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 🙂

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top 5 songs of the moment

there’s lots i’d like to write about, and life has been busy. but i’d like to take this moment for a musical appreciation post, a belated follow up to last summer’s.

1) sunday candy – donnie trumpet & the social experiment
(aka chance the rapper feat. jamila woods)

i already loved this song & have been blasting it in my car on repeat to sing along to jamila woods’ gorgeous, sweet, & sensual hook. and then i saw this broadway-theater-style music video! all done in one continuous shot. perfect.

2) trial & error – slothrust

this song makes me wanna cry & i don’t know why. more than almost any other artist, slothrust always makes me want to make music. sometimes i do. even when i don’t, i take a lot of pleasure in hollering along to the abstract yet evocative lyrics and  occasionally headbanging to their “jazz and blues-afflicted rock.”

3) cold apartment – vagabon

i found this song in the interlude of a particularly frought episode of democracy now. when i looked up vagabon, they are one of a those up and coming brooklyn artists with whom i have a gazillion mutual acquaintances in common. it makes me laugh to think of amy goodman in conjunction with this music scene, swaying along in the crowd at silent barn with her arms crossed. i’ve since gotten into this whole album, especially because she has a song that says ‘freddie’ in it!

4) just friends – st. lenox

honestly, this is just a breakup song that hits where it hurts. it’s either blamey nor self-pitying. it acknowledges the points of conflict and touches on the yearning and fear that accompanies letting go. he seems like an interesting artist and upon glancing some intriguing song names (“21st century post-liberal blues,” “people from other cultures”) i want to hear more.

5) cups – anna kendrick (from the problematic/delightful teen comedy pitch perfect)

listen, i’m embarrassed about including this, but i would be amiss if i pretended that this wasn’t one of my favorite songs to sing along to these days. it is so ripe for harmonies, and has that old traditional folk song feel (probably because it did indeed originate from an old folk song that has been re-written and re-sung again and again). anyway, this song came into my life because i finally got around to seeing pitch perfect, and i don’t regret it (but i think my partner does).

bonus tracks:

pray for me (feat. willow) – tyler cole
astral plane – valerie june
spell – emily reo

hope you enjoy.

xo freddie

Action idea: write a letter to your high school

Inspired by some people on social media, I decided to write a letter to the administration of my Catholic high school in Portland, Oregon. It is a bit nervewracking considering the internalized misogyny and homophobia being at that school cultivated for me, but it feels important to speak out. Below is the letter I sent (with some specifics rescinded). I welcome anyone to use this letter as a template for your own!

***

Dear staff and administration of ________,

I am a graduate of the ______ class of 2007. My education and experiences at ________ helped spark my interest in social justice, leading me to my current work in communications and care work. I am also queer and transgender, two important components of my identity that did not feel safe to explore in my time at______ . With gendered dress codes, “faggot” as the all-purpose insult among my peers, and no clear stance against homophobia and transphobia stated by the administration,______ was not a safe space for me. I feel that I, too, likely engaged in hurtful attitudes and behaviors toward non-normative students, due to internalized misogyny and homophobia. I have heard that there are now several more openly gay kids at______ than there were when I was a student, and I am hopeful______ is taking measures to be more actively inclusive. I am grateful for community and care I found in the drama department and classes led by nurturing teachers including ______ and ______.

The current presidential administration’s rescinding of protection for trans and gender non-conforming students is heartwrenching and violent. Around 42% of transgender people attempt suicide in their lifetime (compared to 5% of the general population), so when it comes to how transgender youth are treated at school, this is quite literally a matter of life and death.

I am writing to urge you to create a sensitivity training program among staff and students at ______ . I would like to know about the availability of single-stall bathrooms (in classroom buildings and athletic facilities) and hear about plans to increase the availability of these. I want to know how you will protect trans and gender non-conforming kids, and remind you that just because not all of your LGBTQ students aren’t out doesn’t mean they aren’t there. How are you going to address the behavior of those who violate a safe environment for young members of the LBGTQ+ community?

