Submissions open for Restraint zine

Submissions open for Restraint zine

Image description: A rusty lock and chain on a wooden door. Text reads “Restraint: A zine about small, silent, and subversive methods of responding to injustice. Send submissions or questions to sostarselfcare@gmail.com. Submission deadline January 31, 2019.”
Restraint –
1. a measure or condition that keeps someone or something under control or within limits.
2. self-control.
 
How do we experience restraint?
 
How do we resist injustice?
 
How do we break free, break open, break stigma, break barriers?
 
How do we speak?
 
Many of us are resisting injustice from a place of external or internal restraint. Either being controlled or controlling ourselves, or both.
 
We may not “come out” because it wouldn’t be safe, or because it isn’t the way we want to move through our world, or because it would jeopardize our relationships or our work.
 
We may not “speak up” to bullying, abuse, or injustice because it would put our career in danger, or it would put people we love in harm’s way, or because other people have power over us and we can’t afford to antagonize them, or because we have other ways of resisting those injustices.
 
(Disabled folks who can’t speak up to injustices committed by their carers because of the power differential, racialized folks who can’t speak up to injustices in the office because they’ll be labelled “angry”, trans folks who can’t speak up to injustices in the medical community because it would put their access to transition support in jeopardy – there are so many of these situations!)
 
But despite these restraints, people are never passive recipients of trauma or injustice. As David Denborough says in the Charter of Storytelling Rights, “Everyone has the right for their responses to trauma to be acknowledged. No one is a passive recipient of trauma. People always respond. People always protest injustice.”
 
There are many ways to resist, challenge, and respond to injustice.
 
This zine celebrates and recognizes the small, silent, and subversive responses to injustice.
 
It is inspired by the April Possibilities bi+ community discussion of “the closet”, and by the March Self-Care Salon discussion about being a professional on the margins, as well as other conversations and experiences of restraint (both restraint that is painful and externally imposed, and restraint that is joyful and internally chosen).
 
Do you have a story of restraint?
 
Send your submissions of art, comics, short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or essay to sostarselfcare@gmail.com before January 31, 2019. You can also send your questions.
 
(Depending on the number, size, and content of submissions, some may be edited. Nothing will be put into the final zine altered without the author’s consent.)

The holiday season means that a lot of folks are operating under imposed restraints – “don’t talk about politics” / “don’t bring your other partner” / “don’t talk about your sexuality” / “don’t make a fuss”.

This zine got slipped over to the backburner while I was working on my masters degree, but it’s the season for small, silent, and subversive methods of resisting injustice, so let’s do this!!!

I want to hear your stories.

They don’t have to be related to the holiday season (this zine won’t be complete this month either way).

If you want help telling your story, I can interview you!

I find myself very conscious of Unspeakable Things right now – the things that we are not allowed to talk about because other people have imposed restrictions on our speech. Seemed like a good time to share this again and invite your participation. 

International Men’s Day 2018

International Men’s Day 2018

Image description: a wooden heart among greenery. Text reads, “celebrating international men’s day”

International Men’s Day is celebrated every year on November 19. That’s today! (In my part of the world, at least. Belated greetings to my colleagues across the international date line!)

Image description: Twitter user @Erinkyan “happy international mens day, especially to trans men, disabled men, men of colour, queer men, mentally ill men, feminine men, elderly men, poor men, male survivors, and other vulnerable men. and a big fuck you to MRAs that further isolate and harm men in the name of misogyny.”

This post a celebration of this day, and also the official launch of a new project! Keep reading to find information about the new project at the end of this post.

There are so many ways that men are harmed and vulnerable under patriarchy. Because it’s not just patriarchy. It’s also ableism. Transantagonism. Racism and white supremacy. Colonialism. Ageism. Heterosexism. Patriarchy is a critical hub in this web of oppressions and privileges, but it is not the only hub, and it is not the only intersection that we need to address.

Men are differentially vulnerable.

They become more vulnerable the more they deviate from the ideal of white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, English-speaking, educated, middle-and-upper class, young, fit, neurotypical manhood.

Men are vulnerable in different ways.

Black men and boys face police violence at disproportionately high rates in both the United States and in Canada. Indigenous men and boys also face disproportionately high rates of police violence and incarceration. (This post at The Conversation examines Canada’s shameful treatment of Indigenous folks within the ‘justice’ system.)

Men are more likely to die of suicide (as this British Columbia Medical Journal discusses), and men who are victims of domestic violence (regardless of the gender of their abuser) are less likely to find support either socially or structurally (as this article by the BBC discusses).

