Pride, Dignity, & the Failing of Section 8

*I apologize for the bad formatting, but WordPress refuses to properly post this and I refuse to wait for this program, or any other, to give me the space to express myself through grammatical correctness.

I’ve had a lot of questions and suggestions lately regarding my housing search with my Section 8 voucher. I thought I’d take the time here to explain how this program works, or rather how it doesn’t work.

There are a variety of housing vouchers and public housing options with continuously changing program stipulations that are impossible to keep up with. I have a Section 8 voucher which means I can, in theory, move where ever I’d like. I pay 30%, or up to 40%, of my income in rent and the housing authority pays the rest. I can’t go above 40% of my income in my portion of the rent because then I’d be rent burdened and Section 8 is supposed to help eliminate that.
The housing authority that issues a person their voucher is dependent upon what city they live in. There are a set number of vouchers available for disabled people, the elderly, families, and single, able bodied people. The wait lists vary a great deal based on which of those labels are applicable to you and on what city you live in. Brookline has a 10+ year wait for a voucher. Somerville had Section 8 vouchers available only to disabled people. It took me approximately 3 years to get this.
Now on to the rental details of this ineffective and soul crushing program. Everyone is issued a Section 8 voucher for a specific number of bedrooms, not a monetary value for rent. My voucher is for an one bedroom apartment. All voucher holders have to adhere to what is referred to as “payment standards” that are set by each municipal housing authority. This is essentially a cap on how much rent and utilities are allowed. The payment standard for an one bedroom in Boston is $1387 and for Somerville is $1261. Anyone who lives in Massachusetts knows that rent costs a great deal more then this and salaries don’t come close to covering it. That’s why you have so many adults living with roommates in this area. Given that we’re currently facing a serious housing crisis in Boston the unrealistically low Section 8 payment standards create an even larger barrier to safe and affordable housing for disenfranchised people.
So you can’t spend over $1387 in rent and utilities for an apartment in Boston so get a roommate. Makes sense, right? Except you can’t. Anyone who lives in the apartment is considered additional household income and then that counts against me and the services I receive. Why don’t you lie to get around this? Because you can’t. The voucher can only cover the set amount of bedrooms in an apartment that it’s issued for. I can only use my voucher for an one bedroom apartment. I still can’t have said apartment go over the payment standards. You still can’t lie to get around this? How will the housing authority know? Because they inspect the apartment before the voucher holder moves in and they receive a copy of the lease. Having a roommate doesn’t help me in finding a place they’ll approve of, nor does it impact how much I’ll directly pay in rent. It merely increases the likelihood that I’ll lose my voucher for not following the program rules.
Coincidentally, I’m only allowed a guest to stay a total of 22 nights in a year. That’s isn’t 22 nights per person. It’s for the entire year. Let’s say I’m dating someone and we want them to sleepover 1 night a week at my place. They can’t because I’d then risk loosing my voucher. I could also risk loosing my voucher for using medical marijuana in the apartment because while it’s legal in Massachusetts it’s still illegal on a federal level and Section 8 is funded through the federal government. I can use oxy (with a prescription) until my heart’s content, but I can’t use weed which helps my pain a great deal and has far less side effects then narcotics. These are two great examples as to how Section 8 further polices the bodies of the poor and plays the role of the institutional Daddy that is there to make sure we do right because we can’t possibly be trusted to make the best decisions given our situations for ourselves.
Moving along to the inspection. In theory, the inspection makes sense. It’s to ensure that Section 8 voucher recipients are living in safe homes that meet health and sanitation codes. However, it takes one to two weeks to have the inspection completed and the apartment must be empty when inspected. This means that the property owner is going without rent for part of a month in the hopes that they’ll pass inspection and they can rent to the voucher holder. They also have to fill out and submit a great deal of paperwork including some of their financial records. How many landlords have you had that would do this? I haven’t had a single one in Massachusetts that would go through this. When going to see apartments there’s almost always someone living in the apartment at the time of viewing and they usually move out the day before the new tenant moves in. Landlords here don’t even take a day to clean, make necessary repairs, and paint. The inspection then creates one more barrier to finding an apartment with Section 8. There is also of course the discrimination that voucher holders experience, but I’ll leave that for a later discussion.
