The conversation on December 11 was so lovely. It felt good to be in community, speaking about how we try to take care of trans and non-binary people in our lives (for many of us, that includes our own selves).
One participant wrote afterward and said, “it was the most generative convo I have had in such a while and felt so good to be apart of <3!!”
I received the transcript back from Shara (they are always such an important part of this work!) and have started pulling out themes and quotes to get started on the collective document.
The thing I’ve been thinking about most often since is how important relationships are in this work:
Our relationships with ourselves (our own experience of gender, our own learning and unlearning of gender expectations and the gender binary, our own safety as we decide whether to speak up or not in various contexts)
Our relationships with trans and non-binary community (our families, our partners, our friends, our communities, the people we don’t know but with whom we still want to be in solidarity, the safety of those people as we decide whether to speak up or not in various contexts and how we choose to speak when we do, the legacy of trans and non-binary advocacy we join when we act in solidarity)
Our relationships with people who may be acting in alignment with gender essentialism, cisnormativity, or even transphobia (these may also be our families, our partners, our friends and communities!)
And even our relationships with ideas and ideals, values and hopes, curiosities and possibilities.
The original topic was “how we avoid misgendering others”, and I had imagined a conversation about how we’ve unlearned our own cisnormative habits and the skills and strategies we’ve developed for our own internal relationship with gender and gendering. I’d like to talk more about that, still, but in the conversation on the 11th we ended up speaking more about how we respond when we witness misgendering, which is a related (but also very different) thing.
We talked quite a bit about the barriers that get in the way of acting in solidarity, and part of this conversation was bringing some nuance to the idea of what ‘acting in solidarity’ can mean. It is not a binary or a single correct answer – there are always a variety of actions available, and when we determine which action we take, there are many relevant factors. We are always responding based on our position in the specific context, which means thinking about things like – are we the person being misgendered, or are we witnessing someone else being misgendered? what is our relationship with the person engaged in misgendering? what do we know of their values and hopes – if they are someone who cares about not misgendering, then correcting them is almost always the right call, but if they are someone who will become angry, we have to consider what the fall-out or backlash will be, and whether that will compromise our or someone else’s safety. In those instances, other actions, like texting to check in with someone, or finding something affirming to do later, might be the better option. These can be uncomfortable calculations, because it can feel like failure, and I hope that one generative outcome of this work is that we find ways to speak about our desires to be in solidarity and to avoid misgendering and to respond to misgendering with compassion and rigor.
I’m going to get started on the collective document soon, and will be sharing the draft here.
If you would like to contribute, there are many ways you can do this!
I’ve created a little google form for people to contribute asynchronously. You can find that here.
We’re also going to have a follow-up conversation in January, and I’ll share that date once it’s set.
You can also email your thoughts to me, or comment here.
The questions in the form are:
Is there a particular person you are making this effort on behalf of?
What’s important about getting people’s pronouns, names, and gender right?
How did you learn to care about avoiding misgendering?
Who knows that you care about this? (Sometimes we can feel isolated in our efforts, and one goal of this project is to make visible the community around us and the legacy of solidarity that we are part of when we take care in this way.)
How do you practice getting people’s pronouns, names, and gender right? (This can include practices you use for yourself, too! When we avoid misgendering, that includes our own precious trans and non-binary selves.)
What practices do you have for when you get it wrong?
What difference have these acts of care (both for getting it right and responding when you get it wrong) made in your life or the lives of others?
What would you want others to know about avoiding misgendering?
I’ll be hosting a community conversation, along with my excellent pal Zan, on the topic of how we are trying to avoid misgendering (and why, and what difference it makes).
There is so much hostility directed towards trans and gender diverse communities right now, and the actions we take to care for, welcome, affirm, and acknowledge trans folks can often feel small and invisible in the face of so much hostility. But these actions are not small, and our hope is that this conversation will make them more visible, and that by sharing these stories, we can take a stand, together, against transphobia, and alongside trans community members.
This conversation is open to anyone, of any gender, who wants to talk about how they are trying to avoid misgendering.
This conversation will be taking place on December 11 from 3-4:30 pm mountain time (December 12 from 8:30-10 am Adelaide time). You can register for the conversation here.
