holding on and making it through

[content note: this is a personal post related to my experience of the wildfires in the north bay area. the obvious fire-related trigger warnings apply. while i have privilege around this whole experience in that my loved ones are safe and my house did not burn down, this is a space for me to process my experience and feelings around it. there are lots of political and environmental layers to all this that i do not address here. if you have been impacted by fire in more severe ways you might opt to skip this post.]

i’ll start from the present. this morning as i write, the sky in my town is relatively clear, and it seems close to certain our home will not burn down. the fires are relatively contained, and the remaining active “hot spots” are all on the eastern side of the fire perimeters, which are all west of us. i am beginning to consciously unclench my body, which is no small feat after a week straight of being on high alert.

eight days ago, i woke up and went about my pre-work morning routine of drinking coffee and working on my interview project before going outside to water the garden. the sky was dark with orange and grays, incredibly beautiful and ominous. i called inside to my housemate, “you’ve got to see this stormy sky!” she came to the door saying, “freddie, it’s not a storm. there are huge fires.” i quickly learned the person i was headed to caregive for in santa rosa had been evacuated early that morning. nothing has felt normal since.

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leaving behind a makeshift altar on my dresser, with prayers we would not lose our home.

we circled up as a house, assessed our options, and chose to evacuate together. it was a wild feeling to fill a duffel bag, look around my room, and tacitly accept that anything that didn’t make it into the bag could burn. we caravanned through eerie, smoky coastal hills and saw cows grazing, townsfolk congregating, and traffic accumulating in southward motion. we headed to eli’s folks’ house in marin, where we obsessively tracked the fires’ paths while simultaneously delving into escapism via reality television.

three housemates returned home the next day, and eli and i returned the day after, after the smoke from the 100,000+ acres burning permeated the bay area air, making it impossible for us to be outside for even a few minutes without feeling sick. for the next few days, we kept our bags packed ready to evacuate, took turns waking up at hourly intervals in the night to check on any significant shifts in the wind that would carry the destruction our way, and did our best to carry on and care for ourselves and folks in our communities by making and sharing music, food, and herbal medicine.

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giant plumes of smoke from active fires in southeastern santa rosa on day five.

gratefully, i am okay, my home is okay, and the same is true for my friends and immediate community members, including the person i caregive for who was evacuated and whose apartment is less than a mile away from areas that were completely ravaged by flames. i recognize and deeply appreciate this. still, it was a scary, sad, and traumatic week. in a moment of ritual and reflection, my housemate described her world as getting a lot smaller. all of a sudden, what really matters is where we are, who is around us, and what we can do to keep ourselves safe and stable in the moment. at the same time, there is a bigger picture — this kind of disaster is a direct effect of climate change, capitalism, and white supremacy. i’m filled with anger, grief, and fear in thinking about the many ways these things continue to destroy the planet and make it a less and less habitable place for people, animals, and plant life in favor of wealth and power.

the fires are still not out. and there will be more fires and destruction. there are weeks, months, years to come to rebuild, detoxify, heal in the ways that are possible. i am finding it hard to feel hopeful and i am trying to be okay with that. i am grateful for my health, for my home, and for the people who make it feel safe, strong, and warm, even amidst imminent fear, loss, and destruction. i am taking things moment by moment.

xo freddie

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the world i’m living in

content note: this is a personal post. it contains mentions of oppression and a description of a destructive fire.

it’s been too long and too much has happened but isn’t that how all blog entries start?

let’s see, the nitty gritty of my life in the past several months…

following the escalation and dramatic end of a truly untenable roommate situation, making home in sonoma county has finally begun to feel more stable, and i am allowing myself to be charmed by this funny little town and the beautiful area surrounding me. i am deeply appreciating the people i’m living with and the ways we are able to communicate and collaborate on making food, creating welcoming and cozy spaces, and playing all too much of “the bean game,” also known as bohnanza. though it’s difficult to feel true housing stability as a renter with a month-to-month lease, home has been a source of resilience and regeneration lately, and for that i am endlessly grateful.