Don’t some buildings have low income units? Yes, buildings that receive certain tax subsidies do have to put a set number of low and moderate income units in their buildings. The problem is that they don’t have to put in many of these units. In Boston, and many other large American cities, the only housing being built are high rise condo and apartment buildings for the obscenely wealthy. Many of these units begin at million and go up in cost. The developers become wealthier on the tax payers’ dime while creating a greater housing disparity that creates housing instability, higher rates of homelessness, over crowding in housing, and rent burden. The government of course plays their part in allowing this to occur.
I have a list of approximately 500 buildings in Boston that currently have these low to moderate income units. Can’t you apply for one of these units? How does this work you ask? It’s a long, tedious, time consuming, and soul crushing endeavor. The list shows 20 to 30 property management companies that manage most of these properties. It makes sense that you’d call the management company to find out about the units they have in all their properties, right? In case you haven’t figured this out yet this system doesn’t work on common sense and a stream lined approach to housing. You have to call each individual property to find out if they have units available. They’re also primarily open only Monday to Friday from 9 to 4. If you can’t make the multiple hours worth of phone calls in that time period then too bad. You’re simply out of luck. To add to this frustrating and draining process many of these sites don’t answer the phone and only have an option to leave a voice message, but they never return phone calls.
Isn’t there a website you can go to to submit an application or inquire about availability? No, there isn’t. When I have been able to get someone on the phone I’ve often been told they’d email or mail me applications, but that more often then not hasn’t occurred. Some properties require applicants to send self-addressed stamped envelopes for an application or to apply in person. Not every voucher holder has the means to apply in person due to a variety of factors such as disability. work schedule, and cost of transportation. Poor people also don’t have the money to buy numerous stamps and hope that the applications will be sent to them. Many of these applications are also 10 pages long so one stamp on a letter size envelope won’t work.
If these units exist why are you complaining about how difficult it is to find housing with your Section 8 voucher? Because the units are always taken and the wait lists, if they’re even open, are 1 to 10+ years long for an unit. I called one property last week that has had their wait list closed for 9 years because they have such a backlog of people in need of an affordable unit. One property management company that I’ve spoken to has a company policy not to tell Section 8 inquirers how long their wait lists are. I suspect that this is an attempt to appear as if they’re helping the community while really they are only pillaging.
10 years is a long time, but isn’t it better to just get yourself on these lists and try to wait it out? Think again. Waiting out a dire situation of poverty and rent burden leads to homelessness, abuse, and the growth of personal health issues and disability, as well as public health concerns. It’s also inhumane, elitist, and an unrealistic option to tell people to wait it out. To add to the emotionally, physically, and mentally crippling problems that poverty leads to for so many of us there is also the issue that vouchers expire. A Section 8 voucher holder has 60 days from the date of issue to find an apartment and sign a lease. If after 60 days you don’t have an apartment then you can file for a 30 day extension. If after those 30 days are up you can file for one more 30 day extension. In total, voucher holders have 120 days to find an apartment that meets the completely unrealistic demands of the Section 8 program.
I’ve opted to fill out applications for buildings in the Boston area that have a wait list of a year or less while hoping that I can find something in the now 3 months I have left on my voucher. Let me tell you about some of the questions that are asked on these preliminary applications. I’ve been asked my gender, age, race, eye color, height, weight, and if I have a criminal history and if so the details of said record. But discrimination in housing is illegal you say. Ha! I say to you. Even before I began my housing search with my voucher and I was employed full time I was told by landlords that because I’m a single woman they won’t rent to me if my father doesn’t co-sign the lease. As we all know we women can’t possibly handle our finances ourselves without a man involved and we all have fathers to fall back on. I’ve had landlords ask about my sexual orientation and dating practices. I’ve had landlords make racist comments about the fact that I’m Native. And on and on and on. While this is all illegal that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t occur and the applications that most affordable housing units use are full of bigoted questions that can lead to housing discrimination, as well as the complete breakdown of one’s self-worth which is already difficult to maintain in the face of poverty and oppression.
