Yesterday I did a thing: I launched a new website / blog called Radical Copyeditor. Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning this blog; I’m just creating a different space for voicing thoughts on a particular topic: the concept of using language as a tool for liberation.
My love of copyediting began in the early 2000s during an internship with South End Press, a majority women of color–run book publishing collective that is sadly now defunct. The amazing women I got to work with there helped me understand not only that I had a gift for copyediting, but also that publishing could be a form of activism. Since then I have endeavored to use my nerdy word powers to create positive change in the world. Continue reading “A New Adventure”
This sermon was delivered at First Unitarian Society in Newton, MA, on February 21, 2016.
I want to start by telling you a story. This story comes from one of my spiritual mentors, the fabulous Kate Bornstein, and it is her version—a queer and transgender version—of the story of Adam and Eve. Here’s how it goes:
Once upon a time, God was bored. God needed a project. So God created a world! And God created Lilith, but she was a little too much to handle so God sent her on her way and created Adam and Eve. And God made them a garden and told them, “Everything you need is here. Go anywhere you please, do anything you want, be happy and fulfilled.”
“Oh—there’s just one little thing,” God said. “All I ask is that you not eat the pretty looking apples on that gnarly looking tree over there. Okay?”
Well before you know it a serpent showed up and seduced Eve into eating an apple. And Eve in turn convinced Adam to take a bite. And as the story goes, they were instantly aware of their nakedness and were ashamed.
God realized what had happened and came to see them. But God wasn’t mad. God was profoundly sad. And I’ll tell you why. The reason God had wanted Eve and Adam to not eat from that tree was because it was the tree of good and evil. As soon as they ate from it, they were aware of the binary of good and evil, and they were seduced by it. Continue reading “Transgender Faith”
Oh, identity label. No matter what term you are—gay, Black, blind, Jewish, straight, young, Latina, fat, kinky, white, Deaf, trans, or a thousand others—what a complex existence you have.
In the hands of a bully, you are a weapon. You are hurled as an insult in an attempt to force people into being more “normal” or “right”—or just to make them feel crummy about themselves. You are a cage, something to lock people into in order to define the limits of “acceptable” behavior for them, or to make them feel powerless and defined only by a single unchangeable (or falsely perceived) aspect of themselves. You can be used to cause shame, fear, defensiveness, ridicule, confusion, and hurt. Continue reading “Identity is Not a Label”
I don’t always know how to express where my calling to do transformational change work comes from. I don’t always know how to give voice to what motivates me to not only act in solidarity but keep showing up and even on some level pay a cost for showing up. What won’t allow me to be quiet, what won’t allow me to get quiet to get along.
But when I think about where my sense of solidarity comes from there is one particular moment from my life that I go back to in my consciousness, one moment I revisit in order to understand even a little bit what my black and brown friends and communities of color in general experience in the world, what #BlackLivesMatter is really about. If you have never encountered cold, impersonal hate, then I don’t think you can understand both the paralyzing fear that it creates, and how alone the system leaves you feeling—the profound sense of isolation that comes with meeting hate like that. I have encountered it, and it’s a moment in a lifetime of such moments that I will never forget.
Continue reading “Vibrancy on the Margins: AIDS, Solidarity, and Justice”
My decision to start taking testosterone seven weeks ago wasn’t one I came to easily. For months, if not years, I wrestled with an enormous, tangled ball of yarn and rubber bands made up of conflicting emotions and a thousand stories running through my head about what such a decision would mean.
One story that kept popping its head up out of my unconscious mind, like a whac-a-mole game, was that I would somehow be giving up on being genderqueer if I started testosterone. A small vicious voice seemed to whisper in my ear that taking T would mean I was retiring my charade of being neither man nor woman and finally picking a side, finally transitioning.
I’m here to deliver the death knell to that whac-a-mole gremlin. Giving up on being genderqueer, on being myself? Nothing could be further from the truth. Taking testosterone is an act of rededication to my full, fabulous self; an act of love; a gift I am giving myself—not a resignation. Continue reading “Testosterone, Week 7: Still Here, Still Genderqueer”
“When did you come out?”
It’s a question that I get asked often, and it never ceases to make me smile wryly due to the impossibility of answering it in the straightforward and simple way that is invariably expected.
“When did you come out” presumes that the act of naming one’s truth and self-identity is a one-time, all-encompassing event, a clear and unmistakable milestone on the linear timeline of one’s life. It also presumes that there is only one facet of self-identity that is deserving of such a declaration. Continue reading “A World with No Closets”
“Boys are gross!” I yelled down the stairwell, my words echoing off the painted brick walls as I slammed the door behind me, shutting the book on the happier chapter of my childhood.
I was nine. At the bottom of the stairs was my best friend Jason, a boy not much different from me—fair skin, slight build, whip-smart. In my mind he is perpetually the age he was that day, his light brown hair cropped short except for a narrow rattail at the back of his head (because the midwest hadn’t gotten the memo that the ’80s was over). I was trying to grow my hair down to my butt—I wanted it to be as long as Ariel’s in my favorite movie, The Little Mermaid—an attempt that was tragically doomed due to how fine my wavy blond hair was. It straggled to a pitiful stop barely past my shoulders, but I wouldn’t let my mama cut the uneven end because I was so determined that it would keep growing.
I will never forget the feeling I had after yelling those words. I was sick to my stomach. I knew with every fiber of my being that what I had just done was wrong, my words the most epic lie I had ever told. It was as though the real me was stuck deep inside, shocked and hurt as some other self created the first layer of an armor that would quickly grow so thick that I’d lose touch with that small nine-year-old self, the self who was Jason’s best friend. Continue reading “Tinkerbell and the Gender Wars: A Genderqueer Childhood”
Yesterday should have been Day 1. But when I got home from the pharmacy I didn’t have the heart to even open the bag with my testosterone in it. Instead of excitement, I just felt sad and exhausted.
Exactly one month prior, I had skipped through the pharmacy’s doors with my prescription in hand. (You doubt me? You don’t know me. There was skipping. And giggling. And not-so-surreptitious documenting with my iPhone camera.) But after a month-long circus act on the part of my health insurance provider, the excitement and joy were gone. I felt completely worn down, emotionally drained, my resilience on empty. Continue reading “Testosterone, Day 1: The Weight of What it Took”
My entire life, I have forged a path for my sense of self without clear road markers.
I wish I could say that this lack of reflection of myself out in the world meant that I learned to trust only myself and my own truth, but if I said that I’d be lying. Instead, somewhere along the way I internalized a sense of not trusting my own truth, I accepted the invalidation of my experience, I felt inherently wrong, misfit, untrue.
I am only at the beginning of the journey to reclaim myself as worthy and my truth about myself as true. Continue reading “Testosterone, Day 0: Claiming My Truth”
I have a complicated relationship with survival.
That relationship involves monumental loss, and deep love. It is the space where heartbreak and resilience live. The very space that makes me me in so many ways.
Twenty years ago today I was a 28-year-old who was far too young and far too old at the same time. On July 15, 1995, I was sitting in the health department in St. John’s, Newfoundland, listening to a doctor I had never met coldly tell me that I was HIV+. This was a time just before effective medication. HIV was still a death sentence. I knew that, deep in my bones, because I had buried friends and acquaintances and would bury many more over the years to come. We were all too young and too old at the same time. Continue reading “My Complicated Relationship with Survival: Twenty Years with HIV”