That time is now.
Come with me. I want to take you on a little walk in another man's moccasins. It will likely be a very different path from those to which you're accustomed. In that way, it will difficult for you to follow it. The shoes won't fit properly. They will be uncomfortable, and the way will be unfamiliar, and perhaps you'll find yourself feeling disquieted, discomfited, even a little scared.
I'm going to ask you to stick with the trail anyway. Because these are things we all need to see and grasp and fully understand. And because a friend needs our help.
A lot of you no doubt know my friend and fellow Kossack, Horace Boothroyd III. His road has long been a difficult one, for many reasons. Right now, there are seemingly insurmountable roadblocks in his path - obstacles that, for most people, not only don't exist but aren't even on their radar. And yet, once they're there, they're nearly impossible to go over, under, around, or through. And there comes a point when body, mind, soul, and spirit are too pain-wracked and weary to keep trying to scale those hurdles anymore.
But we can help fix that.
Come with me.
Update, 11:50 am: Fineena, maker of some of the most beautiful scarves on the planet, has an outstanding offer to help:
If anyone wants to purchase something fromKitsap River has a couple of these scarves, and a couple of small clutch purses also made by Fineena. They are really pretty and you won't find anything like them anywhere else. Please go to her Etsy shop and check them out.
Willie Ru Designs
I'll donate 50% of the sale to Horace.
Update, 1:55 pm: I only got less than 4 hours sleep last night and am finding myself fading. Hopefully Horace will post a comment with how much has been raised the next time he's able to get online. Meanwhile, I need to step away from the computer for a while and rest up, and then play D&D with my husband. I'll see you all later. -Kitsap River
Update, 2:00 pm: Horace emailed the current total raised: $1070! There is $330 left to go to get him housed. Please share this with everyone you feel comfortable sharing it with. Now I know we can raise this today. Thank you to all of you, and I'll check back in a couple of hours. -Kitsap River
Update, 7:20 pm: WE MADE IT! Horace reports $1420 raised. Thank you all. You are wonderful! -Kitsap River
Our first stop on this journey is a contradiction of sorts: It's a building that doesn't exist, a not-house. It's a definite place, oh, yes - a netherworld, one that most people don't even notice, but it's gray and bleak and terrifying. It's called homelessness.
Have you ever been homeless?
I don't mean those periods of time when you're in college and waiting for an available dorm room or new apartment, when your body is healthy and strong and it's nothing for you to crash on someone's couch or floor for a few days, or even weeks.
I mean homeless. Where every day is a struggle to find a way to get a roof over your head; where neither that roof nor the floor beneath your weary body is yours; where, however much you hate it, you're dependent on others for one of the most basic needs for bare survival.
Horace is currently in such a situation. He's staying with someone who has space for him to sleep on the floor.
On the floor.
So it's a floor. And it's a roof. And it's a bedsore rapidly worsening on his skin from the hard surface beneath his body.
That's bad enough. When you get to a certain age, sleeping on the floor becomes nearly impossible even once. Night after night after night? It's a nightmare. I know; I've done it.
When you have a disabling illness that causes you constant, chronic, intense physical pain and discomfort? It becomes actual torture.
It also becomes dangerous.
Because homelessness isn't Horace's only battle. Far from it.
And so we come to our next stop on this road, another one invisible to most of society. It's a place, but it's also a state of being. People who inhabit it choose different terms for it, but for the sake of convenience, we'll use the one the dominant culture uses: Disability.
Horace has a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome comes in various "types." The National Institutes of Health groups describes the syndrome as follows:
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of disorders that affect connective tissues, which are tissues that support the skin, bones, blood vessels, and other organs. Defects in connective tissues cause the signs and symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which vary from mildly loose joints to life-threatening complications.Horace's form is the last one listed, the "vascular type."
In the past, there were more than 10 recognized types of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. In 1997, researchers proposed a simpler classification that reduced the number of major types to six and gave them descriptive names: the arthrochalasia type, the classic type, the dermatosparaxis type, the hypermobility type, the kyphoscoliosis type, and the vascular type. Other forms of the condition may exist, but they have been reported only in single families or are not well characterized.
Side effects of the disease range from the inconvenient [wrinkles] to the frightening [wounds that open and bleed with little to no provocation] to the deadly dangerous:
Some forms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, notably the vascular and kyphoscoliosis types, can involve serious and potentially life-threatening complications. Blood vessels can tear (rupture) unpredictably, causing internal bleeding, stroke, and shock. The vascular type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is also associated with an increased risk of organ rupture, including tearing of the intestine and rupture of the uterus (womb) during pregnancy. People with the kyphoscoliosis form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome experience severe, progressive curvature of the spine that can interfere with breathing.Horace wrote about his illness last year. For him, this has been a life-long battle.
I didn't start walking until I was two because it is hard to balance on joints that are not stable. Kind of like trying to run on a surface of ball bearings. Additionally I had to over come the pain. Not only of my joints dislocating constantly but from the tearing of musculature and tendons and ligaments that accompanies that.. . .Stop and think about that for a moment. Walking. Kidney function. These are things most of us take so for granted that they're entirely unconscious. And yet, these fundamentals are things he must consider every minute of every day.
But to the big problem, one I was aware of early this century but due to the for profit medical system I'm most likely to be unable to recover from easily. Rhabdomyloysis, also known as crush syndrome, has gradually made my kidney function nonexistent. All those tears leave damaged tissue that needs to be filtered out by the kidneys.
