May 132013

It’s been quite a weekend!  As I reminded folks on Facebook and Twitter this weekend,  for many queers, Mother’s Day is filled with lots of pain and longing and anger and fear and just about any other emotion far from happiness you can come up with. It’s a tricky time for many queer folks and each year to varying degrees I consider myself among them. This year, much to my own surprise was for whatever reason, one of the harder years.  I spent a lot of the day practicing self care and staying far away from the onslaught of messaging about the wonder and beauty and love of mothers hat not only has been permitting the mass media but even my really really queer Facebook feed. Early in the morning I ended up posting “Stopped looking @ FB this morning because it’s all Mother’s Day. if today is a good day for you, then I’m happy for that. But please, remember that for MUCH of your Queer community, today is not something to celebrate. #KickedOut #FamlyViolence” For me creating distance from everyone celebrating was a really great form of self care, and enabled me to move on with my day doing other things, things that made me feel good about myself, my life, and the family that I’ve built. Its “holidays” like this, the ones that unlike Christmas and Easter and Halloween  etc. (which y’all know I’m bananas about) I haven’t reclaimed  and made part of my family, are the trickiest ones for me to personally navigate, but they also  make me think most of Kicked Out.  The contributors to Kicked Out remain some of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, and I’ll never be anything less than shocked and impressed by the work that all the contributes did to create space within our communities to talk, for the first time in a book about what it meant to not have family- to have been kicked out, thrown out, or ran away.

here we were!

The highlight of my weekend was having the chance to speak at the Oregon Queer Youth Summit!  I wrote a little about the event when I first was invited, specifically about what queer youth organizing in Oregon had meant to me, how I’d been involved in planning the very first OQYS, and what a tremendous honor it was to have been asked to return now ten years later and deliver the keynote!!! There were over 200 youth registered to attend this year, and even via SKYPE (we all live in the future! How cool is that?!) I could feel what a warm, excited, and enthusiastic group of youth I was getting the chance to meet!

My keynote address was a spinoff of the speech I give called “Nobody loves you. Now What?”  which while a bit about the epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness, is more than anything about building chosen queer families, and the importance of telling your story, whatever story that is.  Supporting the creation of chosen family, is a topic that is central to not only my own life, but also all the work and one of the constant themes that runs through my three books, as well as the future books that I’ve started working on.  It was such a  tremendous honor to have the chance to go back to Oregon and SMYRC, the places where I first learned to build family, and talk about these themes with the youth of today!

After I spoke we did a Q&A and the youth asked lots of really awesome questions which was exciting, they wanted to know everything from what my chest tattoo says and means — which brought on a story about Portland, and SMYRC and the work we did with Kate Bornstein through “The Language of Paradox” performance/writing group which changed my entire outlook on art, creativity and my place within those worlds (a whole different blog post I probably should write sometime soon : ) ) to how long Kestryl and I have been together (9 years), how to stop LGBTQ youth homelessness, and one of my favorites – am I excited about coming back to SMYRC to be part of the book/writing group?  The answer obviously being OMG YES!!!!  SMYRC is in the process of purchasing a bulk order of Roving Pack which the youth involved in the book club are going to be reading, discussing, and then I’ll be using SKYPE to visit with them and have a conversation about the novel!  I think that’s going to be happening sometime this summer and will definitely be blogging about the experience!

I’m incredibly grateful to Cascade AIDS Project, SMYRC, The Q Center and all the volunteers in Portland that made OQYS posible this year, and who brought the technology together to enable me to participate!



May 012013

A week ago the news broke that I had been selected as a winner of the Lambda Literary 2013 Emerging Writer Award. I am first and foremost a queer writer. It is important to me that my work be linked to queerness, that I write the queer worlds I know and love without concern for their palatability to straight audiences, it’s part of why for me recognition from an LGBT literary body means more than just about other recognition could.   Last week after the news broke I think I repeated the word “shock” or “I’m in shock” over and over again. It’s not very cute for someone who just received the biggest writing award they could get at this point in their career to be utterly without words – but that’s where I was, and, reality?  I’m still there.  Every morning since I got the news I’ve woken up and felt the need to pinch myself, I can’t believe this is happening, I can’t believe they liked my stories, that they believe I represent the future of queer literature.

For me this award represents so much, it’s an intense manifestation of so so so much:  how hard I have worked, how lucky I’ve been, how generous the community both readers and authors who I consider my colleagues and mentors, the reach of my three books – especially Kicked Out and Roving Pack.  I am primarily a self-taught and  community created writer. I got my start as a punk zinester, and I don’t have any formal writing training. I just know how to write stories. Roving Pack came out from my own imprint, Roving Pack is a book that publishers were nervous about, it’s a book that they didn’t want, but the community did, and rallied together to support me in releasing it.  Not a week has gone by since its release last fall that I haven’t gotten a letter or tweet or facebook message from a queer reader telling me what Roving Pack has meant to them, how they keep re-reading it because finally they see themselves, their friends/lovers/community/worlds represented on the page. We’ve come a long way that me and that little novel.  I can’t believe that part of our story together is this kind of recognition from Lambda Literary.

It definitely hasn’t fully sunk in that I got this award, that it’s really happening. I think it probably won’t sink in until I walk across the stage at the Lammy’s on June 3rd to receive it.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be in tears.  Truly, I never thought I would get an award like this, that this kind of award would be given to someone who looks like me, writes like me, and comes from the literary background of typewriters, copy machines and no MFA’s.

There is a lot wrapped up for me in having been chosen as winner of Berzon Emerging Writer Award, but ultimately, it is far bigger than myself, bigger than the books I have written, or will write (I have a whole separate post I should write about how inspiring this has been as I work on my next novel). I hope to use this moment as an opportunity and platform as another outlet to continue to encourage others to tell their stories – especially those of us who have struggled to find a place in a traditional academic writing setting, those who have been silenced, those of us who have been told that we are not good writers, that our stories are messy, wrong, dirty, too complicated. Everyone has a story to tell, and the telling of those stories is essential in the creation of social change.