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.

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. ​

I Paint You in Bubbles

Together in the bath, I paint you in bubbles. I craft bubble biceps, bubble forearms, bubble shoulders. I build bubble pecs, careful of not to touch your breasts. I ruffle on a soapy beard, but you look like Santa, it’s too full, too fake. With a capped razor, I shave your baby cheeks, scrape and shape a face I think is manly. You smile and your mustache smudges.

When I reach for the cloud between your legs, you flinch, but you don’t stop me. We work together to shape genitals. You cup together balls of suds while I stroke a bubble patch into a shaft, round it, add girth. I trim the length and you add on a bit extra. I circumcise you.

Complete, you shimmer, like an illusion of handsomeness. We sit silent, the steady fizz of evaporating bubbles between us. I look away and pick at the ingrown hairs on my legs until the water turns cold.

When I turn back it’s your familiar body again, shiny smears like scars where the bubbles had been. I meet your eyes and I see him, determined, torn.

A final island of bubbles, the deflated remains of your penis, floats between us. I take a part of it and craft a plaster over the tiny puncture mark on your thigh, the first wound. I swear I can feel the throb of testosterone beneath my fingers. You take the last of the bubbles and, in gentle strokes, place a plaster over my racing heart.


Megan Crosbie is a queer writer and occasional performer from Edinburgh, who often writes in the boundary between flash-fiction and poetry. Her writing has been published in journals such as Firewords Quarterly, Northwords Now and Litro. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, drag shows, and too many vegan donuts. You can support Megan’s work here: https://www.mcrosbie.com/

Out of Water

I am a clownfish. I told Aggie this when we met and again after our mothers set us up and she tried to put me in a hot air balloon on an otherwise bland double date.

She didn’t do her research.

“Those them cute ones in the tank at the Chinese restaurant?” she’d said, mimicking some southern belle and winking.

Today, August 21, 1963, she thinks she’s done better with a canoe trip and picnic along Lake Huron. Only we’re in Ontario and she’s packed “fresh” lobster. I wonder how long she’s had it in the basket.

I wish I could have breasts like hers, I think, standing on the beach with my hands shoved deep in my corduroys while she putters around in a yellow bikini and whisks out a table cloth. We need the music from Bewitched. I’d like to try twirling a parasol right now, anything but those fishing poles and the heavy paddles. Man, I’d do anything to get my hands on a perky cross-your-heart bra. For myself.

She lays the pieces of coral crustacean out like surgical tools. I play with a tail and she’s already licking her fingers, gabbing about her friends’ engagements and her progress with tennis and angel food cakes. The sand and everything is too white.

“The girls, you know, they all think you’re a little on the feminine side, can you believe it? But me, I just say, well ladies I like a clean and tidy man. I mean I’m clean and tidy. You must like that about me.”

Under her Rita Hayworth coiffed bangs, she stares over at me before tossing her head to the side, laughing. I feel sick, catching a faint whiff of ammonia from the lobster mixed with the wet algae smell.

The sun is blistering my shoulders and there’s sand in between my molars but I can’t go anywhere because my mother’s already asking too many questions and looking too worried when she catches me with her Chatelaine. It’s just her and I, now that Dad hightailed it to Florida for another woman—the fishing capital of the world, don’t you know it—and she said she wants a new, normal life carved out of the ripples he left. I don’t know how normal can manifest in something like moving water.

Aggie doesn’t seem to mind my inaction when it comes romance. Or conversation. And I know I’m going to have to keep it up and marry this girl who fed lobster to a clownfish and thinks something like blue and pink come from separate oceans.

Maybe one day I can explain about the clownfish.


Renée Francoeur is a 28 year-old Canadian journalist. By day she writes for contractors and by night she blogs, paints nudes and writes poetry.

She won third prize for the 2016 Women Inspirational Poetry Contest. She’s also written for Standard Criteria and Squawk Back and been published in Three Line Poetry and Poetry Quarterly. She is currently working on a chapbook about the intersection of broken heartedness, rebirth and geography.

She loves coconut coffee porter, wild buffalo, striving to bring gender and minority issues to the forefront, old tombstones, baking strange recipes (kale cake anyone?) and sustainable, GMO-free agricultural endeavours.

