“part of having a home is about being nurturing in a way that sustains you.” alex on home

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 7.36.03 AM.pngthe following is an interview with my friend alex as a part of my home project. i met alex several years ago on twitter (where she tweets under the moniker @perverted_creep) and we conducted this interview in austin, texas, where she’s lived for the past several years.

What’s your name, and where are we today?

I’m Alex Link. We’re in Austin, Texas at Secret Beach.

What is a place you consider your home of origin?

Chicago, I guess. But I’ve always felt my real home of origin is California. I was born in Santa Monica. My parents were living there because my dad was getting his master’s degree at Pepperdine. The story goes, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake freaked my mom out a lot. Once my dad finished grad school they moved to Illinois, where my dad’s family is from and where my mom spent a good portion of her adolescence.

It sounds like you felt connected to California in spite of moving to the midwest at a very young age, and I’d like to hear more about what pulls you there and makes you feel like that’s your home. 

I always have loved the ocean. I love the sunny warm weather. That’s something you don’t get a whole ton of growing up in the midwest. My family was just in Chicago for for eighteen years until my parents divorced, when me and my brother and sister were in our 20s. When I was a teenager I wasn’t getting along with my parents and I felt stifled by my life. I just wanted to get to California. I wanted to get as far away as possible.

When you think about home, are there sights, smells, sounds, feelings, sensory memories that come up for you?

When I think about home, I tend to think of the kitchen in my childhood home. That was the place that we spent a lot of time in. We had family dinners every night. The alternate entrance to our house was through the kitchen, where you’d go in if you were familiar with the house.

How do you feel when you think about being in that kitchen?

It brings up a lot of painful memories. I was doing EMDR — eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a therapeutic technique that targets past memories and explores them with the goal of resolving trauma associated with that, and re-orienting problematic beliefs that arise from those memories. I did a lot of work in EMDR surrounding two specific memories that had their focal points in that kitchen space. I see that kitchen as a place that says ‘home’ to me, but also makes me feel like home wasn’t ever really my place. I always have felt displaced from the concept of home, because I’ve never felt super at home in what was ostensibly my own home as a child.

It seems like you’ve been doing a lot of intentional thinking and healing from that. I’m wondering how addressing that feeling of displacement has manifested in your life today in your relationship to home.

I’m still looking for my real home and finding pieces of it on my journey. I think home is something we create for ourselves through the things we take with us. Finding [my partner] Trevor and making a home with him has been therapeutic because it’s allowed me to think of a new way to approach home and family, another word that’s closely associated with home. I still feel restless and nomadic and like I’m trying to find my place. It’s not a specific location I’m looking for, but rather a confluence of feelings, space, and comfort — creating a place that is a source of respite and comfort when other places aren’t.

I’d love to hear your most hopeful vision of home, whether that’s a really amorphous thing described by feelings or a physical space you can tangibly imagine.

I want to have a house that has enough space where people can feel comfortable just coming by. I’ve always dreamed of having a really open home to people who need a place to hang out or want to go somewhere to feel comfy for a while. I want to make a place where people can feel the way that I never really felt. I want to have a welcoming space that creates community and that people know they can go to if they need help or if they just need a break or a kind word or a meal.

It sounds like a lot of your vision of home has to do with providing a home space for others, even if it’s a temporary one.

Yeah, that’s something that’s really important to me. I haven’t figured out exactly how to do that yet. I’m still taking care of a lot of my own shit. I don’t know if I want to have kids, but I’m sort of preparing myself to become a parent. What that means to me is to be able to be giving of myself in a way that is mutually nurturing. A lot of my life I’ve been giving of myself in a way that exhausted and depleted me, and I think part of having a home is about being giving and caring and nurturing in a way that sustains you and revitalizes you.

I think that’s really important, for relationships to be mutually nourishing. As we were talking about earlier, you said you spent much of your life caregiving in ways. As you’re going through this process of figuring stuff out for yourself, what have you come up with in terms of how you can have a home that is more mutually nurturing?

I feel like that dream is still really far off for me. Part of that vision includes me being older and a bit more settled, you know? I still feel like I’m not that at all. But when I think about spending time with you or my friends who I feel close to even though we don’t live in the same space, I realize the internet is my home in a lot of ways. The ways the internet has facilitated me cultivating long term relationships with friends, even when there’s lapses in communication — that’s the way I envision having my home in physical space, as well.

It seems like that would provide a sort of consistency when a lot of factors in your life might not be consistent as far as where you’re living or what you’re doing — having that way of staying connected.

