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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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Hey!
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.
 
 
Cheers,
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.
 
BUT!
 
(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.
BUT!
Our partners need to have our backs while we’re doing it.
AND
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?
 
 
Cheers,
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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So, I (finally) picked up a copy of More Than Two because someone posted a screenshot of an excerpt (on twitter) about how part of asking for what you need is being able to handle refusal (regardless of whether it’s “can’t go there (yet / at all)” or “don’t wanna go there with you (yet / at all)”) with grace. Which I am really, really bad at[1].
 
So far, I am… skipping the first chapter entirely. It’s the “Might you be poly?” chapter. I am already polyamourous. I know that bit.
BUT
I really like that the authors (Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux) have included Questions To Ask Yourself at the end of each chapter, and I’m inclined to answer them – in blog form, no less! – just to find out what my answers are.
 
So here we go!

Dear other white queers, hop on over and read this, please.

Woman of Qolour

Writing from Coast Salish territories.

I’ve just arrived home and I smell like fire.

I feel like fire too. Raging, quiet, resilient.

Today, QTIBIPoC living on Coast Salish territories gathered to mourn, pay respects to, to send love away with the 49 people who were murdered in the Pulse nightclub on June 12th in Orlando, Florida.

Today, I held hands with friends and cried silent tears onto an altar of offerings. Today, I heard prayers spoken in Spanish, in Arabic, in Punjabi and sung in vocables from the lungs of Indigenous bodies. Today, I learnt new ways of loving and healing that I was never allowed to know. Today, I understood why I am crying, 3,000 miles from Orlando.

Vigils have happened and we are late to the game. This time, it is not like usual. We are not late because we are communities of over-worked, labouring bodies not…

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Queer Femme Mama

Screenshot 2016-06-12 13.07.06In between museum visits and snuggle time with kiddo, I have spent today glued to my social media feeds, watching the horror of the Pulse mass shooting unfold in front of my eyes.

First the news that 20 — now 50 — people had been killed when a gunman opened fire at a Pride event in a primary Latino gay bar.

And then the immediate Islamophobic speculation from the very same right-wing politicians who fight to put more guns in people’s hands and against the very rights that the LGBTQ community is fighting for.

I can only imagine the horror of the people in that club last night, in a space that was supposed to be celebratory and safe.

It’s easy for those of us who live privileged queer lives to forget that there are people who want us dead. But we can’t forget that the latest spike in anti-queer, transphobic…

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So I had a lovely evening at a friend’s birthday party yesterday. Around about 7pm (iirc) the usual shift-change happened, as the folks with young kids headed home and the folks with no kids (or with no kids with them) hung out a little longer in an all-grown-ups space, and I got to chatting with a few people about kink and polyamoury, and navigating that stuff.
 
Strictly speaking, I’m not new to polyamoury. I’ve been identifying as non-monogamous for about eight years. But for seven of those years (and once again, alas) I’ve been “the most monogamous poly person I know” (and possibly shooting myself in the foot as a result of saying as much… woops). Dating one person at a time, even if said people have been dating lots of others in addition to me.
 
I recently came up with the metaphore of Floating Docks to describe how I understand “relationship status”:
So, in my head, there’s a stable, floating dock called “casual pals” and a stable, floating dock called “close friends” and a stable, floating dock called “long term romantic partners” and… there isn’t really anything else. All of these docks are connected. They’re all landing points on a continuum of (a) available/expected time, energy and attention AND (b) emotional & physical/sexual intimacy. But these floating docks are connected by long, semi-submerged and very precarious-feeling chains. Not walk-ways, not linked-together chains of floating docks, just chains.
 
So if I’m in some sort of relationship with someone – which, if I’ve hung out with you more than once? We have some kind of relationship – I feel very unstable and anxious if that relationship isn’t one that (based on how we name each other, but also – very much so – on how we interact together) lands squarely and securely on one of my (very few) floating dock options.
 
This blows.
 
I mean, it’s great to finally have words and metaphors to put around how I conceptualize relationshps. But it blows because I have so few options. Like: It would be really great if I could build myself a metaphorical floating dock between “casual pal” and “super besty” so that folks who wanted to hang out with me at an emotional-intimacy level that was somewhere between “We hang out in big groups a few times a year” and “I am where you stay if you suddenly get divorced” weren’t stuck either out in the cold, so to speak, or being overwhelmed with more intimacy than they wanted. When I look at the (long, loooooooooong) space between “close friends” and “long-term romantic partners”, though, it gets even worse.
I would really, really like it if I had a few alternatives to “We’re in this For Ever” when it came to romantic and/or sexual relationships. I’d love a “friends with benefits / play-partners” dock and a “long-term lovers-as-opposed-to-partners” dock, both of-which would allow for long-term relationships that didn’t require huge outputs of time, energy and attention in order to be sustained or maintained. I might also (maybe) enjoy “summer fling” or “quick-and-dirty hook-up” docks that would allow for deeply emotionally-and-sexually intimate connections that were heavily bound/bordered by time limits.
 
