On being ambitious

Ya’ll I was brought to tears this morning from the unlikeliest of places. Let me start with, I love the Bachelor/Bachelorette (and all spin-offs). While Kaitlyn was not my favorite bachelorette (her final pick in Shawn Booth was a horrible choice since he is the embodiment of toxic masculinity), she has since ended up with Jason Tartick of Becca’s season (a better season but her final choice in Garrett was also problematic (he was caught liking insta posts mocking Parkland survivors and Trans* folks)). Ugh, just typing these things out is making me question my viewing choices.

Anyway, Nick Viall has got to be one of my favorite Bachelors (and he’s notoriously single if anyone wants to slip him my number back home in LA). So, obviously I have listened to every single one of his podcast episodes of the Viall Files (hours of my life I can’t get back). But in my defense, he gives excellent advice, OKAY?

Viall Files

Well, this week Nick released an episode with Jason and it needs to be put in conversation with a book I just read, How to Date Men When You Hate Men. In it, author (and comedian) Blyth Roberson talks (and jokes) about the difficulty of dating as a heterosexual woman in a patriarchal society. In a section titled, “Professionally Insecure Woke Boys” (love the microaggressive use of the word “boy”), Blyth acknowledges that “there are certain types of men who you expect to oppress you” and then there are those you don’t expect it from but who do it anyway. Specifically narrowing in on successful women (and women with goals/ambitions), many men state they can’t be with women who are more successful than they are (hello, sexism). Love is literally withheld from ambitious women. It is a tool used to keep women in their place amidst a world that has told women that love is something we should be looking for (and it’s true that not all women are – more power to ya!).

How to date men
It really hit home for me in this paragraph:
When it’s just your coworker Floyd telling you he can’t be with a more professionally successful woman, it’s easy to be like “LOL, okay, Floyd, I think I can survive without access to your D and your hoverboard and your opinions about grammar.” But when all of society – INCLUDING – the Democrats/socialists/anarchists who you hoped were basically on the side of women – just “feel” that they don’t want to be romantically attached to women who are setting short- and long-term goals and achieving those goals, then successful women are losing out on a socially significant amount of D!

First of all, I think you know what is meant by “D.” Don’t make me say it.

So, back to Jason. Nick asked him about his role in supporting Kaitlyn (who Jason acknowledges has more fame and power, a higher profile, and makes more money) as a leading lady. Jason talked about wanting a partner who wakes up with a purpose every day and goes out and gets after it regardless of what it is. He has his own things going on and stays in his lane. He called her “wildly impressive” (cue my tears). While her podcast and wine/scrunchie businesses are not his thing, he gets to be 100 percent all in on supporting her. As someone with a finance background, he even goes through all of her business financials to make sure he negotiates in her best interests. He talks about his own security. It is not a competition. And he knows she supports him in the ways he needs it as well. A true partnership goes both ways. THIS IS WHERE I BLUBBER.

kaitly jason

I hate to keep the Bachelorette references going but I am now thinking about Hannah Brown, who also made a shitty last choice. Jed (A TRASH HUMAN) went on the show with a girlfriend and then got engaged to Hannah. However, she was MY FAVORITE bachelorette EVER because of her sexpositivity (girl, get it) and the way she shut down the seriously problematic Luke Parker (who should die in a fire find a therapist). Anyway, after a fantasy date with Tyler Cameron, Hannah started crying because of how respectful Tyler had been the night before (i.e. not pushing her to do anything she was uncomfortable with). In case you are unfamiliar, fantasy suites are off camera and sex is often insinuated (Hannah even admitted to having sex with Peter four times on his fantasy date in a windmill. GET IT, GIRL). How is it that we live in a world where sincere, authentic, good, respectful men are so far and few between that when women who date men encounter them, we are brought to tears?

windmill

I would consider myself an ambitious person. I’m not great with being complacent professionally. Before the last couple of years, I also never prioritized dating and finding a partner because I was blindly chasing degrees and professional success and cultivating some strong friendships. Thinking about the conversation above, I do wonder what would have happened if I had taken dating more seriously earlier. Would I have recognized that men don’t like successful women and pushed through or made myself smaller to find a partner – to settle for someone who would not support my big dreams? Today, I know who I am and would not make myself smaller for someone else. I also know that should I never find someone willing to support those big dreams, I’ll be just fine on my own. It is not worth letting go of who I am to find someone. NOT SORRY.

This has been coming up for me a lot this academic year because I started my PhD last July. I still question that decision every day and I am not sure I’ll finish it but the fact is, I am in it right now. I can give ya one guess as to how men feel about a woman pursuing a doctorate degree. I am sometimes hesitant to share that information even though my number one deal breaker is someone who is not okay with an ambitious partner. One of my dating profiles explicitly says “PhD student in my free time.” Might as well just put it out there. I do get more interest on the apps that do not say that. Insert thinking emoji. I do generally share it on a first date because there is no use in wasting time/money on a second if they have a problem with it.

