the philosophactivist

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Some Things You Oughtta Know

I'm going to be honest right now about my situation. 
This week...I am selling my services/writings for survival. Perhaps honesty is the best policy because 1266 people on facebook saw my post about the Genderqueer Files episodes and I have yet to sell a single download on etsy. (By the way- it's a .pdf don't need a kindle or any kind of fancy reader besides adobe.) 

It's been really difficult and I'm really dealing with a lot of emotions around self-worth as I find it harder and harder to find a job and people look at me as if I'm not pulling my own weight in life because I am an organizer and an artivist. I spend about 20-30 hours a week organizing in various connected movements. Salary=$0. People say..." Well stop organizing and go get whatever job you can get to sustain yourself". And I think to myself...'Geez I never thought of that'. 

Of course I've thought of that.
Of course I have. 

I've applied to grocery stores, retailers, custodial jobs. I know it's a tough market but there's something else complicating my search. It's the fact that I'm brown and genderqueer in a racist, homo/transphobic pseudo-liberal pseudo-progressive town (called Austin). People like to act like something is wrong with me because I have this experience and these qualifications and can't get a job. And though deep down I know that systemic oppression has seriously limited the jobs I can have in life (or is it just in these pseudo-liberal towns?), I just keep internalizing the rejection experience and white people's judgments (because my experience is not their experience, so it must not be true or valid) and my family's judgments until I start to ask myself “What is wrong with me?” It's really psychologically, emotionally and spiritually damaging.

I try to pull myself up by the bootstraps I was never given and instead of complaining about this racist, transphobic, pseudo-liberal, pseudo-progressive town that will not hire me no matter my qualifications because of my marginalized identities, try even harder to sell my writings and pull my weight if you will. But all the while I continue to internalize that many people don't think that artist's work is valuable and believe that it comes easy to us and that it should be free. 

I struggle constantly with wondering if my work has value and it's the people I meet in person at book fairs and on tour that remind me that it does resonate with some people. I get affirmation that my work does matter, even if it's not sustaining me the way I would like it to.

It's damaging when our communities seem to want organizers, activists, artivists, etc. to do all this work x3 for free.99. That also goes for submissions  to publications and workshops and donations to archives and projects. We know that funding is scarce but we've got to try to work harder to find ways to pay people or make even exchanges. Also, organizers who are parents need support. People who are sacrificing a ton of time for their community and who are getting burnt out, need emotional, psychological, and spiritual support. Community members who can't eat or pay their bills yet work 2-3 jobs need financial support!

I have to say that it is really disheartening feeling like when I actually try to “earn my keep” by selling my services/my writings/art, etc. to survive- that people are turning up their noses and thinking I should just get a “real job”. I know I don't work at an office or a restaurant or whatever institution, corporation or non-profit but it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting work to organize across issues/movements, write, continue my education as a healer, provide resources to multiple communities, support my friends and created family's emotionally and spiritually, AND manage my lupus symptoms and take good care of my own self. 

If this strife sounds normal to you and you are thinking what my mom always says when I tell her about being overwhelmed with pain or stress- “And?What else is new?” - there's a serious problem. We should not be running ourselves into the ground, folks. We should be supported in using our gifts, skills and abilities. If we have the time to step up and organize within our communities, we should not be left in the cold when we need emotional, psychological, spiritual or financial support ourselves. We need to hold each other accountable for this. No one should be left unsupported.

It makes me extremely sad and upset when I think about my financial situation and my inability to sustain myself despite how hard I work to support myself and others. I think about how just 2 weeks ago, my health “insurance” (it's really from a charity/foundation) was taken away and when I went to pay for my meds- I had to tell them to recount them and only give me a months worth because now I couldn't afford it. Or...I think about how I've had this infected tooth for months now...and 2 dentists that help lower income folks said they don't do root canals, but that they'll pull the tooth (which I've had happen waaay too many times over the last few years due to my economic situation)- and another charitable organization that does sliding scale fees said the minimum amount I could pay is $400-500. Yea- I can't afford that. I can't afford my rent this month. I can't afford to apply for residencies that might help me to be able to focus on my art and organizing. 

