The cruelty is subtle

The cruelty is subtle.

[On anti-homeless architecture]

You avert your eyes. You ignore them when they speak to you. You refuse to help out by donating money, worrying that they’ll use the money to buy drugs or booze, as if you don’t spend money on distractions of a different sort.

You’d rather they starve then risk getting them high. This cruelty is subtle.

It’s taking the benches out of public spaces so that no one can sleep on them. It’s putting spiky things over Street grates designed to keep people from sleeping on them. It’s pushing people out without giving them a new place to go.

It’s subtle cruelty.

We avert our eyes.

We don’t question why the bus stop has 3 seats instead of one bench. Or why the stop has no seating at all. We don’t want to see the problem, so we remove it from view. It’s subtle cruelty.

But we aren’t trying to solve a problem. People on the street are not the problem. A society where people can become street people and have absolutely no way to get out once they’re in. There aren’t enough shelter beds. They’re aren’t enough treatment center beds. It’s pipe line between jail and streets. And somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that the people kin the street are still just people. Living on the street does not remove your humanity, but ignoring the issue does. You become less compassionate every time you quietly accept these unspoken rules. When you don’t speak out, it is assumed that you are agreeing. Your silence allows people on the street to be abused by a system that is not meant to help them recover. If you’re on the street, you can’t afford $1900 a month in rent for a studio apartment, or $100/month for a metro rail pass. Where will you shower, where will you use the restroom? Restaurants make you pay to use it. Gas stations say they don’t have a public restroom. And the beach bathrooms aren’t open overnight. So you have to shit and piss on the street too, and you might get arrested. Arrested because you couldn’t find a restroom you were allowed to use, so you had to shit on the street.

It’s subtle cruelty.

It’s impossible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps inside a system meant to keep you under the ground.

It’s subtle cruelty.

I do not wish to be cruel, and I don’t think you do either, but when we close our eyes to reality, we are practicing cruelty. We do have a choice. We can demand better, for all of us. We can demand safe consumption sites. We can demand more shelters open, with access to long term residences and trade schools. People on the street are still people. Just because you ended up on the street Dosent mean you’re stuck there forever. We need to demand better services for humans experiencing homelessness.

It’s up to all of us to design what our future is going to look like. If you don’t want to see displaced people sleeping on the streets, then you must demand better services to help these humans get into housing and the appropriate kinds of treatment.

We can be better, if we choose to.

Or we can continue the legacy of subtle cruelty.

-Brodey Ryan Bartlett

Birth name

I heard my birth name for the first time in years today. it’s a rare name that caused me a great deal of emotional pain. It was a label that was forced on me for 18 years that never fit. Hearing it, even when it’s directed at someone else, brought back all the old feelings of shame and humiliation. I half expected someone to mutter one of the old insults at me, my face turning red as all eyes turned to me in disgust. 

Brodey, age 9.

Every day as I wrote my birth name on school papers I resented myself a little more. Day after day I was taught to despise myself for who I was. Why couldn’t I just be normal? Why did my gender have to be so fucked up? I believed that I was wrong, incorrect, a mistake. I believed that I was alone, the only one, because there weren’t any other people like me on tv or in books. My local library didint even have an LGBT section. Visibility matters but it’s not the only thing we need. 

Brodey, 15, with his dog Sammy

We need to believe trans people when they tell us who they are. You’re never too young to know. Educate yourself; trans kids aren’t allowed hormones OR surgery; allowing these kids to socially transition & take hormone blockers to DELAY the start of puberty until they’re ready to choose what’s right for them saves lives. It’s a completely reversible process but the truth is that less than 1% of these kids go back to living as their gender assigned at birth. The risk for suicide is very real and it hits Trans folks when we’re young; my first suicide attempt was at 7 years old. I couldn’t handle the pain of no one believing me.

