May 282011
 


Kicked Out has always been about family. Most obviously of course, the families we lost or ran away from, but in many ways more importantly, the families that we’ve built along the way, including the larger kicked out family, a community of those of us whose scars in some way align. Thursday night was the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony here in NYC. It was an unbelievable evening that I know I’ll never be able to forget.  It was on so many levels a dream come true both personally for me, as well as for this book, and the specialness of the night was not one bit diminished by us not carrying an award home at the end of the evening.

There are so many days where I can’t believe Kicked Out is actually here in the world.  I still remember the way the weak Oregon sun came through the blinds of the public library where I stood three days after being kicked out the

final time looking for answers. I remember the way my sneakers left dried mud on the linoleum as I paced the “homosexuality” shelf looking for a book talking about my life, and the way my knuckles turned white when I grabbed my backpack, and walked out, the promise that if I survived I would make a book so no other queer kid felt so alone burning my tongue.

Truth be told, I never thought that we would be here. Kids like me don’t grow up to edit books, let alone honored and

award nominated books. Since our release everyone told me Kicked Out would be a Lammy finalist, but I just couldn’t believe them. I’m incredibly proud of Kicked Out, know that each and every contributor is a brilliant writer, but I also in my gut know that Kicked Out is a dangerous book. It’s not an easy, or comfortable read, and it demands that readers start paying attention.  When it was twice honored by the American Library Association, and then finaled for the Lambda Literary Awards I was shocked, and thrilled that the community was taking notice, and ready to begin having more of these conversations.

Much of the reason my writing career looks like it does is because as a young writer I had the experience of working with the brilliant and beautiful Kate Bornstein as part of a storytelling troupe ‘The Language of Paradox.’   She met me when I was still precariously housed, and the memory of homelessness and abandonment still hot and taught like fresh sunburn.  Amongst so many other lessons Kate taught me about how to harness my anger that burned like a wildfire uncontrollable all over my stories. . She taught me how to use anger like the controlled white flame of a blow torch when It was called for, but how to write loss, betrayal, but most importantly love as well. To be a finalist with Kate, and to be able to watch her win her first Lammy (with co-editor S. Bear Bergman) for Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (an awesome book- though as a contributor I’m admittedly biased ;) ) was a tremendously powerful experience for me.

The only part of the evening I truly found disappointing was the acceptance speech given by Edward Albee for his Pioneer award.  He spent the majority of it talking about why writing from a queer experience was a lesser art form, how his “sexual proclivities” have nothing to do with his art, and how in most instances self-identified  “gay” writers are less skilled than other authors.  At the Lambda Literary Awards of all places it seemed particularly offensive, disheartening, and inappropriate.  Thankfully when Eileen Myles (whose new book Inferno won the Lammy for Lesbian Fiction) stood to present the Lesbian Poetry category she did a quick powerful, subtle, intense and hilarious call out from the perspective of a “lesbian” poet who knows the importance of writing our stories and received resounding cheers from much of the audience.

There was a lot emotionally wrapped up for me in the experience of Kicked Out being a Lammy Finalist, it’s somewhere I never expected to be and without a doubt I couldn’t have gotten through the night without some hands on incredible support from my partner and a couple very dear friends/chosen family.  My partner Kestryl had to physically miss the Lammy’s because ze is presenting at the International Performance Studies conference in The Netherlands. When Kicked Out finaled we had many conversations about what the evening would look like with hir being halfway around the world.

Toni Amato a dear friend who I trust and connect with very deeply who runs Write Here, Write Now (one of my favorite places to facilitate) agreed to come down from Boston to take me to the awards. We had a wonderful day working on my novel-in-progress before the awards, swapping stories and then playing with finger puppets! Toni knows and appreciates that I’m a bit of a five year old sometimes and had suggested a couple of months ago that we bring some finger puppets and act the Lammy’s out— we had amighty silly good time as you can see. If Kestryl couldn’t be here to take me, Toni was the absolute right person to be there in hir place. He knew just how to take care of me, and make me laugh a whole lot.