I want people to know they can always count on me for a spot to stay, or a weed to smoke, or just to hang out and talk for a while. I definitely envision my home as being a space of constant conversation, and not just drunken small talk or shooting the shit. Trevor is always great at digging deep. I admire that about him. He has been a positive presence in my life and in the lives of people who’ve come into contact with him.

Frequently when people come to our home they tell us they feel very comfortable, like it’s an environment where they don’t feel like they have to be anyone other than themselves. That’s been hard for me, to feel like I can be myself at home. It’s hard to feel like you can be yourself anywhere when you’re not quite sure who you are or you have a lot of things from your past that are telling you not to be who you are.

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alex & trevor at secret beach: a “cornily over-serious photo” that alex jokes might one day be their christian folk album cover.

It sounds like Trevor is an inspiring factor for creating and being in the home you want to be in. I’d love to hear more about that, and other forms of inspiration that fuel you and inspire you to help make the home you want to be in.

He definitely inspires me because he doesn’t shy away from the stuff that’s below the surface, and he’s taught me that the things that are going on below the surface are often what need the most attention because they can be the hardest to get at. He’s really great at understanding people. I feel like I have often let my fears about what people think of me distract from really connecting with people.

And it seems like connecting with people is a focal point of what you hope for in your home. I’d like to ask you the one question I’m asking everyone, which is: in what ways are you seeking and making home, and in what ways have you found home?

One way that I’m seeking home is that we have active plans to move to California. I feel like it’s more of a place for us than anywhere else. As far as already finding home, since I’ve been with Trevor for the past several years, I’ve been able to get in touch with who I really am in a way I’ve never thought I would be able to do. A big part of having an understanding of home is having a space inside yourself that carries that understanding where you can feel comforted and whole.

I associate that feeling a lot with God. My religious faith has been a source of a lot of comfort and understanding of my place in the world. I haven’t found my spiritual community yet, but my personal relationship with God and Jesus helps me feel like I have a spiritual home. It provides me with a huge sense of peace.

You’re the first person I’ve talked to who’s talked about both the internet and God as being homes, and those both seem like interesting and important places for you personally to find home, because those are things you can have pretty much anywhere you go.

They are! I need relationships like that, where no matter where I go I can still carry them with me. I feel unsettled in a lot of ways. I think part of that is growing up as a queer kid in a straight world, you often don’t feel like you have a place.

How has your queerness impacted your relationship with home?

I was in the closet for such a long time. In a way, being bisexual makes it easier to stay in the closet, because you can get along well enough as a ‘straight’ person, and all the ways that people talk about bisexuality and all of the tropes about being fake or indecisive, so I just ignored it for a really long time. I treated it like it was a personality trait or a matter of preference, like liking a band. Once I started really confronting my feelings about my own gender identity and sexuality, that was when I had to start thinking about a lot of other stuff too. It brought up a lot, and it’s taken me a long time to sift through all that and decide to be real about who I am.

What else has come up for you in this conversation about home?

I really like the song “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads. (singing) Home, that’s where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there…

Home can be wherever you are if the feeling is right.

freaky peaches vol. 1

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quick photo shoot break at me and eli’s “guerilla fruit stand”

i’ve begun farm work and am enjoying getting my hands dirty (and sticky) with peaches, berries, veggies, apples, and more. peach season has just begun, but with 40+ varieties of peaches to make the next few months flavorful, things are getting juicy around here. btw — i’d like to make the promise that i will avoid cliches and wordplay around peaches and other fruity matters, but honestly i’m not willing to give that up.

eli has led the peach processing/preserving efforts, and we’ve worked together to make peach/olallieberry jam, dehydrated peach chips (intended to be fruit leather, but turned out to be a rather crunchy delight), and frozen peaches (for future smoothies and baking).

the past week’s wildlife highlights include:

  • gobbling at the wild turkeys who wander around here (i hear they gobble back, but i personally haven’t had luck with this yet)
  • freeing a very frightened tree frog who we discovered perched and sliding down the inside of our kitchen window
  • bioluminescence in the form of a glow-worm!
  • a large gray fox creeping and darting around the meadow by our house, possibly eyeing the very oblivious miss mary bloomers (the one veteran farm cat/mouser we have around here)

no snake sightings yet (rattlesnake or otherwise), though i can’t say i’m disappointed…

it’s been relatively mild weather since we’ve been here, although today has changed its tune as the temperature climbs to the high 90s, and it’s supposed to be 100°+ starting tomorrow. but you know it’s time to end a blog post when you start talking about the weather, right?

to finish off this post, i’d like to introduce what i hope will be a regular series: freaky peaches!

on the gay club massacre in orlando

content note: violence (orlando gay club shooting), homophobia, islamophobia, racism

please take a moment to watch this video from familia: trans queer liberation movement featuring several queer and trans latinx community leaders:

“What happened in Orlando is not new, because we, people of color have a history in the US of never mattering. We have a history of enslavement, we have a history of exploitation, we have a history of criminalization, we have a history of violence. And that is what happened today. This attack was years in the making and based off of hundreds and hundreds of years of oppression and violence targeted towards queer and trans people of color.”

