I’m 30,000 feet up in the air somewhere between North Carolina and New York City, thinking about all the incredible experiences I just had in the South: the people I met, the events I was able to be part of over the last four days, and the communities I saw and was able to participate in. I was in town, as part of the Queer Conference at University of North Carolina Asheville – this year themed ‘Queer is an Active Verb.” I have a keynote “Nobody loves you, now what? Queer youth homelessness and creating chosen families” and facilitate “ghosts, transitions, and other past lives” a writing workshop. North Carolina is the last of my big out of town touring trips likely until the autumn, and what a way to close out this season!
The conference itself was great, and well-organized – huge thanks to all the staff and students who made the event possible! I’d never been to Asheville before, but always heard great things about it. It was truly a lovely town and it was nice to catch a few days of spring in the clean mountain air! All the locals were apologizing for how cold it was- and it was a bit rainy my first day but as I told them we were expecting snow in NYC so it was quite lovely!
It was wonderful to get to spend time with Eli Claire, who was there as another keynote at the conference. Our paths have crossed over the past few years but we’d never had the chance to really connect. We’d known that we both were from rural Oregon, but over the last few days we just found more and more ways our histories interrelated. We even caused a little trouble —- getting chased out of the hotel hallway by a homophobic/transphobic man in boxers angry at our conversation about the queer writing/publishing!
The students I had the chance to meet were just outstanding, each and every person that I spoke with is in the midst of incredible work – academically, artistically and/or with community organizing. I feel profoundly privileged to have been able to meet and work with each of them, and even still my mind is buzzing with all the wonderful work I witnessed and heard about. After my keynote I was humbled by a standing ovation, and selling out of every single copy of Kicked Out I’d brought with me. Even more meaningful to me, were the connections that I made with students. The ones who spoke up in the Q&A, handed me zines, or came for quiet conversations after the event. We compared scars and found so many jagged connections. Someone told me they felt like they could feel their roots again— I’m not sure if I can think of a bigger compliment.