Kestryl and I had made plans for me to text hir (international charges be damned) the second we knew how Kicked Out had done at the awards, but what I didn’t know was that ze had been conspiring with both Toni and one of my dearest friendsSyd London for some Lammy surprises.  Syd was coming to visit me on Thursday afternoon to give me a final good-luck

hug before the awards. What I had no way of knowing until she showed up at the door was that she was also delivering a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a glitter covered hand-made-card from Kestryl, oh and because ze knew (correctly) that I would be in tears when Syd showed up with this surprise – she had also been left with one of hir freshly laundered, pressed monogrammed hankys to catch my tears and of course a huge hug from Syd.

After the awards there was another surprise – Toni informed me that I needed to go into Kestryl’s closet.  Unknown to me Kestryl had one more surprise that again left me in tears, nestled under hir ties I found a letter, and a big shiny star covered trophy personalized to say “Sassafras Lowrey Word Star 2011.”  Let me explain — for years as a crusty punk zinester dreamed that I would someday be what I called a “Word Star” as Kestrylreminded me in the accompanying letter. “ Back when we first got together – I remember that you wouldn’t call yourself an author. You were an amazing writer, but you couldn’t call yourself that. I remember your insistence that you were a zinester, and that maybe someday, if you were lucky and talented enough, you would be a “word star.”  Ze went on to tell me no matter what happened at the Lammy’s that I’d made it, and I was certainly a Word Star. Long before I reached the end of the letter I was in tears sitting in hir closet clutching the trophy—ze had yet another clean pressed hanky stashed nearby to catch my tears, and Toni to give me a hug.

As I talked about earlier in the week leading up to the Lammy’s I was spending a lot of time thinking about who I’d been when I first began thinking of Kicked Out, all the kids I knew and loved back then.  So much of my work is done in the memory of those of us who didn’t make it. I carry those memories with me into every workshop I teach, and every line I write.   The fact that I sit here today with the life I have is pure luck. Statistically I shouldn’t be here, and I’m immensely grateful every day that I am.  Post-Lammy’s the stories of who I knew are still fresh in my mind, but on a very personal level I’m also thinking about how the love and support from Kestryl, Toni, and Syd that has surrounded and held me (and sent me pictures of their monster finger puppets in Euope and on photo shoots)  is truly the embodiment of everything I dreamed of back then. I fantasized about writing, having a loving partner and close friends/chosen family that truly knew and understood me. That was the dream that I couldn’t even believe was possible. Some mornings I pinch myself because I can hardly believe this is my life.

After the anthology category was announced I received a text from one of the Kicked Out contributors asking how we had done.  We’ve had many conversations about how to us this book being published was huge, and to be a Lammy finalist was a tremendous win. In the course of the short text conversation I said:  “who ever thought a bunch of punk kids could get so far!”  Nik responded  “Surely not me! I thought the world would end before we made real progress : ) “

Thank you so much to the Lambda Literary Foundation for recognizing Kicked Out as a Lammy finalist, to all our friends and supporters that have believed in this anthology and to each of the contributors – without your strength, bravery, and willingness to bear scars this book would never have been possible.

May 282011
 


Kicked Out has always been about family. Most obviously of course, the families we lost or ran away from, but in many ways more importantly, the families that we’ve built along the way, including the larger kicked out family, a community of those of us whose scars in some way align. Thursday night was the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony here in NYC. It was an unbelievable evening that I know I’ll never be able to forget.  It was on so many levels a dream come true both personally for me, as well as for this book, and the specialness of the night was not one bit diminished by us not carrying an award home at the end of the evening.  

There are so many days where I can’t believe Kicked Out is actually here in the world.  I still remember the way the weak Oregon sun came through the blinds of the public library where I stood three days after being kicked out the  

final time looking for answers. I remember the way my sneakers left dried mud on the linoleum as I paced the “homosexuality” shelf looking for a book talking about my life, and the way my knuckles turned white when I grabbed my backpack, and walked out, the promise that if I survived I would make a book so no other queer kid felt so alone burning my tongue.  

