Friday, November 23, 2012

But I won't be blue always...

So my gig has ended.  It was a powerful learning experience, particularly the awful way it ended.  It taught me many things tho.

I don't have to behave "as if" I'm competent and skilled.  I actually really am!  And when people comment on that, it's not them just being "nice."

When my perfectionism gets in the way of my judgment, catastrophic mistakes ensue!  Not all mistakes are borne of carelessness. Some are from caring too much, at least when it comes to the details vs. the big picture.

Not only would I be much happier working in a system designed with the likes of me in mind (which I already knew), but it may in fact be essential  for both my personal and professional growth.  Seems  common sense enough, but truly I didn't realize I was working from a flawed premise.  I thought  my only job  was to adapt myself to the way things were done around me,  then try to compensate for my weaknesses by hyper-focusing on my strengths. This, rather than make it a priority to find an environment that is already compatible with my strengths and weaknesses.  I assumed no such places exist. I also assumed I had no power to create such a place. But they do.  And I do.

I learned I was selling myself short on just about all fronts.

That said, it's crucial for me not to get high on all this new found self-confidence. With no permanent gig lined up, I'm still at the mercy of the temp market.  For the time being, I appear to be in demand. However, I've been temping since February and I'm tired.  And I'm pushing 40.  And I want freaking health insurance!

But more than that.. I want to find a career path where I don't have to choose between being myself and being good at my job. 

So whatever I may have gained and then suddenly lost during this last gig, these things I learned I wouldn't have learned in any other way, and for that I give Thanks. 

Happy Belated Thanksgiving, to ME!

In other news, I am struggling with my own deadline of publishing by my next birthday.  This Summer I finally started writing The Book. Turns out it's two different books.  And the two books have nothing to do with each other!  And they both want me to write them NOW NOW NOW.  All this and still scrambling to support my family somehow. Oy.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Misanthrope for Hire!

I've been working a temp job for one of my former employers.  Completely different department, different campus. Night and day experience.  I've only ever loved two jobs before (Being a Bouncer was fun! Being a corporate mole even moreso!), but never as much as all this. Whereas the former assignment with this employer had me in tears at the end of the day, what with the stress of trying to do my job while livid people scream and accuse me of treason, this post couldn't be better dovetailed for my personality.

For insties:   I spend 100% of my day off the phones, in my own office, with a door that closes and LOCKS. I have minimal to zero supervision on most days and am still expected to get all the work done on time.  And guess what...I DO!!

The magic ingredient?  Solitude! Sweet sweet nobody but ME to deal with all day!!  No Customer Service involved!  No surly staff to cajole, no micromanaging supervisors to hover, no angry escalations to resolve. Just work work work and plenty of it!  There are the occasional committee meetings but I'm there in a service capacity only, sitting quietly and invisibly in the back of the room until some exec  needs a last minute copy of such and such or presentation lighting for whatnot.  I only have to speak when spoken to.  I don't have to make direct eye contact with anyone.  I don't even have to be particularly friendly as long as I can still manage to seem pleasant and submissive supportive.

Such is the life of a nameless administrative assistant!

I wish I could go into detail about this job without revealing too much about the highly confidential stuff I do;  it's probably not even wise to be bragging about it here to all the cyberworld under a thinly disguised pseudonym. Still, the experience has been a revelation. For once I am getting a true sense of what my real strengths and weaknesses are as a worker.  I've only ever been in situations where I am forced to make the gig work, no matter how awkward a fit I happened to be for it.  A job is a job and you should thank your lucky stars someone was willing to take you on, right?

WRONG!  Who knew that some people get to spend 40 hours a week doing things they actually find interesting and are good at! This is an option??  Why wasn't I told!?

The ironically anti-social appeal of a high stakes people pleasing job like assisting top level execs isn't the revelation. Rather it's the fact that I have never really operated within my comfort zone in any job. And this in turn has blinded me from my actual career options.

