Dear Heather, (Or, A Mental Healthcare Manifesto In Response to Ignorance)

Dear Heather,

We the people with mental illnesses are all natural variations of humankind1, whom some have chosen to deem abnormal/unstable and in need of care. Historically, the mental healthcare system – the very system that claims to care for us – has caused us significant harm.

The field of psychology is an inexact science with a flawed, even sadistic, past and present. So inexact and sadistic in fact, that gays and lesbians were (and quite frankly still are) subjected to “conversion therapy,” and being transgender and the ordinary experiences of transgender folk was (and still are) considered mental illnesses, among many misguided treatments and diagnoses.

I’m sure you are aware of these inexplicable transgressions within your field.

We the people with mental illnesses are simultaneously told that our mental illnesses do not define us, yet here we are, with these diagnostic labels receiving treatment. For many of us, these diagnoses and experiences of hospitalizations become facets of our continuously transforming identities. These identities related to mental illness intersect with our preexisting notions of self and those aspects of our being that have yet to be uncovered, formed, or accepted.

My intersectional identities (at this moment) are as follows: gay, bigender/nonbinary, Jew(ish) and sexual assault survivor.

So why, you may ask, am I linking history and identity? Well, if you’ve truly acknowledged history and done the research, then it is apparent that the forces of white supremacy and the various forms of prejudice (including but not limited to racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia) mainly and historically produced and/or upheld by white people are at the root of the struggles marginalized communities face. In fact, these forces are responsible for constructing the identities that non-white, non-cishet people are forced to function and navigate the world within.

I believe it is your responsibility to create a safe environment for those who are unsafe in this world, a world that has prioritized and valued the experiences and feelings of white, cishet men and women over any and all other experiences. For those who fit into this category like yourself2, it is pertinent that you recognize your own privilege when providing much needed mental healthcare to the various and intersecting marginalized communities, who (because of racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) are more likely to be mentally ill. It might seem like an impossible task to undo and undermine the dangerously constricting falsities imposed by those who came before us, but it may just be the most necessary and worthwhile of pursuits.

As a queer, trans person who just so happens to be mentally ill, I believe that you and every other mental healthcare professional ought to correct the wrongs of those before you and make a diligent effort to prioritize the mental health of marginalized communities. Unfortunately, when it comes to some of our interactions and discussions, you have not only perpetuated these wrongs, but have defended and made excuses for your decision to do so.

Therefore, I find it crucial to reinforce the following:

  • People with PTSD shouldn’t be called paranoid.
  • Transgender and nonbinary people should not be questioned or compared to cisgender people.
  • LGBTQAI people should not be stereotyped as being predatorial.

I know nothing of your upbringing or life experiences but I do know this – you have chosen a profession that falls in line with a grand and endless humanistic pursuit.

Never stop reminding yourself of that.

All the best,

Annette Covrigaru

  1. As are all people, of course.
  2. Please do feel free to confront me and correct me on your identities if I’m mistaken, as one regretful mistake I made when discussing the topic of privilege with Scott was assuming he was heterosexual.


Annette Covrigaru is a gay/bigender American-Israeli writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. They were a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices nonfiction fellow and writer-in-residence in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kaaterskill Basin Review, TQ Review, Stitch, Emerge and Cosmonauts Avenue. Annette is currently completing a master’s degree in Holocaust Studies through the University of Haifa. See more on Annette’s website.

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My Mother’s Hands: A Metacarpus Legacy

I hate my mother’s hands.

I hate the way the gnarled veins weave across her tendons. The cold, rough skin stretching over the bones.

In the sun, the scars on her knuckles glint white. Each earned through countless days of digging in the earth, scrubbing floors, filling the unbalanced washing that shook the entire house. Pockmarks earned from tired slips grating vegetables, scraping rice from the bottom of the barrel to create some semblance of dinner for a houseful of hungry kids.

I hate the band that adorns her ring finger. I hate how the tiny diamond glimmers with a veneer of safety and comfort, shining with the ennui of a passionless but stable escape. The hope and promise it brings of a retirement she would never otherwise earn.

I hate how, at her age, her hands are still calloused from toiling through long days of physical labor. The fear that drives her to work, worried that the promise around her finger could still fall through. Like it has too many times before.