Truth be told, I never thought that we would be here. Kids like me don’t grow up to edit books, let alone honored and award nominated books. Since our release everyone told me Kicked Out would be a Lammy finalist, but I just couldn’t believe them. I’m incredibly proud of Kicked Out, know that each and every contributor is a brilliant writer, but I also in my gut know that Kicked Out is a dangerous book. It’s not an easy, or comfortable read, and it demands that readers start paying attention.  When it was twice honored by the American Library Association, and then finaled for the Lambda Literary Awards I was shocked, and thrilled that the community was taking notice, and ready to begin having more of these conversations.  Much of the reason my writing career looks like it does is because as a young writer I had the experience of working with the brilliant and beautiful Kate Bornstein as part of a storytelling troupe ‘The Language of Paradox.’   She met me when I was still precariously housed, and the memory of homelessness and abandonment still hot and taught like fresh sunburn.  Amongst so many other lessons Kate taught me about how to harness my anger that burned like a wildfire uncontrollable all over my stories. . She taught me how to use anger like the controlled white flame of a blow torch when It was called for, but how to write loss, betrayal, but most importantly love as well. To be a finalist with Kate, and to be able to watch her win her first Lammy (with co-editor S. Bear Bergman) for Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (an awesome book- though as a contributor I’m admittedly biased ) was a tremendously powerful experience for me.  

The only part of the evening I truly found disappointing was the acceptance speech given by Edward Albee for his Pioneer award.  He spent the majority of it talking about why writing from a queer experience was a lesser art form, how his “sexual proclivities” have nothing to do with his art, and how in most instances self-identified  “gay” writers are less skilled than other authors.  At the Lambda Literary Awards of all places it seemed particularly offensive, disheartening, and inappropriate.  Thankfully when Eileen Myles (whose new book Inferno won the Lammy for Lesbian Fiction) stood to present the Lesbian Poetry category she did a quick powerful, subtle, intense and hilarious call out from the perspective of a “lesbian” poet who knows the importance of writing our stories and received resounding cheers from much of the audience.  

I have a lot of emotion about  Kicked Out being a Lammy Finalist. It’s somewhere I never expected to be and without a doubt I couldn’t have gotten through the night without some hands-on incredible support from my partner and a couple very dear friends/chosen family.  My partner Kestryl had to physically miss the Lammy’s because ze is presenting at the International Performance Studies conference in The Netherlands, so when Kicked Out finaled we had many conversations about what the evening would look like with hir being halfway around the world.  

Toni Amato a dear friend who I trust and connect with very deeply who runs Write Here, Write Now (one of my favorite places to facilitate) agreed to come down from Boston to take me to the awards. We had a wonderful day working on my novel-in-progress before the awards, swapping stories and then playing with finger puppets! Toni knows and appreciates that I’m a bit of a five year old sometimes and had suggested a couple of months ago that we bring some finger puppets and act the Lammy’s out. We had a mighty silly good time as you can see. If Kestryl couldn’t be here to take me, Toni was the absolute right person to be there in hir place. He knew just how to take care of me, and make me laugh a whole lot and as an author he intimately understood the importance of everything going on.  

Kestryl and I had made plans for me to text hir (international charges be damned) the second we knew how Kicked Out had done at the awards, but what I didn’t know was that ze had been conspiring with both Toni and another one of my dearest friends Syd London for some Lammy surprises.  Syd was coming to visit me on Thursday afternoon to give me a final good-luck  

hug before the awards. What I had no way of knowing until she showed up at the door was that she was also delivering a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a glitter covered hand-made-card from Kestryl, oh and because ze knew (correctly) that I would be in tears when Syd showed up with this surprise – she had also been left with one of hir freshly laundered, pressed monogrammed hankys to catch my tears and of course a huge hug from Syd.  