Let’s move along to a possible happy outcome. You found an apartment! Let’s celebrate! No my friend, not yet. Now you have to come up with the financial resources to secure the apartment. The housing authority only pays the first month’s rent and the last month’s rent is only paid in your last month in the apartment. They don’t help with deposit nor do they put a cap on what the property owner may ask for. There’s also the matter of the non-refundable one month realtor fee because so many landlords in the Boston area use realtors to advertise their property. This is also not regulated by the housing authority. Even with a Section 8 voucher I could still be looking at anywhere from $3-5,000 that I have to put upfront to move into an apartment. I have Section 8 because I’m poor so I don’t have that kind of money.
Aren’t there other government programs or charities that can help with moving expenses? In theory, yes there are, but like the Section 8 program itself these programs are few and far between and have many stipulations that most people don’t meet, even if you’re poor and disabled. Because I’m disabled I have a much higher cost of living due to my health and life needs and I don’t have the luxury of moving with a Uhaul and some friends. I have to hire movers which increases the amount of money I need to get into a new apartment. Thankfully I can pack myself so I don’t have to hire packers, but that’s still incredibly painful and difficult for me to do so it’s a slow moving process that keeps me from taking care of other issues in my life, such as maintaining my health, applying to jobs, or writing. I might also mention that many of the charities that do supposedly help poor people are incredibly misogynistic and bi/trans/homophobic such as Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army. I finally swallowed my pride today and called both for help, but was told that Catholic Charities had no money to give-because the Catholic Church is so hard up for cash-and no one answered the phone at Salvation Army.
Let’s say that by some small miracle I was able to save the amount of money that I need to move into a new apartment. Here’s where the system really fails me and countless others. The fact that we’d have that money is counted against us in the services we receive. Any money that I save means that my food stamps, disability, health care services, and Section 8 can be drastically cut or eliminated all together. Even if I were able to save money, which I’m not because I’m given so little that I can barely even live, I would have to keep it in my sock drawer or a coffee can because I can’t have it anywhere that the government can see. This is one more way that the system keeps poor people from being able to save and invest in order to get out and stay out of poverty.
Just to add to the ridiculously out of touch nature of government based social services student loans are not considered in your cost of living breakdown. As we all know us poor people are uneducated, lazy, and stupid. We couldn’t possibly have pursued, or hope to pursue, a higher education. (Full time students are not allowed to live in many affordable housing units). I can’t file bankruptcy to eliminate my student loans and because I have private loans I can’t even have the interest rates or payments lowered or deferred. Every time I apply for a service or fill out any of the countless forms that keep my current services in place they don’t count the nearly $600 monthly student loan payment that HAS TO BE PAID as one of my living expenses. If my mom didn’t co-sign those loans then I wouldn’t have been able to get my education which has proven to be utterly useless and detrimental to my financial health. As many know my relationship with my family is tenuous at best and outright toxic and abusive at its worst. I believe that if my mom wasn’t financially obligated to pay my loans  then she wouldn’t help me in paying them. As a result I would default and the government would most likely take that money out of my monthly disability check to make the payments.I then would be without a doubt homeless. Thankfully she is obligated and able to pay them so this is a concern that I’m able to put on the back burner for the time being. Of course having excessive student loan debt doesn’t help my credit score so it does impact my current state.
There you have it. This is a basic breakdown of Section 8 and its many failings. I’ve come to the conclusion that pride and dignity are privileges only reserved for those with some measure of financial stability and mine are being chipped away more and more with each passing day. I currently am at a rent burden rate of about 80%, live in an unsafe house where I’ve hurt myself twice on the property due to my landlord’s negligence, and am unable to have many of my health care and life needs met and am without the resources to climb out of poverty. My depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are only growing worse throughout this housing search process. I honestly don’t believe that I’ll continue to fight if I lose my voucher. If this occurs I’ll mostly likely be one more statistic of an Indigenous, bisexual, disabled, woman that’s a rape and abuse survivor that found the system and society to be nothing more then a serious of humiliations and abuses that were too much to bear.
After years of studying and working in politics and now being on the receiving end of so many government services I can confidently say that the system is not working to help people survive or thrive and move into a place independence; it is set up to keep the oppressed down so that we can never rise up and take what’s rightfully ours.
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Alienated, Full of Rage & Pain, & Fed the Fuck Up