***

i think about violence a lot. violence inflicted by individuals, violence in the name of justice, violence as a means of upholding systems of oppression. i feel aware that violence occurs all the time every day in its many forms. as an involuntary survival technique, i stay numb. but with the news of the 50+ person massacre in orlando — at the gay club, on latinx night — something in me cracked. 80-90% of my friends and chosen family are queer, i have been to gay clubs and bars galore across the US, and for once i could not numb out.

of course i am filled with grief and heartbreak for everyone who was killed. for so many queers, our friends are our community, our foundation, our family. people lost their entire families to this act of violence. simultaneously, i am filled with rage and dread knowing how this loss of queer lives will be exploited for bigotry and state violence. the news stories made me shudder — between paragraphs describing the tragic events were resolutions for increased police presence at pride events and in gayborhoods, and immediate portrayals of the shooter as an ISIS-aligned foreign threat. because an american man with american values wouldn’t commit a mass murder in the name of hate. nevermind that he was american born, an admirer of the nypd, a long-time GS4 employee.

i sobbed periodically throughout the day. didn’t have it in me to pretend like i was okay. found gratitude for my ability to feel. was reminded that the sense of relative safety i experience navigating the world as a queer person is due primarily to my whiteness. was reminded that this kind of sorrow and fear is what black and brown folks live with every day.

i know that while this was an extreme event, LGBTQ+ people of color experience discrimination and violence all the time. i know black and brown trans women of color are murdered with regularity and without note by the media, the general public, and much of the LGBT community. i know that this massacre is just another symptom of the homophobia, racism, and misogyny that is ubiquitous in this country. i know that this kind of violence fuels discrimination, policing, and prisons, and i know that’s true in reverse as well.

i am holding grief and sorrow for the people killed, their loved ones, their community. for those of us who found our homes in queer spaces, and whose sense of safety has been diminished or destroyed. for muslims (and perceived muslims) of all sexualities and genders who will suffer as a result of islamophobia. for the shooter who killed all those people. it takes a life full of misery and self-loathing to cultivate that kind of hate and act on it.

my wish for queers is that we make space to grieve, hold each other in love, and challenge and resist the narratives that others will assign to this tragedy. we are resilient like so many gay, queer, and trans folks who have come before us — shamelessly and unapologetically true to who they were, even when their lives were threatened. hold your people, hold yourself.

xo freddie

peach life begins

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after a couple weeks of power-resting in the north bay post road trip, and a week in charlottesville, virginia to celebrate eli’s sister’s wedding, eli and i have made it to the fruit farm and are in serious nesting mode before we start work next week. it is a lot of work to be unpacking and settling in, but also sweet and rewarding. i am finally carving out a physical space to be home after so much time in unstable or otherwise temporary housing, and being so on the go.

it’s much hotter than i’m used to here, though it’s only gotten up to 92° since we’ve arrived and it sometimes gets ten degrees hotter. i have a healthy fear of dehydration ever since getting heat stroke at cheer camp my senior year of high school (better believe it), so in anticipation, i’ve acquired a camelbak and am now that guy walking around with a sporty rubber nipple dangling over my shoulder.

so far, i’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences in town. i tend to project queerphobia onto people in non-queer spaces  — for legitimate reason, having experienced lots of it in my life. my queer bubble has served me well in my adult life, helping me to discover and express myself, and feel at home in my own body. but, moving out here was a conscious choice to move out of the queer bubble, and i am working at not projecting assumptions of any kind onto people who do not have the same identities, experiences, and understandings that i do. i’m sure my interpersonal experiences out here will not be 100% peachy, but so far the people i’ve interacted with have been personable and welcoming.

oh, and the peaches. peaches were already my favorite, and i didn’t know they could get better. they are the kind to drip sticky juice down your chin and fill your mouth with waves of sweetness. i can’t write that with a straight face without also thinking about all the possibilities for fruity erotica… but i digress. i am eager to share the delicious and juicy homegrown fruit here with friends who can make the trip to visit!

more to come…

xo freddie

“everywhere i’ve lived feels like home.” julia on home.

the following is an interview with my friend julia as a part of my home project. we recorded the interview when our respective eastward and westward road trips crossed paths in truth or consequences, new mexico. yes, that is a real town.

juliaSo, who are you and where in the world are we?

