Merry Meet! My name is Pat, and I'm passionate about restoring empowerment and health to traumatized people, communities, and ecosystems. My professional practice is in a field that's called integrative health, and for me that includes a lot of radically different modalities ranging from permaculture to bodywork, trauma stewardship and consciousness, activism and more. You can read all about my work here: https://www.pat-mosley.com/
“To write is to claim the audacity to speak and the courage to yield, to dare for a moment to care for ourselves in speech, in writing, and in solitude.”
From Pat Mosley
First things first, accept that everything you say or don’t say is wrong, too late, not enough, not relevant.
If you’re lucky enough to land an actual writing gig somewhere, disregard all indications of friendships initiated by your editors. Accept that you are filling a role, whether anyone will admit it or not. Your role is to be as trans as possible. And if you’re writing for a site owned by right-wing Christians, accept the impossible challenge that you must be both trans enough to make your owners look liberal, but not so trans as to make anyone uncomfortable by calling out their corporate affiliates.
Inevitably, you’ll fail and get booted. But don’t worry because everyone will be too busy blaming John Halstead to notice. You’ll find other gigs and they’ll publish you as long as it’s clear that you’re a trans writer, never just a writer, never permitted to be neutral in matters of being categorized-other.
You can write about bathroom bills, but not capitalism. Gender, but not climate change. Discrimination, but not civilization. Feelings, but never theory.
You will be an identity from now on, not a human being. You will be the trans writer, not the writer who likes to forage, the writer who likes to weave, or the writer who has suffered from depression for half their life so far and tried to off themselves more recently than anyone is comfortable with.
You will be trans, and trans alone, but never trans enough. In a crushed velvet dress, drawing Inanna down from the heavens while serving vintage witchy woman realness, it will still be a surprise, a gag, not real, not enough. Hunty.
Naked and in bed with your next lover, it’ll all seem like a far-off dream. But you’ll have internalized it—who could love you? Who could touch this body for pleasure? You’ll fight about gender, because of course you will. Of course this world must be material, not ecstatic, labeled, territories and border walls, from Palestine to monogamy, to our thighs touching and my eyes shut tight, trying.
The crackle of your laughter can light up a room, but in the digital world, you’ll be a howl on the wind of Earth’s darkest nights, a shot of pain, an assemblage of social realities, flattened, fixed in place.
Readers will mince your words, pulling apart some string of pronouns and ambiguity to determine which gender when and which gender now. Readers will gauge your truth, scrutinizing a filtered two-dimensional profile picture for their reality of who they know you must actually be. More will be gleaned about your life by your readers than you will ever have the platform to publish or the privilege to even draft.
Constantly outed, no consequence considered. Constantly demanded, no aftermath concerning. Singular. One-dimensional identity. Constantly roped back and down to your trauma, the trauma, of which you are never an adequate martyr.
You aren’t a storyteller. This isn’t the Stone Age. It’s 2018 and you produce content to be consumed, discarded. No one gives a fuck about your life, your interests, your passions, your growth. A few times a year, some well-established Pagan woman somewhere will dare to speak her mind, and then all of the sudden, you’ll matter again. Except you won’t. Your labor will.
The thing about writing is that there is never any way to be right. There is no correct way to write about trans issues. If trans people do it, always-helpful readers will chastise cis people for not stepping up and collecting their people. If cis people dare exit their lanes and write something, readers will complain that trans voices should be amplified! Centered! Yes! Rip us into the spotlight—we have no lives of value to protect, no agency in determining whether something necessitates a response, no worth beyond a good retort we haven’t typed out a thousand times already. This time it will matter, surely. Five more likes and shares and the Goddess will grant us a miracle!
To write about trans issues is to subject yourself to a full-on public examination of your gender, a scrutiny of your public presence, and a tallying of all the ways you are male, you are female, you are mad, angry, fossilized, and archaic. All of this—the scales for determining the value of your voice.
And why? Why is it always our voices? Why is it never allowed to be our bodies? Our minds? Our health? Our lives? Dare we ever get to judge a political theorist on the quality of their theories more than the sensationalism of their trauma?
To write is to trespass a thousand million unspoken, presumed laws we will never know of until it is already too late. To write is to claim the audacity to speak and the courage to yield, to dare for a moment to care for ourselves in speech, in writing, and in solitude. And for these sins, every fiber of our existence will still be determined wrong in some new, pseudo-nuanced way.
We are disposable conveniences to you.
Nearly one hundred thousand people read an article I published a couple years ago. Yet not one person is ever within reach when I plunge into the depths of depression and existential horror. Where are you, dear readers? Who are you to make any demands of me or anyone mantled by any identity?
I know you aren’t my allies. I dare to proclaim you aren’t my community either.
You don’t want resolution, you don’t want healing.
You want blood. You want a fight.
You want rape and slow, brutal, verbal murder. You want the chance to scavenge our still-breathing corpses for every wrong word, wrong deed, and wrong idea. You want to choke out the life of young trans people, filling their heads with fake statistics about their alleged lifespan until they succumb to a suicide you can count with glory in your spectator martyrdom. You want to keep repeating that bullshit no matter how many times it is explained to you that it is wrong. You want to silence whatever anarchic spirit rises contrary to your pleasure, your comfort, your conceptualization of us, the writers, givers, power-shakers, the disabled, the whores, the mad.
You are insatiable.
And in your demand, there is no liberation. There is no break from the trauma in your consumption of us. We will perpetually be rape victims and sex workers, permitted only ever to be destitute survivors or proudly empowered feminists in this trade, never trafficked, never coerced, never self-hating, never grown-up traumatized children working through toxic relationships to sexuality and capitalism. For the duration of a Facebook thread or a five minute speech at your weekend rally, we will be fabulous and stunningly feminine, brave and on brand, centered and amplified, righteous and fuming—or we will be no one remotely of value. Never are we allowed to heal, to not care, to decline, to merge with the Ohr Ein Sof, to love drag culture, to just move on or dare to politic differently.
