Gender, Sex, Kids, and Transphobia

What grooming isn’t.

It’s hard to write something that hasn’t already been said about the insane spate of anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-drag, and generally anti-anyone-except-straight-white-dudes laws being passed in my state and many others. My lived experience informs how I’ve experienced these things in several ways. I’m a college professor in the human sciences in a red state at a public university. I’m the mom of a disabled gender-nonconforming teen in a red state at a public school. I’m a scholar of sociology, psychology, and the psychodynamics of online behavior. I’m a privileged white lady. I will try to write about these issues from each perspective and see what emerges.

So. First, I’m a mom. No, that’s not my primary identity, but it certainly colors how I experience the madness that’s taken hold in my state. My kid uses they/them pronouns. They’ve experienced very little transphobia – a few olds who don’t get it, and some medical people who sucked. Let me say having a nonbinary presenting kid is amazing. By the time I was my kid’s age, I had been sexually harassed, come on to, and creeped on many times by older men, had my body continually commented on by women, and had been harassed by older boys. I had a feminine body, and I’m generally a femme person, which signaled HARASS THE CRAP OUT OF ME to everyone around me. Also, it was the 80s, so feminism was over (hahaha), and we were supposed to be flattered when dudes exposed themselves to us. My kid has experienced none of this. They took a good look at gender and said, “No, thank you.” I love this for them. I love how they develop as a human instead of a girl or boy. I love their gender-nonconforming friends and allies. I mostly love their school and supportive teachers. Having a gender-nonconforming kid is a joy.

This is balanced by the mind-numbing fear and rage imposed on me by a state targeting kids like mine and parents like me. I have a bit of protection since I live in a liberal city (and am privileged). Still, most of the red states are creeping into controlling large, liberal municipalities and stripping what little protection we have. Our doctors are leaving in droves. Our teachers are leaving in droves. Kids who need transition medical care must leave warm, supportive communities and move to new states to survive. And that’s only if the families can afford it. The idea that we somehow maintain freedom and protect families by targeting a small and very vulnerable population of KIDS is nauseating. So let’s get into the science.

I teach a gender and sexuality class at a major university in Texas. Most of my classes have some sociological content, as I am in a Human Development and Family Sciences department, which studies the health and well-being of children and families. The basics of gender are this. Humans are not a particularly dimorphous species. This means that there are relatively minor biological differences between males and females. However, the species have many variations (we look many different ways and have different bodies). That said, species that rely on sexual reproduction need a sex that provides genetic diversity (males) and one that builds new members of the species (females). Not all members of the species can do either of those things. Whether you can fertilize an egg or grow an embryo has exactly nothing to do with who you are, who you love, what you’re good at, or what colors you like. Gender is psychological and psychosocial. It’s a thing we may (or may not) feel and a thing that is imposed on us by our social system. Over the last centuries or millennia, depending on who you talk to, the idea of gender has been used to create harmful and made-up hierarchies. This also applies to race, another idea created to justify exploitation and mass murder.

Some people heavily identify with a gender; others do not. Those of us who do may not identify with the gender associated with our genitals because GENDER IS AN IDEA, NOT A FACT. Some cultures assign roles based on how people function as adults or teenagers rather than on reproductive capacity. Some cultures don’t really define gender at all. What we associate with gender changes constantly, even in cultures as gender-obsessed as ours. Flight attendants and cheerleaders used to be male-dominated, masculine professions. Pink used to be for boys, and blue used to be for girls. All of this stuff is mutable and heavily monetized and marketed.

What we are wired for is connection. Humans are social creatures, and all these ways we create hierarchies around ideas like gender and race interrupt connection. Research shows that our ability to connect with our loved ones and our communities is one of the most significant correlates of longevity. Connection = health and well-being. Disconnection = unhappiness and shortened life span. Tell me again how targeting people for being too different from our made-up, exclusionary norm is better. It’s not. #science

I study things like aggression, trauma, and online behavior. The obsession with policing ourselves, each other, and particularly children has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with maintaining social control. Far wiser people than me have written about this extensively. I’ll summarize what I’ve observed, studied, and found most helpful. The dying ruling class of this country is power-grabbing under the banner of religion, freedom, and democracy while representing quite the opposite. Unfortunately, those of us with proximity to that class often collaborate with them to our detriment to maintain dominance over everyone else. It’s kind of a mass psychotic Tragedy of the Commons. The Tragedy of the Commons is a parable that shows what happens when people overuse shared resources — everybody loses. But when we perceive a shortage of that resource, we have to fight our individual instinct to hoard it and understand how that will ultimately doom us and our community. However, regarding the perception of power in our culture, it’s not enough to hoard it because you don’t want to lose it. We will actually vote against things that are in our self-interest to make sure nobody else gets them, either. That’s a special kind of stupid. Not run-of-the-mill, short-sighted human stupid, but really ugly stupid. This is why our healthcare system is a mess, we have massive poverty and inequality despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and we have mass shootings on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Power and proximity to power seem to rot our brains.

