Self-Care Masterpost 2015

TW: Most of the links are described enough to warn what will be in them, but just so you’re all aware, the post starts off with a list of suicide and crisis hotlines.

My last act for the Week of Action 2015: a huge masterpost of resources for when times are tough, divided into eight categories: crisis and support hotlines, some nice websites, self-care ideas and things you can do when you’re feeling down, disorder and situation-specific things, stress relief, some cute things, some quotes, and some things to restore your faith in humanity.

I recommend not trying to look through the entire thing at once, but rather skimming through the categories and subheadings to see what will help you right now. You can always bookmark it for later if you think you will need it again. 🙂

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Day 7: Collective Reflection

TW: Some mentions of loss, suicide, and violence, specifically Rebecca Wight.

The Week of Action 2015 concluded yesterday, May 10. Co-directors Meg and Alice wrote this post jointly to discuss the event and how participating has affected us.

Many thanks to Khadija, who declined to participate in this final post but shared her thoughts during the week, and to Jazmin, Aviva, and Rebecca, who were not able to write for the blog this week like they wanted but nonetheless helped the two of us put the event together.

Until next year – we send you all our love. 🙂

How do you feel this year’s Week of Action went, both in general and for you personally?

Alice: This was the first Week of Action I took part in as the co-director of the projects. I think it went well! I had the chance to share some ideas and connect with some interesting people. It’s hard to think about but we always remember. I wasn’t able to do too much this year but I completed the challenge I set for myself. I’m looking forward to next year.

Meg: I don’t think this year’s Week of Action was as organized as it has been in years past. It’s not anyone’s fault and I’m so glad I had Alice, Khadija, Rebecca, Jazmin, and Aviva to work on it with me, even though not everyone was able to post like they’d intended. It just didn’t seem as coordinated as it has been in the past. I’m glad we gave the new format a shot and we’ll work on making it better for next year. Personally, it weighs on me every year, thinking about all the stories of those we’ve lost, especially the one that’s had such an impact on my life. But I’m always glad to have taken on the challenge. I end the event feeling a little sad, but also energized to keep fighting.

One of our slogans is “to remember the past, to change the present, and to hope for the future.” What does remembering the past mean to you in the context of this event?

Alice: I make a point to talk openly about the stories to my children and others. That’s how I remember the past. All of my children know Rebecca Wight’s name and what happened to her. I’m sure there are some people out there who think it’s strange my partner and I told them when they were so young. She and I thought it was important we all remember. I’m reminded of my little daughter, how she wanted to leave hearts “for Rebecca” in Michaux to let her know we were thinking of her. Everyone has their own ideas about what it means to remember. I don’t think anyone’s wrong.

Meg: Remembering the past is…to me a thing that’s so personal it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it means to me. I guess I’d say I remember the past by acknowledging what happened and speaking out about it – and doing what I can for those who survived and their families. I just go with what feels right. Passing on the human stories to my generation of the people who lived and loved and had real thoughts and desires and flaws – not just the stories of their brutal murders – is one thing I can do to keep their memories alive.

Do you believe you are seeing change in the present for LGBT people?

Alice: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t believe how much things have changed. Never did I ever think I’d see a day where I’d see same-sex marriage in 39 states, kids coming out in middle school, parents accepting their transgender kindergartners. It isn’t perfect. We still have a long way to go, but I’m so happy to see how far we’ve come.

Meg: Yes and no. I believe we’re seen unprecedented victories for LGBT people in the past couple of years, no doubt about that. But as I said in a presentation recently: with progress comes retaliation. I don’t think it’s accurate to say the backlash has been unprecedented, but we’ve definitely seen a backlash against LGBT people this year – in the form of bills designed to hurt our community, discrimination, and yes, violence. I’d also say certain letters of that acronym are seeing more change for the better than others. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

Now, the last part of the slogan: to hope for the future. When you envision a future for LGBT people, what do you see?

Alice: I see the young people, the current generation, creating the world they want, the world I want for them. They’re going to change the world. People my age talk a lot about “the me generation,” “the entitlement generation.” I think it’s complete bullshit. I wish I had half the passion, dedication, and commitment to change for GLBT people these kids do when I was their age. I see a future that’ll eventually be free of discrimination and violence because the kids who experienced discrimination and violence will see that it stops. I don’t know if I’ll be around to see the day hate crimes don’t happen any more, but I like to think it’ll happen.

Meg: I always picture my future daughter or granddaughter when I think about this. Telling her stories about that period of time where LGBT people had to fight for their basic rights. I like to imagine she listens but walks away thinking, “I can’t believe people ever had to do that; I can’t believe some of the simplest things you considered ‘major victories.’ The era you grew up in was so backwards.” I see a future where being LGBT is just so commonplace and accepted the idea we ever had to fight tooth and nail for our basic rights is hard to believe.

