poems (transcript of “Art As Healing” @ JANM set) 

I am posting these poems (many in first draft stage) for a set I will be performing this evening without live interpretation. The live zoom event will be recorded and uploaded with closed captioning within a week, and I will add a link once the event is live. I apologize that the final part of my set, an improv story, will not have a live transcript.

content notes: dysphoria, grief, loss, ideation (implied)

4.28.20 (excerpt)
the things we cherish
tell us who we are
our love tethers us
to one another

4.2.20
in times like these, return to what you know
the memory of breath, clean air flowing through you
every time you have expanded, unfurled, and grown

the certainty of your own body, how it has loved and
carried all of you, how it is all of you, home for your spirit
and all the wisdom you have gathered

return to yourself, to the comfort of knowing you are held
by love, in love, by the many who have needed you
and the ones who came before but had to go

you are never alone, even now
our bodies longing for touch
to be carried through

whatever comes next
let hope be your vessel
may your breath fill your sails

4.4.20
the beauty of this life is
you are writing yourself into existence.
you envision yourself (in a dream,
in a breath) and become

keep creating, uncovering, honing in,
making a body of yourself, creature finding
home in skin. you are this wondrous imagining,
the unafraid seeking of truth made flesh.

you are alive.
what could be more beautiful?

5.20.20 (excerpt)
how much grief can a body hold, a collective?
before saturation–before too much of too much
that temptation to let go, tempered only by
not wanting to add another name to the litany
of whispered words, the tender things we called
one another become our quiet prayers,
a chant, a praisebook, a memorial of all of us
who dared to live

how much is too much, a desert of our hearts,
parched from the shedding of so many tears,
the salt water wrung from us even as we gaze upon
past joys, see our own smiles captured forever,
the flimsy celluloid, pixels arranged in pleasing shapes
can they truly tell our stories?

too much, too much, too much of too much–
like what they have always said about us, our brilliant
eccentric, extraneous bodies, twisting under florescent lights,
the audacity. how dare we love one another,
let alone our own broken, sinful bodies?

it is not them, or us, but the grief that will kill us.
swept away, at last, after fighting so hard and for so long,
our bodies remembering what it feels like to get lost
in the tide, that sweet surrender to anything
more powerful than the tiny, beautiful dramas
of our tired, exhausting lives. the ocean of it, the beyond:
total and dark and deep, how we can pull it over our bodies
like a blanket–a blanket, comfortable, heavy, enveloping
us into rest–peace at last

how much grief_20.05.20

image description: a sheet of paper lays against a light brown hardwood floor. the page contains a typewritten poem with marginalia and notes added in blue handwriting. (the text of the poem is the piece titled 5.20.20 above, with some edits and shifts in line breaks)

I think I mentioned this in my last blog post, but composing poetry on a typewriter has been a really fun approach/challenge — I find myself paying more attention to structure and form (in a loose way, often this is about the shape of words or a piece as opposed to formal structural choices or experimenting with established poetic forms). I also like the feeling of permanence that typing a draft creates, and then being able to make edits directly on the text, seeing my own thinking/revising as part of the process. (A caveat: the vast, vast majority of the Xing out in these pieces is from typos, not me revising as I’m typing.)

poem: when we watch mulan

When We Watch Mulan
for Cayden

how we are and are not our fathers
these Chinese men we do and do not know
we will talk about

the stories we may never know
cherish the ones we know how to tell
about how we so often talk about our feelings,

our manhood, how we dress as who we see
— looking in the mirror, we
know these reflections as our true selves

forged and shaped, like her father’s sword
nurtured and watered, like the flowered comb
she leaves behind

we strive to fill these footsteps
trace ourselves in the curves of their jaws
the shape of our hair

out of what do we make
our manhood, dark-moon mystery
they left behind

we will talk about
all of the times we cried
looking in the mirror

all of the times we might cry,
looking in the mirror —
that man, staring back at me

—————————————————-

I typed this piece on a friend’s typewriter that has been doing a home stay with me. It’s been interesting to explore form in different ways by typing poetry: I notice myself paying more attention to visual layout, and there is also a different tempo, pace, soundtrack, and physical interaction with writing — it takes a lot more finger and wrist muscle than writing by hand or typing on a laptop, and it creates a significant amount of very vigorous typing noise. I also find applying this permanence to first drafts really satisfying.

This poem was one of those that happened very quickly and also feels like maybe it has been years in the drafting. Cayden and I had planned at the beginning of 2020 to watch the live action Mulan together in April and cry a lot and feel all of our trans feelings — I still hope we’ll be able to do that together in the nearish future.

