Equality

The day I came out … all my girlfriends took one step apart

it can’t be they collectively agreed

she’s too pretty, she’s too feminine, she’s not a dyke she’s one of us

didn’t she enjoy sex with that boy in the garden? you know that party the one where

they turned the lights on and saw them straddled in tall grass?

What happened? Did you get raped? Was it because you grew up without a mom?

What happened? Did you get bewitched? Is she a sorceress? A genie? A devil?

Soon after the invites to go out on the girls-nights

dwindled

the newly minted lesbian sat alone with her shadows and her eye make up

growing stale in their plastic boxes

virile boys wondered why they hadn’t kept her straight

cleavage girls wondered if she had looked at them in the shower the wrong way

why didn’t you try it on with me? her bi-curious mates inquired, offended

as if loving a girl was loving the entirety of the species and jumping

from trees on the first female she sees, du rigor

sparkly gay boys annoyed her with their primping and their bitching

clique gay girls alienated her with their cold eyes and their own brand of judgement

you can’t be one of us you’re too long-haired, too shiny, too voluminous

they played pool and ground the chalk into the cue with the ire of exclusive groups

who don’t want those ill-fitting and new

soon she began smoking things in glass tubes because

only the druggies the desperate and the dead would let

her be

and on occasion when she was really crushed into ice and fire she’d try to cure herself

with someone unknown and faceless, grinding down with fervor and lust

neither of which she ever felt

like a poison the awakening was not Kate Chopin but

a black box with no lock and no key and still no way out

her family said …  well we always knew you were obtuse

liked to stand out, be different, not fit in, it started with

left-handedness in the cot

we just hope you won’t try to give us grandchildren

think of the shame, think of their difficult lives and step away

she didn’t even have love so how was she going to fill her womb?

at a club a gay man pushed her against a greasy wall and said

there’s something molten about you girl, you’re not gay you’re a hot bitch

and his erection pressed into her dress like a knife

you’re not supposed to want me, she whispered as he pushed harder

you like boys not girls

boys will like anything given a chance, he replied, staining her with ammonia and denial

walking home one night a homeless man grabs her from the bushes

holding a blade to her neck he tries to impregnate her

she thinks

careful what you wish for

as the slice of him burns her empty

the officer at the hospital while they gather the rape kit

all the swabs like brushes with unwilling paint

told her; try wearing pants not skirts

you’re too beautiful it is like a flower

the bees will come if you let them

and she wondered, how is walking down the street permission?

well it’s your life style you see, it causes problems

how would anyone choose a life style of alienation?

