Sunday, February 24, 2019

Social Justice and Reactivity; Reflections on a conversation between Joe Rogan and Jamie Kilstein

Who'd have thunk THIS is what I'd feel the need to write about after such an absence...

In 2016, I was really invested in the podcast Citizen Radio and it's hosts.  And when accusations of predatory behavior came out about Jamie Kilstein, I was honestly devastated.  This was someone who I had promoted, supported monetarily, given his music album as gifts to loved ones... And then other people I was invested in said he had acted in a predatory manner towards them, aggressively enough that they ended their friendship with him.

When he disappeared in the face of these accusations, and even in the midst of my grief and upset, I honestly wished the best for him.  I hoped that he would take time off to reckon with and heal the damage we all knew he had.  That he had TOLD us he had.  I hoped he wouldn't hurt or kill himself.  I hoped that the consequences of his actions wouldn't suffocate him.  I hoped we wouldn't hear from him for years.

Well, in just the past couple of days I learned that he re-emerged.  And today I listened to his interview on the Joe Rogan podcast.  When it was over, I simply let silence enter the car as I sorted through really, really mixed feelings.  Their conversation brought up SO MUCH stuff for me.

Joe and Jamie talked a lot about what I would call the "reactive" culture we currently live in.  They spoke about the way that people simply react to things, instead of taking time with them.  They spoke about the way in which folks will be labeled as a "traitor" to the cause and excommunicated from social justice circles.  The spoke about the way in which people are immersed in communities that go from one outrage to another without rest or reflection.

And I have to agree with them on this point -- our society is highly reactive.  People on all parts of the political spectrum do this.  And this manifests differently from group to group, but there are certainly a lot of shared characteristics.

Jamie spoke about how being forced to take a step back from the way he was living his life has made it so that he is so much more healthy now.  And this reflects my own journey, and that of close friends of mine during this year.  It reflects things I've heard discussed on other podcasts, like The Friend Zone, where being "selfish" and disconnecting from the internet and taking time to meditate and read books is needed healing in our reactive world.  This made me happy.  I wanted such healing for him.

Jamie and Joe both spoke about how taking time with things is important.  They both talked about how this reactivity is a negative thing.

And then they played a clip from a confrontation between protesters and the President of a college.  And as this woman spoke with pain, and anger, and years of trauma in her voice -- they laughed.

After talking about how he has reflected on what brought him to the dire point he was in last year, as he spoke about how much he did not like the person he had become and how many issues there were to reckon with there -- Jamie also denounced the idea that his behavior had ever been predatory, and denied that there was anything he needed to learn on that front.

When discussing the very concept of predatory behavior in men, Joe characterized it as "just how men act" when they are seeking sex.

Then he went on to deny rape culture exists.

Beneath the anger I felt listening to this, I felt so sad, and so tired. 

They'd both utterly missed the point.


I remember a year or so ago I was having a conversation with one of my best friends about a guy I was into at the time.  I was telling them that this guy sometimes says things that are kinda racist, and it bothers me.  I was wondering if I should give up on him.  I'll never forget what my friend, a queer Afro-Latino Caribbean man, said to me: "well that depends on whether you want to let him be human."

I was stunned into silence.  I felt keenly embarrassed.  This is someone who knows me well, who knows my heart and mind as well as anyone alive.  Someone who is not afraid to call out racism, not afraid to call out homophobia, to tell someone who cut us off in the supermarket exactly how and why she's rude.  Not some shrinking violet who will accept challenges to his humanity without a fight.

But here he was, telling me it's ok to let someone be human.  Meaning, to be flawed.  Meaning, to have room to grow.

That's not an easy thing.

But it is a necessary thing.

I remember when he and I were living together while I was in college, when I was most immersed in the social justice circles of the Bay Area, when I was at my most unforgiving and reactive.  I remember being introduced to the idea of Transformative Justice through INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and feeling immediately how important such work is, I embracing it.  If you went by their words, most of my cohort embraced it too. But if you went by actions...many of them were also incredibly intolerant of the humanity of others.  I found this over and over again.  Perfection was demanded, or you were out.  I would even call the way some were treated as straight up abusive.  Tearing people down when they fucked up -- when fucking up is human.