I recently waited until a second (virtual) date to share this bit of information and only when I was asked point blank after I mentioned homework. The man called me out and asked me why I was being so “cagey” about the topic. He was not wrong. I mentioned not being sure about the degree or if I would finish (only half of the truth). I didn’t say because men usually don’t like it and I actually think I like you so, please don’t be one of those boys. Let me tell ya, if it was possible to fall in love with someone based on what books are on their bookshelf, this would be the one. But let’s be honest, we’re in quarantine and he’s just bored and probably talking to a dozen other women. (This is absolutely what Nick would say if I called his podcast for advice). So, while it’s nice to have someone I am sharing virtual time with who isn’t completely turned off by this degree I’m seeking, that does not appear to be the norm for me or other successful and ambitious women in my life.

I usually have some conclusion I’ve come to but I don’t have any at this point. We can’t change society overnight to make people (men) confident enough to stand by strong women. Living in this world, where I am being punished by the patriarchy for choosing to support myself through my ambitions, is not easy. I guess I’ll say this – Do. You. Don’t let go of your dreams because someone else is uncomfortable with them. And if I die unpartnered, let’s be friends forever and support each other and cheer each other on at every accomplishment.

30

30
I’m having so many feelings about turning 30. For the most part, I am so stoked about all the life that is coming at me in the next decade. I feel like my 20s went by in the blink of an eye. I was so entrenched in finding myself and figuring out who I am as a person and I am so grateful for that time. But it was also filled with so much uncertainty, anxiety, borderline agoraphobia, financial and job insecurity. Twenty-nine was the year that settled most of those concerns – a job and life I love, a Roth IRA that is maxed out, a condo I’m turning into a home, relatively-stable mental health, and a reaffirmation of how great the people are I’ve chosen and have chosen me in return. It is with all that positivity I am looking forward to more stability in the coming years. So, on the last day of my 20s, I thought I’d reflect on 29 lessons learned so far and advice I wished I’d taken sooner in this nutty thing called life.

1. Don’t let your internal critic keep you from living your life.
2. You are allowed to change your mind. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
3. Don’t be afraid of stillness or silence. And get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s when you learn the most.
4. Learning to cook for one is hard – try large batches and then freeze everything.
5. Trust your intuition, especially about life decisions and people. Never feel remorse for cutting people out of your life when you need to.
6. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be social. It also doesn’t make you worth less than those who are louder.
7. Dating, while fun, is rough and exhausting. Wish I could tell you it was worth it but that confirmation hasn’t come yet.
8. No matter how busy you are, make time for people who fill your bucket (e.g. go out when you’d rather watch tv, put off the shower for an extra hour to play kickball)
9. Doing nothing is great. Doing nothing while your best friend sits next to you, also doing nothing, is better.
10. Know your triggers and avoid them – prioritize all forms of health.
11. Be authentic always – life is better when you stop lying to yourself and the world.
12. Make peace with your body. Once you do, you’ll automatically treat it better.
13. Prioritize yourself and your happiness. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – to go after it when you finally figure it out.
14. Sweet potatoes and avocado toast are delicious – stop avoiding them.
15. Try one more time.
16. You’ll never regret saving more money – future Ashleigh will thank you.
17. Don’t follow people on social media that make you feel like crap.
18. Don’t cross oceans for people who won’t hop puddles for you.
19. Book the flight – take a Xanax if you need to actually get on the plane. It’l be worth it.
20. Stay forever reading – keep a book in every purse, on every desk
21. The expensive vibrator is 200% worth it. Buy it.
22. Always make time for FaceTime – it shortens the distance between you and your favorite people.
23. Identity matters. It is present everywhere. Pay attention and interject as needed. Use your privilege.
24. Always get dessert if there’s room and don’t feel guilty about it – and always hunt down the best cupcake/ice cream in every city you visit
25. Go to the gym and keep goal setting (and don’t be afraid to squat 100lbs)
26. Apply for the job you don’t feel qualified for.
27. Learn to keep a plant alive (even if it’s just a succulent).
28. Let go of the Catholic guilt – its unproductive and a hindrance.
29. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It is really something to know my worth, my value, and what I bring to the table. And I can only imagine what that might do for me in the next ten years. Here’s hoping for so much goodness!

A Valentine for my Lady Friends

 

I somehow found myself with nothing to do from 5-7pm tonight, which is never a good thing – idle hands and whatnot. I should be staining the new mantle I built for my fireplace (because I have become a DIY bad-ass obviously) but instead, I’m sitting here thinking how weird life is when living alone. The last time I lived alone, I was in a residence hall, and when your best friends live next door, I don’t think that counts. Anyway, here I am, feeling slightly alone as I wait for my virtual book club to start.
 
Tolu thought it was a good idea to delve into this whole “deserving love” concept I voiced in my last blog. I’m still not sure how to unpack what that means for me but I thought this might be a good place to start.
 
Most days, I fill my time with a ton of activities (e.g. Bachelor watches, concerts, Orangtheory classes) and friend adventures, or yes, dates even. But in the quiet times, when I get a chance to breathe, I worry about who will find my body if I die tonight. I’m not lying. I have actually had this conversation with my sister and some friends. My sister knows who has a key to my place in the event that she doesn’t hear from me. This is the single life on the cusp of 30.
 
I know Valentines tends to exacerbate the issue for some but for me, February 14th has always been my favorite day of the year. I still remember my second grade teacher, Mrs. Bridges, asking us to vote for our favorite holiday and my weirdo 7 year-old self asking why Valentine’s Day wasn’t an option.
 
