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On exhaustion, care, and surviving when others don’t
[Image: @nicothepoet instagram post]
This week has felt bone-numbingly tiring. The kind of tiring that reliably hits every winter daylight savings cycle, a tiredness no amount of sleep can touch. I kept sitting down to write last week’s newsletter and being dragged down by a reluctance borne of burnout— the feeling when the mere thought of doing something makes you have to take a nap. I tried, I really did.
A big part of why I enjoy the newsletter medium so much is that I can be responsive and flexible week-to-week. The flexibility is fun; I can reply to what I feel like replying to. The responsiveness is often less fun. It means being in dialogue with world events, with difficult topics, with tragedy.
This past week also saw my return to teaching online workshops after more than a yearlong hiatus. When I opened the news app to headlines about another mass shooting, another hate crime against the queer community, I was already holding a similar tragedy in my heart. On Monday, December 27th of 2021, a man went on a shooting spree in Denver, CO, killing tattoo artist Alicia Cardenas along with four others. Alicia was an Indigenous person, a muralist and archaeologist, a street medic, a trailblazer of inclusivity and the owner of Sol Tribe Tattoo, a body modification studio whose mission was one of diversity and healing. While I mourned the loss alongside everyone else at the time that it happened, this past week brought another wave of mourning when I learned from her apprentice that her murder was the result of a man’s misogyny, hate, and racism. If you want to read the story, Rolling Stone did a longform piece on his failed tattoo venture, his involvement in the manosphere, and his violent science fiction writings that caused one of his fellow forum members to report him to the FBI and police, who did nothing to prevent the tragedy.
I learned this from Alicia’s apprentice in our “Beyond Trauma Informed Tattooing” workshop on zoom. The space was so supportive and intimate in a way I had sort of forgotten about in my time away from facilitating. I felt fortified by the sincerity and care of everyone present and I hope that person did too. But afterwards, immersed in the story of this man’s decline into violence, I felt so vulnerable, so afraid and hyperaware of my own positionality in relation to Alicia’s. I don’t always feel that way, but it’s impossible not to when the world keeps reminding us of how we’re being failed and how we are punished for living in our truth.
[Image: a tweet from @bimbotheory reading “Take everything that they make up and fear and distort and fetishize about us and absorb it to craft into weapons and armor. None of the worst things they can do to us will be stopped because we tried to be small.”]
Another kind of grief is the loss of trust in those around you. While some might call that broad trust naïve, it’s a gift to be able to assume that someone walking in the doors of a gay club is there to dance and feel joy alongside you. It’s a curse to feel the fear of the opposite in your body. Alongside that grief is a rage and disbelief that for some people, noticing and seeing that curse is a choice and they choose not to. Only one cis, straight friend of mine checked in to see how me and mine were doing given the news (bless him).
I was struck by the reflections of Richard M. Fierro, the Chicano veteran who disarmed the Colorado Springs nightclub shooter with help from a trans woman and other club patrons. Fierro was coping with PTSD after his 15 years of service, ridding his house of guns and going to therapy. His daughter’s boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was one of the five who lost their lives. Rather than valorize his military experience and training or taking the opportunity to call for a more militarized society, he lamented that he had thought he “was done with war.” His efforts in that moment weren’t just to incapacitate the shooter, but to stay on scene once police and medics arrived, providing medical aid and applying tourniquets to those injured.
This weekend I celebrated a friend’s birthday among queer and trans family and at his request we each brought a presentation or a skill share. I heard readings of their writing, learned about botany and plant families and putting intentions into cocktails when you mix them, and when we got the devastating news of the Colorado Springs attack we received it together. I hope to be back to regular question-answering next week, but this week I implore you: hold your friends. Cook a meal. Send some money. Bring flowers. Say “text me when you get home.” Preserve the names and memories of those we have lost. There’s no way we can do this without each other.
[Image: my CoStar notification for the day, “The soul is too heavy to carry alone.”]
Things I’m feeling held by:
~Queer and trans family
~Marlee Grace’s newsletter this week, “The Flood of Feeling: crying while teaching”
~Infusions of nervine herbs and rhodiola powder gifted by a very loved trans herbalist friend.
This poem, “Club Q” by James Davis:
🕯 Remembering Daniel Davis Aston, Raymond Green, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, and Derrick Rump. Remembering and honoring Alicia Cardenas, Michael Swinyard, Danny Scofield, Sarah Steck, and Alyssa Gunn. 🕯
Support the family business of the man who tackled the shooter, his wife’s brewery and the first Latinx woman-owned and brewed beer company in Colorado.
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