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Please Feel Free to Keep Your Bullshit Apology

11 Oct

So, I was on Facebook (granted, I know that was my very first mistake) and I came across a homophobic comment posted by my youngest brother.

Back story: my little brother and I have the same dad but different moms. I don’t use the word “half-brother” because to me if feels like it somehow delegitimatizes our bond. Even though we grew up in different homes, we have a very strong history and have created many loving memories. Needless to say, I love my little brother very much. I am often saddened by the fact that we didn’t grow up in the same home. I think that maybe if we had, he wouldn’t put such dumb shit on a public forum like Facebook. Maybe, just maybe, he would think twice.

I wasn’t born in this country. English is not my first language. I wear a size twelve. I’m also a queer woman of color.  Clearly, I have had to develop thick skin. I’m used to seeing manifestations of intolerance everywhere – in public policy, society, at work, in the media … you get the picture. I am also very private and because of that keep my Facebook circle really small. The folks on my friends list are progressive and agree with me on the importance of silly things like social justice and equal rights. This is why this post hurt so terribly. I was being attacked on Facebook, but, most surprisingly, by my own brother. He knows that his sister is gay. It is no secret. He knows this. He also knows that his sister is smart, strong, opinionated, giving, caring,  and, most of all, human.

So why, why, why would my little brother post a homophobic comment? Why would he of ALL people promote hate and intolerance? I don’t have the answers. None of the ones I came up with seem to make much sense or make the situation any less painful.

After pulling it together, I sent my little brother a private text message asking him why he said those things and whether or not he thought those things applied to me, his gay sister.

We went back and forth for a bit. His responses were even more disheartening and basically along the lines of ‘but you’re different.” My all-time favorite response was, “If I offended you, my bad,” followed by a Facebook post of the music video “Sorry I Can’t Be Perfect.”

Really, homie?

Due to the fact that I am an educator (and I love him), I‘ve decided to use this as a teachable moment. In the future, I want him to have the proper tools when he messes up and needs to offer an apology. Feel free to use this in your own circles.

  • I want to apologize for what I said/did. I didn’t think about the power of language or how my words/actions can truly affect and sometimes hurt others. I love you and would never want to (unknowingly or purposefully) hurt you. I understand that it may take some time for you to forgive me, but I hope that you can find it in your heart to do so, because I care about you and the future of this relationship. I’m sorry.

So, little bro, this is what an actual apology looks like. You are now in your 20s and, by all accounts, a grown man. It’s about time you started acting like one.

If this offends you, then, my bad.

To everyone else, Happy National Coming Out Day!

Memories, survival and safety

27 Aug

TRIGGER WARNING This post contains information about sexual violence that may be triggering to survivors.

I know if feels like I been gone for a minute but now I’m back, green tea on ice with a fitted. :)

Mi familia, it has been a while since I last posted. I have to be honest, for a while it didn’t feel safe to write for the blog. I am an extremely private person. So private that even Facebook gives me the creeps. Consequently, it felt like writing for the collective and speaking frankly about my experiences, thoughts, doubts, fears and feelings exposed me more than I felt comfortable with. Most folk don’t really understand that this ish right here is not easy. We expose our true selves regularly and though we have many wonderful and thoughtful fans, there are those who often cross the line and say many unnecessary and hurtful things. At the end of the day, we are all just real people with real feelings. We’re also real sensitive about our shit.

I have been thinking about what to write for a very long time, six months to be exact. Every single time I thought about a topic, it felt like I was exposing too much of myself. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear: writing sometimes makes me feel unsafe and vulnerable. These emotions are often difficult for me to deal with. They bring back unwanted memories. The first time I felt this way I was eleven years old.

It was father’s day and I was at my grandparent’s house for the summer. All of the grown folks were drinking and playing card games. I remember going up to my grand parents and saying that I was going to go to bed, that I was scared to be in the house by myself and asking them not to take long before they too retreated for the night.

I went to bed, fell asleep and woke up with my grandfather on top of me. His hands were all over me as he licked my face and repeated, “suck on my tongue.”  I didn’t understand what was happening. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t even scream. At some point, my grandmother opened the door to the house. Once he heard the sound of the door opening, he quickly got off of me and jumped into the bed he shared with her.

