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.”
“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.
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.
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…
In 2011, I had hair down my back. It was thick, wavy, and supposedly enviable. I hated it. I wanted it off my face, but my sensitive scalp made me prone to headaches and “sore spots,” as I’d called them since childhood. I didn’t have a knack for hot styling tools, which meant I was at the mercy of luck. When a bad hair day struck, I had to wait it out. I spent middle school trying to emulate the hyper-straightened hair of the popular girls and high school begrudgingly accepting my texture and reading a thousand WikiHow articles on living a shampoo-free life. I never could give up washing my hair completely. I’ve even made the mistake of getting bangs.
My first short haircut was a revelation. Two of my college friends accompanied me to a salon in Pittsburgh I chose via Yelp (I did not trust the hair-cutting joints in my small rural college town). My stylist was nervous, but my fellow clients and her colleagues encouraged us both. I wish I remembered her name. I felt as though I were a block of marble and my pixie cut, a sculpting. I could finally be who I was. I debuted my new “lifestyle” (the stylist’s words!) that night at the faculty talent show, striding up and down the aisles of the auditorium.
How strange that the fuzzy stuff on top of our heads is fraught with social and political implications, that it can destroy our self-esteem or make us feel like new creations. Read more…
Let’s be real: My 2016 resolutions are intentionally vague. I tend toward self-loathing, so settling on achievable goals is important for my mental health. But I’m still excited for a fresh year and a fresh start, even if time is a social construct. My intentionally vague, utterly achievable resolutions are as follows: Read more…
Genre literature has power. Mainstream science fiction, historically, has a representation problem. (Why are there no black people in the future? Or, better yet, why is there only one black person in the future?! Did LGBTQ people disappear, too?) Where does that leave us? When I see a white-dominated cast in a sci-fi movie, or read a novel laced with not-so-subtle homophobia, it’s hard for me to believe that our imaginations cannot see beyond the basic power structures influencing our lives today and create something new. That’s why I’m intrigued by African sci-fi and Afrofuturism. I’ve included essays about women in sci-fi, as well as queer representation in the genre, because it’s a thrill to see traditionally marginalized groups take on a genre that has so much to offer them. Sci-fi should be for everyone.