it’s with a lot of grief that i share that the fruit farm eli and i were living and working on last year from june to january burned to the ground in a terrible wildfire in july. danny, drew, and everyone else working and living at the peach farm were thankfully physically unharmed, and because the orchards were well irrigated (compared to the extremely crispy and dry landscape of butte county in the summer, see photo below), 90% of the orchards survived as well. of course, losing one’s home and all personal possessions and keepsakes is devastating, and my heart aches for danny and drew. in spite of the devastation, the peaches don’t stop ripening for anything, so danny and drew forged ahead to harvest, pack, and sell peaches while navigating logistical challenges not limited to lack of electricity, problems with irrigation,  and no longer having refrigeration to preserve the harvested fruit. they consistently made it to farmers markets all over the bay area for the past three months and the peaches were incredibly delicious. my hope for danny and drew now is for them to be able to take a breath (though i know there is not space for them to get the rest they truly need and deserve) and feel supported in whatever rebuilding they choose to begin. if you are able, pleeease donate to their rebuilding efforts! thankfully they have a resourced community looking out for them, but this fundraising only begins to cover the expenses and labor needed to recover and move forward. you can also follow danny and drew’s photo updates on their instagram.

I think what’s hidden in this ashy mess that viscerally sickened us at first is not at all what I initially hoped we might recover. And though we don’t yet know what we will find in this reemergence I am clinging to the hope that it is bright and colorful, full of life and vitality and that this initial wave of resilience is continuous and irrepressible.

(drew via @thepeachjamboree)

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photo by kale chesney.

for the past few months, i have been learning to play the banjo (clawhammer style). it has been a delightful foray into the bright and sweet instrument, and i am enjoying leaning into my developing country side. on top of that, i have deepened my understanding and appreciation for what it means to practice and commit to something. something eli recently passed on to me and was shared with them is the thought of how so many of us are so hard on ourselves for not being very good at things we’ve literally never practiced. things like the banjo, yes, but also things like communicating with clarity, boundaries, and connection, practicing self-love, and recognizing and disrupting destructive patterns of trauma we are steeped in. it sounds silly, but for me, practicing the banjo for 15 minutes a day and seeing the way i progress, gain muscle memory, and sound better and better has been meaningful for me beyond making music. it is helping me be more gentle with myself in the many processes of (un)learning i am engaged in.

i have no doubt that some of what’s prevented me from writing in here the past few months is how overwhelming the world is. when DT was first elected, i was listening to the news every day and had to force myself to take a weekly day off from the news. more recently, i have had phases of completely tuning out, and needing to force myself to have a designated weekly news day to catch up. it’s hard to know what the balance is and i know that it is a privilege for me to be able to choose the level of awareness i adopt around global oppression. like so many people, i was carried by my rage and heartbreak for a few months following the election and quickly burned out. while i think this is emotionally understandable, i do not want to be complicit in the violence, just another white person in the united states who is able to go about their day-to-day life without much discomfort.

while i still feel very much in the beginning stages of figuring out what resistance and resilience against oppression look like in my life, i have embarked on a new creative project i hope will provide inspiration and power for myself and others. the project is called the world we want to live in. it is an interview project with friends and other people i am connected to who perform labor (a term i use broadly) that may be undervalued in terms of movements of resistance — i want the project to demonstrate that this labor is not only valuable, but in fact crucial and fundamental to creating the world we want to live in. i want to explore work and existence that is creative and generative amidst the day-to-day and bigger picture forms of violence and oppression. so far i’ve conducted three interviews — with a candlemaker/herbalist, a writer/rabble rouser, and a farmer, respectively — and am in the process of putting together the website where these interviews will be published. more to come on this front — feel free to ‘like’ the facebook page i’ve created to see updates as things progress!

there’s more, but there’s always more, and maybe y’all won’t have to wait three months for my next update.

take care of yourselves & the people around you.

xo freddie

ps – i turned 29 and am a real, stable adult with my life figured out now.