Your concern for trans people is limited to an abstract rendering of our lives into a consumable text format or sound bit for you to like and share and boldly critique without ever having to consider the author as a human being who breaks, who cries, who has limits, who has boundaries.
You are a hammer. You demand a nail. You demand to crucify.
You don’t want to hear trans voices. You want to hear yourself echoed and applauded in a lifeless metaphor embodied by a trans person you couldn’t give two shits about.
You want to share a witty piece about emotional labor, but you wouldn’t dare interrogate your own unceasing demands for it.
You want to conjure us out like personal Jesus goddesses every time there’s a conflict in the community, as if our whole lives begin with every moment you need us.
You want another battle royale, angry dykes vs. angry trannies, angry feminism, blood and hormones, a performance for your entertainment and never our own resolution. I think it was Utah Phillips who asked Ani Difranco why don’t you write angry feminist songs anymore?
You want to catalogue our identities so you can catalogue our sins.
You want clearly MALE or clearly FEMALE, clearly CIS or clearly TRANS, because you still cannot handle the glorious, radiant biology of intersexuality, the sex of angels, the holy mystery of ambiguity and the tidal movement of life between continental bodies in a shimmering ocean.
God/dess bless you. Bless all your hearts.
I am finished anchoring my politics in the trauma of my identities for the sake of people other than the fiery spirit within my own heart. I am finished being called up like an enslaved Goetic daemon to pen whatever it is the readers demand to dictate this time.
I am not going to identify myself for you anymore.
WO/MAN HAS THE RIGHT TO WRITE WHAT S/HE WILL.
Pat Mosley is a bodyworker and writer based in the Carolina Piedmont. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth’s children in mind. Connect with him at https://www.pat-mosley.com/
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“In today’s age of haphazard integration between trauma and discrete identity politics, the performance of solidarity on the right or left is rarely about actual healing.”
From Pat Mosley
Since publishing my essay Un-Identity: Climbing Down the Other Side of Peak Liberalism, I’ve connected with dozens of other leftists around the world burned out on the hypocrisy and stagnancy of liberal identity politics. Many of us share common experiences of trauma and oppression, some of which fit liberal identity narratives and others of which don’t. Each of us has come to this place of knowing that we cannot live our lives any longer in a state of perpetual outrage, evasion, false confidence, and reactionary, shame-driven, mob politics.
The title of that essay described a sort of mountain, which is what I see when I picture social justice in my mind. At the top, we’re promised this egalitarian utopian paradise, but the way there is constantly obstructed by one thing or another. Sooner or later—and this is where so much connectivity is happening now—we realize that no one has actually seen the mountaintop yet. We’re just believing in stories that other people have told us, or that we’ve overheard them reassuring themselves with. Upon further examination, we realize that this truth—that no one has seen the mountaintop—explains all the conflicting stories we’ve been hearing all along.
Climbing down is a choice I believe more and more of us are making. It’s a humbling process of admitting that we’ve spent a good chunk of our lives fumbling through a quasi-mythic landscape we still have trouble mapping. And along the way down, as we verbalize our political and personal changes, we start uncovering this person we used to be and begin to see more clearly how deeply affected our sense of self and power had become while on the mountain.
This piece is about the vampires many of us became in our quest for the mountaintop, but it’s also about another world beyond that landscape, where our utopian visions might actually still be grown.
How Social Media, Identity Politics, & Trauma Created Social Acceptance of Vampirism
The kind of liberal identity politics I describe in Un-Identity and join countless other marginalized peoples in critiquing have in fact been critiqued by leftists for generations. This particular social conflict between leftist unity and liberal divisiveness is nothing new. Nevertheless, I believe that in the 2000s with the advent and centralization of social media platforms, we entered a new period in this dialogue. This period has so far enabled unhealthy relationships between people played out in politicized terms and revamped social justice movements.
Both internet forums and sociopolitical movements have always had their toxic personalities. Social media cannot be blamed for producing them. However, it is my belief that popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have inadvertently encouraged toxicity, although I do not believe this was their intention. Instead, I think the promises of social media—the promises of connecting people across the world, providing a platform to raise awareness of injustice, and amplifying a voice of the oppressed—were intended as an answer to the relative isolation, limits, and ineptitude of earlier internet forums and social movements hoping to accomplish the same.
I first joined Facebook in 2005 as a way to keep in touch with high school friends as we graduated and moved away from home. Beyond known friends, Facebook groups offered a means of connecting with broader social groups, like GLBT people, Pagans, Deaf people, etc. from around the country, and eventually the world. This masterfully resolved the scarcity of brick and mortar community spaces or dispersion of demographic groups by permitting even the most isolated person the possibility of connecting with others like them through simply creating an account and joining a group.
I think Facebook recognized its role in this niche too. In 2006, the social media platform was one of the few places where gay marriage was permitted. We could indicate on our profiles what gender(s) we were interested in, and even list our same-sex partners as spouses. Add-on apps allowed us to expand on this information with an earlier, 2000s-era version of the dozens of genders now recognized by many social media outlets. Additional developments, such as the “like” button, the news feed, and the ability for individual users to share or up-vote links to articles, videos, and blogs to and from all their connections through it, created a platform with extraordinary potential for facilitating social awareness and change.
With this potential, however, are several drawbacks. Concern over “fake news” has only recently become an issue people expect social media to resolve. And concern over how the instant feedback of “likes” and other reactions affect our communication styles and content choices is yet to reach the same level of alarm in social media ethics. Perhaps most relevant to political discourse aided by social media though should be recognition that microblogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter indirectly discourage nuance either through character limits to posts or the instant feedback culture which seems to reward reactive, short, invective posts over long-form, more emotionally moderated content.