I look forward to hearing from you and am rooting for your community as a space where all students can fully discover and become who they are.

Sincerely,

Freddie (he/him/his)
Class of 2007

“If we didn’t inherit a land-based home, then how do we create that in this lifetime?” Eliana on home.

the following is an interview with my partner eliana as part of my home project. eliana gave this interview at the very end of our three-month-long roadtrip. it was a year ago we set off on this trip, and two years ago this month when we became partners in adventure, love, and making home. eliana is an organizer, activist, doula, herbalist, among other things, and i’m not even a little bit sorry for loving on them in this public way! content note: the following conversation discusses ancestral trauma and colonization.


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Who are you and where are we?

My name is Eliana and we’re currently at Fancyland, a queer artist and activist retreat center in northern California.

Do you have a place you consider your home of origin?

Thinking about my home of origin brings up a lot of different things. Being on this roadtrip for the past few months and being in so many different places, I’ve had a felt sense that my home of origin is in California, in the Bay Area, as the place I grew up and have spent the majority of my life. Thinking about ancestry and where I come from in my actual origin stories feels really different. Both of my parents moved to California in their lifetime so it’s not like I have even one or two generations of history in California, let alone the historic and ongoing legacies of imperialism, colonization, and migration patterns that have really changed the landscape of this country.

It’s a loaded question and one that I’m thinking about a lot in terms of where do I really come from. When people ask me, ‘where are you from?’ I think it’s so much more complicated than where was I born or where did I grow up. For me it’s about a history in eastern Europe of Jews migrating because of being persecuted. Relatively speaking, that’s a recent history, and I don’t even know where my family of origin came from before that. It’s an ongoing search and discovery to uncover my own origin story and the origin stories of the people whose land I’m on and occupying.

In what ways do your origin stories and histories impact your current search for home?

I used to think about the connection between my ancestors’ patterns of migrations and my own lifetime of moving — the relationship between those two things was fascinating to me when I was starting to learn about my family history. I have this inclination to move a lot and never really feel at home. When I delve deeper into that realm I realize that it is so in my bones and in my blood that for so many generations, my family was constantly moving and searching for home and trying to feel safe. Even though that’s not an experience that I have lived in my life — a real physical threat to my safety being the motivating factor for moving — I feel like there’s something in me that is very nomadic. I feel a constant impulse towards moving.

At the same time, I don’t want to just live out of my ancestral trauma or current struggle for a sense of belonging. I want to heal and find ways of feeling safe and at home that are generative and accountable to the indigenous people and stories of the land I am on.

What do you think that looks like?

It looks like digging roots in deep and not giving up or letting go when things get hard. Trusting that even in moments of tension or struggle where my stability might feel threatened, that I’m at home in my body. It looks like community and political organizing that ensures we all have access to healing and home.

When you are at home in your body, how does that feel? What is that like?

Being at home in my body feels like my face is relaxed and my muscles are just sort of hanging off my bones. There’s a sense of the neurological response of ‘rest and digest.’ I’m not in fight or flight, I’m not clenched or defending myself or pushing out into the world. It’s very much a settling in and relaxation and also an openness and vulnerability. I feel very at home in my body when I’m naked, by myself, in the bathtub, or with loved ones. I feel very at home in my body when I can see my whole body and hold myself. The different ways I’m able to connect to the wholeness of who I am makes me feel at home. Feeling the length between my feet and my head, the width between my shoulders, and just filling out the different dimensions of my body is really grounding and makes me feel at home.

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What does it feel like to be at home in the space around you?