My college friends absolutely loathed this about me. We were all (for the most part) single on this day every year.  Nonetheless, I would bake pink and red funfetti cupcakes and deliver them to their dorm rooms and then insist they come to my place to watch a RomCom. Little has changed. So, perhaps I’ll get to the loneliness piece in the next blog, but today, I am going to focus on some major appreciation for the women in my life. Because telling them how much I love them (on Feb 14 and every day) is a MUCH better use of my energy than focusing on what I think is missing from my life.
 
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In my last post, I referred to All the Single Ladies and I think it is going to come up quite a bit because it is a phenomenal book in terms of making me feel like I’m not alone in the world. It put words to so much of what I have been feeling in the past few years. One of the chapters that really hit home for me was titled Dangerous as Lucifer Matches: The Friendships of Women.
 
Ms. Traister discusses the true soulmates women find in each other. Sometimes, we plan to raise children near each other (for help if we plan on going it alone). We take care of each other when we’re sick. And yet, society tells us we can’t treat our friends as we do the traditional definition of who is deemed a “soulmate.” If your partner gets a job offer across the country, as a couple, you make a decision regarding the move. If your best friend moves, you don’t do the same. And I have found, the heartbreak from a lady-friend’s move to be one of the most painful experiences. Citizenship in two different countries keeps me from one of the best people I know. When she left our apartment, I literally could not handle coming home without her there. I got in my car and drove cross country solo because the hole in my heart was too much to handle alone. When another friend had to leave LA because her partner needed to leave the county, I wished desperately that I could go with her. I settled for figuring out when to FaceTime amidst a 19 hour time difference. I followed another from LA to DC when my teaching schedule allowed me to vacation.
 
As I have gotten older, more confident in who I am as a person, I have also cultivated relationships with some major bad-ass women in the world. They inspire me every day to chase my dreams, to cry when I need to, to say yes, to take care of myself. I credit these women with getting me to this point in my life. They continue to be there for me when I’m stumbling through life and am a damn hot mess (almost every day I walk the earth) and are there for me to cheer me on through life’s greatest triumphs.
 

 
I am so in awe of them as people and I am so grateful I get to cheer them on in their adventures and dreams – both small (e.g. wanting to do nothing, changing eating habits) and big (e.g. changing jobs, having babies).

I don’t know at what point we stop comparing ourselves to others – maybe some folks never do. For some, perhaps it comes with age. For me, I think it came from a lot of self-reflection and self-acceptance. In any values sort, self-actualization is going to be my top value. And when I am happy with who I am and living congruently with my values, I am so much more able to support others around me – to be in a position to lift them up. In doing so, I have been able to attract and maintain relationships with women I do not feel deserving enough to know. And without comparison, I get to value the inherent goodness and amazing-ness that is their beings.

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I do, however, feel I have taken for granted these women. They are so much a part of my life that I forget how different, and worse off, my life would be without them. I FaceTime my sister more days than I don’t and coordinate monthly Skype sessions across more timezones than I’ve ever lived in. I have a friend, who despite being a mom of two, continues to answer my calls and feeds me when I’m in town. A few who will drive me the 60 miles to DIA on a moment’s notice. Two in Colorado who are always up for a weekend hike. A friend that lives less than a mile away is my literal support system and never says no to ice cream or Costco. I am lucky a few are also on campus for when I need a closed-door cry session (I am the definition of a hot mess, I am not lying). A handful who know my love of city life and will jump in the car when I need a Denver fix on any day of the week. Others who will cram into an Air bnb for conferences and weddings. Many who will jump at the chance to travel as I try to quench my wanderlust. A ton who collect the details of dates so, in the event I don’t come home, they know who to track down. And of course, they listen as I recount the details of what seems like a never-ending string of first dates. And one who will take a break from her PhD studies to read over my writing.

Sometimes being single gets lonely and I am guilty of feeling those things – coming home to an empty house on a Friday and just wanting someone who has somehow decided they are stuck with me to debrief or sit and say nothing while watching tv or making dinner. It gets hard. There are some weekends, when I don’t actually have human contact with others from the moment I leave work on Friday to when I arrive back on Monday – not meaningful contact anyway. And that gets hard but I also know, in those moments, there is someone who will pick up the phone when I call.

And even if I do find someone to make dinner with on Friday, I would never trade the women in my life who I do those things with now, for the world. In some ways, they know me and my soul in ways that a partner never could. They are my soulmates. I thank my lucky stars every day, I get to call them mine. I don’t know what I did to deserve the love of these ladies, but I am so happy to have them.

I want kids. I want to be a mom.

I want kids. I want to be a mom.

Saying those words out loud seems to be a task and a half for me.

In 2017, I finished the book, The Defining Decade by Dr. Meg Joy, which broke down many of the life decisions the collective we have been postponing and the consequences of doing so.

defining decade

Perhaps the biggest to hit home for me was that biology was not waiting for me to make the decision. I can vividly remember wanting as many children as I could financially afford (win the lotto and have a dozen!). But in my early twenties, I shifted to being very against having kids and then indifferent. There was still so much to do with my life and growing up with young parents I thought it was now or never and it was certainly not now (well, then). At some point, I realized there were options so I just didn’t think about it and didn’t lean either way.

