5 Ways You Can Be An Ally to Minorities Right Now

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Donald Trump is going to be our president. Ick. Unfortunately, as we’re seeing from many of his cabinet picks, this appears to be bad news for minorities and oppressed groups. We’ve already seen a huge uptick in harassment, particularly of the racist, homophobic, and sexist varieties. If you are white, particularly white and cis, and most particularly white, cis, and male (and straight, able-bodied, ya know), now is the time to put your money where your mouth is and actually do something to help protect the vulnerable people around you.

It might seem overwhelming, and you may have no idea where to start. That’s ok. I have some ideas for you! Minorities cannot survive this presidency alone. It is the responsibility of those with privilege to do the work. So let’s get moving.

  1. Donate. Yes, I know, it’s a pain and it doesn’t feel like you’re doing much, but I promise that setting up a monthly recurring donation to an organization like Southern Poverty Law Center or RAINN or Planned Parenthood does make a difference. If you have the financial resources to commit $20 a month to an organization that is working to protect minorities, then you damn well better be doing it. Here’s a list of some good options if you’re feeling stuck on finding an organization.
  2. Reach out. I know that as white people and men we aren’t used to doing a whole lot of emotional labor, especially not the emotional labor of educating ourselves, supporting our minority friends, and looking racism straight in the face. We have to be willing to do that right now, because I can promise you that the people who feel threatened right now have zero emotional resources left to do that. For many people, this election is a grieving process. Your job is to give your oppressed friends all of their spoons to do the grieving. Make a list of all the women, people of color, queer people, disabled people, etc. that you know, and get in touch with all of them. Yes, all of them. Even the ones you don’t know very well. Ask them how they’re feeling and if there’s anything you can do to help. Make suggestions. I have multiple friends who are having a hard time feeding themselves right now, so I’m bringing over pre-cooked meals. I have some friends who just needed to vent and talk. Keep this list somewhere handy, and in another month or two months, or at the inauguration, or after any shitty policy announcements, reach out again. We can’t afford to be reactive right now, we have to be proactive.
  3. Volunteer. There are approximately a bajillion organizations out there that would love some help. The best part is no matter what your interest there is probably an organization that is specifically focused on it. You could do clinic escorting at Planned Parenthood, work with Black Lives Matter organizing protests and rallies, or pretty much anything else on the planet. One thing to consider is what skills you have. Are you a lawyer? Do you know social media? Are you an accountant? Volunteer your learned skills as well as for untrained work. Most nonprofits would adore someone who can do a little bit of pro bono professional work for them.
  4. Call your representative. This one is incredibly hard for me due to phone phobia, so I will likely write an email instead, but most people are 100% capable of doing it, and it’s not that hard. Take 5 or 10 minutes, call your representative with specific policy issues that Trump is proposing that will harm minorities and specific action items you would like your representative to take. Currently a great option is to oppose his choice of Stephen Bannon as Chief Strategist.
  5. Go to a rally. Join a march. Take direct action. If you are able bodied and can get to the location, you should be out in the streets, showing solidarity. I am making it a goal of mine for 2017 to attend one march or rally each month. They’re out there, and you can seek them out through organizations like Black Lives Matter, NAACP, or a local organization that’s important to you. Get out there and show that you are willing to act on your values.

For My Suicidal Friends, On the Election of Donald Trump

Trigger warning for suicide, real talk about racism and sexism, and mental illness.

I’m scared about the election of Donald Trump for many, many reasons, but one of the most pressing is the fact that it has retraumatized a number of already vulnerable people. I have seen reports (although currently unsubstantiated) of up to 8 trans youth who committed suicide on election night alone. While I do not have hard evidence of these suicides, I find it easy to believe that number or a higher number based on the number of personal friends I have who have quietly told me or others that they are in a place where they don’t feel safe. My office had to open extra space for individuals who were afraid to be alone. People are feeling hopeless and helpless, and when you apply those feelings to populations with histories of trauma, mental illness, disability, harassment, and discrimination, you end up with people who don’t see the point in living. That is dangerous.

I’ve lived most of my life with some level of suicidal ideation. I like to think I have a degree in hopelessness, since I spent my entire time in undergrad wanting to die. I know this isn’t quite the same, but I’d like to talk a little bit about how I get through. Maybe it will help you. I hope it does. If any of the reasons in here feels like pressure or doesn’t work for you, skip it. Take care of yourself. Please.

