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Kink Praxis

As a heads up, this post will discuss emotional abuse tactics in detail. I encourage you to take care of yourself as you engage with it. If you get triggered while reading this post, this emergency emotional safety plan may be useful in managing that. (It’s a downloadable PDF.)

About nine months ago, partly in response to that notorious fuck off fund article that made the rounds, I tweeted a bunch about the importance of taking space for yourself, especially as a strategy for getting clear about potential abuse in intimate relationships. When I posted the storify on tumblr, I got an anonymous ask from someone who said that my storify helped them get a bit more clear about the emotional abuse in their recent relationship. This anon talked about how hard it is to discern emotional abuse. In my response, I discussed this as well, saying:

“In my…

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A girl I used to know

Casey Plett talks about kindness, purity, and complicated people. Go read it. She’s brilliant. That is all.

Progress Never Stops For Nostalgic Transsexuals

I used to have this friend Sara. She was quiet, she was an alcoholic, she loved drugs, she loved really weird stuff; she kept dead animals in her freezer. She was obsessed with dead things; she wished she was dead so she could be pretty. She was a little older than me, I forget exactly how much. Five-ish years maybe.

I met her in the fall of 2007, when I was re-trying to come out and make moves toward transition. I was 20. Sara’d moved up to Portland and in with a friend, which is how we met, and the first day we did I was wearing a skirt. She thought the skirt was pretty. She was animated about it. She squealed in a way that would have had me eye-rolling years later but back then was like water.

She worked at Victoria’s Secret downtown in the mall. The next time…

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The Five Love Languages Expanded

Folks may find this relevant to their interests.

The Span of My Hips

Two Watercolor Love Birds with HeartsSource.

You may have heard of the Five Love Languages before. And you may have initially felt some twinge of recognition and then had that followed up with a gut feeling (or gut screaming) that it wasn’t developed for someone like you. It could be the overt heteronormativity and sexist questions, or the Christian underpinnings. Seems like such a shame, since there is some goodness there.

The topic came up today in a group chat of amazing women I’m lucky enough to be a part of and a couple of us remarked that it really needed to be reworked to reflect more people’s experiences. One additional love language struck me and was met with the online equivalent of knowing nods so I thought maybe there was something to this. My friend C suggested I crowdsource other additional love languages which was an excellent suggestion.

One of the things that…

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Attachment styles – re-drawn!

This isn’t the same set of terms that I’ve learned, but they add up. Relevant to my interests, and possibly yours.


Credit: Activity to explore attachment styles using oranges, from The Institute of Arts for Therapy and Education London.

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Take a look at this.


To live a feminist life is to be a feminist at work. Until I resigned, my own working life had been based in universities: I was a student for around 10 years and I have been an academic for over 20 years. So much of what know is shaped by where I have been located. I carry the university with me; I value the work of the university because I value knowledge and education. I value what it can do: to learn and to engage with others who are learning.  Universities are also institutions that are structured by power relations all the way down. We create feminist programmes and centres because universities, however much they exercise the language of equality and diversity, often do not express those commitments other than in policy.  So yes: most of us with feminist commitments end up working for organisations that do not have…

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So… I basically just don’t TV. But I wanted to put this here because femme is my jam and I think this is relevant.

Alexis Shotwell

spoilers for most of season 1.

I read, and appreciated a lot of Shannon Keating’s points about femininity and Hollywood horror conventions over at Buzzfeed. Its central point is a critique of the trope in pop culture requiring unfeminine girls to be made over, feminized, and rendered desirable in order to be worthy of regard. It’s true: this sucks. An attention to the way mythical femininity works (and is resisted) in the show helps us think about why the character of Barb has been widely taken up as awesome and stylish (which was not, I think, the intention of the Duffer Brothers, who seem like pretty much dudebros); it helps us think about the tragedy of Nancy snuggling up with Steve in episode 8.

At the same time, I worried about two things in the article; its typification of kids in sixth grade as necessarily not having sexuality and…

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Reblogging, in part so I can find it again. Not finished reading it yet, but so far it is MASSIVELY RELEVANT to my interests. Written from a monogamous, heterosexual perspective, but useful to all.

Dating Tips for the Feminist Man

The attachment literature teaches us that autonomy is a paradox.

Jordan and I are in the car about to drop him off at a weeklong arts program working with teens on a small gulf island off the British Columbia coast.

In front of us through the windshield is a farmstand: berries, eggs, a hand painted welcome sign on sun-starched wood. Sun drifts through tall cedar trees.

