Something you might not know about Edie Windsor, the 5-foot-nothing, 100-pound woman whose landmark lawsuit brought down the Defense of Marriage Act, is that she was completely charming and lovable in person — rare of people we deify. You wouldn’t have to spend very long with her, just a few minutes at a press conference would have been enough. It’s said about a lot of people, but true of only a few: There was something eminently special about Edie.
When the Supreme Court ruled on United States v. Windsor in 2013, I was a local news reporter for Metro New York. I went to the LGBT Center in the West Village to see Windsor and her lawyers speak on their win. The organizers were very skittish about promising anyone face time with Windsor. She was elderly, 83 years old, they kept telling us. How could we be so demanding as to expect time with her? A cub reporter, I huffed showily, like a small, useless bird puffing out its chest to impress a murder of large crows who could not care less.
When I finally saw Windsor, I felt sheepish. She was elderly, and so petite. She wore a fuchsia silk shirt, her hair had a perfect Golden Girls bounce, and she had a huge smile. Despite her age and size, she didn’t seem frail; she had the air of a woman whose bones are shot through with iron. When her handlers tried to end the press conference, Edie insisted on reading the speech she prepared and then took questions. Her lawyers praised her tenacity, her courage, her determination. They said she made the country more American that day. She just smiled and turned right around and heaped praise back on them. “They made this old lady flourish,” she said.
No matter what 45 says — or, in this case, doesn’t say — June is LGBT Pride month. It’s a month of joy, protest and, this year, mourning. June 12, 2017 marked the one-year anniversary of the attack against queer Latinx and Black folks at Pulse in Orlando, Florida. The day before, thousands of people came together in Washington, D.C. as part of the Equality March for Unity and Pride, protesting the presidential administration and standing against discrimination.
Here’s what I’ve done this month, Pride-wise: I interviewed Kelly Madrone, the author of GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens, and our audience was full of queer teens and their families. I writhed in ecstasy at a Tegan & Sara concert, sporting my “Boyfriend” hat. I stood in silence next to my friends at a local vigil for the victims of the shooting at Pulse. I helped the bookstore choose which queer-centric titles to stock, and I resisted the temptation to drop too much money on rainbow Doc Martens. I spent a hot, happy day strolling by the canal with my friends during Frederick Pride. July looms; I’ll downgrade my gay apparel to a simple rainbow wristband. The work continues, whether it’s leading LGBTQ sensitivity trainings, correcting people who misgender me or continuing to learn about allyship, organization, and liberation.
The protests at different Pride parades around the country have inspired conversations about working within the system versus overthrowing it and about the intersectionality (that should be) inherent in the LGBTQ pursuit of equality.
Meredith Talusan analyzes the dynamics of sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression in the dating lives of two of their friends, activists and non-binary femmes Alok Vaid-Menon and Jacob Tobia.
Outside the queer zone of Orlando Pride, or our misterb&b, in Okeechobee, we’ve tried keeping to the shadows, our own private zone of safety. I realize how much work we all do as queers to enlarge the bubbles we live and move in, make them nice, fill them with friends and allies. But being on the road makes it clear that, fifty years after Stonewall and the active struggle for LGBT civil rights, so much of our lives still exists in isolated safety zones that don’t always keep us safe.
We don’t lose our opportunities for joy and celebration when we make space for our struggles and the struggles of our most vulnerable, and when we elevate and center those in need. More than that, our celebrations as a community come out of our struggles, and our survival of them, and the ways in which we’ve helped each other survive no matter the cost.
Honestly, every month under the Trump administration feels like a year, and one of the awful things that bubbled up during this year-month is the Senate Republicans’ bogus decision to write a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including massive cuts to Medicaid. Many smart people have written about this better than I ever could, and I found the experiences of these queer and trans disabled folks who rely on the ACA to live equal parts compelling and terrifying. (I’m a fan of 5 Calls, if you’re feeling moved to contact your congresspeople.)