He did not rape me. However, he did scar me for life. He stole my childhood and all of the childhood innocence I once had. From that moment on I understood that there was evil in the world. I was so ashamed of what happened that I didn’t tell anyone. For years, I blamed myself and wished I had had the courage to tell someone, anyone of what he was capable of. To make matters worse, I blamed myself – convinced that I was a bad little girl. Sadly, my child logic told me that God, wouldn’t let this happen to me had I been a good little girl.

It took years for me to realize that it was not my fault; that I was just a child; that the adults that were supposed to take care of me failed; and that he was the one to blame. The Church taught me that there was great power in forgiveness and I made an honest attempt to forgive him. I convinced myself that alcohol made him do it. Sadly, that was not the truth and I received a rude awakening at the age of fifteen. I was at my mother’s apartment doing my homework while a movie starring Tom Cruise played in the background. I was sitting in the living room couch and from the corner of my eyes could see my grandfather fidgeting in his seat. At one point Mr. Cruise kissed the female lead and my grandfather looked over and said, “Do you remember when we did that?” He said those words with pride. That is when I realized that I could never forgive him for what he did to me. I remember screaming at him, going to my room, calling my best friend and having a panic attack. After that incident, I decided to tell my mother. When I told her, she yelled at me and asked me why I hadn’t told her sooner. She expressed anger at my silence because I had a little sister and he may have done the same to her or to others. [Note: this is NEVER an appropriate response. It is never the responsibility of children to protect other children. That is what adults are for.]

My grandfather died of prostate cancer a few years after that incident. I remember trying to console my mother for her loss while being very angry at God for giving him that much time on this earth. Unfortunately, I was not the only one damaged by his actions. Other women have come out and admitted that he fondled them as well.

My story is a very complex one. I was abused by my grandfather at an early age and was later forced to live with him after the abuse had occurred. I couldn’t tell anyone, but in hindsight the clues that I was abused were always there, the adults around me just didn’t know what to do with the information. We often don’t know what to do with child abusers in our families or our communities. That is a sad truth.

The story does not end there. My grandfather was not the only one to abuse me; there were babysitters and family friends who also stepped out of line and fondled me. The memories are fuzzy. For a very long time I was haunted by my lack of childhood memories. In my mid twenties I inexplicably started crying without reason or provocation and decided to seek therapy. Even at the therapist’s office, I just couldn’t keep it together. I discovered that the crying episodes had to do with the fact that there was so much I couldn’t remember. I was horrified about the fact that my subconscious blocked away five years of memories. What could be so horrific that my subconscious would lock it all away? What would happen to me if I were to remember all of it? Would the memories break me? My therapist reassured me that I didn’t have to remember and that I was safe now. I found that to be quite liberating and only then was I able to stop crying. Thank goodness for therapy.

I am better now but I often have nightmares. There is no rhyme or reason to when they come, they just do. In fact, my girlfriend recently revealed to me that I often quietly sob in my sleep. I do not want to make this post longer than it already is but need to be clear that there are a lot of details to my story that I am not including here. It is nearly impossible to package our stories in neat and linear boxes. Although, I am a survivor of child abuse, this does not define me. This story is complex. My story is complex. I am complex.

I am sharing this story because I think there is power in sharing your truths. I do not live in fear anymore. I am indeed safe. I hope with all of my heart that other victims of sexual abuse can one day say the same.

The following are some facts about child abuse:

1)   While abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are family members or trusted individuals. Child molesters, pedophiles and perpetrators are everywhere: they are parents, grandparents, family members, teachers, neighbors and friends.

2)   Oftentimes survivors of child abuse are forced to see their abusers regularly.

3)   Perpetrators know how to identify their victims. Consequently, victims of sexual abuse are often vulnerable to abuse by multiple people.

4)   Most child abuse cases go unreported.

5)   There are often many signs that a child is suffering from abuse.

6)   It takes a lot of courage to tell anyone that you have been a victim of abuse.

