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An Open Heart Hears the Message

The past five years have been unusually dark for me. Full of family turmoil and career drama. I’ve had plenty of reasons to run and hide, to isolate myself from the world. I stopped dating, I stopped really socializing too. I locked away in my little protective bubble where nothing could touch me. And how fitting that this spring I’m starting to emerge into who I have always wanted to be.

I’m sure the isolation served a purpose, allowed me a chance to rest, regroup and plot my way forward. But so much hurt, so much shame, so much trauma and I was more stuck than empowered. Contrast that to where I am now, more social, more vocal, more grounded in who I am. I believe strongly that this is where I need to be right now, in a space of manifestation and creation, fulfillment and passion. It’s time for me to start making some of my own dreams come true and actualizing the purpose I have for my life.

It’s even more important for me to be in this space…

Right here and right now 

I can’t even say how long it’s been since I used the word “passion” to describe myself. I’ve been in survival mode for so long that passion had hardened into a strong shell of resentment over the years I had to put aside what I wanted and desired to avoid judgment and shame. And that passion barely had any embers left until the beginning of 2016.

It was a shitty year….we know this now. And when I had started writing this back in October, I had no idea how bad it would get. I had no idea that so many of us survivors of sexual assault would get activated and retraumatized all at once. I couldn’t see that coming. But to have that same person now in the White House is even more terrifying. And more threatening. Read the rest of this entry

Reflections of Resilience: Origin Story

It’s an ambitious title up there.

Intimidating.

I feel like I should have something profound to say to live up to that title.

Instead all I have are distant observations that are colored by the more vivid memories that I deliberately want to block out.

TW:  Descriptions of sexual assault, rape 

SilencingTwenty years ago today, I was raped.

I was raped in a college dorm room. Right before Thanksgiving break in 1996, my freshman year. It was less than a month until my 19th birthday.  I was 900 miles away from home, there alone, without any of my familiar friends or family nearby.

I was an A student, sorority girl and up and coming leader when I was raped. I had just been initiated into Alpha Chi Omega. Within a few weeks I elected to be Vice President of Intellectual Development, unprecedented in our chapter to have someone so young on the Exec Board. I was chosen in part because of my academic credentials, which i admit now were pretty decent. It helped that I was mostly articulate and could flirt easily with the men in the fraternities on campus.

I was raped by someone I knew. I was in the room of my current fuck-buddy at the time. His friend was visiting from out of town for his last hurrah before getting married. We sat and watched the Fly while drinking beers. I left for a bit to sit and talk with the Indian guy down the hall whose name escapes me.

I was raped after a lot of alcohol had been consumed. But I had two beers that night. Two over the course of maybe three hours. They had the rest of the case to themselves. I’d say they had at least four or six on me each.

I was raped after I had previously consented to a sexual activity. When I returned to the room I was caught in a three way kiss between the fuck buddy and his friend (not the bachelor) that I had previously fucked with. This kind of threesome had happened a few times before and we always had a good time with each other. They invited Bachelor to join in and I consented to that–three pairs of hands on me at once is so magnificent.

I was raped after someone had drunk so much that they passed out: At one point in this 10 minute group grope session (which, if I’m not mistaken may have hinted at some man-on-man action too), fuck buddy had to get up and take a piss, so we all stopped. We turned another movie back on and pretended to watch it. Fuck-buddy’s friend noticed that fuck buddy had been gone for a while, so he got up and left to go find him, leaving me alone with Bachelor (and a creepy dude in the opposite corner of the room trying to go unnoticed).

I was raped by someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer.  He suggested that we make out while we waited for Fuck Buddy to return. I consented to making out. When he tried to grope under my clothes, I didn’t feel comfortable and told him to stop. He didn’t.

