Word Therapy

This is going to be one of those things that I write for myself. It’s being put here because, quite frankly, keeping my journal open to the world is part of why it works for me. It lets me vent my thoughts and put some pieces together in a way that helps me make sense of myself. It presents an opportunity for conversation with people who want to engage in it. It allows me the chance to just get things off of my chest and try to find some sense of solace, despite the raging sea of enormous confusion that our world has become (or always has been, or always will be — I’m not so sure). It’s a method for me to resolve some self-turmoil and find out things about myself through exploration of my own psyche; like a one-way conversation with a digital counselor. Here we go.

It’s been a few years now since I came out as transgender. I didn’t even use the term at the time, because I was still trying to find out where my place in the whole miasma of gender-identity was; I knew that I felt feminine. I knew that I wanted to let that be a part of who I was known as. I knew that I wanted to say, “Hey, this is me,” and hope for the best — because, quite frankly, it was a gamble. It was a shot in the dark, to see if the people around me could even deal with the idea that I’d been living some kind of lie and just decided to up and tell them about it. It was like a secret that I’d kept from even myself.

So I said “fuck it” and let that secret out, and you know what? It went over pretty well. In fact, it’s become such an intrinsic part of myself that most of my (online) friends couldn’t imagine me without it. And that’s what brings me here, today, right now. I’m still living a lie, holding secrets from myself, being something that I’m not. It’s a cycle that pulls at my head every single day and makes me feel distracted, worthless, and inadequate. This isn’t quite the same kind of lie, though; it’s ultimately one that’s probably more sinister.

So here’s the deal. If you’re reading this — and especially if you’ve read my other posts or follow me on Twitter — then you know I’m transgender. Great! Did you know, though, that since my coming-out, I haven’t really … done anything about it? I started shaving more of myself, and doing so more regularly. I sit down when I pee, because it is something I can do that is small and entirely for myself and makes me feel “feminine”. I got some pictures of me, face all done up in some pretty makeup, to plaster on my social media profiles. It feels performative in contrast to the rest of my life.

Maybe it’s stupid to think that I’m being “performatively” msyelf, but that’s just it — my life, day in and day out, remains largely unchanged. I haven’t updated my wardrobe or learned to do my own makeup. I haven’t found a way to really express the person that I am, and I can’t bring myself to do much about it for a number of reasons. The biggest one, or what I tell myself is biggest, is the cost. Buying new clothes, gathering lipstick or other things — these aren’t inexpensive endeavors. I don’t even know what would look good on me, and I’ve got no frame of reference to try and figure it out. So I just don’t bother.

The apathy in that is probably the biggest problem. Maybe I’ve just become comfortable plodding through life in the body I was given, draped in the half-thought outfits that society expects to see it in. Maybe I’m scared of being attacked or harrassed if I step outside of that norm; more likely, I’m using an imaginary fear as an easy excuse to keep on seeming like a somewhat-effeminate guy that’s otherwise pretty normal. Maybe I’m ashamed of the idea that wanting to be who I am would require these sacrifices. Maybe I’m just twisting myself in knots because, deep down, I still struggle with the fact that I feel like an imposter.

I feel like I’m treading water. I feel like I’m co-opting the struggles of people who, far braver than I, have not only found their identity, but embraced it openly and been persecuted for it. I feel like I don’t deserve the happiness of knowing who I am if I’m not going to put in the work of making sure others know it, too. And that’s probably an incredilby asinine statement — after all, being myself isn’t about doing anything for anyone other than me, right? Yet still, every day, I see myself in the mirror in the men’s room, feeling out of place and wrapped up in the wrong skin and the wrong clothes and the everything is just … wrong.

So I retreat to my online space, the place where my physical trappings aren’t important. The place where I’m known by my words and a single prettied-up picture that I wish was really me. The place where I know I’m safe to shout long and loud about the person I feel is me, and still feel welcomed. The internet has always been where I belonged; it was this when I was young, finding people around the world in Yahoo chat rooms and just talking about whatever. It was there when I was playing online RPGs, hiding behind characters I created — most of them female, of course. It was there in the persona I created as my “player”-self in those same games, another assumed identity that was just a performance I played for the sake of expressing things I wouldn’t grasp about myself for fifteen years.