  1. First and foremost, I want you all to know that your fears are valid. Anyone who tells you that you’re overreacting or that we can get through this and we’ll all be ok can suck an egg. We don’t know what will happen in the next four years. Whatever is happening politically, we have already seen acts of harassment, violence, and hatred around our country in the last couple of days. If you have feelings of fear, grief, and hopelessness, don’t for a minute think that you’re “crazy” or even that you’re alone. Pay attention to those feelings. Take care of those feelings. Step one is to notice that you are feeling things and let yourself feel the feelings.
  2. That being said, it’s easy to let feelings of hopelessness and depression overwhelm you. It’s easy to think that there is no reason to go on living, because there are so many things to be afraid of and so many things that can hurt you or the people you love. But despite the Bigness of what we face and your feelings, there may be some things that you have forgotten. I know, I know, you don’t want to be reminded that good things exist. Of course they do. But the bad things are outweighing the good right now, aren’t they? Well, maybe. But it doesn’t matter how many bad things there are, it doesn’t change the nature of the good things. No matter how awful things get, my cats will still be Very Fuzzy. That sensation will still be pleasurable to me. There is nothing in the world that can change that. Try to remember a few of the things that don’t change because of the bad things, whether that’s your significant other, a pet, your favorite game, a good book, your preferred form of exercise, or what. You may find it harder to enjoy things right now, but keep in mind that what has changed is YOU not the activity. Remember that there are good things in the world too. The bad things still exist and they’re still bad. But they’re not IT. They’re not the whole story. You are actively lying to yourself when you say that nothing is good. Hold yourself to a higher standard, and do not let Donald Trump win by taking away the joy of Pokemon Go or Dungeons and Dragons or Moscato.
  3. I’ve seen quite a few people say that the things they used to care about don’t matter anymore. They’re too trite. Why should we care? Here is why. I believe that just being alive is not a good. Some of you may. But I personally think that the reason life is a good is because of all the things that make a person smile or laugh or have any amount of joy or good feeling. So it really does not matter how trite or small a good thing is. It is literally the reason for life if it makes you smile. I have given up on feeling guilty over my pleasures or worrying about laughing in inappropriate situations or missing the big picture. We are all fighting on the big picture front. We need to focus more on the small front in this moment. It is ok for your joys to be trite. They are still joy. Sometimes I laugh at butts. I give zero fucks how immature and pointless it is. It brings me joy. So butts are important. Whatever you care about? It is important because you care about. Please do not stop caring.
  4. Mindfulness. Ok, this is pretty much here because of Number 3. I find that when I’m being incredibly judgmental of the things that should bring me joy, it’s because my brain is focused on the Big Picture and whether this will Change the World. Does it Matter? Honestly, no, whatever is happening in this exact moment probably won’t make a difference in the larger scheme of things. But that probably doesn’t matter if you focus on this exact moment. Life is made up of this exact moments. Most of the time each exact moment is perfectly fine, and if it’s not perfectly fine it can probably be made ok. Do you have footie pajamies or a comfy blanket? Do you have a soft cat? Can you eat something delicious? If you have anything like that available, do it and try to only pay attention to that good thing. Turn your focus completely to it. It may just be a moment, but those moments, again, are the reason for living. That’s ok. It’s ok for those small moments to be all of it. If this moment’s only purpose is to give you a brief reprieve from depression, that seems like a pretty amazing purpose to me.
  5. Let’s talk for a second about hope. I have spent the last few days talking to as many people as I can. Connections are what keep me alive. What is astounding me is the resilience of the people around me, and the kindness of the people around me. The first impulse of every person I know is to ask if I’m ok, to see how others are, to volunteer their time, money, and resources to help other people. Racism and sexism are alive and real. I cannot deny that. At the same time, even the people who have unintentionally supported the racist and sexist systems are looking around and trying to see what they can do differently. People are acting. People are fervent to ensure the safety and health of their families and friends. There is someone there who can be this hope for you. Start a conversation with someone, anyone, and I will bet you that even if you’re asking about them, they will ask within the first 30 seconds how you are. This is one of the Good things. Not even the KKK can take it away. Remember that.
  6. Your existence is important. If you die, we are losing. I cannot stop using this Audre Lorde quote because it is so perfect, and when I copy pasted it, the formatting was absurdly large. I think I’m going to keep it that way because it’s just that important.

    “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

    Listen to Maria Bamford: mariabamf. If you have issues with the current political elite, the best revenge you can exact is to stay alive and thrive. We cannot fight without you.