7)   It is never okay to blame the victim.

8)   If you or someone you love has suffered because of abuse, please know that there are many resources out there:

~Crunkista

Confessions of a Swagga-holic

9 Feb

My name is Crunkista and I am a swagga-holic. I am under swag’s spell. It is my kryptonite. In fact, the only thing that saves me from this powerful vice is my feminism. I have found myself in some very sticky situations because of my addiction and have too many embarrassing stories to tell as a result of it. For instance, I once flew across state lines just to see a woman whose swag caught my eye at a club. Her swag was intoxicating and I needed more. The night we met, her unfortunate friend tried to kick it to me and it became a whole night of matrix maneuvers trying to get to her while letting her friend down gently. We exchanged numbers and I flew back home the next day.  A few weeks later I was flying back to her city, trying to get my next fix. It did not work out. Sadly, the only thing that was there – was my addiction and her supply. Had I not had that little feminist voice in my head screaming “get the hell out of there” with each and every red flag, I would have found myself in some serious trouble. She was so damn cute though.

Speaking of beautiful women, I recently came across one of the “Shit Black Lesbians Say” videos and was pleasantly surprised when the protagonists were women of color. It turns out that they were promoting a new web series called “Between Women.” I really don’t know much about the web series business and was only recently introduced to them by fellow Crunk Moyab’s admiration for Awkward Black Girl. I am now a fan of both.

“Between Women” follows the lives, trials and tribulations of a group of friends living in Atlanta, Georgia. So far, only five episodes have aired. It has been quite refreshing to see the characters develop and the story lines become progressively more complex. Episode three features a powerful domestic violence plotline, followed by a PSA that I really appreciated. We don’t talk about the domestic violence that often plagues LGBTQ communities and I commend them for taking on that story.

The show features some really interesting characters. I enjoy watching the quirky, awkward and lovable, Sunny Walker, the youngest member of the group “navigating her way out of the closet.” However, (due to my addiction) my absolute favorite character is Miller Harris, the ever so dapper “successful marketing director.” Miller is pretty much delectable and an unapologetic womanizer. She oozes swag and it just ain’t fair. I am under her spell and I like it. Will this be a reformed bad boi story? I sure hope so.

I really enjoy watching the show and thoroughly appreciate losing myself in the lives of these women. It is incredibly comforting to see women of color desiring and loving other women. As much as I enjoy watching the show, however, I will admit that it is not without its flaws. So far, I am not a fan of what sometimes seem like stifling butch/femme dichotomies being promoted where the women who present themselves on the more “masculine” side of the spectrum continually disrespect, cheat on and basically play those who present on the more “feminine” side. I fully understand that it is a drama, and that the writers need to portray stories that hook an audience. But I do expect more.

When I think of the work that remains to be done in our LBGTQ community, I always think of Good Asian Drivers’ performance of Queer Nation. Kit Yan puts it beautifully,“[…] but the truth is that we screw up too. See, we still haven’t found our groove on the outskirts of society. We’re still using old blue prints with bad foundations.”

Check it.

I have high hopes for this series especially because of the way they presented the domestic violence plot in episode three. Given that it is a web series, they depend on the donations of its viewers. I pledge to donate to them and will continue to tune in with the expectation that they depict a healthy romantic relationship and at least one butch/stud/boi who respects women and isn’t a womanizer. A girl can only dream.

“Between Women” is now on episode five but the third episode is incredibly entertaining. Please show your support.

 

It’s a f#@%g compliment.

12 Jan

I’ve been ruminating on this one for days. I thought that the longer I waited to write it, the nicer I would be. Fuck it, I was wrong. I’m just gonna go there.

I’m a feminist. Sometimes it feels like I live breathe, eat, and sleep feminism. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m just feminist enough. A while ago, I made the mistake of calling another like-minded individual a feminist. I don’t even remember what they did to merit the honor, but I sure do remember their reaction. They actually got offended at the fact that I called them a feminist. Wait. Stop. What?