So why has it taken me til I'm damn near 40 to figure out that I need to be doing what I like to do?  Why had I assumed my life would be one long marathon of Survivor, making do with what little I have available to somehow make it to the next day, the next hurdle, the next life changing crisis until one day I collapsed from the exhaustion of it all.  But hey, I lasted this long that's gotta count for something??

I realize also that this is a hyper privileged first world epiphany to be having in the first place.  I don't know how to feel about that.  I don't intend to contribute to the oppression of others less fortunate by acting as if my situation is somehow universally meaningful.   It's not.  In fact it's clear that this specific proletariat struggle is meaningful only to me in the ways I've lived my own life. But right now it means everything to me that I finally understand that my life doesn't have to be endured. It can also be enjoyed.

And for this I am truly thankful.  I'm going to miss this gig when it ends in September.  I'm looking into some permanent opportunities where I'm at now, but there are no guarantees.  Except that I have me, and that I am a good enough reason to do the things I love to do and make a living at it to boot. :p

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Derail ain't just a train to Egypt.... Er... or something.

I am so sick of us light-skinned black folks refusing to acknowledge our privilege.  I am sick of us light-skinned black folks derailing every discussion of how colorism bestows social advantages upon lighter skinned folks  with "Black People always tell me I'm not Black enough! Dark skinned folks have always bullied me cuz I'm light! How is that privilege??"

Here's how:  Light-skinned privilege ain't about how The Darkies treat you. It's about how Whitey does!

When anti-racist folks discuss colorism and the reality of light skinned privilege, we are talking about the relative social advantages lighter skinned minorities and individuals have over darker skinned ones in the white supremacist superstructure (ie. society).  Individual experiences of discrimination and prejudice from members of one's own community are indeed painful, damaging, alienating and deserving of censure.  But they are NOT the result of a wider system of dark-skinned superiority, rather they are a reaction to the larger oppression of White Supremacy and its ranking of  bodies.  Quite frankly, the lighter your skin, the more valuable you are/your body is in a given white supremacist framework.  The closer your phenotype to caucasian, the more privilege you are bestowed (by the same White Supremacist framework). This means you have relative amounts of privilege whether you feel you use it or not.  And it means if you have not been bestowed light skinned privilege, you are wide open for dark skinned punishment.   

This is not to say that these privileges are absolute or universally applied.  Lightness of skin is relative.  You may find yourself considered light skinned in one social context and dark in another.  But the point is that it's ultimately the conventions of White Supremacy that determine your status.  

Again this does  not mean that you don't ALSO experience racism or that the agents of White Supremacy do not draw a bright line of dermarcation between you and themselves.  But the social advantages of having fairer skin at the mainstream level are practically indisputable.

Now let's get personal.  I am pretty widely considered fair-skinned for an African-American in most social contexts.  While I have recognizably african features ("typical" sub-saharan hair, nose, and lips) for the most part, my skin fairness sets me apart from most other african-americans with similar features.  Because of this I grew up hearing from other african-americans in my community how "pretty" my skin was, how "lucky" I was to be light-skinned, and constantly being asked what I was "mixed" with.  

I found it creepy and fetishizing (although it took me well into my adulthood to learn what fetishizing meant). I found it uncomfortable and alienating for people who were otherwise my social and racial peers to be so congratulatory and protective over me, based on something I had absolutely nothing to do with, was merely born with.

I also, secretly, found it flattering and pleasant to have so many people be so congratulatory and protective over me, based on something I had absolutely nothing to do with, was merely born with.  As much as I may have disagreed or failed to understand why my fairness was such a big deal, I clearly understood that having skin like mine was considered favorable. That it gave me some sort of minor status over other darker black folks that they clearly coveted.  And, as shameful as it is to say, it made me feel good.

