[a note on the word "resilience"] evening pages. violence/homelessness trigger warning.
at another book reading, where four of us, all so different and
in many ways breathing the same air were given a question:
why do you think you are still here? is it because of your resilience?
do you think resilience is hereditary?
before that she says, 1 out of 10 of us never make it out. never stop being homeless, are chronically homeless.
LGBTQ youth are in the streets, right now. you can find them on the
pier right now, i say.
i joke afterwards that i let the others on the panel talk of the statistics, leave
it up to them to mention that in nyc alone, there are only 76 beds for
queer and trans youth to sleep in at shelters. 76.
is resilience hereditary?
the numbers scare me. not that i didn’t witness them everyday, that i didn’t watch kids shuffle lines to heat up old ravioli from out dated cans, see security guards wake people up from benches at work and scream, “get up!” watched so many students fleeing their foster homes b/c of the bruises they got, they beating they got for presenting their gender the way they do, for bringing a girlfriend over. remembering how cold it is right now, i can see the corner of belmont and clark st. as another friend threw up from food they found in the dumpster, how everything in their body looked like steam. the first year in the east coast, me being kicked out even at age 24 from an apartment because i was queer, the neighbors banging on the door, the police asking me carefully, do you think this is a hate crime? then, i thought i was safe finally. finally. safety is a never ever arching word that is fantasy, something will always slip away and being kicked out has made me a half-believer in people, in myself.
this understanding, this resilience theory, that i got something you ain’t got. that i, by the almighty volition of self, pulled myself up by the sneakers and did something, pushed myself extra, deserved, somehow by blood, i am sitting in front of you about to get some warm dinner and walk slowly in the ice, eventually to my own front door, to my own floor, to my own bed, fix up some tea in my own kitchen that i never feel i truly deserve. that tape is the same mix playing inside the immigrant ear i think, the child of the immigrant, who is never welcome here, who has to be crafty as fuck, to somehow uplift themselves in this system that never meant for us to exist.
i believe it is chance. i believe it is luck. i agree with another person on the panel, when they said, that it was possibly fate, if you believe in such a thing.
i say, i don’t think so. i don’t have a resilience that someone else doesn’t. i know people who are savvy, mindful, wise, and and, i clear my throat, who aren’t with us.
i have nightmares.
of my teacher saying not to come back to tae kwon do school ever, throw away 10 years of my life, because he heard from another coach how i kissed another girl. how i couldn’t train anywhere. how people who were in my family couldn’t look at me. how parents held the hands of their children, ushering them away from me as though i was going to devour them, eat their bones like delicacy. gay people do that, you know. gay people shouldn’t be teachers of anything, martial arts or science or anything.
of my ma, even lying through the nest of tubes all over her body, cooing to the nurses at the hospital, that yes, she has a boyfriend and how i am always welcome i am at home.
of _______. who didn’t make it. who bent the street the way some shape clay. bent that street for food the way some people easily laugh.
of ________. who no one has heard from since last september after she was assaulted. the agency wouldn’t let her back in after she said he attacked her. in the report i typed that he said, i can make you like dick. just come here. agency supervisors say she is no longer welcome there.
of _______. who no one has seen since his first boyfriend. when they broke up
he looked at the razors the same way he had before, he stopped calling, he didn’t come to groups anymore. but damn, that sonnet he wrote was perfect in form and meter.
last week, i spoke to a student who said he is going to the military, that he gave them his word, that he needs to do this for himself. because there is now where else to go. because i’m hungry and i want to go to college. he thinks it will be as a simple pressing of buttons, that the trauma he has faced has built him sturdy as steel for this. he convinces me that he wants to be honorable.
that is your fine shining case in point.
resilience was like a code word for gift, a singular blip on my my DNA that makes
me a survivor. a bitter compliment. a setting apart of me to my fallen chosen family, to the youth i see now who work their breaths up and down the sidewalk, who go from job interview to job interview without a bed to sleep in, who write poems even when they have now where to keep them. there’s guilt you know. why i am here and they are there or not, not here anymore with us at all. don’t use my strength as a weapon to my chosen family, even those people who have never rested their heads on my shoulder.
this will not be the correct answer to stop homelessness or queer/transphobia, this will only pull us apart from the resources and respect we are entitled.
there’s no gene that makes one stronger to survive the streets, this country, this false amerikkkan dream. there is no explanation or cordial easy way out to reward the exceptional from the batch of us failed by systems of oppression, institutions that see us still as numbers, as grant data. the resilience of those to be exemplary heads to patpat and harp, see it’s not the social services, the judicial system, the law enforcement, the educational system, the parents, not the parents, the foster care system, the…….
at the former agency i worked at, i overheard a co-worker who said, i haven’t seen ______. in awhile either. eh well, there will always be more.
like a supply of stars, an inventory of constant constant lives.