After the awards there was another surprise – Toni informed me that I needed to go into Kestryl’s closet.  Unknown to me, Kestryl had one more surprise that again left me in tears, nestled under hir ties I found a letter, and a big shiny star covered trophy personalized to say “Sassafras Lowrey Word Star 2011.”  Let me explain — for years as a crusty punk zinester dreamed that I would someday be what I called a “Word Star” as Kestryl reminded me in the accompanying letter. “ Back when we first got together – I remember that you wouldn’t call yourself an author. You were an amazing writer, but you couldn’t call yourself that. I remember your insistence that you were a zinester, and that maybe someday, if you were lucky and talented enough, you would be a “word star.”  Ze went on to tell me no matter what happened at the Lammy’s that I’d made it, and I was certainly a Word Star. Long before I reached the end of the letter I was in tears sitting in hir closet clutching the trophy—ze had yet another clean pressed hanky stashed nearby to catch my tears, and Toni to give me a hug.  

As I talked about earlier in the week leading up to the Lammy’s I was spending a lot of time thinking about who I’d been when I first began thinking of Kicked Out, all the kids I knew and loved back then.  So much of my work is done in the memory of those of us who didn’t make it. I carry those memories with me into every workshop I teach, and every line I write.   The fact that I sit here today with the life I have is pure luck. Statistically I shouldn’t be here, and I’m immensely grateful every day that I am.  Post-Lammy’s the stories of who I knew are still fresh in my mind, but on a very personal level I’m also thinking about how the love and support from Kestryl, Toni, and Syd that has surrounded and held me (and sent me pictures of their monster finger puppets in Euope and on photo shoots)  is truly the embodiment of everything I dreamed of back then. I fantasized about writing, having a loving partner and close friends/chosen family that truly knew and understood me. That was the dream that I couldn’t even believe was possible. Some mornings I pinch myself because I can hardly believe this is my life.  

After the anthology category was announced I received a text from one of the Kicked Out contributors asking how we had done.  We’ve had many conversations about how to us this book being published was huge, and to be a Lammy finalist was a tremendous win. In the course of the short text conversation I said:  “who ever thought a bunch of punk kids could get so far!”  Nik responded  “Surely not me! I thought the world would end before we made real progress : ) “  

Thank you so much to the Lambda Literary Foundation for recognizing Kicked Out as a Lammy finalist, to all our friends and supporters that have believed in this anthology and to each of the contributors – without your strength, bravery, and willingness to bear scars this book would never have been possible.

May 242011
 
me not long after my 18th birthday

The Lammy’s are the day after tomorrow. I can hardly believe how soon they are, can hardly believe that ‘Kicked Out’ is real and in the world, and a finalist for this prestigious award.   On a very personal level the approaching awards ceremony is making me think a lot about where I come from – who I was,  all the kids I grew up with, and perhaps especially the ones I know who didn’t make it….

I found your words in the transcript on a forgotten website of an interview you did with some radio station when we were all kids.  Words and time exchanged for a gift card for Fred Meyers or Walgreens.  Those were the big incentives back then. For five, or ten bucks at the drugstore you could have our life condensed into a thirty-minute interview. We’d tell our story to anyone, reporters, graduate students, didn’t matter.

It would be more romantic, it would make a better story, if I said this recording reminded me of all the good times we had. But lets be honest,  you hated me for fucking your street sister’s ex- girlfriend. You tried to beat me up every time we ran into each other outside of the youth center. But I’d like to think in all these years we could have put that grudge aside. I devoured your words. Swallowing memories and remembering lifetimes.

I read the transcription and knew everywhere and everyone that you were talking about.  I don’t have many people I knew back then and sometimes I feel crazy when I write our stories. Hearing you captured in that moment reminded me just how real these worlds were. In your interview filtered life were so many pieces of your stepsister, one of my best friends back then.  You told the reporter about how you’d both been thrown out the night you were found fucking each other. You told her too how your dad would beat him “because he knew how much you loved her.”  You, always with those damn female pronouns, but you and J. went way back and he always said from you, it was alright.  I only remember his retelling of that story. He must have shared it one night letting his words cut the darkness. He talked about how he’d   stand between your dad, his stepfather, and you. No matter what it took, he kept you safe.