So when Joe and Jamie were talking about this thing that happens on the left, I knew what they meant.  Yes, it's real.

But here's the thing that gets me when I talk or listen to white cis men like Jamie and Joe have these conversations -- they will say all this against reactivity and have all this analysis of how it effected them and constrained or hurt them -- and then will turn around and laugh and have no patience for those expressing their hurt and pain in ways they don't understand or agree with.  And that's where they lose me.

Because as far as I can see, the thing that will bring us away from reactivity isn't self-justification of our own actions and perspective -- it's COMPASSION.


Compassion is the thing I found lacking in my experiences with some people and activist groups, and is also the thing I FOUND among those with whom I'm still connected and learning; compassion is the thing that allows us to be human, to speak to pain someone else caused kindly but honestly, to reclaim what is ours to work on and let go what is not.  What allows us to be soft and feel the feelings underneath our triggers and egos and speak our truth and have healthy boundaries and also allows the people around us to still be human.

Compassion for OURSELVES and others.

I wish I had a grand ending thought to close on, but that's it, and that's what I've been working on for myself.  None of this is easy, but it's so important and so painful and so needed.  And although it took me a year to finish this, here it is and I hope someone else gets something out of it. 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

As Soon As You Put Me Down I Run Away

When my friend Natasha did Reiki on me a few weeks ago she noted that in my solar plexus chakra there was an intense and deep seated well of shame.  Juxtaposing this, as she worked on this area she got a very clear image of her child running away joyfully with his father chasing him.

Before she was even halfway through describing this image of her child I was welling up with tears.

That child was me.

As soon as I could walk - I was running.  Ironically I detest running now, but as a toddler and child you couldn't stop me.  It was such a common thing that it became a trope of telling childhood stories about me.  In fact while Natasha was recounting this I thought of one image in particular, one that hasn't left me since.

There's a home movie I've seen a few times of my Dad and I in Tahoe, probably in the summer as I don't remember there being snow.  I think he and my Mom are laughing as they film me.  Or maybe they were just laughing when they showed it to me.  Either way, my Dad is holding me and then he puts me down -- and I promptly take off running in the opposite direction of both of them. I'm small, so he is able to keep up with me fairly easily, but it really was remarkable to watch.  If they'd taken their eyes off of me for a second I'd have gone quite a ways before they could have caught me.  But they're clearly used to this.

I was a fearless child.  I gave exactly zero fucks and you couldn't tell me anything.

I don't really remember now what that felt like.

See, remember the other thing that Natasha got from my chakra energy?  Shame. Intense shame.

That child?  Didn't make it past elementary school.

I guess maybe that's normal.  We do a lot of growing in those years.  But by the time I hit junior high school you wouldn't have recognized me in that child.  Hell, you wouldn't have recognized me as that child by the time 4th grade came to an end.

Part of me is glad of this.  That child was starting to grow into someone that was arrogant and self-righteous.  I can still be rather self-righteous, so gods only know what would have happened if I was left unchecked to develop.  Actually, I think I do kind of know -- I probably would have turned out a lot like Jennifer Lawrence.  I have a lot of empathy (and endless critique) for J Law because gods do I see her.  Do I know her.  Us Leos are SO MUCH if we never learn how to be humble.

Another part of me is kinda pissed that things turned out as they did.  Because through bullies and a constantly anxious mother and poor boundaries I turned into someone who takes everything deeply personally, who was shamed repeatedly for who I was, who felt fear of the world around me and closed myself off to so many experiences because of it.  My teenage and adult life have been spent trying to get 1/8th of that fearless confidence back.  And it's only now, in my early 30s, that maybe I'm just starting to get there.

