“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the Master’s house as their only source of support. ”
It is going on a month now since the new school year began here and this year all four of my younger children are attending full-time, allowing me the kind of time and space to myself I haven’t had in many, many years. A sudden, unexpected space inside of which I am able to, because of years worth of internal work, return to myself in ways I have actually never consciously known before.
A space in which I had also hoped to return to this blog,
to my work here,
to somehow pick up where I left off,
to find something relevant to where I am now
and make the connections
and run with.
A kind of jumping off point from which to reorient myself
and begin again.
And the truth is that I am unable to locate any such place.
The truth is that I am here now,
surrounded by the wreckage of all that has been deconstructed in the course of just three short months.
Or perhaps more accurately, what has been taken apart over the course of four long years, culminating in the final blow, the explosive impact of the past three months.
And I can clearly see that over this summer,
despite having so little time alone to process and to write,
I also consciously chose to be fully present in my life,
in my reality as it is,
in my body (as much as is possible for me).
I chose to allow myself to let go of things like social media and other sources of outside interference and distraction, gas lighting and distorted reflection.
and to fall
and to fall
and to land wholly in the day in and day out materiality of what it is to inhabit and to own,
with a painfully acute sort awareness,
all of the aspects and intersections of my identity –
the things that make my lived reality actually what it is:
Poor – lacking in both financial and social/relational capital
-Parent of neurodivergent kids
-Parent of a child with chronic illness
-Parent of biracial/black children
Mentally ill/Neurodivergent/partially disabled
Orphan/without family of origin connection or support whatsoever
Extreme childhood abuse, neglect and relational trauma victim/survivor – including extensive and long term sexual trauma in the forms of incest, rape, trafficking and exploitation.
Former survival sex worker.
All of these identities being deeply complex within themselves, intersecting and affecting one another in more ways that I can really ever know much less explain. I could likely write a separate post on how each one affects my life and interplays with all of the others and still not even scratch the surface.
And for the first time ever,
I allowed myself to feel,
to be utterly in the long term impact of an existence and a life lived almost entirely from the margins and from a position of profound social and relational poverty,
deprivation and deficit,
to in some ways count the cost,
to examine the toll without the need for denial or reframing or any manner of self-deception.
And it’s also true that I have only more recently been able to integrate the actuality – meaning what it actually was and continues to be to have been born into the family that I was, a family that left me brutalized, vulnerable and starving, a family within which I had to fend for myself from the earliest of ages if I was to survive, one within which my role was one of the “sacrificial lamb”, the expendable one, an object to be moved and positioned as needed and rendered otherwise invisible, as though I had been bred wholly to fulfill that role and to feed the needs of the sickest member among them – needs no one else was willing to meet nor to protect me from. This left me with a completely shattered and shrouded sense of self and profound and ever accumulating deficits from which I will, despite the often harassing, vexatious and harmful rhetoric around healing and recovery, never really actually recover.
What it actually is to then live without a family of origin in a culture that lauds and elevates the individual nuclear family and worships the idea of “ancestry” as the latest trend and the answer for all that might ail us. While folx without connection to those things are often the most maligned and neglected in our society. This reality brought even closer to home within my current reality as a single parent with multiple intersecting oppressions.
And not only that but also the actuality that I have always existed within a community, a culture and a society that stood by and allowed it all to happen, did nothing to intervene- that treated me very much like my own family – expendable. And then later, once I survived the horrors of my childhood and began to find language and to speak, actually offered nothing but interference in the form of constant gaslighting, victim blaming, saviorism, demands for redemption stories and conformity to expected social norms at all costs.
A community, culture and society that helped itself to those things laid bare, left empty and exposed by the brutality of my family, like nothing more than vultures and scavengers and colonizers, exploiting all of the ways in which I was left open and unprotected, and permeable, taking from me what little I had left and adding to my deficits while also calling it all “good” and “help.”
and society that,
when all was said and done,
convinced me of my individual responsibility to heal and conceal,
to contain it all lest I hurt someone else or impose harm with my humanity,
my being affected.