But then I read this book and realized my ovaries were not keeping those eggs for me. I was losing approximately a dozen a year and those that I was holding onto were deteriorating with each passing year. The scare tactics were a bit extreme but they caused me to think and panic.

ovaries

Did I want kids? Being a feminist has had a great impact on my internal voice and for that, I am grateful – especially grateful that these are my decisions to make. However, in light of this particular piece of myself, I never wanted to be seen as simply being a mom (not that there is anything wrong with that). I just also wanted to be known for my career, for an adventurous spirit that allowed me to travel frequently, and for a nomadic existence that has meant I have moved every few years since I turned 18. I didn’t want to be put into a box.

I’ve always known I wanted love and partnership (at times, I have been unsure if this included the institution of marriage). But I always put my career and education above finding those things. And the question of children felt like something I needed to figure out first. I hate the notion that a woman “just hasn’t met the right person” to make her want kids. For me, it is a deeply personal decision and I needed to know my answer before pursuing anything because I didn’t want someone to change my answer or me in the process.

I suppose I should mention that the panic subsided because after careful reflection, I decided I wanted children but that biology had nothing to do with anything. If it didn’t happen for me, adoption was an option. I went so far as to decide that being a mom was so important for me that I would do it alone. I have major doubts as to if I’ll ever find a partner and I don’t subscribe to the idea that if you want it, you deserve it (what does it mean to deserve love?!).

So, I trained to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in Los Angeles County to advocate for foster care kids in the courts. It would serve as my first exposure to the system to see if I could handle the backgrounds of the children that I might possibly foster or adopt one day. I applied to a PhD program because I knew that I needed to up my earning potential and be qualified for the jobs that I wanted down the line that would do that. Being a single parent would require me starting to take steps now to prepare.

Things in LA were getting expensive and a job offer in Colorado came and I knew it would provide a better launching pad for continuing the steps to get where I needed. Despite all of this, the only people who I have shared this with are those that know me intimately well (family, best friends, a couple of mentors who wrote letters of recommendation).

Feeling more stable in my new home, I even started taking dating more seriously, which is still weird and so far, unsuccessful (met someone who didn’t know Donald Glover and Childish Gambino were the same person. Thank you, next.)

DG CG

I found myself enjoying a date recently when we walked past some kiddos and he asked me if I wanted kids.

surprised

Dead stop. I hadn’t been asked that point blank ever – likely because I haven’t dated much at least not to the point where these questions were being asked. I generally pride myself on always being authentic in who I am regardless of audience and yet, I found myself lying. I said something about not being sure. I remember very little after that because the lie was eating at me. (Unfortunately, I never got the chance to revisit the conversation.)

I was in therapy less than two weeks later. The decision to have kids was such a personal one that I hadn’t chosen to share with the world and my feminism was ingrained in such a way that made motherhood feel less than – and yet I know so many women that have children and work (or don’t) and I think what they do is amazing (working on unlearning these assumptions every day). But my singular (and solo) existence for the last decade is so much a part of me that admitting I want something different was just too difficult for me.

And it just pisses me off because if a man admits that he wants kids (even in today’s more progressive era), no one assumes that he is going to give up his career to do so (and they shouldn’t – I just wish the same could be said when a woman shares the same thing). I want kids. I just want to say this without people assuming I’m going to be giving up major components of who I am to do so.

And I hated that when I didn’t think I wanted children, it was met with disapproval. People who said I would change my mind. While I did (but mostly I just found the time to actually think about what I wanted – no external voices), I absolutely loathe the insinuation that a woman is not complete unless she is a mother.

More so, I did not want to conform to society’s expectations of me and while it feels like I have, I am keenly aware of the reasons I want children and societal pressures have nothing to do with my decision.

Finally, at my age I didn’t want to tell people and have them assume that I was on the fast track – desperate to find someone just to start popping out babies. Because, false.

Biggest moral of the story – go to therapy. This round for me has been about being present and uncovering all of this so that the next time someone asks the question, I am more honest in my response. And also admitting to myself what a deal breaker it is if someone doesn’t want kids.

As I wrap up All the Single Ladies: The Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister, I am very aware that there are droves of women who are postponing marriage and having children – that the former actually means we are entering more stable, equitable relationships with others who won’t ask us to relinquish our independence because of either.  While a lot is still unknown, I do know I’ll be a mom because I want kids. The biggest question seems to be, will I be doing it alone? And in the event that I am, preparations are already underway.

all the single ladies

*highly recommend All the Single Ladies for all (also a great intersectional lens)

 

 

 

For the Love of Football & Body Sovereignty

Very rarely do I find myself watching football anywhere besides in the warmth of my living room. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. I am a silent sports watcher. Occasionally I will scream or anxiously pace around the living room but otherwise, no talking or noises allowed.
  2. What is better than staying in sweat pants all day while cheering on your team?!
  3. I have no friends to go with. Really. I have no friends in LA.
  4. Bar-goers

I often forget about point number 4, sometimes wishing I had folks to go to an official game watch with (my university has official watches at 4 bars within driving distance of my house).

But last Monday night, I decided to go to an Alabama bar to watch the College Football Championship. While I secretly cheered for UGA, because you have to cheer for the school that beat yours in the regular season, it was an amazing experience to be in that environment as Bama won a championship but I digress.

bamauga

Soon after arriving, I remembered why this was not my scene.

