Man. It’s kind of a dick move when you think about it. Our partners see the absolute worse side of us when they are the people we love best and who love us best. We are nicer to the bratty toddler running through the aisles at Target than we are to Boo, who has seen us upchuck at 3 o’clock in the morning, smelled our morning breath, and cleaned our pee off the toilet seat. And to be fair, Boo does the same to us.
It’s human nature to be toughest on the people we are closet to. This is why we tend to pick fights with our mate more than anyone else. Not that Boo is perfect. Or that you are the epitome of grace, elegance, and sweet-smelling morning breath. But we do tend to fuck with each other way more than necessary.
Of course when someone is your partner, you are having to constantly negotiate and navigate boundaries. Of course. And it’s an ongoing process as relationships are fluid entities that are always morphing and reshaping themselves as we live in them. But what really needs to be navigated? And when can you just let Boo be Boo?
Is it Intentional?
Is Boo intentionally fucking with you? Like deliberately disrespecting your time, resources, needs, and desires? Like “I know we had dinner plans but I went out drinking instead because fuck you”?
Ok, sweet pea. You have every right to be mad. But also? What the ACTUAL, LITERAL HELL ARE YOU DOING WITH THIS PERSON? If they have no fucks to give about what’s important to you? Get OUT. Believe what they are showing you about who they are. Call your bestie to request sofa surfing privileges, pack up your pooch, polish your tiara, and move ON.
Fighting is worthless here. Because you are being treated like YOU are worthless here. Don’t fight if Boo has made it clear that they don’t care. Grown ass people are not intentionally dicks. Well, there are a few…and they sometimes become president. But if you wouldn’t vote for someone, you sure as hell shouldn’t get them the privilege of seeing your naked, FFS.
Who You Really Mad At, Cupcake?
Remember learning about Freud’s defense mechanisms in Psych 101? Ok, he was a crazy motherfucker who snorted too much coke. But he was right on about that shit. Displacement is a defense mechanism where we attack the safe target rather than the real cause of distress. Of course you can’t tell your boss that his mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries. So you are already riled up and ready to rumble. Boo tells you they forgot to pick up your dry cleaning and you find yourself spewing venom like a champ.
If you know you are ripe to rumble, after a hard day, do what you need to do to decompress that doesn’t involve sniping at Boo. And warn them that you are wound tight.
What’s The Cost Analysis?
We all have our idiosyncrasies. It doesn’t mean we are intentionally fucking with our mate, it means we have years of behavior patterns that are really hard to change. Ever tried to give up tacos for Lent? You feel me, right? Mr Intimacy Dr and I are pain- in-the-assess in a million different ways, but battle stations are only activated when there is a cost beyond irritation involved.
For example, Mr Intimacy Dr has dish duty here at the Underground Headquarters of Sexitimes. I cook, he cleans. Modern romance. He has a tendency to put off the hand-washables like my kitchen knives and cutting boards because they are a pain in the ass. This makes me nuts, because I like to head into a clean kitchen to start my next day of oven sorcery. Bleh, irritating. But not the end of the world. However, he got in a habit of leaving them soaking for a couple DAYS at a time (My fellow culinary types? Are you feelin’ me on this?) I had to get all the knives resharpened and had to completely toss a few of the cutting boards.
So yeah, that was worth a different kind of discussion. I growled and stomped and muttered and griped. Mr. Intimacy Dr has worked really hard at not leaving dishes hanging around near as long since that episode. And if he doesn’t get to the handwashables, he puts them up behind the sink so they don’t soak and get ruined. And if I need them in the meantime, I wash them myself.
Another example? Mr. Intimacy Dr is a writer. His lair is a pit of despair, as you can imagine. I go through and collect trash sometimes, but mostly close the door and ignore. I only fuss when we are getting to the point that I see a huge-ass roach sitting at his laptop, editing his current screen play, and eating the popcorn he left out. Then it’s “Dude. You’re grounded till you clean your room. Now tell the roach to go do the dishes.”
What tends to be your relational sticking points? How money is spent? Create free money allowances for yourself. Or come up with an amount that each can spend without checking in with the other based on what you can afford and your financial goals as a couple. Sex? Come see me at my office, we can work that out. Parenting teenagers? Ugh, good luck on that one.
But no matter big or small, look at what the actual cost of the issue is before you decide how to proceed. It’s amazing how much can be let go when you do that.
Humor Rather Than Snipe
I suck at hanging towels up to dry. I tend to leave them sitting in the sink. I’m trying to be better at that but I had years of living alone and not sharing that bathroom with anyone. And it doesn’t bother ME. I’m probably gonna use that towel to mop up the floor before I throw it in the laundry, anyway. Which also grosses him out.
