I’m notoriously grumpy while grocery shopping. Once, my partner and I got into a fight in the Aldi parking lot because one of the eggs in our carton broke. He does his best to keep us supplied in soups and noodles–simple things I can heat up when I’m anxious and depressed — but I find myself yearning for expensive, fresh produce. As much as cooking intimidates me, I eat constantly — popcorn, apples, Toblerone, peanut butter and crackers — whatever I can find. I scry for news of the downtown market that was promised two years ago. I grow hungry and impatient. The world of food seems impenetrable, a place for people with money and time, and I never feel as though I have either. Read more…
It was me friend Anna who encouraged me to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After my initiation, Anna made sick playlists featuring the bands of The Bronze—the nightclub in Sunnydale, where Buffy took place—and shared the soundtrack to the infamous musical episode “Once More With Feeling” with me. But I don’t remember consciously watching Buffy—it feels like I absorbed it by osmosis, or drank a large, invisible Big Gulp of Whedonverse. Like all of the folks in the essays below, I find Buffy the Vampire Slayer engrossing and nuanced. It’s not perfect, but it is wonderful.
Anna also designed me a t-shirt with THE BRONZE emblazoned on the chest. It’s tight and black with white letters, and I get complimented every time I wear it. It fits perfectly underneath my jean jacket. I wear it when I want to feel prepared, strong, sexy. It’s what Buffy would want.
1. “‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ is the Greatest Show in the History of Television.” (Rachel Vorona Cote, The Week, March 2017)
Some time ago, I compiled a writing playlist comprised of my favorite instrumental pieces. Propelled by instinct rather than reason, I included “Sacrifice,” the music that concludes the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My husband watched with mild bemusement as I clicked and dragged the file to a place of prominence within the mix. “Are you sure you want to listen to ‘Sacrifice’ while you’re trying to work?” he asked. “You cry every single time.”
2. “Once More With Feeling: A ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ 20th Birthday Roundtable.” (Autostraddle, March 2017)
Autostraddle staffers share their come-to-Buffy moments, with especially insightful commentary about seeing queerness and depression represented on-screen.
3. “The Enduring Legacy of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ 20 Years Later.” (Angelica Jade Bastién, Vulture, March 2017)
One of my favorite aspects of Bastién’s analysis is the reminder that Buffy ends up single. Though you’ll find Buffy aficionados have Many Opinions about her love interests (we can all agree Riley is trash, right?), “This series was daring enough to say that its lead heroine’s romantic journey wasn’t her most important. Adulthood for Buffy was marked…[by] her relationship with her own identity and destiny.” This is an important reminder for women everywhere, I think. We can forge our own way. We don’t have to be at the mercy of the tropes foisted upon us.
4. “If the Loneliness Comes, Beep Me.” (Brian T. Burns, March 2017)
My editor, Mike, tipped me off to this wonderful, touching essay in which writer Burns turns to Buffy to help him process sadness.
5. “How ‘Buffy’ Changed Television For A New Generation.” (Alanna Bennett, BuzzFeed, March 2017)
Scandal, The 100, The Hunger Games, Veronica Mars…so many seminal works of television and film owe their story arcs and character development to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I was in the lobby of a theater in Washington, D.C. when I saw the first of the tweets about the Trump administration’s decision to stymie protections for transgender students on the federal level. It wasn’t until the play ended and I was on the Metro home that I had cell service; I began to piece together what exactly had happened. My palms were sweating. I tried to make conversation with my friend, but I felt nauseated and heartsick.
I thought of the transgender and gender non-conforming kids in the youth group where I volunteer and the outspoken, proud, lovely trans kids in our county’s schools. I thought of Gavin Grimm, who’ll stand up against the Gloucester County School Board in front of the Supreme Court on March 28. I thought of how often trans folks have to reduce their stories to make them palatable to cisgender people, smoothing all of our glittering edges into sameness, rather than celebrating our differences, to win over those on the fence.