One particularly insane bit of misinformation by the hang-on-to-power-at-any-cost population that has boggled my mind is using the word “groomer” to refer to LGBTQ people. A person who grooms a child manipulates them so they can sexually abuse them without being caught. Grooming is abhorrent. It has nothing to do with being gay or straight or trans or cis. The vast majority of sexual abusers are straight men. The institutions with endemic sexual abuse issues include the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, and the Boy Scouts. The people spouting the LGBTQ grooming nonsense are equating sexual abuse — nonconsensual sexual activity between children and adults — with being gender nonconforming or gay.

THESE ARE NOT THE SAME THINGS.

Trans people, drag queens, and gay people are not pedophiles. They never have been. You can’t make your kid gay or straight, and you can’t make them cis or trans. They are just themselves. You can only make them feel terrible about being themselves or support them. LGBTQ kids have a much higher rate of suicide ideation than the general population, and that was before Texas and Florida and Tennessee and Oklahoma, etc. tried to legislate them out of existence. History will not look kindly on this era. Kids who sit at the intersection of multiple identities toiling under newly minted human rights abuses like anti-immigrant laws, book bans, and anti-DEI laws will be hit much harder still.

How did we get here? How did we reach the point where targeting children is considered sane and loving and supporting them is not? As a parent, a professor, and a scholar, I have lots of ideas, but really, I don’t know. I know that we have to fight misinformation. We have to stand up for everyone’s rights because “there is no such thing as other people’s children.” (Quote by Glennon Doyle) Your cis-presenting kid is facing similar stuff to what my nonbinary kid is — less protection against sexual assault, no access to reproductive health care, and less protection against racism, hate speech, and dumbed-down education. Kids of color are having their histories forcibly erased from school curriculums and removed from libraries.

Parenting is simultaneously the most joyful and terrifying thing I have ever experienced. All the time. I want a better future for my kid and their peers because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Give our kids a better future. Give them room to grow and develop and spread their wings. Provide a safe base when they need love and acceptance. Texas is making that harder for a whole lot of parents right now, and it’s wrong. Y’all means All. Protect trans kids, Black kids, disabled kids, and immigrant kids, and push back against the assholes who will trade our kids for one more second of useless power.

It was never about protection. It is always about control.

How homophobic, transphobic, racist, and sexist misinformation persists.

people holding brown wooden signage during daytime
Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash

The world is on fire. In some places, quite literally. When things get scary, a big chunk of the human race decides that something else is the problem, and usually, that something else is a group of people they think they can oppress. But this is sublimation; usually, the oppression comes couched in words like “protection” and “safety.” The killings of women and protesters in Iran are in response to the death of a woman whose supposed “safety” was hindered by her incorrect hijab. The French government and now more European nations are somehow “protecting” women by not allowing them to cover up or wear the hijab as they wish. Are they protecting Muslim women from themselves or non-Muslim women from the threat of not seeing their bodies as commodities for commercial exploitation? Hmm. Or maybe it’s just flat-out racism and resistance to multiculturalism. In any case, nobody is being protected. They’re just being oppressed.

In the US, far-right candidates, pundits, judges, and elected officials are banning books on being black, gay, or anything other than their idealized. Leave it to Beaver’s fictional version of America to “protect” kids. Black kids might think they are oppressed if they know what microaggressions are! White kids might feel guilty if they understand the lived experiences of their black, gay, trans, or disabled peers! Trans and gay kids might expect basic human dignity and rights! Oh, noes! They might be able to discuss OBJECTIVE REALITY with one another and want to change things for the better!

Control, Mary. This is about control. Controlling the information our kids learn in school and controlling what is discussable and what isn’t—controlling our species’ means of production: people who make babies.

