Queer but not so queer

As I sit down to write my like, 5th blog in two days, N tells me I’ve been a bit obsessed with this the last few days. Seems that way, true enough. Typically, I write more when I’m processing something, when I am close to having my period, and when I am procrastinating on something. All three are true this week. I have been abundantly philosophic for the last two nights, and I have had at least 4 topics I haven’t written on. This is the flight of fancy that mania sometimes affords me, and I get a little manic when engaging in all three of the aforementioned scenarios.

So. On to other matters.

Me, N, and two others were gathered at N’s house tonight, just shooting the shit. We are all relatively close in age, a diverse range of race and educational and gender and work experiences. What ties us all together is one group classification: we all identify as queer.

I’m taking this damn Group Process class for grad school, which starts this weekend. It is a class in counseling groups. We’ve been doing a lot of talking about groups on this blog the last couple of days. I’m struggling with some of the material about classifying groups, as you’ve all seen. Tonight I started thinking about where I fit into groups, where I feel like I belong best, and where I’ve somehow wound up; where I feel most comfortable, and where I really don’t.

It all started with a discussion of the L Word. Two of them started talking about some show with a person named Max, and Max transitioning, and Max’s experiences with gender and I assumed N and I were out of the conversation because they had hung out the night before, watching some DVD. I assumed N and I would be on the same page because neither of us had seen a movie recently with someone named Max in it. Then N joined in the conversation with the other two, and started referring to Max, and started relating that she, too had seen whatever it was that had sparked the conversation. Now totally in the dark, and also unable to speak the language of the group, I sat and listened for some clue that I would be able to rejoin the pack. I began to make an assumption that perhaps this was a movie or documentary regarding gender identity, perhaps TransGeneration, which is coming through our Netflix soon. That tied me to the group, and I was about to join in, when I realized they were talking about the L Word.

And then, I couldn’t relate.

Here’s the thing. I have never seen the L Word, and I really don’t care to.

And I fear that makes me a bad queer person.

There’s more to it. That’s not a joke.

I only came out a year ago. My story goes like this: At 15, I found some butch dyke at the summer camp I worked at hot, but I went home, figured it was all a phase and liked boys anyway. At 16, I became friends with my 27-year-old gay boss and his partner and learned all about the AIDS crisis among gay men. Then, I was straight for years. Until I was 29 and married and all of a sudden found myself with an asinine crush on a co-worker who led me on. I mean, I had no problem being queer — it was more about working out the details of my life to fit whom I wanted to love — but trying to fit me into the community is something else.

I am really struggling with that.

Here’s the deal. First, I am a femme. I wouldn’t describe myself as, you know, a manicured and pedicured and wearing furs and pink skirts kind of girl, but I wear makeup. I like jewelry. I tend not to leave the house without earrings. I get my hair highlighted. I’m 30. I’m done having a crisis about what I like and what I don’t. I’m not gonna, like, be shaving my head anymore trying to figure out who I am. This is it: jewelry and shoes and 10 lipsticks in the purse and blonde long hair.

The thing about being femme like I am is that no one recognizes me as queer without N by my side. I don’t have rainbow stuff anywhere on my person or property, and that’s not going to change. Some people have claimed that I “present” queer, but I guarantee you, 99% of the population is going to read me as straight when they see me. The only thing that marks me as queer is N by my side, or being able to say “she” when talking about the person I love when a) she’s not by my side, and even though b) she’s really not.

Not being able to be identified as a member of the group, being “stealth,” being, basically, invisible, really demarcates you from that group, in a certain way. Aside from allowing the “stealth” to claim the privilege that the oppressing, opposing, or other group claims, it also allows the group to which you really belong, the group you’d like to identify with, separate you from its ranks. Can you really be a part of a group without appearing or taking the image of one of its members?

So while I am sitting there thinking all of this, I am also still thinking about the L Word. And why my not wanting to see it makes me a bad queer.