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not exactly a classic, but a favorite banjo song of mine to play and sing lately…

yes, all cops.

content note: cops, mentions of racism, classism, state and carceral violence. 

the other night in a white, wealthy town in marin county, i had just parked my car to go out to dinner. one parking spot over were two cops harassing a latino man sitting in his parked car. he had been pulled over because he had a garbage bag taped to the inside of his rear view mirror, and one of the cops wondered “what was going on.” the man’s license was suspended for driving without insurance, and his car wasn’t registered. the cops cited him and called a towtruck, insisting they were doing the merciful thing by having his car towed instead of having him arrested. the man quietly pleaded with them, saying he really needed his car. the cops kept repeating how they are good guys and they hate doing this kind of thing. soon enough it came out that he was living out of his car, which the cops gave him a hard time for — as if houselessness is a measure of character or a matter of choice. i called out to the man and offered to take his stuff since his car was being towed and he didn’t know when he would get it back. we moved a laundry basket of clothes, a backpack, and his bible to my car. he said, “i don’t have anywhere for this stuff to go.” i said, “i’m so sorry this is happening.” with tears in his eyes he shook his head and said, “for nothing.”

i am certain these men consider themselves good guys, “good cops.” the exclusively white passerbys seemed to trust that as well, as several of them nodded and smiled at the cops, and narrowed their eyes at the man who didn’t know where he would sleep that night. aside from some quietly infuriating tsk-tsk-type comments and value judgements about the man, the cops were well-mannered in their words and body language. aware of my presence and intent to observe their behavior, one went so far as to thank me, saying i was so kind to offer the man a ride. he shrugged, saying, “it is what it is.”

i don’t believe there is any such thing as a good cop. i am not saying all cops are mean or all cops are card-carrying members of the KKK. i even believe cops sometimes offer certain forms of support to some people. however. i bear witness to the fact that the norm of police culture, not the anomaly, is using physical and systemic violence to enforce oppression. yes, all cops break up families, depriving parents of their children and children of their parents. yes, all cops enforce racist, sexist, and classist laws. yes, all cops protect “private property” on stolen land, patrolling the streets for people who they don’t feel have the right to exist in public space. it doesn’t matter how polite or nice a cop acts, who a cop voted for, and what kind of person they are when they’re not wearing the badge. no cops are good cops because all cops accept the state-sanctioned power to lock humans in cages based on interpretations of already racist, classist laws.

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former 49-ers quarterback colin kaepernick tweeted this image last week and was heavily criticized. it’s factual truth, not opinion or exaggeration, that the us’s modern-day police originated from runaway slave patrols.

often when the idea of abolishing police and/or prisons comes up, people who feel resistant to the idea point to the small percentage of people in prisons who are chronically violent and unremorseful. in the long-term, let’s-vision-collective-liberation scope, i strongly believe that all people with lifelong access to stable housing, comprehensive healthcare, education, cultural resources, and community support are capable of thriving in a way that doesn’t hurt others or compete with others’ right to live and thrive. that may sound far out, since so many people in the US don’t have stability in terms of housing, healthcare, and other basic resources. but as i continue to learn from adrienne maree brown and other visionary black women, envisioning a better world requires imagination. walidah imarisha writes in the introduction of octavia’s brood:

… the decolonization of the imagination is the most dangerous and subversive form there is: for it is where all other forms of decolonization are born. Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless.

For those of us from communities with historic collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us. For adrienne maree brown and myself, as two Black women, we think of our ancestors in chains dreaming about a day when their children’s children’s children would be free. They had no reason to believe this was likely, but together they dreamed of freedom, and they brought us into being.

i have been thinking a lot about the man and wondering how he’s doing, where he’s staying, if he got his car back. i won’t forget the look in his eyes. we owe it to ourselves and to our communities to look out for each other, even when we don’t feel we can do anything to help.

if you are interested in learning more about abolition for police and prisons, black & pink has a collection of resources compiled here — i really appreciate captive genders for a queer perspective. if you are interested in learning more about observing police in action, i think the berkeley copwatch handbook is a good place to start, as well as the other resources here.

til next time.

xo freddie

on the stabbings in portland

[content note: white supremacy, etc.] 