More than simply rewarding sometimes toxic behavior with a sea of likes and shares, microblogging platforms encourage a specific type of political analysis. This analysis avoids logical, constructive, contextual, or critical thinking in favor of emotional, destructive, selective, and reductive narratives which complement or reproduce classically politicized identity narratives.
For example, consider reactions to the recent wave of sexual assault survivors publicly describing their ordeals and in some cases also identifying people in power who perpetrated them. Almost immediately this phenomenon was absorbed into the classic feminist identity narrative of powerful men abusing powerless women. Experiences outside of this narrative, particularly those involving trans victims, were critiqued for “erasing” the experiences of women. Likewise, women sharing stories about being raped by trans people were critiqued for “transphobia,” and many men who shared stories of sexual assault by women were also shut down for the “sexism” of taking this moment away from women collectively and for “distracting” from the evidently more important issue of men assaulting women. After a few weeks of this, an additional layer of public shaming was added, and that was the apparent transgression of not naming the specific creator of the hashtag #MeToo when describing one’s sexual assault.
I’ve identified three major takeaways from observing these reactions. First, they were a reminder that liberal identity politics care more about preserving a specific narrative (e.g. men over women, white over black, straight over queer, etc.) than with actually acknowledging and ending the violent or oppressive acts themselves. Second, the microblogging structure of the social media platforms this movement took place on enabled a viral spreading of shame and guilt directed at survivors for the sake of preserving these narratives and an irrational set of social hierarchies or expected checkboxes (e.g. naming the creator of a hashtag, not acknowledging that minorities can be rapists, etc.). Lastly, the trauma of human existence is widespread and so far failed by the narrow-mindedness of identity-dominant thinking.
Older leftists I have worked with have often related their burnout in decades past from previous iterations of feminist and social justice movements. Their stories communicate a similarly observed irrational preoccupation with identity-based narratives to the detriment of resolution on the issues they aim to address. Where I believe my generation differs is that we are additionally dealing with a degree of instantaneous global connectivity previously unknown. Social media is not simply informing us about issues halfway around the world, it is enabling a cultural expectation that we will immediately and continuously offer the correct opinion and precise amount of properly constructed outrage regarding each and every one of them, or risk public shaming, guilt pressure, and accusations of all manner of -isms and -phobias. And while these politics may conceptualize themselves as radical, revolutionary, or far to the left, the reference points they consistently cite rarely predate post-modern liberal identity discourse.
Take for instance the romanticized image of the Stonewall Uprising regularly conjured up in contemporary political debates internal to LGBT+ folks. Many of today’s activists are utterly convinced of the “fact” that either trans women of color uniquely led the riots, or that their alleged presence at a New York bar in the 1960s is somehow relevant or obvious justification for trans inclusion in political movements today. References to the social advances enjoyed by Soviet trans people or the relative periods and regions of social acceptance enjoyed by pre-modern or ancient crossdressing and binary-defying people are even rarer than references to protests or uprisings only slightly earlier than Stonewall, such as Compton’s or Dewey’s. This selective history is indicative of the political context the narrative complements. The departure of mid-century liberal discourse from earlier leftist movements is the start of liberal identity histories.
My criticism of these politics is not coming from a place of purity or superiority. Rather, I have been the exact type of person I am criticizing. Before I left Facebook, my news feed was routinely swallowed by similar demands—for trans people to account for rapists who happen to be transgender, for Jews of the diaspora to account for the actions of the state of Israel, for Muslims to account for the actions of ISIL, for Wiccans to account for incidents of homophobia or transphobia in individual covens, for liberals and leftists to account for how the federal government spends our taxes, etc. Like many people my age, I engaged in these tactics and likely helped teach their art to those performing them today.
Late economist Mark Fisher described this form of social media based activism as vampirism in his 2013 essay Exiting the Vampire Castle.
“The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd. The danger in attacking the Vampires’ Castle is that it can look as if – and it will do everything it can to reinforce this thought – that one is also attacking the struggles against racism, sexism, heterosexism. But, far from being the only legitimate expression of such struggles, the Vampires’ Castle is best understood as a bourgeois-liberal perversion and appropriation of the energy of these movements. The Vampires’ Castle was born the moment when the struggle not to be defined by identitarian categories became the quest to have ‘identities’ recognised by a bourgeois big Other.”
Prior to Fisher, however, Anton LaVey also correlated guilt as an influence tactic with what he called “psychic vampires,” or people who feed off the labor (emotional, physical, or otherwise) of others.
“Often the psychic vampire will use reverse psychology, saying: ‘Oh, I couldn’t ask you to do that’—and you, in turn, insist upon doing it. The psychic vampire never demands anything of you. That would be far too presumptuous. They simply let their wishes be known in subtle ways which will prevent them from being considered pests. They ‘wouldn’t think of imposing’ and are always content and willingly accept their lot, without the slightest complaint—outwardly!” (p. 75, The Satanic Bible)
Where LaVey observes reverse psychology employed by psychic vampires of his day, however, I would argue that today’s vamps are keen to make direct demands of other people, and that doing so is even now considered an acceptable moral standard or virtue we should oblige.
Responsibility for this cultural shift towards acceptable vampirism I believe does not rest solely on Facebook, Twitter, or social media in general. Rather, it is the perfect storm of these impersonal platforms combined with the failures of liberal identity politics and the continuation of trauma on new generations.