I came out at 29. It’s been about a year. And I feel so detached from the things that really galvanize the queer community — gay marriage, adoption rights, health care for partners — some of these are really big deals. And I understand it at this really core level of yes! Of course everyone should have these rights. But it doesn’t feel like me, like it’s my rights, too. And I feel like it’s because I look at N and the people around me and think: I’ve been out for a year. How can I fight about these things? Technically, I have only been “oppressed” for one year. I have assumed, and can still assume, hetero privilege. I would genuinely feel as though I would be an ally, and not fighting for my own rights. I don’t know how to explain this schism. It’s not because I am ashamed of being queer, had any problem in adjusting to my newfound “identity,” which I think is still evolving, potentially. But I feel like much, if not all, of the discrimination that bullshit legislation is based upon — and I think people like Fred Phelps exist because of — people like my partner. People like RuPaul. People like Elton John. People who are quite visibly queer because of gender presentation. I look straight, therefore I am a good “queer,” and go unnoticed by the world at large.

No wonder I don’t feel attached to so much that the queer community feels attached to, because I don’t even feel like a part of the community. And I don’t know how to become a part of that community. It’s like this vicious cycle that I’m processing. I feel like a bad queer for not caring enough, and not wanting to watch some show like the L Word, and not really feeling like super excited to go to every queer event just because it’s a queer event. I feel like I am not doing enough to support the community I want to be a part of but yet, doesn’t feel like me.

And that’s a really strange feeling. It’s like, You fell in love with this really cute and nice boy. And she’s just the boy you’ve always wanted to date, and things are swell. And then she asks you to prom, and she gets all sussed up in her tux, and you all pretty in your dress, and then you go to the prom, and, well, it’s just not as grand a time as you expected. And you feel bad because you somehow should make it better for yourself. Like you made it bad by expecting too much.

The most excited I’ve been about anything in the queer community was a potential guerrilla action against a business for discriminating against someone due to his gender presentation. Bodies. I get bodies. That’s something I know, understand, have felt. That’s real and earthy to me. I can fight about the rights of people’s bodies all day long. It’s one of the reasons I came to feminism. Men shouldn’t be allowed to touch women’s bodies without their permission. The government shouldn’t be allowed to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. Women should be allowed to sell their bodies if they want to. Advertising has detrimental effects on women’s perceptions on their bodies. People should not touch the bodies of people with developmental disabilities unless they give them permission. I have a right to have a fat body. Fat bodies aren’t bad. Fat bodies can be healthy. I have been fighting about bodies for damn well 15 years. Adding in a queer element makes a hell of a lot of sense. And, well, if that can be my queer niche, that would be real nice.

God, more about generations.

Apparently, this is going to dominate this blog for the next 72 hours.

I just got done with a staff meeting. We started talking, actually randomly, about the 18-year-old girl who quit yesterday. She post-dated her resignation to last Thursday, even though her idea of quitting didn’t come up until yesterday. My two bosses, both Gen Xers, then talked about another girl who had gained permission from her father to work here. It seems that my boss had actually had a long conversation with this girl’s father about what the job was, how the insurance affected her driving, and what the mileage reimbursement rates were. I told my boss that was amazing. I mean, I have dealt with husbands of employees before, but never parents. How strange.

I remember being 18, and driving my parents’ car. Our job requires driving kids around to various places. We get reimbursed at 40 cents a mile. We can put on up to 50 miles a day. I get why people and people’s parents can be concerned. But I also remember being 18, and being completely separated from my parents. I did an impression of myself, at 18, for my boss, had I been that girl with the concerned dad. It would have gone like this:

“GAWD, DAD. You are SO EMBARRASSING. I canNOT even BELIEVE you are ASKING me to TALK TO MY BOSS ABOUT THIS. I am an aDULT.”

*Stamping of feet* *Heavy sighs*

He would have said:

“Stop being a drama queen. That’s not your car, and you need to find out about the insurance. If it was your car, you could do whatever you damn well wanted. But it’s not. If you don’t find out, you’re not going to be able to use the car, and you’ll have to find some other way to work. End of Discussion.”

“FIIIIIIIIINE. GAWD, I HATE this FAM-I-LEE.”

*Dad retreats to the wood room to watch some special on the History channel and smoke cigarettes.*

*I stomp away and slam a door for full effect.*

I would then call my boss and explain I needed to better understand the insurance policy. I would then explain it to my dad. All the drama would stay at home. It would be MORTIFYING to share all of the questions my parents would have had with my boss. At 18, I did not want anyone thinking I actually *gasp* had parents.