Being at home in the space around me has a lot to do with building history with the space around me. Going back to the question of my home of origin, that’s why the Bay Area feels that way and why I feel at home there. I have history there, and I have that connection to being in the place around me. I know how to get around, I run into people, I have a sense of community. I think that’s something that can be inherited when people have long histories of land-based community that are really grounded in a particular place. I also think it can be built for those of us who don’t have histories of being land-based. That ties into the question, what does it mean to be a Jew living in diaspora, or any kind of diasporic identity? If we didn’t inherit a land-based home, then how do we create that in this lifetime? That feels like a really exciting challenge to build that history and build that community wherever I am. To find and create home that doesn’t perpetuate cycles of ethnic cleansing and colonization but instead is part of creating anti-oppressive, regenerative cultures that honor our relationships to each other and to the land. To know that I can build off of my own traditions and legacies that are connected to a piece of land, that help me feel that sense of place and belonging and home.

Tell me about your tangible goals and intentions around building that.

I’ve had a vision for a long time of co-creating a land-based community and having some sort of queer land project or farm or collective. I’ve used different words to describe it over the years. I’m getting to a point in my life where I’m really ready to make that happen. I’m looking into all of the different components that are important to me in making that happen. The people who are involved is obviously a huge component, like building and creating and sustaining family, including my family of origin, my chosen family, and my community. I want to bring those people into my visions in in an intentional way, and more importantly create a collective vision together. I have my own vision of queer sanctuary and a space for healing and fueling social justice movements, and also, so much of my vision will be shaped by whoever is involved in making that collective vision together. I don’t know. I’m feeling like it’s hard to get into tangible things from big ideas.

What are your next steps into turning big ideas into tangible things?

On this roadtrip, visiting different land projects and collectives was a powerful next step. I’ve been reflecting and seeing that a lot of the intentions I set and a lot of what I needed to do has happened on this trip and will continue to happen as I process and digest all of the information I’ve gathered from people and places I’ve visited. Following this trip, I’m looking forward to moving onto my friends’ farm that they just bought in Oroville, California. It’s already a working farm and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. There’s potential for collectivizing. I feel a sense of hope and possibility. I’ll learn so much just from living there, and whatever form it might take, that feels like a good next step. The potential of that physical place being one that I could begin a collective process of visioning and strategizing and developing a structure is really exciting to me.

When I have a deep and intimate relationship to the people and plants and animals around me and am building history over time in that place, that’s when I’ll feel at home.

Tell me about how being on the road has impacted your sense of home — everything from moving around so much and not having a literal, physical space to call home, and also visiting different homes and talking to a lot of different people about the visions they’re in the process of creating?

Being on the road for three months definitely challenged my ideas of what being at home really means. It was hard in a lot of ways to not have a physical space that was mine, that was home. In some ways I do feel like the car became that. Collecting little trinkets and stones from places we went and having those things in the car and seeing that altar be built gave me a sense of home. And realizing, yeah, I really can make home in so many ways with pretty limited resources. Finding the things that make me feel comfortable and building those in more really supported me being able to sustain myself on this trip. Getting to places and having a door to close made a big difference.

On the flip side, constantly being in motion was challenging. Some years ago, I was traveling for the same amount of time but only stayed in two or three different places in the course of three months. I was able to make home in each place I was and have a little altar next to my bed and things like that. On this trip, moving on anywhere from every day to once a week at the most, was a lot of uprooting. It was really exhausting. I can’t imagine living a whole life like that. I always knew how important it was to me to have a stable home to come back to. Not having it on this trip was hard. There’s no ways for me to touch base with myself. It’s so much harder to settle in and just get into the rhythm of, ‘I’m in my space, I’m safe, no one’s coming in, no one needs anything from me right now, I’m not on my way somewhere or arriving from somewhere, I’m just here.’ That feeling of being in my room and being at home is so deeply restorative. It feels like not that much to ask. It feels really basic to want to be in a space, not be bothered, not have to go anywhere, and just be present with myself. That feels like a human need and a human right, to safe and secure housing and to care for ourselves and each other in that way. This trip has worn on me in not having that and I’m really looking forward to settling in and having more downtime.