We will record and transcribe this conversation, and collect the stories into a collective document (probably a zine!) to share with participants and community members, and on the Dulwich Centre’s website as part of this project.
Stories will be anonymized if you prefer, and the transcription will be shared back with conversation participants but will not be shared publicly.
It’s been a minute since I hosted a conversation like this, and I’m really excited for it. But I also want to acknowledge that this conversation is in response to tragedy and trauma. The actions we take to stand with trans and non-binary folks can be life-saving. The effects of transphobia, homophobia, and refusing to support trans and non-binary folks are horrific.
I want to make something that makes care visible. And I want to be in a space where care is visible. It matters that we make this effort.
This is a post about struggling and reaching out and being met with care. I’m writing it up because sometimes these moments of collective care pass quickly, and I want to document this. Not only to remember that I, personally and specifically, was met with so much wisdom and care but also to share some of the wisdom with anyone else finding themselves in a tough spot. Maybe there is something here that will help you. Maybe you will add to this list of ideas. Maybe you will send it to someone else who needs it.
Sometimes it is nice to know that even in the hard moments, even when we are really struggling, out there in the world there are other people who have also struggled and who have gotten through. There are a few things that I hold onto when I am at my lowest, and this is one of them – no matter what is happening, someone, somewhere, at some point, has struggled like this. No matter what is happening and no matter how hard it is, I am not truly alone in it. There is a way through. People have made their way through. Maybe that means I can get through, too.
Last month, in the week after Father’s Day, I had a couple of really tough days*.
In the middle of the worst of it, when I couldn’t get my body to calm, and my chest hurt and my head hurt and I couldn’t catch my breath, I came to facebook and posted. I said, Alright pals, I had some Hard Emotions and now my chest hurts and my head hurts and I can’t make it stop. Hit me with your best tools for soothing that inner “something is hurting me and I can’t make it stop” thing.
My community met me with care.
Here is an expanded list of the tools people shared (anonymized and consolidated):
Jump into the shower (this was shared by lots of folks, and it is one thing that I did for myself that day!)
Tap the bone behind your ear
Put heat or cool on the back of your neck
Use white noise, like ambient starship or forest noises or rain
Remember that you will fuck up, like we all do, but you get up and keep trying and that’s all we can ask. You are already making a personalized microverse around you of a just and right and kind and soft world.
A purring kitty. Belly rubs.
Connection with someone – coffee, walk, dinner… something in person
Connect with a therapist
Listen to a soundtrack or playlist that has been created for these times, maybe something you can sing along to, or something that brings specific feelings or memories
Asking someone to hold you close and tight
Going for a walk (with yourself, a person, or a furbeast)
Videos! Many folks suggested this, and the suggestions included otter videos, videos of tiny edible food being made on tiny functional kitchen sets, the f*ck that meditation video, puppies vs kittens, Great British Baking Show or Nailed It (season 1 episode 6 for cry-laughing),
Havening or TRE. (These are both somatic or psychosensory therapies. Here is some info on havening and here is some info on TRE.)
Know that it is useful/helpful to know that you are doing badly. Seeing the hardness is useful.
Stop what feels ‘important’ because your own self deserves to be ‘most important’ right now
Make some tea
Light a candle and wrap yourself in a blanket and spend some time with your little self. Have a conversation asking what you can do to help them feel safe and loved.
Roll up in a blanket like a burrito and lay on your stomach on the floor
Video games, because you can control those and empower yourself
Cosplay (this one reminded me of the Gloom Fairy costumes I used to put on when things were very bad)
Write it down and turn it into a poem. Then look through your photos and find one that makes, and if not, take one that could match.
Let go in a temporary way if you’re not ready to let go all the way. Give yourself permission to return to the feelings as needed.
Going under your bed
Saying yes to the hurt, not to the hurting. As in: yes, hurt is visiting. Then host it for a little while. What sort of tea does this hurt like to drink? Is it cold? Would a shower or blanket help? Remember that you are bigger than the hurt. You are the home it is visiting, and there are lots of tools within you to make it as cozy as possible for its stay within you. (Someone else responded to this wisdom by sharing this quote – “You need to try to master the ability to feel sad without actually being sad.” Mingyur Rinpoche)
Impulse buy something (with a note that the person who shared this isn’t always happy with this strategy – I appreciate being able to share the ‘less preferable’ strategies as well, because sometimes that’s what’s available!)