I am feeling sad about what went down in Portland, my hometown, over the weekend. Briefly: a white supremacist was harassing two teenage girls, one of whom was in hijab and one of whom was black, and some white men intervened. This resulted in the white supremacist stabbing the three men who intervened, two of whom died and one of whom remains hospitalized. The teenagers fled to safety. The white supremacist was arrested without incurring any police violence.

Since this event occurred, photos and other evidence of the white supremacist’s racist and xenophobic words and actions quickly surfaced, including photos and quotes from Portland Police officers writing him off as a kook “with a head injury,” and protecting him as he made his way to a bus following an alt-right “free speech” protest last month.

I mourn for the people who lost their loved ones, for the girls whose sense of safety is surely gone and who have the rest of their lives to look back on this bloody event, for other Black, brown, and Muslim folks who now have more cause to worry about their kids, families, and own wellbeing as they go about their lives. I fear for the impact this attack will have on future bystanders of hateful harassment and violence. I recognize that there are ways in which the alt right is organized and trained and the left and progressives are not. I wonder when everyone who claims opposition to Tr*mp’s dangerous rhetoric and deadly policies will stop defending nazis’ right to free speech and public rallies and start taking this shit seriously.

Looking at photos of vigils and memorials in my hometown, I saw a lot of “love trumps hate” rhetoric and other heartfelt, but apolitical, calls for unity and care. No mention of Islamophobia, of anti-blackness, of the ways women of color are at the highest risk for white supremacist violence. Now we want to talk about mental health. Now we want to talk about toxic masculinity. We as white communities will do anything to avoid naming white supremacy, and addressing how we are all complicit.

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“love trumps hate” is an empty phrase without naming white supremacy and the role we all play in it. 

I hear a lot of generalized statements about how the Pacific Northwest was specifically founded on segregation and white supremacy. Some quick history from Oregonian and organizer Keegan Steven:

While many see Portland as a progressive Mecca, it is in fact the whitest city in America, largely by design. When Oregon joined the Union, it joined not as a free state or a slave state, but as a no-blacks-allowed state, the only state to do so. Being black in Portland, Oregon was a crime punishable by 40 whippings a day until leaving the state, on the books until 1974. This was possible because Oregon refused to ratify the 14th Amendment – the equal protection clause – until the 1970s. Oregon also refused to ratify the 15th Amendment, giving black people the right to vote – passed after the Civil War – until 1959. As a result, Portland is still the whitest city in America, with some of the worst inequities in housing, education, and criminal justice.

I know what occurred in Portland is liable to occur anywhere. It’s a fatal, heartbreaking, and infuriating example of what happens when progressive communities are more focused on protecting the right to free speech and store windows than protecting their neighbors. Still, this is all happening quite literally close to home, and I sit in grief, anger, and love for those of us in resistance together. What will we do to strengthen ourselves and our movements, and re-commit to shutting down white supremacist violence?

xo freddie

that’s the question, isn’t it?

i recently watched i am not your negro, the recent documentary film featuring black scholar james baldwin’s unfinished writings. it’s intense and valuable in many ways, and i wanted to share one moment in particular that struck me:

it’s powerfully articulated and drives home the fact that it doesn’t really matter if i and fellow white folks think of ourselves as racist or hateful — i believe most people don’t think of themselves as hateful — what matters is our explicit or implicit support of the institutions we benefit from due to white supremacy. definitely a helpful reminder for me to continue to push myself to figure out the best and most felt ways of putting my principles into action.

navigating the changing landscape of how the outside world perceives me and reacts to my gender expression continues to be a mix of challenging, interesting, exciting, and absurd. because i am more frequently being addressed using he/him pronouns or other male-oriented terms, i am feeling more comfortable to explore and play with gender expression, wearing lots of floral, painting my nails, adding a little gold earring to the mix. the other day when I was waiting in line, a clearly confused stranger stared at me and asked, “are you a man or a woman?” i replied, “that’s the question, isn’t it?” there’s the absurdity — the urgent desire to know how to categorize a total stranger. a friend of mine on testosterone astutely observed about how peoples’ obsession with what ‘parts’ we have directly corresponds to how they decide to treat us. what other reason would anyone think they needed to know?