I know what parks you were sitting in by the way you describe the contours of benches, by the way you reference the coded names all the kids had for those spaces. I remember the people too, some just in passing and others more deeply. My world is so different now, and it took me some moments to translate old names and streenames into concrete memories.  As the years pass those lifetimes are becoming a fog I attempt to capture in a butterfly net. Problem is, we’ve all been reborn again into caterpillars that crawl through the webbing. More often than not, I’m left with only the exhaled air of new lives.

It was the places that really did me in. the description of your dad’s house out near Gresham especially. Even if you didn’t like me your stepsister did. I was always visiting him that one winter when you both decided to give your parents another chance. You paid stupid amounts of rent to your father, handed over your food stamp cards to your grandmother. I remember that basement best. The creaking stares, the playroom where all the dirty little kids would go and play when everyone upstairs was drinking or yelling, or getting high.  Your grandmother’s room was right next to the furnace, and the little alcove crawlspace your father rented to you and your wife. J’s room was on the other side. That’s where I mostly hung out wishing he’d kiss me until the day he called stone crumbling, scared of going back to the streets. I got some friends and we rode the MAX train out and got him. He left without his foodstamp card, filled his backpack with clothes and a pocketknife and moved into my studio.

Just last month I started talking with someone else from the old days. I learned from her you’d gone back to the streets, and a year ago disappeared. You’d been out there a long time. You & J left “home” the first time at fourteen and must have been 27 when you went missing, only sleeping in beds intermittently.

By the way, you were right, I really was a little shit back then.

Wherever you are: on the streets of some unknown city, or I fear more likely amongst the stars, thank you. Thank you, for all those years ago wanting a gift card enough to talk to some dumbass reporter, that had the nerve to ask how you could really be a lesbian if you let men touch you for money. Thank you, for telling her off, and for pivoting off her fucking questions into stories you knew were worth telling.

May 212011
 

Raptor, not Rapture

Kestryl: Sassafras, lets write the blog. Quit telling Facebook what’s happening in our kitchen.

Sassafras: I was simply saying we’d told enough rapture stories – I’m still waiting to see a dinosaur!!!

Kestryl: Sassafras. it’s a rapture, not a raptor.  And anyways, it didn’t happen.

So, for those of you who are still with us,  welcome to the second installment of the yet to be titled PoMo Freakshow relationship advice column/blog series.  We’ve been a little delayed in writing this one, and not because we were worried about the rapture and/or raptor (but that would have been a great excuse).  Actually, we’ve been busy with a lot of celebrations this month, and fittingly, that was our planned topic for this blog post.


Sassafras: It was my birthday.

Kestryl: Yes, Sassafras, it was.

Sassafras: It was lots of other things, too.

Kestryl: Are we doing this part as an exchange? I don’t know how I feel about that. At some point it just starts sounding like a gimmick.

Sassafras: But what if it really happened??

Kestryl: The rapture or the gimmick?

Sassafras: This conversation.

Kestryl: Moving on.

Something that we’ve found is essential in sustaining  a relationship has been finding things to celebrate together.  This isn’t just about going out to dinner to celebrate a success at work, or a new performance or publication, but also creating holidays and celebrations that you observe on a reccuring basis. The most obvious of these is celebrating an anniversary, but we think there’s a lot more that you can do.

Sassafras: Like have four anniversaries.

Kestryl: Do we have four anniversaries?

Sassafras: Of course we do: anniversary, partyverary, chalking, leatherversary.

Kestryl: Oh yeah, I guess I don’t think of all of those as anniversaries… Just as days. That we remember. On an an annual basis…. Hm. I guess that’s the definition of an anniversary.

Sassafras: Pretty much.