I was raped by someone despite trying to fight back. He continued to undress himself and me. I struggled as he was trying to get my jeans off. I told him no repeatedly. He was able to get my pants and underwear off while keeping me pinned down with his knee. He had slithered a hand between my naked thighs and I was squeezing them hard to try to get him to stop. I didn’t want to be touched anymore and I gave every signal both verbal and non verbal that would be recognized.

I was raped by threat and force. As I struggled, he had flipped me over onto my stomach, his hand holding me down into the pillow by the neck. I could only look to the side–I couldn’t even tell you which side. We were on the top bunk and my head was smashed into a pillow. Tears and drool on the pillowcase, blacking out for a moment because I couldn’t breathe. I remember being outside my body at that point, ready to make due with whatever happened so long as I didn’t die. That was my bargain. If I don’t die, God, I promise I will deal with this. Even our bargains with deities are soured by internalized misogyny.

I was raped anally. I had never done anal play of any kind. I had a boyfriend ask for it once and it just never came to anything. While still holding me down he first tried my vagina.  Then when I was still blocking him with my thighs and movements, he raped me anally. No lube, no prepping, no asking.

I was raped as a demonstration of dominance over me.  Rape is and always will be a crime of power. This is about power and control over another human being–sex is just the vehicle for that exertion of control. It’s pathological, angry and destructive by intent. It is not impulse or a force of nature. It is a deliberate choice. I was his promised Bachelor’s gift (I would later find out) and fuck this bitch for daring to say no to me. Entitlement. projection and blame is the environment where our rapists dwell.

I feared for my life. I screamed into the pillow the minute I felt him enter me, his grip became tighter around my neck.  I was worried my neck would snap. I froze. In shock. I still don’t know where my head was looking. I was out of body again. Maybe blacked out.All I know is how much all of my senses were on overload. The only thing I felt besides life-threatening fear was the white-hot, searing pain from my ass.

I was raped in front of a silent accomplice. Remember creepy dude in the corner? He was still there, watching the whole thing. When my rapist was done, all i could hear was the fapping sound of his hand on his skinny, shitty prick. He was getting off on this.  I was doubly humiliated. I call him an accomplice because he was complicit in what was happening. He would have been clearly witnessed me saying no. He would have clearly seen me struggling. He would have clearly known that I didn’t want it. And what’s worse is that he got off on witnessing that.

 


Other facts:

  • Fuck Buddy had passed out in the bathroom. Friend was blocking people from getting into the room I was in.
  • Fuck Buddy’s roommate heard me screaming and the Friend told him to not worry about it that we were all role playing.
  • Another guy who was just getting back in that night, heard banging against the wall and faint sounds, but the music in the hallway was too loud for him to know what was going on.
  • At least 5 other guys on the floor heard me that night; not one of them intervened. Two others (in addition to the in-room witness) had gotten off to it.
  • I found out he had used a condom. I heard him snap it off when he was done.
  • It took me more than 10 minutes to get back to my room, from getting over the shock to getting my clothes back on, to drying my tears, to breaking through the guys who were trying to block me in and make me go for round 2.I stumbled down the flight of stairs to my floor
  • I was bleeding and in a lot of pain. I already had a bad back and it had completely seized up.
  • I called one of my major crushes who was in school in Detroit. He was an architecture student, so I knew he would be up. I cried on the phone with him for 2 hours without being able to say much.
  • I skipped all my classes the next day.
  • I skipped my date that night with a man who I’m pretty sure would have taken me straight to the police to report it to distract me while he would have been getting his mob friends to dispense justice.
  • I did eventually shower, but only because I couldn’t sleep.

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By the end of that weekend, I had taken myself down to the lake at 4 am. I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours at a time. I decided to take a walk to the lake, halfway torn between suicide and victorious resistance. One of the guys from that night who had been just getting home from a date, saw me leaving. We didn’t really talk much as we walked. I confirmed his suspicions: that I was really saying no and crying out for help. His feeling of guilt and shame was evident.  We found a bench outside the library, looking out at the lake.