I feel a piece brewing called “Being Trans at the Funeral,” but I haven’t been able to start putting it into words yet. Right now it’s a lot of feelings, including being grateful to be so held in trans community, but also wishing that we all had a little less practice navigating grief.

This poem is also featured in the fourth edition of the Loves Me | Loves Me Not zine, curated by jenevieve ting + nikita lamba.

reminder to self: it’s okay to be bummed out 

I have been wanting to blog but not blogging, so I am breaking the seal for now with this mini-post. Thank you to Narinda for the reminders & for setting a good example!

We are in a pandemic. It is bad and uncertain, and we still are not sure how bad things will get. On top of all of the ways this moment is exacerbating the existing inequalities and failures of global capitalism and U.S. empire, this moment of collective trauma and constant grief is going to ripple out for years.

And, in spite of that, I would say that I have been feeling … not completely in disaster the majority of the time? I am blessed, in a way, to be in a lot of sdq (sick & disabled queer) community, and that has given me a lot of skills to prepare for and cope in this moment. I have also found a lot of joy and movement in mutual aid and staying busy. And, of course, having class privilege and being a light-skinned East Asian insulates me from a lot of ways this pandemic and widespread shutdown are impacting others, including many of the people I love.

So, in general, I am appreciating that staying busy helps. I appreciate that most of the time, I feel pragmatic and/or hopeful, even. I like being able to look on the bright side of things. And also, in a coaching session today, my coach helped me to identify that I haven’t made enough space to just be … bummed out.

To that end, what’s one big thing that you were looking forward to this year that isn’t happening/or is delayed, one medium bummer, and one small thing that has been a surprising bummer?

Big thing: I had plans to spend a really big portion of this year in nature, including several camping trips with the FIRE Fellowship and a 30-day backpacking and sea kayaking trip in Alaska that I’ve been planning and saving for over the last two years.

Medium bummer: I MISS DANCING WITH PEOPLE. It’s something I was just starting to get comfortable with, that still felt terrifying most of the time, but also felt like a kind of liberation and presence in my body that I know was only becoming possible because of years of internal work, unlearning and growing.

Small, surprising thing: I really, really miss riding the bus alone with my headphones on, reading, listening to music, or just observing other people going about their lives. Walking to the bus stop, the awkward shuffle when everyone tries to let each other on first, getting off at my stop & not having to think about where I’m going, just letting my body lead and singing as I traveled to wherever I was going next.

I have cried hard exactly twice in the six or so* weeks that I have been self-isolating: About a week ago, I realized that I can’t hug a friend who is grieving (and also get hugs for good news that I have & want to share with friends). On Sunday, I realized that if we were still having in-person rehearsals for my theater company, we would have been at this beautiful dance studio in Pasadena that we go to once a month. It’s the first place I danced in front of a group of people, at my theater callback last fall, and dancing there after rehearsal at the beginning of March was the most free I have ever felt my body in movement. I miss it. I miss hugs.

And, also, I am grateful for these moments, the release of tears, because I have barely been able to cry, and because the tears are very clearly letting me know what is most important in my life.

* I had to take a break in the middle to argue with my parents about self-isolating and to buy groceries in my attempt to keep them out of the store.

what’s your medicine? 

[content notes: mentions of violence, transphobia, ableism]

I have been thinking about this question often in the last few weeks (and months and years, as I do). What’s my medicine? What’s my magic?

We are in a moment. I don’t feel that I need to describe the moment, per se — we see it, we feel it, we see how it’s impacting our people, we feel how it is landing with our loved ones and the earth.

In the last three years, I have applied for the same residency for organizers where they stick you in the woods so you can’t do anything but rest and recharge. The essay asks about your vision, why you need rest in this moment, what you hope to get out of a three-week break and how that will push your work forward. When I didn’t get in the first year, I felt like I wasn’t tired enough, or that I hadn’t earned a break, even though I was very much at a breaking point — and had been, for more than a year by then.

I knew I needed rest, and I knew I needed to take a break from organizing to be able to move from a place that felt grounded and centered and integrated. And then there was a major event in LA that involved a lot of people I loved and required a lot of meals for a lot of people, and my friends and I got those meals together. And then the pipeline. And then the election. The ban. The border. The femmes of color whose childhood and adult traumas and femme labor and holding and surviving led to many different types of ways their bodies needed to be cut open.

I kept pushing.

I applied for the same residency, looked at my application from the year before and was, like, “Ok, so same burnout, and also now I have PTSD from that time a car tried to run me over at an action, which I didn’t even process as trauma until Heather Heyer was murdered.”

