Jan 312011
 

I got tagged on facebook in the call for submissions for this FANTASTIC looking new zine by a couple of super rad femmes.  I LOVE the idea behind this and immediately started thinking about how my life on the road is all about fitting 4 days worth of clothes aka 8 + outfits plus 20 books into a suitcase that fits into an overhead bin ;)  Needless to say I’m going to be submitting a story to this, and I hope that a bunch of y’all will too!!!

Attention all Femmes that are strapped/poor/broke ass/working class Artists! Performers! Writers! Activists! Wanderers! Seekers!

We are looking for submissions for our zine compilation of stories and art from the road that we are calling Bus Fare To Kentucky.

Show us how do you feed yourself artistically and otherwise. How you afford plane tickets, train tickets and gas money. How you make it all fit in your suitcase. Show us your tour romances, hook ups, art inspiration and friends you made along the way. We want your struggle and your triumph. We want to know your hilarious, raunchy, heartbreaking and fierce stories of touring and traveling with your art (whatever that looks like for you) and making it work while maintaining your standard of Femme in the process.

We accept all visual art, photography, stories as long as it can be emailed. Stories must be submitted in Times 12 point single spaced. Art must be a reasonably high DPI and viewable on a Mac.

Femmes of any gender encouraged to submit. Tell your friends!

Deadline for this project is March 15th.

Please email kentuckybusfare@gmail.com.

Kiss Kiss,
Alysia Angel and Nicky Click

Jan 312011
 

the GLBTRT Newsletter which is a publication of the Gay, lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Round Table of the American Library Association’s  Winter newsletter has been released and there is a wonderful article titled ‘Kid Stuff: About young readers for people who care” that mentions Kicked Out!  The article says”

“When adding titles to the purchasing list, I highly recommend two books that vividly illustrate the pain suffered by young people in identifying an alternative gender identity. The first, Kicked Out, made me cry. The 25-year-old editor, Sassafras Lowrey, has collected the voices of current homeless LGBTQ youth (currently comprising 40% of all our country‘s homeless youth) and older people who share their stories of survival and abuse after identifying their gender identity with parents. Tales of power gained from the struggles of finding families blend with journeys through the pain of physical and emotional rejection that leads to attempted suicide, prostitution, drugs, and deadly diseases. The impact of reading these narratives cannot be described; the book must be experienced. I thank Homofactus Press for publishing Kicked Out.”

you can see the full article here

Jan 312011
 

the GLBTRT Newsletter which is a publication of the Gay, lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Round Table of the American Library Association’s  Winter newsletter has been released and there is a wonderful article titled ‘Kid Stuff: About young readers for people who care” that mentions Kicked Out!  The article says”

“When adding titles to the purchasing list, I highly recommend two books that vividly illustrate the pain suffered by young people in identifying an alternative gender identity. The first, Kicked Out, made me cry. The 25-year-old editor, Sassafras Lowrey, has collected the voices of current homeless LGBTQ youth (currently comprising 40% of all our country‘s homeless youth) and older people who share their stories of survival and abuse after identifying their gender identity with parents. Tales of power gained from the struggles of finding families blend with journeys through the pain of physical and emotional rejection that leads to attempted suicide, prostitution, drugs, and deadly diseases. The impact of reading these narratives cannot be described; the book must be experienced. I thank Homofactus Press for publishing Kicked Out.”

you can see the full article here

Jan 232011
 

Probably not a big surprise, but I spend a whole lot of time reading most things femme I come across on my internet wanderings.  This week I found a new tumbler because of a post that was getting quite a bit of attention with some of my facebook and twitter friends. The post is called ‘policing femme identity‘ essentially it’s conversation about if femme as an identity is inherently queer, who has a right to the word/identity etc. etc. etc.  It’s an interesting conversation, and one that I’ve seen come up quite frequently with varying outcomes in different femme & queer communities. In the post in question one of the points that stood out to me was:

“FEMME IS ABOUT RECLAMATION. FABULOUS, GLITTERED RECLAMATION. not about who you fuck/love, or how you identify outside of femme. i understand that some people feel that het cis women claiming femme is appropriative, but i whole heartedly disagree with this! part of the historical oppression of and by femininity has been its exclusive and inherent assignment to heterosexual cis women. for queersexual-identified femmes to not allow heterosexual-identified femmes to reclaim the identity of femme is to not allow a marginalized group to reclaim something that has been historically oppressive to them. these same ideas also often suggest that femininity is an inherent part of heterosexuality, or that it is simply “normal” to be het and feminine. that contradicts radical concepts of gender presentation not being inherently tied to sexuality.”

