I’ve had the page How To Be A Fan of Problematic Things bookmarked for a long time, and I re-read it every so often. But it’s possible to like people and still see the problematic elements in their words and actions, too. Intersectionality is hard, and it’s impossible to be perfect at it, because sometimes, the needs of one group come into direct conflict with the needs of another.
I’ll give you an example from this week. There was a discussion in my pagan chat about adoption and donor insemination. One member, an adoptee, argued based on personal experience that there was no way to make adoption, donor insemination, or surrogacy fair, because the adoptive/recipient parents hold all the power. The person said that if one is unable to produce a child biologically, “you don’t always get what you want,” and that one should just live with it. Now, another member who was there is a trans man who isn’t physically able to impregnate his wife the old-fashioned way, and I have had serious health issues, including a miscarriage that started on its own but had to be medically completed in order to save my life. Anyone who said that my trans friend could not have any other relationship due to his gender identity would be called out for cissexism, and anyone who said I couldn’t have any other relationship because of my medical history would be called ableist. But on the other hand, the friend who’s been through the adoption process and has a different perspective doesn’t have to privilege someone else’s feelings over lived experience, either. This wasn’t a case of privilege against disadvantage. It was a case of competing needs in which all parties got hurt.
Intersectionality is hard, y’all. Sometimes there’s no way to provide safe space for everyone. Sometimes people’s triggers overlap and conflict. But it’s possible to care about people without believing or backing what they have to say. If we can do it for a comic book or a TV show, we can do it for other human beings. I know I’m going to work harder at it.
I showed a friend a picture of myself with another friend the other day. He remarked, “You’re hugging her. That tells me what I need to know about her.” Because of the physical abuse I’ve dealt with in the past, there are very few people with whom I let my boundaries down, and when I trust someone enough for physical contact, that’s a big deal for me. I’m touchy-feely with family members and lovers, but with friends, a hug from me is a pretty big lowering of boundaries.
That makes certain interactions within the pagan community very uncomfortable for me. Sometimes the fact that I’m not comfortable with being kissed, or with someone expecting a hug the first time we meet, makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. The people offering physical affection are such kind, warm, welcoming people that I wish I could be comfortable with it, but my gut reaction to unexpected physical contact tends less towards “yay, hugs!” and more GETITOFFGETITOFFGETITOFF. I wish I were OK with it, but behind those boundaries is where I feel safe. With good friends whom I’ve known a while, I’m perfectly fine with hugs if I’m expecting them, but being kissed or surprised with hugs, even by good friends, or expected to deal with hugs from near strangers is anxiety-inducing even on a good day.
So what can a person do, needing to decline most physical contact but afraid to come across as though rejecting the genuinely kind people who aren’t expecting to find a boundary there? I know part of my issue is being a woman raised in the South and having been socialized from an early age not to upset people, but I don’t know where the reasonable medium is between allowing contact that is uncomfortable for me and the instinctive, panicked EW NO GET OUT OF MY BUBBLE that is my immediate, internal reaction. I wish the community were a safer place for people like me, who like other people just fine, but would prefer any physical contact to be on our own terms.
Wow. People’s generosity never ceases to amaze me. I had intended to put pictures with this post, but I’m out of camera batteries at the moment, and even with a good cellphone, camera pics just don’t do it justice.
Since I put out the call for quilting materials, people have come through in a big way. The lovely Bianca sent me a box CRAMMED full of fabric this week, as well as ordering me a crib batting and thread from Connecting Threads. Jack has sent me a queen-size batting, which is enough to do 4-6 baby quilts. Cindy sent me a jelly roll that’s going to be at least two baby quilts, one of which I’ve got about half done. Nay sent me a fat quarter bundle that, once I put it with the background fabric, is going to yield about 6 baby quilts. Melissa sent me some fabric, and even more exciting is that she used a laser printer and made me a cutting guide based on the Twister/Li’l Twister concept.
Y’all are amazing, and I’m so grateful for the help to continue this project. Thank you so much.