After watching Monica Rivera’s Ted talk on Body Sovereignty about two years ago, I have been very aware of when others grant themselves access to my body without my consent and try to be equally aware of when I do the same to others (i.e. by not doing so or apologizing when I slip up).

As she mentions, men often allow themselves access to feminine-identified bodies more often than we realize when not paying attention.

Given that I do pay attention, I was increasingly uncomfortable at the game watch. On the one hand, I recognize that when people are packed into spaces like sardines, there are bound to be folks bumping into each other. Absolutely.

But women more often used their voices (interesting concept) to ask to pass by, only resorting to touch when they weren’t heard and usually with a quick tap.

Men on the other hand, automatically felt inclined to place their hand on my waist, the small of my back, or even to rub their entire body against mine.

And when a large man-person (probably a foot taller than me), put both hands on my shoulders from behind and pulled me in for a hug, did I elbow him in the stomach – YOU BET I DID! He was absolutely shocked. Claiming he was only trying to apologize for bumping into me a few times.

reileys

The scene of the shittiness

But let’s be clear here: bumping in = hazard of my environment. Pulling me in = taking something that is not yours.

And yet, I found myself apologizing for the elbow. Was it reflex, yes. Was it warranted, I think so. But in the moment, my need for literal physical safety meant I faked the demurest apology I could.

 I would never dream of granting myself that kind of access, let alone to a complete stranger.

My body is not an invitation. You are not allowed to touch me without permission. It’s time to start teaching men and boys these lessons so they don’t grow up to be elbowed in a bar for not respecting common rules of decency.

Lessons learned from that man who was on the Breakfast Club

Note: Before you read this post, I highly encourage you to read the responses from a few wonderful Black trans women. Their words are amazing, and their narratives are important.

Janet Mock’s piece in Allure: Dear Men of “The Breakfast Club”: Trans Women Aren’t a Prop, Ploy, or Sexual Predators 

L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith’s piece in For Harriet: Black Men, Don’t Make Trans Women Pay for Your Fragile Masculinity


The time has come to stop treating Black trans women like punchlines. Nope, actually, it’s been done time. 13 Black trans women (15 trans women of color) have been murdered since Jan 1, 2017. This shouldn’t be happening, it shouldn’t have happened.

Unfortunately, these hate crimes do not happen out of thin air, and many folks do their best to contribute to an extremely violent and transphobic society.

On Friday, the Breakfast Club hosted an interview with Lil Dvual, a comedian who I had no idea he existed until last night. Honestly, the devil is at work this year even more than usual lately is typically one to “speak his mind.” During the show, one of the ways he spoke his mind was by declaring if “one did that to me” (i.e. if a trans woman had sex with him/dated him) and “didn’t tell me”* (i.e. decided for their safety that they did not want to come out) he’d “probably going to want to kill them” (adding to the 15 trans women–all trans women of color, mind you– that have been murdered this year). And then said “put that book down” when looking at Janet Mock’s** newest book, and proceeded to misgender Janet.

If you care to listen to that part of the interview, it can’t be found here. Cw for some transphobic behavior.

Also: he refuses to be apologetic over his statements, if his twitter is any indication.

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Lil, how the actual fuck dare you. How dare you say that trans woman deserve to die, when there have been so many trans women of color murdered for just living their truth, when trans women of color are, as writer Mey Rude says, “exist[ing] at one of the most dangerous intersections in America,” when trans women are HUMAN and aren’t jokes for your little routines. To misgender a trans woman multiple times on purpose on a popular radio show is violent and bad enough. To say that you want to kill a trans women is honestly the worst. And implying that trans women are dangerous tricksters who try to deceive poor cis men into sleeping with them, while ignoring the fact this very idea, along with toxic masculinity, is what’s murdering trans women? Oh my God, you trash-ass human. Grow up.

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I would also like to point out that Lil was not the only person in the room. The hosts of the Breakfast Club (Charlamagne tha god, Angela Yee, and DJ Envy) were present, and did little to stop. It’s interesting to note that the men in the room egged Lil on. Angela defended Janet Mock’s beauty***, although she was laughing as well and tried to change the subject early on.

It’s easy to point fingers at Lil’s ignorant ass and Charlamagne and Co.s willful ignorance (so, so easy). And it’s also a good reminder to constantly check ourselves and make sure we’re not bystanders toward fucked up attitudes. Because if we:

  • laugh or ignore our friends’ transphobic jokes
  • create spaces for women of color and exclude trans women/ allow space for trans women but not their lived experiences.
  • forget to listen to trans women of color and cite, respect, and pay them for their work
  • only hype up trans women who look like our idea of “feminine” (i.e. cis-passing)
  • say things like “he doesn’t have to accept them, he just shouldn’t threaten them,” implying that we shouldn’t “accept” trans woman because something is wrong with them.
  • don’t challenge the transphobic comments we hear about Black trans women, or any trans woman
  • [this is not an exclusive list, I’m sure we could come up with at least 20 other points]

We’re complicit in transphobia. Myself definitely included.