Brodey, age 15

I remember the hearing to change my name legally 13 years ago, to even get the court date my name change had to be posted in the local newspaper for four weeks. It was humiliating. Now EVERYONE knew it and people were using it to cut me. In court, having to actually say my birth name out loud for the last time was both horrific and cathartic. The judge was sympathetic, but I’ll never forget the look of shock on her face as I stood up when she called out my birth name. She said “Really?!” Before stamping approval on my name change and saying “Have a great life Brodey.” I fought so hard to be recognized as my true self because so much of our society is gendered and based on imaginary science about the differences in gender. We’re taught that gender is like left and right, opposite; but the reality is a spectrum. Trans people have been around since the dawn of time and we’ve been in literature as well. We’ve gone by different names, and here are some of the earliest recorded executions of trans folks; 

  • Venice, 1354; Rolandina Ronchaia, burned to death (trans woman).
  • London, 1395; John/Eleanor Rykener, Gender Queer, burned at the stake.
  • Germany, 1477; Katherina Hetzeldorfer, trans man; drowned.
  • 1721; Catherina Linck; trans man, married a woman, beheaded.
  • Jack Garland, trans man, California, died 1936, natural causes. It was not known that he was assigned female at birth until his autopsy.

[Trans Like Me, Pg 151-152] 

I said goodbye to the name, forgiving myself for hating a piece of myself that wasn’t truly a piece of me. I’m thousands of miles away from where those things happened to me, and yet there still so close. Today no one knows me by the wrong label. Now, people see the real me, in all my Queer glory.

My name is my label. There’s no other way to describe who I am and what I’ve been through except to say that I am Brodey Ryan Bartlett. 

Cabaret

This week I had the absolute pleasure of playing the role of ‘Victor’ a kit kat dancer in the show ‘Caberet’ produced by Imaginary Theatricals in Los Angeles, CA. We rehearsed for four days, Monday June 3-Thursday June 6, and had 3 performances June 7, 8 & 9th.

This was my first time acting in a stage production since I was a teenager, and I loved every minute of it. I’ve always felt like the truest version of myself when I’m on a stage creating a moment for the audience.

Live theater has a magic that movies will never have because it’s imperfect, it’s constantly evolving and it’s unpredictable. Performing 2 feet in front of the crowd means there’s no space for fear. You have to embody the character and make the audience invest in you so that you can take them on a journey. It’s all about creating those little moments that they will never forget. It’s the stuff you can’t capture on film- the taste of magic in the air, the way the music fills you up and pours out over everything. It’s dancing my heart out and sharing my joy with everyone in the room. I do things that move me because I want to be moved, changed, evolved. Most of all, I want to entertain you. I am happiest when I am in front of people, responsible for grabbing their hands and showing them a new world, a new story.

We can’t escape who we are, it’s pointless to try. I am an entertainer. It’s in my blood. I was raised on stage. Turning my back on this would be like cutting my own head off- I need to entertain to live.

On Monday when we started I was just so grateful to be a part of the show, and to have the chance to make magic. Today, Sunday, I’m eternally grateful and forever changed because of this show. Every day of rehearsals was exhilarating, I could see stars popping out everywhere, flashes of bright beautiful colors bouncing off my cast mates because everyone was clicking. Every single person on this cast has become a part of my family, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. The level of talent and humility was astounding. This is what a good production is- building each other up, not ripping each other down. We become better when we’re all on the same page helping each other perform our very best.

I’m blown away by everything that happened this week. I’m blown away by having a director who had our backs and never once raised his voice or berated anyone. We came together and created a masterpiece in ONE WEEK.

To my cast mates- Liz, Garrett, Sidney, Josue, Emily, Karla, Jeni, Max, Ashley, Dianne, Elijah, Pamela & Jonnie, Thank you. Thank you for believing in us, and working so hard to make this show happen. Thank you for being authentic and opening up to me, accepting me with open arms. Thank you for allowing me to educate you about my identity, and being willing to listen. I’m so honored to have performed with such incredibly talented, kind human beings. Each one of you has changed me and together you have restored my faith In myself. Thank you for your kind words, tips, and honest opinions about my performance. I am eternally grateful and I am a better man for having known you.