That night, I felt hopeless and scared. Today, I’m angry. It’s Friday as I finish this post, and the people of Chicago will protest for trans liberation tonight at the corner of Wacker and Wabash. I wish I could be there with them, to celebrate our community’s strength and resilience and to honor the lives of the seven trans women of color murdered in 2017: Mesha Caldwell, 41; Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28; JoJo Striker, 23; Keke Collier, 24; Chyna Gibson, 31; Ciara McElveen, 21; and Jaquarrius Holland, 18. Seven women, and it’s only March. Unacceptable and terrifying.
This Women’s History Month, I implore you: educate yourself and stand up for your trans sisters, not only your cis-ters. Stand up for all of your transgender and gender non-conforming siblings, especially our youth, who need advocacy and protection now more than ever.
1. “Trans Rights Already at Risk in Trump’s Bumbling, Bigoted Trainwreck of a Presidency.” (Rachel, Autostraddle, February 2017)
This article on Autostraddle was instrumental in my understanding of what exactly the Department of Justice put forth two weeks ago:
Under Obama, the Justice Department had been appealing a court injunction that prevents trans students nationwide from accessing the bathroom or other facilities consistent with their gender. Under Trump and Sessions, the first order of business was to cease that appeal, and to allow a lower court injunction to harm trans students unopposed.
Unfortunately, this lack of action? reversal? doesn’t bode well for trans rights. Rachel goes on to quote Mara Keisling of the National Center of Transgender Equality:
“While the immediate impact of this initial legal maneuver is limited, it is a frightening sign that the Trump administration is ready to discard its obligation to protect all students… Transgender students are not going away, and it remains the legal and moral duty of schools to support all students.”
Rachel also describes Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ historical support of anti-LGBTQ legislation, which is unsurprising but scary all the same, and explains how Gavin Grimm’s Supreme Court case could affect the administration’s decision to cease the appeal.
2. “Janet Mock: Young People Get Trans Rights. It’s Adults Who Don’t.” (Janet Mock, The New York Times, February 2017)
Janet Mock, transgender author and activist, is the author of two memoirs: Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More and the upcoming Firsts: A Memoir of the Twenties Experience. In this passionate op-ed, Mock does what she does best: Use her personal experiences to advocate for trans youth. Mock contrasts her different school experiences–one with supportive adults, one without.
It’s adults like those in the Trump administration who don’t realize that pitting young people against one another has consequences. It encourages some to be bullies and turns others into sinister objects.
When trans students are told that they cannot use public facilities, it doesn’t only block them from the toilet — it also blocks them from public life. It tells them with every sneer, every blocked door, that we do not want to see them, that they should go hide and that ultimately they do not belong. When schools become hostile environments, students cannot turn to them. Instead they are pushed out. And without an education, it makes it that much more difficult to find a job, support themselves and survive.
Related: “What Trans Youth Need to Hear Right Now, According to Trans Adults.” (Sarah Karlan, BuzzFeed LGBT, March 2017) This isn’t longform, but it’s rare that trans kids have the opportunity to hear from trans adults who are happy and thriving.
3. “Pseudo-Feminist Trolls are Still Trotting Out Tired, Anti-Trans Ideology.” (Larissa Pham, Village Voice, February 2017)
Transphobia isn’t exclusively conservative territory. There are self-proclaimed progressives and feminists whose philosophies harm trans people in subtle and overt ways. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists, better known as TERFs, are obsessed with the false notion that trans women aren’t really women, and, unfortunately, their illogical arguments continue to appeal to the fearful.
4. Telling Our Own Stories.
The following essays and interviews feature the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming artists, authors, activists, students, cartoonists, administrative assistants, analysts and teachers.