I was taken aback by the negative reaction. I didn’t even know what to say or where to start. I apologized for offending them and we both went our separate ways. I still think of them as a closeted feminist. This made me realize that I need to be prepared. Should the opportunity present itself again, this is what I will say:

“Relax. I wasn’t trying to offend you. Me calling you a feminist was a fucking compliment. Why? Well, for starters your actions showed me your amazing strength. In spite of the patriarchal/political/cultural/societal structure that fails and oppresses you daily, I saw you fight back. I was impressed. So impressed that I called you a feminist. That was some real feminist shiiiiiit.

So, the next time you want to go on and be offended because I called you a feminist, please check yourself. You’re a fucking feminist. Deal with it. Don’t do feminist shit if you don’t want to be called out. Stop fighting it. Join the movement (willingly). We fight for you. We will fight with you. We believe in you. We will believe with you. We SEE you. We will always see YOU.”

For the record, you are taking a feminist stance every time you:

  • Don’t believe the hype
  • Take action to make the world a more just place (for all its inhabitants)
  • Question the patriarchy
  • Acknowledge your own privilege(s)
  • Believe that you are beautiful just they way you are–even on bad days
  • Talked to your friend/child/neighbor/family about the skewed norms the media/marketing machines create, uphold and push on us
  • Stood up to someone when they did you (or someone you love) wrong
  • Told your child that his/her hair, skin, smile, are beautiful
  • Questioned a double standard
  • Gave yourself permission to love yourself and others

The list goes on. Feminists do some real cool shiiiit. You may not be a full-fledged feminist today, but maybe–just maybe—you are feminist enough.

 

There is only love…

1 Jan

2011 was a very good year. Last year, I had the utmost pleasure of spending time and falling in love with a wonderful woman. She is one of the most kindest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her smile has the power to light up my heart. Her voice soothes away all sadness. Her touch…[give me a minute]…her touch is just ever so gentle. If I had to describe the relationship in one word, it would be magic. Yes, magic.

What? You thought crunk feminists couldn’t get down like that? Well, think again. Our hearts come in a variety of sizes.

The romantic relationship ended. Why, you ask? Lets just say that life became too complicated. Strangely enough, amidst all of the chaos, she gave me peace of mind like I had never experienced before. When it was just she and I, time simultaneously stood completely still and ran away from us. Like, magic.

Instead of feeling the usual “why me?” after a romantic relationship ends, [warning this will sound weird], I keep growing from this experience. Oddly enough, the fact that I was able to love that deeply, let someone break down each and every one of my walls, and trust that for the first time in my life I had met my match–someone who could take care of me the same way I could take care of them–actually gave me incredible hope. The realization that I had the capacity to experience a love like that actually leads me to believe that if I found it once, I will find it again. Loving her taught me that although I had said the words “I love you” plenty of times before, they were just empty promises of feelings I was sincerely hoping one day to have. Now that I know what actual love is, I refuse to settle for anything less than the pure bliss I felt by her side. Something tells me that now that I have this knowledge, it can only get better.

I have never been the kind of woman that remained friends with an ex. In fact, I felt very fortunate to move to a different city after two major breakups. Additionally, I never had to deal with any “lets try and be friends” nonsense till Facebook came along and ruined everything. With her though, things are just different. I have so much appreciation for her as a person that even after we ended, I just could not find a reason to resent her.  There is only love.

I can’t do anything but carry her with me like I carry my most cherished family and friends. She will always be a part of my inner circle and I honestly cannot picture my life without her friendship. Most importantly, I know that although this lifetime was not meant for our love, she will find me in the next.

For now though, watch out world: I have all this love to give and I am finally ready to give it.

‘Tis the season for a different kind of giving…

5 Dec

I was really moved by CF Eeshap’s most recent post: Conflict is forever: Can we change attitudes about diamonds?  In the post, she explains:

I don’t write this post to make people with diamonds on their fingers feel bad. I shop for bargain goods that I know are made in sweatshops. When I purchase produce, I know that it was grown and picked by laborers whose rights are violated. I try to make ethical choices, all while knowing that I am complicit in a world economy that is rooted in human rights violations.