Every draconian law Texas has ever passed limiting access to abortion and family planning has been in the name of “protecting” women from harm. HB2, which I protested with thousands of other women in Texas, claimed that abortions are high risk (they are not) and that abortion clinics are unsafe (they are not). Women trying to obtain abortions already had to deal with hateful protestors, an invasive internal ultrasound, and read pamphlets full of misinformation about non-existent side effects. It was already fucked up. Now it’s just gone. Women in Texas cannot get abortions if they are raped, molested, high-risk, or have an unviable fetus. Women must travel out of state for a D&C if they miscarry or risk sepsis. It’s mind-boggling. Sarah Weddington, the attorney who successfully argued Roe v. Wade and served in the Texas Legislature, was a Texas woman. So were Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan. These women did not need the false protection of men; they fought for the rights and dignity of all people, helping society to see how it was failing and harming the most vulnerable. What happened?

Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the US, which has the highest in the developed world. Black women in Texas have a much higher maternal mortality rate than white women. Beyond the fact that this is incomprehensibly criminal, I think it’s safe to say that Texas legislators give zero fucks about women’s safety, whether pregnant or not.

Forcing children to give birth to their sexual abuser’s child is not about protecting anyone. It’s about ensuring the impregnator has more power than the pregnant person. Denying a person with a fetus that is non-viable or will soon be non-viable an abortion is life-threatening. It protects no one. It’s just about control. Denying Black women fundamental medical rights, pain control, necessary tests and procedures, or lifesaving interventions during birth is abhorrent. It’s about social control and sublimated fear based on 400 years of oppression.

Why do some humans seek to control other humans? Well, there are a few different answers to that. Some of it is economic. Creating a whole branch of fictional science about the genetic differences between dark-skinned and light-skinned people (essentially the creation of race as a concept) made America very, very rich. Slavery was the engine that drove our rapid expansion and eventual domination of the world economy. Its legacy persists in the high incarceration rates for Black people for minor offenses resulting in virtually unpaid labor. So more money for free labor.

Forcing people to gestate removes them from the workforce, impoverishes many, and risks the physical and mental health of the pregnant person and their family. But when you’re fighting for survival, it’s harder to fight for change.

But ultimately, this is all one giant self-own. Higher poverty rates mean less spending, which hurts the economy. Yanking women out of the workforce means a lower GDP. You can surf the wave of oppression and disenfranchisement for a little while if you are super privileged, but ultimately it erodes the fabric of the society in which you live, which will affect you too. Oppressive regimes always reach a tipping point where the population feels like they have nothing left to lose and fight back.

So no. Abortion bans are not about saving babies or protecting women. Book bans do not protect children. Mandating or outlawing the hijab protects nobody. Denying trans youth and adults access to medical care causes harm, not prevents it.

Under all this crazy lies one basic thing. Fear.

Specifically, existential fear – of death, illness, loss, and on a grander scale- of our survival as a species as we continue to fuck with the planet. This drives these increasingly pathetic yet deadly attempts at social control and power grabs from the local to the international level.

My dissertation research used defense mechanisms as an analytical lens to examine aggressive online behavior. So I have a lot of thoughts about how this plays out.

Sublimation is when we transform a fear (often repressed or unconscious) into something tangible we can project onto a group of people. It takes what we can’t deal with (childhood trauma, loss, etc.) and turns it into something tangible at which we can direct that energy. Hitler used this to great effect by making Jews the cause of all of Germany’s post-WWI loss’ ills. Jews had nothing to do with it, but they were a convenient and historically oppressed group, and blaming them gave form to the trauma that resulted from losing a world war and plunging the country into a deep financial depression.

We see this everywhere now. Everyone is the bogeyman. Trans kids. Feminists. Jews. Black people. Gay people. Parents of murdered children. Somehow groups of people with less power and less agency become the ones who have secret cabals that are controlling our minds with fluoridated water and space lasers. The WHO released a report that we need to drastically reduce our environmental impact to avoid catastrophic global warming, but let’s just scream at each other about Kanye West instead. That should work out fine.

The purpose of defense mechanisms is to offload the stress associated with the repressed fear or trauma so we can function. In the short term and on an individual basis, it works. It may cause harm to those around you, but it discharges the energy associated with the fear or trauma for a little while and stabilizes your psyche. On a social level, it’s a fucking disaster.

We need to take a few deep breaths and look at the big picture. For our species to survive, we must stop victimizing each other and start using our collective frontal lobes to make major systemic changes to how we live in the world. We need to reverse population growth. We must remake our economic system as circular and self-sustaining instead of growth-dependent. We need to make sure all children have access to nutrition and education and all people have access to family planning. We need to agree on and enforce human rights worldwide. Full stop.