Every year for the last six years we drop him off here on a July day, and he goes into a black hole of noncontact for seven days, and I or one of our other close friends pick him up on the other side. He will be one of a group of staff who will enter the full-on schedule and be completely present to the participants for a week, uninterrupted.

Camp schedule is intense. Staff run program all day and plan the next day at night…

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So a friend of mine is looking to get 200 Ontario Trans folks to participate in the TransForming Justice legal needs assessment survey [EDIT: Survey closes on or before September 30th, 2016, afaik. /EDIT]
The following is taken directly from the needs assessment website and/or the survey itself (emphasis is mine, though), which is available in English and French, and which you can download to preview the questions and/or fill out by hand, OR complete online:

Transforming Justice is a research project to help document the legal needs of trans* people in Ontario, identify access to justice barriers that trans* people face, and determine the needs of legal service providers (lawyers and paralegals) to provide more informed and inclusive services for trans* clients.
Given that HIV can also effect access to justice issues, a specific component of the project is examining access to justice issues experienced by trans* people living with or impacted by HIV.
We are collecting data using a survey for trans* people, one-on-one interviews for trans* people living with HIV, and focus groups for trans* people, including specific focus groups for Trans* People of Colour/Racialized Trans* people, First Nations, Metis, or Inuit Trans*/Two-Spirit People, and Trans* People living with or impacted by HIV. We are also collecting data from Legal Service Providers through focus groups.
While we are collecting data, the project is working to improve access to justice for trans* people by conducting public legal education workshops for trans* people about trans* legal rights and how to access reliable legal information and services. We are also providing continuing professional development workshops for legal service providers to help increase their capacity to provide informed and inclusive services for trans* clients.
To be eligible to complete the project survey and/or participate in a project focus group, you must be 16 years of age or over, live or work in Ontario, and identify as trans* [based on the following definition]:
“The project uses “trans*” as an umbrella term to refer to people with diverse experiences and identities, including two-spirit, non-binary, agender, gender queer, cross dresser, transgender and transsexual, as well as those who identify as men or women who have a history that involves a gender transition.”
The survey contains 4 core sections and is expected to take approximately 45 to 60 minutes to complete. The core sections ask questions about you, about legal problems you may have had, about how you get your legal needs met, and about your views of the legal system.
There are 2 additional sections that ask more in depth questions about legal problems, experiences in different legal settings (for example, a court house, a tribunal, and/or law office), and interactions with people associated with the justice system (such as with judges, lawyers, paralegals, and/or police). The additional sections are optional, expected to take approximately 20 to 30 minutes, and are designed for people who have experienced legal problems and have gone to court or tried to get help from a legal service provider to deal with the problems.

So you know what you’re getting into:
Section A includes questions about personal information – “About You” stuff like binary/non-binary ID(s), gender ID(s), sexual orientation(s) (with a fair number of “tick all that apply” questions), racial(ized) identity/ies, Canadian immigration/citizenship status, & personal income, but also includes stuff about anxiety, depression, suicidality, housing-security, food-security, and abusive/violent relationships.
Section B includes questions about access (time, energy, availability, knowledge, physical accessibility), self-advocacy, and personal & professional access-support.
Section C includes questions about your feelings regarding the legal system in Ontario (it’s a pretty short section).
Section D includes questions about legal problems/“problems”, and interactions with the legal system in Ontario, that you have experienced personally, including family & child-specific family law, employment law, housing problems, medical treatment & mental health law, immigration law & refugee situations, jail time, personal injury & property damage, debt, various forms of social assistance including Ontario Works and ODSP, HIV-specific legal issue, and Discrimination stuff including, but not limited to, trans-specific discrimination.
The one thing that I would have expected, given that it’s a survey about the legal system that also touches on things like financial insecurity, job discrimination, and HIV criminalization, is that there didn’t appear to be any questions about sexwork or sexwork-stigma and how that effects people’s interactions with the legal system. It’s possible that they’re in there and I just missed them, though, as I was skimming rather than going through it line by line. YMMV.
ANYWAY. If you are trans, an Ontario-resident, and have had experience(s) with elements of the legal system, I hope you will take the time to fill this out, even though it’s a long one. Legal Aid is paying attention to the results of this one, so your responses might actually make some positive changes happen.
Thanks very much, and please feel free to pass the link and the information along to Ontario trans folks you know.
Ms Syren.

