Officer Good Guy – why I don’t trust cops

I’m not ready to write about last night yet.  The situation is still too close and too vivid.  Instead I will talk about the first time I realized I could not trust the police.

As a child I’m sure I had officers come to my school.  They were always Officer Good Guy, the hero who saved little kittens and stopped the bad robber who broke in after dark.  I’m sure there were children in my class who aspired to be Officer Good Guy when they got older.  I never had the sort of inclination.  Mostly I wanted to grow up and be a dragon, but I had a fleeting aspiration of being a garbage man for a while, and sometimes thought about becoming a veterinarian.  At some point I developed a vague distrust for police, but nothing concrete.  I wasn’t into drugs in high school, I didn’t drink or get into fights. I was pretty much a quiet unobtrusive shy little goth, who sat reading in a back corner while others disrupted class, having already finished the next week’s worth of work.  I didn’t have a reason to dislike cops yet, I simply felt uneasy around them.  They seemed to constantly condescend to people, to treat people as though they were just waiting for you to do something wrong, whether they had reason to suspect you or not.  If I had been more aware of the world around me, I would have seen more of the racial issues in how they treated the kids from black and low income neighborhoods differently, and how much my privilege protected me.  It wasn’t long before my vague distrust had grounds to grow.

My group of friends would always hang out on a large patch of astroturf on one corner of the square of our town’s downtown shopping center.  There was a mall on one side, a movie theater and a series of outdoor shops on the other, another string of shops on the third, and the astroturf rounding out the fourth side of the busy square intersection.  Small concerts were held there, occasionally a flea market was set up, but mostly it was a gathering place where you could see a few folks playing guitar in one spot, card gamers in a yu-gi-oh battle in another, the Jesus folks giving a sermon in a third, and kids of all ages with parents and friends just running around and having fun.  It was perfectly allowable to be there after dark, so when the sun started setting on the hot summer days, many of us migrated up there from the library park that closed in the evening.  It was a place to be out in the open and just relax.  I won’t say that some of us didn’t sneak back into the library park to drink, or slip behind the shopping center to do drugs, or hide in the church parking lot to clumsily hook up with our grasping eager friends.  But when we were hanging out on the astroturf, we were in plain site just sitting and talking or wrestling around playfully, it was a safe zone for those who weren’t up to something, at least not at that time.

We were sitting on the concrete stair at the corner of the turf, me in my heavy tripp pants and cutesy wolf ears and tail, and my friend Sesshy on my lap.  Both of us very small and at the time very feminine creatures, about as intimidating as a fuzzy caterpillar.  We were laughing with a few other friends standing around when we noticed the cop standing at the top of the stairs staring at all.  My first reaction was to feel creeped out, chills going up my spine.  He wasn’t saying anything and the way he was watching us put me on edge.  We were polite, asking him if he needed anything, and he just leered at us.  Suddenly being one of two cute girls cuddling did not feel safe under his gaze.  We asked him again if we were doing anything wrong, if he needed us to leave the area, and he just took a few more steps down and kept watching us eerily.  Our other friends split, jogging off across the astroturf.  I don’t blame them, they were much less trusting of cops then we were, having grown up in neighborhoods where Officer Good Guy would beat down your dad for going to the corner store in a sweatshirt that just might “match the description”.

We crossed to the other side of the large steps and tried to walk up towards the new flashing tower they had installed with a button you could press if you were afraid you were about to be mugged or raped.  The thought went through my mind, if we press it, because we don’t know this man’s intentions and he’s approaching us in a way that feels threatening, who will respond?  The cop is already here, he’s the one we’re afraid of.  It didn’t matter because he glanced up at it and moved to position himself between us and the button.  At that point alarm bells went off and I took Sesshy’s hand and walked quickly away, chattering about all the people we were about to meet up with and how we were going home to our parents, anything I could think of that would sound reasonable and deter him.