Last summer, finally, I left my job. It was a dream job I had imagined years ago, and I got to talk with youth every weekend about what we could do to make things different. I got to hang out with nonbinary and baby queer kids and be an alive trans, nonbinary, very queer, very gay femme of color who has community and friends and joy and hope. But I was exhausted, and it wasn’t the right job, and for two (ten?) years, I struggled in nonprofit jobs where I couldn’t actually be my whole self, where I had to explain my gender, my pronouns, my body, my access needs over and over again to coworkers and intervene in microaggressions and see myself as a barrier between younger queer folks and other people who could cause some pretty significant emotional damage.

I remember a conversation with a peer, after leaving some icky-feeling funder space, where we talked about what our responsibility was: Were we shielding our youth by being in the spaces we were in to get funds to allow our programs to move forward, so that youth could have services, or were we teaching them that this is all we could expect, that being a queer elder meant sucking it up so that younger folks could get what we need, until they were old enough to also muscle through these spaces and redistribute resources?

The conversation didn’t feel resolved then. I didn’t have an answer, and I like knowing things and fixing things, and so for another two years, I kept struggling, until my PTSD and my access needs and my very loud internal call for more freedom, more liberation were all too loud to ignore.

I left my job. I promised myself I wouldn’t take a full-time nonprofit job again for five years. I started a business with my friend, and now we set our own hours and get to spend time with the families we are creating, and now, a full three seasons later, I am finally feeling aliveness in my body, most of the time. (It wasn’t gone before, and I have been blessed with community and deep friendships and love and support and joy and interdependence amid some really hard and dark and scary and stressful experiences, but now, this is how I feel most days. I wake up. I decide what I do with my day. I am in charge of me.)

My body feels different. My sense of hope is different. My ability to discern what is capitalism work and what is my work is sharper — and I am moving toward only doing My Work. Making space for ancestral healing. Recognizing that empathy and deep listening are my movement work. Making space for storytelling and channeling and sharing/creating/collaborating. Helping people to hold hope.

We are in a time. We need to be building and creating and finding and sharing water for the fires that are here and that are coming. Please, take your moment. Listen to yourself. Find your medicine. Find where you need love and attention and healing, and direct your energy toward getting what you need. Listen. Know what your medicine is, and invest your energy in shaping and growing it.

6-minute poem: 23, again

[6-minute draft]
(cn: brief allusion to ideation/suicide)

3 years past 23, I wrote a poem
on leaving behind our bodies
too much pain to swallow
like our pride
or a handful of pills

two times that much time later
I am still here,
struggling to stay

though my body
feels more and more like mine
other eyes forget
that it is a home
seek to strip it bare
their staring eyes
paint strippers
ripping away
the layers of protection,
safety,
wholeness

I have gathered for myself
been gifted from my comrades,
& been gifted by comrades,
received from healers
(those who remember how to see me)

I am here still
protecting my heart
it is the greatest gift I have
and I wear it, armor
its openness is also
the greatest gift and weapon

my gender feels like
a rib cage
just enough cracks
for the love to pour through

at 23 I worried
about what your eyes
your words
might do to me

at 28, 29, 30, 31, I wondered
if your wrong words
could make me forget myself
if you calling me
by my wrong name
over and over
and once more over again

might act like a spell,
incantation,
an invitation to forget

that my home is here
in this body
that I was given,
that I have chosen to keep

your words
are just that
and I have the power
to shut up my windows
and close the door

and crank up the volume of my sacred heartbeat
I am here, and
excuse you
you are not welcome in my home
and I cannot hear you over
the brilliance of my being

[I took 6 minutes to write a piece — strikethroughs are edits I made just now (pretty much immediately after) before posting.

been gifted from my comrades,
healers

was edited to:
& been gifted by comrades,
received from healers

experimenting with daily poetry and flash writing. trying to post more. and also to do more writing that’s just for me.]

 

“my gender feels like”

This piece was created for the last show of Season 19 of Tuesday Night Cafe, as part of a set called “they/them femmes & friends,” featuring Kyla, Mya, Navor, Opulence, and me!

Our show bio: “they/them femmes & friends is a collaboration of trans+intersex artists of color who use they/them pronouns. Though we share pronouns, our genders are as diverse as our spirits, and we’re excited to share a glimpse with you tonight. This set also features a slideshow* of gender affirming photos, art, and selfies by people who use they/them pronouns.”

* I didn’t get permission to share the photo slideshow beyond the Tuesday Night Cafe space, but will ask for it at some undetermined point in the future. Seeing the beautiful joy of comrades projected into a community space that feels like home to me felt like the spiritual healing that comes with truly being seen.

Thank you to Navor for allowing me to share this (cropped) image below. Please contact Navor for the full-size image and do not use or share without permission.