So I’m continuing to read More Than Two. I’m enjoying the questions the authors ask their readers to contemplate, and will continue to blog my own answers here as I move along.
Right now, though, I want to talk about Communication and how it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
It’s possible that the authors, when writing up their Chapter 7 summary of good communication techniques (active listening, non-violent communication, & direct communication) are giving a coles-notes version that they’re going to expand on in later chapters. We’ll see if that happens. I know that right now, though, I’m getting really twitchy reading about “I statements” and – rather more-so, in my case – about how “direct communication” requires using one’s words rather than “hinting” through body language, tone of voice, and facial expression and how, if a partner doesn’t bring up a problem “directly” (AKA: verbally), one should take them at their (lack of) word and trust that there is no problem.
I’m not great at direct communication, so maybe that’s why I’m getting soooo twitchy, but I have a LOT of side-eye for this.
Yes, if I have difficulty with this, it’s on me to learn how to discern and acknowledge my own wants and needs, and then to Be Brave and state those wants and needs out loud with words, even when I’m not sure my requests are going to be met with a Yes. Similarly, if I have difficulty recognizing and naming my emotions, its on me to develope a nuanced vocabulary when it comes to that, and then to Be Brave and talk about those feelings, even when I’m not sure I’m allowed to feel those things or how my People will react to them.
(1) Body language, facial expression, and tone of voice are PART OF how we, as humans, communicate.
I’m sorry (or, y’know, not sorry at all) but Rape Culture’s plausible deniability relies a LOT on the complete discounting of body language as a means of communication. I’m not thrilled that the authors of More Than Two are actively telling their readers that those modes of information-gathering just don’t count.
When I ask my wife how she’s doing? I’m listening to her words, yes. But I’m also “listening” to her facial expression, her body language, her tone of voice, and paying attention to contexts such as [what she’s been doing with her spare time recently] and [when was the last time she ate something]. As such, if I say “How are you doing?” and her words say “I’m great”, but her jaw-set and her fidgeting and her tone-of-voice and the skin around her eyes are all saying “I’m not great at all“, I will double-check, mention what I’m noticing about her other modes of communication, and invite her to open up a little bit. (She says she will never play poker with me for this reason).
And, yeah, I might get an answer like “No, I’m fine. I’m just pre-occupied with work stuff”, at which point I have to drop it and let it go, because boundaries are still a thing (yes, even when your internal monologue is rolling its eyes and saying “Come on…”).
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a dick move to completely ignore a huge swath of how humans communicate with each other, particularly when those modes of communication are what we fall back on (or can’t cover up as easily) when we’re concerned about the Consequences of wanting something other than what a given partner wants (or wants us to want, or what we THINK they want us to want… there’s totally a rabbit hole you can fall into here…).
…Which brings me to my other point:
(2) Communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Polyamoury communities are FULL of people who are visibly and/or invisibly disabled, trans, abuse survivors, queer, some combination of the above, and/or otherwise have personal-histories or systemic-cultural-histories that include a LOT of social conditioning AGAINST trusting what our bodies are telling us we actually want/need, and a LOT of social conditioning TOWARDS looking to the social cues of other people (doctors, parents, partners…) to tell us what is appropriate for us to want/need, and when it’s appropriate to want/need those things. (Jess Zimmerman has an article about exactly this situation, which is currently my Everything, and I think you should go read it. There’s also this article, aimed at cis guys, which touches on a related communication-doesn’t-happen-in-a-vacuum topic – Point #3 is particularly relevant).
People with these histories are most likely going to (a) have a harder time even just discerning what they want want/need (or even that they have wants/needs), and (b) have more difficulty voicing those wants and needs in a direct way rather than coding them as questions about another person’s desires.
Example 1: There are a lot of femme cis women, and a lot of trans women of various gender-presentations, who figured out they were gay-as-fuck relatively late in life because (a) trans women and cis women both get told to ignore what our bodies are telling us in favour of believing what other people tell us we should be/want/need, and (b) none of us “looked like lesbians” since “lesbian” is popularly coded (both in and outside of queer communities) as “masculine-of-centre cis woman”, so how could we be possibly be dykes?