If I forget to hang up the towel, he will tease me into remembering rather than yell. “Who HATES to hang up towels?” And I’ll waive my hand in the air and say “Me! MEEEE!”
It’s obnoxiously cute, but it is way preferable to a stupid fight over a stupid thing, right? I remember to go hang up the towel and neither one of us feel irritated in the process.
Negotiate on Things That Are Straight Up Preferences
I have a toilet paper roll holder than hangs over the side of the toilet tank. Mr. Intimacy Dr hates the thing because he has to twist around to reach the roll. First world problems. He prefers it sitting on the counter next to the toilet. I don’t like that because it gets damp there. Again, first world problems.
Guess what? We have two rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom. One sitting on the counter and one handing on the holder. Boom. We are all set in our ways and have our preferences. They aren’t worth fighting about.
Is it Netflix and chill night and you want pizza and Boo wants Chinese? Just get both.
Mr Intimacy Dr would wear basketball shorts to the White House. I just got a white Cruella streak in my hair that he hates. But we allow each other to be who we are. Let your partner have their idiosyncrasies. They are the things you fell in love with, after all.
Honestly? My goal in life is to have my house be a peaceful abode. I want it to be my favorite place in the world to be. My spouse feels the same, so we work hard at setting up our relationship so we maintain that peace. Try it at YOUR home. It’s a pretty nice way to live.
(Since People Gotta Act As Stupid Online As They Do IRL)
2. Speaking of pictures? Use accurate ones.
Like recent ones. From the past year. That show what you really look like. Right now. Full body. Not the head shot with the hands tucked under the chin to hide extra. Or the “in the shadows” shot. Or the Snapchat flowers and dog tongue shot. Look your best, sure. But be HONEST.
Seriously, tho. Do you really think that someone is honestly going to say “Oh, it’s ok that you are actually 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds heavier than you implied now that I’ve met you in person and am bowled over by your sparkling personality”? No. They may have been totally fine with a shorter, chubbier you. But now you’ve already marked yourself as a fucking liar. So what else are you lying about???
And that’s a plural. Have a few photos. Head shot, body shot, you doing interesting things in your life shot. Pictures with cute dogs or cats shots. You know.
And if they DON’T want to go out with a shorter, chubbier you? Then fuck THEM and find someone who respects your cuddly ass for the excellence it is.
3. Be honest in general.
Are you looking for a LTR? Or just a bit of strange? Are you separated but not actually divorced yet? Are you poly and have other partners already? Do you have an STI? Are you moving at the end of the year? We all have shit that may limit our options out there. But be honest NOW. Let people self-select out of the process rather than wasting time.
Don’t have sex of the first date? Totally cool. Tell people that and weed out the hook-up artists.
4. Be interesting.
“I love tacos and music.” Good. That makes you human. It also makes for a really boring profile. Could you at least talk about the KINDS of music y”ou like and your favorite taco dive? Ask your friends what makes you interesting and fun. And use THEIR answers to shape your profile.
This also goes for the messages you send others. “Hey.” “Sup?” “Nice pics.” “Cool profile” etc., are really boring openers that will likely get you very little response. Show you actually read their profile and comment on THAT. Like “I noticed that you said your blood type is coffee. I was super excited to read this, because now I have a blood donor match if I ever need one.” Or “You say Taqueria Jalisco is the best in town. I will fall on my sword over Chella’s Tacos downtown. Shall we investigate both side by side and see which one is clearly better? By which the answer is clearly Chella’s?”
5. Be humble. But not falsely humble.
Enough bragging to show that you’re secure is a good thing. So much bragging that you look like Donald Trump isn’t. Saying that you are pretty sure that you make the best chocolate chip cookies in town is appropriate. Saying that your “hands” are so big you can’t find “gloves” in your size isn’t.
But also don’t go looking for ego strokes with false humility. “I’m no good at this” or “You probably won’t be interested in someone as lame as me” etc are gag-inducing cries for attention that are icky and gross.
6. Put down the scorecard.
Y’all I went out with a guy who had just been burned pretty bad. The girl he was dating actually went into her therapist’s office and they rated him out on his positives and negatives. He almost made the cut but he “didn’t have a Crossfit body.” And I’m not even saying he was a big dude. He just wasn’t a Crossfit dude. And that was a deal breaker.
And of course, that saved him the trouble of being with someone critical, and awful, with a literal checklist of what she wanted from others.
But the real bummer was she missed out on dating a REALLY nice guy.
There are some things that are deal breakers. It may be smoking. Or them being married. Or unemployed. Or way older or younger than you. Whatever. That’s fair. But once you start going in with a wishlist for Santa, you are setting yourself up to miss out on meeting some great people.