This isn’t ideological; it’s survival. We are our own worst enemy, and we are currently the planet’s worst enemy. We need all of us, not just a few unhinged billionaires, to work together to create a viable future for our species. We can do so much that is amazing. Can we just stop reverting to our worst selves and put that energy toward peace, acceptance, and sustainable survival instead? Because that would be great.

Historical Antecedents of the Quaranteam

My family (my husband, daughter, and I) recently decided to invite another family to be part of our quarantine bubble, or Quaranteam. Texas is sucking mightily at flattening the curve (All Hail the Ravening EconoBeast), and most of us have pulled our kids out of the summer camps that remain, expecting to have a long, hot, boring, socially distant summer. The family we teamed up with is compatible in lots of ways: two kids that my kid went to preschool with, the older of whom is close in age, working from home/staying home parents, and a commitment to minimal exposure to COVID-19 through quarantine, the use of masks, grocery delivery, etc. We’ve hung out a lot over the last few years because it helped wear out our kids and gave us other interesting grownups to talk to and they are fantastic humans. We are politically compatible and share interests in nerd things. I’ve also hung out with both partners individually doing stuff like lunch or gaming. We all get along pretty well. It’s no small feat to find a group of seven humans who can stand each other most of the time. Sometimes our kids get into it, as kids do, but it works pretty well.

It was a huge relief to be near other people when we finally took the plunge. Whatever mental or physical deficiency (probably both) comes from not being able to be with your people was mightily assuaged just by an afternoon of hanging out and letting our kids play. We fist bumped. The kids hugged. Seeing my only child get her first hugs from other kids in forever weeks made me a little verklempt.

So I was explaining it to my therapist, and I kept coming up with this seemingly weird parallel. When I was 17, I moved to San Francisco to go to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where I got two degrees and worked while flying around for auditions, so I was there for about seven years in all. I lived there from 1989-1996, during the worst of the AIDS crisis. Nobody close to me died, but people very close to people close to me did. A lot. Sex was dangerous. San Francisco is also a famously sex-positive, kink-friendly city that was an LGBTQ haven in a still homophobic country.

The upside of this is that sex was practiced frequently, enthusiastically, creatively, and very carefully negotiated in advance to ensure minimal risk. Everyone knew someone with HIV. Didn’t matter if you were gay or straight, in a city where those lines were super blurry to begin with, it was common courtesy to 1) disclose your sexual activities with prospective new partners, 2) discuss types of protection (and/or contraception if pregnancy was a possibility), and 3) disclose the last time you were tested or get tested before engaging with a new partner, even a casual one. There was a hotline you could call for free to find out the latest information on transmission and prevention. There was (is) a fantastic store for books, toys, videos, cheap high quality condoms and other protectives that was laid out like a clean well lit book store and not a creepy sex shop. Absent was the furtive, guilty, ignorant behavior often associated with sex, and sadly, still very much present in states where sex-ed is banned or limited to abstinence “education.” Yes those are snarky quotes.

So anyway, here are the weird parallels. We are trying to protect ourselves and our loved ones from a debilitating and potentially fatal disease. This is drastically changing our behavior patterns. When we didn’t understand how HIV was spread (and not spread) abstinence was the only safe option. Just as quarantine is the only safe option when we can no longer control the spread of COVID-19. We still have human needs for connection and proximity, which come into conflict with our desire to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Hence, we deliberately, carefully, negotiate terms of engagement in a way that will hopefully carry minimum risk and maximum gratification. Same/Same. Ish.

The other parallels are much darker. Spread of HIV among heterosexual populations where discussing sex and prevention is taboo is still a problem, especially in places where effective treatment is too expensive or unavailable. Such is the case with COVID-19. But instead of people half way across the world being in danger, it’s us. Our government has utterly failed at controlling the spread of COVID-19, and the ignorance of much of our population, combined with structural inequality that puts low wage workers at much higher risk with little power to control their levels of exposure. Others refuse to believe that a virus is more powerful than they and act as if there is no danger. All of these issues exponentially increase the likelihood of infection for everyone else. In the 90s, if nothing else, we could stop having sex. But we can’t stop breathing, or eating, or working, and those activities or the activities that enable them put us and our loved ones at risk.