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me and eliana’s last day at the farm in the sierra foothills

In what ways are you seeking home, and in what ways have you found home?

Even though home is tied to a physical space for me so much of the time, I do feel like the physicality of home has and will change. The seeking and finding home has less to do with seeking and finding a physical home and more about opening my eyes to all of the ways that I do have home, particularly in relationship to other people.

I have a deep knowing that I’ll never be without a home, and that there’s so many people who would hold me and host me and show up for me in that way. I mean, whatever, maybe not. Maybe I can’t say I’ll never be without a home. The apocalypse could happen, you know. things happen. (laughs) I just feel like I have such a loving family and community, and my relationship to you — my partner, Freddie — is a huge way that I’m both seeking home and feel like I’ve found home. That was also really clear on the road. There’s so much more work to be done in building this relationship that we have and making it be one that is a source of grounding and home. And in times where I was struggling or felt homesick or felt unsafe in any varying degrees, I could really call on that relationship and just feel held in it, and loved, and that made all the difference to feel at home in my heart and in my body.

healing in nature & relationships as resistance

between periods of nonstop rain, we’ve begun to have warm, sunny days of thawing out, and it feels like springtime is emerging. it feels good to be living in sonoma county, both for the healing properties of the redwoods and ocean, and for the proximity to my loved ones and community in the bay. oroville, the town eli and i just moved from, has been in the news lately due to a recent evacuation order and fears of flooding from the dilapidated spillway of the oroville dam. i have been thinking of our friends at the farm tons. they are safely positioned above the dam, but taking serious precautions to prepare for an emergency, just in case. it’s so intense to think about the thousands of mostly poor and working class residents dealing with the uncertain safety and stability of their homes, at the same time the newly appointed leaders of the executive branch are ferociously denying the impact of climate change.

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a panoramic photo from the sonoma coast

i have begun my work as an in home support person for a couple of different folks in the area. the duties include everything from housekeeping to running errands to more creative endeavors, and it feels like unique and important work. over the years i continue to find a lot of power and strength in relationship building across lines of identity, ability, and oppression. i don’t mean for that to sound lofty or self-important. it’s not glamorous work by any means and i don’t kid myself that the support i offer is some all-encompassing solution to these folks’ problems. but as i’ve written before… enacting structural change feels super daunting most of the time, while relationship building both helps me step into my own power and transform, and has the potential to do the same for others as well. so, it’s work i’m learning a lot from. i am grateful and humbled to be doing it.

while my process for finding my place in this moment and movement of resistance feels slow, it is in motion. i am trying to balance showing up for action with finding ways to contribute and support grassroots efforts in more sustained ways. i would like to share the inspiration, excitement, and even hope i felt while joining with many hundreds of others at SFO a little while ago to shut down the airport and demand that the people detained due to the xenophobic, islamophobic travel ban be released.

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brooke anderson photography

first of all, it was amazing to see the airport filled with resistance, as airports are places i associate closely with heavy security, policing, and being on one’s best behavior. not to mention the ways that protesting in an airport makes things so much more accessible for families with kids, disabled folks, and elders — there are ample bathrooms, water, food, electrical outlets, and physically accessible means of getting around. there is lots of good information and resources floating around about the necessity of making movement work accessible, please do yourself a favor and read some if that’s not already an integral part of your work! i’ve found sins invalid and the icarus project to be great resources on this front.

one amazing thing about being a part of the SFO shutdown and protest was seeing the wide swaths of people who seemed totally willing to participate in civil disobedience and direct action under the leadership of AROC (arab resource and organizing center) with support from APTP (anti-police terror project). like many others i have my critiques about culture/politics around the women’s marches, but was so pleased and excited to see folks in their “pussy hats” ready and willing to lock arms and stand their ground to prevent police and angry passengers alike from passing through. it made me feel hopeful — perhaps in spite of the very valid critiques around inclusivity (particularly in relationship to race and people who don’t identify as women), the mass mobilization the women’s march provided can really lead to a popular movement of inclusive, effective resistance in this era of a fascist regime. alicia garza wrote a great piece related to this called, “our cynicism will not build a movement. collaboration will.” here’s a short excerpt:

“Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement. If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement, you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent, we will not win…

I remember who I was before I gave my life to the movement. Someone was patient with me. Someone saw that I had something to contribute. Someone stuck with me. Someone did the work to increase my commitment. Someone taught me how to be accountable. Someone opened my eyes to the root causes of the problems we face. Someone pushed me to call forward my vision for the future. Someone trained me to bring other people who are looking for a movement into one.”

one moment i witnessed: a line of about 15 riot police approached a small group of folks banded together to block an airport escalator, and ask them to move. they refused, and someone from APTP told the riot cops to leave. after a few moments, the riot cops turned walked away. i have never seen that happen before. it was powerful. (view democracy now’s coverage of the SFO protests here.)

thanks to the folks at protests and online who have pointed out the fundamental error in the sentiment, “we are all immigrants.” we are not all immigrants. notably, native people and black folks whose ancestors were brought here forcibly as slaves are not immigrants. i am a white settler, the descendent of great grandparents who immigrated from ireland to turtle island (aka the U.S.), which was stolen from indigeneous people. there is power in unity, but it is equally important and powerful to highlight the difference in our histories and experiences — and how if anything, that should serve to strengthen the collectivity in our struggles.

btw — i’ve done some re-organizing of my small monthly donations to include AROC. please do the same if you can, even $5-10 a month makes a difference for grassroots organizations. even better, seek out a muslim/arab led organizing group in your community, if you are not in the bay area.

on a personal note, i celebrate two years in my loving partnership with eliana this month, and am so grateful for the exploration, support, laughter, transformation, and love our relationship continues to bring me! this might be a little embarrassing for them to read. but rad, queer love is resistance and i am proud and grateful to be in it!

“love is an action, never simply a feeling.” (bell hooks)

til next time,

xo freddie

ps – !!!!!!!!

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“i have three hearts”

“There’s something beautiful about places that are a lot of people’s home.”

the following is an interview with my friend margot as part of my home project. i met margot on my roadtrip with eli. we stayed with her for a week, making music, pitching in at soul fire farm and the watershed center, and scheming for margot’s then-upcoming chicken project, linke fligl (‘left wing’ in yiddish!). margot did her own project on ‘home’ after a house she was living in burned down in 2014. listen to margot singing a lovely folk song about home with friendscontent note: the following conversation discusses general trauma around fire / physical loss of home, and ancestral trauma. 

12654302_898571673146_9210887163455600702_nWho are you and where in the world are we?

My name is Margot, and we are in Millerton, New York.

Do you have a place you’d consider a home of origin?

That’s a question I am continuously trying to answer. I grew up in Elgin, Illinois, an hour from Chicago. My parents grew up there, a lot of my grandparents grew up there. It’s where my great grandpa came when he left Lithuania and he started a synagogue there. I’m technically very rooted there, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a home of origin. At the end of the day, it’s a suburban neighborhood, lacking many of the values and types of community I hold dearly.

Jews are diasporic people. I’m a queer radical Jew. Where’s the home of the queer radical Jews? It was New York City, for a while. That’s where the queer radical Jews have held it down in recent decades. More recently I’ve been like, oh what if New York City is my home? It’s the place where I feel most connected to the history, in some ways.

My understanding of diaspora is there’s no physical origin of home. How does that tie in to a physical location?

It’s both that I manage to build home wherever I am, and it feels important to feel oriented to some location. Otherwise it feels like I’m just kind of constantly moving around and trying to find that. I need a north star. I need to understand why I’m in upstate new york. Otherwise I feel like I’ll always be wondering and lost. Maybe that means I need to do a lot of work rooting, in that sense of diaspora and finding home in myself. But I think that can only go so far. It feels important to really commit to community and people.