Fuck men who eye rape me while waiting for the bus

Fuck men who are bus drivers who hit on me and make me feel unsafe

Fuck men who take advantage of a full train so they can rub against my ass

Fuck these asshole men who do these awful things all within a 20 minute time span on one fucking day so I can spin the fuck out and fall apart.

Fuck my mom for her half-assed emails that I only just saw because I checked my old email account.

Fuck her for thinking a half-assed apology without meat behind it would make things right

Fuck her for causing me more pain

Fuck the “community” and the goddamn white, well to do breeders for thinking that marriage “equality” was some big win for all of us.

Fuck white, financially well off gay men and women who think they have a right to be condescending to me, a Native American, bisexual, disabled, poor woman, with a long history of abuse in all its forms by telling me how hard life has been before gay marriage “equality”

Fuck WordPress for making me be subjected to their bullshit rainbow header because hey, today they care about all us queer folks. Never mind about all those days in which so many of us have been beaten, raped, imprisoned, impoverished, homeless, and so forth. Yeah, we matter today because those that are well off are suddenly “equal” under the fucking law.

Fuck them, fuck you, fuck everyone!

I’m fighting like hell to not self-destruct right now because there is NO safe space for me, but hey, I now have “equality.”

New Follower-No Editing Yet Again-Staying True to It All

Today my step-dad decided to follow my blog. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react to that. Should I block him because he’s had years to connect with me and never did? Should I block him because the only time he’s truly been kind and fun to/with me has been when he was drinking-oh yeah, I noticed this over the years!? How can you only be nice to someone when yhou have a couple of drinks in you? How can you only greet the dogs in the house yet walk right by a human being-your step-daughter, in your home? Oh wait, because your wife only cares about you and not her child. Because YOU only care about your selfishness and fuck your step-daughter and the abuse and pain she’s battling through.

Should I block him and my mom because fuck them for not being there for me when I needed them or for even making me type this?! Should I say to hell with this and him for the years in which I tried to build a family in which I was a part of down to the point of me trying to make myself interested in his bs like golf while he gave not one damn about me and my passions? Fuck him for his arrogance in thinking he can suddenly come around now and try to get a glimpse into my life. Fuck Tom for thinking he can follow me and my writing now like it’s important for him. I’ve been important for decades. Where the fuck have you been?!

Owning My Pain Induced Fault Lines

I’ve recently come to some hard realizations regarding my past and how they are impacting my present. This may be the only time in the immediate future that I can get this out so I’m taking the plunge without editing so that I won’t erase the honesty of my situation.

I’ve thought that my mental illness presented itself when I was eight years old, but now I think it was childhood abuse and trauma that was coming through. I was standing in our ugly shower that’s the color of unhealthy bacteria laced phlegm sobbing with my mom’s disposable pink lady Bic razor against my wrist. I have no idea what upset me and how I learned that cutting one’s wrists could end one’s life, but there I was. For the last few years I’ve thought that that was the beginning of me becoming crazy and fucked up. I’ve viewed it as the start of me being damaged goods, but the reality is that it was the abuse in my house that led me there. I can’t even remember anything but bits of pieces of my childhood before the age of eight and I don’t have constant memories before the age of ten. This is also something I’ve only recently come to understand and grip the gravity of as unhealthy and abnormal.

I was raped when I was fourteen by my then nineteen year old boyfriend. I’ve always known that that I was young and just a kid when that happened, but because I had been through so much already and was smarter than average I never really thought of myself as a child. I didn’t see it as childhood sexual abuse. I never saw myself as a victim of childhood sexual abuse. That’s what it was though.

I’m not sure why seeing this all for what it was has been so difficult for me. Maybe it’s my own internalized self-blame and hatred. Perhaps by seeing myself in the role of more of an adult I was able to give myself more power when it was all taken away. I’m not sure, but I know that this has been unbearably painful and has rocked my sense of self-worth and ability to further cope in my current shitty life circumstances. There are things that have been a part of my life for the past several years that I can’t publicly speak about for a variety of reasons, but they only add to the trauma that I face. They add to the alienation I feel from people. This is all such a large part of why I’ve further pushed people away. Granted, I haven’t found many that are understanding and patient for me to let in, but the few that have come my way I somehow kick out of my life through a series of tests. Only a few people have had the understanding and compassion to stick by me through this all.