I am grateful for the people, the magic, and the memories. I love you, and I believe in you. I can’t wait to see what everyone does next. I’ll be cheering for you all.

Until we meet again,

-Brodey Bartlett

(Victor, the French Kit Kat Boy)

https://www.imaginarytheatricals.com/productions

Instagram @imaginarytheatricals

TIME KEEPS TICKING

My cat Henry has been uncharacteristically aloof lately. Last night we were having an exceptionally wonderful cuddle and I had a revaluation: Henry was acting aloof because he was aloof! My formally cuddly sidekick was telling me that after 4 months of therapy I’ve learned enough coping skills that I don’t need Him to be my crutch. Everything finally made sense- I needed someone to love me, I wasn’t giving it to myself so Henry was.

Now that I have decent coping skills to deal with my traumas, Henry doesn’t have to smother me with love and affection all day long.

The reality makes me feel both empowered and a little sad because I will miss what we used to have. I’ve been learning how to accept the things I can’t change and embrace the realities of my life. Accepting Henry’s new role as beloved pet instead of mental crutch doesn’t mean I can’t lean on him when I need to, it simply means that I have gained enough control over my mind to navigate my emotions successfully.

As I begin to swim in these new waters I’m in awe of my clarity, patience and mental strength. Just one year ago I was in a place so dark I couldn’t see an inch in front of my face. I felt as if I was breathing underwater, drowning in a sea of repressed trauma and isolation with no chance of escaping. Whenever I was too weak to get out of bed, Henry would lick my face, snuggle up to me and love me. I had to keep going because of him. I’ve depended on Henry to survive since the first time I held him in my arms. We’ve been through hell together: I wouldn’t have made it in one piece without Henry, and for that I’m eternally grateful. The universe will always deliver what you need, it’s up to us to recognize it and grab ahold.

As I adjust to this change my eyes are opening to a totally new perspective; that of increased clarity. Living right here in this very moment doesn’t leave any time for fear or worry. There’s just enough time to breathe deeply and enjoy it. In this moment I am free. The traumas of my past can’t get in because they are not ‘now’ they are ‘back then’ and they don’t belong in my present. To achieve inner peace you must first let go of all the worries of the past and the future, making this both simple and incredibly complex. I’ve learned not to rush or push myself, but simply to observe my own unfolding.

Over the past six months I have journeyed to parts of my mind I didn’t know existed and discovered how much control training the mind with meditation can bestow upon a human being. By making meditation an obligatory part of every day I have set my healing in motion. By simply following through I have begun to stitch the pieces of me back together. Meditation has given me the clarity to step back, observe my behavior and modify it without judgement.

I’m not the same man I was one year ago, or even the same as I was yesterday. Each day I see clearer and I grow stronger in my identity. I have built a solid self-care routine with daily meditation, reflection, journaling, mindfulness and yoga. I attend Individual and group therapy weekly, as well as checking in with my mentor. I am now able to make decisions without feeling guilt, I am able to put my health first and set firm boundaries with the humans I interact with.

It’s still difficult for me to be honest about my feelings and my past. Being vulnerable makes me uncomfortable, so I’m sitting with that feeling and asking myself why. Asking myself why I feel a feeling has been an incredibly helpful tool. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to digest the question and discover the root cause of the feeling, and it’s always surprising. It’s incredibly important because you can’t begin to heal from anything until you know why it’s hurt you.

(Playing music is my favorite form of self-care/healing, it takes all your attention so there’s nowhere for you to be except for this very moment.)

