Femme Resources

320 Sunny (6595) Small Edited Version

It took me a long time to understand myself as femme because I’m a man, and to understand myself as a man, because of my femininity. Misogyny, being the fear or hatred of women or femininity, can manifest in many different ways. I can perpetuate sexism myself, and also I am the recipient of misogyny because I’m effeminate. I’m so grateful for fabulous femmes and women and their powerful resistance to misogyny and sexism. I hope to keep learning how to unpack sexism in my own behaviour and learning how to be ally to women and other femme folks, as well as increasingly unleash my effeminate fabulousness. Here are some great reads as well as some useful ally stuff.

I’ll add new things as I come across them – my website (Sunny Drake www.sunnydrake.com ) will the most up-to-date place.

ONLINE ARTICLES & VIDEOS

 – Femme Invisibility: On Passing Right by Your People and Not Being Recognized

It’s so important to unlearn misogyny/ sexism in queer communities.

–  4 ways to support queer femmes

Good article on how to be an ally and challenge misogyny/ sexism, or at least how not to be an asshole.

 – Powerful Photos Fearlessly Redefine What It Means to Be LGBTQIA+

I love these images showing how wide ranging queer identities are.

Femme Lesbian invisibility Video

BLOGS & BOOKS

– Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity, edited by Chloe (with 2 dots above the e) Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri

– Piece of my Heart, anthologized by Makeda Silvera

– Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

– Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities by Ulrika Dahl

– Femme: feminist lesbians & bad girls by Laura Harris & Elizabeth Crocker

– The Persistence of Desire by Joan Nestle

– Persistence edited by Zena Sharman & Ivan E. Coyote

– Heels on Wheels Roadshow http://www.heelsonwheelsroadshow.com/

MY BLOG ARTICLES:

I’ve also authored some relevant blog articles:

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

This is a conversation starter (continuer?) on how to be ally and challenge misogyny/ sexism, aimed primarily at trans-masculine, trans-male and masculine of centre peoples. It is equally application to other cis men unpacking misogyny/ sexism and working on ally skills.

And So Shall Our Heels Till the Earth

My Boyfriend is a Lady

About my experiences a queer effeminate man who is partnered to a woman and how people are constantly confused about my sexuality because of my effeminacy

the Boy T*t Finale Summer Collection

A series of photos celebrating my beautiful chest before I had top surgery through adorning it with fabulous outfits.

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Photo by Tania Anderson

Sexual Assault Resources

Sexual assault is a very real issue in our communities. Dominant narratives are that strangers are mostly responsible, but many of us also experience sexual assault, violence and other abusive acts from lovers, partners and family. The times I’ve been sexually assaulted, I felt like I was responsible for what happened to me and felt so much shame that I found it difficult to talk with people. It’s had a huge effect on my health, sex and life. I wished I’d at least had some things to read. So, here are links to resources I’ve found useful particularly for femme, queer and trans survivors (and ally articles too). Please take care of yourself when reading.

I’ve also included some ally resources for working with those who have abused others. I believe our communities need to work together to deal with each other in responsible ways to unlearn abusive patterns, rather than isolating and shaming people, whilst centering both survivors and the overall well-being of our communities.

I’ll add new things as I come across them –my website (Sunny Drake www.sunnydrake.com ) will the most up-to-date place for resources, as well as other resources such as trans, femme, sexuality, queer stuff, anti-racism etc.

ONLINE RESOURCES

– 4 Ways to Overcome Self-Blame After Sexual Assault

Yup this is real. Many of us know on an intellectual level that we are not responsible for the acts of violence we receive, but how do we actually get ourselves to really shift that toxic self-blame and insidious internal dialogue? Some useful suggestions in this article. Authored by Sian Ferguson.

 – 11 Truths Every Survivor of Intimate Partner Violence Needs to Know

This link covers a lot of myths about violence and acts of abuse and how equally valid different survivor responses can be. This is essential in learning how to be a responsible ally too. Authored by Kai Cheng Thom, who’s writing I love.

– 6 Ways to Confront Your Friend Who’s Abusing their Partner

Good ally article, authored by the fabulous Kai Cheng Thom.