The thought of people actually having their parents get involved with their jobs is somehow shocking to me. Like, I can’t comprehend it now at 30, and regressing into my former 18 year old self, I can’t comprehend it. I was still mired in that world-revolves-around-me, I-can-do-it-all, I-actually-birthed-myself-and-came-out-as-and-adult mindset of a teenager. I did not want my parents involved in any part of my life at all. Which sucks for me, because now they don’t want anything to do with me now that I’m a sane adult and can appreciate them, because I’m a big ol’ fat queer. Ah, the irony.

Some of the comments in the last blogs about this generational gap have been about the parents of the Gen Y, or the Millenial Generation. In this staff meeting, we had 3 Gen Xers — me, and my two bosses — two young Baby Boomers, and 1 Gen Yer. One of the Baby Boomers started talking about the concept that the reason Gen Y was the way is is because of the concept of helicoptering parents. She was talking about this in context to what we have been experiencing in relation to our staff retention. My boss, a Gen Xer, became very fascinated by this. She sees a real problem with our retention. And it is. Because of the nature of the work we do, we primarily recruit college students, and the way they quit or handle themselves just baffles us. The Gen Yer in the room is really engaging and sweet, and very committed to the work we do. She recently went to a conference on all of this stuff, and is going to bring us in some stuff so we know how to better market this job to the people we recruit among.

One of the Baby Boomers asked me a question — she said: Well, don’t you have something in your schooling or textbooks about how to work with people like this? And I said, well, we tak about generations in terms of systems therapy, but there’s nothing like: All Gen Xers should listen to angsty music. There’s no theory like that.

Of course the other two Gen Xers laughed. I’m quite aware of what we Gen Xers look like, and what our label says about us.

It gets me to thinking. One of the things we talk about a lot in therapy school and FA, is cultural competency. It’s this concept of stepping outside of one’s own cultural paradigm, and recognizing how others’ cultures may impact their experiences, and their reactions to the world, and affect their coping skills. My textbook for this Group Process class has gone a little overboard by really stating things like: All Asian clients will present as humble. Um … isn’t that replacing cultural competency with stereotyping? Hmm. In FA, this would be similar to: Intuitive eating allows you to eat an entire bag of cookies whenever you want. Um, isn’t this similar to binging? I think we have to be careful about these things.

Anyway, here is my point. We had this really good, non-judgemental conversation about the differences between generations in this staff meeting. We are having a problem with retention, and quite frankly, ALL of our workers are of Gen Y. Historically, one generations bitches about the next. One generation builds upon the last. This is the way society moves and shifts, grows and develops. What I am wondering, is, it seems a generation is truly shaped by the people they were raised by, OK? I am hypothesizing here. So people are raised by people, generations are raised by generations. N called me on the carpet yesterday for complaining about an entire generation, but then stating that it was racist to label Asians as humble in my therapy book — claiming that was sterotyping in the name therapy.

Ok. So here’s kind of my question. Obviously, we all want to look at people as people. I believe most people really strive to do that. Hell, I work in social work. I really believe in that. But aren’t there trends that exist among groups of people based on how they were raised, what they were acculturated to?

Marketers use this all the time. Feminists have pointed this out in terms of the messages women see about body image. Advertisers capitalize on this. Clearly, my boss wants to recruit and retain based on this. My therapy book is teaching me how to counsel individuals based on this. So I guess what I am wondering is where do we draw the line in expressing ourselves about groups of people? Are we allowed to say: There are differences among people who are this age, this class, this race, or aren’t we? And how do we do that? What is the appropriate way? Is anger and frustration ever allowed to be a part of that conversation? Because some things, I think, ARE a part of the acculturation process, and that will naturally lead to friction. Are we allowed to ever express that? I am genuinely asking, here.

Clearly there is a danger in such things as institutional racism and sexism and sizeism. We have seen what those things have done to society and to individuals. We have seen that danger close up. As a proponent of free speech, however, you’ll never hear me wanting to shut down such idiots as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, myfatspouse.com, or the KKK. They have a right to their expression, just as I do mine, and you do yours. They have been acculturated, too. I may not respect, agree with, or waste my time reading or involving myself with what they are doing, but that they exist actually gives me a reason to exist, too.