Message a close friend and ask why they are your friend
Talk with someone who will listen and care without trying to solve the issue
Downward dog or child’s pose, with as much intentional breath as possible
And there was a whole category of strategies related to ‘releasing the energy’. Some ideas for releasing that energy included:
connecting with someone else
crying (maybe in the shower)
shaking your body
breaking something that can be broken
grabbing some clay and smashing it (it is the earth and can hold all the feels, be destroyed and come back)
feeling something beneath you and knowing that what is solid can hold you and when you are ready you will hold onto yourself again
keening (a low sound with each exhale through loosely pursed lips, like the sound of the wind through a partially open window, or blowing over the top of a pop bottle, changing the pitch up and down as the emotions move through)
Is there anything you would add to this list?
Has anything on this list been helpful to you in the past?
For myself, I got into the shower and cried a lot while listening to Regina Spektor very loud on my phone. It helped.
Would you like to see this list turned into a zine? I was thinking about making a few more illustrations and printing it, and then I could mail it out to folks who want it. But even if it never gets to paper, it is a great list to have access to. I am thankful.
* This post isn’t about those tough days, but patrons got that little story. You can support my patreon here.
Has your experience of relationship exclusivity (monogamy and non-monogamy, but also types of exclusivity within either monogamous or non-monogamous relationships) shifted multiple times?
Would you like to talk about it?
I’m putting together the beginning of a narrative project on this topic, and will be scheduling one group conversation and up to 5 individual conversations between now and November 15.
Depending on how these conversations go and whether there is interest, I will be organizing a six-week narrative practice group where we can explore and re-story our experiences of changing relationship structures. This group will be scheduled for the new year.
My goal is to better understand how people experience fluidity in relationship structure preference over time. I think that within polyamorous spaces there is often the idea that there is an ideal (and linear) trajectory from monogamy to a specific form of polyamory.
I’m interested in talking about this, especially since I think for folks who have a different trajectory (such as returning to exclusivity, or having relationship structure preference expand and then contract, or preferring exclusivity in one area of a relationship even if there is non-exclusivity in another), there can be feelings of shame or failure attached to this.
If this sounds interesting to you, let me know! Email me at sostarselfcare @ gmail, and watch this space for the group conversation information.
Editing to add: The group conversation has been scheduled for November 7 from 11-12:30 mountain time, and will be hosted on Zoom. Contact me for registration info!
The BPD Superpowers group has set our sights on an important new project, and we’re launching it in May for BPD Awareness Month!
We want to create an accessible DBT resource that is informed by our deeply held values of disability justice rather than ableism, decolonization rather than colonialism, collective action rather than individualism, and neurodiversity rather than pathology.
We recognize that DBT has been an incredibly helpful framework and set of skills for so many folks, many of whom identify with borderline personality disorder (and many who don’t!). We also recognize that many of the existing resources and many of the established ways of teaching the skills are ableist, individualist, and expensive, which means it has often been most accessible to white folks with financial privilege. In this project, we hope to honour what is valuable about this set of skills, and stand against what has been harmful.
Does this sound like a project you would like to be involved in?
Have you had experience with DBT resources, either through group or individual therapy, or self-directed using books or other resources?
We would love to hear from you!
Please note: Although this project is going ahead, the scheduled community conversations are going to be postponed. Individual conversations can still be arranged, and community conversations will be rescheduled.
We will be hosting two facilitated community conversations, through Zoom, in May.
If neither of these times work for you and you would like to be involved, email Tiffany to set up an individual conversation.
If you do not have lived experience with accessing DBT resources, but you do want to be involved in our BPD Awareness Month events, you can join us for a webinar on the topic of Distress Tolerance: Stories, Skills, and Strategies for Hard Timeson May 22 from 1-2:30 pm Mountain time. Register for the zoom link, or read more about the webinar here.
A small imagining, based on the metaphor of mycelium in forests. In this imagining, we are the trees.