– 5 Common Ways Our Communities Fail to Address Intimate Partner Violence

Remembering that we all are collectively responsible for creating change and have the power to transform cultures of violence. Also authored by Kai Cheng Thom.

– Gaslighting

A useful resource on gaslighting –when someone acts to manipulate another into questioning their own sanity. It can be used to make people who are experiencing abuse doubt their own experiences and often end up feeling responsible and blaming themselves or even thinking they are the ones being abusive. Good ally article as well in terms of skilling up on gaslighting. Authored by Shea Emma Fett.

– 6 Ways to Have a Healthy and Enjoyable Sex Life After Surviving Sexual Trauma

The article also acknowledges the different ways that we can reclaim our sexuality. Particularly helpful for was the section on how we might act when we are triggered during sex – it doesn’t always look like disassociation or curling up in a ball. Sometimes I’ve struggled to understand when I’m triggered during sex  because a big part of my coping with sexual assault has been to minimise my own experiences and try to pretend to myself (and others) that nothing was wrong. Knowing when I am triggered can help me take power back to be able to be responsible for creating my own healthy sexuality. There are so many ways we can reclaim sexuality and have awesome sex lives.

– Your Child Should Never Be Forced to Hug Anyone (Yes, Including a Relative) – Here Are 7 Reasons Why

– Love letters for survivors

This was just what I needed to hear. Authored by many different survivors

Consent skills video

– Campaign resources

* Consent campaign images

* Poster series – no-one is entitled to your body

* Barriers to reporting acts of sexual assault

* Article about campus sexual assault – mainly I like the “40 powerful images of survivors” at the bottom of link.

BOOKS & BLOGS

The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence In Activist Communities, Both a book and a blog, authored by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Everyday Feminism has lots of great articles on a wide range or relevant topics authored by fabulous people.

MY BLOG ARTICLES:

Here’s some relevant blog articles authored by me:

– Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Whilst this is not primarily about sexual assault, I include this link because of the disproportionate amount of abuse and other shitty behaviour and acts of abuse that femme folks receive.

2 articles about drinking/sobriety – which are relevant given that alcohol (and other substances) can often be involved in acts of unconsensual sex, and abusive behaviour

Wet >< Dry

The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

– When a Man & a Woman Love Each Other Very Much

Looks at teenage sex and sexuality and how we don’t prepare young people for either staying safe or actually having fun. Many educational programs have finally started acknowledging that teenagers have sex, but an exclusive focus on STIs and birth control doesn’t prepare young people to enjoy their sexy times, have consensual sex and prevent sexual assault.

If you have any other resource suggestions, particularly ones that are femme, queer, sexuality and trans positive, please email me (Sunny Drake) at sunny@sunnydrake.com

 

http://www.sunnydrake.com/#!__sexual-assault

http://sunnydrake.tumblr.com/tagged/sexual-assault

https://sunnydrake.wordpress.com/resources-links/sexual-assault/

sunny drake, trans, transgender, trans, transgender artist, trans artist, queer artist, trans performer, queer performer, transgender performer, trans writer, transgender writer, queer writer, transgender theatre, trans theatre, queer theater, theater, LGBT education, trans education, queer politics, trans politics, transgender politics, LGBT politics, toronto, canada, australia, tumblr, anti-racism, femme ally conversation, femme ally conversation starter, dude, sobriety, hand puppet, acts, contact, articles, authored, committed, responsible, feedback, reputation, sunny drake, sexual, sexuality, sexual assault, sexual violence, femme, sex, assault, healing, violence, survivor, trauma, ally, femme ally, sexism, misogyny, misog

Honouring the Living and Telling History like it is

Image On this day, Trans Day of Remembrance, I’m sending love to the families & friends of those trans* people, mostly trans women of colour and two spirit people, who have been murdered in the last year. At the advice of a dreamboat panel on Monday night with Monica Forrester, Reina Gosset and Janet Mock, just as importantly, I’m also celebrating and sending deep appreciation and love to the incredible trans women & two spirit people who are alive, surviving, transforming our communities and at the forefront of so many important political movements. Let’s not wait until our sisters pass or face serious violence to honour them. And let’s map out and celebrate the pivotal role trans women and two spirit people have and continue to have in our movements.