C_gQuBLUQAEiqHZ.jpgtwo of the best experiences i’m having connected to being on hormones and getting more comfortable in my body are: feeling physically strong as i continue to exercise and build muscle, and feeling cute! especially in the midst of mental health struggles and what still feels like an overall unkind world, i never want to underestimate the power of an affirming selfie that depicts me how i see myself.

observing and feeling my voice changing is also a mix of feelings — i’ve written briefly before about the inherent loss there is in transformation, and how it feels appropriate to grieve that loss. in acknowledging grief and loss here, i fear those harboring subconscious transphobia will see this as a reason why i and other trans people are unfit or unwise to use hormones to self-actualize. however, i believe all physical, emotional, and mental growth involves loss and letting go of a previous version of oneself in order to welcome in the new. for me, where there is grief, there is also joy and gratitude. that is what i dominantly feel as i continue to explore these changes through singing and making music. my friend kieran recently recorded and mixed this track of me singing in their backyard in oakland, and my friend elisa is singing harmonies.

in other news of what’s been running through my head lately, I saw hamilton! my abridged thoughts, in classic virgo bulletpoint form:

  • what the fuck? i thought i heard something about flipping the script, but all i see is another glorified portrayal of the colonization of turtle island, albeit with a very talented cast of black and brown actors.
  • is there really no mention of the colonization and genocide of indigenous people… anywhere? even in lin manuel miranda interviews about creating the show?
  • holy shit, satisfied is catchy.
  • does this show even come close to passing the bechdel test? is one of the two woman-sung songs really called “helpless”?
  • holy shit, every song is this show is catchy.
  • i guess i have a new problematic fave. i mean… have you heard the mixtape? queen latifah, usher, and alicia keys ftw…

but seriously, if anyone who engages with decolonization is interested in sharing their experiences of the show/music (raves or critiques or both), i am interested in hearing about it!

wanted to share one more piece of organizing and mobilization that i found incredibly powerful and beautiful. a coalition of black-led organizations ran a campaign to raise funds to bail out over 100 black incarcerated mamas leading up to and on mother’s day. some words from mary hooks, co-director of southerners on new ground (SONG):

We know that about 80% of black women that are sitting in cages right now are single parents and caretakers. We know that one out of three black trans women who have spent time in the cage have experienced sexual violence in the cage. One out of nine black children have parents who are incarcerated. Our goal is to be able to free our people from these cages, using the traditions from our ancestors that bought each other’s collective freedom, to get our folks back home and to highlight the crisis around the cash bail system, put pressure on all of these institutions who are making money off of our people’s suffering, but, most importantly, restore the life that this cash bail system have taken from our people.

if you’d like to hear or read more about these actions, i recommend watching mary hooks’ interview on democracy now,  and reading caitlin breedlove’s piece on what white-led organizations can learn from this mama’s day bailout action.

that’s all for now. ’til next time…

xo freddie

ps — if you are a queer person interested or involved in farming and/or ecological justice, check out queer ecojustice’s summer reading group! you can participate from anywhere…

for now, i am home

i haven’t written in a while and i suppose it’s in part because i’ve been kinda overwhelmed and sad. it doesn’t always feel like the most natural thing to share those vulnerable feelings in a public way. sometimes i question the wisdom of doing so, especially in an age where surveillance is being used to target and repress people, by the government, alt-right jerks, and TERFs alike. still — the power and connection i find in vulnerability and authenticity and my hope for my writing reaching others in a meaningful way keeps me sharing.

18222437_10209762396044069_1616808143073369599_ntoday is the 10 year anniversary of the death of my close friend, lauren. last year i decided i would follow her brother’s lead to move on from honoring that day, and instead focus on her birthday as a celebration of life. of course, my body and heart deeply remember that day. still i grieve. when i was younger, i misguidedly attempted to stay exactly as i was when she died, thinking that was the truest way to live out my loyalty and love for her. it took me a few years to realize that living fully and authentically as myself was a much better and truer way to honor lauren, and that like all people, i am dynamic and have the capacity to transform. moving on in this way helped me to push away doubt and shame about being queer and trans, though of course i wish she could know me as i am today.