But most of all, the actuality that I was born into and have always existed in a family,
in a community,
in a society that has never actually wanted for my good.
Nor that of my children.
Nor for us as a family.
That has never seen me as whole or human in my own right and worthy of love or of care.
That perpetually views my family as wholly incomplete and invalid and a drain on the economies/systems within which we are forced to participate to get even a fraction of our needs met.
That I have somehow actually survived the systematic stripping of my humanity starting with the people who brought me here and were most responsible for my care and safe keeping and continues to this day towards both me and my kids.
The very same brutal violence of dehumanization I have also been bathed in, been indoctrinated to participate in and perpetuate and inflict, both on myself and others.
And it has shattered me.
It has devastated
and undone me
in ways I am quite sure I will never be able to explain.
And it has provoked so much grief and rage.
And it is also reality.
Something I will always, always choose over illusion.
So finding ways of being here,
of staying in reality
and those with whom I am allowed to be and remain in reality with,
though they are so very very few,
are really the only access points I have to a life that feels livable.
And so in and among all of this wreckage and devastation, is also a kind of disorientation, an inability to locate so much of what I was once able to orient myself around… All prior points of reference now blown to bits and lost.
And I have to admit that there is so very little that I actually know.
That I am in a space of having deconstructed of being unable to look away from what has been exposed, but that that also means that I am in a space of consciously resisting my own tendency to then rush in and build some semblance of shelter from among the wreckage. Of remaining with myself in this reality and the having nowhere else to hide. To allow what needs to be allowed to die to die.
And it also means that in the deconstruction, nothing has been kept back nor held sacred and everything has been on the table for sacrifice. Even this blog and my effort at trying to create something outside of mainstream trauma culture but which I now see has been an effort at the very thing I so despise when it comes to other social and systemic constructs in white supremacist/capitalist culture – reform.
A kind of propping up of an inherently flawed and actually violent and harmful idea that has its roots in colonization and capitalism – individualism. The idea that we are individually responsible for and can somehow change a profoundly sick and violent society via individual means. Coupled with the idea that the trauma of colonialist violence that impacts all of us and is something we are all both victims of and continue to inflict on others through our levels of engagement and investment in white supremacy and capitalism is this kind of contained, neat little package with a beginning and an end and that can be “treated” or “healed” or recovered from when the violence itself has actually never ever stopped.
And so this will be the last post of this blog. I am closing up shop here and bidding farewell to Queering Trauma and along with it completely divesting myself of what I sometimes refer to as “the trauma healing industrial complex” and it’s perpetuation of the idea of “trauma” as individual pathology.
There really isn’t much that I know right now and that feels scary and liberating all at once.
But if I am forced to start somewhere, to locate some kind of basic framework for finding a way to move forward from here, if I had to say that there are a few small things of which I am certain, at least for now, it would be these :
* I have now changed the name, in my mind, and the way I refer to the culture and systems that have grown up in recent years around the treatment or healing of individual trauma to White Trauma Culture rather than Mainstream Trauma Culture and I now view it as yet another means of social control weaponized by white supremacy and meant to separate us from one another and to control the narrative and discourse around certain kinds of trauma. To paint them as individual events and the individual actions of “sick” abusers against their victims rather than the unmistakable evidence that we live in, are a part of and are complicit in the brutality of a profoundly sick and hierarchical society inside of which the violence has never actually stopped. It is all connected. And black and brown people have been telling us this for generations now. We have been willfully refusing to listen.
(This is not to say that I find no value in any of what the study of trauma nor the recognition of it’s far-reaching effects, just that I believe them to be incomplete and wholly irresponsible in their limited scope and lack of connection to the whole of what it is to live in a white supremacist/capitalist/patriarchal culture and the role of oppression in all of it.)