However, I soon learned firsthand that light skinnedness was both ranked and relative.  My father's second wife was a white woman.  They produced two daughters together who to this day can easily pass for white (although they are adamant about choosing not to do so) and are regularly taken for white (until they speak up!).  Next to them I am the dark one in the family.  And whereas my fellow black peeps were  curious about my racial admixture, I soon found they were downright starstruck as to my sisters' blond and redhaired (respectively) existence.  I had never experienced so many ooo's and aaaa's as when I was finally old enough to take the girls along with me to the grocery store (I am quite a bit older than my sisters).  People stopped and openly stared at us. Staring at the little white girls playing in my grocery cart and then at me, puzzling and pointing. White customers pretended not to notice the tall, skinny clearly black BOY pushing them around the store.  So much Side eye!!  (Alas Gender and Race and Cissexism all conspiring to ruin my day).  I mean I knew they looked white, and I had often marvelled myself that two such clearly white bodies could come from anything black like my family. But daaaamn. This was some intense scrutiny.  I could see the shock and alarm gears turning in the whitefolks minds... (What is this black boy to these little white girls? Should we be calling the police?) 

I began to feel really unsafe.  I tried not to make eye contact with anyone while also trying to stay aware of the number of people following us and where the exits were.   Black customers were a bit more demonstrative.  "Are they mixed?  Are they mixed??  No they've got to be white!"  Asking me but not really waiting for my answer so much as making an excuse to to touch their hair, perhaps to figure it out for themselves somehow.   "Excuse me, child. Are you babysitting or is these your cousins or somethin?" one older black woman said, reaching into the cart to touch/examine their long braids. Never looking at me nor asking permission to touch. "These my sisters," I explained meekly, intimidated by the growing crowd of onlookers and the brazenness of the touchy feely types.  I'd already had plenty of experience with harassment at this point, but this time, my gender presentation wasn't the star of the show. 

The lady snapped her focus to me, accusingly. "Your sisters?" She harrumphed, like I had told an obvious lie. " Then how do they got blonde hair?"  She demanded, still running her fingers over their long flaxen braids like an appraising jeweler.  The girls giggled and pushed each other and seemed not to notice the extra attention.  The strange woman's hostility emboldened me to take control over the growing spectacle.  "Because THEIR MAMA got blond hair, that's why! Excuse me."  I pushed the cart forward, forcing her to step aside.  I heard her mumble something under her breath about white women and "it figures" and whatnot but I was determined to book and run. I searched for a quieter corner of the store to get my bearings.

Every awkward creepy racial thing I'd ever thought I'd been thru with my cafe au lait complexion I had just seen multiplied tenfold with them.  Suddenly I understood that there was an inevitable difference between the space I occupied in the world and the space my sisters would occupy as they grew up.  For I had never felt so black as that day; the fanfare of their perceived littlewhitegirlness against the social "threat" of my perceived blackteenagedboyness had ripped open a new reality for me altogether.

Perhaps not surprisingly this particular incident increased my gender dysphoria astronomically (and I didn't even think it was possible to be more miserable than I was).  Usually when I was out alone in public the emphasis was always on my gender presentation. Look at that faggot! Is that a boy or a girl? I think it's a boy, but it walks like a girl...etc...  I refused to "butch" things up even for my own safety. I didn't wish to contribute to the mass delusion that I was willingly or naturally male whatsoever.  I was determined to be visible to be seen.  Up until that point I had mistakenly believed I had control over how I was seen to some extent, even tho I clearly lacked the power to be seen as a girl.  But I could least make them deal with the girl in me.  But for the first time that day I wasn't just some boy acting like a girl to people.  In truth, the way I acted didn't seem to factor in to the equation at all.  For once I was being seen as a potentially dangerous BLACK TEENAGED MALE who had no business hanging around two little white girls.  MAN did that hurt!  That I might be considered a danger to my own sisters??  That they couldn't possibly be my blood because look at me and look at them?  Because my race combined with my (assigned) gender somehow marked me as a threat to their innocence.. and that's ALL it took to transform me into a criminal!!??

Wow. I hadn't realized how deep the intersections of my race and gender status ran there til I wrote all this out.  But I'm in danger of digressing from my original point.