I love that her hands never struck us, but hate that they never struck back. Even when his were ruthlessly punitive.

I hate how her hands look increasingly like my grandmother’s (whose hands also never struck back). The veins larger, more purple, more obvious. The skin more cracked and wrinkled. The silent story of a woman who has never known a day of rest.

I hate that my hands look increasingly like hers, the hands she might have had. I hate that my hands lack the scars and callouses, but carry the trepidation. I hate that my hands—like my mother’s, my grandmother’s, my sister’s—never struck back.

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I hate the legacy of your hands. Generations of hands sewn together with timidity and resolve. The quiet strength of hands that never tremble as you endure multitudes, yet never clench into a fist, never rise into the air, never strike through the chaos engulfing you.

I hope your hands are soft and hard. That the skin will never callous, but your fists will be ever ready for a fight that never comes. I hope you love your hands, and that your love is the birthright gifted to you by generations of women with ugly, gnarled, timid fists.


Malo is a queer artist who oscillates between the fear of being discovered and being forgotten.

How to Help Families in Detention (Alt-Title: How to Deal with the Unmitigated Shitstorm at the Border)

Are you feeling angry, lost, frustrated, and/or helpless about the situation at the border? Do you want to support and empower the children who are being unceremoniously locked in cages but feel powerless to do so?

We’re mad as hell. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of suggested actions, (and we’re looking for more, so please drop good ideas in the comments). In the meantime, here are a few ideas about how to help stop this atrocity.

Kindly note: We’ve kept our list on the legal side of the spectrum, but  insurgency is looking increasingly tempting with every passing day.

Report and Share ICE Raids

Find your local hotline for reporting ICE raids. If you are aware of any raids at workplaces, schools, churches, neighborhoods, or on public transit, report it to the hotline immediately.

Sign up for email or text alerts regarding local ICE raids. When you get a notification of a local ICE raid, notify those around you immediately and disseminate the information to your networks.

Know Your Rights (and Help Others Learn Theirs)

If you don’t know immigration rights, learn them. Read this document from Immigrant Defense Project and Center for Constitutional Rights about Defending Against ICE Raids and Community Arrests.

You can also check out these Know Your Rights fliers from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. They also have safety plans in English, Spanish, and Somali.

Network Up

If you haven’t already, expand your social media networks. Follow all of the local organizations that are working to end detention and to advocate for immigrant rights.

To make sure you see posts on Facebook, click the “following” drop down menu and select “See first” so that important alerts are not lost in the algorithms.

 

[Image description: screenshot of Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network Facebook page. There is a button in the lower lefthand corner of the header image that says “Following.” From this button a drop down menu appears. The option “See first” is highlighted.]

 

You may be surprised by the types of organizations that are doing immigration work. Search not only for immigration networks, but also for other types of organizations with a stake in immigrant rights. In our area, these include: legal advocacy organizations, religious (often Muslim or Sikh) organizations, cultural solidarity networks (often Latinx, Somali, and Syrian), prison/detention abolitionist networks, etc.

Volunteer

Consider volunteering for many of the above types of organizations or networks. If you are multilingual or have a legal background, your services will be particularly useful. If you do not have either, you may be useful in organizing protests or direct actions, filing paperwork or transcribing for a legal advocacy org, performing intakes, creating care packages, leafleting, gathering signatures for petitions, holding or organizing a fundraiser, etc. Call or email your local organizations, tell them about your skillset, and ask if they have a volunteer position for you. Be realistic about whether you can accept on ongoing position or can only volunteer for a weekend. (It takes a lot of time and energy for orgs to train you, so don’t take an ongoing position if you can’t meaningfully commit the time.)

Register to Vote, If You’re Able

Are you registered to vote? Find out here. If you are legally able to vote, get registered. Get your documents together so that you can register, and come November vote in all local, state, and federal elections. Already registered? Talk to friends and family to make sure they are registered.

 

Call Your Reps

Call your local representatives. Here’s how to find them.

If your local reps are already supportive of detention abolition, call the DOJ hotline. Feel free to use this script or come up with your own.