10 years is a trip. i’ve been without her in my life twice as long as we were friends. her family and i will always be family to each other, for the love and grief we share and stay connected to. (a while ago i published a serious tearjerker ‘home’ interview with lauren’s mom susan – one of my favorite interviews in the project.) today, i cried and felt her absence more than i expected to. there are ways in which time heals our wounds, and there are ways time only buries them. for a few years there, losing lauren defined my life. thankfully, it’s not like that anymore. still, no matter how much i heal, grow, and transform, loving lauren — and losing her — is formative in making me who i am.

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the albany bulb in full bloom this morning.

i recorded a new version of an old song i wrote in the year following lauren’s death – it’s called massapequa and it’s about the first year i didn’t go home for the holidays, seeking and finding home in loved ones.

i’ve been in a strange place lately. there are ways and moments in which i so deeply yearn and strive for connection with friends, comrades, and community. the moments in which i feel seen, heard, and embraced make my heart swell, they make me feel strong and solid and okay, they make me wanna make music and be brave. i especially appreciate moments of connection around political building — i guess it’s just that feeling and knowing of being connected to something bigger than myself. the world keeps getting scarier and if we don’t have each other we don’t have anything. i’m still figuring out what my role can be in movement work. i’m still working at stepping into my power and approaching this work with humility, groundedness, and deep love.

there’s lots more i want to share about in here, but i think i will leave it at this for now.

hope the sun has been shining where you are.

xo freddie

ps – i felt cute yesterday so here’s a selfie.

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a few words on caregiving and a lot of words on gender

it’s the time of the year when the changing of the seasons is so tangible — full of blossoming and blooming, warm and sometimes hot days, and i want to push all my obligations to the back burner to go to the beach. the time of the year when my northeastern friends’ instagram pictures of their snowy, icy streets just don’t register to me and i am so grateful to be in california!

i am a few months in to my in-home caregiving work. it’s a steep learning curve, in spite of my informal caregiving experience with friends and family. i was fortunate to be able to attend an introductory mindful caregiving course with the zen hospice project in SF. my goal in seeking out this resource was to increase the quality of care i provide, while also increasing my capacity to caregive and make the work as emotionally sustainable for me as possible. some of my takeaways i am continuing to integrate into my work include:

  • actively listening and being present is generally much more healing and needed than bustling around and seeking solutions to one’s suffering. wrapped up in that is letting go of the perception that one’s current state is some kind of problem.
  • in hospice care, much of one’s suffering may come from the discrepancy between who someone was throughout their life, and who they are today. (someone’s physical and mental capacities changing, friends/community dying or otherwise being gone, hobbies/activities no longer being an option or otherwise having serious obstacles, autonomy shifting and sometimes being diminished)
  • ‘bringing my whole self’ is important for making the work sustainable on both ends. while it may not always be feasible or desired to share where i’m at emotionally, it’s important to do some internal checks, even if all i’m able to do for myself in moments of struggle is acknowledge what i’m experiencing and take a deep breath.
  • staying open by cultivating humility and a sense of curiosity are powerful tools. “in the expert’s mind, possibilities are very limited.” when i seek to let go of answers or actions i think are worthwhile or ‘right,’ and more intentionally listen and ask questions to hear from the people i’m working with, i immediately notice shifts in ease, openness, and softness between us.

if you are in the bay and interested in caregiving work and hospice care (either in a professional or personal sense), i highly recommend looking into the zen hospice project! they were able to offer me a discounted course fee upon request.