A Stab At Why We Become Vampires
“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” Junot Diaz
Like Diaz and many other marginalized people, I grew up in a world where no mirror held my reflection. I was keenly aware of my queerness and troubled by gender at a very early age. Disability, sexuality, mental un-wellness, trauma, and pursuit of spiritual alternatives to the insular Christianity I grew up in added additional dimensions to my self-perception as a weirdo and clear deviant from the norm. Navigating a world where these things provoke violent outbursts and social punishments has pretty well defined my relationship to other people since before I was a teenager, and continues in many ways to define my (anti-)sociability to this day.
As I’d wager many people torn between presenting as one thing but being another have discovered, writing has always helped me bridge the fractures of my existence. And coming of age in the era of MySpace, Livejournal, and then Facebook, social media specifically offered me an impersonal means of experimental self-expression for the self that wasn’t always immediately apparent to people I wasn’t sure if I could trust. I think it’s on that bridge—having a means of saying something without actually saying it to someone, knowing you can read reactions before having to deal with them, and even having the option to delete and block people or feedback you don’t like—that the vampire started to take hold.
My vampire was an early-adopter of social media activist strategies, frequently sharing numerous articles and generating political commentary throughout every single day as soon as the possibility to do so became an option. Doing so gave me a sense of power and self-worth. Sharing political articles I agreed with reassured me that I had always been right all those years in communities that deny climate change and (at least from 1999-2002) wholeheartedly believed in an imminent apocalypse. Sharing in the outrage of communities beyond myself made me feel like I was part of something big, part of a family, part of a voice, real. More than educating others or raising awareness—the promises social media is justified through—I dove into the queer callout culture of the early 2000s, and reveled in the opportunity to publicly tear down others, finally part of a clique in power somewhere.
It was punishment for trauma I had endured. It was punishment my targets usually didn’t deserve. And it was punishment not only politically protected by the liberal ethics my generation inherited from previous identity movements, but it was punishment bizarrely accepted and even encouraged by many outsiders and some recipients, eager to demonstrate their submissive status and dutiful liberal loyalty to the most sadistic and vampiric among us.
My addictive engagement in this style of activism paralleled my descent into drug abuse, as it did with many of the other activists I surrounded myself with. We used drugs and activism as a cover for the frozen, traumatized state we found ourselves in. Objective or subjective but real enough either way, we perceived oppression and -phobia like walls of jagged glass shards closing in on us everywhere. Everything was wrong. Everything hurt. And there seemed no way out of either. Too poor, too traumatized, too addicted, too…everything to either seek or receive psychological help, we became a generation of social justice vampires, temporarily sated on a lifetime full of outrage typed out at lightning speed, sent without regret, and protected by the constant threat of publicly shaming anyone who would challenge us.
Importantly, we got here through being wounded, and not because of some innate character flaw or natural predisposition towards psychic manipulation. Wounded people are susceptible to vampirism. We give empathy to people who appear to be in need because we know what it is like to be in need and to be ignored. The guilty world that makes us needs no accuser, and in its shame rewards our social outbursts with whatever we demand of it. Vampirism is taught this way. It is made and rewarded by the same guilty culture yet to abandon the monstrous process it has initiated.
And our politics are not helping. Take for instance, popular insistence that the average lifespan of trans women (variously further distinguished as “trans women of color” or “Latina trans women”) is between 30 to 35 years (I have also heard 25) or that 1 in 8 (I have also encountered “1 in 7” or “1 in 12”) will be murdered that are routinely cited by alleged trans community advocates to justify trans political inclusion. Leaving aside the dramatic leap from murder rates and lifespan to non-discrimination ordinances, to my knowledge, no study has ever been conducted which could produce an average lifespan or murder rate for trans people of any variety (please correct me if I’m wrong). The closest data I can find would be a 2016 study by the Williams Institute which suggests there are 1.4 million trans people in the U.S. So then, for the 1 in 12 statistic to be true, that would suggest that around 117,000 trans people in the U.S. were murdered in 2016. GLAAD, on the other hand, reported 27.
These statistical fictions provide a free channel of criticism for conservatives whose research into the origins of this alleged data will not begin and end at “it must be true because a trans activist said it is.” Furthermore, this alleged data amounts to not only an expression of psychic vampirism when used to garner movement support, but also a form of psychological terrorism against trans youth, who I have witnessed falling into mental un-wellness upon internalizing the message that their lives will soon be ending. It is fitting then, that so many trans people find themselves attracted to vampiric relationships with the world considering the undeath our politics relegate us to.
Additionally, for those whose trauma aligns to classical identity narratives, liberal politics encourage this anger and sense of powerlessness. And for the traumatized who fall outside these narratives, right-wing identity politics are ready to pick up what liberals discard. The wickedness of our neoliberal state, however, is in the diversity it has assumed into its machinery and oppressive institutions. Failing to be universal under scrutiny, such identity narratives tunnel into analysis of increasingly micro-aggressive and interpersonal slights, paralleling a drive away from institutional changes and into cultural warfare for both right- and left-wingers. Yet at the height of my vampiric identity sectarianism, every woman and queer along with most of the men I knew had a sexual assault story. We are a generation of kids the world has touched and terrorized, gaslit and disowned. But our politics are yet to become as universal as our trauma.
For instance, concurrent to the recent #MeToo movement has been insistence on generalizations like “believe women” rather than “believe survivors,” which in turn politicize specific narratives that certainly help many women and girls, but don’t address the problem of sexual violence beneath the particular vehicle of sexist dynamics. These narratives become a form of gaslighting. We tell men and boys (and often by extension, many trans folks) that they didn’t grow up in a culture that sexualized them from a young age, subjected them to violently enforced, abusive gender expectations, or positioned them to be exploited later in life.