7. Have a reasonable response window. Or if you can’t, explain that.
Respond within a day if you’re gonna respond. If you legit can’t because you work crazy swing shifts or some shit, tell people that upfront. Like “I’m a line cook. I don’t even check my messages when I’m on the line. My days off are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so I will HYU by then, promise!” Dating site research shows that responding in a timely fashion increases your chance of keeping the conversation going.
On the flip side? Settle the fuck down and give people time to respond back to YOU. It’s creepy as fuck to get a message then a few hours later another one “Guess you aren’t interested in me then, bye” when, damn son, I was at the movies and my phone was off. Dating site research also shows that people who do that decrease the chances of getting a response as well.
8. Be a little suspicious. And be careful.
For example, they only talk to you on KIK? Won’t meet you in public? Vague about every damn thing? Something may be up there. Do your research. A Google Fu may show you that the person you are chatting with is VERY married and their partner is not hip to their shenanigans (You aren’t poly if your partner doesn’t know, y’all. You’re just CHEATING.”
Coffee dates are good first dates. Not a lot of money or time spent, and escape is easy. And don’t park places you can get boxed in. And don’t be left without a way home. And let people know where you are and who you are with. And have a friend check in on your so you can claim emergency and jet if need be.
9. Go out with them or move on.
Don’t spend weeks and weeks chatting online and not actually meeting. Set a DATE. If they aren’t interested in anything but online flirting but you are looking to actually go out, then move on. Otherwise you create this whole relationship with tons of investment that may not withstand real life.
Now if you are long distance, and there isn’t much choice, at least try to have phone and video chat dates and the like so you get more of a handle on each other’s communication styles and conversational interactions (without the ability to edit).
10. Remember it’s just DATING. Not RELATIONSHIPPING. It may take a while. And if it is wearing you out, take a break. It’s supposed to be (at least relatively) FUN.
If you aren’t interested, move on. And let them know politely.
(And as an aside? If they fuck with you about it, block them. Don’t respond and keep up the dialogue. If they are fucking with you in real life, get legal help.)
And if you are interested, get back in contact with a day after your date. “Hey, I had fun! If you did too let’s go out again!” is super simple.
And if you are interested, don’t assume the feelings are at the same level unless you’ve had that conversation. They may be dating other people. They may think of you as a time filler. So don’t plan your wedding just yet. And if they end up ghosting out pretty quickly? That’s so much about them. I’ve written about this before. They don’t know you near well enough to be rejecting you the person. Just your offer at this time. And someone else out there is gonna think you hung the moon. So keep looking for THAT person. You’re fabulous and they’re out there.
Dear Intimacy Dr.: Heyyy, so I'm at a conference with my good friend, and randomly she got a dick pic sent by text. It's a wrong number. Still.. ewww. So doc, what's the deal with dick pics? Why do guys think any woman is going to enjoy this???
Some ladies out there do love a good ween photo. And that’s cool. Most of us ladies who like the penis-havers far prefer the IRL experience during sexitimes, rather than a photo popping up (I SAID POPPING UP! GET IT???? YOU SO GOT IT!) when they are sitting in a staff meeting at work.
I like dick in context only. Sounds like you and your friend are with me on this.
So why soooo many dick pics out there? All kinds of reasons, actually. Not every guy out there is in power-over dominance mode with the women in their lives, like Louis C.K.
Most of us appreciate some good visual stimulation (after all, they show endangered species porn in zoos to encourage mating, both their own species and even human porn) and see it is a display of the tail feathers, just like the showmanship of a male pea-cock (YOU SO GOT THIS ONE TOO, RIGHT?).
Grindr is full of dick pics, after all. Men who dig dick also seem to dig dick pics…at least at higher numbers than their female counterparts. Men are also far more likely to feel comfortable in that kind of exchange...at least that’s what personal experience has told me.
I think the problem is, so many women don’t feel safe in saying “Dude. No.” if sent an unsolicited photo. And we unintentionally give the message of “Dude! Yasss!” when we don’t.
Or as my friend Mark chimed in:
It’s like the guy is the cat bringing the dead bird and no owner is never happy to see that and does not want it. Men get a clue, NO ONE WANTS TO SEE YOUR DEAD BIRD!
My Dudes and other Penis-Havers? So many women have been socialized to not throw down a hellnaw when they need to. Setting a boundary does not always feel safe for us. Even if you are an excellent boundary respecter and we would be entirely safe with YOU, we may not know that based on past experiences of having our boundaries NOT respected. And it might seem easier to just politely accept a dick pic then end up with a death threat. Or actually dead. And that shit happens.