Her words made me reconsider my own purchasing practices. On the one hand, I know that I will never purchase or accept a diamond. I also know that if I decide to get married, I won’t be wearing a diamond ring. (If you liked it, then you should’ve put a condo down payment on it.) However, I do wear all kinds of jewelry and, therefore, actively participate in the bloody economics of the diamond/gold/silver industry. Sadly, even fake bling carries this weight.

The capitalist world economy can only maintain itself through the oppression of others. Living, working, and spending in this country means that I am an active participant. So, no matter how conscious I try to be with my purchases, in one way or another I am likely participating in someone else’s oppression. Oppression is just not feminist. So, what can I do?

The media’s coverage of the apparent foolishness that always is Black Friday and Eeshap’s post made me wonder: How can I combine my feminist beliefs with the holiday practice of gift giving? How can I stay within my budget and express my genuine gratitude to the folks I love without purchasing expensive gifts? Is credit card debt feminist?

These questions reminded me of two of the best presents I have ever received.

Number 1:

[Back story] This past Thanksgiving, I finally figured out that my mother’s numbers have always been off by a few years (a fact she now conveniently denies). [Side eye] My mom married at the tender age of 16. He was 16 years her elder. Yes, it was legal. The twice-divorced love of her 16 year-old life turned out to be everything but her Prince Charming. He was the all-too-common triple A: abusive, alcoholic, and an adulterer. A shock, I know. Right before her 20th birthday she divorced Mr. Uncharming and was left a single mom of a toddler and a newborn son. Did I mention that she grew up on a farm, had just moved to the states, did not speak any English, and that her entire family lived in the Caribbean? Yes. She hustled for many years, so much so, that I was five the first time we actually had a Christmas tree. Not only did we have our very own tree, but there was also one very large present waiting just for us. My brother and I eyed that box for days. On Christmas Eve we finally uncovered our very own child-size table with two chairs. My mom could not afford to give me a room of my own and gave me the next best thing: my own space, a little corner in the apartment that I could use to do my homework and teach my little brother all that I learned at school. On that table I was both diligent student and dedicated teacher. We also had all of our meals there because it was our table and, most importantly, our size. It was by far the very best present I remember ever receiving as a child.

Number 2:

This past birthday my mother sent me a picture book of my life story: essentially, Crunkista’s biography. It was very basic: a small booklet full of photographs and hand written chapters of what (in her eyes) have been the greatest milestones and achievements of my life. In it, she explained how I was as a child and how she saw my character evolve throughout the years. (Apparently I have always been crunk). She also shared stories I had never heard before—like the fact that I learned how to climb out of my crib and walk at seven months. At the end of the book, she left a number of blank pages so that I could write the rest of my story. I tear up just thinking about this wonderful gift.

This holiday I would like to actively engage in a more feminist practice of gift giving. I want to give presents that affect the people I love the way these presents have affected me. I don’t want to just give presents: I want to give lasting memories.  Also, the less people I oppress, the better.

Some ideas I came up with:

  • Support local craft fairs and purchase hand made items by local [women] artists
  • Print one of your favorite photographs in black & white and frame it
  • A CD of all of the top ten songs on the radio the year your loved one was born
  • Spread the feminist love by giving a young adult a book written by a woman of color feminist author
  • Make a book of coupons with redeemable actions: hugs, chores, homemade dinners, back rubs, quickies, etc.
  • Compile a cookbook of your families’ most cherished recipes and include a brief bio of every cook
  • Make a homemade calendar full of your favorite family photographs that highlights all the birthdays
  • Seeds, pots, and soil so that they can plant their favorite flowers or start their own vegetable garden
  • For the new parents: children’s books that feature people of color
  • Dance classes
  • An autographed copy of your loved ones favorite book
  • Write their autobiography :o
  • Interview family members and ask them to share their favorite holiday memories, make a compilation and give everyone a copy
  • Make jars full of dry (organic) ingredients of their favorite cookies

Familia, with all of the winter holidays approaching–Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and El Día de los Reyes–I think we can collectively compile a grand list of ideas. I would love to hear your thoughts on feminist/more conscious gift giving. What have been the greatest gifts you have received?

Leave Kim Alone!