I’m not trying to imply all cis folks are on the same level of Lil. And this list is not to excuse his actions or get his fool-ass off the hook. However, it’s to serve as a reminder that we benefit from cis privilege, and we need to step up and do better. We need to check people like Lil, and make sure we hold actions that stand in solidarity with trans women.

As a cis Black woman, I’ve been long silent, thinking that a couple of outraged Facebook posts and donations could be enough. And definitely not to knock social media action, or donating to organizations that support trans women of color. Both are important. And I need to also call out trans violence on the daily, on the internet and within my family. I need to make sure when I scream #BlackGirlMagic, I include Black trans women. I want us to say this, and mean this:

And to get here, we’ve got some fucking work to do.


*Hi, friends. Trans folks do not “trick people;” they’re just out here trying to live their lives. There is a STRONG difference between saying “I don’t want to sleep with someone,” and basically saying, “I’m going to perpetuate the narrative that trans women are trying tricky and are trying to sleep with cis men without their consent to justify my transphobia, even though it’s reported that 50% of trans people experience sexual assault in their lifetime.” Lil was not championing for consent. He was championing for violence.

**ALSO, I would like to state that Janet Mock is a goddess and a smart angel and how dare you. No trans woman deserves to be treated with the disrespect Lil showed, and I’m not outraged because he specifically pointed to Janet. However, I do love Janet Mock, and I am not pleased. She is the sun and the stars and she doesn’t need me to defend her because she has got her shit on lock and clapped-back in her amazing way, but still. Leave Janet alone.

***I don’t know Angela, but here’s hoping she would have defended another trans woman that might not have had Janet’s “pretty privilege.”

Dear Sandra,

This is the fourth time I’ve tried to write this letter, since I started the first draft in 2015. Even now, it will be an imperfect version. It is not in my usual tone. There will be no witty sentences or swear-filled rants. This feels sad, and unorganized, and jumbled. But it’s time to write.

Whenever a Black person, particularly a Black woman dies, I struggle to articulate my sorrow. I want to honor the family. I don’t want  to make it about me. The problem, however, is that it is about me. And her, and her, and other Black women who see the news and wonder, “could I be the next one?” When I see a Black girl murdered, my brain goes into overdrive for the next 48 hours worrying what will happen to me and other Black women I love, because in the eyes of everyone except ourselves. we are less than human. Because I am a Black woman, I see that similarity with other Black women who are killed, whether I want to or not.

And in you, I see more similarities with myself than ever.

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Photo credit: Taken from The Nation article; original from Sandra Bland’s Facebook page

Of course, we are not exactly the same. This year, you would have been thirty years old, and I just entered into the last year of my mid-twenties. You left Illinois for college, whereas I stayed in the state for the first 22 years of my life. During the summer of 2015, you were heading South for your new job, while I headed West for mine. You were part of the Black Lives Movement in Chicago, probably around the same time I just started to wake up. I did not know you, and I strongly doubt you knew me.

And yet. We were both born in Naperville, Illinois.  Your old church is close to my house, so close, that when my dad pointed this out, I clenched my palms to keep from sobbing in front of my family. We both started our new jobs around the same time– student-centered higher education careers, jobs that, I believe, we believed could change the world. Depression is a label we knew well, along with Black, and woman, and beautiful.

Our birthdays are only one day apart.

This letter will be one of the shortest blog posts I write, not because I want to dishonor you, but because today, even two years out from your death, it still hurts to think about you. It hurts to think about how you were stopped for failing to use a turn signal (because, of course, driving while Black). It hurts me to see the courts drop the perjury charges against the state trooper who brought you to your death. It hurts me to read how the court system failed you way before, countless times. It hurts me that we didn’t have a nuanced discussion about Black women’s relationship with depression and mental health and suicide when we talked about your death. It hurts me that they killed you, and it hurts me that, even two years after your death, people will still say that the judicial system is fine, that police systems aren’t rooted in White Supremacy, that Black women deserve to be forced into the prison system. It hurts that, as the years go by, we (except for Black women) say your name less and less.

It hurts to think we could have been in the same place, at the same time. This is selfish and self-serving and doesn’t help anyone. And to me, it’s also real.

I don’t yet have the heart to watch your Sandy Speaks videos, but I want to, soon. I want to set the world on fire and challenge the system and love Black women even harder and do better. I want to be better, to take care of myself. I want to scream. I hate the phrase “die in vain,” and I refuse to use it to you, because you did not ask to die. And I won’t forget you, both your life and your death. Because it is one more name reminding me I need to do more, to do everything in my body to speak up and say we need to be treated better. And for me, it’s an important name.

Rest in power, Sandy.

Columbusing the Old Neighborhood, Part 1

I have quite a few fond memories of traveling into Downtown Los Angeles as a kid. Its not very far from my home but add in LA traffic and it is a mess. But on a weekend, we could be down there in 15 minutes. So it’s a place we frequented often. Sometimes it was to go to the “alley,” where you could buy cheap ANYTHING. Mostly, we went for clothes. The flower market down there is where we bought all the flowers for my parents’ vowel renewal when I was in the sixth grade. There’s a place called Moskatels, which is basically heaven to me – it’s like a Michael’s outlet – where I dream of the crafty Etsy store I will someday open and where you can buy giant ornaments the size of my head for a dollar.