Navor_Lotus flows above

“Lotus Flows Above, Let Us Float Above” [Image description: Three lotuses sit on lily pads as they float on reflections of worlds that carry them with leaves surrounding their existence and two brown hands stretching towards the direction of prayers and calls for peace. Gradient colors of pink, purple, orange, green, black and white are present in this healing formed by hands.]

Mya
My gender feels like an uncomfortable silence.

Audrey
my gender feels like
something too visible and unseen all at once

Opulence
my gender feels like a cloud before the storm

Navor
my gender feels like
a brown nonbinary babe wearing a velvet dress and their mothers top

Kyla
my gender feels like queer futurity

Mya
My gender feels like an uncomfortable silence.

In Japanese animation there are frequently pauses,
without dialogue or music,
that make American audiences…uncomfortable.

Studio Ghibli movies,
when dubbed,
have their silences erased, replaced by sound effects
or conversation
or explanation

They say,
silence makes us uncomfortable …

Audrey
my gender feels like
something too visible and unseen all at once

wading through an ocean of she
sir, sir, this is the women’s room

what can I get for you ladies
brothers and sisters
ladies and gentlemen
i am in the liminal nowhere in between

feels like target in the bathroom
feels like holding it in
deciding not to drink water
— even though I love drinking water

Opulence
my gender feels like a cloud before the storm;
an acorn collected, carried, buried, and forgotten.

An emerald held in the earth; a bird in a storm.

My gender feels like a clump of hair,
a satisfying sneeze.

My gender is a grain of mucus covered sand on its way to becoming a pearl
my gender is a ruby, a yellow hued sapphire, a mistake in a chemical composition

Navor
my gender feels like
a brown nonbinary babe wearing a velvet dress and their mothers top
reminiscent of baro’t saya

they, them, theirs sit so gracefully on a wooden stool asking themselves if their moms looked like this, if their fathers approved of this, if past lovers who hovered wanted this, if strangers were ever asked to change their name to sound more like them [1] – to be read more like them [1] – if i’ve become more like them [1] // because they want to survive like their indigenous-native and ilokano-pangasinan ancestors but not adopt the ways that have erased a type of healing nor assimilate into a settler-colonial practice. // as they end their gaze, they blink with promise to always ever resist because….. i have always wanted this.  Footnotes: [1] them (T͟Hem,T͟Həm/) – Spaniards & Amerikkkans, cis-white-hetero-ablebodied-men

Kyla
my gender feels like queer futurity,
a term coined by José Esteban Muñoz.
in his words and theory,
“we may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality”
in my own words that means
my gender feels like holding a future within me
that doesn’t yet exist
my gender feels like a work in progress
hands with chipped pink nail polish
shaping earth,
planting seeds
for a future
where my gender
can flourish.

Audrey
like I have only ever been trying on things that don’t fit
no, I don’t want to be a boy
and I have never been your daughter
though I have always been your daughter

and it still moves me to call myself,
in a secret, quiet voice,
a queer woman of color

it still moves me to think of
the women ancestors
who could hardly imagine me, girlchild, living with so much freedom

Mya
When they ask me, what is your gender?
I say that I’m
transgender,
nonbinary,
& agender (that means without gender)

that we each make our own definition of the word,
that I never understood that internal sense of gender so many of us are supposed to have
that I grew up…
uncomfortable

Opulence
my gender feels like hot lava regurgitated by the earth; held down and pressed into something beautiful

Audrey
feels like getting to a comrade’s home after a long day
and taking off my chest binder
nipples out, still they

Kyla
feels like a childhood spent yearning for the gentle flame of a candle
my gender feels like a chrysalis ready to burst free

Opulence
my gender is uncontainable, hot and fluid. my gender is a whisper and a scream
the tattoo I don’t remember getting.

Kyla
my gender feels like warmth–warm hugs, warm sweaters, warm faces

my gender feels like floating in a tide of clear water, not knowing where it will take me next

Navor
my gender feels like abolition not reform
feels like more than one LGBTQIA+ themed night during the year

Audrey
feels like fuck an “LGBTQ” org
that can’t bother to use my pronouns correctly

Opulence
my gender is a gift to my ancestors, a silent thank you I see from the other side of the closet door
my gender holds space, opens hearts makes room.

Audrey
feels like no more questions about
whether being trans is a choice
which bathroom
which danger

Navor
feels like recognition that mental health deserves more than one day
how suicide prevention is not out of the darkness
but out of the whiteness
because lightness has done nothing for brown and black femmes

Opulence
my gender feels expansive, a field of wheat; an endless flame
my gender feels abundant; clearing; like  dr. bronner’s peppermint soap; eucalyptus chapstick

Audrey
my gender feels like affirmations given freely
like a rib cage around my tenderness
just enough holes for love to pour through

Opulence
my gender feels like femme fire, like Durga’s hungry smile, weapons raised
my gender is unrelenting; like the birds feasting on prometheus’ liver.
my gender feels like me 🙂

Mya
What I wish I could say is
“my gender is absent”
And let silence speak for the rest.

reminders on pacing

This was a Facebook post from November 15, 2016, that I shared again yesterday. I was grateful to reread my writing, as a reminder to myself.