So I am happy to have some more people to hang out with and practice safe quarantining (as safe as we can be with an airborne pathogen), but I continue to be concerned about the misinformation and blatant idiocy that is keeping this disease active and dangerous. We are so lucky to have compatible friends and jobs where we can quarantine easily. We are also the recipients of tremendous unearned privilege. As my mental health improves, I wonder how I can compensate for this in some way. For those of you similarly safe – respect safe distance from others. Tip the crap out of delivery people. Speak loudly (and financially) in support of higher wages and safe working conditions for the people keeping our children fed. Don’t forget that the ability to quarantine safely is anything but universal. And just as the AIDS crisis of the 1990s was not the fault of the victims, but of a negligent government, your ability to avoid infection now doesn’t mean that you have done anything special to deserve it.

Live(ish) blogging SXSW: Keynote with Cory Booker

I’m co-hosting a meetup at SXSW Interactive on behalf of Pantsuit Republic Texas, who I volunteer with as a digital psychology and content consultant. Lucky me, I get a platinum pass, which means I can go to everything I can get to – music, technology, film, and everything in between. It’s kind of a cross between a conference and a festival on steroids. The last time I went was 2004.

This morning I picked up my badge and hightailed it to the first major speaker – Senator Cory Booker.

I’ve been aware of him for a while, though not as long as I should have been. He’s been an outspoken opponent of legislation and appointments that infringe on human rights. He’s also a straight up mensch.

He started with an impassioned speech about love. He pointed out that tolerance is a lame goal, because we tolerate a cold. Loving our country, loving the children of others, loving those with whom we disagree is the path to healing.

Damn.

He told a story about an activist who he worked with in the projects of Newark. An older black man who lived in poverty, but was totally present for the people he was trying to help. He was a mentor for Booker. Booker said that his mentor lost his sight as he aged. When he would visit him in the rest home, he’d say, “Hey, it’s Cory” and his mentor would say, “I see you.” Those words, along with “I love you” were his last words to Booker.

Booker seems incredibly present. He sees all the problems, all the crap going on, but he also sees it in the larger picture of human history and human nature. I found what he said really affirming.

I’ve had a hard time in life at times. I struggle. I’m also crazy privileged, which can lead to guilt over not doing enough. But something in what he said affirmed my stubborn need to see the glass as half full. No matter how shitty things seem to be, I can usually turn it around to something hopeful. Yes, the internet is a cesspool, but I found a way to study the cesspool and find evidence that people are not as broken as they seem. I’m attracted to learning about the way people grow from breaking, rather than why they break and how to fix them.

The other thing Booker said that I found inspiring was in answer to a question I posed (we could pose questions online through an app and then he read them on a teleprompter or something). I asked how to turn digital activism into real world activism. And instead of talking about calling senators and marching, he talked about community service. It really struck me. I feel like I’m not doing enough as an activist, which is partially from the knowledge that what I do won’t stem the tide right now. But I know from my teaching that I can make a huge difference in one person’s life, and that’s real.

So how can I take those skills and use them more in the community? What can I do that is small and simple and makes a real difference in a person‘s life instead of worrying about the big political picture? Not that political activism isn’t important, but Booker doesn’t see a difference between political activism and community service. He’s got a point.

The Long Game

This is going to be a long, difficult few (I hope) years. If, like me, you are committed to human rights, equality, compassion, scientific advancement, and social healing, we need to take very, very good care of our bodies, minds, and spirits if we are to persevere.

There are many articles on activism burnout, activist self-care, and internet induced trauma or stress. I’ve included some links at the bottom*. However,  I have a few of my own nuggets to offer.

*More good articles keep coming out, so I’m going to be updating this periodically.

Mental Health Care
For many of us, current events are seriously triggering. They may bring up traumatic events from our past or just scare the bejeezus out of us, affecting our physical and mental health. Either way, this creates a lot of strain on the psyche. If you’re feeling extra stressed out, or being extra grouchy to your loved ones, consider finding a therapist.

Therapy doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does take time and commitment. Good therapists are worth the cost, but they also often supervise people who are fulfilling their hours for licensing. The soon-to-be-licensees charge far less than fully licensed therapists, and are usually compassionate, highly competent people.  Google stuff like “sliding scale therapy my area” and see what comes up. Or, ask your friends for referrals. If your bestie sees a full price therapist he or she loves, said therapist may have people he or she supervises and recommends. If you’ve never had therapy, it can seem daunting. But trust your gut, and audition those shrinks until you find one you feel safe and comfortable with.