Mycelium are fungal material, spread throughout soil and other substrates, which can fruit into mushrooms under the right circumstances. Mycelium can be tiny, or, as the Armillaria in Oregon, vast and ancient. Mycelium not only break down dead matter, they also distribute resources across ecosystems. The mycelium network within a forest can link trees across a vast distance, sharing nutrients from one part of the forest to another.
What is the soil in which you find yourself? (Your social context, your environment.)
Does this soil feel rich and nutrient-dense, or does it feel depleted? (Are you nourished and supported by your social context?)
Do you remember a time when you were in different soil? (Have you ever found yourself in a different social context?)
Who is in this soil with you? Who is in your forest? (Who is alongside you? Perhaps these are cherished companions, perhaps they are not. Forests are places of magic, and also danger, after all.)
What else is present in the forest? (Are there birds, squirrels, bears, bees, mosquitoes? What other non-tree / non-human companions are in your forest?)
Who are you connected to across distance? (What companions do you cherish and stay connected to? These may be living or not, they may know you in return or not. The mycelium network is magical because it can connect us in seemingly impossible ways.)
What nourishment is shared across your connection? (What do these connections make possible – what do they offer that you do not receive in your immediate environment?)
What information is shared? (What have you learned from these distant connections?)
What do the mycelium share from you, out to other parts of the network? (What contributions have you made, what has your existence made possible in the lives of others?)
We (Lindsey and Tiffany) are writing this letter from Calgary, Alberta, in so-called Canada. From Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani) and Stoney-Nakoda (Wesley, Chiniki, Bearspaw) and Tsuut’ina land. Métis land. From the place where the Bow meets the Elbow river.
This is beautiful, breathtaking land.
We wonder about the land that you are on.
Are there trees? Rivers? Mountains?
What do you see when you look out the window, when you step out your door? What do you smell? What do you hear?
What is the landscape, and what are the plants and animals that you share space with?
What is your relationship with the land you’re on?
In an Indigenous Counselling and Trauma Work course, Cree/Métis therapist and academic Karlee Fellner taught Tiffany that the land is old enough, strong enough, wise enough to help us hold our pain, no matter how vast that pain is. As we write this letter, we are thinking about the pain that exists following the events of the last years.
The land we write this from, and the Indigenous people on this land, and every marginalized community here, is currently threatened not only by the conservative government in power in this province, but also by Canada’s ongoing commitment to extractive and exploitative relations with land and people.
We’re sharing this context because we want to be clear that we recognize as much racism, as much white supremacy, as much racial capitalism and neoliberalism here in our country, in our province, in our city, as we see happening in the US. We are not writing from a position of distance or superiority, but from a position of shared struggle against these oppressive discourses and systems. And, as white settlers, also from a position of complicity with these discourses and systems.
We planned to write this letter before the results of the 2020 presidential election came in, because we wanted to offer some care to our friends in the US. But we found ourselves, like so many other folks, slowed down by the thick mud of distraction and doomscrolling through our social media feeds. So, instead, we are writing this after Joe Biden has been named president-elect, after the wave of celebration and the deep collective sigh of relief. (We were relieved, too!)
This little document contains some of our hopes for you, and reflects some of our hopes for ourselves. It also contains some art, a little recipe, and a few reflection questions that we have found helpful for ourselves. The document comes out of our work together in the Unexpected Light speculative fiction and narrative therapy course, and we hope that this document can be a tiny invitation to imagine more just, more liberated, more possible futures.
We wonder about what kinds of futures you hope for, and how you learned to hope for them.
What are the systems and structures that you hope will change?
What do you hope will be possible once these systems change?
What are the existing forces that have the power to change these systems – what are the networks working underground to transport nourishment, encouragement, information; what are the histories of collective action, the legacies of resistance?
Do you see a place for yourself in these existing frameworks of resistance and change?
We hope that you can sink your strong roots down into the earth, and feel the mycelium surround you, supporting you and enabling you to support others.
How to Make a London Fog
To start: 2/3 mug of strong Earl Grey tea
Flavouring: Spoonful of vanilla sugar Splash of vanilla extract
To finish: Warmed and frothed milk or milk alternative
London Fogs are one of Tiffany’s most cherished soothing rituals of care, both alone and with friends. This recipe was included in the Unexpected Light course, and has become one of Lindsey’s soothing rituals, too. So, we decided to share it with you, too!
