Check out my latest personal essay on Autostraddle about discovering Empress of the World by Sara Ryan when I was fourteen, and how its meaning has grown and changed for me as I’ve grown up.
“Empress gave me a roadmap that allowed me to be confused about my ‘label’ while also letting me figure out who I wanted to be kissing, which was mostly girls.”
While we were at A-Camp, I led a workshop titled, “Solidarity from the Mountain: Writing Letters to Incarcerated Queer and Trans Women.” We wrote letters to incarcerated members of Black and Pink, a national network of queer and trans incarcerated people and their free world allies, to send our support, to let them know they aren’t forgotten, and to share a little bit of the love and community we were building in our queer-normative space at A-Camp.
It felt really essential that we make space to think about incarcerated queer and trans people at A-Camp. As I wrote on Autostraddle,
“We know how important finding community and camaraderie in queer and trans spaces are, and we are lucky to have it, whether it comes for you in 3D at A-Camp, 2D on Autostraddle dot com, somewhere outside the Straddleverse, or maybe in some fourth dimension I don’t know about. I think it’s important that we remember our incarcerated queer and trans siblings who can’t share in those community spaces, because of the violence of a Prison Industrial Complex that targets and preys on queer and trans people, particularly queer and trans people of color — black trans women especially. I hope we can spread some of the love and support that comes in buckets on the Mountain to them.”
About 20 people attended the workshop and made beautifully hand-drawn cards, even though prison mail restrictions make it so we could pretty much only use computer paper and markers.
I interviewed Jason Lydon, founding director of Black and Pink, about how people living in the free world can show solidarity with incarcerated people. He told us about the significance of letter-writing:
“The experience of getting a letter is one of the most important moments or feelings of connection to something. So not only represents connection, it IS connection for prisoners that are receiving mail. It’s a moment to be thinking about something beyond the prison walls, to be reminded that someone is thinking of them. Hopefully that leads to reductions of self-harm and suicide, because LGBT folks and prisoners in particular have enormously high rates of suicide or self-harm, and so we are providing ongoing connection between people on the outside and the inside.”
I wrote an essay about losing my mother on Autostraddle.
And so I screamed. I screamed for the woman who’d been my best friend. I screamed for the woman who will never sit beside me driving along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. And then I cried, calling for my mother while I drove with my hands in the ten-and-two position, keeping myself magnificently alive while I faced the fact that we would never live in the same time and space again, head on.
Want to catch up with my work from 2014? Here are some highlights from my work on Autostraddle:
Badass Organizations and Organizers
2.24.14 Queers for Economic Justice Closes its Doors Thanks to Lack of Economic Justice
4.14.14 Scarleteen and Its Awesome, Inclusive Sex Ed Are At Risk, But You Can Help
10.23.14 Gloria Casarez, Organizer, Activist and Total Badass, Dies at 42
Prisons and Immigration
5.14.14 Protesters Take Stage at Health Conference Because NY’s Trans Healthcare Failure is Inexcusable
6.27.14 New York State Sued Because Trans Exclusionary Medicaid Regulation Has Got To Go
12.19.14 After 16-Year Struggle, New York State Medicaid Will Finally Cover Trans Healthcare
And here’s a playlist, which I made right before I graduated from Vassar, but seems to be continuously relevant:
And here’s a recipe which will not disappoint you or your vegan gluten free friends:
Find the rest of my work on Autostraddle here.
What is the news today?? The Supreme Court rules that apparently racism is a thing of the past, while completely mis-defining tribal identity and threatening native sovereignty. And then Senator Wendy Davis is currently filibustering in Texas to keep draconian abortion laws off the book, too, so that’s cool.
Meanwhile, I am reflecting on a protest I attended yesterday at the Suffolk Detention Center in Boston, opposing the massive deportations that happen each week, invisible to the eyes of many Americans, but brutally real to many others.
We stood at the intersection of Mass Ave and I-93, 40 or 50 of us within sight of the Suffolk Detention Center, where detainees could see us through their barred windows. We waved and chanted, holding signs showing our solidarity and support; they waved back and banged on the windows, showing signs of their own: ICE 7 Years, and Thank You All.