And yeah maybe that kid would have turned into an asshole if left unchecked.  But they weren't one yet.  They were just a little tomboy femme wanting to experience the world, trusting that their parents had their back, that if they fell down they could get back up, that if they bumped their head they'd be ok after a good cry.  She just wanted to express herself fully, to sing, dance, express -- to enjoy life.  And when I think about her I want to cry, for so many reasons but perhaps foremost because I know they were me, but they feel like a stranger.

Can I re-integrate that energy and harness it for good?  Can I experience that fearlessness and joy again?  Can I come to a humility that isn't based in shame and second-guessing my self-knowledge but in compassionate, non-judgmental and honest assessment of my actions?  I hope so.  That's what I'm working on now.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Singing, I can hear them singing, when the rain had washed away all these scattered dreams

A week after returning home from the trial I had another dream of my Aunt.

We were having a family dinner out at a restaurant.  Everything felt comfortable and familiar.  I was home in Sonoma County, everyone in the family was there, we were having a good time.  I was seated next to my Aunt and near my Grandma (her mother, who died the year before my Aunt Robin did).  We were talking, I was so happy and thought to myself that I never thought I would get to have moments like this again... and I realized I must be dreaming.  The look on my Aunty's face told me I was right, I was dreaming, and I burst into tears and hugged her tightly.  She cried too.  All the grief I've felt over the years came out and I sobbed.

Once I caught my breath we talked.  I don't remember what was said but the emotions passing back and forth were ones of sorrow and grief and anger and love -- that weird mix of things when someone is taken away from you, that mix of things that chokes your throat and is kind of impossible to find the words for.   And I got back from her sadness, that she missed us, missed being alive, but also that she was OK.  She felt peaceful, and light; she wasn't weighed down by all this shit anymore.  She'd figured some things out, and was happy.

Dinner was over and we got up to walk out, still talking.  Now we were talking happily, but again it was more feelings passing between us and I don't remember the words.  She took my Grandma's hand, and loving feelings passed between all of us as we walked out of the restaurant chatting together.  The doors opened into blinding daylight and the dream was over.

This time when I woke up all I felt was joy.  We had told each other the things we needed to.  It was OK.  For the first time since I lost her, I think, I felt like it would actually be ok -- that healing would actually be possible.  I felt connected to her again.

My Grandma has visited me since she died, but Robin never had.  Not until these couple of weeks.  I'm so grateful for both visits, because I think the first made the second possible, and paired together they are honest to my experience of this horrible thing that happened.   It's been almost a month and while various feelings have come up, I have felt more at peace about things than I did over the last 7 years.  It's not over, and I need to not always keep it to myself, but what remains is the sense that healing is possible, and is happening.  My ancestors are with me, even when I can't feel them, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

As I look at next week, and the final sentencing hearing, I hope I close the door on David Frostick and use all I've been through productively in my life.  He's ruled more of my life than I ever wanted.  That's just a reality.  And maybe I'll feel differently if he ever comes up for parole.  But for now, I want that to come to an ending.  He is a vampire, siphoning the life off of those around him, and I don't need to feed him anymore.  He can take back everything that's his.  I'm keeping what's mine, and that's my Aunt, my family and my future.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dreaming, I was only dreaming, of another place and time, where my family's from

I had a dream that my aunt Robin was never murdered (i could remember that it and the trial happened but it was like that was the dream or something) and instead she was alive and hanging out with us and i was SO relieved to see her face smiling and laughing (as per usual) and to hug her.  The dream was longer and had more interaction but that's all i really remember.  It felt so real i was confused when i didn't wake up at home in my own bed.  I haven't been able to shake the utter sense of loss I feel now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Archers, Steven Avery, OJ Simpson and the DV death of my Aunt - some thoughts

Hi all, it's been a while. Thank you, if you're still around. If you've followed my blog for a while now you will know about the death of my aunt, and something about her experiences of domestic violence. Well, my priorities have changed re: writing and online activist participation, but this does seem like the place to write about "serious stuff" -- and it doesn't get much more serious than the trial of her accused murderer. If you don't know (see previous post) it has been 7 years that we have waited for this, as the accused used every available tool to prolong this process with no apparent care to the ways in which he was re-victimizing us (unsurprising really). So we've all had a lot of time at this point to sit with what happened, to process a lot of our feelings, to learn about domestic violence and the court system.