I don’t know. Thoughts on this are appreciated.

Dieting and gut rot

Breakfast was a dilemma for me this morning.

I decided, eventually, upon a lemon scone.

It was a mistake. It was frosted, and too sweet.

Every morning, I used to eat six donut gems — the chocolate waxy ones — from the gas station, along with a diet coke. Prior to that, I used to eat cinnamon or s’mores pop tarts, untoasted, with a diet coke. Prior to that, I don’t remember what I ate, but it was always something sugary and carby, with my required caffeineated carbonated beverage, and a cigarette, in my car, on the way to work. This was my morning routine for years.

Then I started getting migraines.

The migraines were about once a month for a few years. Then they started getting worse. Over the summer, they struck nearly every week, and it got so frequent it seemed I was having some symptom of a migraine nearly every day.

N got me a gift certificate to an acupuncturist for my birthday, to help with the migraines. I went, and we talked about my eating. My fear had been, prior to going, that we would have some ghastly conversation about my weight, and she would talk about fatness and how unhealthy all that must be, and the only way to cure me would be to drop pounds. Luckily, that was not the case. We did talk about my fear of vegetables, and ways to sneak that stuff in to my diet. It is a real fear: I gag when I eat them. N has been successful in sneaking pureed cauliflower into really healthy things like beer cheese soup. And I’ve braved spinach in cheese ravioli. But that’s been about it.

The acupuncturist palpated my belly and was able to locate very tender spots just by looking at it. Did it hurt here? Yes. Here? Yes. Here? Fuck yes. She stuck some needles in my legs and then re-palpated. Did it hurt anymore? No! First time in years my belly didn’t hurt. I was shocked.

We talked about how to make it stop hurting for good. Seems I needed to eat more protein, and a lot less sugar. My belly and brain are completely connected. One hurts because of the other, it seems.

Sigh.

I used to not have so many problems with food. Right up until my senior year of high school, I could eat whatever I wanted and digestively, I was fine. I drank gallons of milk a week (that sounds gross, I know. But I drank it instead of water). I could eat ice cream. I could eat cheese with reckless abandon. I could eat sugar whenever I wanted. It sounds like I was on an all out binge. I don’t know that I was, sometimes I may have been — but I certainly didn’t have the range of restrictions on food intake that I do now.

What changed?

I got put on a massive diet.

Long story short: Parents said you’re too fat, go to this diet center, I restricted food, lost about 90 pounds, my digestion has never been the same.

I know how it is for folks who have WLS. They can expect to have problems with digestion for the rest of their lives. I had my gallbladder removed because of all the weight loss — but I know my digestion was screwed up well before that surgery. I don’t know what other people, however, experience, when they repeatedly diet, when they have gone through the lifestyle of disordered eating. I would imagine that your digestion can’t come out of something like that unscathed.

I know a lot of people will point to my not eating vegetables as the reason for all of my woes. I have had folks wag their fingers at me for years on that one. I know people will wag their fingers at me for being on an all out shitty version of intuitive eating for the last 3 years (my version: you crave a truffle. Eat 12! I don’t know how to manage it with the programming that’s been held over from the binge-and-restrict days). Blame all you want. What I know is that prior to the diet, when I was just a kid eating like kids do, I didn’t have all these problems. I didn’t have migraines, I didn’t need to have my gallbladder removed, I didn’t have to rush to the bathroom after certain meals because they were too greasy, I didn’t have to avoid entire categories of food, and I didn’t have to make a trip to the urgent care on more than one occasion because my stomach felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it (the most recent trip was last week, and now I am on a goddamned H2 reducer).

Looking at the landscape of my body — emotions, psyche, relationships aside: What has dieting ever done for me health-wise? Not a whole fucking lot. It’s screwed up my guts, literally. Aren’t all the claims that dieting is supposed to make you healthier? Ever since I went on that one diet, in which I lost that initial 80-90 pounds — I gained it back, then re-lost it, then gained it back, then re-lost half of it again — I even considered WLS at one point — I have had nothing but ILL health. My health has deteriorated. My relationship with food has deteriorated. I have felt like shit day in and day out since I embarked on that initial diet back in August of 1995. I did not have chronic pain prior to August of 1995. I did not have irregular bowels prior to August of 1995. I did not have migraines prior to August of 1995. I did not have to have a goddamned debate over whether or not to have a scone for breakfast because I am so tired of turkey sandwiches on the melba-toast-that-passes-as-bread that the Jenny St. Market sells but that’s all we have right now because we aren’t grocery shopping because we are going to stay at my place in a few days and there’s no fridge space at N’s house because it’s filled with gallons of milk and rotting chicken broth and pomegranate juice and bags and bags of tortillas for making wrap sandwiches that never get used.

