Hate Speech.

I have had the (dis)pleasure of working with a fair amount of creepy people, over the past few years. There was the one who told people he’d bring his M-16 to work if they pissed him off. There was the one who informed us on his first day that he’d been fired from McDonald’s for sexual harassment because he has a problem with boundaries.

I have been known to describe Jennifer as my “lesbian lover” to unsuspecting strangers. People frequently ask us to explain how our relationship works. Are we married? Are we dating? Are we brother and sister? How is it that we always know where the other is? Why is it that we spend so much time together? One day, I responded to someone by telling them that we’re lesbian lovers. It was my polite way of telling them that not only do I owe them zero explanation, but it is none of their business. I am pretty open at both school and work about being queer, and so this response makes sense…except for Jennifer’s status as a heterosexual male. People get a perplexed look on their faces when I respond to their questions in this way. Laugh uncomfortably. Never ask for an explication of our relationship again.

Well. A relatively-new coworker asked us this same question last night. Jennifer explained that we are long-time friends, and have worked together for quite some time. I added the bit about us being lesbian lovers, for good measure. This coworker’s response was, “If I had a gun, I would kill all the lesbians.”

Jennifer promptly responded with, “Whoa. Not cool, man. That’s not okay.” We don’t currently have a supervisor directly over us at work, so there was no one to reprimand said coworker for the threat. I stewed for fifteen minutes before confronting this coworker and explaining that if he ever makes a statement like that again, not only will I report it to the night shift supervisor, but I will file a complaint with HR because I consider that to be a threat against my own life.

His response? That, in return, I clean up my language because he is not one to stand up for himself.

My beloved missionary brother, Chuck, is a language-sensitive person. If he ever turned off a movie, it was for profanity. Though I don’t agree with his perception of what is “acceptable” and “unacceptable” in terms of language-use, I understand that some people are bothered by what our society has deemed to be profane language.

That having been said, the usage of swears does not EVER warrant death threats.

I never understood how people could not grasp that there is language much more harmful than a handful of four-lettered words. You want to hear profane?

“If I had a gun, I would kill all the lesbians.”

That, my friends, is profane.

That is hate speech.

Heavier Things.

****trigger warning****

See. Here’s the thing about the wee hours of the morning. My brain works differently. It’s all emotion and completely void of filter. Truthfully, my brain has had a difficult time with the whole emotion/filter situation lately. I’m swinging from mood to mood and giving whoever will listen a play-by-play in the process. But, I’m feeling share-y, right now. So we’re going to embrace that mood, and talk about…well…heavier things.

Today was rough. You know those days when you wake up and you know that getting out of bed is the worst possible decision you could make? The days when you’re just praying to gods and demi-gods and just really nice, saintly-esque people to let you sleep for eternity so you don’t have to actually face your brain? Okay. You may not know those days. I do, and today (Monday…haven’t slept yet, so it’s still Monday) was one of those days. I mean, yes. It’s a Monday, and I think Mondays are a cruel invention. But this was more than just the typical Monday self-loathing. This was Patrick Henry. Let me be free, or kill me now. Wait. That isn’t right…anyway. I got out of bed, and it was the worst decision I could have made.

I slept terribly, because I had just shown Jennifer my blog for the first time and I was paranoid that he now thinks I’m some obsessive crazy person. I AM an obsessive crazy person, but I don’t need Jennifer to know that. And there’s that whole thing where I’m in immense pain all the time. It sort of makes the sleeping thing a problem.

And I’ve been the Rollercoaster Royalty, in terms of mood stability. Monday is not immune to my royal charms. So a moody, sleep-deprived me rolled out of bed and went to class, anticipating a lecture on the Jim Crow era. Nooooope. Instead, we talked about the Steubenville rape case. I have a difficult-enough time keeping it together on days when I’m feeling sane, once the discussion turns to sexual assault in any respect. Today wasn’t conducive to me speaking about victim-blaming without throwing things or sobbing, so I spent class in silence.

But as I retreated further and further into my head, I thought I needed to put this out there. So, here is a piece of my life:

I didn’t tell anyone. Of course I didn’t tell anyone. I’m less shy about it now, but I still haven’t told many people. Like Mom. She doesn’t know, so please don’t tell her.

I tried to tell someone, once. A teacher. A teacher I trusted. The teacher actually asked me if there was some history between me and this other student that he needed to know about. I started in on my story, and he cut me off. Said he didn’t want to know. Whatever happened between me and the kid was my business. He was legally obligated to report stuff like that, and he didn’t think I knew what I was saying. Just stop talking. Too much information.

And so I kept it to myself. I didn’t even know what to call it, what had happened. “It.” The incident. Like some insidious disease we don’t refer to by its name because it’s just too horrific. Of course it’s horrific. But I didn’t have the words and I didn’t want to tell anyone, least of all someone who could explain to me what “it” was.