And so it comes around in circles, looping back around on itself — which of these two faces is actually me? Am I the person that I put forward in the spaces where I feel secure and supported? Am I the face that walks around my city in poorly-picked clothing, much of which is older than my ten-year-old son? I’d like to think I’ve changed and grown and, dare I say, found out who I really am — but if that’s me, then why the hell is it so hard for me to want to do anything to show it? I twist back and forth between feeling like maybe I’ve just invented some persona to play online, and feeling like the persona I play is the one that walks into work every day with poorly-shaved stubble and ragged-edged t-shirts that long to be replaced by something new.

And hell, let’s be real — sometimes I feel like this internal “struggle” is a bunch of bullshit all around, and that I’m just making up problems to obsess over because I’m looking for excuses to explain away why I’m not constantly content. My life is pretty damn good, after all, and while I’ve got my share of the standard problems that most people deal with, it’s not an overwhelming heap of issues to slog through. I am, for the most part, doing well and able to help provide for my family, but we’ve all got that swirling discontent that lives within us and sometimes I feel like I’m clinging to something that makes that feel justified — which is, perhaps, ridiculous, since there’s literally no reason that I should have to find something to “justify” my own emotions to myself.

I guess the point of this is that I really want everyone to know that, sometimes, I feel like a giant fraud. In fact, most of the time. I don’t quite know what to do with it, and it’s been a huge knot in my stomach for months or maybe years as I’ve searched to find new ways to try and actually be who I am. Putting all of this into words, I think, is helping me find a way that I can try to address some of my own insecurities, but the end result is going to be the same: I’ll keep being these two people, keep digging at myself for failing to reconcile them, and then eventually I’ll wind up back here throwing a thousand words of self-pity together in some vain attempt to collect myself and soothe the disquiet that I keep dredging out of the corners of my own mind.

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Inspiration

One of the things I love the most about writing is that it can basically happen at any time. The downside to this, of course, is that you don’t always know what it is you want to say. Lately I’ve had an incredible desire to start stringing words together, and I’ve been trying to chip away at a stale draft sitting by my other fiction. That story, for whatever reason, isn’t able to be told right now. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but that’s not important. What’s important is that it leaves me wanting to write something — anything — to get the energy out of my system and let my brain decompress some of the thoughts that have been piling up recently.

That, in turn, brings us here.

Life in 2017 isn’t turning out to be anything like I expected any time prior to 2017. The sudden shift in the mood everywhere was a palpable force; of course, things change all the time — but this was different. Yes, this is probably a US-centric feeling, but I’m in the US so that’s the only real perspective I’m able to directly consider. That said, plenty of folks I know from all around the world all seem to agree that it’s not entirely confined. Anyway, the real point here is that this wasn’t like any shift before it. The world, and my role in it, have changed plenty of times during my time here. Most of them, though, were just things that happened, and then they were done. There’s a completeness to that repeated storyline that resonates with the way our minds conceive reality, time, and our own existence.

Once something is done, it’s done. There are ways, of course, to repair damage to many things, to repay debts or adapt to the changes that come from these moments. What you can’t do is continue living in a world where that, whatever it is, hasn’t happened. Now, though, we have an ongoing nonstop flood of change that’s impacting no small number of people I know, and large numbers of those I don’t. It’s not a single event that snaps a piece of the world we knew and is gone, but an onslaught of new rules to play by that are redefining the game of life in America and elsewhere.

Back to our point, though; all of this activity and the flood of information keeps my brain busy. There’s always something happening, and a whole lot of it is stuff that I think it’s relatively important to keep aware of. The things happening in this country demand, if nothing else, the attentions of its citizens, and in more cases than not, their actions. That means my thoughts have a lot less idle time throughout the day — which cuts into all the time I’d normally be planning out possible story arcs to myself, trying to find out where the tale I plan to tell is headed.