The cop followed us to the bus stop.  He stood there watching, never having said anything, but still looking at us like a predator.  At one point he ignored a few calls on his radio, and then radioed back at one that he was engaged at the time and would respond only to urgent calls.  He followed us onto the bus.  I was too frightened to take it to our usual stop, because that left a mile long walk, some parts through the woods, to get back home.  We got off one bus and onto another, and then when we made our third transfer and got onto the metro, he finally stopped and walked away, leaving us terrified and confused.  Did we imagine that he was following us the whole time?  Would an officer of the law really stalk two young teenage, seemingly girl-children, half way across town?  Why hadn’t he responded when we asked why he was watching or following us, or if we were doing anything wrong?  Had we done something wrong, by simply existing as two feminine presenting folk sharing platonic and non-sexual affection in public?  And if he had gotten us alone, what would have happened?

I’m much less naive these days.  A cop does not follow two teenage girls across two bus lines for shits and giggles.  And if we had been breaking any law, we would have been arrested or spoken to about it at the time.  We didn’t get raped, but we very nearly could have been.  In no terms were we safe at the moment, and Officer Good Guy was not leering at us and following us to serve and protect.

That is not the only story, it is one of many I’ve amassed in a lifetime.  I am white, I appear now to be your average cis male even though I am not, I came from a middle class family and grew up in a nice neighborhood, and I don’t make it habit to break the law.  I’ve been privileged not to have to break the law to survive at times, and was generally pretty sheltered in my youth.  And I have enough bad cop stories to fill a small novel.  That doesn’t even compare to the Encyclopedia of Britannica length book series most marginalized folks can write.  I don’t trust cops.  I don’t trust their training, I don’t trust the system of power they are a part of, I don’t trust their morality in taking a job that requires upholding racist and immoral laws.  I don’t believe they can do their job correctly and also be good people, at least not in this system, and in this country.  Elsewhere it might be different.  Maybe there are places where Officer Good Guy you meet in kindergarten really is the childhood hero he seems to be.  But here he is the wolf in sheep’s clothing and I know better then to ever trust a cop.

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Refusing to be erased – on being seen as a trans man

“You can’t be a man, you didn’t play with trucks as a kid!”

“Are you sure you aren’t just a butch lesbian instead?”

“Thank you ma’am” “Uh, I’m not a ma’am” “Oh don’t worry, you don’t look manly” “No, I mean I am a man”  “Don’t say that honey, don’t worry, you’re pretty I’m sure.”

This is just a small cross section of reactions I got when coming out as a trans man.  It is not an easy thing to live your whole life feeling like there is something deeply wrong, or to know that the way everyone sees you is a lie.  It is not an easy thing to wake up one day and realize it after years of not acknowledging it, you have the agony of so many years gone by where your expression of self was mysteriously discomforting or feels false.  Once you finally feel that click, if you aren’t someone who was well aware that you were trans from a very young age, it is liberating for a moment.  The acknowledgement of yourself is sweet freedom on silver wings, it fills you up with golden bubbles of giddy hope.  That moment is often heartbreakingly short before the icy cold dread sets in. You start to wonder who you will lose, who will leave your life, who may hurt you, if you will become another murder statistic if you start trying to present yourself as you are in a cruel bigoted society.  I was extremely lucky, I’ve only been assaulted once (for being trans at least), I lost very few friends, and my family struggled but have managed to come to some degree of acceptance.  I had to fight for recognition for a few years before I developed the infamous “passing privilege” though.  Now when I go out, people see my face even with my new long hair, they hear my voice, and to them it all speaks of man.  The years before that were true, were a hell though.  Once you have felt incredibly whole and at home with yourself when you acknowledge your gender, you have something precious that society can tear pieces out of with every misuse of pronouns or deadnames, with every slur, with every unfeeling comment.