If you’d like to participate, please write a short shout out celebrating a trans woman of colour or two spirit person, who is alive, and post it to your facebook wall, twitter etc. Just make sure you know that they are publicly out as trans*!

Today, I’m giving a shout out to Monica Forrester for her tireless work with her community (check out her film “Remember the Living”). To Kiley May for being all round fabulous and making beautiful art. To Micha Cárdenas for the ways she expands my sense of what is possible. And to Miss Major for her fierce life-long activism.

It’s particularly important to honour and give credit to the people who have been historically and are currently at the forefront of our political movements, because of the ways trans women of colour and two spirit people have been written out of history. Their revolutionary organising has been the kickstart (and sustenance) of so many of our movements. Take Stonewall for example, widely cited as the “start” of the modern gay rights movement, although there were actually a lot of amazing things before that too, like the Compton’s Cafeteria riots. Let’s remember who was actually there, instigating this important movement: trans women, sex workers, street based folks – all people who don’t get credit for their revolutionary organising.

And yet so many white non-trans gay men and white trans men have now ended up with the resources, being publicly celebrated and in positions of power within our movements. Make no mistake – this was not accidental. It wasn’t an oversight. White gay men threw trans women under the bus, to present an image that would appeal to the mainstream in an attempt to win some concessions like gay marriage, the right to fight in armies, and anti-discrimination legislation for privileged gay people. “Look, we’re Tom and Bob, two white bankers in a monogamous relationship. We’re just like you!” And through other systemic power and privileges, white gay men and trans men had and continue to have access to so many more resources to put forth campaigns focused on their (my) needs, sidelining the important and revolutionary perspectives and priorities of trans women and two spirit people.

As discussed by Miss Major and other trans women activists, another way trans women got thrown under the bus has been the failure of LGBTQ movements to be able to organise with people who use substances. Some of the very women to whom we owe our ability to be out and proud as trans*, were in fact banned from LGBT spaces in their lifetimes. Syvlia Rivera was banned from an LGBT Centre in New York for her drinking and Marsha P Johnson for her drug use. We need to get waaaaaay better at organising spaces that can accommodate and centre the needs of both those who are sober (in recovery from drinking/ drug use) AND those who are still using/drinking. Similarly, the sex work-phobia that is rife among many trans and queer communities, pushes many of our fiercest, smartest activists to the margins.

In this context, it is a powerful act of resistance to trans-misogyny every time we tell history like it really was, and honour and resource those who are still doing some of the most revolutionary grassroots work.

On that note, let’s put our collective care and money behind honouring one of our Elders, Miss Major. Miss Major has paved the way for so many trans* people to be able to live with dignity and community. She was on the front line of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. A former sex worker and formerly incarcerated, she is a mother, a grandmother and since 2006 has been the Executive Director of the San Francisco based Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). I’m inviting you to join together with me to become a monthly sustainer – donating an amount every month to support this fierce activist to get the housing, food and medical care she needs. Click on the link here to show your monthly love for a revolutionary Elder.

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

Boy Tits in the Locker Room

Image

I’ve recently started taking my shirt and binder/sports bra off in the men’s locker room. It didn’t begin from a desire to flash my boy tits around, rather that I was fed up with the incredibly awkward configurations I used to twist my clothes in to hide these bouncy little babies. Moreover, I was incredibly bored by transphobia and cis-sexism*.

I’ve also been thinking about appropriation of struggles – the ways that I have over-identified with and co-opted the struggles of trans people who are more marginalised than myself. There’s been lots of trans women who have written and spoken about the appropriation of the struggles of trans women of colour. They remind us that the vast bulk of violence faced by trans people is in fact faced by trans women, particularly those who are racialised, sex workers, poor and/or Indigenous. When I listen to my trans Elders, the people whom I owe my life to (literally – I couldn’t exist as trans without their AMAZING work in carving out space for us to be trans), it’s easy to assume that my experience with be the same as theirs. The reality is, it’s not. Firstly, things are already different. Their hard work has already transformed some things about the communities I live in (THANKYOU! I LOVE YOU! YOU’RE THE BEST!). Secondly, the very people who have been at the centre of the movements which I benefit from, also face trans-misogyny (the many ways transphobia and sexism are directed specifically toward trans women), racism, poverty, disable-ism etc.  As a white, mostly-able-bodied, trans man who passes** as cisgendered, I don’t face these things.