There’s a measure of doubt, too; doubt that anyone even wants to read what I’d be writing, doubt that it’s worth putting any of my time into. Yet still, there’s that urge that wells up. That’s the whole reason I got a blog to begin with; it wasn’t about writing fanciful stories or even trying to make any sort of pseudo-intellectual dive into politics, philosophy, or whatever else I’ve stumbled across in that time. It wasn’t about digging out my own gender identity and revealing it to the world, or about trying to convince anyone that I had anything intelligent to say. It was about relieving the pressure that builds up in my thoughts.

So, of course, when I’m trying to direct that energy into a coherent narrative of any kind, it’s best to let the thoughts run free and find their own paths. That’s how I’ve always done my writing; whether it was poetry, short stories, essays for classes, or the meandering musings here on the blog. When all of my mental focus is devoted to my job (which does require a certain portion, if I plan on succeeding) and the rampant goings-on that are shaping the world around me, it’s hard to find time to allow for those free-floating thoughts.

I do hope to, at some point, get back to working on some kind of story. I’ve even played around with the idea of simply taking the first story that I posted here and doing a complete rewrite of it. Maybe that’s lazy, but maybe it’s just real-time open-access editing; I could change some pieces of the story, adjust the tone of my writing. Or I can just turn back here and just word-vomit something like this, a stopgap measure to keep my creative skills alive in the midst of the world seeming to crumble around me.

I’m not used to feeling this worried all the time.

That’s a privilege, I know, and it’s one that I’ll admit I’d taken for granted. Whatever things I’ve thought were struggles in the past — well, they were struggles, but not on a scale that was important to very many people on a community-level scale. I’ve never been a wildly social person, or one who had a profound impact on much of anything. But I was always relatively sure that, barring my own idiotic choices at certain times, I was going to be generally okay. Life would go on. Now, so much is changing about me and the world that I’m not always so sure, and it’s exhausting.

But I still want to do it. I want to write stories and create worlds where not everything seems so screwed up all over the place. I want to create optimistic characters and build narratives of hope and good things. I’ll get to it, at some point, but right now I just needed to get things moving again by coming back to the only reason I’ve ever really had for writing before. I hope that I’ll be back to the other things soon.

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Video Game Feels

So, it’s time for a fun post. Taking a break from the pain, outrage, and all that. I’m going to unpack some feelings I’ve got about a character from a video game. No, not those kinds of feelings. See, a while back, there was a Twitter list-meme floating around that asked for specific opinions from a list of thirty numbered items. Early in the list, one of the entries was something to the effect of ‘A character from a video game that you idenitify with, or wish you were more like’. My mind flipped through a variety of options before landing on a characater from my favorite game of all time — Squaresoft’s 1995 RPG, Chrono Trigger.

Specifically, I chose princess Nadia of Guardia, perhaps better known as Marle — the fake name she presents to hide her royal heritage from the game’s primary protagonist, Crono. She’s one of only two playable characters in Chrono Trigger who uses a false name as a means of deception; the other is the wizard Janus, who’s framed as a villain under the moniker Magus. There’s probably some symbolic takeaway in the deception about her true identity when she first enters the story, but while it’s probably a piece of it, there’s a lot of other factors that go into it.

First and foremost, there’s Nadia’s role in the party. While she’s not a particularly skilled combatant, she’s far and away the best healer in the group. It might sound chesesy, but that’s basically the role I’ve always seen myself in. It manifests very differently, of course, since I don’t have the benefit of magic bestowed by some strange-looking creature that exists in the space outside of time. Maybe someday. Until then, I’m doing what I can here in the real world by supporting my friends, offering an ear to vent to, and doing my best to ensure that the ones closest to me are as healthy and happy as I can make them. Maybe it’s a stretch of an analogy, but it’s still a piece of how I’ve long seen myself as the result of whatever lenses it is I view that through.