I can't focus on my writing and all these ideas I have for sharing knowledge and co-creating vibrant communities because I feel so broken spirited over finances and am constantly having these negative, circular thoughts about my worth and am trying to strategize about how to hustle and make rent and feed myself- and from that dark place.

I broke down in tears just yesterday because a friend reminded me of my steady commitment to providing resources for my communities: workshops, skillshares, constant, tireless organizing across issues in different movements, healing work and the emotional support and overall investment I've made and yet...I am still here struggling and barely surviving and finding it hard to pay for my life-sustaining medication and rent. All the while trying to keep resources accessible to those in my situation...those of you who look/are like me or who are in similar situations to my own.

The point my friend was making is that our communities need to do better in supporting each other physically, emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially. I see many of my artivist and activist friends struggling to survive, just like me. You may see them everywhere online or in person but that does not translate to economic stability. It actually more than likely means they are hustling and on the grind and probably struggling and trying to survive.

Writing/making art is a full-time job (on top of other jobs) for many of us...and not just a hobby. It is extremely hard work. It is mentally, emotionally and spiritually taxing, especially when we're writing about difficult themes like oppression and liberation or calling out colonialism and systems of oppression and oppressors. Some of us even get threatened and run out of town.

It took me over a year to write Genderqueer Files: La Qolectiv@ and I was working full and part-time jobs on and off. Part 3/Act 3 is still not completely to my liking and I still have so much work to do on making it a community workshop and a novella so people can engage with it's themes and not have to be reading through stage directions. I am also working on a number of other resource guides like Queering Herbalism 2, zines about decolonizing food justice and white supremacy in pseudo-liberal towns, wellness fairs, herbal freedom school workshops...and much more.

True, some folks might just not be into reading a story about brown queers or reading about q/poc and holistic health or zines on anti-oppression. I'm challenging our Q/POC community and allies to be more supportive of art that centers the experience of queer and trans people of color. There's not a whole lot of it out there...there's more than there ever was...but it's still not enough.

I know that some aren't financially able right now. But those of you who are, please see and respect that this work is valuable and that we artists/artivists/activists need to survive and can't write or give all our writing/art/services for free. Many will attest that I do at just about every event but this isn't sustainable.  Printing costs money. And I've spent many hours writing, researching, and organizing non-stop and it deserves to be compensated just like anyone else who is working a 9-5 or over a 40 hour work week.

It is hard for some of us to reach out to our communities for support because we're afraid we'll be judged or rejected. I know this is true for me. I am writing this because I have no choice but to reveal my vulnerability and to let you know that I struggle just like you no matter how many hundreds of people around the world read my writings. I am the embodiment of many of those statistics about brown, queer people who can't get health care or who are unemployed due to discrimination. I am the embodiment of those statistics about transfolks of color that you read about online or in class or talk about with your rad buddies over dinner. Even if I am sitting with a bunch of middle class, educated organizers and activists who make assumptions that we are all thriving, that is not my story. That is not my reality. I am barely surviving and fighting to exist. Fighting to not be erased every day.

Thanks for listening. Reaching out like this has been really healing.

Here's more information about the Genderqueer Files episodes:!genderqueerfiles/c160u

You can purchase Part 1 episode 1-3 HERE until 12/15. Part 2 episodes will be up 12-15 til 12/22.

My other writings can also be found on the Etsy website. And you can get printed versions of my writings (*everything except Genderqueer Files and Queering Herbalism) through the shop&cart page on the afrogenderqueer website HERE.

And if you have found value in my writings or in the free resources I've compiled (on you aren't interested in buying anything but still want to support, there is a donation button on the afrogenderqueer webpage HERE.

Email me for other purchase options/methods of payment.

Thank you again for reading/listening.


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