Example 2: Folks who are abuse-survivors frequently develope a nearly-psychic (or actually psychic) ability to anticipate the wants and needs of other people (particularly those to-whom they are attachment-bound) to the exclusion of their own wants and needs. This is a serious survival-strategy that kept us alive and safe in those abusive situations… but it’s a hard “habit” to break when we’re finally not in those situations anymore. It is VERY hard to discern what *we* want or need, and then to say those things out loud, when our lizard brains are telling us to “Want what they want right now, or you are literally gonna die”. Differentiating between [what we think we’re supposed to want] and [what we actually want] is really hard to do, and feeling our way through sorting that out, especially out loud, can be overwhelming and frightening, even in a really supportive space.
Similarly, polyamoury communities are ALSO full of people who, for personal-history or systemic-culture-history reasons, have had a LOT of social conditioning TOWARDS emotional stoicism or emotional repression and a LOT of social conditional AGAINST developing a nuanced understanding of their own feelings (maybe you grew up with “boys don’t cry”, or being gaslit to the tune of “you’re just too sensitive” and “over-reacting” in your family-of-origin, or when your white friends didn’t/don’t recognize the racism being aimed at you. Maybe you grew up being taught that it was only acceptable to feel one emotion at a time (like Tinkerbell! Or like being required to remain an emotional toddler for the convenience and comfort of others), or that “emotional maturity” meant disociating from your feelings rather than courageously wading into them and articulating them even when you’re neck-deep).
People with these histories may have a harder time (a) discerning what, exactly, we’re feeling in a given situation, and then (b) naming those feelings out loud in a nuanced way, particularly if we are feeling multiple things at once. If you haven’t seen the Pixar movie “Inside Out”, I really, REALLY suggest that you watch it, as it can be extremely helpful in terms of being able to recognize the types of feelings that may be interacting inside your brain.
Example 1: “Defensive” is a mixture of sadness, fear, and anger. But maybe you’ve been taught that “defensive” is a pansy way to feel, and so you call it “jealousy” and tell your partner it’s their fault you feel that way; or maybe you call it “anger” because that’s the emotion you’ve had the most practice recognizing over the course of your life, and so that’s the part of “defensive” you can actually put a name around.
Example 2: Have you ever felt warm-hearted joy at seeing your sweetie all moony-eyed over their new squeeze? But also felt anxious that they might start to like said new squeeze better than they like you? Plus maybe sad and/or irritated at being left out, on top of that? How about a little bit squicked, in addition to the rest, because your empathy and compersion didn’t actually extend to finding your partner’s new partner attractive?
Like that.
It’s totally normal to feel all those things at once. But teasing out all the different bits of that big, complicated cocktail of feelings? That can be overwhelming, frustrating, and scary, even in a really supportive space.
So here’s the thing.
If we are people who are at a disadvantage when it comes to discerning and articulating wants, needs, and/or feelings (and we may have trouble with all of the above at the same time)… we still have to do that work. We still have to be hella brave and dedicated and say that stuff out loud to the people we care about and don’t want to lose.
Our partners need to have our backs while we’re doing it.
When we are partnered with people (and we are *all* going to be partnered with people in these boats at some point) who have trouble discerning and articulating wants, needs, and/or feelings?
We need to throw them a freakin’ bone.
We need to take on the emotional labour (because this, too, is work which requires time, energy, attention, and effort) of making space for our People to figure that stuff out.
Y’know why? Because when you care about someone, you INVITE communication. You don’t half-ass your way through a relationship by expecting the other person – who is most likely hurting and stressed, sinced communicating that everything is fantastic, when it’s actually fantastic, is pretty easy to do, but bringing up scary stuff is NOT – to carry 100% of the weight of getting a heavy/difficult message across.
And, hey: We can do this by ASKING QUESTIONS and INVITING ANSWERS. By checking in with our partners.
Ask “Are we okay? How are you feeling about the way we relate to each other right now?”
Ask “Are you getting enough of what you need?”
Ask “Is there anything I can do to help with that?”
Ask “When you say you need __________, what does that look like? Does it mean I need to do X? Would Y or maybe Z work too?”
Ask “Hey, you got really quiet just now. Can you tell me what you were feeling right then? Can you tell me, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense?”
Ask “What does it feel like in your body? Does it feel like numbness or cold? Does it feel like a fish brushing up against you in the water and then darting away? Does it feel like too-hot and maybe small?”
Ask “When you say you want to do X with me, can you tell me what it is about X that makes it important to you? Is it wanting to try something new with me specifically? Is it the event/activity itself? Is it the potential for one-on-one time? Is it something else?”
Ask “Even if you think it sounds weird or silly, can you tell me what would feel really good right now? Can you tell me what “loved” looks/smells/feels like when you imagine it?”
Ask “You’ve been feeling really distant/far-away/withdrawn lately. Even if you feel really bad about it, or think you’re not supposed to feel like that, can you talk to me about what’s on your mind? I miss you.”
Ask “I know you’re busy and have a lot on your plate, but how are you feeling?”
