

You’re not doomed to stay in fear however.
You can first try to expose yourself to what other people have done. A bit like you’re doing now.
You can help yourself by using other scripts. It’s ok to have scripts, but you should be able to get in and out of them freely. Broadening the range of available scripts is a positive tool.

Look for blog posts about travelers, or relevant changes you wish to enact.
Find groups and communities, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask beginner questions. That’s why these groups even exist.

Then, you can inoculate yourself slowly. Test out the change with little increments. We will discuss this at the end.

– Steering towards motivation

All of this process is inspiring, and fulfilling. But it’s also emotionally costly. Even if, at first, the novelty of it all will be enough to keep you going, this will soon run out. Remember, we are talking about a change in paradigm. It’s possible that all of the spheres of your life will be affected by this change in some way or other.

Those changes may also limit your access to the resources you took for granted. It’s not necessarily bad. Some of our anchors look like good things at first. They push us to be afraid to lose something. But there are other resources out there. You just need to be open to stepping outside.

All this being said, there is a way for you to maintain motivation, without emotionally running out.  This is achieved through goal setting.
Small goals, and larger goals. Keep yourself moving by setting small landmarks that you can reach easily. This will give you validation and a sense of motion.

But also, set something larger that you can look at and makes you want to get up. Don’t be afraid to dream big. It sounds like a pseudo-psychology life coach advice, but it’s true.  Bigger dreams have more fuel in them to keep you going while you through your smaller goals.  And maybe your biggest dream isn’t the one you initially thought.

For instance, I’ve always wanted to be a singer. Honestly, so have most people who grew up on The Voice.  And that’s not realistic because I’m focusing on one path that could lead me to my real goal, instead of finding what I could do to really take me there. But my overarching goal can be big, and inspiring. I want to be happy, blissful, fulfilled.

And I can be, with the right tools and aim.

-Not giving up on leads even if intangible at first

Now here’s where it gets slightly tricky. Not everything you will try will go smoothly. In fact, a lot of it might seem like it’s failing. And it could be tempting to just give up. Now that you are becoming more free, it’s easy to think that spreading yourself and trying a million things is just part of that freedom. And in a sense it is, but that is thinking on the short term.
If you keep spending spending your resources on endeavours that you do not see through, you will run out, and be left with only your older options.

Besides, it’s true that it never feels good to “fail”. We are hooked on a vision of ourselves, and it crushes our soul when it is reflected negatively.

But you’re not failing.

Think of the first steps you took. You didn’t run at first (or maybe you did, and koodos to you). At first you fell a lot. And that was part of learning. It taught you where the limits of your balance were, and how to calibrate.  That’s how you must see the difficulties of the beginning of your path. Opportunities to grow, and refine your technique. Every hurdle will teach you something valuable. Continue on your path.

At some point, it’s acceptable to let go and try something else.  You’ve just got to look inside yourself and and ask if you really gave it your all before you let go.

– Accepting to start small

On that note, it’s important to understand that your path cannot start as the rockstar you want to be. You will have to accept to receive less than you intend at first. It’s even probable you will receive nothing at all to get your name out.
No matter the sphere, you’ll have to start small. By starting small, you start faster, and get a foot in whatever it is you’re seeking. You’ll learn about the culture, and you’ll adapt, integrating the habitus of the sphere you are eyeing.

I hope with this article, you have a bit of a better grasp on how to begin your journey to freedom.

As mentioned, it isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. But it is rewarding.  And it might just be what you need.

What are your experiences of reaching freedom? How has it impacted your life, and how have you done it?

Share your story below 🙂

 

 

Mahault

 

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

LIVING WITH DISABILITIES AS A WOMAN

Women with disabilities are one of the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups –  they experience double the disadvantage because they face the challenges and barriers created by society  in relation to being a woman, in addition to the social attitudes towards people with disabilities. The intersection of gender inequality and disability creates a situation with multiple levels of discrimination and disadvantage. Women with disabilities experience high levels of disadvantage in all areas of our lives – health care, overall wellbeing, support services, employment, social relationships and housing. Being a woman, we live with daily challenges relating to sexism, gender inequality related to our careers, education and opportunities. These challenges are severely magnified when you are a woman who has disabilities.