“Telling Trans Stories Beyond ‘Born in the Wrong Body.'” (Meredith Talusan, Tiq Milan, Jacob Tobia, and Nico Fonseca, BuzzFeed LGBT, May 2016)
“Transgender Stories: ‘People Think We Wake Up and Decide to Be Trans.'” (Kate Lyons, The Guardian, July 2016)
“My Life as a Trans Woman Teaching High School in a ‘Bathroom Bill’ State.” (Aila Boyd, Broadly, February 2017)
“This is What It’s Like to Be a Trans Kid in a Conservative School.” (Nico Lang, Rolling Stone, March 2017)
“Tomboys Don’t Cry: Edgar Gomez Interviews Ivan Coyote.” (LARB, December 2016)
“Five Trans Cartoonists Respond to Bathroom Hysteria.” (The Nib, March 2017)
As part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve vowed to read the hundreds of books I already own. Last night, I started and finished Kicking the Habit: A Lesbian Nun Story by Jeanne Córdova, which I received last year courtesy of a giveaway from Danika Ellis, a book blogger who runs The Lesbrary. Córdova’s 1990 memoir is compulsively readable—I couldn’t put it down. She writes about her decision to join the convent fresh out of high school, her growing unease regarding church politics, her deep friendships with her fellow postulants and secular students alike, and, eventually, her decision to leave the novitiate. Córdova is well-known for her 2011 memoir, When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution, which describes her political work and LGBTQ community organizing in the 1970s. She was a force for good in the West Coast queer community. She edited a lesbian magazine, created an LGBTQ business directory, and even organized the Gay and Lesbian caucus to the Democratic Party. Sadly, Córdova died a little more than a year ago. I wish I could have met her.
In the two years since I compiled the first installation of “The Lives of Nuns,” Autostraddle wrote about queer nuns in history, Racked shadowed (fake) nuns growing marijuana, and The Huffington Post reported on a nun’s murder and the students who want the truth. Those stories and more are included below. Seclude yourself and read. Read more…
I’m in no way immune to the lure of the witchy, and honestly, I don’t want to resist. I bought a small piece of sunstone from my local metaphysical shop, because I read that sunstone encourages mental clarity.
When I arrived at the shop, I awkwardly browsed until I got up the courage to ask the saleswoman how to choose a crystal. She said to hold each stone and see which felt right—felt special. I was skeptical, but I swear the stone I ended up purchasing buzzed with warmth when I held it in my hand. It was inexpensive and pretty, and I think it’s on a bookshelf somewhere, now.
I wore a cheap hematite ring, too, until it cracked in half while I was tapping my glands during doula class, which sent me into a temporary existential tailspin: Should I get a new one? Was it just a cheap piece of jewelry? Was it a sign that doula work would disrupt my stability? Did I not need the ring anymore?
I can’t put it better than Autostraddle’s Trans Editor (and Bruja femme) Mey Rude, who wrote, “We’ve said it before (and so have other people), but we’re definitely living in an age of the Resurgence of the Witch. This feels especially true for queer women. We’re embracing our family traditions and our cultural heritage. We’re learning about herbology and tarot cards and candle magic. We’re dressing like extras from Wicked or The Craft. We’re forming sisterhoods and cultivating auras.”
1. “Why We Are Witches: An A-Camp Roundtable.” (Mey Rude and Autostraddle Staff, Autostraddle, June 2015)
Mey, Laura, Ali, Beth and Cecelia discuss building altars, using Tarot cards, learning their family histories, reclaiming religious rituals and so much more! Read more…
“If anything happens to me tomorrow, I just want you to know that I love you.”
My partner pushed his headphones aside. He says, “I love you too. I don’t think anything will happen. You shouldn’t be worried.”
It’s Friday as I’m writing. Tomorrow, Saturday, is Frederick Pride. This Maryland city (my city, I live here) expects around 5,000 people to attend Pride festivities, which include an ecumenical church service, a walk to commemorate victims of AIDS, and a day-long festival with food, activities for kids, drag queens performing, and local merchants offering discounts to anyone sporting a rainbow wristband. The weather will be perfect. Frederick Pride is one of my favorite days of the year. But I’m also a little scared. Last week, we held a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Pulse. I kept waiting for a bullet to enter the back of my skull. I hope I will be distracted enough tomorrow by my volunteer duties and my new flower crown to forget to worry about dying. I hope the kids who attend the local LGBTQ youth group and their families and the people attending Pride for the first time and my dad and my partner and my queer mentors and my coworkers will not feel afraid, either. I plan my outfit, my potential tattoos, my deadlines for the next month. I tell myself, gently, Everything is going to be okay.
When you read this on Sunday, you will read about the queer and trans people in the American prison system. You will learn about their relationships, their mistreatment and some of their needs. You will read about the exclusive language of sex education and healthcare, particularly menstruation. You’ll read the stories of contemporary playwrights, musicians, political commentators and others as they reminisce about their first gay clubs. You’ll see that queer communal spaces can be inefficacious, yet remain so, so important.