If you already have a therapist, great! Still feeling extra wiggy? You might consider a talk therapy group. They are supervised by a licensed therapist and have different dynamics than individual therapy. It might be your cup of tea. I find a combination of both works best – I see my individual therapist twice a month and attend group therapy weekly. If I’m having a rough time, I increase the frequency of the individual therapy.

In times of stress, the line between body and mind (which isn’t really there in the first place) becomes blurred. Our stress affects our body. Our tired bodies increase our stress. I’ll warrant you already know to eat, move, and rest. But a relaxed body can only do so much under a constant barrage of psychological pressure. Which leads me to,

Mental Hygiene in the Internet Age
Yes, you’ve read lots of listcicles about how not to explode your brain on the internet. Many of them are quite good. I’d like to talk a bit about what goes on in your body and mind when you get too wrapped up in the conversations and clickbait.

When people get really stressed out or traumatized, they can experience dissociation. This is a sense of being outside one’s body, or detached from an overwhelming emotion or experience.  When we experience this in proximity to another person, we may become aware that we are freaking out because we see some reflection of our reaction in the other. We may have some sense that our body isn’t functioning normally – we need to sit down, or our hands shake. But when it happens on the internet, we may not notice the physical symptoms. You know how sometimes you get so wrapped up in whatever you’re doing on your computer that you forget to stretch, or pee, or eat? It’s like that, but with feelings. We may not notice that we’re experiencing and acting on strong emotions until later.

Before I started my dissertation, I took a class in phenomenology and writing. The simple definition for phenomenology is the study of a phenomenon through the experience of the subject. So, since I was interested in aggression, I studied my own experience of it as both an aggressor and target. I learned that aggression is very physical. When I explored my strongest memories of feeling aggression or having it directed at me, the memories were mainly of physical sensations. Hot sensations if I was angry. Cold sensations if someone attacked me. All emotions have some physical sensation associated with them, which may be different for each person. But anger is especially vivid.

And then I tried to figure out how it felt when I was engaged in conflict on the internet. I realized that I tuned out my physical sensations when I was online (even think about the nature of that phrase – on line. Like we are somewhere else) and by extension, my emotions. I had to start training myself to pay close attention to how my body felt when I was involved in intense online conversations, or reading articles that brought up strong emotions.

I was hyper-aware of this when I was working on my dissertation research. (Just a quick reminder – my dissertation data was comment threads on YouTube and other social media outlets. Imagine.) I created a bunch of rules for myself that I still try to follow.

  • Don’t read the comments after 6pm
  • Don’t read the news after 6pm
  • Avoid reading triggering stuff first thing in the morning (I’m looking at you, Facebook)
  • Get enough sleep and food if I’m going to be engaging with difficult material
  • Spend time outside

Some of this may fit with the listsicles, but I do it for very specific reasons: I can’t engage with my data in a rigorous way if I’m triggered. If I’m feeling strong fear, anger, or conflicting feelings, I can’t observe myself very well, let alone others. I think this applies to activism as well. I can’t call my senators, or try to engage in dialogue with someone I disagree with, if I’m freaky. Freaky = stressed out, tired, fearful, or angry.

Summary: The body will always tell us where we’re screwing up. The internet tends to temporarily deafen us to our bodies.

Your list will fit your schedule and biorhythms. I tend to get most anxious at night, so I try to avoid fear inducing stuff when it is dark. I also have a young kid, so I have to cram my sleep into the hours before 6am. (Terrifying news tends to inhibit sleep.) Left to my own devices, I’d sleep different hours. Both of these things inform what kind of hygiene I impose on my activism, online and otherwise.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What time of day am I most likely to be anxious?
  2. When am I calmest or most energetic?
  3. What websites do I feel relaxed after reading?
  4. What websites do I feel anxious after reading?
  5. What kind of physical activities do I like to engage in?
  6. What helps me feel grounded and peaceful?

After answering these questions, consider how you normally spend your day, and if it minimizes the time you feel unstressed, or maximizes the time you spend feeling anxious or unhappy.

I am not suggesting that we avoid all pain or stress. First, that’s impossible. Second, it’s still impossible. But we must be present in our lives, to ourselves, and to our loved ones in order to spend our energy wisely in activism. So consider stepping away from that looming conflict on Facebook and spend some time outside instead. You will have more energy and focus, and we need you for the fight ahead.

Resources:
Activist Burnout Is Real – And You Probably Need to Read These 4 Ways to Manage It
How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind
What Kind of Activist Are You? Free Five Minute Journaling Exercise!
How To Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed By Your Newsfeed