Men who are victims of sexual assault, either as youths or as adults, also face a lack of social and structural support. Although there have been important shifts in this cultural landscape, particularly by men responding to #MeToo (Terry Crews most publicly), there is still a significant cultural pressure to maintain an idea of masculinity as impervious to harm (as this Atlantic article discusses). This pressure comes both from proponents of patriarchal masculinity who are invested in maintaining these rigid gender systems, and from some advocates who are invested in the idea of men-as-perpetrators. Acknowledging the vulnerability of men is destabilizing to patriarchy, but it is also destabilizing to some of the gendered ways of understanding violence that have helped women and feminists frame the issue of violence against women. As this article by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism notes, “The domestic violence movement historically framed its work on a gender binary of men as potential perpetrators and women as potential victims.” (link is to a PDF)

This article by Scientific American also talks about violence by women, and makes the important point that, “To thoroughly dismantle sexual victimization, we must grapple with its many complexities, which requires attention to all victims and perpetrators, regardless of their sex. This inclusive framing need not and should not come at the expense of gender-sensitive approaches, which take into account the ways in which gender norms influence women and men in different or disproportionate ways.”

And it is important to also recognize that there are men who have been both victims of violence and have also used violence against others. These men are often unable to access any supports that recognize and respond to both sides of their story, since many services for survivors of sexual or domestic violence do not work with people who have used violence against others, and services for men who have used violence against others often do not include support for survivors.

Toxic masculinity invites men into violence and dominance, which means that men are often cut off from emotional supports and connections, and it also means that people around men are vulnerable to violence and dominance. Not all men accept this invitation into a specific kind of masculinity, but all men receive the invitation – patriarchy is the air we breathe.

And, just like it is men, women, and people of all genders who are harmed by these norms of masculinity, it is also true that men, women, and people of all genders uphold and support these norms of masculinity.

As Vivek Shraya writes in her fantastic book, I’m Afraid of Men:

“And so, I’m also afraid of women. I’m afraid of women who’ve either emboldened or defended the men who have harmed me, or have watched in silence. I’m afraid of women who adopt masculine traits and then feel compelled to dominate or silence me at dinner parties. I’m afraid of women who see me as a predator and whose comfort I consequently put before my own by using male locker rooms. I’m afraid of women who have internalized their experiences of misogyny so deeply that they make me their punching bag. I’m afraid of the women who, like men, reject my pronouns and refuse to see my femininity, or who comment on or criticize my appearance, down to my chipped nail polish, to reiterate that I am not one of them. I’m afraid of women who, when I share my experiences of being trans, try to console me by announcing “welcome to being a woman,” refusing to recognize the ways in which our experiences fundamentally differ. But I’m especially afraid of women because my history has taught me that I can’t fully rely upon other women for sisterhood, or allyship, or protection from men.”

That’s important to note, too. (Vivek’s book also speaks about the problem with the idea of the “good man,” and makes a strong argument for not using the term “toxic masculinity.” You can read more about that in this article by Vice. I highly recommend reading her book.)

But this is International Men’s Day, so let’s turn the focus back to men. And to a definition of men that is much more broad and expansive than the thin description of dominant masculinity, with its demands of ability and class and race and the tight confines of The Man Box (this page offers an overview of “The Man Box” study in Australia, which looked at men’s views and experiences of masculinity, and also includes a link to the full report).

There is no single truth about masculinity. (I am thankful for narrative therapy and its focus on multistoried lives and experiences. And I am thankful for Chimamanda Adichie and this TEDtalk about the dangers of a single story!)

Gendered assumptions about emotions mean that men, regardless of any other intersection of identity, are often not supported in their emotional lives. This leaves men at risk in their own lives, and less equipped to support their community members.

These issues are complex, and talking about them requires care and a willingness to invite complexity to the table.

If I’m honest, I found this post challenging to write.

This is partly because I am not a man. I have never experienced being read as a man in this patriarchal world. When I try to empathize with the experiences of men, I do so from my position as a non-binary individual who was assigned female at birth, as someone who is read as a “woman” by anyone who doesn’t know me.

But there are men in my life who have helped me begin to understand the complexities of being a man under patriarchy.

I am thankful for these men, who advocate for men’s issues and also support social justice. They challenge toxic masculinity (by which I mean, the gendered assumptions that invite men into performances of gender that are hostile to other genders, that coerce men into rejecting anything deemed “feminine”, that limit the range of emotions and emotional responses available to men, that locate successful masculinity in a specific performance of heterosexuality, ability, and capitalist productivity), and they look at this issue with nuance – toxic masculinity harms men, and it also harms everyone else.

So, how do men unlearn these hostile lessons of patriarchy? How do they learn other ways of being men?

I’m in the early stages of a collaborative project exploring how men have discovered feminism and learned about social justice. My goal is to speak with a wide range of men about their experiences, and create a collective document and resource that other men can learn from. If you would like to be part of this project, get in touch!