My point is and was:  colorism and light skinned privilege are REAL, folks.  And tho it may be relative to the social context,  and tho it may bring us just as many personal heartaches as it does professional hands up, even tho it does NOT spare us from the savageries of Racism, it is foolish not to acknowledge this dynamic in a society that blatantly values ever lighter skin.

 Now let me end this post and go back and reflect on everything I just said, because even still, I frequently forget my privilege and conveniently ignore my own advice.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Devils You Know

Wow. I've been gone so long blogspot has a completely new interface!  I think I like it.  I'm one of those people who can't stand a crappy interface and will actually stare for hours at the blank compose field because the interface is so distracting. Maybe this will finally make me post more. I'm not going to hold my breath tho.

I've been in a bad head space the last couple of months.  What seems like a rash of attacks on black people's right to defend ourselves or even exist has had me extra paranoid and triggery.  (And I had been doing so well on the trigger front :/ ).    I've taken to heart the Trayvon Martin shooting, Marissa Alexander getting 20 years for firing a warning shot deliberately away from her attacking husband, Cece McDonald being strongarmed into a plea deal for a nakedly obvious case of self-defense, Policeman Howard Morgan being sentenced to 40 years for attempted murder after being shot 28 times by four fellow officers (all white) under extremely suspiciously self defending sounding circumstances, and most recently a 75 year old White Man shoots dead a 13 year old black boy in front of his mother....  All of these attacks on black and brown citizenship keep happening in rapid succession and seem to be escalating in levels of sheer brazenness over the last year -  and there are so many more examples that have happened which I haven't mentioned.  But the message is loud and clear:  1) White people have the right to do whatever they wish to black people.  2) Black people have NO right to defend ourselves.  3) If you're black and you DO defend yourself, expect either to die or else go to prison for your trouble.

In short, I'm starting to panic.  Ending up in a situation where I'm forced to defend myself and then subsequently forced to enter the U.S. Judicial System is one of my greatest personal fears, if not THE greatest.  From my own family history dealings with police and the court system, I have zero faith in being treated as anything other than just another black criminal in a court of law, much less being respected as a woman. I have never been arrested; when my only income was sex work I was maniacal in my client screening process, not just screening for psychopaths and sociopaths for personal safety reasons, but also weeding out any potential police officers or vigilante troublemakers who might bring the police to my door. (Even so it only took one game-changing lapse in judgment to nearly end my life).  Today I live a deliberately low profile, painstakingly law-abiding lifestyle. I have very few friends, also law-abiding, whom I hardly ever see because I just don't like to go out anymore, as it's like asking for trouble somehow. In short, I do everything I can to improve my chances against accidentally ending up in some silly public or private situation that gets me rounded up by the police.

But lately that doesn't seem to matter. The general tone of discourse in this country (the U.S.) concerning any minority rights or experiences is becoming ever more belligerent.  For the first time in my life White People in general are actively starting to scare me.  Not just the always vocal extremist conservatives who demand to take back their country.  But also the ever wishy-washy white middle class liberals who don't seem to be rising to the anti-racist occasion.  On one side I see a people quite literally amassing an army. On the other I see a bunch of cultural critics rolling their eyes and clucking their tongues while they busy themselves with their Occupy Insert-City-Here Movements and their professional outrage online commentary.  I feel I am being literally and politically targeted.  I do NOT feel like I can count on anyone to defend me but me. And to add insult to injury, even if I do have to defend me, I'm almost certain to be punished for it.