you’re good-looking enough to get a lawyer, he winks

before leaving her naked beneath paper gown

blood on her thighs, horror in her throat

to consider and condemn

herself

this is the life line of a girl who wasn’t linear

or bold or normal

or able to run with the swarm

she almost

tried to set herself on fire

to become one of those paper lanterns

lifting off the water into inky night

there were no hands to press her back to earth

they had been crossed and turned away

she didn’t fit into what they expected

what they needed her to be

were it not for you

with your wings and your fearlessness

on the day you told her

it’s okay not to be a stereotype

not every heterosexual woman will treat you like

you’re going to molest her

nor every straight man try to

put his hands beneath your panties

not every gay woman will

scorn your existence and push you to the corner

nor every queer boy loathe you

for being prettier than he

there are among us you said

people without definition or binary

who exist on the periphery of distinction

and we

will not

let you down

she wished she could tell

the pretty girl she tried to befriend who

always treated her different because she thought

you want me don’t you? you desperate lesbian

if you think you are free of bias and you believe yourself unjudging

stop and think about what you do unconsciously

with every favor to others over me, reminding

I have less worth

that is what happens without words without governance

the mistreatment almost invisible

like a paper cut

hurting more than it should

for the side-ways slice of discrimination is

often deeply sewn

wake up

wake up

she could be

your daughter

your best friend

careful how you step on this earth

without much you can

crush the fragile who only need

your equality

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Shards

dscn1772-2There is an edge

ever-changing, indescribable

and as you turn your shoulder

thinking the sun has only burnt

one side

the other is latticed

in marks of your exposure

as things of darkness will crawl

deep inside you like a well without end

and build with whitened fingers

their hungry descent

until you are changed

even as you taste the salt of your tears

staining your face like damage

blackening light into rotten parts

tearing your wings to pieces

it’s been so long you forgot

once you were able to climb

high into sky and feel something

unknown now like a lover

who has turned to enemy and stranger

instead without warning

the edge presents itself

in terrible hour like a sharp knife

one moment you are clinking glasses

smiling into the camera

and others remark

goodness she’s aged well

look how happy she looks

the next you are ripping the lies

from your arms, all that glitters

tearing into shreds artifice

tying together knots in hope

they can end

the sudden terror inhabiting you

always cruelest when it shows

just as you believe you might

have escaped

yoking you back

get on your knees

here you are, here you are

your toes grip the edge

you see the emptiness below

much like what lies inside

untethered, unnamed

for who can put a word

to terror? to hopelessness?

who can place a finger on the place

the rot set in and began

to devour the person you once were?

leaving a scarecrow

others do not see inside

the stuffing ready to ignite

they only see the perfect smile

accoutrements without truth

glittering like shards of glass

scattered in the night

Briefly, before retort

432a1f78aa4dbe5f9a11bd1afea97dc6What if you were?

different

waking up putting your feet over the side of the bed

with the harsh unrelenting knowledge before you think of anything else

I am trapped inside myself

these are my feet cankered and worn with little parchment lines drawn

for every regret I possess

I can hide all day from seeing them but come night, climbing into bed, still they will remind

you are subject to yourself

what if you are a raging inferno within smoked glass?

and everyone buys the exterior version that comes with a label?

choose your own go on, you know you want to

write it in permanent pen on the underside of my third finger

it is human bondage

as ad-verb the moustached man picks ‘mysteriously’

the Irishman says a noun; ‘predictable’

the Hipster proclaims adjective; ‘too old’

the Gen-X femme fatale scolds; ‘not enough visible scars and I hate how she can wear a skirt that tight over her scales’

and you? You don’t speak because you traded in your words for a shot and then another

drunk neat and with your elbow at perfect ninety degree angle

reflecting the awkwardness of ritual in bar window smeared with tarot gravy dust

you do not tell me

stop wearing hose in 70 degrees and if you must, choose pastel hues or flesh

flesh is the color of us all and none at all, for wolves come in multi-color and neon

you do not tell me

cut your hair though it has begun to trail across the bar like ivy once won will entomb even the redolent doll faces who obey without query their whiskered diviner

let’s see how far it goes before the world implodes, then we can sell it by the ounce for bonfires or new clothes

you do not correct

my pronouncement of life or the syllabus of strife I work against my sulfur state with enriching purpose

you could knock me off my slide so easily, bring your trained fist to my cheek, salt the wound pour a little rum and black call me a new blend of this and that

here drink it down and turn into tarmac

you could run over me, keep me flat or press your iced lips to my heat and have me beg

but it’s been a long B side and it’s time for the rain to ease, where drivers, previously intent, lessen up, watching for a break of light through cloud formation

you know why I stand here, pressing my hips against your side, empty me, chamber my void

you take me by the throat, lay me down in my own match book to sleep, watch the children dream, how deeply they ride their velvet horses

you bought me rings without names and names without ownership

I own the fierce tail of my pursuit and not much else

when we lie beneath the city listening to her caw

you are still as cold water washing over me in rinse and roar

it’s not your way to feel

you love without desire

desire without love

the rub and the rub and the rub

no fire will come

it is my conjecture this will end when the rain starts again and cars slow down even more to peer in

tin-can blurred faces seeing nudes vaulting tables and a man holding a gun

gentle as a lover without fingerprint

you place it in my mouth

then yours

the taste and smell of fire

would you have time to bruise?

briefly

before

retort

Mental Health Month Day #9 “Suicide”

Crossposted

The first time I was personally touched by suicide, a friend’s mom took her own life, her kids found her in the bath, I heard about it second-hand around the age of eight. I remember thinking how I would feel if I found a family member dead, and I tried to be nicer to my friend whose mom had died. I remember other kids said things about how the mom was selfish for doing it, I didn’t join in, there was even then, a part of me that didn’t see it that way.

