analysis & rants

Palliative Care Isn’t Enough: Antidepressants, Dependency, and Revolution

When I came to Europe, I wasn’t sure how long I would stay. I brought enough medication to last three months (the most I could). By the time it ran out, I was already making plans to return to Turtle Island and figured I could get free refills if I waited. I have been waiting a long time now. Emergencies keep coming up that prevent me from having enough money to leave.

I was able to borrow other prescriptions, but the one thing I couldn’t find was my SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors — a common genre of antidepressants), specifically citalopram (celexa). I had previously considered discontinuing them anyway, but I knew it was dangerous, especially when my situation and my (mental) health are already so precarious. There was always some life-threatening crisis, constant brushes with death, and crushing poverty, so it never seemed like the right time to add another potential hazard. Plus, I had more pressing chemical dependencies to deal with first.

So when I started to run out of them, I figured it was as good a time as any to go off them. I knew the risks when I started taking my SSRIs years ago. So before I quit, I read as much as I could. I tapered my doses downward over a period of months. It has now been several weeks since I stopped taking them entirely and I feel like shit.

I didn’t immediately recognize the creeping, inexplicable (and therefore terrifying) symptoms as SSRI withdrawal. When I first realized it was connected, I was a bit relieved because it seemed to show it was a transitory chemical readjustment. But it kept getting worse and worse and I started to fear something was very wrong, that it must be something else. But the more I looked into it, I found that the scary truth seems to be that this kind of suffering is a relatively normal thing during SSRI withdrawal.

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Proof Emma Goldman Would Support Trans Liberation

History nerd that I am, I came across a letter Emma Goldman wrote to Magnus Hirschfeld in 1923. I’m not sure how I managed to miss this before, but its a gem.

For context: Emma (n.1869 – 1940) is possibly the most famous north american anarchist. She was also a Jewish immigrant, feminist, birth control advocate, anti-war activist, prison abolitionist, supporter of free love (polyamory), labor organizer, midwife, atheist, and a damn good speaker/writer. She helped extend critiques of capitalism and the state to include all forms of hierarchy and oppression, including in interpersonal relationships. She has been an inspiration to me and one of my favorite political thinkers since I was 13.

Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the first-ever known organization to advocate for the legal rights of homosexuals and transvestites. He is credited with inventing the terms transsexual and transvestite. (He didn’t, actually. But he did contribute greatly to their modern meaning.) His clinic, the Institute for Sexology, employed many self-identified transsexuals and transvestites before it was burned down by the Nazis. There, they pioneered modern hormone replacement therapy and performed the first ever modern vaginoplasty for a transsexual woman.[1]

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(1) Everyone Deserves Safe Work Places. (2) Self-Defense is a Human Right.

Two things.

The DC Trans Coalition released summary findings from the first phase of our ongoing Needs Assessment Project. Click the link to read the full four-page document, and see the press release below the cut or at our website. Please read it. We’ve put a lot of work into this project, and the information is extremely important.

I’d like to highlight one point. Over half of all 108 trans people surveyed marked the trans sex work stroll as a place that is central to their identity as a trans person in the District. The percentage is even higher for the trans women of color who participated. When asked about it, almost all described the (now heavily gentrified) stroll as a place where they hang out with friends, distribute resources, and make sure everyone there is safe from harm.

What does it tell us if one of the primary, tangible spaces where trans people (especially women of color) create communities and build networks of mutual support is also one of the most heavily policed and criminalized places in the world? And what if that place is also the primary work environment for many people within those communities?

Next.

In Minneapolis, a trans woman of color was attacked with racist and transphobic slurs by a stranger. A brawl ensued when the stranger, a white cis man, attacked her and her friends. The attacker was killed somehow, and now that woman is in jail facing criminal charges. This is the same criminal “justice” system that institutionally disadvantages youth, people of color, low income people, trans people, and feminine presenting people.

The woman’s name is CeCe McDonald. The Trans Youth Support Network has organized a campaign to rally around her. If you’re in the Twin Cities, join them. They are also raising money to make sure she can afford a lawyer that will help get her a fairer trial. Visit their site at Support CeCe McDonald! and show solidarity with working class trans communities who are targeted by the prison industrial complex!
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Transphobic Violence and Complex PTSD

As someone who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, I sometimes feel like there is an expectation that my symptoms can be easily traced to one cause. Unlike some “mental illnesses”, where biologically deterministic theories reign supreme, PTSD is most closely associated with particular life experiences. PTSD is what happens after a car bomb blows up part of your convoy, or an earthquake shatters your windows.