I personally take a different stance on this, and have a hard time agreeing that heterosexual cis women are the marginalized ones when in compared w/  queers. Then again, while I have ZERO interest in being the identity police and think anyone has a right to whatever identity they choose, and to have that identity respected I also tend to come down hard on the side of femme is a queer identity, is property of queer folks/culture and is inherently queer.  I guess I’ve always been a little bit of a queer separatist about this kind of stuff, and I’m alright with that.

I’m curious femmes guide readers, what do you think?  is femme inherently queer?

Jan 152011
 

Last week I shared the exciting news with you that not only was Kicked Out included in the 2011 Over The Rainbow Book List, but it was included in that list’s top 11 books!  This is a list compiled every year by the American Library Association for the top LGBTQ books for adults. I was and am overwhelmed by the honor of being included on that list, and what it would mean for our goal of getting Kicked Out into more libraries and thus into the hands of the folks who need it the most.

TONIGHT I received even more exciting news.  The American Library Association also compiles a list of the top LGBTQ books for youth from birth to age 18 called the Rainbow Project List.   It feels unreal to me, but not only was Kicked Out included on that list, BUT it was honored as one of the top 10 books published last year!!!!! As if that were not a big enough honor, Kicked Out is the ONLY book to be considered a top book the Rainbow Project List AND the Over The Rainbow  List!!!!!!!

I just found out the news and wanted to share it with all the contributors and with our supporters but honestly I don’t think it’s sunk in yet for me. I don’t have the words to describe how special this is, I’m overwhelmed and overjoyed that this book which started out as a little dream so many years ago is not only real and out in the world, but that it’s received both of these honors which are going to help it get into the hands of so many people.

Jan 132011
 

Last month I tweeted “its a crime that so many ‘learn to write’ books are published & do very little but reinforce the idea that only some people are writers” it was inspired by an afternoon at my local library and the shelves upon shelves upon shelves I found of books that have been published designed to “teach” people how to write.

I’ll admit, I’m a masochist and I’ve read a few dozen of these books, though thankfully not until I was already a published writer. I’m convinced If I’d latched onto them sooner, and if I hadn’t had such wonderful storytelling mentors I would have been a casualty of their rhetoric. Too often it seems they are more aimed at creating self doubt and disbelief in ones ability to write, than the proposed aim of helping people to become writers. I  even sometimes wonder if they are simply designed to lower readers artistic self confidence, in order to ensure they continue being a market for more and more of these books.

I like to start my workshops by acknowledging that at some point, often in elementary school most of us were told and convinced that there are some people who are writers, and there are other people who are not.  What if everything you were ever taught about writing is a lie?  Yep, I’m calling your third grade teacher, or your fifth grade teacher, or whatever teacher it was who told you couldn’t write, a flat out liar. You are a writer. You have important stories to tell, and you’re the only one who can tell them.

Particularly jarring for me on that particular day as I stood in the library, was that 48 hours before I’d been on tour at a queer youth center in Detroit facilitating a writing group for a group of teens who wanted to tell their stories. In the two hours we spent together each and every one of them wrote incredible brave, funny, intense stories. They are absolutely brilliant writers and I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to spend time with them.

I have no idea what the spelling and grammar looked like in the stories the youth in Detroit wrote. It doesn’t matter. One of the first things I tell people in my writing workshops is to not worry about how to spell a word, or if they have properly punctuated a sentence. What’s important is getting the story written without self-censoring. There is time to edit later if that’s what you want to do, but it shouldn’t happen during your creative process. We’ve been taught to be our own worst critics, to censor our writing styles before we even begin writing.

You don’t need any book to tell you how to write your story. I know that believing that can be scary, but I promise it’s true.  Pick up a pen, a pencil, your laptop, a typewriter whatever implement feels comfortable to you and start writing. Start at the beginning, or the ending, or a strange place in the middle. There is no wrong way to tell your story, no matter what your elementary school teacher told you.

Jan 102011
 

Last night Kicked Out received a HUGE honor and was not only included in the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow booklist for 2011, but was also included in their Top 11 books of 2011 !!!!!!!    Being included is a tremendous honor, and one which will help get Kicked Out into even more libraries across the country, and thus the hands of folks who need its messages the most.   You can see all the books included in the top 11 as well as the full Over the Rainbow book list here

I’m so grateful to the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table and its Jurors  for honoring Kicked Out.

Jan 062011
 

Would you bully this seven-year-old?

His name was Garrett.  He lived a block and a half away, and walking in front of his house was the fastest way to get to Shumway Elementary School.  Every morning, and every afternoon, I took the longer route.