So I listened, instead of talking. I listened to the second- and third-hand stories of girls who had been hurt. By neighbors and boyfriends and bishops and fathers and a few by strangers. I listened to the way those stories were relayed by boys and girls alike. They were never stories of victims and perpetrators. They were cautionary tales. This Is What Happens When You Do Stupid Things. They were myths. Doesn’t Count If You’re A Slut. They were seals of hot red wax, imprinting labels and sealing messages. Attention-Whore. Because if it happens to everyone, it happens to no one. All these questions. What was she wearing?? Was she high?? But weren’t they dating?? How many times?? Doesn’t she know not to trust people with penises?? And always with the two question marks: one, because it’s a question; two, because it’s a question laced with incredulity.

Of course I kept it to myself. I had no desire to be subjected to that level of ridicule. And despite the large amount of people in the school, we were a small town. Word travels quickly. Of course I kept it to myself.

There were no safe places to hide, if I decided to open my mouth.

And I listened to those two-question-marked inquiries and knew that even if I managed to withstand the curiosity and criticism of my peers, I would never make it through once word got back to my mother. There is no way I would be able to look her in the face as she asked me

What were you wearing?

Pajamas, Mom.

How many times have I told you to keep yourself covered?

I tried…I…I…Ithoughtiwasandimsosorrymomididntmeantoandpleaseimsosorryididntlistenifonlyidlistened–

Yes, if only you’d listened, maybe we could have avoided this.

No safe places. Except inside my head, where I relived “it” over and over, every day. And all I could do was organize my skittles into piles by color before I ate them, and take on more assignments for the school paper, and write nonsense poetry in spiral-bound notebooks with a sharpie, like I was in junior high again. Anything to maintain some illusion of control over my life and my mind and my body. They were separate entities now, at odds with one another, and I couldn’t control any of them. But I tried, with my skittles and my editing and my poems.

And I sit here, now, thinking about what it would be like to be Steubenville’s Jane Doe. To have people wish me dead because the people who attacked me could’ve played ball someplace  maybe. To have the news lament the tragedy befallen the poor kids whose lives are now over–their lives, not mine. No mention of my life, save it be someone’s wish to end it.

And I sit here, now, overcome with this feeling of futility. How do we fix it? How do we make our world safe for, accountable to, Jane Doe? To every other Jane Doe? To the girls I went to school with? To me?

I don’t have an answer. Just anger and frustration and years of other “its” and things, mine and others’, eating at me. Giving me ulcers and migraines and panic attacks. My body and my mind are still at odds with one another. But they agree on one thing: that this culture of victim-blaming needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. That a world where there are no safe places is not a world we should keep. Scratch it. Crumple it up and throw it away. Pull out a clean page. Label it “Utopia” and draw with your words what such a place would look like. Mine says simply,

Violence-free zone.

You are safe, here.

Posit on Parenthood.

Hello, World. I know it has been a while. Life has been crazy. Something about bad reactions after blood tests, and creepy people stalking me, and out of control anxiety levels, and sinking into a deep depression after a day filled with triggers, and items that were stolen (namely, my wallet…wherein all my important items rested). It has been an intense and upsetting past few weeks.

Speaking of intense and upsetting:

I’ve been mulling a lot of ideas — somehow all tied to children and parenthood — around in my brain. Ideas about how Parent is a different brand of human. How, once you have a child, your life is theirs until they reach adulthood. Is this a terrible way to conceptualize parenthood?

I’m taking a Literature by Women class. The class is filled with fantastic reading material and endlessly frustrating discussion. We recently read The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. I read this novella in my high school AP Literature class. I hated it. I understand the need to realize oneself. I can sympathize with being stuck in a relationship that neither party wants to be part of. I can empathize with needing to escape a situation in which you are seen not as a person, but as a possession to complete a collection of Correctness. I DO NOT excuse Edna Pontellier’s suicide (I apologize for ruining the ending, if you have not read the book…but not really) as being tragic. Why? Because she abandons her children. More than that, she kills herself as a means of running away from her children. I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS.

Does that make me a terrible person?

I have been reading articles about recent attempts by states to legislate the bodies of people who could become pregnant—from making access to emergency contraception more difficult, to instituting long waiting periods for abortions, to “personhood” measures that define a fetus as having constitutional rights, to defining the termination of a zygote–>embryo–>fetus as murder, to requiring that rape victims carry their pregnancies to term or go to prison for evidence tampering. This world makes me very, very sad.

I have been thinking about Edna Pontellier, and how she never wanted children. She was never a “mother-woman,” as she puts it. I wonder what Edna’s life would have been like, if she had never had children. Would she have been happier? Would she have stayed in a loveless marriage? Would she have run away with her lover, Robert, and lived happily ever after?

I don’t want kids. That may change, someday; but, I do not want kids. It isn’t that I don’t think I would make a good parent. I would be an all right parent, I guess. I have this need to take care of people. I just think that I am better-suited for other things.