For us, one anniversary just wouldn’t cut it. Like any relationship, our partnership has grown and changed over the years that we’ve been together, and we think it’s important to commemorate different milestones. Having our relationship evolve over time doesn’t change the other days that have their own significance. We’ve never understood couples that give up their original anniversary when they get married, or commitment ceremonied, or domestic partnered, or u-hauled, or whatever kids are calling it these days. Essentially, we believe in MORE celebrating, not less, and the more a relationship grows, the more there is to celebrate.

Sassafras: In our case, our anniversary is the day that we got together.

Kestryl: It’s the day that we really met, we didn’t get together together until the next day.

Sassafras: I still think it’s the day that we got together- I turned down a ride home to keep hanging out with you, even though you didn’t kiss me.

Kestryl: A gentleman doesn’t kiss on the first date.

Sassafras: First of all, that means you think it was the first date- so I win.  Second of all, I ain’t no lady.

Our other anniversaries are other significant days in our relationship which include: our ‘partyvesary,’ which was when we didn’t get married (contrary to what ½ of the guests thought), ‘chalking,’ which was the day when Kestryl kind of proposed to Sassafras – we were activists working on a local queer campaign and were up at 5am chalking pro-homo messages on a college campus when ze got, shall we say, inspired.  Our leatherversary marks the day when power in our relationship shifted from a play/scene dynamic to a 24/7 negotiated exchange. We don’t have a big celebration for each significant day– some we acknowledge with small gestures, and others we celebrate with a bit more flair.

Kestryl: Anniversaries aren’t the only thing to celebrate.

Sassafras: I like cake.

Kestryl: To be clear: we don’t have cake for every celebration.

Sassafras: Maybe we should.

Celebrations can take lots of forms. They aren’t all relationship markers, and they don’t all require cake.  Taking the time to commemorate significant things that have happened over the course of your relationship keeps you grounded in your relationship’s history and values, and helps you to build its future.  Another celebration that we observe is what we call our New York-iversary

Sassafras: Which is when we became monogamous with New York.

Kestryl: Monogamous? How about ‘long term committed primary partners?’ We’re still allowed to see other cities. You’ve been known to flirt with Atlanta.

Sometimes, balloons and streamers are a good idea.

And then there are birthdays. One thing to remember in any celebration (or relationship in general) is that what’s good for one person isn’t always good for the other(s). Just because you would love a streamer-festooned, balloon filled birthday, does not necessarily mean that your significant other(s) would be similarly delighted.  Making a celebration meaningful means really doing your research and figuring out what your partner(s) want, and what will fill them with glee or joy on a special day. When you’re both doing this for each other on shared days, the result can be euphoric.

*Note: Thanks to everyone who has been sending in your relationship questions. We intend to respond and are still working out how that’s going to work in with the rest of our blog series/column/whatever it is.  Please keep sending questions and know that we are reading and thinking about them and will be responding soon!

May 202011
 

The eels inside my hovercraft.

Do you know how to say ‘my hovercraft is full of eels’ in Dutch? I do: mijn luchtkussenboot zit vol paling. This helpful phrase was included in one of the guides I was looking at so that I could at least pretend to not be a stupid American without any knowledge of the local language when I go to the Netherlands next week. I’m not sure if I will actually need to inform anyone that my hovercraft is full of eels, but it’s good to be prepared.

This will be my first trip to Europe, and I am excited (so excited!) and nervous (possibly more than I am willing to admit). My international travels have been limited to Canada and Mexico. Staying on the same continent didn’t feel like traveling to another country the way that crossing the Atlantic does.

My trip is relatively short–just 5 days.  I am going to Utrecht (a short train ride outside of Amsterdam) to participate in the Performance Studies International conference. I’m not sure if I have any regular readers in the Netherlands (my google analytics report says I might), so if you’re out there… Come say hello at the conference! I will be speaking on Thursday afternoon about queer melancholia. You can check out the entire conference schedule here.