Collectively, we are tasked with accountability for the same system we have struggled against to survive. The first time I can remember being penetrated was by two boys in kindergarten—also the first time I remember girls (following the example of adults) ruthlessly teasing me for not being manly enough. As a student massage therapist, both men and women inappropriately asked (or grabbed) me to perform sex acts for them during our sessions. I started wearing loose long pants when I walk at the park alone on days I don’t feel like being catcalled by old men eager to tell me how great my body looks. I spent several years of my life putting on weight and ignoring my hygiene in hopes of being less attractive. A lifetime of being spit on, teased, excluded, and threatened for failing (or succeeding) to meet gendered expectations for masculinity have left me with a voice that changes pitch as a defensive mechanism, a heart rate and blood pressure which register specific traumatic triggers I am still too ashamed to name, an internal sense of self so dissociated sometimes that I’ve had nightmares based around not knowing how to gender myself, as well as a seemingly insurmountable compulsion to be in control, in charge, and completely severed from financial interdependence or dependence on others (along with a deep sense of shame when I fail at these things).
I personally didn’t realize the prevalence of male struggles under gender until I uncharacteristically made the radical decision to get a drink with a homophobe instead of yelling at him on the internet. I learned that he had been repeatedly molested by a gay uncle for most of his childhood, and even he admitted that his hatred of gay men now was projection of his uncle’s crimes onto others. He didn’t know another way to recover. Whereas liberal identity politics offered me the opportunity to perform my traumatized outrage as a reaction to homophobia, transphobia, and heteronormativity, conservative identity politics offered him the opportunity to perform his traumatized outraged as a reaction to the homosexual agenda and liberal destruction of the family. No politics offer us the opportunity to be outraged at sexual violence itself.
I’ve met others like him since then—male sexual abuse survivors relegated to the sidelines of popular feminist rhetoric and so taking refuge in vampiric conservative politics for the same reasons we do on the left too. Our traumas are politicized by culture wars in need of proxies. And none of us seem particularly better off or healed by their narratives.
Perhaps that is because in today’s age of haphazard integration between trauma and discrete identity politics, the performance of solidarity on the right or left is rarely about actual healing. Instead it is about reinforcing a politicized social generalization, that in turn justifies continued mistrust and separation. For those of us who fall outside these narratives, there is no mass movement of help coming. But like our friends who are narratively included, we fall onto a path with two main trails: be angry about how much the world has failed us, or learn to move the fuck on from it. All social pressure is towards vampiric anger, not resolution.
Back From the Grave
Coming down off the mountain, exiting the castle, returning from the grave, or whatever metaphorical landscape we define the vampiric phenomenon by, another world is possible.
And I am not just telling you that to reassure either of us that there is a mountaintop we’ll eventually get to if we keep trying. You know this truth too. Everyone who has not spent a chunk of their lives consumed by political narratives is out living in this world along with all those social media dropouts, post-leftist burnouts, and post-vamps who have already done exactly what you and I are doing now.
I believe a defining difference between this world and the world of the vampiric mountain is an actual embrace of human and planetary diversity. Whereas vampires are obsessively concerned with maintaining strict separation among equally discrete identity groups further organized hierarchically by victimhood/worth, the post-vampiric world acknowledges the messy and flawed, mixed race, mixed gender, mixed religion world we inhabit. This other world is a space to perceive one another from a horizontal power potential, where all are potentially comrades and equals, especially in the vulnerability necessary to see this world. Whereas identity politics patrol these sorts of hobbled together, impersonal communities that seek to define vastly different people by a common denominator, and then at least on some level, the shared victimhood of that label, in another world, we are already living, working, and loving side by side without the arbitrary division of these politics.
Freeing ourselves from vampirism necessitates also freeing ourselves from the thrall of identity politics. These politics rely on a perpetual powerlessness in order to maintain their boundaries. They assert that we are so weak without one another that we must face the world behind the shield of a larger group. The idea of healing or moving on from trauma, choosing not to be bothered by interpersonal drama or institutional issues beyond our control are direct affronts to this system because doing these things is to claim strength and sovereignty as an individual.
Alternative to vampirism is the choice to make ourselves vulnerable to the physical communities around us, where we connect to food systems, where we connect to healthcare, where we connect mutually to what was once the commons. This choice requires us to find the strength to refrain from taking personally the flaws in others we may have grown accustomed to attacking. This choice is about growing enough good faith to keep trying to work together. We will fail, often and messily. And we will offend and hurt one another in the learning process. But—and I believe those of you who have also dropped out of the vampiric system know this too—if we honestly want to see a world that is different, that is better, that is healed, then we must try something new until we get it right. I think exiting our vampiric landscapes requires more than the political re-attunement towards class unity rather than binary thinking that Fisher suggests, and more than the ah-ha moment of gaining the upper hand against vampires that LaVey suggests. I think we need more than reflections in the mirrors we create. We need a world to live in too. We have to change the very way we relate to one another.
Our survival is common. Our desire to heal from trauma is common. Recognizing those common conditions seems like a good place to start to me.
Pat is making magic in the Carolina Piedmont. His blog can be found at patmosley.wordpress.com
“Two things are inevitable: the climate is changing and we are all becoming disabled.”
From Pat Mosley
1, 2, 3, the rain starts to patter on the metal porch roof.
1, 2, 3, I start anxiously counting out my pills.
4, 5, 6 days left, two days until landfall, the pharmacy won’t let me refill my prescription for another three days at the earliest. If there’s a delay, if the hurricanes prevent this legal trafficking of my survival, another day or two on top of that. I may have to improvise. I may go through withdrawal.
When winds come knocking and trees bury roads, how will I die? Will I hold off eating, balance my blood sugar as best I can, starve, or blackout? Will I slip into the cozy of Death’s embrace or flail madly, obtuse in anger that I am finally so close to a life I enjoy and use to bring joy to others?