*The more I read and study the history of whiteness and it’s legacy of colonization, unfathomable brutality and violence, genocide and slavery – a history for which we as white people have never been held to account, never been forced to reckon with and that has never actually ended; The more I listen to and believe the stories of black and indigenous folx, and witness with my own eyes (for it takes a willful kind of blindness not to see it) the more I am seriously questioning whether or not white people in this society actually know how to be human and then to allow for the complex humanity of others at all.
And though I claim no measure of being “one of the good ones” I now know and can name my own experience and work around the trauma I have experienced in the past as well as the ongoing trauma of marginalization and oppression from which I suffer, as one of somehow being re-humanized.
* That in my re-humanization process, it has been vital to not only be allowed my own reality around the ways in which I was and am being harmed, but also the ways in which I have and continue to do harm. The both/and of this.
This includes what I have done as well as what trauma,
what my reality,
and individualism have turned me into,
what I have been and am capable of.
Not just the parts and the stories of how I have been victimized and marginalized but the ones of how I have been and am violent,
how I have been and am complicit,
how I have taken my pain and my own unmet needs
and weaponized them
and how I have been fully indoctrinated
and taught to weaponize my whiteness
and my privilege,
how I have and do cause harm simply by being here as a person in possession of some level of wholly unearned privilege and power over others by virtue of nothing more than the color of my skin .
White trauma culture does not encourage making these kinds of connections, having this kind of reckoning, rather it perpetuates already deeply ingrained cultural tendencies toward binaristic thinking and the false dichotomy of the abuser vs the victim that, in my experience, only greatly contributed to my fragility. And yet these connections, this kind of ongoing reckoning I have been in and will continue to be in, the declaring that I am not “one of the good ones” and becoming more and more clear that this is not the goal, that this is not actually a thing, are the ONLY way I have found my way back to any measure of my own humanity.
*I do not do this work in order to become a more sturdy container. I will no longer hold what is and never was mine to hold alone to protect the fragile. I will not choke down the words that want to be said in order to maintain the collective delusion. Much of my life, I felt like nothing more than a dumping ground and a waste container, holding all of the things no one wants to see about themselves nor this society. And though I am no longer interested in bleeding my pain onto the pages of my writing in an effort to beg people to see and hear me and my humanity, neither will I clean up my reality nor what I see around me for the protection and maintenance of the fragility of others.
*I am more clear than ever that my orientation is one of deconstruction. It is often one of taking things apart, dismantling them and examining them from all sides. But it has also, in recent years, become one of mirroring back what I find. And I have found time and time again that the rejection of me, the inability to stomach that such a reality might not be one of my own making, the lack of space granted to my stories and my reality and those of others with equally or even more extreme and confronting stories and realities to share has been about the fragility of the listener, the inability of the listener to have a mirror held up that reveals any inkling of confrontation or complicity.
I am finding that my skills become more honed and my ability to see less clouded by the lenses imposed by white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy, and my internal process becomes more efficient with practice and over time I am able to recognize the patterns and echoes of things I was once unable to see at all and to discard and do away with toxic ideas, practices and even relationships much more quickly than ever.
And still, like a “good” white person having seen myself reflected in some of what White Trauma Culture had to offer but feeling otherwise alienated and uncomfortable, I was momentarily distracted by my own desperate need for belonging as well as, admittedly, my own hubris, and believed that despite my discomfort, there was something salvageable about it. I now know there isn’t, not for me anyway. And rather than simply staying with the dissonance and discomfort, wrestling and reckoning with it and allowing it to then reveal what lay at the root of what my system was trying to alert me to, it took an entire series of steps for me to get there. It took me being pushed and prompted by others to create a different kind of space for trauma survivors than what is widely available, stepping in and creating this space while experiencing some level of discomfort in it’s creation and then becoming increasingly uncomfortable with it over time, having to step away from it for a while and attend to life and my reality, and then ultimately being asked to participate in the culture and construct in ways that felt undeniably complicit to me for me to see it and to make the decision that I can no longer participate in this way. And it felt imperative to come here and to make this the final tie that needs cutting, the final account from which I must withdraw my investment.