In the last year or so I've gotten into law/crime based podcasts such as Serial (season 1), Undisclosed, Truth and Justice, and Real Crime Profile. I think it has really helped me prepare for what's about to happen, and to understand what these lawyers are doing (because, no matter what prosecutors tell you, they are NOT trying to get justice for YOU and it's not the TRUTH they're trying to get to -- they're answerable to THE STATE and they're trying to PROVE AN ARGUMENT, it's a scored debate more than anything else.... anyway). Below you will find some stuff I've been thinking about that I thought was worth sharing. At the moment, my step-mother and I are sitting outside the courtroom where jury selection is happening in our trial and I have my laptop, hoping I would feel inspired to write something new...but I don't. So enjoy this instead....

Trigger/Content Warning: some graphic description of domestic violence/death.

And here we are

Family waits 7 years for trial to begin

Sunday, March 15, 2015

wrinkles poem

i used to wonder 
what kind of wrinkles 
i would have

and as it turns out

they are appearing between my eyebrows
from years of furrowed brow reading

and drawing down from the corners of my mouth
from years of frowning gritting teeth

i always thought that wrinkles say
about the life you have lived

so i always hoped mine
would crease my face from smiles
that i would have more
like my father's crows feet
that get more prominent every year

i guess i will take the proof
that i have been
by this world

that i have studied
considered deeply
and refused
to just
and avert my eyes

Sunday, August 10, 2014

(Trans)Misogyny on BBC Woman's Hour

Hi guys, it's been a while.  There have been things that I have wanted to write about here and there, but I haven't really had the time to do it.  The continuing genocide in Gaza.  The fifth anniversary of my Aunt's death (and still no trial for her killer).  Police violence.  Changes in how I think about my gender.  Wrinkles.  Sadly in the job I'm in now I don't really have the opportunity to scribble in my notebook as I once did when confronted with thoughts/moments I want to hold on to.  But this week I am here, because I heard something so upsetting that I really couldn't let it go.

I clean houses these days.  For an eco focused company who pays me decent.  It's not a bad gig.  We're allowed to listen to stuff with headphones while we work, and podcasts have been the perfect thing for me.  If I tune out for a second, unlike with an audiobook, I don't really lose my place.  And I don't have the temptation to sing along, like with music (we're not allowed to).  So I've been devouring podcasts!  Mostly these are BBC podcasts, as I find them largely more enjoyable than ones here from the US.  I like hearing perspectives on things from outside my own culture, and the accents, and feeling like I'm learning about another culture sometimes.

The one I've listened to the longest, in fact, for many years now off and on, is "Woman's Hour" on BBC Radio 4.  I looked for USian takes on this idea and really didn't find much.  But this is basically a one hour show, five days a week, that takes a feminist look at current events, primarily in the UK but they do draw stories from around the world.  The topics are as diverse as anyone who has spent time in Women's Studies or the like might expect.

From my perspective this show is not perfect, but it's often interesting.  Much like NPR in the States, Radio 4 seems to be a moderately left-leaning liberal type of environment, and Woman's Hour generally takes a similarly liberal feminist or old school radical feminist perspective on most things.  So, obviously, coming from an anti-kyriarchal feminist perspective I often want to respond with "yeah...but" to their segments.  From the way FGM and hijab are addressed, or the way they interview sex workers and trans women I can tell there is a deep discomfort with things I take for granted as obvious (like that sex work is work and trans women are women, full stop). I don't love this, but I can live with it most days.  Honestly it's often a good reminder about what big F Feminism looks like and values, and clarifies my fundamental differences with them.

But the episode I listened to on Friday was a whole new level.  I actually started crying while I cleaned I was so upset and angry, and I had to turn it off at one point.  Once the episode was over I cleaned in silence for a while just to clear my head.