That’s fucking 13 years of digestive problems, and I am only 30. I have a lifetime left of this. I’m not whining. It’s just bullshit. You get told by everyone that a diet is your magical key to happiness, and then when all is said and done, you gain the weight back and you’re in eating disorder recovery and you have migraines and perpetual gas and need to have surgery because of a defunct gallbladder and maybe an ulcer or two. Wow. You know what? If that’s what’s behind door number 1, I’ll take door number 2 please.

Gen X, Gen Y Redux

Man, did my last blog cause a shitstorm, online and offiline.

Readers took me to task. N took me to task.

I am standing by it. I wrote it. It’s mine. It was feelings I had at the time, and it was frustration borne out of experiences I have been having for a long time. I put it out there. I never claimed to be perfect, polished and proper. This blog is my very messy form of therapy. It’s raw at times, and it’s always fairly real.

N asked me how I could at, one point of the day, bitch about the utter bullshit cultural competency I am learning in therapy school — where my textbook is stating such things as: “All Asian clients will present this way …” and I could write something about how “All Gen Y people are this way …” How, she wondered, could I bitch about one totality in one hour and then write in the same totality in the next hour?

Because I am human, that’s how.

Conflicts exist within our psyche that are inexplicable sometimes. We see this all the time in the FA/SA movement. Many of us who are here fight the good fight, and yet still feel a strong pull to diet. We still cringe when we look in the mirror. We still hate ourselves in very real ways, while working to promote acceptance of ourselves in the very same day, minute and second. How can we exist within two totalities at once?

Because we are human, that’s how.

Progress and growth are not linear. We do not tackle greater understanding and awareness of ourselves and humanity all in one straight line. Nope. It’s some crazy, zig-zagging hairpin, windy mountain road. We may end up slipping back down to the valley a few times, even, before we reach the pinnacle. At least we’re aware we are even on a mountain — that’s something right?

It’s the reason so many of us were pissed as hell at the Bitch article about eating disorders and the supposed rejection of people with EDs by the FA movement. The FA movement is still trying to find its feet. It’s not perfect. It’s messy. Everyone here comes from a different place. A few totalities will get thrown out in the meantime, such as: No fat people have problems with binge eating. Or, All eating disorders come from dieting. Again, progress and growth … not linear.  We are all human, after all.

Evolution of the psyche and soul comes from many places — it’s a lifelong process. Is it possible to have a total integration of all ideas and emotions within one’s mind and soul? Perhaps, if one is Buddha, or Christ, or Gandhi. I’m not.  I’m just a regular old human being, in graduate school, in snowy-ass Madison, Wisconsin, who occasionally blogs about fat, mental health, and sundry topics. If I ever get to the point of Buddha-dom, well, I hope they have wireless in Nirvana.

Whiny Gen X rant about the Gen Y whiners.

So this morning I was awoken by N to ask if I had eaten a housemate’s Ben and Jerry’s. No, I hadn’t. I am lactose intolerant. Although I love Ben and Jerry’s, it is no longer worth it to me to scarf it down as it will cause my digestive system to stage a full-scale revolution for the next two days. No more Phish Food, Chunky Monkey or Chubby Hubby for me.

Mulling this over as I was getting ready for work, I started getting more and more irritated. It was 8am when I was asked about this. We had been back at N’s house for all of 15 hours after having been gone for 10 days, and already we are tracking what has gone missing? I can’t count how many times we have let go of things like jam that we had bought that has been used up and not replaced, or footed the bill for house pizza, shared weed, done the collective dishes after a joint meal, or picked people up in the middle of a fucking blizzard, all in the spirit of housemately generosity. And yet, sharing tupperware causes a fretful conversation over what is rightfully whose. The ice cream simply pushed me over the goddamned edge.