And currently? Currently, I have none of those docks.
 
It’s a problem. It’s a problem that leads me to avoid asking for play-dates or scenes or even coffee “too often” for fear of getting more attached than I, or they, might want to be, and it’s a problem that leads me to pushing for relationships that are more emotionally-invested than they, or I, can reasonably sustain under a given set of circumstances.
It’s messed up, is what I’m saying.
 
I once asked my wife how she (having numerous sweethearts + being Ace + having lots of friends whom she loves) differentiates between “primary” sweetheartships, close/loving friendships, and “secondary” sweetheartships, and what she said was that it all depends on where the energy is going at any given time. She doesn’t try to force it, effectively, but just lets relationships be what they’re going to be.
 
I have no idea how that even works.
 
I mean, it’s possible that this is just because I’m (a) lazy, (b) needy, and (c) kind of an introvert/home-body who has to Make myself get out of the house on the regular, but I feel like (or fret that), if I were to just let the energy go where it’s going to go… I would basically be a shut-in with no social life of any kind what-so-ever. Audra Williams writes about how friendships (and other types of relationships, honestly) require (mutual) effort and maintenance to grow and thrive. Which is a no-brainer. But I find myself, these days, wondering “Okay. How much effort and maintenance, in which areas, will result in the growth and thriving of (a) a romantic relationship, (b) a casual lover-ship, (c) a one-on-one buddy-ship, (d) a cherishing friendship… vs how much (or how little, for that matter), in which areas, will result in an intentional casual, small-doses/big-groups friendship or occasional/one-off intimate encounter that doesn’t accidentally(?) end up on a relationship escalator.
 
A long (loooooooooong) time ago, I made the mistake (“mistake”) of going on my first-ever Real Date with someone I had zero interest in. Because I didn’t want to be “rude” or “mean” and because I thought “Whatever. It’s just a date. He’ll get it out of his system and leave me alone”. Which, duh, didn’t happen. So, being in my late teens and having no concept of even unhealthy boundaries, I made the decision then and there that I would never again date anyone I couldn’t see myself marrying.
For real.
 
Well, that was a bad idea.
And also: I’m currently (happily – woot!) married, and trying to find ways to navigate polyamoury without automatically aiming for some kind of Future wherein My Date quickly (or slowly) becomes part of my Poly Family and we eventually all live together in some sort of urban-farming eco-village-like compound that everyone returns to (sort of like the Mother Ship, except intimately tied to the cycles of our bioregion because also: I’m a huge Pagan), no matter how many months they spend traveling the world in any given year.
…Not that I’ve planned this all out or anything. >.>

 
So, yeah. I would like to know how to build myself some more Floating Docks so that I can feel comfortable and stable and safe having relationships with people that are “more than friends” but aren’t (and may never be) “permanent ‘blending finances and living arrangements’ relationships” either.
 
Any suggestions on how to go about doing this? Because presently I’m just overthinking everyting and not getting very far.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

So, below, is a fairly large excerpt from this other post I wrote for Urban Meliad as part of the New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (if you’re a Woo Person, you may want to give it a go yourself). Given the subject matter, I thought it was appropriate to post it over here, as well.
As a heads up, I’m talking a little bit about dissociative things I do in (some) sexual situations but I’m not getting into discussions or depictions of sexual trauma. Also, I talk a bunch about tarot cards which might be a little out of left-field here, but is context-appropriate for the way I’m doing the Experiment over at Urban Meliad.
Onwards!
 
 
The first time I looked at the Osho Zen depiction of the Queen of Cups (Receptivity), what I saw in her double-helix-stemmed lotus blossom body was the Chalace (Brittish Traditional Wiccan style, in case you missed the metaphor). I keep thinking about the message to Slow Down from back in early April, and about not being as in my body as I thought I was and, maybe it’s because of the afore-mentioned sex-and-money rabbit hole, but I kind of feel like the Hard Thing I’ve been putting off is sex, specifically bottoming in sexual situations. (It’s something I can do, and something that I can enjoy a LOT… but I’m also really out of practice, and the last few times I’ve tried it, things have not ended well. I’ve wound up clinging to my various partners asking them over and over “Are you safe? Are you okay?” – a dissociative Thing where it’s pretty easy to spot what I’m really asking. FML.
I’m fucking tired of it!
 