Image description: two books stacked with purple flowers on top. Text reads: “Men! Let’s talk about how you learned about feminism and social justice. A collective documentation project. Contact sostarselfcare@gmail.com”


If you appreciate this work, you can support me on Patreon!

Register for Possibilities Youth!

Register for Possibilities Youth!

Image description: A rainbow bubble against a black background. Possibilities Youth: Creating a bubble of community. six-week, trans-inclusive facilitated group for bi/pan/ace/2s youth. Contact Tiffany Sostar sostarselfcare@gmail.com. Noon-2 pm, Nov 10 – Dec 15, 2018.

On November 10, Possibilities Youth will officially launch. There will be fanfare. There will be snacks. There will be awkward silences and also possibly some references to Steven Universe.

Does that sound amazing? If so, register!

This group is open to registered attendees only, and is limited to 10 participants. There is no cost* to attend. We will be meeting on Saturdays from noon-2 in the East Village.

We will be meeting once a week for six weeks, and during the course of those six weeks we will talk about a whole bunch of things! (And we will eat quite a few snacks.)

Some of the topics we’ll touch on, and the kinds of questions we might ask are:

Self-Care

  • What does self-care mean to you?
  • What is your relationship with self-care?
  • Do mainstream ideas about self-care feel right for you?
  • How did you develop your own unique self-care skills, values, and ideas?
  • What insider knowledges have you developed that might help other bi/pan/ace/2s youth strengthen their self-care skills?

Community

  • Who is in your community? (‘Real’ and fictional communities both count!)
  • Who do you support?
  • Who supports you?
  • How have you learned to offer and receive support?
  • How have you responded to hard times in your community; times when you felt less supported, or when you felt alone or isolated, or when you saw other members of your community struggling?
  • What would you want other bi/pan/ace/2s youth to know about community?

Sexuality and Gender

  • What is important to you about your experience of sexuality and gender?
  • What do you wish other people knew about people like you?
  • What have you learned about your orientation and gender, and which parts of that teaching do you agree with or disagree with?
  • How have you resisted negative narratives about bi/pan/ace/2s youth?

There will also be opportunities for you to decide what you want to talk about, and to guide the conversation.

You might have noticed a theme of sharing knowledge in these questions, and that’s because one outcome of this group will be a Possibilities Youth Zine that collects and shares the skills and insider knowledges of the group with other queer youth – including a companion group in Adelaide, Australia, who will be responding to some of our work!

Contributions to the zine will be anonymous, unless you request otherwise. The zine will also only include those stories and insights that participants choose to include: the group discussions themselves will remain confidential, as will attendance in the group.

If you’re interested in participating, fill out the registration form!

* There are costs associated with running this group, and if you’re an adult or ally who wants to support this new initiative, I would love to have you join my Patreon or donate to support this work!

Narrative Therapy for Polyamorous Folks

Narrative Therapy for Polyamorous Folks

Image description: A swirl of colour. Text reads: “Relationship therapy for the polyamorous community. Access sliding scale narrative therapy and participate in a practice innovation project. Contact Tiffany Sostar sostarselfcare@gmail.com.”

I’ve spent the last few months talking with folks about what they wish their therapists knew about working with polyamorous individuals and relationships.

I’ve learned that a lot of folks don’t talk about polyamory with their therapists, even when they’re doing relationship therapy!, because of fear of judgement. And I’ve also learned that those fears are sometimes valid, and folks have been met with a lack of awareness, sometimes even judgement, and often a lack of understanding of how intersectional issues like racism, ableism, classism, and sexism can show up in polyamorous relationships.

I’m hoping to change that!

I am hoping to work with polyamorous folks who are either dealing with hard times in their relationships, or have dealt with hard times in the past and want help processing that, or who are opening up their relationship and want support in that process. These narrative therapy sessions will be part of an ongoing “practice innovation project” – a project designed to create a resource that other therapists can learn from and use. I’ll be documenting what works and what doesn’t work in responding to the specific challenges faced by polyamorous folks (including solo poly folks), both within relationships and from outside the relationship in our mono-normative culture.

This process will include the invitation to engage in collaborative work, and any writing that I generate about the process will be shared back with the people who have attended therapy and been part of the process. Your feedback, insight, and critiques are welcome, though not expected, and will be included (with credit) in the final project(s).

You will have access to narrative therapy to help in your polyamorous relationship, and you will also have the opportunity to participate in creating a resource that can help other people.

My office is located in central SW Calgary, Alberta, but I also work remotely via Skype (or other video chat).

To set up an initial chat, send me an email or message, or call/text me at 403-701-1489.

So, what am I hoping to accomplish in this project?

Most importantly, I want to offer some help with the gap in services that polyamorous folks are facing in the city, particularly BIPOC, disabled, trans, and neurodivergent polyamorous folks.

But then, I also want to answer these questions:

How can narrative therapists better serve polyamorous communities?

