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QUILTBAGs in community, or not

January 17, 2015

Definition of QUILTBAG as I’m using it.

Several different things are converging in my mind, and if I write them out, here, maybe they will illuminate why I’ve been troubled about one of them. If my feelings could just talk to me directly . . . it would actually be a lot less fun. I love doing puzzles!



Person A, a cis woman, in my friend-group. I want to like her: we share being emotionally expressive, enthusiastic, lively, colorful — I especially prize those qualities because I rarely encounter them in people I know. People with a wide emotional range, though, their highs are really high, but . . . their lows are really low. And she’s been really low for a long while now.

I don’t fault her for that. I was in a “depressive episode”/”existential crisis” from 2009–2014. I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts since I was a kid. They never go away completely — life is hard, and it doesn’t seem to get any easier.

Unlike me, her family cut ties with her when she ‘came out’ as queer. She’s struggling with other weighty complications I’ve never had to deal with. I would tend to think that her emotional-support network might even be more limited than mine is, which is especially problematic when you have a wide emotional range . . . because you need a lot of different things from a lot of people. You can’t really just get by on, “well, I have a significant other, and I’ll keep things together until Help Comes.” I mean you can — I’ve been; she’s been — but it’s not at all sustainable. You’re using up your own life stuff faster than it can be replenished by your environment / community / whatever. You’re gonna hit a wall at some point. And maybe that’s what has actually happened here lately.

She’s in dire straits. And, like you can do nowadays, a crowdfunding site has been set up to provide her and her partner with funds to get through this latest crisis. They haven’t reached the end goal, but they’re well over halfway there. I’ve seen it boosted on Twitter by people outside of our friend-group. (Which it would have to be, granted.)

I just realized . . . she’s actually part of a specific larger community that most of our friend-group is also part of . . . but I’m not.

Communities are a very good way, maybe the only very good way, to get larger things done, by pooling resources for the benefits of members. But of course everybody doesn’t benefit. Everybody pays in, but only the high-status people reap most of the benefits.

I have no reason to think that Person A holds high status in this community. Indeed, I’d be surprised if most people had heard of her. And yet somehow, money is being pledged to her.

I’ve seen people with less cause get more money, but also other people get almost nothing. The term is crowd funding, but generally the people who are likeliest to contribute are actually your relatives and friends. Which makes sense, I guess.

So if you’re estranged from all your relatives, and you do have friends (but most of them are bad off too), you’re kind of stuck.

{When I started writing this, I didn’t think the money part was even relevant. But apparently it is. Huh.}

Before I met Spouse, I got into dire financial straits, twice. Both times, I was able to borrow money from sympathetic relatives. But I had to pay it back. And in the case of the larger amount, I had to pay it back with interest. In both cases, I would have done anything to avoid asking my parents for the money I needed . . . because they would have laughed in my face, and then said no. And then I don’t know what I would’ve done.

Why can Person A get (much more) money free and clear, from people who are not relatives or friends? My brainweasels give me the usual shame-spiral answers: you are an unlovable monster, silly! She’s actually a real artist, while you just call yourself one. She adds value to the world, so she ‘deserves’ help.

Below those, though, are the things that really hurt: she’s dainty and pretty and sweet. Everybody loves her!

Which connects me to . . .


My poem, In defense of scruffy, which I wrote about here before I went to bed last night.



Person B, a dear friend, NB like me and queer, and is way more talented than I am at, oh, everything, is having all sorts of problems getting funding, getting recognition, getting any kind of resources from that same community. Which she has been part of for 10 years, and has actual visibility because of actual accomplishments. Somehow when big projects come along that have huge resources in play, everyone forgets to notice her.

She is also emotionally expressive, prone to the usual depression and anxiety as the rest of us creative types, and she is having a very hard time.

Her relatives are homophobic; her friends are mostly poor and/or struggling.

I don’t know if my relatives are actually homophobic. At least one of my cousins has a friend who is gay, but that doesn’t seem to have made her generally tolerant. Like a lot of people, she seems to have gotten a lot more conservative with age. I have no way of judging the attitudes of my parents or their generation (who were born during the 1930s & 1940s).


I don’t want, I have never wanted, to only call upon relatives when I have great need. Instead, all my life (up until the last year or so), I have tried, repeatedly, to connect with people I’m related to. “Let’s just have a relationship! Hey, we’re already related — we’re halfway there! 🙂 I like you. (In theory) you like me, what could be simpler?”

The thing is, when things are going well for me, my relatives are not interested in hearing from me. I have tried and tried and tried. I have tried with every single relative that I thought might be remotely interested in me as a person. Crickets.

When I have a crisis, I might be able to get them to respond to an email. But not always. People are busy. They have priorities, and obviously, I’m not one of them. (It’s good to know your place in the world, right?)

I’ve mostly made my peace with this, in the sense of, I went to counseling for years and years, I learned how to disentangle us from my end, I worked through the traumas they put me through. I just don’t think about them, if I can possibly help it. It’s too painful. I can’t fix anything. It is what it is.

I’ve moved on.


Occasionally when one of my parents has some sort of crisis-thing, one of my relatives will contact me to tell me about it.

They might also pass along some of their own news.

Back when it was my brother who did this, it would be something about the 3 trips to Europe he’d taken that year, or some award one of his daughters won for Just Being Awesome and Loved By Everyone.

I know from long experience that if I ask questions about their news, they won’t answer. If I ask questions about anything, they won’t answer.

In every way but directly with words {which is why it’s taken me 47 years to figure out}, they are letting me know that . . . we don’t have a relationship. They are just acting as a conduit, likely as a favor to my parents. They are the carrier pigeon that can always find my apartment.


I can’t think of a girl in my extended family who could be characterized as “dainty and pretty and sweet”. There might be one; I’ve been out of touch for a long time. But that’s not the standard I did need to meet, but failed.

But I don’t know what it was.

The good news is, I wasn’t emotionally abandoned by my family because I’m queer. Or because I’m nonbinary. Because that never came up!

Maybe they’re not actually homophobic! (Which of course benefits me not at all but . . . why should anything they do benefit me? Crazy talk.)


I’ve run out of steam. And spoons. And I still have to put the final polish on my book review before sending it out later today.

Via blogging, I’ve learned that, no matter how uncomfortable it is to leave something like this “open” and unresolved (rather than slapping on a pat ending, just so it does actually end) . . . leads to more insight down the road. So I’m leaving it open and unresolved.

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