As soon as I had read the episode description that morning I knew it wasn't going to be good.  "The politics of transgenderism" was the title of one of the segments.  OMG, "transgenderism???"  It was a huge red flag.  That wording is only used by two groups of people: transphobic Radical Feminists, and those who are largely ignorant of what it means to be a trans person and don't know any better yet.  After being in the feminist broadcasting business for a long time (decades, I've gathered) I doubted the latter could be the case here.  I wasn't wrong.  The episode started up and I heard who they had on to discuss their new book during this segment: Sheila Jeffreys.  If you're not familiar with her, like Janice Raymond and Germaine Greer, she is a well known feminist whose work has stigmatized, attacked, denigrated and dehumanized trans people (particularly trans women).

But it was worse than I feared, as the host (Jenni Murray) not only let Jeffreys speak at length without interruption even when she was saying incredibly transphobic things, but then repeatedly interrupted Zowie Davy* when she was finally given the chance to reply.  It was horrible.  It was violent.  And while Natacha at UnCommon Sense has already done an incredible job with her article A detailed response to Sheila Jeffreys on Woman’s Hour, I also feel the need to respond with my thoughts to a few things.  Thank you also to Melissa Tsang who transcribed the segment, which I have used here.

First of all, Jeffreys attacks trans women who, as they begin to express their gender identity, sometimes rely on stereotypical or hyper-feminine expressions of femininity.  Jenni Murray reworded that "accusation" thusly: "Long nails, very painted, long hair, flicked, beautifully made-up. Why is there often an apparent need to become a stereotype of a very feminine woman or a very masculine man?"  I've seen this kind of accusation a lot from feminists.  And I can't remember who said this, though I think perhaps it was Julia Serano, but the concept of a "trans girlhood" seems very relevant here.  It was the simple act of pointing out that when cis** girls begin to mature into women, they begin experimenting with gender roles and different kinds of gender expression.  Usually, we start playing with the images of womanhood that we see around us.  "Around us" can mean in our families, larger communities, or in media (for a few examples).  At some point, at least once or twice, most of us will "try on" a hyper feminine gender presentation: copious makeup, high heels, painted nails, long hair and yes, maybe we will even "flick" it.  As children, this is considered perfectly normal.  We're trying to figure out how what we feel inside corresponds with how we dress and adorn ourselves on the outside.  Trying to figure out the responses we get to different expressions of ourselves and how that makes us feel.  Trying to figure out what we're comfortable with.***  And yet, when a trans woman does this very same thing, she is somehow pathological.

Maybe it is because when many trans women come to this girlhood stage, they are adults.  But tomorrow, I turn 30 years old, and I'm STILL messing with my gender identity!  So why the hell would we assume that a trans woman who has just started expressing her femininity outwardly would have it all figure out right off the bat?  Why wouldn't she do many of the very same things that cis girls do?  From personally knowing, reading about and listening to trans women, it doesn't seem like this stage lasts very long (again, just like with most cis girls).  In fact most, if not all, of the trans women I have known express a very toned down version of outward femininity.  The most hyper feminine women I know in real life are all cis women!  That Jenni Murray and Sheila Jeffreys both seem to believe that trans women stay statically in this place of hyper feminine expression suggests a real ignorance of lived trans womanhood.

Directly after this part of the discussion, Zowie Davy responds brilliantly to this accusation of hyper-femininity by pointing out two things that Murray ignores altogether.  1) That this focusing on "stereotypical" femininity "assumes that femininity is somehow bad" and 2) that it is GENDER CLINICS, aka the gatekeepers of trans people's access to vitally important medications, that absolutely demand very normative gender presentation to take trans people seriously.  This second point has been talked about by trans people in many places; it is the violence of the medical industry on gender variant people, and a real enactment of patriarchal understandings of gender by systems of power.  These are the exact same dynamics that harm cis women in incredibly violent ways within medicine.  Honestly, even the most basic RadFem should take this point very, very seriously because it's the exact kind of patriarchal power over women that they regularly debunk.  And similarly, the first point is one that also falls precisely within the RadFem wheelhouse, reclamation of "the feminine" is something I first came across in radical feminist writing!  Further, the denigration of practices, work and people designated feminine is exactly something Woman's Hour regularly fights against.