So I’ve started unpacking the difference between when I’m actually unsafe verses when I’m really just uncomfortable. The locker room I’ve been flashing my boy tits around has a trans inclusion policy. It says right there on the wall that the space welcomes trans people in either of the locker rooms. Not that policies always translate into action, but the fact that someone has put it there, makes me feel like there’s some warning that my trans body might be in there and also that someone onsite might have my back (or my tits, as the case may be).

This will be an ongoing juggle to differentiate actually unsafe situations from uncomfortable ones. Locker room late at night at a mainstream non-trans-policy gym where there’s only one other dude or a football team? Probably not going to risk it. I’ve already got a bunch of practice of the safety versus self expression dance – as an effeminate trans man, I’m used to the “speed up my walk” moment or put my sort-of-butch-jacket on over my frilly pink shirt with matching frilly pocket square or turn my sparkly earring and rhinestone studded handbag away when passing men on the street late at night.

The more I watch and test the waters, the more I realise that for a relatively privileged trans person such as myself, probably the worst thing that’s going to happen in response to my boy tits wobbling around the men’s locker room, at a place that’s intentionally developed a trans inclusion policy, is some shocked stares and dropped jaws. A few years ago (actually even a few months ago), this would have devastated me. I would have spiraled into internalised transphobia, that nauseous feeling that there’s something wrong with me. That I’m weird. Broken. Yucky.  Unloveable. Sick. I would have felt emotionally AND physically unsafe as well as uncomfortable. Like I was about to attacked. Like I had in fact, been attacked. It’s not that I’m suddenly immune to these bouts of fear and self loathing, particularly given that I am a survivor of sexual assault, but the more I practice, whilst finding it a little tedious, boring & uncomfortable, the more I see it as an opportunity to cultivate self love AND slowly transform the world, one boy tit at a time. So I want to see more space for a whole range of bodies? Well, sometimes my political essays and rants can be written in my body. All I need to do, is be there, boy tits and all, and I’m already changing shit.

I recognise that it is through my privileges that I can do this, and also that I’m creating space for a particular type of trans experience. I’m not saying that exposure to my white boy tits will necessarily carve out space for trans women’s bodies, or racilialised trans men’s bodies or genderqueer bodies. Nope, I’m not at the centre of transforming our world and neither should I be. I’m two buoyant tits, floating in an ocean of change. And for what it’s worth, these tits are gonna sail proudly above the waves whenever they can.

Cisgendered people (ie, people who are not trans) – please be mindful of your cis privilege before telling your trans friends “well my trans friend Sunny said you’re not actually unsafe, just uncomfortable” or “you should love your body” or any other well intentioned declarations about how trans people should or shouldn’t feel about our bodies or what steps we should and shouldn’t take to be safe. Let’s remember that the same situation can be experienced very differently by two different people, not to mention that two different people will be treated differently. Although I also get that it’s complex when we’re talking about intersecting struggles – like I think there’s a place for cisgendered women having their trans sisters’ backs by calling trans guys on appropriating the struggles of trans women.

I’d also ask cisgendered people to remember that it takes a lot of work to deal with transphobia and cis-sexism when they arise and battle through internalised transphobia. I have the capacity for that work right now. And I choose to take on that education work.  I choose for my boy tits to be my curriculum, my wordless political essay in the locker room. Other trans people may be focused on other things, like battling the health care system, finding a roof under which to sleep or food to eat, dealing with their families, growing food, making art, surviving, throwing parties…

I’m not going to hide my beautiful trans body anymore, except when really and truly it would be physically unsafe. If it’s just uncomfortable, hell, so is trying to get changed balancing my bags off the floor in toilet stalls. So is the complex ballet of getting my clothes on and off without revealing my tits. So is living in a world that thinks my body is weird (or fetishizes it in unconsensual ways). So, frankly, I’d rather be uncomfortable WHILE creating more space for beautiful trans bodies through exposing more people to a myriad of ways men’s chests look. Besides, my boy tits deserve all the fresh air they can get, because as soon as I have surgery, I’m gonna start wearing a myriad of hot men’s bikini tops, because well, in addition to being tremendously transsexual, I’m also a fabulous flamer.