I did play with trucks as a kid.  My favorite toy for the first seven years of my life was a big yellow dumptruck and I played with it outside incessantly.  I hated dolls and teddy bears, though realistic plush animals were something I adored since I had always loved animals.  I loved my StreetShark action figures. I hated going to a school where skirts were mandatory, and insisted if I must wear them that they be patterned with lizards or frogs and have hefty pockets built in for collecting rocks.  These things mean nothing to determining my gender, gender isn’t built by your toys or your hobbies or your interests.  But when I came out, my father cited my lack of interest in trucks to explain his surprise.  The fact that he’d apparently blocked out such a large portion of my childhood to get that facts wrong was irrelevant.  The message was the same, he would rather forget the markers that could have clued him in if we’re buying into binary gender rolls, and he needed me to justify the core of myself with childhood toy preferences to be valid in his eyes.

My father was the same person who asked me why I couldn’t be a butch lesbian when I came out as a trans man.  As the man who reacted with homophobia when I first had a girlfriend, it was clear what this meant.  He had come to accept I was something he didn’t understand, something he had prejudices against, but good god at least that something wasn’t transgender, and now that it was, he wished for the good old days where I was just a “mild normal queer”.  I tried to explain to him that I could no more be a butch lesbian than he could, since neither of us was a woman.  In fact, I was farther from such then he was, because at least he was interested only in women, whereas I had realized by that time that I was mostly gay.  I spelled out how in being a man who likes men, I was pretty much the opposite of a lesbian by binary gender and sexuality standards.  His response was to protest, “but if you were a lesbian you could still wear flannel”.  Yes father, because I would like to undergo societal prejudice, risk my life by being myself, inject my muscle with a big ass needle every two weeks, subject myself to extensive surgeries, and have to fight to even be seen by the people closest to me….because I want to wear flannel.  If this was about flannel I would have just bought out a fucking L.L.Bean.

A nice woman at school was selling cookies.  She “ma’amed” me, and I was tired of not standing up for myself, so I tried to correct her.  Instead of hearing me when I said I was a man, she tried to reassure me, thinking I was talking down about myself.  It didn’t occur to her that I might actually just speaking my truth, that my words might mean exactly what I had said.  It was easier for her to interpret some imagined hidden message and apply it to me than it was for her to just see me as I said I was.  I spent a week replaying the moment in my mind, formulating the perfect responses for next time to be more clear.  The only thing that usually works is outing myself.  If someone doesn’t want to see you as a man because they don’t fit their notion of it, no matter of insisting on it seems to help.  You have to explain you are a trans man, another breed of human in their eyes so they can justify why you don’t fit inside the boxes they can’t look beyond. So for the few years it took for me to develop a deeper voice and some facial scruff I was faced with a series of choices.  Either I could try and insist I was a man and not be believed, I could crumple inside with every “ma’am” or “miss” and have the words repeat at night until I wanted to disappear or die; or I could out myself, usually in public in the hearing of multiple strangers.  I didn’t know which of those were accepting, supportive, indifferent, or deeply prejudiced.  I saw trans friends dying every year of violence, killed by partners, acquaintances, family, and strangers.  I couldn’t know which passerby might hear me and be so offended by my very existence that I would be the next funeral in an endless procession of trans deaths.

These days my existence is happier, I am safer existing as I am.  I don’t have to make choices between my mental health or physical safety multiple times a day, I don’t have to justify my childhood toys or clothing choices to prove myself.  That spark of joy that shone so bright when I finally acknowledged this aspect of me has been fanned into a bright flame.  There are still shadows though.  My safety is contingent still on not being seen.  I am acknowledged now as a man, that is far more affirming then before.  My identity is respected and seen.  But my experience is not, because I am not just a man, I am a trans man.  I have a lived experience in fighting for manhood that a cis man will never have.  And my safety and comfort on a daily basis is contingent on my lived experience being a carefully guarded secret.  None of this can change until society does, and I fear for my new baby trans friends who are just beginning to come out.  My heart aches for what they might face, especially knowing the road I barely survived was one of the easiest paths to this end.  All I can hope for is those moments of joy and acknowledgment, that exhilarating feeling of freedom and truth on it’s vast silver wings, will be enough to carry them through.  Or society can change, one leap at a time we can stop with the assumptions and the stereotypes and the enforced gender rolls and the bigotry, until this life path is just as much a challenging but engaging climb as any other, and not a harrowing trip through the valley of death.  I still out myself when it might help, when it might change someones thoughts, when there is a chance it might pave the way for the trans folk of the future.  That choice is worthwhile for me, there is still something worth risking my life for, and it is a better world.