I don’t blame those who I don’t understand and it’s too much for them to deal with, but this is a small taste of what I’m going through. Every minute of every day I’m in pain. Between the fact that my body is a worthless hunk of junk that has continually let me down (now I have a lump in my right breast to contend to) or the trauma that I carry in my soul without any relief or comfort I simply don’t know how to let people be close to me. How do you let yourself open up to the idea of being loved when the overwhelming majority of your life you’ve been told time and time again that you’re so unworthy of life that you deserve abuse? Seriously, someone tell me how because I really don’t know.

Starving for Relief

I’m keeping this short, sweet, and to the point.

I have a lot to write about, but I’m not yet ready to share it. It’s highly painful, infuriating, disempowering, oppressive, and so on. I’m hoping that next month I can share it with the world, but for now it’s my painful burden to carry on my own.

The horrific pain in my life that has swallowed me whole has come to a head. I know revel in physical pain that I can control. It’s so sick and disheartening to me yet I’ve lost almost all hope as to how to handle it all. I’ve barely eaten today and I’m so hungry that I feel horribly sick yet it’s a pain, emotionally and physically, that I have control over (unlike every other source of pain in my life) so I find some pleasure in it. I recognize all the various ways in which this is so unhealthy and fucked up, but years of asking for, pleading for help have led me nowhere. I’m truly beginning to wonder if I might be better off cycling off my psych meds and getting the hell out of therapy.

I came to terms years ago with my need for meds, but I’m so disgusted with the Western, white, male, patriarchal, racist, colonialistic, heternormative/sexist, ableistic, elitist clinical model of psych care that I’m just done with it all. If one person tells me that I’m bi because I was raped or fetishizes me because I’m Native or ignores my medical needs as a disabled poor person, or threatens to institutionalize me because I have the audacity to talk about, and ask for help, regarding my PTSD, I might loose my mind! To hell with these oppressive assholes! They know not a damn thing about what’s best for me or anyone else!

I don’t know the answers to anything anymore nor do I have much hope in how to cope with my life. I just know that for now being so hungry that I’m in pain simply feels right.

Self-Destruction, Speaking Out, & Political Warfare

The last year and a half have been some of the more difficult years I’ve had to face in some time. Due to this I haven’t had the emotional, mental, or physical energy to write for this blog, my book, or most other pieces. I’ve occasionally had a poem come upon me that I felt was appropriate to post, but bringing for the where with all to write deeper and with further explanation has simply never happened. Obviously there is a great deal that has occurred over this period of time, but I’m going to keep it as short as possible.

I was in a relationship that turned out to be very dishonest, manipulative, demanding, and emotionally abusive. Under normal circumstances I would’ve left a relationship of this sort, but I simply couldn’t afford to move out of the apartment we shared. My health problems have become so severe that they have placed great limits on the type of housing I can live in which of course significantly raises the cost. Rents in the Boston area have sky rocketed over the last few years, my health care costs are insane now, and my income stream is abysmal compared to these current costs. I was forced to stay under the roof, due to my disability and finances, with someone who mentally and emotionally tortured me day in and day out.

As one can imagine this led me down a very dark path. I fell apart and without a proper support system I was at a loss as to what to do. My mother, whom I no longer speak to nor do I ever see myself speaking to again despite my deep love for her, knew of the situation and offered no help. The irony in this is profound given that she was once in an abusive marriage and that several of the women in my family have also been in abusive marriages.

Things reached the point that my pride broke and I began looking at shelters. I told my ex that I was going to contact the police if he continued his behavior. He soon moved out after this with the promise that he would pay the rent on the apartment until I either moved out or the lease ended. Like all words that escaped his lips, this was a lie.

Two months later I came home to find under my door a notice to appear in court for an eviction hearing. The apartment management company never called me once nor did they ever follow MA law and send me all of the paperwork that comes before the eviction hearing notice. This was now the end of May 2014 and I had been looking for a place one month after we moved in together which was July 2013. The cost of apartments, my physical needs, the extreme biphobia in the Boston area (the minute potential roommates would hear that I’m bi they were no longer interested in me), and the housing shortage that left many of us scrambling to pay $800 to live in a closet in an unsafe house with 5 roommates no where near the train or life necessities left me unable to find anything. Thankfully I found the horrific place I’m in now at the last minute. I still had to go to court and deal with the mess though and of course my ex, nor his family, could be bothered to attend even though we were all legally obligated to be there. The one bright side of all of this is that I never have to see him nor his loathsome family ever again.