I also feel there’s plenty within Nadia’s story that’s worth examining. She’s a princess in a video game, but — even back in 1995 — she breaks many of the established rules and expectations that typically carries. Now, it’s not as if she never needs saving — but who doesn’t? Moreover, the one time she needs to be “rescued” isn’t about her being overpowered by a villain or otherwise caputred. Rather, Nadia simply ceases existing when the time travel goes a little sideways and her ancestor is in peril. Once the timeline is patched up, though, she returns with a great and fierce personality that not only keeps her interesting, but drives the story of the game.

When the crew who saved her ancestor, Queen Leene, return to their own time period, Crono is arrested for kidnapping and sent to prison. He escapes soon enough, and finds himself fleeing from the castle pursued by guards. Nadia enters the scene, attempting to call off the pursuit. Obidient to her royal authority, the guards stop and kneel; that’s when Nadia’s father enters and rescinds her order. She pleads briefly, but he doesn’t budge. Nadia, without hesitation, throws her fancy dress to the ground — her preferred jumpsuit already on underneath — and tells her father, the king, that a title doesn’t mean she’s not also human, and that she refuses to accept the so-called societal norm and behave a “proper” princess. As they flee together, the party soon finds themselves in the distant future.

Nadia’s next important piece comes after the party has just learned of the end of the civilized world. As Crono and his scientifically-minded friend Lucca stare in stunned silence, Nadia immediately reacts to the footage of their world being scorched and nearly all life destroyed. She collapses to the ground briefly, then stands up and begins yelling in defiance and demanding that the others step up with her and prevent the disaster by using their newfound ability to travel through time. Insisting there must be something that they can do stop the coming apocalypse, she essentially creates the game’s central story.

It’s all of these things, really, that come together to create this character, and to create the connection that I’ve managed to form. You’ve got a strong-willed healer who rejects society’s rules, stands up to the leader of her country (who, again, is also her father) and plays a vital role in Chrono Trigger‘s story. She’s a pivotal and important piece of the entire game, and offers a set of skills that easily support any other two party members and can turn the tide in the toughest battles. She’s unafraid to be who she is, whatever other costs that may bring — and, in the end, may even reconcile with her father in an optional side story that brings her back to the castle, and ends with both of them learning to accept each other more completely.

Maybe it’s silly to have a connection with a video game character, but I don’t really care. Games, like books or films or many other things, are designed to do a lot of things beyond just entertaining us. These worlds, when well crafted, are meant to make us feel things. Rage, sadness, happiness, a full range of emotion can be constructed from a story done right. Yes, it’s important to maintain a fantasy/reality separation, but there’s aboslutely no way you’ll convince me that emotions matter less, or are less important, just because they’re influenced by fiction. That’s nonsense, and these experiences still shape the people that we are the same as any other emotional event.

I guess what I’m really saying here is that, even though it was some dumb throw-away meme from social media, I’ve ended up thinking a whole lot about this. I think that says enough about the subject as is, but I really wanted to use this space to just sort of chronicle my mental journey. I started this blog as a place for me to just dump whatever things were stirring up my brain at the moment; lately, that’s been a lot harder since there’s just so much. But I can still use writing as a way to slow myself down, focus in on one thing, and unload a bit of the burden. Like I said, I like to think of myself as a healer, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I know you can’t take care of anyone if you’re not tending to yourself as well.

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Speaking For Those Not Voiceless

I’m not sure why, but I’ve seen more articles floating around the internet recently about, let’s say, “trans issues”. Not necessarily entirely unique conversations, but consistently framed or angled in such a way as to employ the discussion of isses as they relate to trans people. One of the things that seems to strike me the most, though, is that there’s a lot of things that — to me — are glaring omissions in a lot of these pieces. Fundamental aspects that, if you’re wanting me to take you seriously when you’re discussing trans folks in any regard, you absolutely must discuss or at least acknowledge. There’s different pieces, depending on what you’re talking about, but there’s some common ground ones that seem to come up the most.