What are some of your rituals of care? Who taught you these skills? Who do you share them with?
We chose mushrooms (or, more accurately, the mycelium network!) because of the way that both hope and oppression can live underground, barely visible for such a long time, sustained by nearly invisible threads sometimes across vast distances and over unimaginable lengths of time, and then, given the right circumstances, the right rain (to quote Tiffany’s beloved Nathan), they spring up again like mushrooms.
We were thinking about how shocking the rise of fascism has been in the US and also in our own province, and yet how unsurprising, how these networks and threads have persisted. Death cap mushrooms. Indistinguishable from harmless button mushrooms when they are just sprouting.
And we were thinking about hope, too. About collective action. About the community care, the mutual aid and networks of support that sprang up in response, and that had always existed. Truffles. Precious, hidden, sustaining the roots of trees and feeding the forest, even when they are deep underground. Protecting ecosystems from drought and making the most of available nutrients in times of scarcity. (May we each be some glorious truffle-hunting animal, seeking out what is delicious and life-giving.)
What are some delicious things in your life right now?
What delights you?
What comforts you?
What brings you joy and ease?
And what are some nourishing things in your life right now?
What sustains you?
What warms you, strengthens you, fortifies you?
What brings you energy to keep working towards change?
We thought about how, in the last four years, many mushrooms have sprung up, and how some of them represent decay, rot, destruction. How the mycelium network can be so sustaining but also how it can be something other. How it can represent “ruptures in our unspoken contract of trust and care” (to quote BK Chan). And also, how even decay (maybe especially decay) offers us the opportunity to take something noxious and turn it into something nourishing.
To quote Paul Stamets (the real-life mycologist that the Star Trek: Discovery character is named after), “fungi are the grand recyclers of our planet, the mycomagicians… Fungi are the interface organisms between life and death.”
If we are, then, between life and death, and with choices about how to navigate this liminal space, perhaps we can learn from the fungi around us.
Have you experienced or witnessed life-affirming transformation?
What made it possible?
What supported the work of transformation
Credit must also be given to adrienne maree brown for identifying a tugging between life and death in her post on unthinkable thoughts, which was written specifically for movement organizers in Black and Brown organizations.
We recognize that the nourishment we find in her words was not first meant for us, and parts of it are not ours in any way. Thinking about life and death, cultural urges that sustain life or that threaten it, we must acknowledge how white supremacy, which benefits us, which makes our lives easier, makes the lives of Black and Brown and Indigenous people in both of our colonial nations so much harder to hold onto. As Claudia Rankine and Judith Butler so clearly named, the scripts available to us as white people acting with whiteness lead to the death or incarceration of Black people. Access to life, to systems that support life, is not equal across social location.
And, equally true, we share adrienne maree brown’s hopes when she writes:
“i want us to want to live in this world, in this time, together.
i want us to love this planet and this species, at this time.
i want us to see ourselves as larger than just individuals randomly pinging around in a world that will never care for us.
i want us to see ourselves as a murmuration of creatures who are, as far as we know right now, unique in all the universe. each cell, each individual body, itself a unique part of this unique complexity.”
We thought about the ruptures that interrupt our togetherness and how perhaps hope can be a balm for the ruptures. We thought about hope as a collective practice (to quote Angel Yuen), hope as a discipline (to quote Mariame Kaba), hope as something that we can carry together.
We imagine the network that connects us to you, our friends in the United States of America, whose country has suffered such ruptures – ruptures as deep, as old as the founding of your country, so similar to the ruptures that also fragment so-called Canada. We want to connect, like mycelium. The threads and tendrils that stretch across distance, and that, given the right rain, fruit into mushrooms.
May we grow the medicinal mushrooms, the transformative mushrooms, the mushrooms that rejuvenate and regenerate. And may we also rest sometimes, knowing that this network is vast, our connections are real, and the mycelium can sustain us even in drought, and support us through transformation.
We love you, and we are stretching our roots out to you, with hope for all of us to find the way through, to do the work of decolonizing, of amending the soil, of being part of an ecosystem that is more wildly diverse, chaotic, joyful, and generative.
Lindsey and Tiffany
 Chan, Karen BK. (2020). In Calling in: Doing social justice with compassion. Webinar.