Do you see relationships through the lens of what you’ll gain or what you’ll give up?  

Do you see relationships through the lens of what you’ll gain or what you’ll give up?

I think generally when people are looking for relationships, they are looking to add something to their life.  Loneliness, a desire for affection or touch, a want for someone to confide in or grow with, all our needs for human connection are a motivating factor in seeking relationships.  We look for what someone can bring into our lives, how our life can unfurl with them and what can be mutually shared and enjoyed together.  Especially in monogamous dynamics, people often are looking to follow the relationship escalator. The relationship escalator is where you meet and make contact, get to know someone, engage in romantic gestures, begin to define a commitment, and follow the progression of moving in, then usually pursuing marriage, then children or pets, and a happily ever after of further intertwinement.  It is centered around taking steps higher and higher, gaining more safety and stability from the relationship with every step.

In polyamorous relationships, especially for people newly opening up to polyamory, people are sometimes trying to fill in areas of their relationships where they feel they are lacking, with a new person. I’ve noticed often, especially in newly polya folks, that a person may be looking to supplement a need for more sex or affection or someone they can relate to and confide in, in certain ways, with a new person. In fact this is often a driving factor in infidelity in monogamous dynamics as well.  This is not the only reason, or even the main reason, that people pursue polyamory though.  I feel it is safe to say that most people who pursue polyamory in the long run do so because they cannot imagine limiting romantic love and connection to one individual, not just because of wanting to fill their own need holes with puzzle piece people.  The point I am making though, is I think we do often view new relationships from the lens of what we will gain in pursuing them, whether it is meeting a need or want, or just expanding the love we feel to include a new person and sharing new life experiences with them.

I have noticed that I do something different, that I have over the last 5-10 years or so begun viewing relationships through the lens of what I will give up.  When getting involved with someone new, one of my first courses of actions is to strongly define my boundaries.  “Do not expect me to ever share a room with you.  Understand I may at times be willing to share my bed, but it will be on my terms and not something you can expect nightly or regularly.” I am almost defensive in the extent to which I put my boundaries forward, as though expecting them to be violated without reason.  I do have a reason though, they are hard won boundaries.  I spent years not only letting others bulldoze over them, but repressing them myself and indulging co-dependency rather then independence.  Independence was and still is the hardest skill I’ve ever had to cultivate withing myself.  In fact, it was one of my partners pushing me into it, modeling it for me, and making it clear at times that if I continued to be co-dependent with him that I would lose him altogether, that started me down that path to begin with.  It was hard to take the independence that I found in that dynamic and apply it to my others, not to just use people as puzzle pieces to fit in my co-dependency hole.  After fighting tooth and nail to become a more resilient and independent person, to become comfortable with aloneness, and as I continue down that path, new relationships are frightening.  When I begin to develop a closeness with someone I have to wonder, what am I going to give up to this person?  What parts of myself am I going to lose and what boundaries will I let them walk over?  What will I have to compromise in my other relationships? Will I lose the trips to the supermarket with the partner who I can relax with more than anyone, who makes me laugh in our car rides alone, a laugh that never comes as freely with anyone else?  Will I lose the time to myself each morning, after I let the dogs out and before I have had my coffee, where my mind is able to assimilate all the coping mechanisms that make me functional through the day?  Will I lose the strength I feel flowing through me as I sprawl out in bed by myself at night and realize that I can finally sleep alone without being consumed by loneliness or a need for a body beside me?  What part of me does this partner want from me, what can I give them, without it being a loss for me?