I have discovered negative self-talk is the root of many issues. Not believing that I am worthy of love, safety or kindness. Not believing that I will live to see 30, or believing that my life doesn’t matter are all ways I let outside influences taint my inner sanctum. Meditation and reflection helped me gain enough control to step out of the spiral and see myself as a whole human being, worthy of love; not broken, simply mixed up and a little lost: directionless. I felt as if I was a spinning compass, unable to find my true north.

In the end, nobody saved me. The knight in shining armor that I was waiting for never showed. Instead I was lucky enough to be offered a safe space to heal myself. I was taught tools and strategies to gain control over my mind and rescue myself. My friends and therapist lead me to the water, but I’m the one who climbed in and learned to swim. You can’t expect anyone else to heal you.

I think of it like this: if someone walks by and throws trash in your yard are you going to follow them around until they come back to clean it? No. You’ll go out and clean it up because no matter who created the mess, it’s now yours. It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself.

Taking responsibility for myself and my past trauma is not absolving my abusers, it’s simply standing up for myself and saying ‘I can’t change the past, but what I can do is ask myself why I continue to bring this baggage with me.’ The answer had always been because I didn’t know how to unpack it. Realizing that I needed help was the moment I fell over the cliff. Everything became real again, and real terrifying. I made an intake appointment to be evaluated and matched up with a therapist and spent November 2018 dreading my appointment.

Monterey Bay, California Nov 2018

I promised myself I would be painfully honest in intake and I was. I poured out my traumatic history over three weeks and was matched up with an LGBTQ therapist who specializes in complex PTSD and who I trust completely. Together we’ve been exploring my mind and confronting the monsters under my bed. The most difficult part of this entire process for me has been being honest.

I tend to use little lies as a barrier to keep people out. You might ask me what I did yesterday: I’ll tell you I worked out, watched POSE, and went to yoga class, but in reality, I worked out, watched The Simpson’s and then went to yoga. These lies have always made me feel safe- if you don’t know the real me than you can’t get in and hurt me. It has been incredibly difficult to gain control back because I’m so used to wearing that mask of separation.

This morning in my trauma survivors support group I admitted that I use these little lies to protect myself. It wasn’t difficult because I remained in the moment, in the now there’s no time to worry how others will react- there is only now. It was freeing and made me feel accountable. If no one knows I do that then I’ll never have to correct it: now that my group knows, they’ll be helping me to stay true.

The man I am today is kind, gentle and patient. He is walking his own path to healing and doing his best to stay true. As I go through this unfolding I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for the lessons I have been taught and the people who have helped me get up, dust off, and keep on going. Most of the people you meet aren’t meant to be in your life forever, but if you stay in the moment and connect you’ll never forget each other’s vibration.

(Henry and I still have an incredibly close relationship with at least one cuddle a day. I’m grateful for everything he has taught me about love and I’m looking forward to many more years together.)

I have loved more deeply than I believed possible and I have suffered greater pain than the world believes a human being can endure. I have been forged in fire and cooled in freezing waters. As long as I can feel the wind on my face and smell the salt of the sea I will survive.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes. Thanks for coming along on this journey. I believe in you.

Love,

Brodey Ryan Bartlett

Self care in a busy life

A friend of mine tweeted this and it got me thinking about how I squeeze self-care into my busy schedule and how I use it to heal and grow as a Queer transgender human being. These are my thoughts on how to incorporate self-care into a busy queer schedule:

1. MEDITATION: First thing in the morning (after using the loo) close your eyes and take ten deep breaths, in the nose and out the mouth. Meditation is saying to your body “Thank you for keeping me running. I am showing up here to connect with you. What do you need me to know?” I do 3-20 minutes depending on how I’m feeling, but any amount of time is beneficial.

2. Acknowledge yourself for showing up:🌱I wink at myself in the mirror while i brush my teeth, thanking myself for taking the time to care for my mouth. It gives me a chance to admire myself for who I am as I start and end my days. You can say “I made it” and acknowledge yourself for showing up at work.