So ask. And ask nicely. And ask in a way that lets us know we are safe with saying “No thank you!” and being respected. Like “Hey, I know unsolicited dick pics are the bane of most women everywhere, but some women don’t mind seeing a wee bit o’ peen when in the flirt zone. Do you dig such shenanigans or would you rather see pictures of tacos and panda bears? Or panda bears eating tacos? Do panda bears even eat tacos? If not, how do we convince them that they should?”
Perv with respect, y’all. We thank you for your support.
P.S. I know you didn’t ask how to respond to that kind of text message but I still use the line my dad taught me to throw out when I was 16. “Hey! That looks just like a penis! Only smaller!” Buddha bless feminist fathers!
Dear Intimacy Dr.,
My new partner is kinkier that I expected. I’m not complaining, tho! She likes the choking a lot and I’m scared I’m not doing it right. She says its great but she’s so much smaller than me, so I don’t know if I’m applying too much pressure. She won’t tell me to stop but I swear that gasp of air she takes in sounds like someone who’s just been revived. I don’t want to kill her! Can you help me out????
Dear Consider Choker:
So. Erotic asphyxiation. This is, simply, the deprivation of oxygen to the brain. Induced cerebral anoxia, if you’re nasty. That lack of oxygen can cause an extra sense of exhilaration (wheeeeeee!) that makes the orgasm more intense. You mentioned her breathing after you release, and that’s totally normal. And the reason that people who like erotic asphyxiation are called “gaspers.”
First of all, good on you. You’re down with what your partner likes and you want to make her happy. But you don’t want to, you know, actually murder her. Wikipedia points out that people have been charged when that’s happened. And the numbers aren’t as small as you’d think. MedicineNet.com notes that about 1000 people a year die from erotic (or autoerotic) asphysixation. So its bad for the relationship. And for future dating opportunities, I imagine.
So when people actually die from this, it usually NOT because their windpipe was crushed. It’s for the same reason that the Vulcan death grip (nerve pinch) is kinda legit. You’re targeting the vagus nerve through a point on the neck called the carotid body. The carotid artery runs down both sides of the throat, and the point where it forks (the aforementioned carotid body) has a cluster of chemoreceptors. These are specialized sensory receptor cells that respond to biological signals.
Pressure there causes a discharge from the vagus nerve that makes you pass out like Spock knocked out Captain Kirk to fool the Romulans into thinking he was dead.
And THEN going unconscious makes you go limp, right? So that actually makes your chokehold TIGHTER so circulation is decreased even MORE. It’s the lack of blood flow that causes death.
Just ask David Carradine.
So is there any fail safe way of not killing Bae? Nope. Choking someone out is inherently dangerous.
But there are things you can do to be a lot safer. You said she doesn’t ever tell you to stop. To be fair, talking probably doesn’t work so well at that time. She may also not have a good handle on what her limits are. Being a gasper is actually addictive as fuck. So first of all you need a non-verbal signal. Tap on the shoulder, whatevs.
I’d also suggest keeping a wedge of lemon or lime in her mouth. Autoerotic asphyxiators do the same thing. As she starts to pass own, her jaw will relax down and she will bite on the sharp citrus. That will help wake her up enough for her to safe signal you to release.
And let me know how that works for y’all!
Besitos y Limon,
Hey there, fancy doctor lady!
Got a question for ya. I dig my sex toys. Like a lot. Am I gonna start over relying on them? Are they gonna ruin me for regular sex? I don’t wanna break my junk…HELP!
Hey there back atcha, my Babe in Toyland!
Short answer? Nah, you cool. Toy play away!
Longer answer? This is a really common question I get. You are not alone in your concern. So let’s talk about what toys do and don’t do and how all that fits into the context of a healthy sex life. Sex toys provide stimulation and sensation: Vibration, movement, warmth, etc. All the stuff we create for each other and ourselves for the purpose of sexual pleasure. And yes, sex toys can provide a more intensive version of those sensations for sure. But that isn’t gonna BREAK anything.
You called it “regular” sex, but which I think you mean sexual activity, with a partner or not, that doesn’t involve any accoutrement. Just whatever body parts you might be using. Think of it this way: You can walk to the store or drive, right? If you walk it might take you awhile longer but you’re still gonna get there. Walking has its benefits. You slow down, you connect to the world around you, you enjoy the view. Walking can be a ton of fun. But sometimes you just need to run into H-E-B and grab a bag of chips before the party, you know? Nothing wrong with driving, is there?
So the other question you may have is “what if walking ISN’T getting me there and I only get the chips from H-E-B if I drive?”
That totally does NOT make you broken, Babe. It just means you need more stimulation than other people. The toy didn’t create that, that’s just how you’re wired down there.