Right now, I’m reminiscing about Lake Michigan. All the healing that happened in that spot over the years. Not just from this, but other things too. Remembering one of my most stable and stalwart lovers during my years there. A Navy Man who still provides me comfort and protection from my overthinking and strict need for control even after years and many miles apart. Texting with him right now. 

As we sat there, he just held my hand. He was present for me as I channeled whatever strength I had left into the words that tumbled out of my mouth. It was just a stream of consciousness. Acceptance that what happened to me was real. Resolve that it would never happen again in the future. A commitment to dictate the terms of any sexual encounter I had from there on out. From now on I was in control of my body, my voice, my actions, my motives. And if a sexual encounter didn’t align with what I waned then it wasn’t going to happen.

But there was one glaring absence in my bold speech of recovery:

I didn’t call it rape.

 

 

 

 

 

National Coming Out Day

It’s 9:45 pm here on October 11th. I got home late and am making an ambitious (for me) dinner of shepherd’s pie. So as I wait, I think back on another marginally bad day.  It wasn’t horrible, it just was angsty. And most of the angst was mine. I was impatient, unorganized, forgetful and foggy all day. And it wasn’t until later in the workday, when I was beyond the point of salvaging it that I finally realized why I was so on edge.

Today was National Coming Out Day

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For the past 10 years I’ve been flirting with various forms of outness, to varying degrees. And to the point where I’m essentially out to everyone except extended family. Even professionally to some degree it’s been know how I identify. Especially over the past year or so I’ve become far more comfortable with being out.

But today it was scary and triggery. It brought back memories of a workday interrupted by a call from a friend telling me that a website had posted my online journal and that it was circulating. It brought me back to the pacing through the hallways going mad from the ringing of the phone. It brought me back to 8 months of unemployment and 10 years of trying to scrape my way back to believing that I deserved to make an earning even close to what I was making before. It brought me back to the rumors, the panic attacks during the news, the fear, the cowardice, the ignorance, the victimhood and the punishment. It brought me back to a night where I was as close to suicide as I’ll ever get and breaking down to ask for help before I could finish the act.

I didn’t come out on Facebook today like I had wanted to. I have family who, as well intentioned and loving as they are, tend to call my parents over ever minor quip I post. As much as I love my parents, my coming out isn’t worth them having to field phone calls from worried family members and well-intentioned, but clueless friends. The choice to come out is mine and not theirs.

So, instead, I came out on Twitter, reminding all 686 followers of who I am.

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Those things are some of the easier to identify things about me. It’s what most people care about when they talk about coming out. But identity is such a rich and powerful blend of concepts, stories, and aspirations that simply saying I’m bisexual, polyamorous, kinky, queer, Chicana, femme, Mother, wife, lover, educator, lawyer, spiritual and geek is just a superficial part of the story. Some of it is the sensational part of the story because ooooh—bi, poly and kinky–that’s out there. But it’s just scratching the surface.

There are other aspects of identity that go beyond the census items of nationality (American), race/ethnicity or income. There are the aspects of self that evolve over time but create the refinements of self that truly identify us closer to our core. Those aspects of ourselves are just as precious and vulnerable, worthy of being spoken as personal truths.

So tonight, I define more of who I am. Coming out as the woman I truly am at heart:

I am a public servant. I have always been drawn to government, politics, and the business of policymaking. But moire than anything I have been drawn to a life of being in service to the public in some capacity or another. Right now I provide direct services through a nonprofit,. but in the past, I’ve served in capacities that were more about the public good than my own advancement.

I am half white and half Mexican but identify as Chicana. This is very important for me to distinguish. I love both of my families, but the Mexican half of my family was the most influential in my upbringing. My dad’s family valued education but watching my Mexican grandparents’ pride when my mom earned her master’s struck a chord with me. It told me the legacy that was going to be passed to me to build upon. It is a responsibility that I take seriously. My father’s family is full of intelligence, accomplishment, and distinction–my role with them is less to carry on their legacy and more to just not fuck it up. But what I accomplish for the Mexican side of my family, like a law degree, creates a path for others to follow. I’ve already helped one family member with his law school application and LSAT prep. We rise together.