Does melting ice disable polar bears? Do the highly specialized diets of koalas feel like an impairment in the face of deforestation? Do fish and birds feel blinded or disoriented with the loss of ancestral migratory patterns and changing seasonal variations that call them too soon, too late, further away, or not far enough?
When the revolution comes… We had entertained our hike months earlier. When all hell breaks loose… When every insurrectionist wakes to live and die in their favorite wet dream…How will I die?
I am not afraid of Death. We have met. Death is dressed in blue not black. When I was a child, Death was like a warm ocean as deep as time. Death was a golden pirate’s treasure sinking deeper, and deeper still while the machines beeped a slowing pace and the doctor’s inserted a needle or a tube. A few years ago, Death was electric, bright teal and navy energy arms, pushing my wheelchair down the halls of the ER. I was Death. I greeted myself at the edge of life.
I am not afraid of death. Death is the end of capitalism, the end of gender, the end of work, of war, of counting pills, and feeling guilty about not attending more socialist meetings.
I am adverse to a slow and painful death of waiting to starve or blackout, or choking on the polluted air that others’ lungs have adapted to.
I am concerned that discussion about slaying the Leviathan relegates me and other disabled folks to these slow and painful deaths. Capitalism, industrial society, and all else we observe along the body of the Beast are rightly identified as root causes of climate change. Capitalism, like its absence, also causes disabled people to suffer and many to die slow and painful deaths. But while abolishing an economic system is justified, what will we grow in its place? And more importantly, when do we begin? (Can we begin now?)
Disabled people like me want to be part of our collective conservations on life post-capitalism. We want to be included, but not in the tokenizing social progressive ways of neoliberalism. Disabled people are also people of color, Queer people, trans people, working people, immigrants, and more. Our issues at times parallel other social concerns like racism and sexism, and have even informed these prejudices. For instance, the perceived mental disability of being female was once used to justify opposing women’s suffrage. And perceived racialized disabilities preventing one from being an efficient worker have a long history of being employed against immigrants to the U.S. Being gay was once thought of as a mental illness, and debate on whether or not trans people stand to benefit in more material ways from claiming gender dysphoria as a disability rather than distinguishing themselves from disabled people was a community issue just a few years ago. In one form or another, ableism still informs sexist, racist, and other prejudicial discourse.
But at the end of the day, disability is also different. I need to eat on a specific schedule. I need to eat specific types of meals that depend on my blood sugar, and vary day to day and throughout the day. This isn’t as easy as me simply telling other people what I can eat. I’m still navigating this terrain myself. I sometimes have trouble hearing too. A few years ago, I went totally deaf for five days. I’ve had teeth removed to help relieve this impairment. Under times of intense stress, my whole body feels like it is sunburned. I get fatigued and my skin is irritated by even the softest and lightest fabric.
I need assistance breathing the air we have polluted. When I was a child, my lungs collapsed with relative frequency. I was out of school for at least a week every semester for several years. Leaving Baltimore for North Carolina sometimes helped. In fact I made that move permanent over a decade ago. But this year my symptoms have returned. I pay ~$95/month for a rescue inhaler in order to perform a bodily function most people have to intentionally set aside quiet time to remember they do with ease. I’ll be paying more in the future if my symptoms don’t subside. Many times this spring, I went to sleep wheezing because I knew I could not afford a visit to the emergency room. I couldn’t leave the house for much of July when the skies were just too hazy and the air quality was too poor. I waited for months to see the doctor in one of two yearly visits I can presently budget.
Other disabled people have other types of needs. Others have different forms of mobility, sensory experience, and physicality. Disability is wide-ranging and diverse in scale. Our experience of life is marked both by hyper-visibility and invisibility, social stigma, and the embodiment of difference. Whereas one may argue that other forms of prejudice can be resolved by changing social attitudes about their focus, changing attitudes towards disability will not resolve difference. Prejudice isn’t the cause of lost limbs, deafness, malfunctioning organs, etc. And while capitalism is undoubtedly exploiting the health and life out of disabled people everywhere and informing ableism particularly in relation to employability and worker efficiency, neither is capitalism the cause of disability.
Disability is rather an experience of being human. As we age, our bodies break down on the way to death. As we experience the wildness of life, disability becomes us. As we are born, our bodies map an orgy of natural physicalities innate to human biology, mind and flesh, inside and out. The eugenicist and capitalist fallacy of the perfect worker is a dark magic spell Freak witches and wizards everywhere have been disabling.
As the raging hurricanes and rising tides bring climate change to the doorstep of so many unbelievers, and the mindsets of those in social justice awaken to a planetary dialogue continuing with or without us, disabled people must be part of the utopian futures we envision. If not for our sake, for your own sake, when you are aging, when your body’s health eludes you, and when the weight of all that human greed has profited on betrays you. Able-embodiment is temporary, conditional, and under direct assault by the pollutions and economic obstructions leaving your health to chance and a function of your zip code. Two things are inevitable: the climate is changing and we are all becoming disabled.
The deluge of corporate sins upon the Earth excites many into a state of climate change anxiety. When necessary, will we flee or bunker down in place? Will I run out of medication at the most inopportune moment? Will I drown in my home, or die of treatable impairment? Those of us witnessing the storms from afar may find ourselves suddenly inspired to take action, to open our doors to (climate) refugees, or to demand revolutionary changes to our impact on the planet.
I think the impulse to burn it all down or to retreat to the wilderness and find some long ago purged part of ourselves there or to die trying are feelings we all move through. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think there is a well-traveled social change model we may think we have time to follow: a flurry of petitions, a media spectacle of permitted marches in the street, an election for the best candidates from a pitiful selection, or even a nonviolent public action of some sort providing us with the moral high ground of having been to jail for justice. Others of us may go vegan, become locavores or freegans. I’m personally traversing an evangelical stage of compost and zero waste enthusiasm complemented by a newfound creative interest in trash. A multitude of strategies will emerge in this era, and that multitude will be necessary for change.