[Image description: Screenshot reading Call the DOJ main comment line: 202-353-1555 Here is a sample script to help you make your call: My name is [NAME] and I live in [CITY/STATE]. I am calling to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions that I do not support his decision in the Matter of A-B. With this order, the Trump administration has turned its back on some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I demand the attorney general stop his anti-immigrant agenda. I, and many other citizens, stand against hate and xenophobia — and demand that the Department of Justice do the same. ]

Credit to: Southern Poverty Law Center

Dispel the Myths

Are your friends and families and casual acquaintances and coworkers aware of what is happening? Are they sharing fake news? Do they know how to help? Share this list with them. Share real news with them. Engage in conversations so that you can dispel falsehoods, stay up to date on correct information, learn about local actions, and share tips about how to help.

Follow reliable news sources so that you are up to date on the latest accurate information about immigration detention. And learn how to spot fake news.

[Image description: How to spot fake news. Consider the source: Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and it’s contact info. Read beyond: Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story? Check the author. Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real? Supporting sources. Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story. Check the date. Reposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events. Is it a joke? If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure. Check your biases. Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgment. Ask the experts. Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site. From: International federation of library associations and institutions.]
Attribution: By IFLA (http://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174) [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Donate, If You’re Able

We know that many in our communities are barely scraping by and don’t have extra economic capital to donate. But if you can, please do.

There are so many worthy places to donate.

Sometimes, though, when organizations get an unexpected windfall, they aren’t skilled at managing that great amount of money. (We’re thinking about some of the issues with ALS orgs a few years back.) Feel free to donate to these orgs, but consider donating to local advocacy groups as well, who may not be getting the same windfalls. Consider donating sustainably, and in an ongoing manner, if you are able.

Protest

If you’re near DC, there will be a June 30th protest at Lafeyette Square.

If you are anywhere else, use this map to find a protest near you.

Whatever You Do

Stay ready. Stay hydrated. Stay woke.

Love you, fam.

-Editors


Want to join our volunteer team? Send us an email explaining your qualifications. Resume or writing samples appreciated, but not required. We’re looking for editors, writers who would like to regularly submit, and social media gurus. We do not currently have any paid positions and consist solely of volunteer staffers. In your email, please include creative suggestions on how you’d like to be compensated for your time. ​

 

We’re Back and We’re Trashier Than Ever

Hello, wonderful, trashy, queerling, freak readers! We have missed you ever-so-dearly.

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We won’t make excuses for our hiatus; but instead tell you the honest-to-goddess truth: we’re trash editors. And not just the good gender kind of trash, but the lazy, busy, too-preoccupied-buying-into-capitalism-intead-of-editing-a-non-monetized-blog-in-our-spare-time kind of trash.

So here is our heartfelt apology: we’re sorry. We’re working on it. It may or may not happen again. For now, we have new pieces lined up for you, and we hope you will consider submitting pieces of your own. See our submission guidelines and go ahead and send us your worst. Hope to hear from you soon.

From the bottom of our dumpster to yours,

-Editors

 

Binding

like rosebushes around your ribs,
pressing against your chest like you’re slow dancing.
There is something romantic in this breathlessness,
the slight rasp it evokes; you feel like you could burst.
Your body could become a firework, the kind that makes your ears ring,
and there is something freeing in that destruction.
It is not safe this way, tape clinging to you like it’s afraid you’ll leave,
but the marks it leaves have always been there­ hidden beneath your skin like kids beneath their
blankets on Halloween, imagining what the monsters under the bed look like.
In this moment you alone own your body, allowed to twist
it away from him, but more importantly, towards her.
When it hurts so bad your ribs fold like a dollhouse,
and you’ve stolen too many breaths from the Duane Reade,
You take it off. It feels like…


Cole Neufeld is an emerging writer, and currently studying in New York. They’re a sexual abuse survivor and often explore the after effects of trauma in their work- particularly in interaction with gender. They write poetry and short fiction, all within the lens of functioning outside the binary as a visibly queer individual. They identify as a non-binary lesbian and delve into the intersection and crashing of those two identities.

Gendertrash Update

We’ve been terrible at posting. Horrendous really. On a scale from how frequently an asteroid collides with the earth to create the moon to how often the alt-right (Can we call them Nazis now? Yes? Great.) does something racist as f*ck, we’re posting at about the frequency of a total solar eclipse. We’re sorry about this, but we can’t make any promises that we’re going to get better. That said, dear reader, we owe you an explanation.