I remember when I was in France in 2013, my host family’s daughter, who was thirteen or fourteen at the time, seemed really blown away when I was explaining a little about the work I do and who Rebecca Wight was. She gasped and said, “Does that really happen?” and I know I said, “Yes – it’s actually not uncommon in the United States.” I envision a future where her reaction is the norm because hate crimes against LGBT people are so rare. I believe that future will come someday and I hope I’ll be around to see it.

If you could say something to any of the people who have been lost to violence or suicide, what would you say and why?

Alice: “I wish you could’ve seen what the world became.” You know, I’m fifty years old. I remember a time where I thought no one would ever love me or want to be with me because I’m a lesbian. I’m getting choked up because I remember that. I couldn’t even conceive of coming out until I was well into my 20s and I was still one of the younger ones. But now…now there’s kids in elementary and middle schools coming out and being accepted. There’s been this amazing shift in acceptance. I really wish they could’ve seen it. I think they’d be so amazed by how far we’ve come.

Meg: Wow. That’s a hard question. I guess I would want to second Alice and say “I wish you could’ve seen it” because I was one of those kids who came out at thirteen, and I don’t know that I could have done that in any other era. I remember telling that story to a couple of older lesbians and they cried. It’s just so hard to imagine a world where we don’t have the kind of acceptance we have today – I mean, the 2010s still have their problems; that’s why this event exists – but for those who died so long ago, I think I’d want to tell them how much everything has changed. Other than that I think I’d just want to say, “You are still remembered; you’re still making a difference.”

Do you have any final words of wisdom you want to say to the people who participated and those who might be reading?

Alice: Stay strong. Keep going. We’re here for you if you need us. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to talk. Tell the people you love how much they mean to you, not because they might be gone tomorrow, but because it’s worth saying now. Love greatly, love often, and love outside the lines. Always remember the people who didn’t live to see the world you may take for granted.

Meg: I don’t know if I have any “words of wisdom” but I do hope you all have accomplished all you set out to this week. And if this time of year is difficult for you, know that we are thinking of you and sending you all our love. It’s hard to think about but we always remember, and we’re always available for anyone who needs to talk or process. I’m so grateful for all of you who make this event possible and all of you who have allowed us a place in your lives. I’ve been saying this a lot this week, but if you take away anything from this event, take away this:

We are loved, the lives we lead are important, there is much still to love in the world, and we will find ways to make living worthwhile in spite of our bad days – or bad weeks – together.

Authors: Meg and Alice

Days 4, 5, and 6: How Our Weeks Are Going

TW: none.

Due to unforeseen circumstances on behalf of three of our guest bloggers, we will not be able to post the day 4, 5, or 6 posts during the Week of Action. However, because we still believe the ideas of our guest bloggers are worth sharing, these may be posted at a later date. Instead, Meg and Alice of the Stories Project Team are going to share what all they’ve been doing and feeling during the Week of Action.

Meg: I always have mixed feelings about running this event and this time of year in general. It always seems hard to reconcile the “remembering the past” part of the event, which is full of stories of violence and loss, with the “hoping for the future” part. I focused on many of the same things I did last year: sharing my own story, helping others – this time someone who is very dear to my heart – share their stories, reminding people they are loved and valuable, encouraging people to take care of themselves and prioritize their mental health, offering support or a listening ear to anyone who needs it, etc. I’m trying to focus on those of us who live in the aftermath of violence and loss as much as those who didn’t survive. I know what it’s like to feel like no one else gets what I’m going through and no one wants to talk about it because surviving is messy, or it happened a long time ago, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way. I’ve focused so far on spreading a little love and light around for people who need it.

Alice: I’ve been thinking a lot about Rebecca Wight’s story this week. I actually dug through my closet to find some of the old newspaper articles I kept about it, my old journals. I wanted to remind myself, because it’s easy to forget, how scary something like that can be for kids who are young and isolated. My kids are so close to the age we were then. They’ve grown up in such a different world than I did but it’s hard not to worry about them. I made sure I told each of them I loved them this week. I know the date’s coming up on that one. I was thinking about taking my youngest onto the trails this summer – in my house, each little one gets at least one extended backpacking trip to learn about the value of nature – and I’m thinking of talking to him a little bit about what happened here.

Other than that, I’ve been jumping into healthy debates this week and standing up for GLBT people wherever I can. I’ve been reading what others had to say, reflecting a lot. I went back and looked at the stories people have shared with us. I’ve also been searching for opportunities to reach out to young GLBT people, just to say, “Hey, I have some experience with what you’re going through.” I feel energized doing this, taking our challenge, even though it’s sad to think about.

Authors: Meg and Alice

Day 3: Those Who Survive

TW: none.

Every May for the past four years, the Stories Project team has carved out a week to not only remember and reflect upon the stories of those who have been lost to anti-LGBT violence and suicide, but commit to action, awareness, and activism in their memories. Every May until very recently, I have burned out early on in the week and found myself unable to finish the event because I thought somehow I could focus on these stories for eight weeks or more without recognizing it would have an impact on my mental health and making it a priority to take care of myself.

