This new project, which will become a zine or a collective document of some sort, is inspired by a community member who wanted to create a “map” of all the women and non-binary folks who have managed to live a life they want despite not having family support, and despite dealing with the fear and uncertainty that can come with acute illness and chronic pain.
This project reflects our collaborative desire to make this “map” possible – to bring together stories that will show some of the many ways forward through the compounded hardships of unsupportive family and what we might call “body problems” – illness and pain, but also the problems that can be invited into someone’s life by having a body that is deemed unacceptable in our ableist, fatphobic, transantagonistic, white supremacist culture.
We are looking at these factors together because there is often an expectation of family support in many of our cultures. When we fall on hard times, we are often advised turn to family. When we get sick, family is often expected to be there for us. Although we recognize that family is not always there, there’s still this dominant narrative that they will be, or at least that they should be. And when they aren’t, it can leave us feeling isolated, vulnerable, questioning our own value and our place in the world. Experiences of rejection, dismissal, or an absence of support can stay with us for a long time.
We are looking for stories from trans and cis women, non-binary folks, intersex folks, and trans men who have experienced an unsupportive family of origin paired with body problems, and who have continued to live a badass life despite these compounding factors.
(Although cis men also experience these compounding factors, and their experiences are valid and worth listening to, in this project we are also interested in the particular ways in which misogyny and sexism, which are experienced by anyone who is not a cis man, intersect with these experiences. If you are a cis man and want to share your story of experiencing these compounding hardships of unsupportive family and body problems, please reach out to me – I am happy to create a supplementary zine, or a section within this project! But the initial project is focused on non-men because this is an important part of the original context.)
These stories will be collected and turned into a small zine or collective document, and we hope that this resource will offer some hope for folks in this position, including the community member who inspired this project!
When we then also experience body problems, particularly body problems that impact our ability to find employment, to engage in cherished hobbies or activities, or to access social spaces and support, the lack of family support can become even more difficult to deal with. This is particularly true in contexts where the social support net is being eroded – where welfare, assisted living, disability pensions, income support, housing support, and other supports are difficult to access or not adequate to support our lives.
And yet, we know that people get through these hardships.
We know that there are disabled folks with no family support who are living rich and precious lives.
We know that there are so many people who have experienced these hardships and gone on to be successful on their own terms.
We want to collect those stories.
We want to pull those threads of hope together, and weave a safety net of stories for people who don’t yet see the way through to a life that feels possible.
You are welcome to write whatever feels right for you, and we welcome poetry, essays, art, creative non-fiction, or whatever format works for you. The length of the piece can be flexible, but ideally not more than 750-ish words.
If you would like help with the writing, get in touch with me and we can arrange an interview and I can help write up your story.
We hope to make this project available in early 2020, so please send in your contributions by mid-December.
If you would like some prompts to guide your writing, consider:
- What does your culture tell you about how families should treat each other?
- What had you hoped to receive in terms of support from your family?
- What do you think that families should offer to each other?
- What does this say about what you value in family relationships? (Care, support, being there for each other, etc.)
- How did you learn to value this, and how have you held onto this value despite hard times?
- Is there anyone in your life, past or present, who knows that you value this kind of supportive relationship?
- Have you been able to find this kind of support in other relationships?
- What have you held onto as you get through the times of feeling unsupported by family?
- How have you navigated the body problems that have been present in your life?
- Is there anyone in your life who has supported you in getting through these body problems?
- What do you cherish about your life now?
- What has made it possible for you to get to a life that you want to live?
- Is there anything that you would want other people who are dealing with unsupportive families and body problems to know?