Until then, you have been warned: these boy tits will not be contained.

Follow up article: Boy Muff in the Public Pool: this budgie will not be smuggled

*Cis-sexism is the assumption that all people are or ought to be cisgendered (not trans) or that trans people’s identified genders are inferior to, less authentic than, or less natural than those of cisgendered people.

**Passing as cisgendered: unless my clothes are off, people don’t know I’m trans

Huge thanks to the love of my life, Chanelle, for editing and taking the photo!

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

Financially supporting trans women’s access to surgery

Here’s a short blurb I wrote in 2011 as part of fundraising for a friend who was having bottom surgery, about why I believe it is super important for cisgendered people and trans men to support trans women/ trans-feminine spectrum people in accessing surgery (when they choose it).

▪               Trans women, especially those who don’t pass as cisgendered (ie, trans women who get read/interpreted by most of society as “men”) face huge barriers to finding employment due to prejudice. They may also face racism, classism or able-ism. So their job options can be very limited and therefore it’s harder to pay the bills, let alone fund expensive surgery.

▪               Because the medical industrial complex sucks! Many trans women are made to jump through years worth of hoops and red tape to prove that they should be allowed to have surgery. Having just been through this system as a trans-guy – my psychiatrist said “most of the FTMs (female-to-male) are a lot more straight-forward cases than the MTFs (male to female)”. BULLSHIT! The medical industrial complex, like the rest of mainstream Australia, does a lot of serious hating on trans women. Apparently one of the factors which slows down psychiatrists from approving surgery, is trans women having depression or anxiety. Is it any wonder a bunch of trans women are depressed when they get so much hatred thrown their way, beat up, denied jobs, called names and then made to tell their stories over and over to the boring cisgendered psychiatrist for years. (NOTE: recognising the discrimination faced by many transwomen doesn’t mean others should just assume it sucks to be a trans-woman – it rocks to be a trans-woman! Just the discrimination sucks). Cisgendered people act as gatekeepers and attempt to make every decision for trans people. Their decisions are greatly shaped by trans-misogyny (like the broader world) and can make many trans-women jump through very narrow definition of what it means to be trans – what the fuck would they know? This sucks. So, fundraising for trans women can give them more control over their transition through having money and therefore access to more options (like going to Thailand for the surgery, where there is less red tape).

▪               Because trans women bear the brunt of some of the most disgusting discriminations of the patriarchy. Levels of violence & assault against trans women are horrific. They are often doubly punished by then also being left out or violently marginalised by so called “feminist” and other movements e.g. being barred from accessing “women’s” shelters & services. This is blatantly anti-feminist! Many “feminist” movements are hung up on the notion of trans women having been socialised as male and therefore having male privilege. The transphobic and misogynist cultures I grew up in absolutely do NOT build a sense of entitlement/privilege in trans women. Anyone read as male who has any feminine or womanly presentation, traits or identification gets that ridiculed, punished and beaten out of them. This is hardly likely to build up someone with a sense of entitlement or privilege. Also, socialisation is a complex beast – a person picks up socialisation as much from how they identify inside, ie we have agency in how we socialise ourselves. Many trans women who identified that way from an early age, are likely to have picked up a lot of female socialisation because they were looking for the education and cues with which they identified. So I don’t see much privilege going on for trans women – especially trans women of colour, raised poor/ working class, trans women with disabilities etc. So, since they have to deal with heaps of shit, supporting trans women in ways that feel good to them (in this case – funding the surgery) is essential.

▪               Because access to surgery is a class issue. It sucks that rich trans people (who still have the support of their rich families or have miraculously managed to access well paying work) can get easier access to surgery. It’s up to us as a community to collectively be a “family” who raises money for poor/ working class/ financially struggling trans women.

▪               Because misogyny exists even in our queer/ radical bubbles. A little exercise: count how many fundraisers you’ve heard of for trans men. Now count how many you’ve heard of for trans women. Get the point? And that was just for starters – the way trans women are often ostracised, whereas trans men are celebrated (and even fetishised) is gross. Let’s change that.