First and foremost — and this really should not be something I need to say — is that if you’re going to talk about trans people, you absolutely must also talk to trans people. This is a non-negotiable part. If you are not trans, and if you did not consult even one person who is, your opinions on how things affect “the trans community” or those you’d say are a part of it do not matter. I don’t want to hear them, even if you’re dead-on right in what it is you’re saying. Again: this is non-negotiable. I cannot stress enough how important it is to include any marginalized group in any discussion about that group, regardless of what it is you’re trying to say about or around it.

Speaking of marginalized groups — and let’s be honest, when am I not these days? — there’s some unpacking to do here as well. This one’s not specific to discussons of so-called trans issues, but a wider berth: people of color within LGBTQ+ circles, or any other subset of humans that experiences marginalization. If you look at the history of how the “gay community”, or the “lesbian community”, or the “trans community”, or the entire gender-rainbow breadth of people (shoutout to the bisexuals, I see you there!) and how any of this has grown to the place in society it now holds, one fact holds true: it was people of color who led the way. They were the trailblazers, the risk-takers, the front line soldiers. Because this was a war they’d fought before, and they knew how to bring it. They’re still doing this right now. I’m white as hell and far behind on the revolution, but I know who I need to look to if I want to learn.

Now, one of the other things that seems to cross wavelengths so much of the time when it comes to any thinkpiece or other discourse about trans people is their inclusion (or lack thereof) within feminism. This is an intrinsic part of the conversation, if only because when we’re talking about gender at all, we’re really talking about equality. Nobody writes anything that’s centered on gender without it being a discussion of equality and inclusion. When we’re talking about trans women through the lens of feminism, things can get a bit murky. I’m not sure I’ve got the wherewithal to really pick all of that apart, but the basic problem is that there’s large swathes of women in feminist circles who subscribe to “gender essentialism” — that trans women aren’t women, and trans men are. That’s, like, a whole complete article right there, but it’s related to some of the other things, too.

One of the things I saw making its way around numerous portions of my various interwoven Twitter circles was an article that, without really saying anything at all, was written on the topic of trans women and their place in the “lesbian community”; the crux of its unanswered question was whether it’s transphobic to prefer that your sexual parters have vaginas. This is a pretty loaded question, but of course — once again — the article touched only on some broad, largely vague, statements made by a few cisgender (a.k.a. “assigned female at birth”) lesbians. No trans voices were included. Now, maybe this is just me, but maybe if you’re even posing the question as to whether an act or attitude is offensive or hateful towards a group of people, you should remember that bit a few paragraphs ago where I said that speaking to trans people is non-negotiably necessary — in this case, trans women. Hell, if you want, you probably could’ve even found a transgendered lesbian with a penchant for long-winded op-eds on topics that affect trans people. Gee, I wonder if I know any of those.

Coming back around to the article’s question, I guess I’ve got a pretty extensive number of feelings on it. Again, can’t imagine why; surely it’s not because I’m a lesbian with a penis. As to whether having a preference in sex organs is transphobic — honestly? I don’t really think it is. There’s a lot to think about there, but it boils down to a few things. Firstly, that one’s gender and one’s sexual orientation are pretty clearly not going to follow one another down any particular path. This can manifest in a number of ways, but if we’re going to agree that a person’s sexual organs do not define their gender, then I think we’re also going to have to examine the role of those organ’s in a person’s sexuality.

Here’s the thing. To me, transphobia is rooted in that gender-essentialist view I mentioned earlier. It’s a mentality built on a rejection of gender identity; people who are transphobic are typically the ones who’d say (despite the actual scientific evidence) that being transgendered is a choice, or something that someone just “decides” one day because they think they’d like to see life from the “other side”. When you express that you’ve got a preference for certain equipment when it comes to your sexual partners, that’s not an evaluation of your ability to see trans people for who they are. It’s a facet of your sexuality, and when we’re talking about sex, the things you want — the limits you set, and the things you prefer — are entirely personal. They’re not even necessarily a reflection of any other part of yourself or your worldview.