Ask. Check in. Listen to, and act on, the answers (<– Do not skip this step).
Deliberately offer a space to the people you care about where they can explore (using their outside voices, no less) how they feel and what they want and need. This is how you build relation-ships that are deep and lasting and strong.
Because, here's the thing: It's not a one-way street.
Yes, there will definitely be times when one partner in a given diad or constelation is going to be experiencing a harder-than-usual time and will need extra support.
But, by and large, this asking, and listening, and making space is something that we are all doing for all of the people we care about, and that the people who care about US are all doing for us at the same time. Because we’re in cahoots with each other, accepting and offering care to/from each other in a never-ending, multi-directional flow of give-and-take.
And yes, for sure, this isn’t easy.
Chances are really good that a given person is both dating people who have trouble with this stuff, and being someone who has trouble with this stuff, at the same time.
And it’s really hard to ask those space-making questions of (for?) someone else when you, yourself, are lost in your own Stuff; to ask “What do you need to feel safe right now?” when you’re very afraid the answer is going to be something that makes you feel like you’re dying:
When “I need space” is all they can articulate, but all you can hear is “I am kicking you out of our home, I do not want you here”.
When “I want ice cream” is what they can discern, but isn’t what will satisfy the underlying need (which might be for emotional-care or body-pleasure) they can’t discern yet, and you are struggling with the tapes in your head that are telling you over and over that nothing you ever do/provide/offer will be Good Enough, or substantial enough, to make you loveable.
It’s really hard to do this stuff when everybody involved is hurting. And soooooo many of us are hurting.❤
One suggestion I have for this is to practice under lower-pressure circumstances. Some people do this by having a regular weekly Relationship Check-In date, where they set aside 20 minutes to bring up Stuff that's kind of annoying or that's weighing on their minds, or that's going swimmingly well, or whatever. Other people ask each other "Whatcha thiiiiiiiiinkin'?" and "How's my Person?" through-out the course of a day or week, and offer honest answers in return ("I'm thinking about steam engines" or "Reading an article about emotional labour and the goddamn patriarchy" or "Feeling a little jumpy and paranoid, and I can't put my finger on why" or "Gosh I'm besotted with you" or "I think I'm maybe hungry? What do you want to do for dinner?[1]" and similar).
It may feel clunky or weird at first, or you may be tempted to gloss over the maybe-not-so-great stuff because you figure you'll be able to solve it yourself once you've got it All Figured Out. But try. Try to build kind-and-honest information-giving AND kind-and-active (not just with your ears, folks) information-requesting & -receiving into your relationships from the get-go. It won't make the scary conversations any easier or less frightening. But it will make YOU more aware of your ability to actively participate in them, and survive them, with each other.
We signed up for consensual non-monogamy, folks.
We signed up for a love-style that is pretty-much guaranteed to smack us in the face with our worst fears (of being abandonned, of being devoured, of being unworthy of care or kindness no matter what we do). Open relationships are graduate-level relationships because of this. But every one of us has decided “I am up for this challenge”.
So be up for it.
Ask questions, even when it’s exhausting and frustrating, even when you’re not sure if you’re asking the right questions, even when your partner might offer dead-end answers that aren’t any help but *are* all they’ve got to go on right now.
Offer information, even when it’s terrifying, even if you’re offering it unprompted and you don’t know how the recipient will react, even when you’re not sure you’ve found the right answer, or the whole answer, yet.
Every time we do this, every time we (request)-offer-recieve information with kindness and courage, with care and attention and action, we strengthen and deepen the connections we’re building together. And what are we here for if not for that?
Ms Syren.
[1] Did you notice how this answer involves (a) the recognition of a possible need/want (“I’m maybe hungry?”) but also (b) the coding of its possible solution through the lens of someone else’s desire (“What do YOU want to do for dinner?”)? This stuff is hard to unlearn, folks.

Go read Andrea’s peice!

Sex Geek

It’s been a helluva month for queers, folks. Most especially for Black queers and queers of colour.

Here’s the current situation. The Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, an organization that has sprung to life in the US and Canada to protest police brutality against Black people, was given Honoured Group status at Toronto Pride, which took place this past weekend. BLM representatives spoke at the Trans March on Friday night; led the Dyke March on Saturday, and briefly halted the march as an act of protest; and staged a half-hour sit-in during the Pride parade on Sunday. At that time, they presented a list of demands to Pride’s director, who signed in agreement, after which the parade moved on.

But it sure didn’t end there. The discussions in the media and all over social media in the past few days have been… epic. And while queers everywhere seemed…

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