November 15, 2017 addition: Ooh, thanks past me for this reminder about pacing ourselves and taking care of our bodies. (Also see your own brilliant responses noticing how you were doing and take it as an invitation to check in with yourself again now, one year later.)

I also appreciate the framing from Mariame Kaba: “Reminder: A lot is happening in our lives and in the world. Don’t expect to focus on everything. Focus on one or two.”

Friends, it’s been one week. What are you doing to pace yourself? How are you reminding yourself and your comrades that we’re in this for the long haul, and that organizing and building take time?

I appreciate the urgency to respond, and I am heartened by all of the people I see taking action, organizing trainings, setting up safety plans, sharing resources, and getting shit done before January comes. I see you, I value you, I urge you to also make time to rest & stay grounded & spend time with the people who remind you why we continue to show up.

This is an invitation to make space to ground ourselves in why we’re organizing. Make time for reflection. Give yourself space to feel all of your feelings. Remember the skills you have, the resources in your community, the faces of your comrades who hold you down and keep you going. Strategize. Figure out where you want to direct your energy, how you’re planning to sustain yourself, and who is helping you stay accountable to your values.

How are we calling each other in as we respond so rapidly to shifting context? How are we making space for survivors, for our trauma, for the impacts of fear and violent rhetoric and secondhand trauma on our bodies and mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health?

How do we practice our values and build communities grounded in hope, interdependence, and liberation?

what we did not cover in the street medic training

[content note: health care, abuse, surgery, cancer, death]

the little things like:
there is only so much
the human body can take
(which i know)

the degree a wrist
— or a mind —
can bend before breaking
(which i do not know)

and whether the bruises
on the inside of that wrist
means the white coats will send her away

or, if not them,
when she is treated, released
men in other uniforms will send her further away

after college a friend posted a photo of her medical bills
“without insurance, i would be dead”
two years later, she was, anyway

“cancer is possible, come back in six months”
I swallowed the fear, stopped going instead
for more that two years, i stayed away

cells may have been dividing
secretly growing, plotting, slow burn
(but i did not want to know)

if you hold on to something too long
the release loses its joy,
which I learned, when i finally did go

we call ourselves survivors
— it’s what we (most of us) do, survive —
struggling to breathe, to last
to just … stay alive

in three months four friends
went under the blade
cut into, not cut short

women carrying cysts, fibroids
their pre-existing trauma made
cut away, then cut more

there is always more coming
so much more and still,
still more i do not know

oh crap it’s today: a resource list

Edit, June 12, 2020 — wow, I didn’t realize I had this up for so long, but do not put milk in people’s eyes! Flush with water. 

I haven’t been making enough time for writing lately, and I am still technically halfway through a series of posts on self-care and community care. But in the interim, here’s a list of links that might be helpful as we prepare for what comes next, interspersed with some commentary from personal experience and actions & trainings I’ve attended over the past few years and the intense “omg train everyone on everything now” last few months.

This list isn’t comprehensive and skews toward resources for queer and trans API people, since I’m pulling from my work and personal Facebook posting. I also haven’t done the best job of tracking all of what I’ve shared, so I may update later with more links and will note the edits/added content with a note at the bottom of the post.

ETA (as I’m compiling) — trying to make this list as not-overwhelming as possible. If you do one thing, start with locking down your digital security and making sure your address isn’t available online. I have also tried to move most of my commentary to sub-bullets and bolded the action steps, so you can tl;dr your way on down the list.

protect

Image description: Bright orange capital letters are attached to a mesh net strung between lightweight metal poles, creating a banner that reads “PROTECT THOSE YOU LOVE.”

Legal advice:

  • NQAPIA put together a list of precautions to take before inauguration. (It’s OK, you can still do the things.) These tips include:
    • legal protections for transgender individuals (e.g. updating your passport with the expedited process based on President Obama’s executive order, since executive orders can be reversed at any time);
    • immigration advice for undocumented folks and those seeking asylum based on an LGBTQ identity; summaries of potential legal changes;
    • and steps you can take to protect queer families (second-parent adoption, do you need to get married now, wills, etc.) 
  • Informed Immigrant has “a list of over 600 immigrant rights/immigrant-serving organizations and donation links; legal information FAQs in English & Spanish (compiled by legal experts at NILC, CCC, SEIU, and others based on questions received by organizations in the states); a legal resource pdf with known and regularly used legal services look up tools; and NILC’s know your rights document.”