If that kind of bums you out, the question I would ask is what exactly does the driving do for you that the walking doesn’t? For example, if you are a clitoris-having person, you may have a clitoral hood that blocks a lot of sensation. The toy provides the extra sensation you need to get the job done. And you might be able to get a similar effect if you or your partner push back your clitoral hood during sex. Some people also have that hood pierced so the piercing provides the stimulation and some people have a clitoral hood reduction if it’s really getting in the way.
So a toy may be solving a problem you didn’t really know existed until you investigate a bit further.
So many people born with penii have had circumcisions (or at least gotten decent information about pushing back their foreskin for stimulation) that it’s less an issue. But it can show up in other places, too. Maybe your g-spot (which are not limited to vagina-having people, BTW!) is getting stimulated in just the right way by a certain toy, and that can be replicated with yours or your partners fingers (finding the G spot should be its own article, but in the meantime you can use your Google Fu). Or maybe it’s your perinium (taint, durf, gooch, etc….and yes, the perineum is not limited to penis-having people) that is getting hit the right way.
Pay attention to what the toy is actually doing for you, not just the final outcome. Erm, bag of chips. Whatever.
Toys can be lifesavers for both solo and partnered sex, PERIOD. And are nothing to be ashamed about. Some people have mobility issues that would make masturbation impossible without them. Sometimes toys allow people to participate in sex in a way they couldn’t otherwise. Individuals who struggle to maintain an erection, might find using a hollow core strap helpful in still allowing them penetrative intercourse with their partner.
Sometimes toys allow people to be authentically who they are. A traditional strap-on can allow someone to participate in penetrative intercourse if they don’t have a penis, for example. Another great example of the market catching up to the need is Buck Angel’s new Buck-Off, an FTM stroker which was designed specifically to allow transmen the stroking sensation that other men enjoy, while taking into account that they have larger genitilia due to gender confirmation hormone treatment.
In short? Sex toys are meant to enhance, not replace. And technology is letting many of us experience the sexual pleasure that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You interested in going to explore? We have many awesome shops in town. I teach classes at The Love Shack Boutique, and it’s no state secret that it’s my favorite (and Current readers seem to agree, the store has won as many “best of” titles as the Spurs!). If you head out in that direction, mention you read this article. Amy and her crew will give you 20% off your purchase. SCHWING!
Because doesn’t everyone deserves to be all that AND a bag of chips?
Keynote Speech - Cook Children's Denton County Wellness Alliance For Children's Mental Health Wellness Conference
(TRANSCRIPTION - TALK GIVEN ON MAY 4, 2017)
Back in 1955, the National Cancer Institute started funding research for cancer treatment. Results weren’t great so in 1960 they expanded their search for cures into natural plant and animal products. Between 1960-1981, 30,000 samples were collected from nature. One such sample came from a USDA botanist named Arthur Barclay in 1962. Now, we move as slow in science as we do in society in general. So it wasn’t until much later (the 1990s through 2013) that the FDA first approved Taxol for the treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, among others.
Today, Taxol is listed by the world health organization on their Model List of Essential medicines. This is the official list of the most necessary and most important medicines needed to support a basic health care system.
Taxol was produced from the bark of the Pacific Yew Tree. So as life tends to do, this is where it gets more complicated, and more interesting.
The yew tree is considered a trash tree by the logging industry. The wood isn’t appropriate for building, so when forests are being clear cut, it is dumped in the slash and burn pile by loggers. Even in the 1990s, when we KNEW what value these trees had, clear cutting practices meant that 75% of the life saving yew bark was lost as trash. About ten years ago, the Forest Service moved the yew tree from the vulnerable list to the endangered list.
But small groups of dedicated people are not having it. We have conservationists out there fighting for the yew trees. Protecting the old growth and defending the new saplings. These individuals know and value the truth. The yew trees contain something sacred. Something integral to the well being of humanity.
Although it’s a fight that feels overwhelming, the movement is growing. We cannot toss aside, slash and burn, and otherwise treat that which is sacred like so much garbage just because it doesn’t fulfill our immediate desires. The yew tree is a literal example that all life holds a piece of our collective survival. That everything is sacred.
Our LGBTQ youth today are our yew trees. And we are their protectors.
Like all protectors, all conservationists, we are hugging tree trunks and facing down bulldozers. It’s overwhelming.
I currently sit on four different not for profit boards. So fundraising is like breathing in and out for me. I keep telling people I need a million dollars and a building. Of course what I’m really asking for is a ten dollar a month commitment from enough people to help us fund our next family event.
But I really need a million dollars and a building.