lots of trials, tribulations, and also sweet and exciting developments in gender land these days. i’ve been on a low dose of testosterone for four months now and while the changes ebb and flow in intensity and expression, they are occurring. i’m fully in the realm of my second puberty and while i have many more tools and resources available to me than when i was 13, it still has its challenges and dramatics! i am working on being both gentle with myself and vigilant in living up to who i want to be, in recognizing my feeling and experiences are both super real and also hormonal. i am feeling affirmed in myself and my decisions and my body. i am seeking to cultivate deeper patience and slowness, for that is what feels most called for in my personal life and in my caregiving work, and that is what i am feeling short on. i very recently ‘lost’ my ability to sing along with taylor swift in her same octave, and she was my go-to alone in the car belt-it-out music. i am experiencing these changes as loss and seeking to grieve them, while also recognizing that in this case creation, rebirth, and discovery necessitate loss. even where there is grief and discomfort, loss doesn’t have to feel like a negative thing.

since writing my february post (“action idea: write a letter to your high school”), i have been engaged in conversations with my old high school, alumni, and other members of those communities around protecting and supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students. it has been heartening to connect with other queer folks who were also closeted at our high school, to see what’s shifting culturally in micro and macro ways, and to come together to push forward the very necessary changes that need to occur in order for truly take a stand for LGBTQ students. this may be a long-haul process, as privately-funded institutions may face many barriers to introducing progressive changes, but i am committed to it and grateful to be working with others who feel similarly.

meanwhile in the bay area, i had the pleasure of going into several classes at rosa parks elementary school in berkeley to sing a song about gender and talk with them about their own experiences, perceptions, and ideas. kids are so much more ready to accept and embrace fluid and creative identities and expressions of gender than adults (myself included) and it is beautiful. these particular kids kept getting hung up on the part of the song in which is the narrator expresses anxiety around being told to line up ‘as boys and girls’ — because this school has done away with that kind of needless gender segregation, and in one kid’s words, “that’s just messed up.” while i’m aware the bay area is more open and progressive than many other regions, it was a super heartening, hopeful, and inspiring experience for me! (ps — i was gifted this amazing kid’s book written by a staff member and parent of a non-binary kid: who are you? the kid’s guide to gender identity. highly recommended!)

just a couple days after my experiences in the classroom, i had “the locker room moment” i’ve always feared and known was coming. while i was minding my own business getting dressed in the locker room, two women began pointing and yelling, “you don’t belong here!” someone fetched a staff member who came in, saw what was happening, and thanked me for my ‘openness’ before leaving without confronting the harassers. as i gathered my things and got up to leave i calmly said in spite of my shakiness and fear: “you don’t get to tell me where i belong.” one of the women doubled down and continued to tell me i didn’t belong there. another person saw what was happening and said to me, “i’m fine with you being here.” i left shaking and in tears. it was a scary and jarring experience for me. thankfully and to their credit, the ymca staff have been supportive and proactive in taking steps to learn more about accommodating trans/gender non-conforming members. my impression is that they are hoping to develop clear policies and practices around this.

it’s important to note that trans women and transfeminine folks experience the brunt of harassment as well as physical violence in bathroom and locker room spaces, and those experiences should be centered when we talk about how to address this violence and make change. also, trans people of color are at higher risk for harassment and violence in these spaces because as a generalization, white women perceive black and brown bodies as more threatening, and white people feel entitled to police where black and brown bodies can be. i am sharing my story here both because i feel i deserve an outlet to express my own experiences, and because i imagine it might be illuminating for some people in my life who might not personally know other trans people.

i want to share one more thing i am realizing the need to clarify. going by he/him pronouns and/or going on testosterone does not make anyone a trans man, or trans guy. this includes me. i am not a trans man or guy. sometimes transmasculine is a word i use to describe myself, but that also feels limiting. a funny thing happens even in queer community, when people go out of their way to call me ‘dude’ or do other codeswitch-y things. i don’t bring attention to these moments often because i recognize most people who do this are attempting to affirm me and it’s not really worth it to me to correct them. so, this is a declaration that i am not a man, and we should all do our very best to never make assumptions about how someone identifies, even based on their pronouns or gender expression.

this was so many words on gender, but it happens.

’til next time,

xo freddie

ps – i wrote this in my last ‘top 5’ music post but feel so strongly that everyone should enjoy this song and watch this broadway-style music video 🙂