Research has shown that women and girls with disabilities are TWO times more likely to experience violence throughout our lives. Did you know that approximately NINETY per cent of women with intellectual disabilities have been sexually assaulted? Yup, that’s right – 90 freakin’ per cent.  And all women with disabilities experience alarmingly high rates of all forms of violence and abuse from a range of perpetrators – they continue to be assaulted, raped and abused at twice the rate of women without disabilities and men with disabilities.

As a woman, I am unfortunately another statistic. I have been in situations of gender-based, indecent, family and intimate partner violence and assault. I have been hurt and sexually harassed by strangers and have been assaulted by a current partner, and as a person with disabilities and complex health needs, I have felt (and believe that I was) undeserving of respect, love and human dignity. I accepted the mistreatment at the hands of people who claimed to have loved me, thinking it was okay because I was not good enough due to my disabilities and surgical scars.

One of my disabilities and the reason for my chronic pain is actually as a result of the gender based violence I suffered at the hands of someone whom I said loved and cared for me but ‘just had temper problem’. I excused his actions and protected him against persecution because I normalised the behaviour. I didn’t stand up for myself because I believed that it was okay, that it was acceptable and it was a normal part of life for people like me.

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In Australia, intimate partner violence is the number one greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44. It is the single largest driver for homelessness for women and takes a profound and long-term toll on women and children’s health and wellbeing, and society as a whole.

As recent as 3 days ago, it was announced by the United Nations that the ‘most dangerous’ place for women is inside their own homes, as more than half the female murder victims from last year were killed by their partners or family member. The gender-violence related study revealed that women comprised 82 percent of intimate partner murders. SIX women are killed every hour of every day in the world and in Australia, each week a woman is killed by their former or current partner.

Understanding violence against women, particularly women with disabilities and the challenges that we face is just one part of working towards a world where people, specifically women with disabilities are respected and violence for all women is stopped. The significant social problem is entirely preventative but to prevent and reduce violence faced by women, we need to understand it.

 

I hope this article has helped to enlightened to challenges and struggles faced by women with disabilities around the world.

 

 

Akii Ngo

No Hablo Español: Part 1

4th December  2018

I recently started reading America Ferrera’s masterpiece, American Like Me, a compilation of short stories from well known multicultural Americans who detail what it was like growing up in between two cultures. Reading these stories and feeling such a connection to these voices brings me so much peace and joy and who doesn’t want some of that this time of year?! Feeling inspired, I decided to write my own “American Like Me” series that will detail what it was like for me growing up in a multicultural household and how it shaped me into the woman I am today. I am going to call this series (and hopefully my future book) “No Hablo Español” so please stay tuned for my future posts as I plan on doing this series in parts! In the meantime, enjoy Part 1.

Part #1

“Olivia, get to the ball!” my father’s heavily accented and frantic voice rings in my ears.

My cheeks sting, both with embarrassment and by the wind whipping them as I race across the soccer field, my chubby legs desperate to reach the ball before that lanky girl from the other team…

As a child, soccer was something my father and I shared. He coached every single one of my soccer teams until I started playing on traveling teams, and we would spend hours watching soccer games together, yelling at the TV until my father would throw up his hands in frustration and walk out of the room, convinced his favorite team was losing because he was watching. I even remember one year, we stood outside early in the morning, shaking the pole the satellite dish sat atop, because we were not getting the specific channel we needed to watch the World Cup. Summer evenings were spent riding our bikes to the park with our neighborhood friends and scrimmaging, all the kids against my dad.