So I did a Hard Thing the other night, and asked for something sexually specific from someone specific. And the someone specific said Yes.
 
Which you’d think would have been it for the hard part, but you would be wrong!
Turns out, there’s a whole other Hard Part that I didn’t even know was there!
 
So. Working this out:
Brené Brown writes (in The Gifts of Imperfection, iirc) that Joy is one of the most vulnerable feelings out there, and that because of this, people (i.e.: ME) are quick to numb out joy with things like Preemptive Tragedy or by setting up a permanent campsite in the Slaugh of Despond (perpetual, pre-emptive disappointment).
 
Slogging through the internal landscape of what I think I am, and am not, Supposed To feel:
I’m not supposed to want things
OR
I AM supposed to “want things” but only in-so-far as I’m able to psychically predict what other people want to me to want, which I an then present to them like it was all my idea OR Wanting specific things is greedy, and makes you a burden/bother, and you should know better than to be like that
OR
You can WANT things all you like, but actually ASKING for them is heaping social pressure on someone else to do what you want, whether they want to or not, so you might as well just tattoo “rapist” on your forehead and get it over with, you horrible, horrible, self-centred, demanding jerk
 
…Slogging through that stuff is hard. Getting the words out of my mouth is hard. But, for me at least (and in a situation where there was at least a 50% chance of getting a Yes in the first place), it was even harder to get through what came after.
 
The Hard Thing, it turns out, is stopping myself from slamming my own fist down on hope and joy by telling myself All The Stories – stories like:
They’re just saying yes to be ‘nice’ to you, they don’t really want to do this and you should just let them off the hook before you screw this up even worse;
OR
Okay, you’ve asked, and they’ve said yes. Now what happens if you freeze up and reneg on the deal? What happens then, huh? You’ll have Led Them On and then Let Them Down, that’s what! Maybe you should just call the whole thing off before you screw this up even worse.
 
The hard part is staying open, and it took recognizing the feeling as one I’d had before (over a year ago actually, back when C first said they were interested in me and I spent a train-ride home from Toronto wanting to sob my eyes out because I was so full of hope that was trying so hard to turn into despair) for me to figure out what was happening.
Maybe if (when?) I feel that feeling again, I’ll be able to recognize it and tell myself: “Wait! This isn’t something that you have to squash! Stay hopeful! Stay open! This is already going somewhere good!”
 
Staying open felt like being filled up to overflowing (with something really positive), feeling a little overwhelmed and like I needed to dial things back or else Something Would Go Wrong… But it didn’t, in and of itself, feel bad. And staying emotionally open had some er… pleasant side-effects on the physical front? Yay?:-)
 
I think that feeling – brim-full and possibly overflowing, but able to accept that more is coming – is the Queen of Cups Feeling.
 
I read something in Healing Sex (which I’d forgotten I’d bought years ago and in-which I’d already made a bunch of notes) the other day, about how as you push through barriers, you are going to feel all the uncomfortable, crappy feelings all over again, and you’re going to have to figure out which of those uncomfortable (emotional and/or phsyical) sensations are crappy-and-triggering because you don’t like them, versus which ones are uncomfortable but actually okay (like: If you try to stop yourself from getting turned on because of bad experiences or feelings around getting turned on during a Bad Situation, it’s okay to continue with a Good Situation, even if you are trying not to get turned on, and you might be able to let yourself get turned on in those Good Situations eventually). This reminds me a little of that.
 
Learning (or remembering?) how to discern which Intense Feelings mean “stop” versus which ones mean “keep going”, rather than treating all of them as “This is Too Intense! ACK!” is… kind of a big deal? I feel kind of like I’ve had a penny-drop moment, albeit probably one that’s going to involve a lot of practicing before it becomes something I can do without having to talk myself thorugh it on a concious level. (Although talking myself through “stay hopeful, stay open” in the emotional sense is actually a mega-tonne easier than talking myself through “stay in your body, don’t over-think everything” in the physical sense has ever, ever been, possibly for obivous reasons).
 
I have a chunk of rose quartz tucked into my bra, near my heart. I have Plans for this, but one of them is a little bit of self-glamoury to keep some love-for-me close at hand when I need it.
Touching on the Two of Cups again [EDIT: this is the tarot card I chose to represent this prompt over at UM for a bunch of reasons which you can read all about in the original. /EDIT], the Mary-El version, as Beth Maiden puts it, depicts the “[…J]oy of emotional connection, the sublimity of blending energies[…]”. Of offering and accepting and receiving and offering back; of feeding each other.
I want to do this with my partner(s).
I want to build on this and keep opening.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.