My Week With @WeAreDisabled: Thread from 23rd August
A couple weeks ago, I took part in my third time hosting the twitter account @WeAreDisabled, which invites guests to host on a rotating basis. Given the ephemeral nature of Twitter, I’ve decided to re-post much of that writing here (as well as some thoughts from previous times I’ve hosted), as well as the Wakelet links to the original tweets. Tweets are reproduced as-is:
Hello again everyone! I’ve got just about three hours left with this account, if I have my time zone math right, so to close out I’ll treat you all to that thread about my work, as well as where else you can find me!
Now, I focus mainly on community-building and peer education. My supervisor gave us all a ton of agency (and resources!) to come up with our own projects and put them into action, and I’ve focused on peer health education for transmasculine and masculine of center communities.
I organize and facilitate a virtual gathering space called the T-House (short for transmasculine house), where I host events, provide resources, and advocate for fellow transmasculine and masculine of center people on campus and in the wider bay area.
I’m entering into my third semester working on the T-House, and it has looked different pretty much every semester. Each new term is a chance for me to try something new, keep what works, release what doesn’t. What’s the constant? How being disabled affects me and my work.
Last year was a very difficult year for me, on both a personal and academic level. In the fall, I had a deep mental health spiral, ended a relationship, and later had to move very suddenly because my housemate became volatile and violent. It was a traumatic semester.
Police and crisis teams were in and out of our apartment (not by my choice, but I ended up having to be the one interfacing with them most of the time to try and mitigate harm due to my public health background), and as a result I ended up dropping most of my classes.
I lost many of the things that I considered important — my partner, my classes, even the place I’d called home for just over a year, and I didn’t hold up well with that at all. Staying on at the Queer Resource Center is what kept me going through those months.
I was a wreck, both physically and emotionally, and that influenced how I approached my work. Events I planned were very informal, and I did the vast majority of the planning (and a fair amount of the hosting) from my bed, because I had no energy (or, truthfully, will) to get up.
During my shifts, I was able (for the most part) to set aside the other stressors in my life, and just focus on ways I could give back to my community. I did a lot of reading, and attended a lot of workshops, to give myself a theoretical background for my practice.
In December, my supervisor brought my attention to a conference for queer community college organizations that was calling for presentations, and encouraged the student staff to submit something. I submitted a proposal talking about the work I was doing — and it got accepted.
This shifted my priorities for the spring. I still worked somewhat on events, but the big project was pulling together the talk. We teamed up, did research, and co-presented it this past April (though he insisted that I take much of the credit since I ran the program)
While I was able to get a handle on my academics in the spring, it became harder to work on the T-House, and there were a number of times I considered stepping back entirely. This spring, there was a huge wave of transphobic legislation that was incredibly difficult for me.
While I don’t live in a state where I’d be a direct target of transphobic backlash, especially against youth, as a trans kid I’d been on the receiving end of informal versions of many of the policies that were being proposed. Feeling that again in the present was HARD.
People talk a lot about work-life balance, and not bringing your work home with you, but I had no choice. Working with trans people isn’t just something I do at work and put down when my shift ends — it’s my community.
There were times where I’d log on and check my work emails, or open a document to work on an event, and just start sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t work on my events without being drawn back to the legislation — so I didn’t.
I talked with my supervisor, and we agreed that I could put a hold on the events and just focus on the conference, which helped a lot. The biggest thing that kept me going was that there was no fail state — anything I could get done for the T-House was considered a success.
Whether I planned and hosted an entire event or simply finished one slide for the conference, that was enough, and I am so grateful for the grace and flexibility I was given last year. It *should* be common, but it isn’t.
From the start, we planned access into everything we did. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, because we have limited funding and time available to us, but starting with access and building from there was the most important thing we did.
We made sure people could participate by voice, video, or text. We provided verbal image descriptions, and written transcripts of discussion questions/information/etc. I didn’t have the funds for live captioning, but I was at least able to enable auto-captioning.
(yes, I know the trouble with auto-captioning, and I know it’s not sufficient/true access for d/Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and CAPD people. It’s a fight I’ve been having with administration for a while now.)
We honored limits, both others’ and our own. There were times I had to postpone events because I woke up day-of feeling awful and I wasn’t going to push myself to get through it. I respected my body’s needs.
The best part of it is that all of this work paid off. After the conference, the student who moderated the session for us said that out of all the ones he moderated that day, ours was by far the most accessible — and that made it one of the most enjoyable.
We even got spotlighted in the campus newspaper a couple times for the work we were doing on access and on building relationships with the Ramaytush and Lisjan stewards of the lands we were living and working on.
I mentioned in my last thread that part of my change-making is building the world I want to see. This is part of that — I treated these practices as the default and the expectation, and I’m beginning to see these practices *become* the default and the expectation for our spaces.
When I use my position to treat access, respectful relationships, and community care as if they’re already the norm, they become normalized over time. I don’t even always need to comment specifically that I’m doing so — I just do it, and other people try it out themselves.
Moving into this current semester, I’m excited to try new projects and practices, and keep adapting my work to the moment. I’m going to host weekly informal T-house office hours, and reduce formal events to once a month instead of once a week.
I’m working on some static pages for our landing site that collect resources and links to other transmasculine/masculine of center projects, so that people who can’t join us for events can still be in community with us.
Most importantly, I’m continuing to foreground access, care, relationships, and healing in the work I do. I work sustainably on the things that sustain me, and that strengthens the space for everyone who makes use of it.