The second time I was personally touched by suicide, my grandfather took his own life. He overdosed on Valium and was found the next morning when he hadn’t come down for breakfast. He was an artist and a long time Depressive, but despite that, everyone was shocked that a man still in his prime would consider death a better option. I remember people saying; “What a waste, he was so talented” and “How selfish, he had two children and a wife.” Although I didn’t think it at the time, I now wonder, does that mean it’s not selfish if you have no one? Is it more understandable or acceptable if you are not talented? Again, how things are phrased can stick with you.

At the time I saw my grandmother trying to come to terms with it. She ended up drinking the pain away, and developed an addiction to drinking for many years before she joined a cult and through this new-found sense of belonging quit drinking and became happy once more. Whilst we didn’t particularly like her being part of a cult we were glad for her restored peace of mind, but when I think back on it now, I also think we were relieved, we didn’t have to look in the face of grief anymore, everyone wanted to get on with things.

And that’s the hardest part of suicide, how people cope or do not cope after the fact.

Who is left behind, what fall-out carries on sometimes for generations.

One of the first questions a therapist asks is if anyone in your family has committed suicide, there is a reason for that. People whose family members commit suicide have a far higher risk of committing suicide themselves. Some have postulated whether this is ‘learned behavior’ or ‘permission granted’ or biological/in our DNA.

I can definitely see why people who have relatives who commit suicide would go one of two extremes. They are either going to be the last person to commit suicide, because they know first-hand its fall-out, or they may feel that because someone close to them did, it gives permission for them to follow suit. I can also see how some people are genetically at higher risk because something within their DNA makes it more favorable than for others. This doesn’t seem so very different from say, the God Gene.

There definitely are, as with addicts, two camps, the person who just won’t kill themselves under any circumstances and those who will. We may never quite know why, there may be many factors that go into that, but the people who are ‘at risk’ versus those who are not, are often hard to distinguish because in many ways they may both exhibit the same symptoms.

Many times I hear people say that those who commit suicide are ‘weak’ and ‘selfish.’ I have never thought they were. I see no good coming from condemning someone who was sad enough to take their own life. If we do it to discourage others, well it’s not really working, and whilst I would never advocating encouraging anyone to commit suicide or over-justifying those who do, I see no good in criticizing them after the fact. They made a decision, they chose to do it, who are we to say they are weak?

At the same time, we all hope someone will find the ‘strength’ or conviction to keep living. Nobody really approves of suicide except in extreme cases such as euthanasia for those who are suffering and in agonizing pain. Even then, in America, this is a very divided subject with those against, believing no murder is justified including the taking of ones own life, whilst others, often those who have seen it personally, can attest, some terminally ill people have the right to end their suffering.

So if we look at suicide of ‘healthy’ individuals, where do we place the depressed and the mentally ill on that scale? In some Scandinavian countries there have been people who have petitioned the Government to be euthanized based upon mental-illness. This has sparked outrage among those who believe this is tantamount to murder, and in no way qualifies as a terminal illness. Technically mental illness is rarely terminal although many ways, mental illness accompanies terminal diseases and exacerbates their symptomatology.

But even without being terminal, can mental illness ever be ‘bad’ enough to warrant or justify the taking of ones own life? And if we open that flood gate, how do we close it again?

I don’t claim to know the answer, I’m not sure anyone knows the answer yet but the side of suicide we don’t consider as often, isn’t just prevention or reason(s) behind suicide, but the aftermath.

Another friend of mine lost her mother to suicide. If I had to say, without hesitation I would say she became a more responsible, compassionate person as a result. But that doesn’t negate the extreme pain she still feels with the loss of her mom. Given a choice, every day she would wish for her mom’s return over any compassion she may have. The positives cannot outweigh the negative reality of losing someone you love.

If her mom had been deathly ill maybe she would have held a different view, I have never asked her, but either way, it is hard to imagine being ‘okay’ with someone’s suicide. That said, when Brittany Maynard committed suicide (euthanasia) in Oregon a while back I was profoundly moved by her videos and writing on the subject prior to her choice to end her life. Still very young and with a beautiful family, Brittany was terminally ill and knew in a matter of months she would be in excruciating pain and there was no cure and only awful suffering.