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One of my most favorite places to go was always Grand Central Market. I used to love hearing my dad reminisce of his trips to the market when he was a boy. He and his family (a family of 8) lived well below the poverty line and Grand Central was a great place to buy produce to feed so many people on such a small income. For me, the best part was the amazing Mexican food you could get and find a corner to eat in. Bustling with tons of brown folks, Grand Central Market is not far from the many historically significant Mexican sites in Downtown LA (Olvera Street is still standing and Linda Cielito is a go to for taquitos if you need a suggestion). These were my people and people my family seemed comfortable around.

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Seeing as I have spent many of my adult years not in LA and instead trying to find the brown folks where I live (shout out to Little Mexico in South Bend!), I was painfully unaware of the changes that were happening in my beloved little haven. Shortly after my return from Colorado a year and a half ago, the Expo line opened connecting the Westside (Santa Monica, Culver City, etc. = expensive) to Downtown. Given that parking in DTLA had always been a struggle, I thought the Expo was a great addition to avoid the parking fees (although free parking on Sundays at Grand Central and Moskatels! Hey! – But not anymore. Sad face). However, clearly the Expo was put in to connect the wealthy people to the brown part of town. Well off folks have started to move into Downtown creating a “hip and trendy” downtown and commuting to the Westside in a more environmentally sustainable manner. And folks who can afford to live on the Westside are heading into Downtown for weekend events.

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I do think there is something about creating a place for entertainment or embracing the cultural beauty that has long-existed in a city. However, the “improvements” have not benefited the folks who have called this place home since it was Mexico but is instead making housing prices too expensive for them to afford and columbusing the places in which they once conducted business.

I have used the Expo line to avoid the exorbitant parking pricing at an LA Rams game, to go to an old library operating out of an old bank vault, and to attend LA’s second annual Dessert Week this past fall. After leaving on a sugar induced high, my parents and I headed on foot to Grand Central for our beloved sopes covered in only the very best toppings and Mexican meats. Immediately my dad said something about all the White people followed very closely by “THEY SERVE BEER HERE?!” You see, Grand Central has less of a market-feel these days (I only spotted two produce stands) and instead seems to have been taken over by trendy craft beer, specialty bagels, organic ice cream, and yes, free wifi.

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Definitely not the food of Brown folks

Luckily, our favorite Mexican food storefront was still standing and we ate until our bellies were full thoroughly confused as to what was happening around us. We tipped the women who made our food. She seemed surprised. So, the folks who have columbused a place I love also do not tip the folks who make their food – this was once customary particularly knowing wages at these ma and pop places were not enough to pay the bills.

I think there is certainly a right way to bring communities together to share in the rich cultural history a city was founded on but erasing the very people responsible for that history is not the way to do it. Sadly, the place my dad went with his dad to pick produce early in the mornings no longer exists. I can only hope my favorite food stand will be there whenever I am able to travel out their next. We need to hold on to as much as we can in a climate that values conformity to the norm more that embracing our uniqueness.

International Womxn’s Day 2017

There is a blog post circulating today that points out how woman-heavy our field is and yet, Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) are overwhelmingly men.

I just need to go on a minor rant. My institution requires employees take a winter holiday. However, they do not offer this as paid time. So, in my first month of work, I was required to borrow against my future vacation time. And so, today, in March, I still do not have any vacation time because I am still trying to replenish what I used for the winter closure. This is an incredibly long-winded road to say I was unable to take today off. As a newer employee, I am not in a position to cause waves by taking a day off without pay. I know there are plenty of other folks who wanted to strike in solidarity but for circumstances beyond their control, that was not a viable action today.

Instead, I wore the brightest red pants I own that are still work appropriate.

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I love my field. I love the people in my field and the lengths to which many of us will go to advocate for those on the margins of our campus and society as a whole. However, I must acknowledge those folks do not exist everywhere – certainly not at the places I have worked since leaving Colorado State.

Today, I was the only one who wore red – the only one showing solidarity in any way.

And then I sat through a rather long staff meeting. I wished everyone a “Happy International Women’s Day” – no one knew what I was talking about. I met our own SSAO for the first time. I have heard him speak before. He is always very candid about his background. I am not sure if he is trying to beat us to the punch of recognizing his lack of student affairs experience.

It is refreshing to see a black man in such a position. However, in LA, I have found that diversity of race and ethnicity are the norm. What I find so curious is that this man, a former student-athlete at my place of employment, former practicing lawyer – while clearly competent and experienced in his field – is our SSAO while I know of other student affairs professionals on this campus who have worked in our field for 15, 20, 30 years and have not seen and will not see those kinds of positions open to them.

I am coming to learn that even in student affairs, a field that seemingly appreciates social justice work, is not always the most welcoming place for everyone. And finding places to work where values and behaviors are congruent are outliers and not what I should expect on this journey – at least not outside the state of Colorado.

To end on a positive note I’d like to say thank you to the womxn, men, trans*, and gender non-conforming folks in my life and on my newsfeeds who did something today to show the immense power of those who face gender-related bias and oppression every day. Your quotes, pictures, live videos remind me that despite an ignorant work place – there are folks out there who get me and are ready to fight the good fight.