When I started playing soccer at around five years old, I showed a lot of potential. I was strong and could kick the ball harder and further than any girls my age. I had spent my early years practicing tricks in the yard with my father and watching our favorite European and South American teams play on Telemundo (American teams don’t know how to play real soccer) so I could easily maneuver the ball away from my opponents. However, as I aged, nothing seemed to compensate for the fact that I was short and kind of chubby. My legs, no matter how hard I tried, just could not beat out the naturally tall and lean girls I kept finding myself up against. If I somehow magically “got to the ball” first I could usually keep it with a couple of foot tricks but those opportunities were few and far between. As I got older and soccer became more competitive, my time on the bench seemed to increase more and more until I quit because it just didn’t seem worth it anymore.

My father has always expected a lot from me, as is the case with most immigrant parents and he was never quiet about these expectations, as the above story illustrates.  I learned early on that my father expected more of me than my parent’s friends expected of them. This mostly had to do with academia and ensuring that I pushed myself to reach my full potential but it definitely applied to other aspects of my life. My father had a way of “teasing” that other kids didn’t understand and that shaped my self image in a not so great way (I in no way blame my father for this as I realize now his intentions were never to hurt me and that this was his own way of showing affection but I also am self aware enough to realize it affected how I see myself today).

If I brought home an A- he would ask why it was not an A, if I missed a single question on a test he would remind me how I had gone out one night instead of studying, and if I complained about feeling left out on a new soccer team or in a Spanish class he was paying for, it was always because I was not pushing myself enough to be outgoing. He always would do this in a semi joking manner so I really couldn’t accuse him of being too tough on me, and his advice was always on the pretense of making me better, but in some odd way, it still made me feel bad about myself. I cannot tell you how many times my mother sat at the edge of my bed comforting my sensitive soul, with her usual line, “he’s just teasing Olivia”. I know now from talking to other children of immigrants that I am not  alone in this experience and it is actually very common.

I always seemed to be “too much” for him. I always seemed to be too loud when I should have been quiet and too shy when I should have been outgoing. I was expected to navigate cultural norms that were never taught to me and I remember sobbing after my dad yelled at me when I did not jump up to hug a great uncle who I didn’t even know and who I could not communicate with because I did not speak Spanish. I understand now he was dealing with his own feelings of raising a family in a culture so different from his own but it definitely left me with a feeling of never being enough. I didn’t realize how much I craved a simple “I’m proud of you” until he said these words with no follow up in his toast at my wedding and I bawled like a baby  (I am crying just writing it).

I give my dad all the credit in the world. He is aware of a lot of his mistakes and is working to remedy them. We now have a much healthier adult relationship and I have been blown away by how he has changed and improved as a father and a man. My father also instilled in me some of the traits I am most proud of. I am a hard worker because he taught me to be, I am ambitious, and focused because he taught me to be. I would never be the strong Latina woman I am today without his guidance.

I’ve been through a lot of therapy to work through some of my issues with anxiety and depression (and I would soooo suggest you try it). For some reason we kept coming back to my father. Guess what? We are ALLLLL fucked up by our parents. Some of us who are more sensitive are more fucked up than others but no one gets through their childhood without some battle scars. I discovered I crave my father’s approval more than anything and it has been very limiting and a hurdle I am learning to overcome. I am amazed at my father’s ability to immigrate to a new country, learn a new language and become the successful man he is today. As a child, and still today, my father hung the moon and I am so proud to be his daughter. In a way, my pride in my father also aided in making me feel unworthy of his sacrifice. I don’t blame my father or myself for feeling like this. We are all a product of our childhood but it’s jarring to discover your parents are people too who make mistakes.

I would suggest exploring your own scars and really looking into how they shape the person you are today, especially if you are a child of an immigrant. Approach your childhood and your parents not from a place of bitterness but from a desire to learn and grow. While my father’s high expectations and how he expressed affection definitely contributed to some of my adult issues, he also gave me the education and resources to pursue help that will allow me to learn and grow from these experiences. I now am more confident in who I am than I ever was and for that I have to thank my father.

 

Olivia