My friend Brett told me recently that if he had a million dollars to fund a program, it would totally go to me. He said “I’ve seen the magic you work with zero dollars, so I can only imagine what you’d do with a million.” And all of us here today are in the same boat.
And one day, I’ll have that million dollars, but in the meantime, I will keep my arms wrapped around my yew trees, facing down bulldozers. Because I know their value and worth, even if I have nothing in my pocket but my determination. And everyone in this room is in the same boat.
My husband, out of curiosity, recently looked up the suicide rates of inmates on death row. We all know, that being in prison doesn’t stop anyone from committing suicide if they are so committed, anymore than being in prison doesn’t stop someone from using drugs.
He told me that the rate of suicide among death row inmates is 4 times higher than that of the general population.
Oh, I said, that’s interesting. It’s the same rate as it is for LGBQ folk.
Of course that number doubles to 8 times higher if they have unsupportive families.
And it’s 44 times higher if they are transgender or gender nonconforming.
Every year on the transgender day of remembrance, we host a march and memorial service for the individuals lost to hate crimes. We carry their names and photos on tombstones with us as we march. Every year, we add more tombstones to the walk, rather than take some away.
And let’s talk about our schools for a moment, our so-called bully free zones.
Nine of out ten LGBTQ youth experience harassment at school. Eight of ten students had been verbally harassed at school;
But we don’t do that, right?
Except we do. Or our colleagues do. LGBTQ persons experience similar forms of discrimination from mental health professionals as they do in the general public. A study that was just published this week by the Williams Institute found serious health care disparities for LGBTQ adults and youth in Texas along with economic disparities and discrimination in employment, housing, and public accomodations.
Additionally, there is still movement towards techniques termed “therapeutic” that focus on sexual orientation change efforts. In 2014, the Texas Republican Party Platform added language supporting “reparative therapy” as an appropriate counseling modality. Therapy to make you straight.
Just last week, someone asked me “Wait, isn’t that illegal???”
No, it’s not. Not in Texas. And not only is it legal, it was just publicly sanctioned and encouraged by the individuals whose salaries we pay.
I was training in Beaumont last year, on election day. When the results came in, every single one of my trans or gender nonconforming clients called me or texted me in the middle of the night in a panic. I got a call the next day from a colleague at the LGBTQ youth shelter in San Antonio. The kids were LITERALLY hiding under their beds. Sucide hotlines around the country reported that the number of calls that evening tripled. Staff at Equality Texas reported 8 reported suicides in the United States by LGBTQ individuals 24 hours after the election.
The new legislative session, currently in progress in our state, has already seen a flurry of bills that would strip away the rights and protections of LGBTQ Texans.
This is not a political position statement on my part, and it is not intended as a criticism of yours, if we happen to differ. Nor is it a criticism of your spiritual belief system or your religious or cultural practices. I have the utmost respect for whatever you bring to the table, because I want the same respect in return.
This is said as a statement about the reality of existence as an LGBTQ individual in this state and in this country. Our responsibility is to the health, well-being, and life span development of those we serve. And when it comes to LGBTQ folx… we are failing.
They are our yew trees. Despite their immeasurable value to the whole of society, and no matter how we in this room recognize the truth in that statement, they are still being treated like trash trees…left in the slash and burn pile.
One of the things I was asked to address this morning was the importance of language.
Here I am talking about bullying. And access disparities. And violence. And homicide. And suicide. And yew trees. So why the huge focus on language today at this conference?
I grew up in a time where most people were straight. As far as I knew. There were a few gay kids in the drama club and if you watched Donahue, you might have seen someone who was transgender on the show. The language we have today, and the space that now exists for different identities is wildly different. I train on this topic, and I still run into words that I’ve never seen before. Urban Dictionary is my best friend. And for those of us who grew up during gay-straight-or-Donahue times, it can feel overwhelming. But learning and respecting language is one of the most powerful things we can do as mental health advocates.
Franz Boas published the Handbook of American Indian Languages in 1911. He was one of the first cultural relativists and he discovered something interested when studying these languages with an eye as to how they function within their communities.
There is a bi-directional flow between thought and verbal expression. That is, what we think influences how we speak. And how we speak starts to change how we think. If we want to change the world, and we don’t have a million dollars and a building? We start with our language. The language we use in service. In direct care. In advocacy. Our language declares our allyship. Our bravery. Our intent for change. And that language changes the dialogue and changes minds. And when I’m feeling hopeless in the face of bulldozers, this is something I can do.
One of my favorite writers, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, said it with far more eloquence than I ever could:
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
This is how we protect your yew trees. And I am deeply grateful that you are with me in this fight. Thank you for being here today.