N has been talking about a sense of entitlement. And the more I am thinking about it, I am realizing: It’s a sense of entitlement that extends into Gen Y — and I am noticing it the older I get, and the more I am supervising people of this generation.

Take for instance, the conversation I literally just had with my boss. She came out of her office to tell us all that a new staff had just quit. She actually called to ask, “How do I submit my resignation?” At 18, she doesn’t know how to do this, and is therefore asking her boss how. At 18, I would have been fucking embarrassed to ask my boss how I would go about quitting, but hey, whatev. She then informed my boss that, after talking with her parents about the job, her parents encouraged her to quit, saying that she potentially didn’t do enough research about this job. They told her it was simply too stressful for her. She has been on the job for all of two days, and during those two days, she has worked 1.5 hours each day. So, she has worked a grand total of 3 hours, and has become so stressed out, her parents have advised her that it’s best she just quit. She made a mistake, they told her — better just to move on. The job only lasts the length of the semester — so it’s not like she was stuck in it permanently.

I snorted, along with my co-worker, who is 26. She is technically Gen Y. I am the last year of Gen X. Both of us are right on that cusp, not quite entrenched in either generation’s logic.

Both of us concurred that our parents would have told us to suck it up. We wouldn’t have been told to quit our jobs. We would have been told: Um, you made your bed, now lie in it. For as hard as I am on my parents, I am real glad they made me take responsibility for my choices in life; what I see happening to kids today is a real trend of duty-shirking, thanks to parental coddling.

About 3 times a week, I watch N take calls well after work hours from staff because they are calling in sick for their shifts the following day. Sometimes they are legit call-ins. Mostly, I bet they are not. Both of us work in a field where staff HAVE to show up to work because we work with individuals who require direct support so that they can go to work, get bathed, take medicine — you know, like, live. What floors me about these calls is the fucking balls-out attitude that the younger staff that get hired have: They’ll get hired, and a week or two in, they are already calling in sick. Or they are trying to take off. Or they are doing egregiously wrong stuff, you almost know it’s on purpose, and you think: They know they can’t get fired, so they just don’t care.

I worked where N works, and I had the same damn experience. The younger staff would get hired, and they’d call in whenever they wanted. I shit you not, they’d call me at all hours of the day and night: My sister just broke up with her fiance, and I can’t come to work. I have a cyst in my vagina, and I can’t come to work. I just discovered I’m pregnant, I can’t come to work. These kids, who were hired full-time, acted like work was optional. Like they were doing me a favor if they showed up. They’d be crying on the phone, wailing, screaming. I got a reputation for being a big fat bitch about call-ins. Well, y’all: I’ve heard every damn shock-and-awe excuse in the book. I have a va-gay-gay too, and it doesn’t prevent my 30-year-old fat ass from coming to work, so I guess you better get on down here too.

I don’t know where this attitude about Y’all Owe Me Something comes from. It crosses every line you can think of. Sex, class, race — But it seems more limited to age. The younger kids I work with, especially those whose parents are heavily involved, really seem shocked when you put your foot down and say: Sorry kiddo, you can’t just cry your way out of this one. Welcome to the world of an adult. Yep, a two-week resignation is required. Yep, a doctor’s note is required. Yep, if you don’t work your 32 or 40, or whatever, you are going to have to make up your hours. I ain’t your mom or dad. You can’t look all pretty and get out of shit. Do your fucking job already, and shut up.

 Y’all ain’t owed shit. Y’all need to work for what you get, and when you do get it, you damn well better be thankful for it. That’s what I was taught.

And as for people having a hard time sharing in a housemately sense: Guess what. You live with people. I’ve overlooked the reeking cat dish filled with water above the sink. I’ve been annoyed about the sexist division of labor in the home. But this is what happens when you share space with people. Ice cream goes missing. Sometimes I do more than my fair share of dishes. You live and let live. We can all play the whiny baby game and demand equal rights, but that doesn’t make for a very compatible, peaceful living environment because quite frankly, a lease and cohabitation shouldn’t have to be the length of the Geneva Convention. And everybody’s definition of equality is different. Living with others requires a certain acceptance that the washer won’t always be available, and that you don’t get to take up 3/4 of the refrigerator just because you’re a growing boy. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.

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