I know that I am not alone in this.  In polyamorous dynamics it is clear that there is not enough time and energy for an unlimited amount of loves, there is always some kind of trade off in your own personal time or time with partners when you engage with someone new. When you have been co-dependent as well, freedom and independence are so hard won that you may always be vigilant that they are slipping away.  If you have dealt with abuse as I have, you may be constantly concerned that your boundaries will be trampled and wonder what you must compromise to earn someone’s love. I won’t claim to know which way is better, or if there is a better.  In all likelihood the answer is as usual, some kind of balance.  I know for me though, I do look at relationships through the lens of what I must give up, it is a struggle to allow someone into my life for that reason.

Relationship anarchy has helped some with that.  Being able to have dynamics that are fluid, that can take shape organically and do not need to follow the relationship escalator, and are formed by finding the common ground and desires of those involved, has helped negate some of my fear.  I have become confident in my autonomy and my respect of the autonomy of my partners as well, and more sure of my ability to maintain my boundaries.  To relate to people in a way with less labels and societal norms, and to enjoy the ways in which my life touches others without expectations, has allowed a little more comfort.  I am still guarded, I know this.  I anticipate expectations and obligations put on me, I warn and ready my loves for disappointment, and I still defensively insist on my boundaries with an often unneeded vehemence.  I hope more healing is to come, I am not sure if I will ever look at relationships from the completely what will I gain perspective I did in the very first ones I entered into, but maybe some day I will be able to worry less about what it will cost me every time I fall in love.

My path to choosing radical honesty and onward

I was not an honest child.  I was actually known for elaborate but obvious lies in my childhood.  To this day my parents frequently remark about my ability to make up imaginative and unbelievable “stories” as a child, but stories are a nice word for lies.  Whether it was to get out of trouble, or just to see if I could, I often concocted ridiculously complex untruths, and while lying was definitely a thing my parents discouraged, I also got the feeling that my creativity was appreciated and that was positive reinforcement.

As I came into my early teens, I was the center of attention much of the time in my little group of misfits.  I continued to use my penchant for creative lies to elaborate upon stories to make them more exciting and interesting. I adapted others stories and experiences as my own frequently, or outright concocted completely fabricated tales.  They were well received, although partly so because they were often believed as truth.  I made myself a persona as an exciting risk-taking hilarious individual, and I was loved for it.

When I was sixteen I met Q, an individual who told me they valued honesty strongly, and I concurred.  Of course honesty was of extreme importance, it was integral really.  I saw myself as honest, because I was more true to myself then most of my peers in that I certainly flew my freak flag high.  As a goth kid who was out about my sexuality since I was 13 and bucked gender norms, I gave few fucks about what others thought of me, and I saw that as an aspect of honesty.  In a world when so many people hide who they are out of fear of judgement and rejection, I was honest in that sense.  But I still told stories that were exaggerated and filled with half truths.  I had begun to feel prickles of guilt when I did so, and had dispensed with the ones that were all out lies, but I was not what I would these days think of as an honest person.  Back then though, I considered myself honest because my lies were usually exaggerations, bending of the truth, little white lies, lies for the comfort of others, and so on.  I fell in love with Q, and made some silly teenage promises of being together forever and staying with them no matter what.  I think most people expect that forever for a teenager means maybe eight months if you’re lucky, but Q took me at my word, after all I had said that I valued honesty as much as they did and they had no reason not to trust me.  Looking back, I do think that it is a bit excessive to expect a sixteen year old to know what they want and to be self aware enough to be able to commit to a lifetime relationship.  In fact I believe these days that while forever is a pretty word, it should be never taken as an absolute commitment, because relationships can become toxic to one or both individuals, and anyone is free to walk away at any time regardless of prior commitments and regardless of the reason.  We were both young though, and I made a lot of promises I could not keep, and portrayed myself as a much more self aware and honest person then I was though. In many ways I was manipulative, and I knew it as well.  I was not malicious, but I was starving for love and belonging, and I wanted Q in particular to feed my insecurities and be singularly attached to me.  My issues with insecurity and co-dependence may have begun in that dynamic, and a lot of other factors played into that as well.  What it boils down to is while Q was older, and I saw them as a learned authority figure, they were new to relationships and socially isolated for much of life.  I was a social butterfly who’d been with quite a few people by then, I was well versed in manipulation and lying, and I had an overblown opinion of myself and my level of self awareness and honesty.