Like most chronic illnesses, especially those with immune-mediated aspects, it causes other problems, too. One is arthritis, with chronic widespread inflammation and accompanying pain.
Another is severe depression. And for those of us with chronic illness it's a double whammy: The illness itself causes organic changes in body and brain that create the depression, plus we suffer from the situational, contextual depression that accompanies the despair and fatigue over our never-ending battles just to function, however minimally.
I know a little bit about how depression works; I've battled a virulent form of it my whole life. I know that black hole, that death spiral, that threatens to suck you in and under until there's nothing left but the welcome oblivion of the void. I've nearly succumbed to its poisonously seductive siren song on too many occasions.
And it's all the harder to resist its call when you can't even be sure that your basic survival will be covered for so much as another day.
Disabilities of this nature make it impossible to work. That means that to cover all his expenses, Horace has to rely on SSDI benefits - in this country, a pitiful share indeed. And even should housing become available that he can afford, it is far from a rare thing to find landlords and leasing agents who refuse to rent to the disabled. Oh, they won't tell you that; they can't. But pretexts are easy. Extending a hand to someone who needs it? Apparently that's often much harder.
And still, our journey is not done. We have one more stop to make. Are those moccasins breaking in yet? I hope so, because for many of you, this will be the most unfamiliar terrain yet. Pay close attention and watch your step.
Our last stop is one that, for the sake of convenience, we'll call "Gender Identity." It doesn't really encompass what's involved here, and it could just as easily be called "Civil Rights" and "Discrimination" and "Bigotry" and a host of other things, all of which are very much intertwined in this culture.
We don't do things like gender identity well in this country. Hell, we don't do humanity well - much less humanity with the sort of nuance that reality requires. And our inability to come to terms with the full, wonderful, beautiful spectrum of what it means to be human has incredibly damaging effects on too many of our brothers and sisters.
About ten days ago, I posted a rant on Facebook that addressed this very issue. As I said then:
I support LGBTQI rights. Unequivocally and without reservation. That emphatically includes the T and the Q and the I and a few other initials that have no practical way of making it into the acronym.Sadly, for our generation, even a lot of us did have it educated and churched out of us. In fact, completely erased from our collective memory. But ancestral memory is a wonderful thing, and those of us who decided at some point in our lives to decolonize our minds and our spirits found that the old ways were often wiser, and contained much more truth, than is found in the artificial veneer of the dominant culture that binds and threatens to suffocate our peoples like so much transparent duct tape.
Here's the deal. My people (and a lot of other indigenous peoples) have known, oh, since, like, forever that "gender" is not binary. Hell, we even invented the word for it: Niizh-manitouwag; "two-spirit." We've always known (even though many generations suffered concerted attempts to "educate" and "church" it out of us) that It's not an either/or proposition, either among "born as" genders or "really ARE" genders. Gender is a SPECTRUM. People may exist at some point along the spectrum; they may inhabit more than one point in the spectrum during the course of their lives; they may inhabit multiple points of the spectrum simultaneously.
Yes. Some people identify as men. Some identify as women. And [gasp!] some identify as BOTH. Or neither.
And this is [another gasp!] NORMAL. Really. It is, folks. Say it with me: Normal.
With the foundations of this particular stop on our journey exposed, here's the relevance: Horace is transgender.
Now, that's in some ways a misnomer. Horace is a man. Period.
But getting other people to accept that he's a man is another proposition altogether. And getting them to accept it in a nondiscriminatory fashion - to see him as just another potential tenant; as someone who is just as entitled to good, safe housing as anyone else; in other words, as a human being - in the U.S. in 2014, even in the bluest of states, that's something else entirely.
Consider what it's like, to have walked your path your whole life, knowing that who people saw on the outside was not who you were. Consider the difficulty in making the decision to change that outward appearance to match who you really are. Consider the expense - financial, of course, but more than that, psychic - of being forced to go through other people to validate not merely your decision but your very existence as who you are. And then consider the ramifications of how society still regards you, and still treats you, in refusing to acknowledge your essential identity, much less respect it.
This is what Horace faces down every day.
Do you feel lucky yet?
It's tiring. It's dispiriting. It's enough to make one want to give up.
But Horace is our brother, and not only does he need us - we need him.
He's put aside his exhaustion. Put aside his pain. Found an apartment. Put in an application. It's now been accepted, and he has just 72 short hours to come up with the necessary security, rental, and utility deposits. Practically speaking, we can reduce that to 48: He'll need Wednesday to get everything collected and delivered to the leasing agent. So we have today, tomorrow, and Tuesday to help him raise $1,400.
So let's do this. If everyone who reads this kicks in five bucks, I have no doubt it'd be covered in no time flat. If everyone who reads this shares it with their entire networks, online and off-, we'll be able to raise that plus a safety net to keep him going until his situation stabilizes.
Here's how to give:
Via PayPal at Boothie68 [at] gmail [dot] com.You know what to do.
If you don't do PayPal and need to mail a check, mail it to his PO Box:
Horace Boothroyd IIIPost a comment and River will kos mail you with the name to put on the check. If you do do PayPal, it's the way to ensure he gets the funds fastest.
1631 NE Broadway #509
Portland, Oregon 97232
And for everyone who shares, donates, or otherwise lends a hand, chi miigwech.