I had a few professional difficulties arise during this time. I have never been a fan of the area I live in. Over the years I’ve found it to be very gender conformist, racist, especially towards us Natives, pro-colonialism, horrifically biphobic, elitist, ableistic, puritanical, self-congratulatory, arrogant, stand offish, cold, and rude. This is not to say that I haven’t found some pleasures of living here, but it’s never been home. Despite this I’ve tried to be socially and politically active, but this came to a breaking point for me, like many things, in the spring of 2014.

I found myself disillusioned with the politics, parties, and the way social and political issues were addressed, if at all. An issue came about that caused great difficulty in my life. I found myself dealing with a set of -isms that were too blatant for me to ignore. After years of suffering out right abuse in “liberal” politics-being called an “injun,” hit on at work, told that I’m bi so bring in sexy bi girls to get the male donors, not being paid for my time and reimbursed for my expenses, told I don’t deserve time for a meal break during a 14 hour day, being told “If you don’t shut up I’m going to throw you through a wall” etc-I simply couldn’t take it anymore. While this situation was not that volatile it was still bad and indirectly told me that I was worthless. I left the environment and was soon threatened with a lawsuit. There were no grounds for the suit, but because of my financial state I couldn’t lawyer up. The same day the eviction notice came was the same day I was threatened with the law suit.

One week prior to this I finally snapped and tried to kill myself. The day I left behind unhealthy professional environments was the day my mother finally went too far with me. I have dealt with years of her emotional neglect, dismissal, and denial of the many abuses I’ve suffered over the years. I choose not to rehash them now, but they are great and they are painful beyond belief.

When I told her that I left this particular situation and why (over a text message because she never called me on any day) instead of giving me support and love or even saying a simply “I’m sorry” her immediate response was to say that her and my step-dad couldn’t give me money. I never said one word about money as a concern of mine let alone asked for money. This is a woman who once told me that I was only angry at her and my step-dad for not giving me enough money. Meanwhile I had just told her I was beyond hurt and angry for things such as her ignoring me telling her when I was only 14 that my boyfriend had raped me. Two months after that I tried to kill myself because I couldn’t take the nightmares and the other symptoms of PTSD any longer. She still denies this to this day. I think she doesn’t even believe that I was raped. Yet she has the audacity and the heartlessness to think that I’m shallow enough to be angry because they won’t give me money. This is one of many examples of heartache my mom has caused me.

I read that text and something in me just broke. I went to my liquor cart and grabbed my bottle of Jack, mind you it was the largest bottle of Jack you can buy, and I started drinking. I drank 3/4s of that bottle. That alone was enough to put me in a hospital. I didn’t stop there. I went to my pills next. Given my health problems I have my own pharmacy. I started mixing them all taking handfuls. I made sure to mix in a nice batch of the narcotics so that they would combined with each other and the alcohol and stop my breathing. I was also careful not to take so many pills that I would be sick and loose them all.

Apparently thanks to my worthless, broken body having health problems that goes back to my childhood I am now like an elephant. It takes large animal size tranquilizers to take me down. I didn’t even get one day of relief from my life. I woke up 6 hours later! I was a groggy, disoriented mess, but I was still awake. I never went to the doctor nor the hospital. I simply drank a lot of water and slept it off.

When I finally decided to tell my therapist and psychiatrist about it they naturally were worried, but sadly not too surprised. My shrink pushed for hospitalization, and then out patient day treatment, both of which I refused. I went through those horrors as a teenager and I’d sooner die then go through them again. [If asking for help means being forced into hospitalization I simply won’t ask for help. That’s how bad my experiences were as a teenager and how much I know about the US mental health care system (not that it deserves to be called “care”) as an adult. I’ll go it my own before I suffer that abuse again!]

After hearing everything I drank and took that night my psychiatrist said in so many words that I was lucky to be alive. I was furious I was alive! I stayed angry for months after. Some days I’m still angry about it. I’m not sure how I didn’t do it all over again, and for good measure slice wrists up like a child making paper dolls, when I received the court notice and the lawsuit threat. Believe me when I say I’ve had the thought many times since. Writing this now has me thinking about it.