By speaking to your own sexual preferences, whether we’re talking about the gender you find yourself romantically interested in or the things you like to do “in the bedroom”, you’re setting boundaries. I think we can all agree that having boundaries in your sexual relationships is important. These can vary, of course, not just from person to person, but from day to day. Some of them, though, are things that are inherently a part of our ability to want or enjoy sex. A cisgendered straight man can enjoy being on the receiving end of anal sex — that’s not, by necessity, an expression of some latent homosexual tendencies, or a condemnation of their “manliness” or whatever else you’d like to quantify it as. Similarly, a cisgendered (or hell, even transgendered!) lesbian might prefer that the sex they’re involved in not include penises. That’s not, by necessity, an expression of latent transphobic beliefs. These things are simply facets of how different people approach their participation in sexual activity.

Some people like to include toys in their sex lives; some find the idea patently ridiculous and unnecessary. Some people like to be tied up or controlled by their partners; some people would find this horrifying or traumatic. There’s all sorts of flavors when it comes to how we, as human beings, engage in and find our enjoyment in the act of sex — whatever that may mean to you. Again, I feel that it’s incredibly important that we separate “what a person enjoys for themselves” from how a person views or treats those around them. Saying you’d rather your partner didn’t come with some extra gear down there, in part because you’re a lesbian, doesn’t mean you’re telling a trans woman that she’s not a woman — just that she’s not a woman you’d want to sleep with. I think pretty much every human ever is “guilty” of not wanting to have sex with someone because of a physical trait they possess. We like what we like.

Anyhow, I guess the point of this — all of this — is that society as a whole still has a long way to go when it comes to inclusiveness and, more importantly, intersectional inclusiveness. I’m just one transgender lesbian offering my opinion on some things here, and with time some of this may change. However, I feel remarkably confident that the following points will remain a core part of my personal philosophy for as long as I’m capable of cognitive thought: discussing how an issue impacts or relates to a marginalized group absolutely requires participation from that group, people (and, again, especially women) of color should have their voices in these conversations, and what you like in your sex life is not a direct reflection of any other facet of yourself or something for which you should be harshly judged (within certain limitations, of course, including age and enthusiastic consent).

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Confessions of a Paid Protester

Alright. By now, we’ve all heard the rumours, seen the stories linking wealthy Democratic party members to the people flooding the streets on what seems to be a daily basis now. We’ve heard about how these benefactors must be bankrolling these ongoing protests, sending cash in exchange for bodies out there holding signs, chanting kitschy slogans, and impeding traffic in major cities. We’ve seen thinkpieces about how these folks simply can’t be giving up their time for free, and the counterpoints about how ridiculous it is to think they’re being compensated. I’m here to set the record straight: the story is true. We’re being paid.

Now, you might be thinking, “but I’ve been protesting, and I haven’t gotten a dime for it!” Well, my friends, that’s pretty simple to explain away as well. You see, here’s the thing. These people who accuse the protesters of being paid off for their so-called service to the cause? They’re right, but also a bit misguided. The thing about these protests and those joining them is this: they understand, unlike their detractors, that payment and compensation doesn’t always manifest in a single way; that is to say, being paid does not mean receiving money. That’s an important piece of this equation.

I’m not being paid cash for my retweets, for my own thinkpieces about the nature of our current political climate. That’s a ludicrous idea. There’s nobody in the world who’d be willing to bankroll my life just for waving a sign with a clever slogan that advances their cause. If I’m wrong about this, well — shit, my Patreon link is over there on the right. Hit me up there; if I hit a living wage through those donations, I’ll devote myself full-time to the effort. Full stop. It’s what I’d love to do, but again, that ain’t how it works.