Self-Care, Y’all

We’re here for the resistance. And as seasoned activists, we know that this is a marathon, not a sprint. As gendertrash, we’ve always been in it for the long haul. We watched middle-class lesbians and gays do their sprint for marriage equality, we remembered them saying they’d work for trans rights after they won marriage, and we’ve listened to the crickets as trans rights have been repealed over and over and over. To be honest, we’re not the least bit surprised. Don’t get us wrong: we think marriage equality activists meant it when they said they’d come back to help. We just think that they burned out from the intensive physical and psychological decathlon that is activism.

Particularly when that activism centers around your own identity.

Particularly when the conversation of the oppositions centers around your right to basic human dignity, or even your right to live.

Particularly when you don’t have any choice in whether or not you become an activist because your very existence is politicized as an act of resistance.

We think marriage equality activists sincerely planned on coming back to help; we also think the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Our Own Merry Road to Hell

That brings us back to Gendertrash Café, dear reader. Here at the Café, we’re currently traipsing down the yellow brick road to hell, ‘cause we had the very best intentions when we started this blog. Luckily, it’s a pretty road and we’re all friends of Dorothy here.

Our editors have been engaging in very interpersonal and sometimes micro-level activism and self-care. Housing insecurity, job changes, and chronic illness to name a few circumstances of many have caused us to shift foci and priorities to personal safety and localized activism. We know you know these struggles, friends, so we ask for your love and support as we continue to engage and post at a slower rate than originally intended.

We would also be remiss if we didn’t point out that the current political climate is less than reinvigorating. There. Are. So. Many. F*cked. Up. Things. Happening. Every. Damn. Day. that it’s difficult to keep track of everything, let alone respond to all of it.

But that’s the design, ladies & gents & non-binary sibs. They want us to get distracted by the chaos. The tactic of the oppressor is to keep us in a constant state of confusion, anger, fear, and hopelessness. If we’re being hit from so many angles, and if the barrage is constant, we don’t know where and how to focus our energies. We start feeling as though we are powerless to incite change. Eventually, we give up. The chaos becomes normalized, the messages become internalized, and one day you wake up to find that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

“The tactic of the oppressor is to keep us in a constant state of confusion, anger, fear, and hopelessness. If we’re being hit from so many angles, and if the barrage is constant, we don’t know where and how to focus our energies. We start feeling as though we are powerless to incite change. Eventually, we give up. The chaos becomes normalized, the messages become internalized, and one day you wake up to find that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

We must not let that happen. We must take care of ourselves so that we can continue to resist. This is an ultramarathon, so we cannot treat it like a 100 meter. Not a fan of sports analogies? The next few years will be the gastronomical equivalent of eating a 26-lbs turkey by yourself in one sitting. We suggest stretch pants.

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What we really want to say is this: take care of yourselves, hold space for others around you to commit to self-care, and take care of each other. We’re still planning to be here in 2021, albeit with new battle scars. But the only way any of us will make it to that point is to stay focused; to channel our anger into productive activism as much as it is healthy and possible; and to commit to the long, hard road ahead.

With love and solidarity,
-Gendertrash Café Editors

Want to join our volunteer team? Send us an email explaining your qualifications. Resume or writing samples appreciated, but not required. We’re looking for editors, writers who would like to regularly submit, and social media gurus. We do not currently have any paid positions and consist solely of volunteer staffers. In your email, please include creative suggestions on how you’d like to be compensated for your time. ​

On Loss – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

I Refuse to Lose You
I follow you to the street
where best regards
forms a corner wall
with the breeze.

Where my body fights
to enter the overflow of mist
in your cloisters.

Where clouds move inside a space
beyond grief or understanding,
and memory, my scandalous mirror,
always tells a lie.

Filled with longing
I came to you prepared for ghosts
and found whispers.

 

The Pianist
We buried him yesterday.
Night finds little if any consolation
in embellished stars,
and although I have stopped crying,
I still sigh.

I listen to music
when there is nothing
but the luscious scent
of emptiness.

You were my fallen flower,
my one thousand gifts
of heavenly abundance,
my banquet of endings.


Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.