My name’s Julia and we’re in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in room #8 of the Charles Motel.

What do you think of when you think of home?

I think of the blanket I’ve had since I was a baby. Whenever I move to a new place, I bring that blanket with me.When I think of home, I think of coziness.

I think of a lot of different places. I think of where my family lives in New Hampshire, ’cause being with my mom and my nana feels like being home. And I think of my aunt and uncle’s house in Maine; I’ve spent a lot of time there. Everywhere I’ve lived feels like home, which I think comes from having parents who didn’t live together. I have separated parents, so I guess in that way I’ve sort of had to be adaptable and have home be wherever I was in that moment.

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julia with friend & roadtrip buddy pete, in the room we shared at the charles motel.

I can relate. So, you’re in the final stretch of a three week long road trip. How have you been making home while on the road?

I sort of don’t feel like I’ve been making home on the road. There were three or four nights when we stayed with friends in Tallahassee, and that felt a little homey because having a bed I can sleep in repeatedly feels like home. But I haven’t had enough groundedness and presence, because there’s so much going on. I’ve been working, and also hanging out with people, and with another person the whole time. I feel like I’m a bit less present than I would like to be right now. So maybe home also comes with having a space that’s comfortable enough and cozy enough to be able to just relax into it and be really present.

I admire how you’re able to find a sense of home wherever you go. Do you have an ultimate vision for what you want home to look like, or where you want it to be? 

I like to travel and I’m excited to have a home I can always come back to. Living in the bay doesn’t feel stable in that way. It’s not really sustainable. But I am excited to have a long term home I can really make my own. Like, physically build things in a way that looks and feels really cozy. I’ve been thinking about that. Like, do I want to live on the west coast, do I want to live on the east coast? Where is home going to be ultimately? There’s a chance I’ll move back to Maine in five or ten years, because I can see the ease with which I could make home there that doesn’t quite feel possible in the bay.

Community is a big part of home for me as well. It’s not often I feel lonely, but occasionally I’ll feel pangs, and that’s the the worst feeling to me. And I don’t feel lonely much at home.

A big part of my vision for home is having comfortable space where I can welcome friends and family to stay for as long as they want. I envision having home space where every summer I can invite friends from all over to come for a long weekend and we can just stay up for 36 or 48 hours straight, and have a bonfire and make food together and hang out and sing songs — a giant slumber party, outside!

I grew up on a lake in the woods so that deeply impacts what feels like home to me. In summertime I would sleep on this big screened-in porch. The days were really long, and I was a young child, so it was still light out when I would be going to sleep. And I’d hear the loons on the lake and the pine trees and hemlock trees rustling all around me, and the water sloshing at the shore. It was the best feeling, so I think actually reproducing that is what I envision for home.

That sounds so magical! 

It was so magical! It’s funny, because when I was growing up, my family was absolutely chaotic, just like a shit show, and yet I have really cozy, fond memories of home. It was a magical place to grow up.

What do you feel when you think of being at home? 

The sense of familiarity and ease, and having things in order and having some control over a space to a certain degree, even if it’s just a small space. For the last month or two I lived at the Fort [collective house in Boston both Julia and Freddie lived in], I moved into the closet room, and I loved it because it felt like being in the helm of the ship. There was not a lot of space and I could put everything in just the right order. There’s this part of me that actually likes being able to carry out a vision in a way that has some order to it.

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

Everything I do is seeking in a process of seeking home. Even when I work and save money, I do it with the idea of creating home. Now, but also in the future. Because that’s the thing that I most want: to have a space to welcome family and friends and anyone who needs home space. 

Community for me is a big piece of home. I like living with people. At every place I’ve lived, I’ve learned something new about creating home. Like, just seeing how different people exist in their kitchens, or in whatever spaces they’re in. I love that. I’ve learned how to cook so many different things from living with people. I’m really excited to have a home so that I can open it up to other people to come and share it with me.

I feel like home is everywhere I spend any period of time. I really do. I have not lived anywhere for more than a year at a time, in a decade. But all those different places where I’ve lived feel like home to me.