Community safety: 

  • Talk to your neighbors. Get to know the people around you, and build with these folks. Remember that calling the police over noise complaints or misunderstandings can be fatal to your neighbors, or for you.
  • So don’t call the police (links pulled from an email to myself in July; drafting emails is one of my many forms of non-successful blogging):
  • Check out the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective’s pod mapping worksheet and guide: “Your pod is made up of the people that you would call on if violence, harm or abuse happened to you; or the people that you would call on if you wanted support in taking accountability for violence, harm or abuse that you’ve done; or if you witnessed violence or if someone you care about was being violent or being abused.”
    • The most important takeaway I got from Mia Mingus’ TJ 101 training was “building analysis was much easier than building the relationship and trust required for one’s pod,” that is, relationships are built on trust, and we can build on these foundations to share political analysis, and we are less likely to approach strangers who share our politics when we cause or experience harm.
  • I have several lending copies of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. Queer and transgender writers, many of whom are people of color, address harm and abuse, community accountability, and building safety without involving the state.
    • As we enter into a period of heightened (but, let’s be real, pre-existing) surveillance and threats to our safety, it is so so important that we are vigilant about addressing harm within our interpersonal relationships. Let’s not let urgency and scarcity and fear get in the way of being accountable to each other. Interdependency includes checking in with newly coupled folks, making sure they stay in community, normalizing conversations about consent, boundaries, harm, abuse, codependency. Moving past shame & guilt & judgment so that folks can have hard conversations instead of isolating themselves when they’re experiencing things in interpersonal relationships that don’t feel great.
    • Borrow a copy from me here. (Also, borrow Trauma Stewardship from me here.)
    • Buy a copy from AK Press here. (I also have a book club discount for AK Press, if you know me irl, we can talk.)
    • Also, check out these PDFs from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) to spark conversations with your people about their relationships. They are fun and illustrated like comic books!
  • “The Directory of Domestic and Gender Violence Programs Serving Asians and Pacific Islanders, 2016 lists 160 agencies providing advocacy services designed to meet the ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity of survivors from Asian and Pacific Islander communities.” Download the directory.

Digital security:

  • How To Make Sure Your Honest to God Actual Home Address Isn’t Easily Available Online” (Autostraddle) This article also includes a really great list of other digital security tips. Like the suggestion to search for yourself on Reddit, which I anxiously did for the first time yesterday, and … nothing. Phew.
    • Note: OK, so I didn’t do this until after I published this post. I printed a PDF of the results, which includes “possible relatives” and “possible associates,” both of which are full of my actual family members, and I will also be opting them out.
  • Crash Override Network “is a crisis helpline, advocacy group and resource center for people who are experiencing online abuse.”
  • Use strong passwords. From several digital security trainings, folks suggested using password managers, and I can’t remember which was the most secure, so I will update.
  • Text through Signal. You will need to download the app, plus link to a phone number (a Google voice number works on a tablet version of the app if you don’t have a cell phone). Signal uses end-to-end encryption and only tracks metadata about when the app is opened.
    • Notes: You can set messages to delete after they’re read. You can use Signal to text folks who don’t have the app, but your messages will not be encrypted. Consider using Signal as your default chat app and encouraging others to do so, too, to normalize security culture. Also, think about what you’re signaling* if you and all of your closest friends mysteriously choose to communicate through Signal on the same day. (* attempt at pun intended)
    • Keep in mind: People can still screencap your conversations, so it also matters who you’re inviting in to your messaging groups.
    • (P.S. According to a cursory Google search, WhatsApp doesn’t have a backdoor, but folks I trust have still recommended Signal over other encrypted messaging services, including over Telegram and Fireside.)
  • If you are meeting about sensitive matters, put away everything that has a microphone. These can be turned on remotely to transmit your conversations. Reportedly, this works even if an iPhone is turned off, and airplane mode is safer. Even safer is collecting all the cell phones and laptops and putting them in a separate room. Someone I know also turned on music on one of the phones while they were in a jar in a separate room, so that all of the phones got to have a little dance party and not hear anything else. ‾\_(ツ)_/‾ why not?