For those of us responding to climate change and economic collapse anxiety by creating alternatives, I reason it is critical that we think as disabled people, even if we momentarily experience able-embodiment. As climate health worsens, our own health worsens too. How will we replace industrialized medicine, or rob the healthcare industry of the power to profiteer off our disabilities? How will we grow and manufacture our own pharmacies? How will we reclaim our bodies, our narratives, our medicines, and our assistance tech from capitalism? In our utopian futures, healthcare is a community function, and the health of the commons is where that value plants its roots.
Beyond the medical model, how too will we create sustainable communities structured in such a way to weather not only climate change but the physical changes of human experience? How will we modify our communities to account for multiple modes of accessibility, and to treat soil health, air quality, water potability, tree health, animal health, and human health as one holistic equation? How do we empower a biodiversity and cultural shift that values native plants, animals, and people too?
I am dreaming of wheelchair-accessible forest labyrinths, wild edible scavenger hunts, and community gardens. I am dreaming of community economic models that eschew ableist and capitalist constructions of jobs for a fulfilling life built together, from each according to ability, and to each based on need. I am dreaming of activists who learn sign language not just to better integrate with Deaf comrades, but for the sheer fun of knowing those who surveil them will have to budget time to pick up ASL too.
1, 2, 3, the little rain drops hit the curved leaves of my night-blooming cactus. A wren carries off the last twigs of an offering I made to Feronia, while a shaggy community cat perches before the altar dish with tail in carnal flex.
Meanwhile, floods return the streets of Texas and Florida to the ocean. I remember a girl from massage school whose house was destroyed by an oil spill in the Gulf. I wonder how many climate refugees will be washed ashore now. It looks like North Carolina will dodge the worst of it, this time.
The pharmacy opens in a few minutes, and I’ll finish this piece before I go to get the pills I need to survive. For another month, I probably won’t die from eating or breathing. For another month, I can work on something better without the urgency of survival gnawing at my lungs and pancreas.
How will this moment cause us to change?
What worlds are we creating in place of what is washed away?
Pat is making magic in the Carolina Piedmont. His blog can be found at patmosley.wordpress.com
Like a duped sitcom mortal, Pat McCrory spent the last month comically unable to save his seat as governor no matter what he tried. Republican judges, his pals in the NCGA, and even many Republican voters ultimately flushed the one-term disgrace.
While the conservative toad will go down in history as the defender of HB2, a legislative assault on transgender people, progressive municipalities, workers, and LGBT+ people as a whole, his role in other Carolina travesties should not be ignored. The people of this state have been mobilizing against McCrory and the GOP’s bullshit since the start of his term, and his re-election loss is a reminder of what we’re capable of accomplishing.
For some Pagans, this is also a more specific reminder of what we are capable of accomplishing. I remember the passage of HB2. I remember holding each other in candlelight and re-learning the urgency and necessity of Queer Love that would be needed again after Orlando (and again after Oakland).
I remember the Dark Moons and Full Moons that followed. I remember our priestess, a Trans Dyke, wielding a Masonic sword and commanding the wights and devils of our circles. I remember summoning up that Horned God other Wiccans turn away from in panicked fear, that Lord of Earthly Delights we embrace, the Light-Bringer, the Accuser, the Adversary, the first to question the authority of gods, Lucifer, our comrade.
Skyclad and screaming on the mountain wind, I remember our magic worked those spring evenings. This was not worship. This was not devotional adoration. This was the ritual work of revolutionary demands. Wights were ordered to hound McCrory in the media, and the Devil was set loose on his power itself. That we still live in a world of presidents and governors, capitalism and corrupt state power is a testament to our lack of faith, persistence, and imagination, not the failure of these spirits that arose and acted in accordance to our direction.
We offered no food, no offerings, no incense, or incentives to the devils we conjured. No praise and no adoration was bargained to them. And although I have described these rituals and magical workings elsewhere, I have held back gratitude in acknowledging the diabolical forces we count among our comrades.
Today I proclaim that the Devil is alive and magic is afoot! Say what you will about the Devil in Wicca, but to at least one coven in North Carolina, the Devil is among our circle, and he makes our magic manifest. Hail, you Devil who is so worthy of respect!
And to that race of oppressors still in office and still in power: be warned, the King of Earth and Hell is at hand. Cling to your golden bull and your false pantheon of capitalist bigotry, but listen to the winds and listen to the streets, because there the Devil is laughing at your fate. Your Tower will fall and your empire will crumble.
The Devil is comrade to the people, and I would be remiss to celebrate McCrory’s loss or the role of the Devil in that magic without emphasizing the obvious: this magic became material because it was brought into the material world outside of circle. Whether the Devil Himself inspired the material activism and public outcry against the McCrory administration, or whether the Devil was simply an archetype accessed or performed (consciously or unconsciously) by those outraged at McCrory’s reign is a theological discussion Satanists and Pagans have been debating for the better part of at least the last century, but at the end of the day, there was a sustained public objection to McCrory’s politics that enabled this victory, supernaturally supported or not.
Does that mean all the Devil talk is worthless? No. Even for atheists, ritual work can be cathartic. Finding power in a group of people so intentionally hated by so much of this state is necessary healing, and an incentive to continue doing the material work that produces political change.