Many people condemned her for ‘taking the easy way out’ or ‘going against the will of God’ but I recall admiring her so much for her resolve and strength. I simply could not imagine making that choice, let alone going through with it. Her family moved to another State where Euthanasia is legal in order to be eligible and she made her plight and story public in an effort to educate people on the right to die. I believe in the right to die in part because of her efforts to show it is not the same as suicide.

With depression and other mental illnesses that are not responsive to treatment, it is not hard to imagine why people can be pushed to the brink and wish to end their lives. Should we consider euthanasia for severe cases of mental illness? Currently I don’t think we should but I recognize I may change my mind as more information becomes available. When I stop and think about living with say, Schizophrenia and other illnesses your entire life, in misery, without respite, and medications not working, I can definitely see why someone may wish to end their life. So why do I hesitate in condoning suicide or euthanasia in those cases?

Maybe because whilst we see mental illness as a disease, it’s not terminal and until something is actually ‘definitely’ going to take your life, we have this belief that there is hope, and we should not end our life based on feeling badly. Is this dismissive? I would say in some instances, yes, because there are chronic pain conditions that may include mental disease, that it could be argued, are as devastating to someone as a terminal illness. Perhaps we should give everyone the ‘right’ to choose if they live or die, and I would agree with this except for a worry that sometimes in certain mind-sets we don’t have the right objectivity to ‘choose’ without bias.

Mental illness is one of those biases. When you are mentally ill you can really see the world through a different lens. If you have not ever experienced that, believe me when I say, one day you can feel hopeful, the next it’s like the color was sucked out of the world and the pain you feel inside is unbearable and often without any cause. When that goes on for a prolonged period of time each day can be agonizing. It is definitely understandable that when people feel this way they may contemplate suicide.

The argument against this is – people typically commit suicide or attempt suicide when they are panicking or have calmly given up (the two extremes) they either panic that they will never feel differently and ‘stop the pain! stop it now! stop it any way you can!’ or they feel reconciled to their fate, they do not believe it will ever change, and so they give themselves permission to let go.

Perhaps that is why the very young and the very old are the two groups most likely to take their own lives.

As mentioned earlier, there are many who no matter how bad it got, would never commit suicide. That isn’t necessarily anything to do with personal fortitude or strength, it may be a genetic proclivity, or several factors, but they often perceive those who take their lives as inexplicable. They cannot and will not understand, and they feel understanding is condoning. I would argue, understanding is NOT condoning it’s understanding. We need more understanding.

Mental illness is not always visible, so we often do not know someone is suffering from it until it’s too late. Signs to look for include giving away what we own, a sudden sense of peace and feeling good, high anxiety and stress and the bequeathing of things previously withheld. Of course that’s not going to ensure you accurately predict whom among us is at risk, because just like in the film 13 Reasons, so many people exhibit signs and so many do not, and that’s no guarantee of anything. Additionally suicide can be a sudden choice, you literally realize in a moment and bam, it’s too late.

One population aside teenagers that I believe will increasingly be at risk for suicide is the elderly. More so because our grandparents social security and pensions were more robust than ours will be with some exceptions. It is simply more expensive to live nowadays and the money we will need to live even relatively well in old age, is often more than we can save and invest. Poverty and loneliness are two of the main reasons the elderly choose to take their lives. The third is illness. This can include mental illness. We sometimes believe the value of a person’s life diminishes with increasing age, but every life should have the same value.

The elderly have less resources than teens and in a way, less hope, because they are ageing toward death, whereas a teen has their entire life ahead of them. Sometimes hastening ones death can seem a good choice, to end suffering, loneliness, worry, financial concerns. The elderly can feel they are a burden, they can feel they are not wanted in our ever busy society that highlights youth. Additionally, are we ready as a society to take care of the many who will devleop dementia, which often carries alongside it, chronic depression? Is loading an eighty year old with heavy duty medications and antidepressants all we can to do help them?