Can you tell me about the current ways you’re building home where you are now? img_1006

Something that feels exciting to me is that this physical home has the possibility to feel like home to a lot of people. Before living here I was living at Isabella Freedman Center. That’s a place that I continue to feel very much at home. There’s something beautiful about places that are a lot of people’s home, places people continue to come back to. There’s something powerful in everyone knowing, this is the place we go. That leads to such beautiful magic and intersections of different kinds of people. In this day and age where there’s so much scheduling and overbooking and planning, there’s something magical about being able to have a kind of space in which that connection organically happens.

As much as it’s about having a space that feels like home, whenever I move into a place I immediately make it feel like home. When I was at Isabella Freedman I lived in this cabin for a month and I immediately put down a carpet and put up artwork. People would walk in and assume I was there for years when I had just moved in. But that’s only so important. When I lived in the Bay everyone came to the home of these two women who didn’t have a lot of money, and their house wasn’t the nicest or most amazingly decorated, but it was home. You walked in and you could feel this was a place people wanted to be and came back to. Creating the sense of home through the way the space feels can only go so far.

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margot tending to the chickens at linke fligl. photo by zahara zahav.

I wonder if you could talk to me about the experience you had where your home burned down in a fire.

That was a big opportunity to rethink home. The space I was living in that burned down felt like home more than any other space I’d ever been in. I loved the space, I loved where it was, I loved having people there, I loved being on my own there. It was the first space I’d been in where I loved being alone, and didn’t feel lonely. It was just my home, my space. When there was a fire and it burned down, I could feel it in my core. This complete disorientation of not knowing left from right. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to exist. It was intense. It brought up a lot of what felt like ancestral things. Like, oh , I know this feeling. Maybe I haven’t felt it personally before but this is in my bones, this feeling of losing home in a traumatic way.

When it burned down I was in a somatics course in Seattle. The answer that came to me now feels obvious. I realized home is in my body, home is in relationships. I knew that theoretically but it was an embodied sense. People really came through for me, both emotionally and to fill my life up with beautiful things. I just felt really held and cared for. Once I was able to recognize that I was like, oh yeah, it’s okay. I still can feel at home and I don’t need that physical place even though there’s obviously a lot of grief and loss in losing that. Something opened in me. I had gotten so attached to that physical place that it could have been detrimental. I could have stayed there for years. It gave me the opportunity to move on and start this new journey, which has a lot more potential for a long-term building of collective home.

I can see how that would contribute to your feelings of diaspora. Do you mind talking a little bit about your healing process through that loss and rebuilding? 

I was lucky because I was in a somatics course at the time and surrounded by people who had been trained in somatics. I was able to let myself feel a lot of grief, which is something I usually don’t do. I was able to let myself cry for a week straight. When I came back, inched myself back into it little by little. My friends had taken all the little things that had survived and spread it all out in the arts and crafts room. The first thing I did when I got back was to go in there and connect with those things. That was the only time I was actually able to grieve once I was back. I had done so much grieving before I got back, by the time I got back I was kind of done. It was like there was no more left.

There were lots of beautiful moments and opportunities for ritual. The first time I went back to the house, I brought some people from the community with me and we did some rituals. What was also intense was the building stayed there for eight months after the fire and I had to walk by it every day. There was a numbing out that happened to that place. My body just couldn’t handle having to feel things about it every time.

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photo from margot’s blog.

I also did an art installation. I put out an ask for people to respond to the prompt ‘home is’. People sent back all sorts of things. Sukkot was coming, which is this Jewish holiday where you’re celebrating in a temporary home. I wanted to create a space that reflected that everything is kind of temporary. The building was basically to the ground. There was one wall standing. I took paint and wrote on the wall, “Home is…” and collaged art out of pieces of wood from the fire. I’d never done an art installation. It just felt natural to interact with it in that way and reclaim it as beautiful. It went from this burned down dilapidated building to this beautiful art project. It was cool to transform it back into something that felt life giving.