I’m less nervous about anything I might encounter in Utrecht than I am about the experience of getting there. As a trans queer, borders and customs agents are a bit of a minefield. There’s always the question of what the officials will see when they look at me, and whether or not that will match what my documents say. Several years ago, I switched my identity documents over to list my sex as ‘M.’ It’s not how I identify, but after several unpleasant run-ins with cops who took issue with the friction between the ‘F’ on my license and the way I inhabit my body, I decided it would be safer to switch it. Mostly, this has been true, but my gender is slippery (like all the eels in my hovercraft), and lately more strangers have been perceiving me as someone they could call ‘she.’ I don’t know what the customs agents will see when they meet me next week.

I just received my first full value passport since I was 16. For the past several years, US state department policy was to only issue ‘limited’ passports to trans individuals with mismatched documents.  The limited passport was clearly labelled as such, and it expired after one year. To even receive this limited passport, you would have to submit a doctor’s letter verifying that you were a ‘transsexual in the process of sexual reassignment who would be undergoing surgical reassignment in the next year,’ jump through a few more hoops, and pay the full passport fee–and go through it all again the next year.  I have countless expired 1-year limited passports in my files.

Thanks to the advocacy work of countless activists and policy workers, last year the Department of State changed their policy for issuing passports to trans people. The National Center for Transgender Equality has a very helpful guide that I recommend any internationally-traveling trans folks check out. Under the new guidelines, trans people with mismatched documents still have to submit a doctor’s note, but it only has to say that the doctor has treated you for gender transition, and does not have to describe what that treatment entailed. With the new policy, trans people are issued fully valid passports, with a ten-year expiration date. Now I have a full passport for ten years, with an ‘M’ on it. We’ll see what the border patrol thinks– with luck, my hovercraft of eels and I will slip right through.
May 202011
 

Stumbling around the internet late last night I came across a new website/organization called 4 LGBT Rights:Equality and Justice for All, and noticed that they had an article posted about the epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness titled ‘Homeless LGBTQ Youth Should Be Seen. And Heard.”  I was really excited to see this issue was something they were focused on, and was blown away when I reached the end of the article and saw what was written about Kicked Out!!!!

“There is an incredible collection of first hand accounts by currently and formerly homeless LGBTQ youth and service providers.  The book is the Kicked Out Anthology, edited and co-authored by Sassafras Lowrey.  Frankly, I think this is one of the most important civil rights documents to emerge in the United States so far this century.  It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the human price we are paying for our indifference.  I am such an admirer of this book that I have already sent three copies to my old high school, and just ordered five more copies to send to elected officials.  I encourage everyone to do the same – buy the book, read it, and pass it on.  Buy extra copies and send them around.  These stories need to be heard! ”

May 142011
 
Kicked Out on the table with other local Lammy finalists

There remains (and probably always will) a very real part of me that still cannot believe that I’m a published author. That’s before I even let myself try to come to terms with ‘Kicked Out’ being two-time ALA honored and a Lammy finalist!  I certainly didn’t grow up thinking that this was the sort of thing that could happen to a kid like me.  Thursday night I had the opportunity to be part of the NYC Finalist Reading for the Lambda Literary Awards. The event was hosted by Bluestockings, one of my all-time favorite independent bookstores and what I consider to be my home store.    The Lambda Literary Awards themselves are really expensive to attend, so it was also a fun opportunity for friends to come and support Kicked Out.

One of the most powerful parts of the evening for me was that Eileen Myles’ book “Inferno” is also a finalist this year (seriously good book, if you haven’t read it yet you should) and she was part of the reading.  Eileen Myles is one of those queer authors that I discovered very early on.  I was introduced to her words first as a crusty baby-dyke by some traveling kids. In their backpacks they carried a very old, over burned, CD of Sister Spit.  The trade for letting them crash on the floor of my basement apartment, was that I got to burn it as well. I listened to those stories constantly. I would stick it into my beat-up old 
diskman wherever I went and get swallowed by the words and miss my bus stop. I even used to play the CD on loop to put myself to sleep (when I didn’t have a date). It was a time when I was starving for dykes, where I was desperate for stories. Eileen and the rest of the folks on that CD were so influential to me both personally and as a writer.