From my perspective, the symbol of the Devil is also a critical one for the U.S. South, given the near-paralysis Christianity frequently leaves us with. Although Christians continue to play a significant role in this state’s justice movements, their religion is also the one that more often than not incites the injustice that demands response in the first place. The Devil speaks to that power they possess, questions, criticizes, and opposes it relentlessly. The Devil is a refuge for those cast off by society. He is an archetypal accuser, adversary, and advocate–a character of courage in a world that wants us to feel powerless. Where Christian values voters side with crony capitalism and bigotry, I see Satanic values voters siding with the marginalized and oppressed. In a world where Christian values are equated with hatred of trans people, I want to stand clearly with the Satanists who count trans people among their friends and families, and who advocate for them socially and politically across this state. Where Christianity shelters the Klan while disowning their own Queer children, I favor the Satanic Witches, Faggots, and Dykes chasing the White Knights out of this state.
Ousting McCrory is an excellent blueprint for what is possible–for Witches, for activists, for marginalized communities–moving forward. It is also, obviously, not the end. Just as the defeat of neoliberal Clinton will not usher in a utopian world with Trump, my expectations for Democrat Roy Cooper (who campaigned on NOT addressing “social issues,”) are low enough that I anticipate much more diabolical ritual work in the years to come. Nevertheless, the Christian god and his followers aren’t the only arbitrators of morality in Carolina politics anymore.
Those in power best remember that as we all watch McCrory’s fall.
In the dark of the night, we gather in the center of Salem Square, a green that has existed in the middle of Old Salem since the district’s construction in 1766. The cold light of the Moon Hirself pierces through the old pines and bare-armed oaks to illuminate our faces and signs with an eerie glow not unlike our phones’ flashlight apps. Three people become four when I walk through the dark to join them. Four become a dozen when together we walk back to the fence surrounding the green.
A dozen becomes thirty-something by the time we’ve circled up back in the center, and more will keep joining us. The organizers open the space for folks to share their feelings about the election. A lone FUCK TRUMP breaks the silence of our paused circle and the nearly sleeping city around us, and the rest of us laugh.
After a few moments more, we start off marching. A journalist for the local paper has joined us and is struggling to interview participants, record our answers, and snap photos while keeping up with the hike. He seems sympathetic, yet guarded, neutral, or even muted. A friend of mine agrees to answer some of the journalist’s questions, and intrigues the man by explaining he neither supports Clinton nor Trump.
Some of the organizers are not-yet-defeated liberals and Clinton supporters. Commenters and critics of the journalist’s article will later assume that most of us voted for Clinton. Of course, the article left out that some of us are involved in the International Socialist Organization, and that all of our fliers were distributed to eager and searching protesters by the end of the night.
Our march carries us up through Old Salem towards the cement white phallic Wells Fargo tower, and our chants of BLACK LIVES MATTER and DUMP TRUMP ricochet up the cobblestone walks and stone buildings all around us. Forty voices are magnified to a booming hundred.
Hearing my friend and the journalist discuss the historical toxicity of the U.S. presidency, from Washington to present, and later recounting his participation in protests of the Bush II installation, I am reminded that it is the office of the presidency and it is the state that I am opposed to, not simply the face that humanizes the system of power.
I remember that I have consciously rejected nearly every President I have lived through. I was too young to hate Bush I while he was in office, but I recall Clinton, I recall DOMA and DADT and NAFTA and the crime bill. I remember Bush II. I remember learning that calling him just Bush instead of President Bush made my father furious. The reign of Bush II was the first time I uttered the phrase NOT MY PRESIDENT. His administration and supporters brought me out of church and into the streets.
And I remember that Obama has never been my president either. I remember his refusal to support same-sex marriage equality. I remember the militarization of police that happened under his administration, the renewal of the Patriot Act, and I remember that “hate crimes” legislation, then DADT repeal, were pushed ahead of comprehensive civil rights legislation for LGBT+ people.
I remember watching the trans community be thrown to the side time and time again under all of these presidents (and the advocacy orgs that grew to power with them). I remember the conversion manual presented to my parents when I came out in family therapy. I remember the steadiest steps I ever took, walking out of their church in front of a mortified congregation. I am numb, as we sit here on the verge of a vice-presidency that constituency was sold, backed in the state only by a spineless and toothless minority party that just spent the last year demanding entitlement to our votes for two candidates who built their careers campaigning against our rights and emboldening the Right’s assault at the state level with “states’ right” talk Clinton is yet to express any deviation from.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I do not mean that Clinton is. I mean that there is no one who is my president. I mean that I reject the notion of this office and I reject the authority of the system behind it. I mean that I am ungovernable and that I am sovereign. I mean that I do not consent to the authority invested in this political structure. I mean that I have no gods and I have no presidents.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I am saying that I reject the idea that 26% of the country electing someone to govern the rest of us constitutes “democracy.” I am asserting that 46% of this country is also tired of this shit and too tired of morally bankrupt parties vomiting candidates on us, rather than “too lazy,” to vote when everyone knows the stakes are so high. I am affirming that neither my liberty nor my security come from this state which has systematically denied me and threatened me with both. I am affirming that we have power, and that our minds and hands and voices shape movements that don’t require elections.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I am opening the next chapter of our story, not just concluding a paragraph we have read and re-read for generations. I am daring to dream Queerer futures. I am placing my hope and faith and patriotism in comrades who join me on the streets, and all our friends who haven’t made it out there yet.
As our march carries us back to Salem from downtown, Aradia whispers a chant in my ear. I share it with those around me, but its radical notes fall flat to the left of the crowd. Still, I won’t give in to worry. I won’t give in to isolation. The Moon peeks through the pines and around a chimney, reminding me of persistence, patience, slow education, and long visions.
The next chapter remains unwritten, but so many spirits are assembled. The revolution will be spelled out. Not long now. Not long.
Pat is a writer living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His interests include post-capitalist economics, psychogeography, alternative religions, and contemporary life in the U.S. South. Pat presently serves as secretary for Mountain CUUPs in Boone, and is an organizer of Hoof + Horn Collective in W-S. Connect with him through https://patmosley.wordpress.com/
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