When I left them the approximate eight months later that a teenager’s forever lasts, I shattered something in them. I don’t remember those moments in the detail that they do, so much of that time in my life is a blur to me, but I remember thinking over and over in my mind that I had broken them.  I didn’t know you could break a person.  And I’ve learned many many things in revisiting those moments with them over the years, as they are still one of my dearest loves and friends thirteen years later, but at the time what impacted me the most was realizing they had actually believed me when I said I would be with them forever. That idea was incomprehensible to me, I had been left by many people who had said the same thing, and left a couple myself, and there was always this unspoken understanding that forever only means forever until it doesn’t.  I had a lot of anger towards them for other things that transpired in the relationship, I felt wholly uncomfortable with them and also uncomfortable with losing the grip of control I had on them that meant not being alone and slipping into that dark place I went when I wasn’t drowning my depression in social validation. So I tried to maintain a closeness as we battled against each other in a messy break up, and I got an up close and personal window into how much my lack of honesty had wounded someone.  It was something I was wholly unprepared to deal with.  My initial response to crippling guilt and horror was to shut down and take solace in my next partner, a give-no-fucks asshole who actually probably ended up having more of a heart then I did back then.  I rebelled against Q’s need for me to be a facade of a decent human and was a horrible combative combustion of fucks.  While it would be years before I came out the other side of our cycles of fights and reconciliations with them, my experience worked away at the landscape of my mind like a flash flood eroding a riverbank and I was left changed.  I knew I wanted to be a real honest person, not just someone who pretended to be brave and honest because they were a rebellious queer goth in a sea of “normals”.

I discovered a concept called radical honesty.  Actually I discovered a perversion of the concept.  The original idea was a self-improvement program created by Dr. Brad Blanton that espouses being blunt and direct even in the face of painful or taboo subjects.  I don’t remember exactly who explained it to me, but in a game of philosophical telephone where psychology and philosophy were learned from a myriad of original and unoriginal sources and discussed and passed along among my rag tag group of friends until the ideas only resembled the original content, I somehow stumbled upon this one. The concept as it was explained to me was blunt unequivocal honesty, saying whatever came to mind with absolutely no filter.  No lying to save someones feelings, no little white lies, no bending the truth, and no holding anything back at all.  No matter how brusque or inappropriate a thought that popped up in the meat space of your brain was, you voiced it. I figured that was pretty much the opposite of my attempts at honesty that involved exaggeration and tweaking of the truth and little white lies here and there to save face, so I would do that thing!  And that was how I made a few friends in college by bouncing up to them and telling them all about the fabulous first ever dildo I had bought earlier that day, because that was what was on my mind the very moment I first saw them and decided to talk to them!  Some of them are still my friends even today, and probably think I’m just as much of an oddball freak as they did in that moment.

It wasn’t all hilarity and awkwardness though, radical honesty was hard.  It was absolutely painful and terrifying and humiliating to be that extremely truthful and blunt.  Stripping away the protection of filtering your thoughts and laying yourself bare for the world is horrifying.  It was what I needed though.  I have always been a person with a driving need to push to extremes, and doing so allowed me to appreciate the gifts of honesty as well.  I thought people believed and trusted me before and I didn’t see how much of that was all a dishonest facade as well.  I needed to push myself to a level of inappropriate and completely filter-less honesty as a way of hitting the reset button and deconditioning myself to believe that my twisting and bending of the truth would be rewarded with admiration for my creativity or when believed, admiration for my daring escapades.  I also realized pretty quickly that while my thoughts were fairly strange and surprising to some, I was a much less interesting person then I expected I was, when I had to tell the truth about myself and my adventures all the time.