What narrative practices can help make a difference for polyamorous individuals, groups, and communities?

How can narrative therapy, which already positions people as the experts in their own experience, help strengthen and support polyamorous folks’ existing insider knowledges as they navigate challenges?

I’m interested in this practice innovation project personally, because I am both a narrative therapist and also polyamorous. I’ve been practicing polyamory for ten years in my personal life, and I have made a lot of mistakes along the way. I’ve benefited from the knowledge shared by the wider polyamorous community, and I’m also concerned about some of the narratives that have become the norm within polyamorous “common sense”. I am interested in this project because I want to expand the base of community-generated knowledge that other folks can access and benefit from.

But I’m also interested in it because of the number of folks I’ve worked with who have had poor experiences with relationship therapy because their therapist was either uninformed about polyamory, or had internalized ideas about polyamory that may be inaccurate or harmful.

Some of these ideas might include:

  • Monogamous narratives about polyamorous folks’ “lack of commitment” or “attachment issues”
  • Hostile beliefs about queer or bisexual/pansexual identities, such as the idea that non-monosexuality means folks are sexually deviant, the idea that all bisexual/pansexual/polysexual/two spirit folks are non-monogamous, or the idea that queerness and polyamory mean folks are interested in anyone or predatory in their sexual interests
  • Hostile beliefs about asexual identities, such as the idea that asexuality means folks can’t be polyamorous
  • Deeply individualizing narratives of polyamory that suggest folks have to “own your own feelings” in ways that erase or make invisible the relational context within which those feelings happen
  • A lack of awareness of intersectionality and how it can show up in polyamory; racism, transantagonism, ableism are all issues that can show up in polyamorous relationships
  • Perhaps most commonly within poly-friendly therapists, uncritical acceptance of relationship hierarchies even when these hierarchies are contributing to the poor treatment of ‘secondary’ partners

My goal is to generate a small resource that can help narrative therapists work with polyamorous folks. This is part of my Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work program, and after this smaller project, I am hoping to develop this work into a book. There is very little writing directed at narrative therapists to help us learn how to work most ethically and effectively with polyamorous folks, and I would like to change that.

I would also like to create a companion resource for polyamorous folks who are looking for relationship therapy – something that can help folks feel more confident about what to ask, what to watch for, and how to engage with their therapist. Too often, the therapist is considered the “expert”, but for marginalized communities, there is often a huge amount of educating that happens. I’d like to create something that can help ease that burden.

So, I’m looking for folks who want to join me in this process!

As always, working with me is available on a no-questions-asked sliding scale.

Exploring the “too much of a good thing” experience

Exploring the “too much of a good thing” experience

Image description: A pug wrapped in a blanket against green grass. Text reads: Make everybody feel sensational. A text box in the lower right reads: Exploring ‘too much of a good thing’: a narrative practice project. The bottom of the image reads: Contact Tiffany Sostar to participate: sostarselfcare@gmail.com. Original image credit (pug+’sensational’ text) – Inspirobot

Have you ever experienced “too much of a good thing” in your life?

Maybe you care what other people think, and sometimes this means you are empathetic, compassionate, and kind, but other times it means you have a hard time prioritizing your own needs or making decisions for yourself. It can be “too much of a good thing.”

Or maybe you have a strong work ethic, and this means that you are able to complete projects and get things done, but maybe it also means that you find it difficult to relax. It can be “too much of a good thing.”

Or maybe you are slow to trust people, and this keeps you safe but also keeps you isolated. Another “too much of a good thing.”

Or maybe you, like the pug in this Inspirobot image, like helping people feel great and this means that you are a kind and generous friend and colleague, and maybe it also means that when you’re unable to “make everybody feel sensational” you struggle with feelings of failure and guilt. Again, “too much of a good thing.”

As part of my Masters of Narrative Therapy and Community Work degree, I am undertaking a “practice innovation project” – looking at one aspect of narrative therapy, and trying to figure out how to do it differently, in ways that might help communities or individuals who are not currently being helped in this way.

The topic of “too much of a good thing” has come up again and again for the folks I’ve been working with in the last six months. It’s come up in relation to being rational, to caring what people think, to being productive, to being kind and empathetic, to being slow to trust – so many areas where a cherished or treasured or valued part of our skills or beliefs can sometimes slide over into something that we don’t enjoy or appreciate as much.

I’m interested in figuring out how we can talk about these experiences in ways that don’t turn them into a binary, that don’t demand that we completely get rid of or denounce our cherished part of ourselves, but that also support more agency in how we express these skills, beliefs, or traits.

If you’d like to participate in this project by talking with me about your own experiences with “too much of a good thing”, please get in touch!! You can find me on Facebook and Instagram (@sostarselfcare), or via email (sostarselfcare@gmail.com). We can connect in person, through text, or over Skype.