Protest/personal safety: 

  • Surveillance Self Defense‘s Attending Protests has a step-by-step guide to walk through to prepare yourself, including locking down your phone, documenting actions, and what to do if you’re arrested. It’s largely centered on how to protect your phone, but the links and other information are also great general protest tips, and the writing and analysis are a good example of how to get yourself in a security culture mindset.
  • Understand the risks you’re taking when you attend a direct action or protest, or even rallies that are coordinated with the police, as situations with large groups of people can change very quickly, and there are plenty of groups who have used tactics that put others at risk.
    • For example, I’ve heard that CHP doesn’t think they need to give a dispersal order before they start making arrests for highway shutdowns.
    • A dispersal order is given by police informing folks that they must leave an area or face arrest. If you do not leave, you can be arrested. Note: LAPD (and police elsewhere) have arrested folks while they left. (For example, in LA in November 2014, LAPD gave a dispersal order at a BLM protest, and then RevCom misdirected protesters into police lines.
    • Laws and ordinances vary by city and state, and prosecutorial discretion also plays a role in charges.
    • Getting arrested, in and of itself, is not a tactic or a strategy.
  • Pay attention to / watch out for infiltrators and abusers.
    • If someone’s behavior seems off to you, follow your instincts and intuition. Remember that women and femmes are socialized to be polite to men and masculinity and to comply rather than make a scene. Predators know this, too.
    • Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear has a great breakdown of how predators use specific behaviors to test boundaries and groom their targets. (Content note: I read this book quite a few years ago, and a friend I was talking to recently pointed out that there’s quite a bit of survivor blame.)
    • Read Courtney Desiree Morris‘ piece “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements.” tl;dr (but you should read it): whether they are paid to or not, misogynists who push women & femmes out of organizing spaces with their abusive behavior do the work of the state to destabilize our movements.
    • Be wary of protest hook-ups. Be careful about sharing your personal information with folks you just met.
  • This (annotated) list that was going around on Facebook for “new protestors” immediately after the election:
    • Water makes pepper spray worse. Use milk (note from Audrey — do not use milk!) or liquid antacid and water. Don’t wear contacts.
      • Note: Water makes pepper spray feel worse. If it’s all you have, it’s best to flush your eyes as quickly as possible. Tilt the affected person’s head back or lay back and pour so that the pepper spray flows off of their face.
      • Don’t use liquid antacids with food coloring in them.
      • Be careful about using squeeze bottles with pointy tips, because eyeballs. Street medics suggest using cheap squeeze-top water bottles, or puncture a hole in the top of a water bottle cap and use.
      • If you are still in the middle of a chaotic scene, pull that person to the side / away from the crowd first. Narrate to them what you’re doing and get consent, because their vision is probably going to be compromised. (e.g. Is it OK if we lead you over here so we can treat you?
    • If you get tear gassed, when you get home, put the contaminated clothes in a plastic bag for later decontamination and shower with cold water to avoid opening your pores.
    • Come with friends and don’t get separated. Avoid leaving the crowd and watch out for police snatch squads.
    • Beware undercovers, but beware snitchjacketing and collaborator ‘peace police’ even more.
    • The far right is very good at combing through pictures and doxxing people. Mask up.
    • Write any necessary phone numbers you may need directly on your skin in sharpie.
    • Have an offsite plan for emergencies if you have not been heard from by X time coordinated with someone offsite.
    • Make sure all mobile devices are charged!!
    • If you plan on going to jail, plan it: bail, lawyer, time off from work, witnesses i.e.: a cadre. Don’t just go to jail without training.
    • Beware folks inciting violence. Most of them are police/ feds. Watch out for hook ups for the same reason. Get to know the crowd. They will set you up.
  • Know Your Rights: ACLU has a list of resources here, including printable wallet cards, and the SoCal chapter is offering many free trainings. A huge caveat: Knowing your rights and following these steps gives you legal recourse if your rights are violated. We have seen what happens when Black and brown folks choose not to give in to police officers’ demands. So yes, know your rights. Also take time to think through how you would like to react in situations involving police, and how you plan to stay calm enough to react in the ways that are safest for you and/or most in line with your values/integrity/liberation/desire to survive. These things may all be in conflict, and you should take the time, now, to think about what is most important to you.

Suicide and support hotlines (please share and repost!):

  • Trans Lifeline (All hotline operators are transgender. Note that this is not a 24-hour hotline. Shifts are listed here http://hotline.translifeline.org/): 1-877-565-8860
  • Trevor Lifeline (24 hours): 1-866-488-7386
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). They offer services in more than 150 languages.
  • The Asian LifeNet Hotline, 1-877-990-8585, works in Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Fujianese.
  • Desi LGBTQ Helpline For South Asians, online responses and (somewhat limited) helpline hours listed here: http://www.deqh.org/

Other tips/thoughts (aka the things left on my brainstorm phone note list that I will maybe write more about later:

  • listen
  • understand how you take up space
  • have a safety plan
  • DV, SA, codependency
  • keep each other safe, go in groups
  • informed consent — if you put people at risk without their knowledge, you’re not a revolutionary, you’re manipulating people
  • make decisions about what you’re willing to do; define your terms

Ok, I love you, drink water and eat something with protein and put on comfortable shoes. Also maybe print out this PDF (Sinope’s “Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up”) and keep it by your bed.