  7. And finally, remember that people need you. Maybe this is selfish of me, but I cannot handle anyone else dying right now. I need you here. I need to know that you’re ok. And I honestly mean this: anyone, any time, if you are afraid and not ok, email me. My email is in the about me. I will talk to you. I will listen. Your fears and your feelings are real and valid, and I still believe that you can survive.

You all have my deepest love and support. Please, contact someone if you feel unsafe. See your therapist, talk to a close friend, call a hotline. Stay with us. We are stronger with you.

Fuck You America

Fuck you everyone who voted for Trump.

Fuck you each and every person who waved away the many accusations of sexual assault.

Fuck you everyone who focused on THE EMAILS.

Fuck you Bernie bros saying he would have won.

Fuck you anyone telling me to focus on unity.

Fuck you anyone saying my anger is inappropriate.

Fuck you to people saying my fears are irrational.

Fuck you to the people that I am hearing TODAY, ALREADY using this election as validation of their sexism and racism, openly saying “I’m going to grab women by the pussy” and “white is right”.

Fuck all Americans who thought that their jobs were more important than the physical safety and well being of the people I love.

Fuck the people who didn’t come out to vote.

Fuck the people who were willing to buy into the racism.

Fuck the people who are saying “don’t be combative.”

Fuck the people who think that this isn’t a clear message that people with disabilities, people of color, people with mental illness, women, queer people, and poor people are not welcome and are not worthy of respect.

Fuck all of it.

Why I’m Unsettled By The Surge of Interest in the Anoka State Mental Hospital

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There has been a fair amount of talk recently in my neck of the woods about the Anoka State Mental Hospital. This place is touted as the most haunted place in the state, and for some reason it’s become a bit of a fad recently to want to explore the tunnels beneath the hospital, spend the night, or go urban exploring in some other fashion.

I’ve heard people giggling on the radio about how fun and scary it would be, or how they’d like to freak out their friends by going there. And to be honest it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable and a little afraid.

You see the reason that this mental hospital is considered haunted is because of the treatment of the patients. Treatments for mental illness in the 60s and 70s were fairly harsh, and there’s good evidence that excess medication was used on most patients, along with restraints and electrotherapy (today’s electrotherapy is much different from the very painful electrotherapy of the past). There is a reputation of poor treatment and restraint in this particular institution. Even today some diagnoses still come with “treatments” like restraints, sedating medications, or being committed against your will.

So with that in mind, it concerns me that this very recent and in some cases still ongoing history is seen as some kind of fun sideshow. A recent Washington Post article commented on this same trend in many haunted houses and Halloween attractions, pointing out that making “insane asylum” attractions positions mentally ill people as dangerous and scary. It minimizes the actual struggle of being mentally ill by making it into entertainment, and in many cases can scare people away from treatment by portraying mental hospitals or other treatment facilities as scary and dangerous.

I see many of the same problems with visiting actual mental hospitals as a form of entertainment.

Whether you are visiting because you think the ghosts of patients are scary or because you want to be titillated by the barbaric treatment devices that are supposedly still littered around the grounds, you are actively contributing to stigma and turning pain into entertainment. If you’re visiting because mental patients make scary ghosts, congrats, you are contributing to the impression that mental patients are scary, violent, and dangerous. If it’s the place itself, then you are part of the reason individuals with mental illness are afraid to get treatment: it’s perceived as scary or abusive. We cannot ignore or forget that past treatments were abusive, but the solution is not to go look at them for fun. It’s to advocate for change and high standards today.

It is dehumanizing to mentally ill people to treat the actual site of their abuse as a fun place to visit. Of course there are people who want to visit with different intentions, but most of the talk I’ve heard has been that it would be enjoyable. Perhaps the hospital did not include the barbaric tortures that some people want to imagine, but there is no doubt that many people suffered and were abused in this location, in the name of treatment. That is not a fun story.

In this case it deeply concerns me because we still live in a society where treatment can be abusive to mentally ill people, where mentally ill people are incarcerated at incredibly high rates, where violence is blamed on mentally ill people…all of these problems are diminished or in some ways excused by the kinds of narratives that come out of “scary haunted insane asylum”. They all tie back to the stigma that says mental illness is dangerous and violent, that people with mental illnesses are not fully human but are a spectacle, that we must do whatever we can to keep ourselves safe from these people and to keep them safe from themselves. Further, it contributes to the stigma against getting help.

My mind is not a Halloween sideshow. People who want to go enjoy the spectacle of a scary insane asylum: stop. Please.