That said, I am also very privileged. Because my last name is white, my skin is light and freckled and my hair turning gray faster than my more indigenous parts of the family, I’m a dead ringer for your standard, run-of-the-mill white girl. That’s not what I feel inside and so I get somewhat defensive during conversations about race. I am so eager to relate to people that I end up ignoring my privilege, the same privilege that makes it easier for me to be heard. It has been an uphill battle for me to remember that my story isn’t more important than anyone else’s, particularly those who don’t get the benefits that come with passing for white, cis, het and able bodied.

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I am bisexual and married to a man. So another privilege I carry is that I at least am always perceived as heterosexual. I’m not, of course, and that’s where some mental health issues come into play for many of us–being misidentified, ignored and rebuked within the LGBTQ community (mostly getting derision from the Ls and Gs) creates an insidious amount of hardship as we try to navigate our way through the world.

I am bisexual and I have known it since I was 12. But to the outside world, I had a fairy tale wedding and lived happily ever after. And while I love my husband dearly, part of why I love him is that he’s never had an issue with me living my life as fully as I am able. He’s always given me support and encouragement, to pursue what makes me happy–including exploring my attraction to women and non-binary/gender nonconforming folk. Ultimately this is aided immensely by being polyamorous–we negotiate the terms of our marriage and it decidedly doesn’t look at all like the heteronormative ideal. And I am happier for it.

Finally, I’m coming out as a visionary within the Catholic meaning of the term. Again, from the age of 12, I believe I was called to something powerful. This calling initially spoke to me through the images and rituals of the Catholic faith–I was strong in my devotion to the Church at the time (see, I still capitalize it). But as I grew into the woman I am, I recognized that Catholicism at its core no longer fit with the calling that I was given. It was just too large for such a narrowly-defined faith structure. So, I departed from the Church. I still miss it sometimes–going to Mass and adoration, praying the rosary, the cleansing I’d feel after confession. It is like my hometown. I’ll always have a connection to it. It’s part of my story. But it’s not where I choose to live now–I have moved on. My calling is what matters most to me, not ascribing to any one issue of faith.


With all of that said, I have an update on the shepherd’s pie: I burned myself making it last night which is why this is posted late. i’m doing better today–but I guess I also need to add clumsy to the list of identities that I have.

Joy in a bottle

A few weeks ago I talked briefly about being in the midst of an early personal spring. Whenever I have break-throughs like this, sudden realizations of patterns and purpose, I want nothing more than to capture that feeling, bottle it, keep it safe.

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I keep wanting to capture these feelings, because I don’t want to be without that joy of discovery for very long. I don’t want to fall back into old patterns of self-doubt and disappointment about my life and especially my path. It would be so much easier if I could just bottle it and hang onto it for those moments when I’m down and out, succumbing to the darkness of the overwork and drowning in the sorrow of feeling stuck.

But that defeats the point of having those emotions in the first place. The point isn’t so much to capture as it is for it to make the hard work, the suffering, the darkness all worth it. It provides more motivation to keep moving forward, to slow down the progressive bad habits that have kept us stuck in the first place.

Today I found myself longing to capture that joy again. After a long conversation with the person I consider to be my soul sister, I had such a strong sense of clarity that even Warrior talked about how inspiring it was to see it.

I kept trying to capture it, to not lose it. Especially because it’s a day off for me and I don’t want the stressors of work tomorrow to interfere with the enormous job I have ahead of me. But that worry of losing it interfered with my ability to actually feel it.  It took me out of the moment of joy and into an immediate space of worry and dread.

So tonight, I’m making a conscious effort to just be present in this moment and this sensation within. Enlightenment won’t make a difference if I don’t fully embrace it when it shows up.

 

 

 

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