[Edited on Jan. 20, 2017 at 4:09 p.m. to include the Surveillance Self-Defense link.]

#EmotionalLaborDay

DCIM101GOPRO

Image shows a genderqueer Asian sitting in a light blue inflatable kayak in the middle of a lake surrounded by trees. They are grinning and holding a black paddle.

Today I’m celebrating what I’m calling #EmotionalLaborDay, uplifting and honoring the often-invisibilized emotional work that goes into our communities and movements.

Holding space; processing trauma; building relationships; offering care; setting, navigating, and respecting boundaries; holding ourselves and others accountable — all of these acts are beautiful and necessary, and they are also work. I am grateful to the femmes, women of color, and QTPOC who are my possibility models and inspire me to grow, to do and be better. I see you, I see your labor, and I appreciate you.

I am also celebrating my own work, my difficult / rewarding / beautiful journey toward healing, the ways I have learned to become accountable to myself by stepping into my values. I am uplifting my recognition that organizing is not just #clipboardface, it is building and growing and love and hope and visioning and manifesting the universe we want to thrive in.

I am celebrating and honoring rest. At the beginning of June, I drafted a note on my phone asking for support in taking a temporary step back from organizing to focus on self-care. Instead of posting that note, I took on new projects and coordinating roles and kept pushing beyond my capacity. All of this work has felt necessary and rewarding and beautiful, and it has strengthened many of my relationships with comrades and friends I’ve been organizing with, who have offered care and support and wisdom and creativity and laughter over the past few months. AND ALSO I know that I am tired and right on the edge of burnout (or, to be honest, probably three months past my edge of burnout), and that constantly burning through all of my spoons is affecting my physical, emotional, and mental health. Being constantly tired and emotionally drained also makes it harder for me to live in my values. (All of the values, because it is hard to be cranky and tender at the same time, but particularly values around agency and self-determination; when I take on labor that is beyond my capacity, I do not honor myself or the fact that we are interconnected, not alone, in our work. I do not allow others to move in to take on what they can.)

Last December, I started a series of posts about self-care, and then I started a new job and haven’t finished the posts I planned about community care and interdependence. Over the last few months, I have seen beautiful care support teams flourish around loved ones who have gone through surgery and in the ways allies have rallied around the #DecolonizeLACityHall encampment led by the LA chapter of Black Lives Matter. In addition to wrangling supplies, offering rides, coordinating schedules, and gathering resources, I have seen folks show up hard (physically, digitally, and emotionally), and I am grateful to have participated in and witnessed this labor.

At the last full moon, I set an intention for stillness and art, and ⅔ of a lunar cycle later, I hope to spend the next few weeks focusing on both of these things. My motto for September is going to be “work hard, introvert hard.” I am committing to not taking on any new tasks, projects, or coordinating roles for the rest of the month, to re-learning how to say no, and to making time for reflection and creating for myself.

I just searched through my coaching notes to look for something my coach told me about rest, and I found this from a mid-July session:

what are the gifts of stillness?
opening up possibilities, being able to see past the present moment and also be in the present moment
opening up space and time in a way that isn’t constantly moving
what’s important about opening up that space and time?
it feels like the opposite of trauma
allows folks to just be
cultivating the opposite of trauma, when you say that, recognize that, what do you notice?
the first thing is that I haven’t been making that for myself
so there’s something about feeling like I can’t rest, recognizing that I have been contributing to that, not just the things around me
what stops you from being still, Audrey?
feeling like there’s too much in the world, if stop, won’t ever be able to start again

My original plan was to close with a quote about the importance of rest, but instead I offer you this glimpse of the things that feel most terrifying and most hopeful. Rereading my own words, I remember how grounded I felt when I named stillness as “the opposite of trauma.” I wish this feeling & truth for myself, and I wish it for you.

[Edited to add accountability tips I posted on FB, feel free to borrow, edit, and use for yourself!]

Ways you can support/hold me accountable:
– Please feel free to reach out and/or check in, but be aware that I may be slow to respond or not respond.
– Tell me how you take care of yourself! Comment below, send a message / email / text, etc.
– Keep inviting me to things, so I know what’s going on in the world & can also practice saying no.
– Send affirmations / gifs / memes about self-care as community care, taking breaks, rebirth, growing, and/or healing.
– Model rest and self-care and healthy boundaries for yourself. The more we practice these skills individually, the better we all will be at holding space for each other.