*“The Master’s Tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.”
These extremely powerful words have echoed through my head, through my knowing and through my writing over and over and over and over again throughout the last few weeks. I first read them many years ago and I’ll never be able to explain to myself or anyone else why it took this long to make the connections and to truly understand both the complexity and the simplicity of them and to know with everything in me the truth of them. All I can say is that the tools of whiteness, of colonization and capitalism and patriarchy will never be the answer to “trauma”. For it is all of those things that have gotten us here. And viewing them as the only way out is falling prey to the ruthless tactics they employ.
Perhaps it’s having survived a childhood without the care and protection of actually being parented and being caused such profound harm by those who were supposed to protect me from it – the idea of which is unfathomable to most – that allows me to hold no connection nor construct as sacred and to despise the feeling of being dependent on any of these things for my survival. Something for which I have been endlessly pathologized and labeled with attachment issues for, but I now wonder who it is in this society who actually has attachment issues and what it takes to see that a construct, a community, a society that does not want for your good, that dehumanizes and exploits and imposes harm and “rewards” only those who are able to perform and be the most compliant is actually the problem and does not deserve loyalty or respect. Attachment Theory being one of those constructs created by white folx according to white folx’s norms and weaponized again and again against those of us with differing experiences… And in this I have to question, what population it might be with the so-called attachment issues, that being unable to let go of toxic and harmful ideas, constructs, people, ways of doing things, etc might actually be far more pathological that being unable to attach oneself to them in the first place or being poised and ready to let them go once they reveal themselves to be harmful.
As far as what will come next for me, the answer is a resounding “I don’t know.” And I am not sure it even actually matters. I am not sure anyone really actually cares and for once, that’s truly okay with me. But, at least when it comes to these things, to trauma there are some things I am now clear about and some I am not. And I find it helpful to name them for myself here, in this space:
1.It is my belief that there are a whole range of experiences and material, emotional, social, spiritual, etc. realities that make up what we call “the human experience.” Trauma is one of them. Serious and severe complex trauma is one of them. And rather than allow my own experiences of trauma to separate me from myself as well as from the rest of humanity, I will continue the work of integrating my experiences into the whole of who I am, as well as my conception of what it means to be human. And along side this hold space for others to do the same.
2.The work of how to live within a society in which I have actually been and often felt “left for dead”, a society that views me as, at best, invisible, and at worst wholly expendable, that has never ever wanted for my good, has and is already being done by black and indigenous and other deeply multiply marginalized humans. And I have come to a point in my work where I realize that this is what I have been searching for for so long now. Some inkling of how to survive this reality and to do so with as much of my humanity in tact as I can possibly salvage and maintain. So while I may have something of my own experiences to contribute to the conversation, so much of what I am finding to be true for myself and have arrived at is not unique to me, is not my own and has already been said in so many ways and does not need to be consumed by me and “queered” nor regurgitated in more palatable form for those unable to swallow the hard pills of truth and reality. It need only be engaged with, acknowledged, elevated and amplified.
3. I can now name and consider my work to be the work of re-humanizing myslef, a taking back of the inherent humanity I and all others are born with, and the cultivation of a lens through which I am able to view the humanity of ALL others. To continue to break down the binaries, the hierarchies, the attractions and all of the insidious ways in which white supremacy and colonization operate within my own psyche.
4. I am under no delusion that there is much I can individually change about this society. That I am, because of my own oppressions forced to operate within many fucked up and broken systems simply to ensure both my own survival and that of my children and I am aware that this means that there are ways in which I will continue to be complicit and to cause harm. And I will not look away from nor deny this reality, but remain as fully in this awareness, subverting and opting out and finding all of the ways to resist that I am able while divesting myself of any idea that I am an authority on anything except my own lived experience and insisting on a liberation that includes all of us.