There is much to do. But we are alive. We get to do the work. Read more…
My city was one of many to hold a vigil in memory of the innocent lost to hatred and violence in Orlando a week ago. Christian, Jewish and Muslim community leaders spoke, one after the other, rallying the crowd into a frenzy of love. We lit candles and sang and prayed and cried. It did not resurrect 49 people.
I will be frank: I do not know how to live in the wake of this nightmare. I do not think I will ever feel normal again. As the poet Anne Carson puts it, “I felt as though the sky was torn off my life. I had no home in goodness anymore.” I stood on the steps of our police-protected vigil with my candle, afraid a hate-filled bullet would pierce the back of my skull. And if I, a white person, feel this afraid, then I cannot even begin to imagine what queer people of color, including queer Muslims, are feeling. I have included several of their stories in the list below. They need to be heard, loud and clear and often.
I’ve also included an interview with queer Hebrew priestess Rebekah Erev and an interview with bisexual Christian activist Eliel Cruz. Because of my work with youth in interfaith dialogue, I wanted to include representation from other Abrahamic religions. Queer people of all faith traditions deserve to know that they are not alone and that they are loved. Read more…
I. Coming off a seven-hour shift at the bookstore where I work, I texted my boyfriend something like “I cannot handle the idea of coming home and finishing my reading list, I am so tired, I cannot stay up late tonight, pity me,” except with more capital letters and swear words. He suggested, gently, that I divide the MEGA HUGE OMG IT’S PRIDE MONTH reading list/information dump I planned into several smaller segments, one for each week this month. (He’s pretty smart.) That’s what you have to look forward to this June: I’ll take a particular aspect of community (family, religion, history, etc.) and apply it within a queer framework. Read more…
My mom and I won’t be together on Mother’s Day this year. I’m in western New York for a friend’s wedding. She’s home in Maryland—relaxing, I hope, but more likely preparing for another week of teaching. We have a lot in common, especially our love of books and thrift stores. We carry our weight in the same parts of our bodies (sorry for mentioning it, Ma). We both have short hair. We have the same middle name and the same urge to overachieve.
One thing I admire about my mom is her fearlessness when it comes to starting over. A musician for decades, she went to graduate school (again!) in her 40s and became a children’s librarian. She parted ways with the church our family attended for a decade and found a new spiritual home, a church (coincidentally, I’m sure) two blocks from my own apartment. And she’s always down for trying interesting foods, new hobbies, new clothes or exciting hair colors—currently, she’s sporting a platinum pixie cut with lavender tips. She always surprises me. Our relationship isn’t always smooth, but it’s ours.
This week, I’ve collected stories about new moms, missing moms, dead moms and boomer moms, if only to demonstrate that there is no one way to have a mother or not have a mother. Some of us have toxic relationships with our moms and are better off—mentally, physically, spiritually—without them. Some of us have lost our moms to diseases, accidents, or time itself. And still others of us are becoming moms—every day, another Facebook friend announces she’s pregnant. Mother’s Day can be a day of meditation or just another Sunday. But I hope, truly, that it is a day of contentment, no matter how you celebrate.
(Past lists on this holiday include A Collection of Stories About Not Choosing Motherhood and Reading List: Mother’s Day.) Read more…
These stories offer a glimpse into the weird world of “professionalism,” how young women are expected to adapt to rapidly changing, innately biased work environments. (This list isn’t exhaustive. There is no one universal millennial experience, no matter what your crotchety relatives on Facebook would have you believe.) And while millennial women are at the forefront of some of these changing norms—monetize that side hustle!—we are still at the mercy of societal forces beyond our control, including nepotism, sexism, and, in many cases, racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression. Millennial women are the hardest working people I know, and I wanted to celebrate their perseverance, fearlessness and creativity.
1. “My Job Search.” (The Point, Emilie Shumway, 2012)
A hundred cover letters + a handful of interviews = months of desperation. My favorite part of Emilie Shumway’s meditation on life after college is her deconstruction of professionalism and the disconnect between her personhood and the self that job-hunts. Read more…