Just not when it comes to trans women, apparently.

Finally, the segment ends with the tired, played out fear mongering of "men dressed as women going into toilets and raping (cis) women!"  Look, this is a horrible, violent, demeaning accusation, and one which is totally baseless.  Not because some version of it has never happened, but because people like Jeffreys pretend that trans women are exceptionally apt to raping people, and because this accusation is largely a roundabout kind of victim blaming.  So, first of all, sexual assault happens amongst all genders.  This is a fact.  Queer and straight, cis and trans, women, men and all people in between; sexual assault happens, and the victim and abuser come from every group.  Yes, we know some kinds of violence are gendered, and that those gendered masculine are more often the abuser.  But, and this goes to my second point as well, trans women are THE MOST LIKELY TO BE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED.  Like, statistically, this is a thing we know.  And specifically, trans women of color with a disability are the most likely people to be assaulted.  Because they are on the lowest end of the social hierarchy, the most dehumanized, the most looked down upon.  To turn around and say that trans women, a group that is most likely to be abused, are the ones going around doing all this abusive behavior, is some of the most sick and twisted kind of victim blaming I've seen.  And Jenni Murray not only let this (and all the rest of this abusive tripe) slide, but posed it back to Zowie Davy as though it was some compelling kind of question.

It might be a while before I can bring myself to listen to Woman's Hour again.

* The sacrificial trans woman who was seemingly only asked on so Woman's Hour could claim the segment was "balanced" [which is a BBC requirement for most political stories, I gather].

** I'm going to use the simple binary of cis and trans in this piece, to mean people who ~roughly~ adhere to their assigned gender at birth (cis) and people who don't (trans), but the reality is there is quite a spectrum.

*** Total sidenote but this process is probably a FAR superior example of performativity than the one Butler actually used of drag performance....

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks

If you are in the Bay Area I'd definitely recommend checking this out!

Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks:
The Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks is a series of four walks along the San Francisco Northeast Bay refinery corridor. The refineries include: Shell, Tesoro, Valero, Phillips 66 and Chevron. Each refinery community suffers from high rates of cancer, asthma and autoimmune diseases.

Join us for one walk or all four between April and July, 2014. Rallies will be conducted at the beginning and end of each journey.

Walk solo, in a group, or relay the walk with your friends. The first walk is about 15 miles. Water will be provided, please bring snacks.

Bring your friends and family! The beginning rally of Walk #1 on Saturday, April 12th will be at the Pittsburg Marina at 9:00 a.m. will feature a speaker from Idle No More SF Bay and local residents. The ending rally at 5:30 p.m. at Waterfront Park in Martinez will be about what we envision for the best possible future for our communities. Maps of the walk route are below. For more information go to: or call (510) 619-8279 or email

If possible, please make your own arrangements to get back to the starting point if your transportation is there. A shuttle will be available but it will take time to go back and forth.

Taking BART? Email us at:
for pick up at 8:30 a.m.

Everyone is invited to join us on these healing walks as we journey along the refinery corridor. We will pray for life, the waters, soil, air, safety of the refineries and their workers, and a just transition beyond fossil fuels. We are all in this together and it's time to envision a better future for our communities.

Humanity exists within a finite system of air, water, soil and life. This is all we have. It is time for humanity to come together to ensure a safe future beyond fossil fuels. All of the tools for this transition are already available. Several times a month there is some type of fossil fuel disaster in the news. Life, soil and water are damaged every time this happens. We must come together to mold the future we want beyond fossil fuels. The time is now and it is up to us. It is obvious that the fossil fuel corporations don't care about us. Our future is in our hands. Join us to create it!

April 12, 2014 at 9am - 6pm
Pittsburg Marina, Pittsburg, California USA
51 Marina Blvd
Pittsburg, CA 94565
United States
Google map and directions
Gathering Tribes · · (510) 619-8279