3. Be present: Do something just for you and focus 100% on it. The shower is the easiest time to be present because you don’t have your phone and you can focus only on cleaning and thanking your body. Our bodies are the greatest tools we have and they’re the most often neglected.

You can love your body just as it is no matter what it looks like because it’s yours. Your body is whatever gender you identify as. Your body parts don’t dictate your gender, nor do hormones and surgeries. Your brain and soul are what dictates gender. Thank your body for carrying your soul around. No matter what it looks like, it’s the one thing that will always be yours.

Other times to try being present: While eating, focus on the taste of the food. While walking, focus on the way your feet hit the ground with your eyes up.

Playing music is a great way to be present because it forces you to be in the now. Reading music and playing it takes all your focus. It’s my favorite way to show up for myself besides yoga.

5. GRATITUDE : On your morning commute be grateful for the beauty that noticing a tree/flower/animal/piece of art brings into your life. Grateful hearts heal. Write down one thing your grateful for daily, you don’t have to keep it, a white board is fine. The more you practice gratitude the more you’ll find to be grateful for. I write mine on the bathroom mirror and erase them before bed. I also have a note on my phone that I add to occasionally. It’s not where or what you write, it’s the act of writing itself that heals you.

6. Check in with your body: I do this while washing my hands. I ask myself how I’m feeling, ask if I need to drink some water (of course I do) and if I need to rest. Honoring your body by listening to it will make your mind/body connection stronger. It shows that you are consciously deciding to respect your body.

If your body says to stay home and rest, you must. It’s important to ask yourself why though, if it’s just your head saying that you don’t belong, go. Learning your bodies language takes time. Once you understand why it says what it says you won’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself.

7. Dance: I do this after I shower, while I’m moisturizing and picking out clothes to wear. It’s a quick goofy and fun way for me to connect with my body and tell it how much I cherish it for keeping me going. Lady Gaga/Madonna all day baby.

8. Pamper yourself: Light a candle before you get in the shower/tub, treat your cuticles while watching POSE, look yourself in the eye and congratulate yourself for making it this far. I do this while shaving in the morning. Wearing a cute outfit, putting on fake eyelashes and using the good moisturizer are all ways to pamper yourself. Showing gratitude is the ultimate way to pamper yourself.

9. Unplug: set a timer and then put your phone down: Do something that doesn’t require your phone for five minutes. Brush your pet, put the dishes away, sit down and be grateful for your space. I squeeze this in after dinner.

I hope this list helps! Remember, self-care is for you so feel free to modify and change this to make it fit your lifestyle. Just incorporating one of these small steps will impact your life in a positive way, it won’t happen overnight but in time you’ll start to see the value of taking care of yourself. 💚 I believe in you.

-Brodey Savage

*dry erase markers work on mirrors

*waterproof speakers for the shower are A+

You are not alone.

+Trans lifeline: 877-565-8860

+The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386

+National suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255

Feeling Blurry

February 2017

It’s like I’m stuck and the whole world is blurring right past me. Like I’m a ghost and no one sees. It’s this feeling of trying to breathe underwater.

It makes me feel small, but like I’m floating in a huge black empty universe. The edges are blurred. There’s no sound. Just darkness.

It’s like my life gets blurry and I can’t see today anymore. I’m seeing the current reality as if it’s just a memory in my head and it’s scary. I don’t feel like I’m really in the present. It’s more like my life is all jumbled together and shaken up. It’s exhausting. I stopped dreaming. I sleep in 2 hour segments because I have to get up to pee. I don’t think I’d hit REM sleep in months. Haven’t slept through a night in over a year.

[Smiling to hide the abyss]

I wrote this in February, 2018, a little over a year ago. I had been asking my doctor for help and been brushed off multiple times. I felt like I was already dead. The darkness was so severe that I spent weeks in bed staring at the wall, my only reprieve from the emotional and severe physical pain I was in came from my cat Henry and marijuana edibles.

