Category: 2010’s


I accepted that I was transgender in my late 20s because I made friends online and in real life who helped me develop a vocabulary to explore my gender identity. I am now and have always been transgender because I had two parents who raised both my sister and I not to accept the shackles gender had placed on their own lives. They’ve never been able to experience the freedoms my sister and I cherish so dearly and I doubt that they ever will.

I thought about my mother and my father a lot as I watched 20th Century Women, Mike Mill’s electric follow-up to his beloved sophomore feature, Beginners. 20th Century Women is about a teenage boy, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), raised in SoCal in the late 70s by his single mother, the engineer and independent spirit Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening). With Jamie’s father a non-presence in both Jamie and Dorothea’s life, Dorothea worries that she can’t sufficiently raise her son on her own and recruits two young women, ill photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and troubled teenager Julie (Elle Fanning), to help shape her son into a whole person.

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Up until I was twenty one years old, I wanted to be a cop. Specifically, I wanted to be a Fed, working public corruption cases. I had my whole beat figured out. Undergrad in political science and criminology. Law degree. FBI. Public office. I had neoliberal Appalachian rags-to-riches legislative ambitions.

I was making waves in WVU’s political science department as a potential candidate for the Truman scholarship. I was a well-respected RA in the school dorms, and I was active in student government. I had great grades, and I was heavily involved in a political summer camp for teenagers each year — where I was developing an important and formative friendship with an FBI agent. I had roots of fond supporters throughout the state.

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My grandfather told my mother we were Jewish on his deathbed.

That was the observation I fixated on as I watched Dekalog: Eight. My maternal grandfather’s family name is Swartz. “Swartz” was the Anglicization of the very German and very Jewish “Schwarz”, and it was the name that my forebears were given when they immigrated to America in the early 20th century. My narrow line of the Swartz tree settled in West Virginia, and at some point between the 1910s and the 2000s, our Jewish identity had become such a point of shame and was covered in such secrecy that my mother — a devout Evangelical Christian — was in her 40s before she found out she was Ashkenazim.

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I was on the edge of oblivion the first weekend I saw Jason Isbell perform.

The 400 Unit was playing at Bonnaroo 2016, and I was barely a month removed from quitting my job as the Managing Editor of Baeble Music in New York City. I had moved back home to West Virginia to finish college (and because I couldn’t afford to live in Brooklyn anymore without my salaried job), and Bonnaroo was the final obligation I had to Baeble. It was the epilogue to my career as a music journalist.

I spent the weekend in the most desperate drug binge of my life.

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“Too Often On My Own”

I’m going to Tina’s tomorrow night.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, but I’d be at Tina’s apartment tomorrow even if that holiday didn’t exist. Wednesday has become one of our regular date nights. Also Mondays… and also Fridays. We’re spending as much time together as not anymore. Tina gave me a key to their place last week. We’re both non-binary so we can’t really be lesbians, but I joked to them that we were probably U-Haul lesbians anyways. We’re trying to come up with a genderqueer version of that expression so we don’t misgender each other, but Avis Enbies doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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“Potage:” Bambi’s Mom

“Potage” begins with Abigail Hobbs killing a deer.

Abigail’s father — Garret Jacob Hobbs, trophy hunter and infamous serial killer — has taken his teenage daughter hunting for the first time. Abigail bags her prey, and when she and her father take the deer back to her father’s cabin to be cleaned, Abigail is already regretting her actions. She discusses the emotional complexity and intelligence of deer with her father. She compares their capacity for personality to that of a four year old and appreciates the tender care they show for their environments.

Garret Jacob Hobbs, the Minnesota Shrike, proclaims his almost religious reverence for the sentience of these animals he hunts. He rationalizes their slaughter by telling Abigail that the ways they will use these animals in death honors their “sacrifice.” They will eat the meat. They will turn the bones into knives. The pelts can be used for clothes and pillows. Garret Jacob Hobbs knows that these beings have feelings, that they have an element of self-awareness, and that they can feel pain. He tells Abigail that hunting them would be murder if every element of the deer weren’t utilized after their deaths.

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“For Today I Am A Child”

Tina painted my nails Monday night.

I came out as nonbinary trans a year ago, and I talk about my “transition” a lot. However, in almost all of the ways that matter, that transition was internal. I had to unlearn (and am still unlearning) so many misogynistic and transmisogynistic and otherwise transphobic beliefs. I had to find (and am still finding) a livable praxis for a total re-orientation of my political beliefs that included intersectional trans representation. I had to figure out who I was in almost every facet of my life after realizing that if there was one thing I wasn’t, it was a man.

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Hannibal4

“This is my design.”

Will Graham is overwhelmed by intention. In Hannibal‘s pilot, Will tells his boss, Jack Crawford, that evidence can explain Will’s capacity to solve crimes and catch criminals. Evidence can explain Will’s inductive observations. Will doesn’t have magic powers. He isn’t seeing into the past when he reconstructs a crime scene. However, Will is not Gil Grissom. He is not a forensic crime scene investigator. Will uses the carnage of brutal crimes as a canvas for exploring purpose and intent. The crimes he investigates were committed by someone who made a choice; Will’s gift is opening himself up to the feelings that allow someone to make those choices.

Of course, Hannibal would be a lesser show if Will’s talents were so simple. One of the most horrifying symptoms of the identity disorder that haunts Will and makes him such a potent profiler is the way in which the lines between Will and the murderers whose psyches he inhabits can fade away.

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Letters and Long Car Rides

It was around this time last year that I came out to my parents.

It hasn’t quite been a full year. I sent my parents my sprawling coming out letter closer to Inauguration Day. I had an essay scheduled to run at Vice about resistance. I didn’t know how to write about resistance without discussing what Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s election meant to me as a queer and trans person. I couldn’t have that discussion if I didn’t make it clear that I was queer and trans.

So, I finally came out.

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“Tramps Like Us”

I spent my Christmas binging Lost.

I thought I had lost my capacity to binge. I’m lucky when I can give my full attention to a single episode of television, let alone three or four in one sitting. I can’t keep it together that long for anything except my day job, and it’s a minor miracle that I can handle its endless and traumatic emotional labor.

Yet, somehow, I’m a month and a half into the first sustained period in which I’ve felt functional as a writer in six months and the first sustained period ever that I’ve felt comfortable talking honestly about trans stuff and depression stuff (and how addiction stuff intersects with the trans stuff and the depression stuff), and I’ve decided to spend Christmas and Christmas Eve binge-watching the first season of Lost. I can’t tell if the mere fact that I’m capable of watching this much television in such a short time-frame means that I’m getting better or regressing. My decision to return to Lost only muddles the matter further.

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