In what ways are you seeking and making home, and in what ways have you found home?

Over the last three years, really grounding in Jewish community, and specifically, radical queer Jewish community… I have this general sense of feeling at home wherever I am that feels really different than before I was connected to that community.   Home feels like all of the places we come together, the songs we sing, the prayers we create.  What feels hard and what I’m really longing for is just to have that in a more consistent way here. It feels like a struggle sometimes to continue to be in deep relationship with folks who don’t live in the same place. I really want to shift to having relationships be more in person than not.

 

what’s going on? j20 and beyond

waking up at four a.m. to pounding rain and dramatic thunder and lightning was a bit cliche for what felt like the doomsday of a certain neo-fascist’s presidential inauguration. miraculously the storm cleared in time for the people to gather in the streets of san francisco and far beyond, all around the globe. i am deeply honored to have been able to stand with resilient and inspiring activists and community members to take a stand not just against the new u.s. administration, but against the country’s legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, and violence that made it possible.

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blocking off the parking garage entrance for 555 california street, the second tallest building in san francisco, 30% of which is owned by the new president. photo by brooke anderson photography.

the atmosphere throughout the day felt strangely celebratory, in spite of the terrible event we were there to protest. but i realize that is is imperative for people and communities overlooked and oppressed by those in power to gather to celebrate survival, resistance, and our commitment to love and support one another. i’m not talking about feel-good “love trumps hate” stuff. i’m talking about standing together in the face of danger to defend the lives of the most vulnerable against a regime which is only becoming more hostile to us all. i’m talking about acknowledging the labor and struggles that are invisibilized and diminished by white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. i’m talking about fighting for each other like we were family. all of us — with different identities and experiences of race, gender, class, and ability — need each other to thrive. we need to lift each other up to win.

we did some singing in the streets today and although i’m exhausted i was inspired to record this cover of “what’s up” by the four non-blondes. please note i am still learning how to use my voice, both literally (thanks T) and in a woo-woo sense…

i know today is just the beginning of this particular regime of violence. i’m seeing lots of loved ones and strangers who have never hit the streets before now, out and about and planning to keep at it. i sometimes bristle at seeing messaging that doesn’t feel quite right, or feel annoyed at someone’s shock to learn about police violence and state repression. but i, too, am learning every day. it takes all kinds. one thing i remain resolute about is my firm belief in the importance of taking leadership from populations most likely to be impacted by discrimination and violence — black and brown folks, muslims, transgender women of color, immigrants and refugees, and disabled folks, to name a few.

that said, i have to speak out about one thing and i hope that folks newer to attending protests will consider it: it’s okay if you don’t want to be around window smashing, and it’s okay if you disagree with it as a tactic (though, it’s worth learning why many consider it strategic in certain situations). but, do not conflate property damage with violence. think about who defines violence and who gets criminalized. i repeat — it’s okay if you don’t approve of window smashing, and if you don’t want to be at risk for experiencing police violence, it’s a rather good idea to find an exit strategy  if that starts happening. but, do not take photos of property destruction, do not ‘snitch,’ do not do anything that incriminates people (this includes posting on social media, which we know law enforcement relies on for policing). if you’re committed to observing and stopping violence, learn some principles of copwatch and turn your camera on the police.

we’ve got a long and hearty fight ahead. please join me in seeking to be humble and open to learning and strategizing how we can resist oppression and defend all communities at risk.

shoutout to everyone i have been fortunate enough to learn from, in relationships and in action and in writings and by example. i am gratefully indebted to you.

xoxo freddie

ps – would very much welcome articles/additional resources that are more in-depth explanations of how/when property damage may be considered a strategic protest tactic. i know i’ve read ’em, but i can’t find them now. thanks!