SB 92, filed by Texas tea party State Senator Bob Hall, sounds innocuous when you first read the title, doesn’t it? Interstate Commerce Improvement Act – is that going to promote commerce within the state of Texas? Definitely sounds like something the legislature should focus on. Though that isn’t at all what Senator Hall had in mind, as evidenced by language prohibiting individual municipalities, cities, or counties from adopting any new laws (or enforcing any standing laws) that create “a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in the laws of this state."
This is called “local control preemption” and can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different cities. For example, in Austin (as Equality Texas points out), it is illegal for property owners to refuse to rent to students. Austin is a rapidly growing city as well as a huge college town and finding housing can be a challenge for anyone living there. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for students to find landlords willing to rent to them. The problem grew so bad that the city was forced to intercede and protect students as a class of citizens from housing discrimination practices.
Makes sense, right? This isn’t a widespread problem in other parts of the state, so this needn’t be a state law. But in Austin, it’s a huge deal.
The irony is that the Texas lege has long held that local control and more stringent enforcements should always take precedence over federal “interference.” Privacy laws are a great example. We have had them in Texas since the 1970s, far before federal HIPPA laws went into effect. The privacy laws in Texas are also tougher than the federal laws. So clinical practioners in Texas follow Texas law, which trumps federal. So why would Senator Hall want to take away the rights of local authorities to better protect its local citizens?
Senator Hall was ranked the 2nd worst senator on LGBT issues by Equality Texas during his Freshman year (with Donna Campbell taking the #1 spot) and is known for his right wing stance on the state of democracy in our State. As the Texas Observer reported, Senator Hall stated:
“I think we’re sliding into Gomorrah… If we do not change what we’re doing
by changing the leaders when we go to the ballot box, our children
and grandchildren may be having to change their leaders with the ammo box.”
And this is where his so-titled Interstate Commerce Protection Act starts to make sense. Texas does not have any state laws that protect LGBT individuals from discrimination. However, many Texas cities (including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, and San Antonio) do. Because Texas state law doesn't include sexual orientation or gender identity, cities and counties would be be prohibited from enforcing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, if Senator Hall’s bill passes with a two-thirds vote.
These laws protect approximately 9 million Texas residents, approximately 1/3rd of our state’s population. These cities have decided to take on the enforcement of such measures at their own expense to better serve the individuals that live there. Senator Hall thinks that they shouldn’t be allowed to make such determinations in their local governance. Could you imagine his reply if the federal government decided to strip away the increased protections that Texas privacy laws offer those of us who live and work here and instead demand we comply with the less-stringent HIPAA regulations?
But putting aside the issues of the LGBT community for a moment, what might the possible economic ramifications could come of such a law? North Carolina has seen huge financial losses after passing anti-LGBT legislation, numbers of a magnitude that concerned the Texas Association of Business (TAB) came out in public opposition to such measures. Citing the $395 million-dollar loss suffered by North Carolina after the passage of House Bill 2, The TAB estimates even larger losses in Texas. Upwards of $8.5 billion dollars into the Texas economy and 185,000 jobs could be at stake over such a measure.
Billion. With a “b.” For a bill that prevents local legislatures from protecting their own citizens.
This is a bill that makes no sense. No fiscal sense, no structural sense, and definitely no moral sense. We recently saw a huge public outcry and immediate reversal of a federal move to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of the House Ethics Committee, which would allow federal lawmakers complete control over their own discipline. So you know what to do now, don’t you?
Note: This post was originally published as an article in the TALGBTIC newsletter, written as a response to questions from peers and allies within the mental health community after the Orlando shooting. It continues to apply in our day to day actions.
How many times have you seen someone profess allyship with no follow-through in their day to day interactions? Prayers and thoughts are always welcome, but love for others lies in our day to day behavior.
And I get it, I do, it can feel awkward to be supportive if you aren’t sure how. Do you attend the vigil you see posted on Facebook? Show up at a rally or meeting? Do you worry that you are gate crashing where you don’t belong? But I promise you this…professing your allyship with no follow-through is far more hurtful then bumbling a bit in your allyship response. Here are some ideas to get started and get involved:
Just wanted to say thanks to Amy at THE LOVE SHACK in San Antonio, Texas, for hosting my book signing on Saturday! It was a fun event for my new book, THE REVOLUTION WILL INCLUDE COOKIES. If you would like a signed copy, they are available here.
