A Sexist Slap

I was doing a workshop with high-school students, asking them the strategies they used to cope with being queer in the world and asking them to think through what other or better strategies might be.

One person, a butch lesbian or budding transman,  talked about how they were getting razzed by a group of boys for being queer.

“Yeah, but I get more pussy than you do!”  they replied to the gang, which got laughs from the other boys and undercut the attacker.

There was a young clinical social worker sitting in on the workshop.

“That’s sexist!” she announced.

“And sexy!” I countered.

I was angry.

Here was a young queer person who just felt safe enough to share a strategy that worked in claiming some space for themselves, and the response from this professional was a slap.   The strategy was dismissed as being politically incorrect, sexist and to be loathed.

I needed to counter that slap to keep things open and flowing, no matter how it challenged the stuff of that clinical professional.

Sure, it might have been better for this young person to have come up with a strategy that lifted the attacks of these boys, one that didn’t reduce women to being “pussy.”   But that was the heart of what I wanted to do in the workshop, finding better strategies to deal with the challenges we face as queers in the world.

I’m sure that social worker felt her own stuff come up when the word pussy was used, whatever that was.  It might have been a history of being reduced to being an object, it might have been a personal distaste for the term, it might have been training to challenge what she had been taught to be sexist, or it might have been something else.  I don’t know.

But I do know that she responded out of her own stuff and slapped a young person who had just shared what they considered a victory, one of few victories in a challenged life.  I was moved when they later announced that they had stopped self-harming, congratulating them on that and acknowledging that was a very, very hard thing to do.

I was trying to create safe space where the students could open up and share their biggest challenges.    And an immediate slap at one of them for being “sexist” when responding in kind to a bunch of attacking boys didn’t help create that space.

We need to help people raise their game, no doubt, to become more aware and centred in the choices they make, respecting others.  I just don’t think we do that by slapping people whenever they push our button, even if we have been told it is not only our right but our obligation to enforce doctrine at all times.

In other words, I think that the social worker’s strategy to enlighten this student just wasn’t respectful, queer or effective enough.

I have no idea what the social worker thought when I immediately affirmed the students sharing as “sexy.”   I suspect, though, I was seen as disrespectful to doctrine and all women who are reduced to being pussy.

There are many women, I know, who aren’t offended at being seen as pussy, who own their own receptive sexuality.   Not every woman has to identify that way, I know.   Many women reject that identification.   Being pussy isn’t always a bad thing, even if it does push buttons for some people.

Still, when a professional thinks the best way to deal with a student sharing is to offer the slap of denouncing a strategy as “sexist,” rather than acknowledging the success and then working to lift the game, I just see their own stuff being played out at the cost of trying to silence someone who just wants to share.

I see them making the space a bit less safe for sharing, making it more about them.

And when the goal is to create safe and empowering space, that makes me angry.

Exposed and Understanding

So, after you get centred to be out of the moment — because practice is designed to get you out of the moment so you can be more in The Moment — what exactly do you do?

You struggle, that’s what.  Struggling out of the moment lets you be more centred and responsive in the moment.

Practice is practice; both a pattern of disciplines that help you tap into the best parts of you and a rehearsal for how to tap into those parts when it really counts, in The Moment.

Having good practice should leave you well practised.    It should leave you with confidence, understanding, joy and satisfaction that you can tap into the best parts of you when you need to do that.

And, like any exercise, it can’t just be soft and comforting.   Practice has to be challenging and enervating, enabling you to own your own power, your own time and your own choices.

What is the struggle that goes on in practice?   It’s a struggle for understanding.

How do we take all the conflicting parts of our lives — our beliefs, our habits, our training, our fears, our desires, our passions, our faith, our knowledge and so on — and alloy them into a deeper understanding that lets us be more resilient, more aware, more conscious, more centred and more brave in The Moment?    How do we quiet the parts of us that react badly to challenge and strengthen the parts of us that help us respond from our highest place?

Your practice is your practice.  Each one of us has our own tools and techniques that foster our own clearer understanding of our choices and how to improve them.

We can no more see our own heart and beliefs than we can see the back of our own head.  That’s why we have to externalize those feelings and thoughts we hold inside before we can work with them.    When people ask us not to externalize our own TG nature, they ask us to remain immature.  Until we can see who we are we have no way to become better.

Because practises start with expression before understanding and clarification, they are usually based in some kind of creative endeavour.    We make art, whatever that means to us.  Clearly, I lead with the auditory, so I write, but I know many other people who find visual arts or performing arts to be more useful.   TBB, for example, is a kinesthetic learner, so for her, practice is always tied to actually performing with her body, trying and then trying again.

I like to imagine my own practice as taking place in a kind of library, filled with stories that touch me and where piles of my own thought fragments exist, ready for me to pull from them to create new ideas that I can test in the cubicle of global narrative.

ShamanGal recently stayed in the room of a 16 year old girl and found she had written on every hard surface in the room with erasable markers.   She made her thoughts and beliefs visible and exposed to her by writing them on windows and mirrors.   When ShamanGal saw how delightful that was, she bought her own set of markers, and all of a sudden thought that my suggestion of buying lots of Post-It style notes made some sense after all.

When  you create a practice, you have to create rituals to centre you outside of everyday life, and mirrors to reflect the parts that are usually hidden to you

And I’ll continue working the process of my practice and keep thinking this through tomorrow.