Caregivers of the elderly will also experience mental health issues as a result of the hard work they do. Presently elderly patients are over medicated and have less resources for talk-therapy or other treatments. It is deemed simply easier to stick them on a lot of medications and hope they’ll die than treat their suffering compassionately and with an understanding their lives, however long, still hold value. Is it any wonder then that so many elderly are at risk of suicide and premature death? As long as we judge people based on their economic ‘worth’ and believe the elderly ‘had their time’ we will never improve this and rates of elder-abuse will grow.

So whilst we can do more to look out for people, we will never prevent someone from committing suicide if they are absolutely set on doing so. What we can do is save the ones who do not wish to and need a reason not to. It may seem absurd that anyone should really want to die, but there will always be people who do, they find different ways, they take risks, they drive their cars too fast, they may join a terrorist group. Often very unhappy people choose suicide by proxy, by putting themselves in danger and waiting to see if it will take them.

Suicide and mental health are always going to be interrelated and there is a lot the people around those people can do to prevent a successful suicide, but ultimately the best we can do is not judge those who die, for what possible good comes from that? Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to try to understand why someone did what they did. Sometimes there is nothing to understand. But with understanding we can learn, whereas if we simply condemn, we learn absolutely nothing.

Mental Health Month #Day 7 “Rape”

Rape isn’t a subject people talk about very often. Sadly it’s a subject people joke about quite a bit.

The first time I heard a rape-joke I didn’t get it. It was too disgusting to ‘get’ and I am glad I didn’t. Everyone else did though and they all laughed. At the time I didn’t think how someone sitting there who had been raped would feel, but statistics tell us, that likelihood is quite high considering that 80 percent of rape goes unreported and even the reported numbers are staggering.

How a rape joke could hope to be funny, baffles me, but it maybe is more telling of our society as a whole, that we can laugh at true misfortune and tragedy. That’s not gallows humor, that’s just sick.

Rape is never funny. Rape is never something that doesn’t matter. Perhaps if we acted like it mattered more, those who were rape survivors would not be more subject to a plethora of mental illness.

That’s why rape is a subject this Mental Health Month. Because the link between rape and mental illness exists. Rape can among other things, be a cause or contributing cause or exacerbation of; PTSD, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Depression, Phobias, Suicidality and Suicide, Cutting/Self-Harm and many other conditions.

We’ve talked in earlier posts about how that doesn’t diminish the very real and medical ‘illness’ of mental disorders, and just because an act pushes someone toward feeling a certain way, does not decrease the legitimacy of the illness part of any mental disease. Illness can and is caused by trauma, and there are few things more traumatic to a girl or woman (or boy or man) than rape.

Perhaps though there is one thing worse and that is not being believed, or the act of rape being diminished or ignored.

I hope most of you have watched The Hunting Ground, a documentary on Campus rapes here in America, but if you have not yet, and you have children, know college age kids, or people who work on campuses, it is compulsory viewing not to be missed.

Ultimately the numbers of rapes committed in any situation are underreported, under prosecuted, and not punished. Some judges do not believe a rapist should go to jail. It is often said ‘but he’s such a good boy and he has his entire life ahead of him’ and this stands as a perfectly reasonable explanation for not giving a rapist a harsher sentence.

The other big let-down as far as rape in the legal system goes, is that rape has a statute of limitations and thus, if five years pass and you do not report your rape you are not protected under the law anymore and cannot prosecute your rapist. This is not true for many other crimes including murder, and financial embezzlement. In other words, you can prosecute someone for stealing from you years later, but you cannot prosecute someone for raping you after a certain time period. Great message you’re giving the survivor!

In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out this exists because the likelihood of having proof after five years is diminished and it is to protect those falsely accused many years later. But that relies upon a significant swath of false accusations and assumes that proof must exist to punish a rape rather than taking the word of the survivor. Therein lies the rub. It is a difficult subject to prosecute when it’s one person’s word against another and historically women have not been believed over men who were upstanding and respected in the community. So if you’re a prostitute and you are raped by a politician, don’t expect anyone to believe you.

Maybe we cannot do enough about this to change it entirely, but speeding up the rate of prosecution cases, ensuring all rape kits are tested (when so many lie untested due to lack of funding) ensuring the survivors are not ‘blamed’ during their legal ordeal, and educating everyone about the low figures of false reporting, may make some difference.

