I've been on the road the last while, first in the Netherlands, and now Los Angeles. Last week I attended the Hearing Voices World World Congress in The Hague. This was the 10th congress and the second time now I've joined this international group as they discuss the past and present and what the future could hold. It's also the thirtieth anniversary of the Hearing Voices movement's beginning.
The congress was attended by two of the movement's founders: psychiatrist Marius Romme, and journalist Sandra Escher. Here's a recent interview with Marius and Sandra, who was officially retiring from this work after the meeting due to her health:
(in Dutch with English subtitles)
I have grown tremendously as a result of the time I've spent around people affiliated with Hearing Voices movement. I am as ever grateful for the sense of welcome I've felt in these spaces. This is despite the fact that many journalists before me have messed things up pretty bad.
It's a tricky question, how we might change the relationship between the media and all psychiatric survivor movements. For a while now I've been writing an essay about mistakes I've made as a writer attempting to write on this beat and what I've learned. I'm optimistic that piece will finally be done and published soon!
(Said me to myself for ever and always about all my writing...sigh.)
And I will be writing about the Hearing Voices movement in a big way eventually, hopefully in my next book. To those interested in learning more now, visit Hearing Voices USA and / or Intervoice (the international umbrella). These websites are loaded with information. Visit my Resources page as well for much more that might be of interest to you. I'll hopefully continue building this page out as I have time.
I'm really glad I attended this congress. I'm grateful for the connections I made and strengthened. I witnessed some glorious things and also some difficult ones. I'm full of feeling and thought. And just further convinced that the public needs to hear about all this.
If right now you're like "What is the hearing voices movement??" I might recommend the above video and websites! I also recommend my own book, which I think situates the question of why we need to listen this group of marginalized people — and now.
For a second year, I saw this artwork displayed. Its message is one I hope my fellow writers and editors will soon hear:
This was my second time in the Netherlands, meaning I was slightly better at not getting hit by bicycles.
Here are some things that made me LOL:
I must admit that traveling these days, looking as I do, by which I mean visibly nonbinary, is difficult. I had to spend two weeks reporting in Montana this year; that was very tough. The Netherlands is a progressive place in theory but not one where gender dualism and segregation feels very challenged. I don't see many people like me, nor many gender-neutral restrooms. I don't feel attacked so much as invisible to some and stared at by others, mostly children.
Yesterday I had a layover at JFK for many hours. Every family restroom was either locked or wouldn't lock. In the doorway of another family restroom I found, two janitors were chatting a long while. I eventually approached and asked if I could enter. One frowned at me and pointed toward the segregated bathrooms. I grew really embarrassed and shuffled away.
I eventually willed myself into a women's room and had a breakdown for a while in the stall. My body knows, is the thing, that if I'm entering that space I'm lying. But really I cannot handle the way that women look at me. I certainly don't look enough like a man to enter that space either. Men, as a whole, are terrifying.
A few minutes before midnight — the day had stretched forever — I finally landed at LAX. One of the first things I saw was an "All Gender Restroom." I felt very glad to be back in California, my first home. However far I wonder, once in a while she yanks me the fuck back.
The Catskills do feel like home now, though I've not lived there that long. My soul has wrapped around that place with ferocity. Perhaps because I have taken an unloved house and emptied it of trash and filled it with life. I have put down some literal roots.
We had so many tomatoes as I left town, and tomatillos, and big zucchinis. One of our apple trees, the one we call Bert, had lots of apples, very high up. (His partner, Ernie, hasn't produced fruit either year we've been there. We named them after the iconic queer couple.) Using Bert's apples, I made a few absolutely delicious hand pies. Honestly all the time I think about just making hand pies for a living, driving around and selling them out of my car.
Whenever I have to leave my house I grow very sad and nervous, perhaps because of the unknown society I will be traveling to, and the guaranteed awfulness that is the TSA:
Whenever I know I must leave home, I try to keep myself busy, and outside, and breathing. The last few days I was there this time, I hauled a bunch of soil from a pile to a new garden site I'm trying to reclaim from the weeds. It helped.
A friend joked my fitness program should be called SoilCycle. All jokes aside, this is the the other huge thing I've been studying these last years, and the other thing I feel I'll be focusing on in this next book: the way that this kind of work heals us.
As Joni sang (in "Woodstock" no less): "And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"...
Two ~cool~ announcements:
I'm starting a podcast with my neighbor Colleen Macklin called This American Loaf. Colleen is a games designer, author, professor at Parsons, baker of apparently not very good bread (so she says; I'm not sure I believe her...). Our podcast is about bread baking (we think).
Stay tuned for more.
I'm excited to share the news that my pitch won the Narratively Untold Story Award. This means I'll actually follow this story through, which makes me very glad, as it's really important. I'm grateful to Narratively for seeing that and giving me this opportunity.
Just go and get your facts straight,
p.p.p.p.s. Making sure everyone alive has read Cher's "25 Things You Didn't Know About Me"