One question I always get when I am training and I pull out my favorite zines is “What’s a zine?” Excellent question! Zines are essentially pamphlets. Small-Circulation, self-published, long form essays or collections of other writings or media. They are born of the punk rock movement…a way of reclaiming media and voice at a grassroots level. You can read a more in-depth analysis on them here. I love zines. They are inexpensive, pocket-sized, easy to read, and often say things that mainstream media won’t say. I use them in my teaching and in my private practice. I also write them:
Dr. Faith’s 5 Minute Therapy Series
My zines are put out by Microcosm Publishing and are available through their website. If you saw one that isn’t listed, it’s likely because it sold out (they sell out quickly!) and is being awaited from the print shop. Holler at me, I may have a copy or can at least ask when they are back in stock. I cover a range of topics and produce new ones whenever I have time to sit down and be a typewriter monkey. The most popular topics are anxiety, anger, and adulting.
Then the second question I get is where did you order all the zines you are showing us? Can’t you put all the links online? Totally, and fair enough. I’ve pulled out and sorted a bunch of my zines and I’m dedicating my newt few blog posts to this topic. Let’s start with the mental health and wellness zines! By the way, these are in no particular order other than the order in which I pulled them out of the pile.
If you have a zine that you think belongs on this list, and you want to send it to me to read, hit me up at email@example.com for my snail mail address!
Touring With Mental Illness
An accessible DIY guide for self care strategies while on the road - including depressive/manic episodes in van, food difficulties when not at home, packing lists, tips n tricks, & *so important* tools bandmates & pals can use to support someone with mental illness. You don’t have to be a musician to benefit from functional ideas to support recovery!
In a time when sexual assault and abuse are an increasing problem; even in so-called radical and punk communities, and when most women have been sexually abused in one way or another, Cindy Crabb (Doris Zine) brings us a document showing ways to prevent sexual violence and support survivors of sexual abuse.
I Don’t Know How To Help You
This is a compilation of writing exploring the difficulties in supporting loved ones with depression, and not knowing how to ask for help when you are the one suffering. This is a resource of assistance and compassion, of true ache and optimism in the face of crushing blues.
How Not To Kill Yourself
Are you inclined to escape the crumminess of everyday life into fantasy worlds? Are you smart and imaginative in a way that isn't really suited to your surroundings? Are you definitely misunderstood, likely angry, and almost certainly depressed? Set Sytes, hailing from the UK, would prefer you stay alive and sort things out rather than the alternative, thanks. He figures there are better opportunities for you out there and lays it all out in a way that's compelling, funny, sharp, and useful.
How To Not Give A Fuck About A Thing That Is Not Worth Your Precious Time
A mini guide on making your life better by not giving fucks about things you shouldn't be worrying about. Which seems like a simple idea but, as says this zine, "the reality of not giving a fuck is pretty hard for most of us."
Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care
In activist circles and elsewhere, it has become commonplace to speak of self-care, taking for granted that the meaning of this expression is self-evident. But “self” and “care” are not static or monolithic; nor is “health.” How has this discourse been colonized by capitalist values? How could we expand our notion of care to encompass a transformative practice?
The Do It Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad
Self-described as an "anti-depression guide/guide to a freer, more lawless life." Gnade's book looks at the root causes of sadness, anxiety, and general malaise/boredom and offers helpful point-by-point suggestions (in list form) and short essay pep-talks on how to move beyond your demons for a better, smarter, happier life. Like a letter from a trusted friend in the trenches, The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad will work with you through all phases of your life, thick and thin.
Simple Steps To A Life Less Shitty
A continuation of the work started with his Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad, Adam Gnade's new pamphlet is a series of peptalks and how-to's on dealing with the overwhelming bullshit of modern life. From list-keeping as a survival skill to battling sleep anxiety, finding the wild heart inside you to kicking your life-long depression in half like a cheap ceramic statue, these tips, lists, and essays show a path toward a better, smarter, freer life.
Shit's Fucked: A Positivity Guide is a very small self-help pamphlet by Gina Sarti, who is perhaps the punk rock Sark. It’s fun, concise, and full of little reminders we need all the time.
Stressed and Overwhelmed
If you're the sort of person who takes on every project and responsibility until suddenly it's one thing too many and you get completely burnt out and drop everything and start the cycle again from scratch ... this zine is for you. Includes hard-won pointers on how to train yourself to have more sustainable work habits (using tricks from dog training!), shore up your professional boundaries, and get more organized so you can have a better handle on all the things you are very likely to continue taking on.
That’s Not OK: Boundaries For The Conflict Avoidant
“What’s a boundary?” you might be wondering. But even if you understand emotional boundaries, reflecting more on them can help you live a less confused and happier life. In short, a boundary is telling someone what you are and are not comfortable with, telling people no and setting safe, comfortable limits in your daily life. As the author puts it, having boundaries is the difference between a restaurant having a menu or not—your friends, family, and lovers know what is on the table or not.
Open In Case of Emergency
A personal look into living with a mental illness. Issue one focuses on the need for help and the battle for self identity after receiving a diagnosis.