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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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

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!

top 5 songs of the moment

i haven’t had the time to write like i’ve wanted to but i have been listening to a few amazing songs on repeat as we pack thousands of peaches from harvest into boxes for the farmers market. behold my current top five:

ultralight beam – kanye west


sitting through kanye west’s underwhelming crooning is worth it to hear chance the rapper, kelly price, the dream, kirk franklin, and a gospel choir absolutely steal the show. this song’s momentum shifts and builds with grace and excitement.

get bummed out – sports


there’s not a lot to analyze, it’s just a deeply enjoyable self-indulgent pop-punk song that makes me want to holler along and dive into angst. highly recommend covering it if you play an instrument: A F#m Bm D

temple – parson james


somewhere along our roadtrip, eli and i found ourselves at a party with our sweet friend J, a bunch of rad queer and trans folks, and a LHWB (long-haired white boy). the party format involved sitting around the living room and playing a song that was meaningful to us. shortly after LHWB played sufjan stevens, (“the best artist of our generation”) J busted out this soulful song of redemption and reclamation of self after loss and failure. it’s full of joy, and damn, this kid can sing!

horseshoe crab – slothrust


i went through a phase of listening to slothrust’s album “of course you do” on repeat and wondering why they haven’t blown up in a bigger way. frontperson leah wellbaum has a powerful voice and perfectly unsettling lyrics. last year i sent her a message on facebook asking for a recording of “horseshoe crab” having heard it live and immediately afterward got in a bike accident where i split my face open on the pavement. finally, i became rock n’ roll enough to REALLY listen to slothrust.

freedom – beyonce ft kendrick lamar


it seems so obvious to include a beyonce song but i guess that’s because she’s the queen. people can fret about her politics all they want but i think it’s pretty rad for a black woman and the world’s #1 pop celebrity to sing “imma riot through your borders, call me bulletproof.” and of course kendrick’s contributions are chills-inducing and inspiring.

enjoy!