The opening paragraphs of Brandon Taylor’s essay slammed into me like a wave and drove me down to the ocean floor. Take these sentences, for instance:
God suffused everything in our lives the way heat suffuses every particle of air in the summer. There is a time of day in Alabama when the heat reaches its most critical point, when even shade is of little comfort; Sundays gathered all of God’s power to its most frightening pitch and beamed it down on us, testing us, daring us to wither.
Over two years, Barry Yeoman interviewed over 40 gay, lesbian, queer, and transgender Baby Boomers–“the Gayest Generation,” according to professor Jesus Ramirez-Valles. They discussed their struggles (reconciling the trauma of the AIDS epidemic, aging without the guarantee of a support system) and triumphs (fighting for and winning marriage equality and forming treasured friendships with other LGBTQ folks). Their stories brought me to tears and reminded me of the importance of taking care of our LGBTQ elders.
New writing from Casey Plett is cause for celebration. Plett is the author of the seminal work A Safe Girl to Love, which spotlights the lives of trans women.“Little Fish” is an excerpt from her upcoming novel.
By reconfiguring and repurposing Melania as an absurdist character whose presence momentarily undermines the legitimacy of her much more sinister husband, viewers can act as curators of the Trump spectacle, restoring some sense of agency and hope when it is in short supply. The camping of Melania isn’t a radical or necessarily effective political strategy. Rather, it’s a meaningful and distinctly queer method of poking fun that offers fleeting moments of catharsis.
Leah Rose | Longreads | August 2015 | 12 minutes (2,876 words)
On a Saturday afternoon in February, a group of 15 men stood chatting on the back patio of the Eagle, a leather-themed gay bar on 12th Street in San Francisco. The lone female of the group, 55-year-old Donna Merlino, known as Downtown Donna, untangled a heap of heavy extension cords and powered up a Crock Pot full of lamb stew. Wearing a black leather vest and sturdy black boots, Donna set up two tables of food for the guys, who sipped pints of beer surrounded by paintings of pantless Freddie Mercury lookalikes with enormous genitalia.Read more…
Orlando has long had a towering, and very much deserved, reputation in the LGBT community; it was published the same year Radclyffe Hall’s controversial The Well of Loneliness, depicting lesbianism as a tragic curse, became a bestseller. Woolf’s creation of a figure who effortlessly changes sex casually upends any notion that biological sex is related to gender or orientation—even the notion that biological sex is fixed and stable at all.
Sackville-West’s son Nigel Nicolson would later call Orlando “the longest and most charming love letter in literature,” and whether or not it began as a private missive for Vita, it’s also clearly much, much more, and early on in its genesis it began to exceed whatever initial idea Woolf had for it. “For the truth is I feel the need of an escapade after these serious poetic experimental books whose form is always so closely considered,” she wrote in March 1927. “I want to kick up my heels & be off. I want to embody all those innumerable little ideas & tiny stories which flash into my mind at all seasons. I think it will be great fun to write; & it will rest my head before starting the very serious, mystical poetical work which I want to come next.”
Emily Perper is a freelance editor and reporter, currently completing a service year in Baltimore with the Episcopal Service Corps.
One reason I admire longform journalism is its ability to tell stories. Some of these stories gain national attention. Some are perfected in an MFA workshop. Some are written on the backs of receipts, after waking in the middle of the night, while in traffic.
Most longform stories are written with love: toward craft and toward subject. These four are no exception. They focus on falling in love with chance encounters and with self-acceptance. They are about a love of career and a love of potential. They are about the struggle-love of family. That is the loyalty of longform: to a love of context.
Julie Kliegman is a senior studying journalism and Spanish at Northwestern University. Come July, she’s headed to St. Petersburg to work for PolitiFact. She loves to travel, and has lived abroad for short stints in Nicaragua and Puerto Rico.
“This week I enjoyed reading ‘Owning the Middle,’ an ESPN story about WNBA star Brittney Griner. If their sleek online feature design (see: ‘Out in the Great Alone’) isn’t enough to woo you, Kate Fagan paints a compelling picture of life as a black, lesbian athlete. Griner developed a thick skin during childhood and her time at Baylor that now helps her deflect the bullies Fagan refers to as her ‘troll chorus.’ Reading this will make you want to be as badass as Griner—the proud owner of many tattoos and two snakes.”