Today (June 22nd, 2018) is the 14th annual Trans Day of Action, a day organized by TransJustice, a political subgroup of The Audre Lorde Project in New York City, to demand safe access in public and private spaces for trans and gender nonconforming folks and to honor all the victories made in the trans movement over the last year. The NYC event is happening today, 4pm-7pm at Christopher Street Pier (Pier 45 on Manhattan’s West Side).
ContagiousQueer was a project started in the summer of 2013 as a way for me (Charlie) to be angry while also learning more about the world. It started as a way to learn about oppression and injustice and sharing that journey with others.
This project has grown and changed over the last five or so years. I’ve written about different things in the media, police brutality, being mentally ill, politics, and so much more. Over the last year and a half or so, my commitment to this project has wavered as depression and life have taken over. But my commitment to learn more about the world hasn’t left. I still want to learn about all the issues that influence the lives of individual people and want to share all the ways in which I’ve learned how to be a better person.
The goal of ContagiousQueer was originally to be a collection of resources on social justice. I hope that this will still be a place for people to learn and grow but now, I hope this project can be more focused on queer life/history, mental health, and a few other things.
I’ve spent most of my life feeling unworthy in some fashion. I’ve been visibly and openly queer for quite awhile and fat for even longer. I now know that neither of those things make me inherently unworthy of life, love, and respect but 26 years of fatphobia and queerphobia has meant that I still struggle with feeling like I’m worth nothing because of who I am.
It surprises a lot of people but I was actually really active as a kid and I’m still pretty active nowadays. When I was in middle and high school, I did all sorts of sports throughout the year and many of these activities would overlap. I did cross country and soccer during the falls, track and field during the spring in middle school, skied regularly during the winter, and even spent a couple years horseback riding.
Nowadays, I’m not quite as active but I still walk almost everyday and hike semi regularly. But I still feel this immense amount of shame around exercising and being active. I often get comments that are meant to be encouraging but often come across condensing and shameful. Honestly, I can’t really explain why but these comments often make me wish a black hole would just sallow me whole.
And there’s still a part of me that feels like exercise is a punishment. Because I’m fat (and have always been varying sizes of fat), exercise after a certain point was only a way to lose weight. It was only ever something I need to be doing to punish my body and there’s a part of me that still feels like that. So while exercising has all these immense other benefits, there’s still all this other shame and hatred that’s tied up in it for me.
Growing up, autumn was my favorite season. That time of the year still holds a very special place in my heart, as I love Halloween and the whole aesthetic of the season too much for it not to. But I realized recently that I do love spring a whole lot. This time of the year is a reminder that even after a period of darkness and cold, it’s possible that the sun and light will come back and plants will grow. Spring, for me, is a reminder that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that there’s hope even in the midst of darkness.
NOTE: I originally wrote most of this post a couple years ago but this is sadly still a problem and something that still needs to be discussed. The reason why I wanted to revisit this topic is because the CBC recently released a second season of their podcast “Missing and Murdered”. This season is about an indigenous family in Canada trying to find their sister, Cleo. I recommend listening to that podcast to better understand this issue and the systematic trauma that many indigenous people have had to experience and continue to deal with.
Canada and the United States have both been exceptionally horrible to the indigenous and native populations of this land. For generations and generations, we’ve broken treaties, stolen children, committed cultural and physical genocide, live on stolen land. Violence against indigenous and native women is unfortunately a part of our history and current narrative in both countries. And it’s a national disgrace.
*I do want to say that this is a rough topic to read about – it deals with rape, abuse, death, and other forms of violence. Just as a warning.
So to start this story, there’s a tiny café that I love going to. It’s nearby, locally owned, the people working there are nice, and the coffee is great. As the days have gotten nicer and longer, I’ve started walking the mile or so to and from. Overall, I love this place and it’s one of the few ways I get to interact with people.
I went today and sat down to start working on a writing project like I’ve done so many times before. Suddenly, a stranger appears next to me with a piece of folded paper and sets it on the table next to me.
“Look this guy up. He changed my life,” the stranger says before walking out of the café. It was such a weird interaction that I think I managed to only sputter out an ‘okay’ before he walked away. I’ve had people suggest things before and I’ve had strangers say random things to me but this threw me off guard a bit.
Being publicly and openly trans and/or gender nonconforming is a tough thing to do, even in this day and age. I wish it weren’t, as being trans/gender nonconforming is just one part of a person and is an incredibly valid part of someone’s identity and experience. Even in feminist spaces like the recent Women’s Marches, it can be tough for trans and gender nonconforming folks.
So what do I mean with I say it’s hard for trans and gender nonconforming folks? It’s true that we’ve come a long way over the years and decades and it definitely feels like there are more trans people in the public eye. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Caitlyn Jenner, and Gavin Grimm are just some of the people that have (for better or for worse) brought trans issues to the forefront of many conversations. And over the years, there have been many legislative and legal wins for trans folks around the United States.
But sadly, even with all the wins and with more folks understanding what the term/label ‘transgender’ even means, many trans and gender nonconforming folks still face many issues and obstacles for simply being their authentic selves.
In the summer of 2012, the Macklemore/Ryan Lewis song ‘Same Love’ got me through some pretty bad homesickness. I had just come out of the closet a few months before and was doing an internship thousands of miles from my friends and family. It was really Mary Lambert’s chorus that kept me coming back to the song and when she eventually turned that chorus into its own song, I listened to it on repeat for ages.
For many, Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’ might be the easiest song to think of when someone says to think of a queer/LGBTQ anthem. There are some who have issues with the fact that a straight man has one of the most popular LGBTQ anthems, as there are so many amazing songs from LGBTQ+ folks about so many things, including being a part of the community. Here are some of my favorites:
Growing up in a financially stable middle class family meant that I never really had to worry about having food on the table each day. While we rarely sat down at the dinner table all together, there was always a great dinner each night and my sister and I rarely lacked packed lunches or lunch money. The few times we did usually happened because we forgot the packed lunch or money at home.
I say all this because it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized just how difficult it can be to provide food for yourself and your family if you’re struggling to make ends meet. A big part of this came through interning at a food pantry one summer and learning first hand how difficult it can be to get enough food if you’re at or below the poverty line. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) doesn’t always help and despite the fact that millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables are regularly thrown out by grocery stores, getting anything that isn’t canned from food pantries can be really tough.