I kept to the radical honesty for a short time, I don’t remember exactly how long, but it was a matter of months, maybe up to a year.  Once it had served its purpose in making lying seem so alien and abhorrent to me that I never wanted to go back to how I was, which wasn’t a far reach after seeing the devastation I had wreaked on Q, I transitioned to a form of honesty that was still blunt and often vulnerable and forthcoming, and definitely allowed for no deceit, but did allow for something of a filter at least.  A situational awareness for what was appropriate and what wasn’t, like not telling a church group of grandmothers about the kinky sex you had that weekend (no that is not something I did, but more because I don’t know any church groups of grandmothers, had I encountered any during my radical honesty phase and been thinking about my sex life at the time I would have). There’s also something important to be said for respecting consent and what other’s are willing to hear, but consent was something I learned more in depth at a later period.

I’ve transformed my life completely on many occasions, but this was probably one of the first times I changed myself so completely.  I learned to value a depth of honesty that I still don’t see often in the world, a commitment to truth when it is hard and scary, when it hurts and when it scars, when it threatens to take away the things you love, when it can ruin your reputation or charisma and leave you standing alone.  I still ascribe to keeping to that level of honesty and integrity, though in a way that is also appropriate and allows for tact, though never deceit.  I am someone who may now say “I do not want to share that”, but I won’t make up a lie to cover anything up.  I also found that I became a radically more adventurous person, one who consumes any new life experience with a sense of abandon.  When you can’t exaggerate or embellish or create stories about yourself, you have to actually live a more exciting life if you want to stay interesting.  And the depth of trust people give me when I’ve proved I truly am worthy of it is one of the things I treasure most in the world, made all the more precious by the road I’ve walked to earn it.

I would not recommend radical honesty, especially the perversion of it I endeavored to try, to everyone.  I would recommend a truer honesty then most every attempt.  The world opens up to you in a million glorious ways when you face it with truth and vulnerability.  When every part of your fucked up edgy self is authentic, all your adventures actually lived, and all your emotions self aware and from the hard, this life is an intense and wondrous thing and connections with others are profound.  So don’t take the whole damn filter off and trash it, but do fold it up a bit and let yourself out into the world, and do learn to trash any deceit or bending the truth that you’ve held on to.  The world really is more glorious when lived authentically and you will leave less broken people behind you and find more appreciative loving ones ahead to welcome you and your truth.

Relationship Anarchy is an act of Self Love

Relationship anarchy is an act of self love, and here’s why:

Relationship anarchy is fucking terrifying.  It isn’t just, as some often suppose, an egalitarian form of polyamory in which there is no hierarchy or sneakarchy to place some partners in positions of power or priority over others.  Relationship anarchy has deep anarchist roots and involves bucking the societal system of rules and structures and questioning their worth and merit.  It involves forming relationships rooted not just in consent, but in desire.  I want to go into that more deeply in another piece, but suffice to say, relationship anarchy involves navigating away from rule based dynamics and rules masquerading as agreements.

Imagine yourself creating relationships as an autonomous being, with another autonomous being, where you both decide what the relationship will entail and build it from the ground up.  The relationship, and I don’t mean just a romantic dynamic, but any friendship, partnership, way of relating to someone with emotions or vulnerability or touching of your squiggly bits, is tailored to fit exactly what you both decide.  You start with respect for another individual who you see merit and worth in, and therefor want in your life. You desire a connection and way of relating and sharing experiences with that person.  You engage with them, and begin to discover the ways in which they want to relate to you.  You discuss, open up, form a connection, and find the common ground in the fuzzy happy places you want to curl up in, in each others lives.  There are no rules in these dynamics based in desire and respect for autonomy.  Rules are manufactured by society, but a society that clings so sharply to fear and control. A society in which our very ability to eat and have shelter is based on coercive relationships such as working for a wage or buying goods born of others’ exploitation.  Relationship anarchy can be something of a haven away from that.  It can be descriptively at any given time, monogomous or polyamorous, because people can have those particular romance shaped feelings for one or for multiple people at a particular time in their life. But it throws away the societal structure that imposes that you should feel those romance wiggles for only one or only certain people, or that you need certain titles or to follow a relationship escalator when you do. So relationship anarchy is a ideology that centers the autonomy, desire, and choices of the individual, and the respect for another’s autonomy and as well.