So, these are some of the reasons why I’m giving money to my friend for her bottom surgery.  Also, because I like her a bunch and she is smart, hot, fabulous, funny and a good friend of mine.

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

Capitalism hurts (as if I wasn’t hurting enough already…)

I wrote this article in 2008 for a radical chronic pain zine – “When Language Runs Dry”. I made some edits in 2015.

My body and I one of those old married couples. We are best friends yet we bicker and struggle with each other every day. We spend all our time together yet sometimes we discover how little we really know about the other. Our relationship used to be built on an understanding that I would call the shots and my body would keep it up, albeit with occasional grumbles. That is, until eight months ago when I had a repetitive strain injury in both my wrists which progressed from acute tendonitis to chronic pain. Now our dynamic is reversed – my body calls pretty much all the shots these days. We’ve been to various “couples counselors” so to speak, but no one can tell me exactly what is going on with my body. Anything requiring even a slight grip or repetitive motions with my hands is difficult. Cooking, riding a bike, writing, computer work, sex, opening jars, lifting my bag, going to the toilet and stroking a friend’s hair are daily challenges. With these radical changes in what I can and can’t do, I’ve found a myriad of ways that I devalue myself and that others devalue me. Thanks capitalism for that extra hurt, as if I wasn’t hurting enough already.

Before exploring the ways that capitalism has insidiously seeped into how I view myself and others, it’s important to acknowledge some of my identities that shape my experiences. I am a mixed class femme queer trans man. I am white, with English and Irish ancestors, and I was born and grown in Australia. I am a writer, performer, producer, activist, project manager, friend, lover, family member, caretaker, and random dancer at traffic lights and subways. I do not claim to understand what it would be like to have a longer term or wider reaching disability, or how the impacts of able-ism would magnify if I weren’t white. This injury has given me a small window of insight into the world of able-ism, how it plays out in my own life, as well as in activist and queer subcultures. This article is based on listening to the insightful and important experiences of people with disabilities, the pondering I’ve done in the quiet moments of despair about my wrists and my participation in the Ann Braden anti-racism training for white activists in San Francisco.

How does capitalism hurt? I am realizing just how deep the capitalist mentality is interwoven into how I think, how I value people, and what I base my identity on. The change in my body’s functionality has triggered a major shift in my self-identity and I have been struggling with feeling worthless. Every day I find myself thinking: “I’m not doing anything”, “I’m not contributing to my community”, and justifying my “un-productive” existence by the fact that I have an injury that prevents me from doing “valuable” things. The only way I have been able to feel okay about myself is by framing this period of my life as “healing time,” and reassuring myself that at some point I’ll be able do “valuable” work again. This has prompted me to start questioning what I consider “valuable” and what I consider “work”.

It is so embedded in my thinking to define only project or organizational activity as “work”. Harsha Walia asserts, “Capitalism not only creates the conditions for the expropriation of labour, but also limits what can even be characterized as labour” [1]. Capitalism considers work as activity done outside the domestic or relationship spheres which results in tangible products and outcomes. Walia points out that “work” is also tied to what you extract from the land. When I consider different ideas about work that center emotional labour and relationships, with this injury I am still doing valuable work and contributing to my community. I am a key emotional support person for several people. I listen to people and workshop their relationships challenges. I link people with each other. I share insights from different contexts like relating Australian and U.S. struggles. I am excellent at drawing out the unique and remarkable aspects of the people I meet and I support others to achieve their goals. I have long chats with friends and random strangers about their lives, hopes and dreams. I tell stories and create theatre that challenges dominant ideas. I give feedback and encouragement on friend’s creative projects. I participate in a collective household. I appreciate calendula flowers almost every day.

It is no coincidence that most of these undervalued roles are considered feminine or female roles: welcome to the white supremacist colonial capitalist patriarchy. Women and femmes are expected to do this work freely and this labour is neither credited as work nor valued. Hence, people who do this emotional work are also devalued. In a time when we are in serious plight on planet earth, it’s not only necessary to start valuing emotional and care work, but in fact centering it. Harsha Walia highlights that care work is necessary to continue life on earth.