I hate that I feel this full of pain and I wish I had the solution to make it all go away, but I’ve spent the bulk of my life trying to hide it all because when I asked for help no one cared. I can’t say that too many people (there are some and they are amazing, loving human beings!) seem to care still, but I refuse to be silent. I don’t give a damn anymore if that means lawsuits or if it hurts my career kissing ass to a bunch of self-righteous, self-congratulatory suits that don’t really care about those of us who are suffering in whatever manner that may be. I could care even less if it makes people “uncomfortable.” Too damn bad! If just hearing about my realities makes you uncomfortable then imagine living them? I am doing everything within my power to care for myself, to better myself, and to have the future that I so desperately want and so rightfully deserve.

In the mean time, I try to remind myself of something that two amazing women have said. One is my fabulous, Indigenous friend, Elyse. She has told me a few times when I’ve felt low that not only am I loved, but that our continual survival as Indigenous women is an act of resistance against colonialism and the powers that want to do away with us. I’ll admit that the few times I read that when I felt so low I wanted to cut myself, starve myself, drink myself into an oblivion, or even kill myself, I wanted to tell her to go “fuck herself.” Elyse is amazing person and I love her dearly, but those words don’t mean a lot in when you’re at one of your greatest moments of suffering. I always told myself though that she loved me enough to say that to me and helped relieve some of the pain.

The second woman whose words ring in my ears are Audre Lorde. I’ve always loved her saying “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Recently though an amazing revolutionary lovin’ man in Boston, Eroc, posted on his Facebook page another Lorde quote that I try to remember: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

My actions that make people so uncomfortable and angry with me that they go so far as to threaten me with unfounded law suits or personally attack my character are my form of self-preservation and that is my resistance against the colonizing powers that want to destroy me and this is one of my acts o

Ableism: The other -ism to Bitch Slap in the Face! Part Two

Tucker Max I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell Promotional Posters

Alright so I promised Part Two would come the day after Part One. I do apologize, but feel free to blame my neck. She’s a cruel mistress that I’m desperate to bound and gag and certainly not for any kinky kicks. Next time I’ll start with the beer and my weeks long neck flare up will be swirling down the drain *read previous post*

So here we are at the concluding part of my Ableism piece. Last you read was the definition of ableism and how it impacts disabled peoples’ lives in everyday discrimination and invisibility up to larger institutional oppression. I also began the discussion of the stereotypes that disabled people face and the two in particular that are personally enraging for myself: paternalism and desexualization, fetishization, and victimization of disabled women. In Part Two I’ll be delving into the later three. Buckle up readers, it’s going to be a furious ride.

Women=Sex. Right? Isn’t that what we’re told everyday through a variety of ways? Well not all women equal sex. If you’re a disabled woman then some make the assumption that you’re not up for the task. If you are physically able to have sex then you probably won’t be any good at it because of any limitations you suffer from. Women are devalued to the worth of our sex abilities, but as disabled women we lose all value because we are seen as unable to sexually perform well if at all.

I was on a bad date-shocked as I’m sure you all are-a few months ago and after a brief description of my knee surgeries the gentleman had the audacity to ask if I still had my “mojo.” Yes folks, my “mojo.” Not only was he enough of a cretin to think it was his right to ask this question, and on a first date no less, but we apparently time warped into the 1970s when a word like “mojo” was used. I was so taken aback by this that I wasn’t able to form a pithy come back and instead sort of sputtered a “yes” and changed the subject. Despite my attempt to move onto another topic he kept at it. He then went on about how he needed to have sex often and he just wanted to make sure I was up to fulfilling his needs. Yes, you read correctly, his needs. I soon said it was time to call it a night. During our goodbyes he invited me to his place and after being shut down flat he then repeatedly invited himself to my place. He went home to play with his “mojo” solo.

After my first knee surgery I was stuck at home for quite some time. I spent the first month primarily fading in and out of consciousness with brief moments of lucidity to painfully hobble to the bathroom, have a bite or two of food, and pop more pain pills. Around week 6 I was finally able to hold my head up on my own while still taking my all meds. As you can imagine it wasn’t long before I was pretty stir crazy. I had sparked an online conversation with someone and once I had the green light from my surgeon to go out and I felt ok enough to take a cab somewhere we made a date.