My day theme for the event this year, which I am using to determine how I personally take action, is “Those Who Survive,” which includes not only those who have survived anti-LGBT violence, but everyone who lives in the aftermath of violence and loss. Because I have a tendency to get caught up in the stories of those who died, I am challenging myself to focus on those who survive and what I can do for them (and myself, seeing as I am also a survivor). I am additionally challenging you all to focus on taking care of yourselves and each other as you interact with the stories of loss, hate, and violence this week.

What does it mean to you when I say to focus on your mental health? What does self-care look like to you? I hate that so much of what I write here involves not being able to give you the answers, but surviving is a such personal experience that you’re the only person who will know what’s going to work for you. If you don’t know what might help, I encourage you to try things out. It took many years and many instances of trying things for me to discover what worked for me. Go with your feelings and what seems right to you. And while we focus on the stories of those we have lost throughout the week, I would like you to take this day to be hopeful and look to the future if you can. We have so much to mourn for, but we also have so much to look forward to and so much to be happy for. I don’t like the idea of surviving “for a reason,” but if you survived and made it this far, I’m glad you did and I know you can survive and make it a little further.

You know, it’s around this time of year that it really dawns on me that I am a statistic. I was a victim – and a survivor – of violence, and if things had turned out just slightly differently on the night I was attacked, I could be part of a different statistic. And I won’t lie: that’s an extremely difficult thing to grapple with. It takes a toll on my mental health and it’s taken me a long time to learn how to take care of myself. But our community marches toward progress every day, and since 2011, there have been wins after wins after wins for LGBT people. Those victories can’t bring back the lives we have lost, but they have made it a hell of a lot easier to believe that I have a future – a future full of hope and promise that will not be defined by violence and pain. You do too.

So take care of yourselves, and take care of the people you love. Help each other and support each other through the bad times and celebrate the good times together. Check in with each other and check in with yourself. I can’t promise there will ever be a time where you won’t struggle, or a time where you won’t cry, over the things you’ve experienced. I can promise, however, that we are loved, that the lives we lead are important, that there is much still to love in the world, and that we will find ways to make living worthwhile in spite of our bad days – or bad weeks.

Author: Meg

Day 2: Making It Better Now

TW: Slurs, racism, prejudice against nonbinary people, mentions of suicide.

is the age I was
in 2001
when the world trade center fell.

is the age I was
in 2001
when my schoolmates learned the words
“khadija bin laden”
and “sand nigger,”
prefaced often with
and “evil.”

is the age I was
in 2001
when my parents
begged my older sister
to stop wearing hijab
they didn’t want to bury a child.

my parents said
“don’t worry khadija
nothing endures
it will get better
when you’re in high school
these kids have matured.”
my teachers
said the same
and I believed them.

at some point
in the faraway future
the harassment
and racism
would end.
it would get better
and I would be happy

I turned seventeen.

is the age I was
in 2011
when I learned I was
nonbinary and pansexual.

is the age I was
in 2011
when, in addition to
“khadija bin laden”
and “sand nigger” –
which never ended,
despite my parents’ promises
it would –
my schoolmates learned the words
and “special gender snowflake
with made-up pronouns –
what’s next?

is the age I was
in 2011
when my close friend killed himself
after learning
as I did
it doesn’t get better.
people are
racist, sexist,
transphobic, homophobic,
Islamophobic bigots
at all ages –

it doesn’t get better
and frankly
the notion that certain kids have to
and suffer
and hurt
in the present,
clinging to the hope
it may get better someday,
while certain other kids
with privilege
or money
are offered help right away
and told
“we will help you
make it better
infuriates me.

I’ve got a message
for all those kids –
the LGB kids
the T kids
The non-binary kids
The kids whose identities
don’t fit
on the acronym
The black kids
The brown kids
The poor kids
The kids who hide their faith
and are ashamed of their cultures:
it doesn’t get better
but that doesn’t mean
there’s no hope.

it doesn’t get better
people are
racist, sexist,
transphobic, homophobic,
Islamophobic bigots
at all ages;
that won’t change.
what will change
is you.
you will make it better –
find new paths to travel
or create them
where there are none
discover reasons to live
or invent your own
realize your own power
and courage
and strength
and capability
for happiness.
we aren’t born
with the same amount of
and happiness
we’ll ever have.
we have to create some
for ourselves.

we can’t control
what others
or do
and sometimes
we can’t control
how it makes us feel.
what we can control
is where we go
from here.

it doesn’t get better
but please
don’t despair.
you have the power
to choose
your own future,
create your own happiness.
you will make it better.

now a message
for all of the allies.
instead of saying
“it gets better”
“what can I do
help you
make it better now?”

Author: Khadija

The Stories Project – Eve X’s Story

Eve X is a survivor of multiple traumas including abuse, rape, and same-sex intimate partner violence. In spite of everything, she wants people to know that she’s okay and living a good life. All words below are hers unless specified otherwise. All names and some identifying details, including the author’s, have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

TW: Rape, child abuse, intimate partner violence. Mentions of drinking, drugs, and sex.

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