So, I don’t want to hold out for the day my wrists get better to start feeling good about myself again. By refusing to acknowledge the worth of my own life right now, I am participating in devaluing the worth and lives of so many other people who do not fit able-bodied capitalist norms. I am contributing to driving the planet further into the abyss we are facing.

In addition to what capitalism encourages us to value and devalue, I’ve also been thinking about how capitalism encourages us to work. Overhauling white supremacist, sexist, capitalist and able-ist systems involves digging deep and changing how we do things. For example, capitalism is obsessed with accelerating profit curves, quick fixes and short-term vision. As activists, when are we uncritically propelling these ways of working? For instance, when are we failing to create deep change by focusing on superficial changes that simply make us look good or get our not-for-profit organizations more funding? Given the urgency of social and environmental issues, it’s understandable that many of us have short term crisis mentalities, rather than working towards strategic bigger visions. But who gets left behind when the focus is on more-faster-have-to-get-it-done-today-or-else? Does a preoccupation with accelerated outcomes lend itself to genuine reflection or simply doing what it takes to make outcomes look good? Some examples of how I see these capitalist mentalities embedded within activist work include:

  • Encouraging a culture of work-a-holism that many people with disabilities are unable to participate in.
  • “But it was the only meeting space we could find”: focus on the easiest logistics such as holding meetings in spaces or at times inaccessible to many people.
  • “This campaign is about stopping mining, not gender equality or Indigenous sovereignty”: breaking down complex social change issues into single issues. The outcome is ironically a failure to understand the root causes of even those “single” issues, such as how colonization and patriarchy are interwoven with environmental destruction.
  • The unattainable standards of “perfection” that get perpetuated within a capitalist society, e.g. pursuit of the “American dream”. Activist and queer communities often apply this exact same mentality to setting new standards of what it means to be “radical” – like that a radical person should never feel jealous, never mess up etc.
  • Fixation on notions of “independence” – that we should be able to care for 100% of our own needs, which is just plain impossible, even for able-bodied people.
  • Tokenizing people with disabilities (or others) by giving only non-decision making roles, inviting last minute participation after visions have been set, and simply having one or two representatives in a group rather than creating ways to genuinely center people with disabilities.
  • Setting goals that assume certain types of physical or mental abilities to achieve them.
  • Valuing and celebrating only “external” outcomes, like stopping a uranium mine, and devaluing “internal” outcomes, like addressing power and privilege within an organization/ collective.
  • Non-profit workers exaggerating results to keep up with funding bodies expectations. Or doing things to look good to our peers, rather than because our actions will create deeper change.
  • Making only superficial changes to make something look good for short-term gain, rather than digging to the root causes.

These ways of working are not only able-ist but also racist, classist and colonial too.

I’m left with a lot more questions and ponderings, rather than answers: how do activist and queer groups change cultures of over-work? How do we pay attention to our bodies and create workspaces that care for our bodies? How do we shift what we value to include feminist and disability positive concepts of work? How do movements place people with disabilities at the center instead of at the margins, particularly those who are also people of color, Indigenous, working class, women, queers, trans and gender variant folks and survivors? How doe we leverage the gifts that come from the participation of people with non-normative bodies and minds? How can we follow the lead of women of color feminism and embrace the intersections of issues and oppressions? How do we balance striving to do our best with giving up capitalist-influenced definitions of “perfection”? And how do we do all of this whilst working within an urgent context?

This is a big list that I could work on for my whole life. Considering I have been struggling with my changed abilities and my sense of myself as a “valuable” person, today I am going to try to value myself just for being me. That doesn’t mean giving up. It means freeing-up all the energy that goes into questioning my worth as a human being – that shit is time-consuming and so draining! It means being able to use that freed-up energy to have a more harmonious relationship with my body and get on with creating change with my communities. And I’m not going to beat myself up if I can’t do that “perfectly”. In fact, I’m going to celebrate imperfection right now by ending this article perfectly incomplete.

[1] : “A truly green economy requires alliances between labour and Indigenous people” by Harsha Walia https://ricochet.media/en/463/a-truly-green-economy-requires-alliances-between-labour-and-indigenous-people

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