Upon telling my mom about the good news, leaving my place being the first and the date being the second, she instantly told me to be extra careful with a bit of an ominous tone to her thickly Okie accented voice. This wasn’t something she had said to me in a long time. At this point in my life she’s usually more of the vain of a plain ol’ “Be careful. Love you” than a somber warning. I followed up a flip response and asked her what the deal was. She replied that I was especially vulnerable because of my knee surgery and that he had a better chance of hurting me if he wanted to. Of course this didn’t need saying. As a woman I am aware of my vulnerability to rape and sexual attacks, and as a woman with disability said vulnerability increases greatly. There are many who would take advantage of this. Coincidentally, it was after my first knee surgery that my PTSD flared up and I began having nightmares every night again. If any woman didn’t need a reminder of her vulnerability it’s this one.

The women’s vulnerability issue of ableism feeds directly into rape culture. Anytime a woman is seen in a compromising situation society deems it appropriate for her to be taken advantage of. She’s not attacked, she’s not raped, she’s simply getting what she wanted, deserved, and asked for by being vulnerable. The promotional posters for the wretchedly misogynistic movie I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is a glorious example of ableism meeting rape culture. The posters had the tag line “Strippers Won’t Tolerate Disrespect (Yeah Right). Blind Girls Never See You Coming.” I’m going to save my comments about the stripper sentence for another time and focus solely on the blind girls remark. Let me start by saying “WOW!” These posters might as well have had a picture of a blind woman holding a sign saying “Rape me; I’m easy prey.” This is both fetishizing and victimizing.

Rape culture defines women as less than human and nothing more than a victim responsible for her own demise. Ableism defines disabled people as less than human and childlike due to their illnesses or low mobility. Through the meeting of ableism and rape culture we disabled women are seen as nothing more than easier prey than the average woman. We’re easier to attack and based on the ableistic and misogynistic notions of our culture people would not believe that sex was possible and as a result rape would not possible. Our government, schools, media, and residents cannot even decide on what rape is or if and when it’s possible for able bodied women even when it is clearly videoed, Facebooked, Tweeted, and texted in front of their faces. Even in the aftermath of such vividly clear wrong doing our media displays empathy for rapists rather than the woman who was attacked as we saw in the aftermath of the Steubenville case. If our ableistic society believes that disabled people can’t have sex and our society can’t decide on what rape of a woman is then this clearly leaves disabled women in a highly vulnerable place.

Another notion that we disabled women battle is the societal belief that no one would rape us because we’re undesirable. If we are believed when we bravely and publicly tell of our ordeals then we are met with the twisted idea that we lowly disabled women should be happy that someone cared enough to rape us because we are less worthy than an able bodied woman. The thought of being less desirable than what society deems as a so called normal woman is quite often a disgusting form of double misogyny and fat phobia that fat women face when they’ve been raped. The idea that anyone would rape a fat woman is so far fetched because culture has deemed her unattractive because she’s fat that no one believes she was raped. In the off chance she is believed then there is the sentiment that she should simply be happy someone did find her decent enough to rape. It is as if she won the big prize of a pity rape. “Dear Diary, I was finally raped today. I feel so much better about myself!”

Desexualization, fetishization, and victimization of disabled women are all part of a larger system of ableism and sexism that form together with misogyny to perfectly fall into line with America’s rape culture. Throw a dash of paternalism into the above mix and you have the perfect recipe for ableism stew. The most infuriating aspect of ableism for me is the literal and figurative invisibility from the world, including other disabled people and my so called leftist, feminist, bi, etc family. I don’t appear disabled, but I am. I cannot, we cannot, be pushed aside into disabled ghettos and forgotten. If one suffers then we all suffer. I’m suffering and I know that I’m not the only one. This is a fight for the many, not merely the few.

I’ve attempted to write with both the clarity and ferocity that these issues deserve. I’ve also attempted to channel my own personal pain and the resulting rage into two constructive posts that hopefully have given my readers further insight into the issues of ablesism and how it crosses paths with other -isms and oppressions. Obviously there are a great many more facets to ableism and the multiple forms of oppression that the many 1 out of 5 disabled people in America face everyday. I strongly encourage you to educate yourself on these issues in a respectful manner that is empowering to those of us who have disability. Now get off your ass, learn more about the issues, the policies (today Obama’s budget called for $400 mil cut to Social Security. SS pays disability!), and begin advocating!