Now what does that have to do with self love?  Well, when you embrace relationship anarchy and buck the coercive structures of society, you are saying that a person is autonomous, they have worth, they deserve respect, they should not be controlled by a societal system or a relationship title or rules. And in that, you are also saying that you have the same things, you are also an autonomous being with worth and deserving of respect.  I’m not saying that relationship anarchists do not suffer from shame and issues of self esteem and self confidence.  But to choose a way of loving and connecting that on a base level embraces and elevates personal worth and respect for autonomy and individuality, you are doing something that exhibits radical self love.  You are placing your own freedom and vulnerability and ability to connect, above the judgement and coercion of society as a whole.  You are treating others as individuals with whom you can form unique self made fluid dynamics, and as such you also are honoring the individuality and worth in yourself as part of those dynamics and shared relationships.  You are allowing yourself to make a relationship with another glorious human based on what you desire with them, and in doing that you are acknowledging your desire as having worth.  That is a radical act of self love, and you deserve to have it recognized as such.

And back to the fucking terrifying aspect, because yes, relationship anarchy is deeply scary.  When you decide to form relationships (platonic, romantic, sexual, power exchange, and all the squiggly in betweens) that involve creating a mesh of your mutual desires, and experiencing your ways of relating with another person that you both actively and enthusiastically choose at that time; and when you have relationships that recognize your autonomy and respect the individual, there’s a problem.  In the context of society, there is a big problem.  That lovely ball-of-joy-giving person that you are feeling all the fuzzy vulnerable things for, can walk away at any point in time!  Their squiggly happy feels for you can change! And you are in a relationshipping style in which you aren’t coercing them to stay, you aren’t exerting control, you may not have titles or ties to bind them to you, and you could lose everything at any point in time!  Yes, society sees this as a big problem which is why the typical societal relationships, even polyamorous ones, often do involve a carefully orchestrated web of titles and rules or agreements to give you structure and a false feeling of safety.  The secret that they don’t want you to know though, is that the safety walls you created are all smoke.  If someone doesn’t want to stay with you, a marriage license and two and a half children and the house you own together, likely won’t stop them from leaving.  Relationship anarchy is much more vulnerable and raw in acknowledging that people may choose to come and go from your life, that dynamics are fluid, and that we have no right to own or control people, so we cannot make them stay.  Hoo boy, that is scary!  I would like to address the depth of that uber scary sinkhole, and how glorious it can actually be, in depth at another time, but right now I’m going to relate that back to self love.  When you decide to engage in relating in a way that is so intensely vulnerable and admits that your spectacular connections may not in fact be safe or solid or last for the rest of your life and beyond, and that safety nets and guarantees are not real, and nothing is ever certain, you are forced to acknowledge something truly valuable.  That you as a person exist separate from your relationships, that you are an independent being, and that you will endure and survive as an independent being regardless of the ways your relationships with the people you love and adore continue to endure, or change shape, or end.  And facing that again is an act of self love.  It is an acknowledgement that you take up space in this world and you exist and are worthy of life, separate from all the people who’s lives you are a part of.

So my lovely long time relationship anarchists, and my beautiful budding new loving anarchist folk, to those who are curious and dipping a toe into learning about it all, and everyone in between: Remember your worth, remember your power, remember your freedom, remember your independence, remember your autonomy, and remember to love yourself always.  When you live this way, you already are practicing a radical form of self love, so recognize that within yourself and embrace it.  You are glorious.