As deportations continue by the thousands and the US sits on the brink of Immigration Reform, we need to be watching. This country doesn’t make it easy for us to watch passively and see the full picture, so we have to look, and we have to listen. Carefully.
We could see into the part of the detention center nearest the highway, but walking there, we passed walls of windows, which were mirrored on the outside. We could not see in, but the people inside could see out. If we listened, we could hear them banging on the glass, hidden from us.
A two-way mirror is a simple tool to hide an atrocity. What would it look like, to drive by on the highway and see hundreds of faces peering through the glass, hands pressed between bars, mouthing words? Would we ask who those people are? Would we ask if they really need to be there? So long as deportation and incarceration stays hidden, it’s easy to dismiss deportation and incarceration as something that doesn’t apply, so long as you follow the law. “I don’t know the people detained,” you might say, “Aren’t they there for doing something wrong?”
Well who says it’s wrong? The same people hiding them behind mirrored glass.
The people in the wrong are not who’s behind the mirror, but those who put the mirror there in the first place.
I am so lucky to have my Dada supporting me in absolutely everything I aspire to do and be. I am proud of and excited for his upcoming trip to Toolik Field Station in Alaska! Follow him here, and check out his video describing his upcoming project (pay special attention to his green screen technology)!
I love you, Dad!
If you read this article: Shootings by Agents Increase Border Tensions in the New York Times today, please also consider reading Remembering Jose Antonio: Day of the Dead in Nogales from the Border Wars blog. While I appreciate the NYT’s exposure of fatal shootings at the Border, I was upset to see the NYT open its article by describing, “…rocks hurled from Mexico rained down on United States Border Patrol agents…”
I attended the vigil for Jose Antonio on Day of the Dead when I was in Arizona on the Border Studies Program. I was able to see, as the Border Wars article describes, the wall on top of the cliff that separated Border Patrol from the site where Jose Antonio was killed. Whether or not Jose Antonio was throwing rocks at BP agents at the time of his death is a contested detail, and if he was, it is difficult to picture how the rocks could have been “raining down” from Mexico given the geography of the site.
The NYT’s use of this type of description allows the Border Patrol to be seen as the victims of violent and agressive Mexicans. Border Patrol likes to be seen this way. This was apparent in my interactions with the Nogales sector of the Border Patrol, who handed us rocks and asked us, “Do you think this would do some damage? Do you think it would hurt?” But Border Patrol is not the victim in this situation. They are heavily armed, and their presence creates an environment of fear and intimidation on both sides of the Border. I hope that this visibility in the New York Times helps end this sort of violence on the Border, but maybe the NYT could invest their time and energy into investigating why this sort of violence is allowed to happen, and why there hasn’t been a single criminal charge of a BP agent since 2010, rather than investing time and energy into crafting sentences that make it sound like the Border Patrol is just barely surviving a hailstorm of boulders.
Celebrate all the mamas! Today and every day!
I got sixteen years with my Mama. I miss her, and I wish she could see who I’ve grown to be in the last six years, and meet all the incredible people who have come into my life.
I’m not the only one who wishes she could be with her Mama today. This year, Strong Families is honoring the realities of millions of mothers and families who don’t mirror the “traditional nuclear family,” and working to celebrate all kinds of families, and ensure they have access to the rights, recognition, and resources. Most American households don’t consist of a heterosexual married couple with biological children. Families look differently than that, for all sorts of reasons. We all have our Mamas, biological or chosen, who have nurtured us, comforted us, and helped us grow. They all deserve recognition and celebration, and all families deserve the rights, recognition, and resources to thrive.
There are a lot of other mamas in my life: my grandmothers, my wonderful Auntie, the mamas I worked with at Derechos Humanos in Tucson, the professors who have nurtured my intellectual growth at Vassar, and the mamas who have raised the amazing people I get to call my friends. I am so lucky to have these amazing women surrounding me, and the memory of my own Mama to carry with me, wherever I go.
Happy Mama’s Day to all!