No, my payment comes in other forms. I’m paid in the satisfaction that the world is watching, and seeing a people stand up agains the fascism taking root in the good old U. S. of A. I’m paid in the glee I get from seeing shitbags like Betsy DeVos be turned away from a school by a collection of less than a dozen so-called “protesters” standing there and reminding her that she’s unfit for the job she bought, and being proven right as she turns tail from this tiny collective of citizens standing up for their rights. I’m paid in the furious spittle flying from Trump’s Twitter account as his potentially-unconstitutional and certainly amoral actions are shut down, time and again, by the people he’s supposed to represent and by the judiciary that stands to preserve the law of our land.

You see, standing up to this — it doesn’t require a monetary compensation. I’ve got a full-time job, working more than 40 hours per week for a pretty decent wage. The thing about that, though, is that “full time” doesn’t mean “all the time”. My job keeps me busy five days a week — excepting days like today, when I’m stuck at home tending to a sick child. On those days, I’m there and all-in on my assigned tasks from 8am until 5pm. All the rest of the time, including weekends? Well, that’s for me, and as an adult I’m able to make my own decisions about what to do with that time, and (by and large) what to do with the money I’m paid for doing that job. I don’t need to be paid to protest, because I’ve got mine from other sources.

So, yeah, I’m paid to protest. I’m paid in the knowledge that I stand on the right side of history, shouting down the white supremacists and full-blown Nazis trying to take hold of the country. I’m paid in the satisfaction that I’m working to build the world I want to see my children grow up in; one that accepts that “America First” does not mean “without immigrants” or “without refugees” or “without Muslims”. I’m paid in the sense of accomplishment that comes from the few shining rays of light coming from our judicial branch, coming from my fellow protesters, coming from every man and woman standing up today to say that we will not allow this poisonous, xenophobic, hateful rhetoric guide our country unchecked.

And there’s the real disconnect, too; it’s not that those who look at the crowds and think “they’re paid off” started from the idea that super-rich leftists are sprinkling cash down on them. No, they worked their way up to that conclusion from a much more simple idea that’s the only thing they can imagine: that people will only invest their time and effort into something if they’re getting money for it. They don’t come to this idea without reason, either; all of them, I imagine, are people who would stand up in protest of things themselves — for a monetary gain. Maybe they’ve already done things that they recognize as against their values for money, like the politicians they represent seem to. Maybe they just imagine that nobody could be that dedicated without the only carrot that they see as worthwhile being dangled above them. Maybe they just can’t understand the concept of a selfless act at all, thanks to our money-obsessed capitalist roots.

Make no mistake: the idea that money is the only compensation worth taking isn’t new, or fresh, or alien. It’s systemic to our entire nation, and exists within every single facet of our lives. It’s sold to us in television and radio commercials, it’s explained to us on the evening news, it’s laid out for us in the flailing education system. It’s a core part of what makes America what it is; money, “the almighty dollar”, is the go-to standard for what makes anything worth doing. You want food, shelter, water, power, internet access, someone to chop your veggies for you? It’s all service, and service costs cash. It’s what drives us to work every morning, what greases the gears of our prison complex, what pushes the trains on their tracks, and it dominates most every aspect of our lives. That’s a fact.

The problem, though, is that people think that “primary motivation” must mean “only motivation” — often, I think, because it is so for themselves. If you’re only ever willing to go as far as someone will pay you to, you’re not going to understand the folks who keep on going once the account runs dry. If you’ve only ever pushed yourself to try and get a few extra bucks in the bank, you’re lacking the fundamental experience that can demonstrate that others will push themselves for other rewards. If you think the only reason to do a job is to get paid, you’ll never reach a common ground with the volunteers, the self-sacrificers, the (dare I say it?) protesters.

So there you have it, everyone. That’s the ugly truth: the protesters are paid. We’re absolutely getting ours out of all of this, and while it sure as shit isn’t paying the bills, it’s filling up something that matters well more than money ever could. I’m sorry if this is seen as a betrayal of “the movement”, but I couldn’t live with the shame of hiding this dark secret anymore. See, I’m an honest woman at heart, and I just had to let loose here and admit to the truth, the reality of our situation. I’m sorry that it had to come to this, but I had to get this off of my chest and let the world know what’s really going on behind the scenes.

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