Things that bring me joy: Get out (leave! Right now)

Since the Orange Tangerine and his merry band of Hateful Nonsense™ has been added to the already daily dose of constant isms I face as a female member of team Black n’ Gay, the list of topics I’ve wanted to write about has gone through the roof. In an attempt to clear out my draft list, I created a rule for myself: I wouldn’t write new things unless I finished a few old posts.

And then, last Tuesday, I went out to see Get Out. A movie is so good, it currently has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This, coupled with the fact that I have no discipline and I write what I want, is why we’re here.

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I have a sh*tton to say, and there will probably be spoilers. #sorrynotsorry

Before we get started, I want to acknowledge the joy of seeing this movie surrounded by my friends of color, and 50 other Black people in Tacoma. There is no greater bonding experience than a whole theatre full of POCs cheering on a Black man curbstomp a racist dude bro on his way out to survival. Jordan Peele and his incredible brain brought the community together.

Get Out is one of the most brilliant films of this year. There is no way around this fact. I hate horror films, yet I would go see Get Out again. And write a dissertation on it. But maybe not in Naperville, because I can’t go to my childhood hometown anymore. Or many of my friend’s homes. When I say I walked into work the next day suspicious as hell. I love my coworkers, but I’m going to need proof of safety exits and three references from Black women who made it out alive before I can go back to my boss’ house. (Ashleigh’s note: If you go to your boss’s house, TELL ME!)

The beauty of horror films is their ability to add some plausibility to the audience. We are scared not just because certain elements are terrifying, but because somewhere in the back of our mind, we can imagine pieces of the movie happening to us. And one of reasons Get Out is such a great horror film is because it is so stepped in realism: specifically for Black people and people of color, it accurately portrays the spectrum of racism that we experience on a daily basis. Literally the only fake thing was the psychosis+extreme sci-fi mind control. 89-96% of this scary movie is literally Black people’s experiences with White folks.

Example: If you haven’t had the privilege of being the only person of color at a function (while, in your identity development, woke enough to realize the racial tension that comes with being greatly outnumbered by White people), let me break it down for you: it is an uncomfortable feeling. At best, the majority of the White people you’re around are those you trust and somewhat vouch for their ability to engage in allyship, so you can at least enjoy your friends’ company as you stick out like a sore thumb.  At worst, you’re around multiple people you don’t know, and your only coping options are to finish your presentation/sit in the back and pray no one notices you/get so drunk you forget your own name, until you’re able to leave the speech/conference/wedding/shower.

The party scene in Get Out captured all this so eloquently, and brought me back to the times that, either by my own doing or out of my control, I was the only brown person in the room. A note to many of my White friends and exes: you have taken me to spaces like this. Multiple times. And even if you’ve tried to make as comforting as possible, it’s still weird. Especially if there’s 10,000 White eyes on me, and a lot of microaggressional-questions about my body/hair/upbringing/skin/name. I love you. But still.

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Yaaaaaaaay.

I have never had a horror movie speak so accurately into my soul. And that is just ONE SCENE with ONE THEME to unpack. Not to even talk about the prevalence of White woman tears and toxic White women feminism and fakeness.  And their obsession with thinking Black men are/need to be obsessed with them (*eHEM*). Or the analogy of cultural appropriation, and White folks wanting so bad to be us without wanting to be us. Or the assimilation to White culture, and ignoring other Black people.  Or the perfect analogies of the sunken place. Or or or or, or or, or. I haven’t even scratch the surface.

To me, Get Out feels iconic for a few different reasons. I think about the unapologetic way it captures White liberalism. Which is probably why the movie has a few White people mad: it holds the mirror up not only to the explicitly racist Neo-Nazis of our time, but to White moderates who tell you they’ve voted for Obama and drop 2-5 microaggressions in the same breathe. It calls out “well meaning White folks,” and shows that, unchecked, they too, can be racist. We’re at a place where “well meaning White folks” society stresses out about Black millennials voting the right way and then turns around AND VOTES FOR TRUMP. Or where “well meaning White” woman get mad because a women’s march acknowledges intersecting identities and offended when asked if we’ll see them at the next #BlackLivesMatter march (fun fact: apparently “nice White lady” is a slur). To be “well meaning” is not enough. And Get Out stresses this point perfectly.

Get Out is also powerful because a Black person defeated the odds and made it out of the house. As we know, often times, that’s not how the story ends. And I’m not even talking about other horror movies. Around the same time Get Out was released, 18-year-old Ben Keita was found hung in the woods near Seattle. 24-year-old Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond was shot multiple times in Chicago and was misgendered in the news. And then, less than a few days later, 31-year-old Chyna Doll Dupree was shot in New Orleans (and misgendered in the news), And then, less than a few days later, 25-year-old Ciara McElveen was stabbed in New Orleans (and misgendered in the news). Get Out is not a tool to forget about these individuals, but gives us a narrative that we as Black folks don’t get to hear often: a Black person, in the presence of several White people that wanted to harm them, ESCAPED. There is power in that statement, a storyline that we don’t hear enough in real life.

Honestly, Get Out is the movie we need and deserve. Beyond the fact that it gave us a lot of material for hilarious tweets (my favorites being the ones that give a shout-out to Rod from TSA), it does a great job of calling out Whiteness and allowing folks to see what it’s like to be the only Black person in a room, all while being witty, smart, and real as hell.