Now, all these years later to be part of a reading with her with ‘Kicked Out,’ the book I first began dreaming of during that period of time in my life was the kind of precious experience I know I’ll never be able to forget.

May 082011
 

I’m conflicted about the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  I understand the need for shared diagnostic criteria across the mental health professions, but I’m extremely critical of the pathologization and medicalization of many of the “conditions” and “disorders” that the manual describes.  In some cases, a diagnosis can allow individuals who are privileged enough to have health insurance the ability to get their mental health care covered by their insurance provider.  That is one of the main arguments I have heard in favor of retaining the diagnosis of “Gender Dysphoria” in the DSM.  In other cases, diagnoses can justify declaring a person unfit to consent or refuse treatment.  The DSM does not just name and describe “disorders.”  It also regulates the hazy border between “normal” and “abnormal,” between “sane” and “crazy.”

Currently, the DSM is undergoing a revision, with the newest version–DSM-5– to be released in May, 2013.  As part of the far-reaching revision, the American Psychiatric Association has opened the DSM-5 up for reader comments on the structure and criteria changes.  Anyone can create an account, log in, and submit comments on the proposed revisions to the criteria and structure of the manual.  In general, the text from the current manual (DSM-IV) for reference with the proposed DSM-5 descriptions and criteria. The current comment period is open until June 15, 2011.

Unfortunately, it probably won’t be too effective to just log on and leave the comment, “This is not a psychiatric disorder.  Take it out of the manual!!!”…. which is my first inclination with things like the “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.“  However, maybe if enough folks offer thoughtful comments, we can shift the ways that the psych industry defines and thinks about our identities, brains, and bodies.

May 072011
 

You are not alone. Let me repeat that again. You are not alone. This is a rough day for most of us. Mother’s day is a time when society tells us that we should feel ashamed of who we are because our family doesn’t look this iconic image of what family “should” be. Take care of yourself today. I suggest staying away from television and radio (they will just be full of ads that will make you feel worse), go to the park, take yourself to a movie, take a bath, write a story, talk to a friend, or counselor, or hotline, eat cupcakes, draw pictures, workout.  Essentially make time even if it’s just five or ten minutes to honor that this is a rough weekend and that you deserve to do something that makes you feel good about who you are, and remember that you’re not alone. There are thousands of us for whom today is rough.

mourning NYAC

 Uncategorized  No Responses »
May 052011
 

I’m feeling really heartbroken about this weeks’ news that NYAC (National Youth Advocacy Coalition) closing their doors for good almost ten years to the day after I attended my first queer conference – NYAC national in DC. I was a homeless queer kid and I remember being absolutely in awe.

Until that point I had primarily been a youth doing political and social justice organizing within adult LGBT organizations. I was * everyone’s * token youth. My story- where I came from, what I’d experienced were traumatic and extreme and compelling. Despite that, I was graduating high school two weeks after NYAC conference – I made grants look good. I was a “success story.”

That conference put a lot into motion for me – I met the first butch I ever dated which started a tumultuous adventure living and doing queer organizing in the South, but the conference meant more than that to. NYAC was so significant for me because it was the first time that I met other youth organizers. It was the first time that I saw youth as leadership not simply as tokenized afterthoughts. In that space youth had power, and were empowering each other to take on this work ourselves without the sanctioning, approval, or censoring from adult organizers.

Now as an adult queer organizer, I can trace so much of my ethics back to the experience of being at NYAC and the connections that I made with others that weekend in May. They are values that I work to maintain in all my work, and I think of those lessons every time that I interact with youth organizers. It’s sad to me to realize that the organization that created those sorts of spaces, that empowered me, and so many other queer youth organizers is closing it’s doors is hard to accept. The loss of NYAC’s will leave a gaping hole in our community that I worry will be felt by generations of queer organizers to come.