 

 

may the last one burn into flames

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“praying to get out of here”

yesterday i visited my friend kc at the state prison in chowchilla, california for what we both hope was the last time. we started writing a year and a half ago, via black and pink‘s penpal program, and have grown closer since i first started visiting him at the prison last fall. he is an incredibly kind, smart, humble, and brave person, and has been putting much of his energy into getting his ducks in a row to apply for a new transitional housing/job program incarcerated folks can apply to once they have 24 months left of their sentence. unshockingly, prison bureaucracy is even slower and tougher than free world bureaucracy, and kc has dealt with tons of obstacles (including risking losing his hrt injections) in order to apply for the program.

i feel really grateful to know kc and to be in a position of supporting him from the free world. as he describes, he has made the most of his time in prison to “get his life together,” and is driven to follow his dreams of becoming an electrician and living in northern california. he’s been involved with groups like tgi justice, justice now, and transgender law center, and even been offered a part-time job in the non-profit sector pending his release. he’s linked up with writer mitch kellaway, and written a personal essay to appear in mitch’s upcoming anthology about incarcerated trans men of color. kc knows he faces the multi-stigma of being a black transgender felon, and he believes in himself. so do i. sometimes i am scared for him, but i have to believe if anyone can overcome the systemic violence created and protected by policing, prisons, racism, and capitalism, kc can.

yesterday during our visit, kc said, “freddie, i just can’t wait to get out and be able to breathe. like, i can breathe, we can breathe.”

my visits with kc feel sweet and special in spite of what surrounds us: prison walls, barbed wires, armed guards. i know he is a strong and resilient survivor, but it’s hard to leave him there, knowing he can’t leave, too. knowing how many people are kept in such dehumanizing conditions, away from their families and loved ones, so many of whom don’t have the resources or ability to visit. i blasted beyonce’s “freedom” once i got on the highway, tears and chills overcoming me:

But mama don’t cry for me, ride for me
Try for me, live for me
Breathe for me, sing for me
Honestly guidin’ me
I could be more than I gotta be
Stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy
Code on me, drive on me
Wicked, my spirit inspired me
Like yeah, open correctional gates in higher desert
Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression
Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs
And when they carve my name inside the concrete
I pray it forever reads

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move
Freedom, cut me loose!
Singin’, freedom! Freedom! Where are you?
Cause I need freedom too!
I break chains all by myself
Won’t let my freedom rot in hell
Hey! I’ma keep running
Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

the work of pursuing radical change and collective liberation is daunting to me, and i have hesitated to get involved with any ongoing organizing because of it. but my friendship with kc impacts me deeply, and feels like a real, tangible way i can make a difference in at least one person’s life. i can use my resources to access information on transgender healthcare and other subjects he’s impacted by, and my networks to fundraise for him. i can use my economic and white privilege to drive down to central california and interface with prison officials with relative ease. i know many friends of mine, perhaps people reading this, have similar resources, privileges, and interest in supporting incarcerated folks. i would encourage y’all to examine if you might have the time to commit to a penpal relationship. i am super down to share my own experiences and insight, if anyone wants to learn more.

xoxo freddie

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kc picked our pose…

transformation

the past year and a half has been one of transformation. i might mark its beginning as when i first quit drinking in december of 2014. the transformation that followed sometimes took the introverted form of hibernation and healing. more recently, my journey of transformation took me on an exciting three month long roadtrip around the US with my partner, eliana. now, it feels like all this change and intention i’ve put into my life is culminating into my upcoming move: i am in the process of leaving my relatively urban life in the bay area to becoming a bright eyed and bushy tailed fruit farmer in the sierra foothills of northern california.

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i am very, very excited for endless summer peaches.

i can’t remember a time in my life when i’ve been as excited as i am now. i am anticipating many challenges — the relative isolation of living rurally, and the grit of manual labor as compared to office-y/computer-y jobs i’ve had through most of my adult life, among others. but these are challenges i look forward to taking on. they feel like part of my natural progression over the past year and a half or so, and i feel so grateful to have the privilege and opportunity to be doing this with my amazing partner and with our friends who recently acquired this farm.

while on the aforementioned roadtrip, eli and i kept a blog called catwings on the road. it was fun and however many people did or didn’t follow along, it was a nice excuse to write, reflect, and share. i look forward to soon becoming scarce on social media, and using this instead to share photos, stories, and reflections of mine — along with a land line and snail mail to keep up with my scattered loved ones. so… cheers to that. here’s my new blog and i hope it’s not a total flop.

xo freddie