Garrett was a bully, and everyone knew it.  Well, everyone other than his mother.  Isn’t that how it always goes with bullies? I can’t imagine what it was like inside his home, whether he just behaved differently to his family, or if his parents were bullies, too.  He must have learned it somewhere.

At seven years old, I already knew I was a nerdy kid.  Garrett also knew this, and he made sure that everyone else did too.  He would lead the other kids in what swiftly became a favorite playground pastime: making my life miserable.  I started staying in the classroom during recess to read.  True, I loved reading, but I also wanted to avoid his taunting.  It became a cycle.  My tactics for avoiding bullying made me even more of a target.

Toward the end of elementary school, my family moved to a new town and I thought I would be able to escape the bullies.  I thought I could turn over a new, non-nerdy leaf! Of course, I was wrong.  There were bullies in the new city, and now it was middle school.  I was a bookish, chubby pre-teen, and there is nothing quite as vicious as a middle school bully.

I never knew what to say to the bullies, so I tried to avoid them.  I withdrew into myself, into schoolwork, into books.  This did not make things better.  I became increasingly depressed and isolated.  Even when I avoided them— perhaps BECAUSE I avoided them— the bullies persisted.  I didn’t know what it felt like to not be regularly bullied.

The adults that I tried to talk to were almost as frustrating as the bullies.  It didn’t help to hear that the bullying would stop some day.  It didn’t help to hear that it would get better some day.  I wanted something to stop the bullies right away, not at some unknown point in the future.  I didn’t need promises.  I needed support.  It seemed like the adults were unwilling to help.  It never occurred to me that, maybe, they didn’t know what to do about the bullies either.

Some things never change.  A few weeks ago, I was visiting a middle school’s holiday showcase event.  A seventh-grade bully walked up to me, pushed my shoulder, and taunted “Why do you look like such a nerd?!?”  There were so many tempting, potential responses— so many things that would have felt vindicating to say to a bully, now that the insecurities of middle school are in the distant past.  However… I was also the adult in the situation, and needed to act like it.  I stammered something about it just being how I looked, and moved on.  In retrospect, maybe I should have asked “Why do you look like such a bully?”

Jan 052011
 

I will grant that this New York Times article has good intentions. It wants everyone to remember that gay teens aren’t the only teens that get bullied, get depressed, and kill themselves. Unfortunately, it tries to do this by erasing the differences between the experiences of gay and straight teens, offering a diluted sort of “everybody’s different, everybody gets bullied” argument that undermines recent activism and awareness around queer youth suicide risks.

The article quotes Dr. Savin-Williams, stating “We hear only the negative aspects from research. We don’t hear about normal gay teens. It’s hard to get studies published when researchers don’t find differences. A large number of studies found no group differences between gay and straight youth, but these have not been published.” Whatever a “normal gay teen” is, I would hazard a guess that they are not the target of mass bullying.

Savin-Williams further comments, “Bullying is less about sexuality than about gender nonconformity. There are straight youth who are gender-atypical and they suffer as much as gay kids.” That’s the thing about bullying. It doesn’t matter if you agree with what the bullies call you. If you’re a gender-non-conforming teen, you’re going to get bullied as a queer— whether you identify as one or not.

Jan 032011
 

Have I mentioned how much I love libraries? Libraries are some of my favorite places to visit, and were incredibly influential in the creation of Kicked Out.  Three days after I was kicked out for the last time I went to the local library and looked at every single book shelved under “homosexuality.”  I was looking for answers, I was looking for stories, I was looking for proof that I wasn’t alone. I found nothing. There were zero books that talked about homeless queer youth, and I felt even more isolated than when I walked into the library.  Sitting there on the floor of that community library I made a promise to myself, I told myself that if I survived that I was going to make a book so that no other homeless queer kid would ever feel alone again.  That was the dream for what all these years later has become Kicked Out.

Because Kicked Out’s roots are so connected to libraries, getting it on the shelves in public libraries is really important to me.  For lots of queer kids the library is one of the few places where they can safely access LGBTQ books. That’s why I was so excited this afternoon when I found out that the Public Library of Oakland has included Kicked Out in their  2010 Reading List for LGBTQ Teens!

Huge thanks to the folks in the Oakland Library system for including Kicked Out amongst all these other great titles!
Is Kicked Out in your local library? There’s this really great system that lets you check what libraries across the United States have a particular book in their system called World Cat. Interested in seeing who has Kicked Out? Just click here I hadn’t checked the listing for a few months and the number of libraries with Kicked Out is continuing to grow, especially in smaller towns/communities which I really love.  Some of these libraries even have several copies of the book!
If your local library doesn’t carry Kicked Out, please consider requesting that they buy a copy. My librarian friends tell me that libraries listen to what community members say they want to be reading!