I’ve felt this pressure — from friends, psychiatrists, and myself — to explain my PTSD as something caused by a singular event. Most commonly, I point to the time I was jumped just outside of my house. That was not the first extremely violent situation that ever happened to me; the first time of many I was queer bashed was when I was 13. But because this is the most recent, and because I have to walk by where it happened almost every day, it’s this one time that I feel most often in flashbacks and that continues to haunt me most severely.

However, I don’t think this is a very helpful way of looking at PTSD, at least not for me. It’s really impossible for me to isolate one event from the entire context of my life and say “this is what caused it.” The concept of Complex PTSD is a proposed diagnostic category that begins to get at this – it would be used to describe trauma from prolonged situations, such as “chronic maltreatment by caregivers” (which I also experienced, and I believe most trans people who had transphobic parents could potentially be placed under this). C-PTSD is the result not of one traumatic event, but rather a pervasive state of powerlessness and abuse. It was first noted as occurring in prisoners of war, survivors of genocidal atrocities, and child sexual abuse survivors.

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Reproductive Justice = Trans Liberation & Gender Self-Determination

In the u.s., today is the anniversary of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. As most of my friends know, I worked for a few years as a case manager on a fund for low-income people trying to access reproductive health care.

Although rare, some people in abortionland questioned my commitment to the abortion rights movement: “You don’t have a uterus, how does this impact you? How could you understand a pregnant woman’s feelings?” (Pro-abortion queer women, cis men, and women with fertility issues are often met with similar distrust.) Yes I don’t have a uterus. And that is exactly why I support abortion, because it makes me subject to anti-choice power structures as much as a cis woman (albeit if in slightly different ways).

As a trans and queer woman, my reproductive options are under intense regulation. Trans/queer women, especially if we are poor or working class, are often denied the opportunity to adopt. Reproductive technologies like sperm banking (extremely important for trans female people who want to conceive biologically post-transition) are expensive and inaccessible. Trans women with biological children have had their marriages invalidated and kids taken away by courts. In many countries, including much of canada and the u.s., sterilizing surgeries are required for trans people to obtain congruent identification documents.

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“Tax Cuts for the Rich, Service Cuts for the Poor”

Instead of barely raising taxes for those who can most afford it, the D.C. City Council decided to cut funding to social service programs for those who can least afford it.

Save Our Safety Net was campaigning to generate revenue by raising taxes on the top 5% of earners and investing the money into projects that benefit the whole city. Instead, the Council continued to slash funding for critical programs that help the poor.

At least they didn’t get away with it quietly. From NBC (“Protests Disrupt DC Council Budget Cutting“):

The squad of officers was kept busy as one protester after another stood up to denounce the proceedings. In all, there were seven disruptions and 10 people were ejected from the room.

As someone who depends on safety net services, I commend these organizers. Oppressed people — especially communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income families, trans folks, and people with disabilities — have a lot at stake in this struggle.

Like, our lives.

Poor people aren’t poor because we make bad decisions or because we’re lazy. We’re poor because 1% of the population owns half the country’s wealth.

And if we’re queer or trans, there’s homophobic and transphobic hiring biases that keep us from working. Add to that: a criminal record from survival sex work, mental health problems and addiction resulting from trauma and abuse, not having a degree because you got harassed every day at school, having no home address because your family kicked you out, and being turned away from homeless shelters and food banks because they’re all run by catholics.

That’s why we’re poor. Redistributing some wealth our way through tax-subsidized social programs is the least we deserve. For a lot of people, social programs are the only thing that allows us to get back on our feet and become healthy, contributing members of our communities again.

But those in power have a vested interested in defending the status quo. So I have little faith that anything will change until we unite and force it to happen.

Reflections on Trans Day Of Remembrance, Intersectionality, and Religion

This one is dedicated to my chosen-family and my trans sisters: y’all know who you are!

We just observed another Trans Day of Remembrance. Leading up to TDOR, I led five workshops for primarily cis audiences. I will never cease to be amazed at how many cis people are obsessed with what trans people do in the toilet. And I swear, the way cis folks are interested in what’s in my pants, you’d think they all work for the TSA.

I’m almost as tired of Trans 101 as I am of TDOR itself. Don’t get me wrong: like “It Gets Better”, TDOR has both room for criticism as well as the potential for good. The statistics won’t stop going up on their own. We should be having vigils.

It’s just that… On a personal level, it’s hard to spend every day, literally every day, for over a week dwelling on death in my community. Especially in D.C., where many of our own are on the list of the murdered. It feels like only yesterday that we lost NaNa Boo.

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