As with anything we can find examples of those who cried wolf, but that is literally true of anything human. It is singular to rape survivors that they are accused of ‘making it up’ as if everyone involved knows of 1000 x cases of liars who pretended they were raped for whatever gain. We should as we do with ‘innocent until proven guilty’ assume someone is likely to be telling the truth when they pluck up the courage and report being raped. If nothing else, something is wrong.

No more so than on campuses across America today, where so many young people are raped and do not report it knowing it will not go anywhere, or do report it and find those who raped them are not penalized sufficiently because they are a star football player. This inequality of punishment needs to be eliminated because what you are effectively saying is, you are not worth as much as the rapist or we do not believe your rape mattered enough to punish this person.

Sometimes I have heard people say ‘she’s too ugly to be raped she must be lying’ and awful things like that. I had one person told by a police officer that because she admitted she was gay, she had obviously chosen to ‘try the other side’ for the night when she was dragged along the street at night and raped by a stranger in an abandoned warehouse. Sure. She wanted it.

Seeing why people who survive rape, are at high risk for some kind of short-term mental illness or at high risk for exacerbating a pre-existing one, is obvious when you look at the details of what someone really goes through. The aftermath of rape is nearly always the worst part. We need to bring our ability to empathize and our compassion to the table and treat all rape cries seriously.

I have worked in two Rape Crisis Centers and the second one I worked in, only prosecuted a handful of cases via the authorities, due to the enormous back-log of DNA testing (rape kits) and the desire of the authorities to plea deal rather than prosecute. Let us not forget a plea deal is often a free pass for a rapist and his offense is often knocked down to a smaller crime that will not indicate to someone looking at his record, that he is a serial rapist. Typically those who rape do so again and again, so if we do not incarcerate them, reeducate them and rehabilitate them if possible they will go out and do it again.

Likewise those who are beyond our help are still let out onto the streets along with paedophiles whom they know will re-offend it’s just a matter of time. How does this happen? How can we justify this?

For those survivors who tell others that they were raped, it is on our shoulders to be as supportive and gentle as possible with someone who confides in us. So often rape is a subject of humor and fun making and there is literally, nothing funny about rape.SAAMP2017 (SM)7

https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/

https://www.rainn.org/

National Sexual Abuse Hotline: 800-656-HOPE

How to respond to a survivor: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

 

https://mirrorwithoutglass.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/mental-health-month-day-7-rape/

Mental Health Month Day Five

With the gravity of Mental Illness in all human societies across the world, I’m devoting a lot of social media presence to garnering awareness of this often lethal disease. Please support this, forward any information you find useful and educate others by reading and sharing our posts to all those who remain ignorant of this awful disease in a community effort to end the stigma and shame.

https://mirrorwithoutglass.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/candicedaquinauthor/

Happy Cinco de mayo !

 

Iris Chang (part of the #unsung heroes series)

Iris-Chang-264x400

Why must the insightful carry the greatest weight?

in their teeth like a bit crunching down until they break

teeth all over the place, white against the dark

enamel lasts long after we are gone

your words are never broken Iris

the love others held for you cannot be undone

by spectacle or ire, you are immune now

as beautiful as you were in life your memory not forgotten

eulogized in statues and prophecy, courage in bronze

such is the legacy of those who live to help others

you shone a light where no light had been shone

perhaps it invited unbidden demons and the silk worm

perhaps it made you mad and rageful in Louisville

who can say what fuse is lit, how long it burns or

whether others haunt us to our fatal choice?

but who would not feel horror when unveiled

the gruesome atrocity of what humans are capable

your Nanking chronicles, bravely revealed

blowing your silver whistle over lies

whether secret hands held you down

commanding, speak not, no more truth released

or you became absorbed in the tragedy you wrote

my hope is you gaze down, aware of the love held

your beautiful face gracing the cover of your mom’s book

a legacy unfurling, one step, two, ever more

you will always rise higher than you thought

such is the way of the guide

needing sometimes to turn from her gift back to the world

to see the beauty held in their own

reflection

 

“The woman who could not forget: Iris Chang before and beyond The Rape of Nanking by Ying-Ying Chang (mom) and The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang.”

part of the hash-tag #unsung (heroes) series.