The Strange Comfort

I can’t stop gaping at my sent messages. The number seems to rise without a reply every day these days. I look back at some of the older messages wondering when I made that first introduction. I spot some messages dating back a few weeks ago and even more still a few months ago. I look at my dating inbox to see if I missed any replies. I never have. I don’t think that I will, either.

I go hunting for new dates anyway because I hope that I will spot someone who I have not assaulted with my genuine nature. The browse page fills up with so many familiar profiles; I feel like an expert on every one of them. I know that Tommy corrected a spelling mistake on his page a few days ago. One that he had up there for years. I know that George updated his favorite books after I suggested a few to him because one of my suggestions appears there. Still, I hunt for someone new.

Maybe it’s because I am desperately hunting that I don’t hear the beep. It’s an earcon that tells people that they have a new message. When I look at my inbox, though, again…there’s an unread message. It’s from a guy I messaged months ago.

“Hi!” it reads, perhaps with a sigh, perhaps not. “I’m Jamie. I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you, but I was debating if we were going to be a good fit, even.”

I value his honesty more than anything, and I begin to compose a novel about how I don’t know what I am even looking for anymore because people are afraid of genuine behavior. So, if he didn’t want to date me, go out with me, or even talk to me, that I’d appreciated it if he just blocked me and moved on because all I want at this very moment is a hug and for someone to tell me I am special, even if it’s not true.

His reply comes back quick as a flash. He says he values my honesty. He says he doesn’t get a lot of replies because of his height; he is six foot six and his skin. Apparently, he’s black. I guess I will just have to take him at face value.

We continue to send novels to each other. I tell him about the dance party I attended where I swung my hips with such vigor that a hurricane manifested in downtown Chicago. He explains he missed the disaster because Netflix kept his attention that night. He was watching House of Cards. We reveal how lonely we are and how we have nothing in common with one another. He hates intellectual conversation and loves small talk, and I don’t understand his love of bugs and ants. He doesn’t like my voice, and I don’t like his. Still, we pour our hearts out to each other on the phone and through email.

Neither of us knows why.

Soon after a heated exchange over the phone, one afternoon, I ask him if he can come over and we could argue in person about something. To some people, this seems wildly bizarre, but I have always been a blue traffic light in a world of green and red traffic lights. Nothing is normal to me anymore. When he says that he will visit me in my apartment, I am elated, not terrified that a man who towers over me is going to be in my apartment all alone. My blue traffic signal can’t stop pulsating with anticipation.

He arrives at nine that night and bends over to hug me. Even though I can’t see him or what he looks like online, I picture him as a Denzel Washington clone. His height doesn’t quite fit my mental image, but I figure adding a pink traffic signal to my arsenal won’t hurt the economy any more than normal people will.

When he sits on my bed, the mattress sinks a little. Even when I sit on his lap, I still must look up at his voice to face him.

We start off by talking about our dating accounts. As we talk, we realize that we may not like each other in the slightest, but we are both in the same boat. We are lonely outcasts in our own gaggle of brothers who want a lot of things like; for example, love, marriage rights, and someone who’s true to who they are. I wish  they knew how to say all they want is someone who you can have sex with and never look back. As we talk, we become even more heartbroken and emotional and worried.

His arms shake as his voice trembles with the desperate cry for answers that I am sure we all asked ourselves at some point, “Is there someone out there for me?”

“I have no freaking idea,” I say and hug him back. We hold each other, and we wish the world was better about being honest. We argue about what honesty is. We argue about other gay men. Even though we are not getting along, we need each other, just for tonight. I take his face in my hands and gaze up at his heavy breathing. We continue to hold each other until, finally, his annoying voice and loving embrace steps towards my apartment door. Before he leaves, though, I grab his arm to say a final goodbye. Something weird blurts out of my mouth instead.

“We just can’t give up,” I say. I tell him that there’s someone out there for everybody, even weirdoes like us.

“I hope you’re right.” He says.

“I hope so too,” I answer. I don’t know how loudly our weirdly colored hearts are beating at this moment, but I’d like to hope that someone, somewhere, notices they exist.


Robert Kingett is a bestselling author and award winning journalist who just can’t stop pouring his personal life onto a screen. While most admired for his personal essays, human stories, boldly told, and short memoirs, he also covers various beats, such as satire, politics, crime, travel, food and drink, and entertainment. He is a dating advice columnist and actively campaigns to make the world a better place for disabled people as well as other minority voices. His website is www.blindjournalist.wordpress.com