7 Nov

I upgraded my cable package a few years ago and have been keeping up with the Kardashians for a few seasons now. I’m not sure what happened the first few years, but thanks to E! marathons I am certain that I’m up to speed. I have no problems admitting that I’m a fan of the show. It only comes second to my beloved Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane. I thoroughly enjoy watching both shows for very similar reasons:

1)   I enjoy celebrating women’s stories.

2)   They represent different models of quirky and loving families.

3)   The women are ambitious, business savvy, and, most importantly, they run the show.

Before people start discrediting the shows and highlighting all of their flaws, let me be clear: I understand that the shows are not perfect, they perpetuate consumerist culture, and often times promote very questionable priorities. At the end of the day, however, they provide me with a much-needed escape from my reality.

I keep missing the first part of Kim’s Fairytale Wedding but I was able to see Part II a few days after it aired. Yes, it is ridiculous to spend an estimated 10 million dollars on a wedding reception when billions of people around the world are hungry. Yes, it is outrageous to sport an allegedly two million dollar engagement ring when governments around the world are crumbling. Indeed, thousands of people are sleeping in tents protesting the greed that has always dominated our governments and corporate America. It is painfully clear that Kim’s reality is just not reality. Period. However, Kim is not the first to continue living life in lala land. She will also not be the last.

I watched Part II of Kim’s Fairytale Wedding and being the hopeless romantic that I am, cried when they (I mean, the bishop) exchanged their vows. I thought they would last at least a year. Just like anyone else who follows the show, I saw all of the red flags. As cute as they were together, it was painfully clear that they were not compatible. Most troubling is how often he would try to crush her spirit pointing out her flaws, reminding her, for example, that no one would care about her in a few years. I often found myself wondering, “has he met this woman?” She is clearly in the business of being in the spotlight. It’s her shit. Ours too, since we keep tuning in for more: watching marathon episodes, reading the tabloids, and clicking on all internet articles regarding the latest Kardashian controversy.

We all knew the marriage would end. I had countless conversations with my girlfriends about it. I was, however, surprised that it ended so abruptly. More shocking, though, are the strong reactions to the news. People are just being mean, as if they’re the ones that got dumped. They’re lashing out at her from every angle and I honestly think it’s just unnecessary. The woman got caught up. She bought into the ideas that we have been spoon fed for years: there is nothing worse than being a single woman in your thirties, marriage equals “happily ever after,” and when you finally get to plan a wedding – lose your damn mind because it is YOUR day and you DESERVE to be a princess.

As sad as all of this is, Kim has reminded us of a few things we keep forgetting:

1)   Sometimes love is not enough

2)   Marriage does not equal happily ever after

3)   Expensive weddings do not equal happily ever after

4)   It is never healthy to have too many people in your business

5)   “Mo’ money, mo’ problems

I hope that this motivates folks to reevaluate all of the unhealthy messages forced on us about relationships, love and happiness. Quite frankly, I’m tired of how mean people are being and all of the things they are accusing her of. She is, at the end of the day, only human.

Kim, if you are reading this, I offer some unsolicited advice:

1)   Stop working/making appearances. I understand that you are about your money, girl. But you are now legitimately over-exposed. Take a cue from the Sex and the City movie and escape with your closest girls to a paparazzi free location and grieve. Grieve, process, and repeat.

2)   Stop talking to the cameras. I understand that you are a reality star but you aren’t filming now. The more you talk, the more people will feel like you owe them an explanation. You don’t. Tell your mama to stop talking to. She isn’t helping the situation.

3)   We just need a break. It will take some time for us to heal, but we’ll be okay. Time apart will be good for us. In time we will be able to work on building a healthy relationship. Once we’re at a better place, we can be friends and we’ll continue to keep up with you.

Okay, I have procrastinated enough and should get back to my job because my reality is that I have rent and student loans to pay.

P.S. I genuinely felt compelled to write a piece that reminded us of Kim’s humanity. If you are interested in reading more takes on Kim and her divorce, I recommend fellow feminist Jennifer L. Pozner’s piece,  “Why Kim Kardashian’s Divorce is Good for America – and Women.”

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