Then I received a wake up call: my parents getting a divorce after 33 years of marriage. It wasn’t unexpected and it definitely made both of them happier but a crack had appeared, a crack that had always been there but that I had somehow managed to avoid looking at. Suddenly it was all I could see, and I fell in.

[Photo taken at my fathers new home.]

The darkness got worse than I ever thought it could. I felt like i couldn’t breathe. I’d lay in bed wishing it would end, but not wanting to die, wishing I could live. I wasn’t upset about the divorce – i was drowning in repressed memory city. I had always thought that i had a great childhood, but i did not and now i had to face all of it.

I was sick and my doctor wasn’t listening. So I did something scary. I called my health insurance company, filed a complaint against St John Well-child and family center and had my care switched to the Los Angeles LGBT center.

Almost immediately things got better. My excruciating pain was taken seriously and within weeks we discovered my gallbladder needed to be removed. My overactive bladder was treated with medication and i was able to sleep through the night again. In November 2018 My physical health was slowly improving while I waited for the earliest surgery appointment- January 21, 2019.

I knew it wasn’t going to be all I needed, so I did another scary thing. I scheduled a mental health evaluation at the LGBT center. I dreaded it for three weeks and broke out in a cold sweat as soon as I arrived. I was honest and asked for help and something unexpected happened: they actually helped me.

THEY ACTUALLY HELPED ME. I went through 3 weeks of appointments to establish a baseline with an intake counselor who was phenomenally kind. Then I was matched up with a trauma recovery group and a therapist to help me heal from my complex PTSD.

I started attending weekly individual therapy appointments in February and I immediately clicked with my therapist. It took three sessions before I actually dropped my walls enough for him to truly see me, but there was no rush.

Therapy is not at all what I expected. It’s all based on how I feel and think, not changing who I am to fit a mold. I spent much of my childhood lying to therapists I didint trust and this is not like that at all. My current therapist never forced me to do ANYTHING. He puts the ball in my court and lets me decide how far we’ll push today. Therapy has dramatically changed my life by giving me some power back. I’ve been living in a constant state of emotional shock for at least five years, but I think it’s actually been 25 years. Growing up in an unsafe environment will do that to you.

I’m still renovating my mind, unpacking the boxes and deciding what gets to move into the future with me. I drop things off at the recycling center daily, letting go of all the old thoughts and habits that don’t belong any more. I survived, so there is no guilt over what I did in the past. It’s just the past, nothing to be ashamed of or worry over.

I meditate every single day. It keeps me grounded. I do yoga to have an ongoing conversation with my body. I’m honest with myself, my therapist, and my loved ones. I explore new hobbies and revive and change old ones to fit the new me. I embrace and celebrate all my identities. I attend therapy and group therapy every week.

I believe that it dose get better, but it won’t get better overnight, and it takes constant commitment to create a better place for yourself.

[with my sister Mill, who is my best friend and fellow LA resident]

“While you sit around waiting for someone to come and set things right, the world has moved on without you.” I don’t know if I made this up or read it somewhere but it’s true. And

“The only way out is through.”

-Robert Frost

I believe in you and I believe in me. Thank you for being here.

-Brodey Bartlett

You are not alone.

+Trans lifeline: 877-565-8860

+The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386

+National suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255

What being Queer means to me.

QUEER! I fucking love this word. It gave me a home when I was trying to hold it together as a gay transgender man. The word Queer was used to oppress me as a child and now it lifts me up and reminds me of how strong I am.

To me Queer is always capitalized because it stands for everything it costs us to be ourselves. It represents how nothing matters if you’re not honest with yourself. You are who you are, being Queer means we celebrate it.

Being Queer inspires me to lift up my community and celebrate who I am. Being Queer makes me proud of who I am.

Life is much simpler when you’re true to yourself. You have to be who you are or the lies will rot you from the inside. Being Queer frees us from the bondage of heteronormativity.

Being Queer means freedom.

-Brodey Bartlett