Is that so bad? Does that make me a terrible person?

Life is filled with so many choices. Being a parent should be a choice—not a de facto choice that is made for someone by the result of other decisions, but a conscious, deliberate choice. People should have that…that right? And children should have the right to grow up in a household where they are not only going to be raised by loving parents, but in a healthy, stable environment.

Is that naive?

Infection, Disease, and Illness. Oh my.

Jennifer and I were conversing earlier in the week about the conditions formerly known as STDs. Jennifer doesn’t agree with the relabeling of these conditions as STIs. Had our conversation not been rudely interrupted by the need to do our jobs, I think I would have been able to persuade him that this renaming was/is a positive move.

Why? Because the word “disease” is so stigmatized. Anyone can get an infection. Infections are spread to humans by other humans anytime humans touch something that is attached to or has been touched by other humans. We’ll count breathing air as a sort of tactile phenomenon, for the sake of the argument. Such are the ways of bacterial and viral infections.

Did you know that chicken pox is caused by a virus that is part of the herpes family?

Cancer is a disease. Cancer is serious. We refer to people who have had cancer as “So-and-So, you know, the one who had the cancer?” Chicken pox? Meh. Every kid gets the chicken pox. It’s caused by a viral infection. There is no “So-and-So, you know, the one who had the chicken pox?”.

Referring to the array of conditions now known as STIs as, well, infections, encourages people to spend less time focusing on how diseased they may be and more time on treating their infections. This leads to a healthier, happier populous. Hooray! And this paves the way for better, more effective dialogue between those who research or treat said infections and those who have or are at risk (are you a person? you fit in this category) to have them.

Sounds great, right?

 

So, then, let us talk about other illnesses. Let us talk about mental illnesses.

 

Generalized Anxiety. Major Depression. Social Anxiety. PTSD. OCD.

Welcome, friends, to my brain.

I have spent much of my evening — since consuming that large bowl of peppermint stick ice cream — reading articles about mental illness, and absorbing the attitudes people have toward those who are somehow mentally ill.

People are not very nice.

Physical illnesses are taken seriously because their effects are visible. I was recently diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy — a condition that was probably caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and resulted in the right side of my face being paralyzed. I was eating dinner with my family, and my brother made me angry. Then he cracked a joke, and I tried not to laugh. But I started to smile. Until I noticed that only half my face was moving. We thought I was having a stroke. Emergency room. Imaging. Blood work. Thousands of dollars. My face is almost back to normal, five weeks later. My trip to the hospital unearthed other physical-health-related concerns, so Dani has more doctors and tests and bills to look forward to, over the next few months. 

Nevertheless, when half my face was unable to move, I got away with a lot of things. I got extensions on papers. I got leeway at work. People were extra nice to me. No one complained when I spent my free daylight hours sleeping. I got to wear an eye patch (my pirate name is Stroke-Face McGee). People seemed genuinely concerned with my welfare, and tried very hard to be supportive in whatever way they could manage.

I’ve spent my collegiate career struggling with debilitating anxiety. People are not incredibly willing to let you sleep off a panic attack when you have ten of them a week. People are not incredibly understanding of an inability to compose because your brain will not calm down. People sometimes tell you to stop talking about how unattached you are to staying alive, because they are sick of hearing it. (You read that correctly. People tell you to stop telling them that you are having suicidal thoughts.) People tell you to get over yourself, stop complaining, and function.

And, just so we are clear, my experience with mental illness is relatively mild, in comparison to many of the people with whom I have lived, or worked, or been friends, or otherwise interacted.

I’ve read so many comments today from people who tout that mental illness is a cop out, or that it didn’t exist back in their day, or that single-parent households are the breeding grounds of psychosis and if young people would just keep their hands to themselves and wear clothing with higher necklines then these things wouldn’t exist.

Near my old apartment, there was a billboard that read, “You wouldn’t say, ‘It’s just cancer.’ Depression hurts.”

I’m not going to equate depression and cancer. They are two different beasts. My dad’s cancer went undetected for quite some time because his brain tumor caused him to exhibit symptoms of depression. But it wasn’t depression that killed him.

Still. Depression needs to be taken seriously. Mental illness needs to be taken seriously. There need to be better resources. There needs to be a better dialogue. People need to be able to get the help that they need to live healthier, happier lives. And those whose lives are fortunate enough to not be touched in one way or another by mental illness need to be considerate of the experiences of those who are struggling. And those whose mental health is under control need to be considerate of those whose mental health is not, for one reason or another. We need to erase the stigma that those with mental illness are lazy or damaged or freakish or what have you.

This has become quite the extensive treatise. In short:

Be kind. Be understanding. Try to ask for help, if you need it. Be willing to help, if you are asked. Do not pass judgment. Keep a lookout for those who need someone. Be someone else’s person. Extend to others the words and actions you would want to receive, if you were at your lowest point.

You know.

Basic tenets of positive human interaction.