Matt Kailey's latest post touched a nerve with me, so much so that I blurted out in comments some really personal and painful details about my multiple experiences with being raped and physically attacked but not reporting the incidents to the police for fear of making my life even more unliveable.  I regret the hurried tone and the overshare.  I hate sounding desperate and angry, especially about things that happened so long ago.  It makes me sound like I'm still broken after all this time.  And of course, I am. But worse it makes me sound like I'm trying to win some sort of victim trophy, and all that does is make people tune you out even more.  I hate using my own life as an anecdote because people always say that anecdotes are not proof of any "argument," because every conversation about current events in white american mainstream culture is a fucking debate.  And pointless as they refuse to take your story in context anyway, because everything in white american mainstream culture is a fucking isolated incident.  But if I don't tell my story then I feel silent, erased, and even more vulnerable for the next time.  And in my silence people unlike me start to theorize that people like me are merely... theoretical.  So I blurt it all out, on their terms, wanting them to SEE to KNOW this is what happens this is what we've been talking about, THIS is why we ask for what we ask for and ... nothin.   I invariably walk away feeling embarrassed for having said anything. Like I'd just let out a loud belch at a dinner party and  nowI'm sitting there hoping that the room is well mannered enough to  change the subject instead of simply staring at me in all this awkward silence.  I imagine I hear them thinking: Who is this creature? How did she even get in here? When is she leaving? Please leave.

Oh if only I had that option. If only I could leave and know I'd be any safer.

The devils you know.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Calgon! Took me away!!

Well it's been an obnoxiously long time since my last update.  Much has transpired in the interim.  For starters, I was forced to quit my cushy new job due to sudden and very scary health reasons.  These reasons have stabilized and am only now beginning to fathom getting my life back on track. 

But I'm starting to think that that track is no longer an option.  I've been frantically trying to find work in the last couple of months, even before I was physically ready to go back because, yanno, dwindling savings, threat of poverty and fear of homelessness and all that.  But so far my effots have been to no avail.  It's like my resume is radioactive or something.  I email it, hand deliver it, social network it, fax it and upload it to every job opportunity I find in my field online and off, to no avail. Just deafening silence.  Not even rejection letters come.  I find this... discouraging.

In the meantime, Mr. Laplain has stepped up and he may be starting a new job with someone he knows very soon.  We're crossing our fingers on that.

You would think I'd be writing up a storm, with little else to do these days. But I've been unable to put anything into words since January.  This year has been so inexplicably and unnecessarily harsh in most every respect.  Even my mother and I have started falling back on our old pattern of barely-polite hostility, which i thought we'd finally overcome years ago.  *sigh*.

So in the spirit of joining them because I couldn't beat them, I decided to just sit back and let things happen around me and say nothing much.  I'm a willow in a windstorm, i will bend and never break. The mighty oak is overrated.

But wait.  There is one little thing I long to say about the recent media nonsense.  I might as well get it out of my system now.

George Zimmerman FINALLY arrested for Trayvon Martin's death.  That's ALL we ever wanted, yo!!!    I don't claim to know exactly what happened that night, but it is indisputable that if you initiate an armed confrontation and the person you confronted ends up dead... an ARREST is non-negotiable.   Now GZ is in custody and the chips will fall where they may... but the fact that this very nearly almost went nowhere and he would have gone on to live happily ever after without any authority ever having questioned why he was patrolling the neighborhood with a gun following people.... um... NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Jenna Tackalova.  I refuse to follow the media on her story. At first I couldn't help respond to a couple of online comments here and there, but honestly I just don't care what cis people have to say about trans people anymore.  It's NEVER going to be any good, is it??   I mean, their conversation will ALWAYS follow one of three paths:

  • Trans people should not exist and we shouldn't let them do anything ever.

  • Hey everybody we just realized suddenly (again)  that trans people exist, and isn't that weird??? But but but why do they want to do the weird things they do?  I mean when we do it it's not weird, but it's weird of them to want to do it too, right?  Let's ask them (over and over again while not listening).

  • Trans people exist but we should never allow them to do anything until AFTER they've had "The Surgery" and then only if they are goodlooking.
It doesn't matter what the topic is.  Pageants or Public Restrooms.  It's all about cis people and their comfort with the reality of trans people.  No thanks.

These two media phenomena, however, have caused me to do a great deal of thinking about my own life and the intersection of my blackness and transness and how surprisingly similar I am starting to find the two experiences and the so called identities they have manifested within me.  I am hoping to have enough mojo to blog my thoughts on this later this week. 

Let's see.