Tufts Observer

[kweer]: odd from a conventional viewpoint


Letter from the Editors

Tea brewing Journal on picnic table White shoes

This week, queerness is our core. For many of us—on the Observer, on this campus, and in the world—queerness exists at the nucleus of our being. But unfortunately in the world we live in today, rarely do we see queerness being centered. This week, we want to push against this de-centering of—quite simply—us. We’re thinking about the ways that we have been asked to shrink ourselves, to split ourselves, to mold ourselves into what this world says we should be instead of what we are. We’re thinking about how to work against years of erasure, of the traumas of repeated violence against us and those who look like us. We’re thinking about how we can imagine something greater for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

Creating this issue was an exercise in tenderness. In learning how to hold ourselves and each other. In working to honor the legacy that has been built for us, and continuing to grow with and from one another. In discovering pockets of freedom in a world that is full of unfreedoms. In mourning and grieving what has happened, what could have been, and what might come to pass. In celebrating being borderless—unconfined by boundaries and labels and “should-be”s. In finding our way back to ourselves through love and laughter and beauty and healing.

This issue is many things, but what it is not is an attempt to define queerness—an impossible task that no person (or magazine) should try. This issue is meant to work against the flattening that happens to queerness on campus and in this world, and the singularity it grows to embody. We see it as an opportunity to create—with the larger campus community—something special, to break closets and binaries, and to work against the all-too-common corporatization and sanitization of queerness.

We hope that you, Reader, can find moments of stillness and recognition in these pages, and choose each day to center, support, and uplift the queer and trans communities that exist, both near and far.

With the deepest love,
Ben Kesslen, Carissa Fleury, Kyle V. Scott, Chase Conley

What is Poverty?

By Jo Gottfried

Kids playing with trucks
Kids playing in yard
Kids exploring flowers

Poverty is being told at the age of seven that you might not always be able to afford to live in a house, and not really understanding what that means but knowing that your mom’s tone is serious when she says it, and that’s scary because she’s such a goofball and always makes you smile. It's the uneasiness in your gut when that threat reemerges your freshman year of high school and this time understanding the gravity of a family of three living on an income of zero.

Poverty is feeling so helpless about your mother’s laments about the family’s financial situation that at the age of four you sit down and meticulously craft money out of construction paper, right down to the smiling face in the middle.

Poverty is knowing that asking mom for help on homework is out of the question from day one because she’s so busy already in the few hours she has at home. It's learning to never need that help, or not acknowledge that you need help even if you do.

Poverty is learning to be self-sufficient at the age of eight because staying at the babysitter’s is no longer an option so you learn to raise yourself and get ready for school after your mom left for work long ago. It's coming home to an empty house and waiting for your mom to come home 12 hours after she left. It’s knowing that this is an improvement from getting up at 4:30 every weekday morning of your life as far back as you can remember so your mom can drop you off before she commutes 45 miles to work.

Poverty is watching your tough-as-nails mother break down in tears when you’re nine years old because the furnace broke, and she doesn't have a spare penny to repair it so you live in a house that’s 40 degrees for a week and she puts the space heaters in the kids’ bedrooms and freezes in her own bed because that’s the kind of sacrifice you make for your children when you’re a single mom.

Poverty is the erasure of your existence by politicians who swear to advocate for the middle class, an elite group you to which you could never imagine belonging.

Poverty is the shame and humiliation of having your best friend sit there awkwardly and watch your family eat dinner because there isn’t a scrap of food to spare in the house. It’s the hesitation of inviting your friends over again, but after two weeks of only seeing your brother and your mother, you can’t stand it any longer and you give in and call your friend up and say come over after lunch and they know that means leave before dinner.

Poverty is the agony of having to ask favors of those you love and never being able to return them. It's learning to permanently define yourself as a charity case because that’s what happens when everyone is extremely generous and kind towards you once they learn about your “situation.”

Poverty is the alienation of being the girl in middle school who wears her brother’s hand-me-down jeans because her mother can’t afford to buy her anything new. It's reflecting later and knowing there has never been another moment in your life when you wanted to disappear more than when you were stuck in that horrendous "wrong-gender" clothes like a fucking weirdo. It's wearing the most feminine clothes you can find even over a decade later, to prove that you have the means to perform the correct gender identity. It’s clinging to that femininity as if it is life-giving, and telling yourself, "I've just always been aggressively cis, I even wanted to give up my bedroom to make it into a doll nursery when I was a kid"—but in the back of your mind, wondering if this isn't just a desperate plea to be read as ordinary and unremarkable rather than the poorly dressed 7th grader. It's never forgetting what it's like to be at the receiving end of “Ew I’m not touching her” during rehearsal. It’s having this rehearsal be one of the few performances you got to participate in—even though you art and dance and theater—because all of these activities cost money you don’t have.

Poverty is not being able to pursue ballet, the one thing you’ve ever been good at because your mom doesn’t have the time or money to invest in it. Poverty is not having the social support network everyone has from sports and extra-curriculars because you can’t pay the $25 participation fee. It's staying up until 5 a.m. watching Dance Moms and So You Think You Can Dance auditions so you can live vicariously through kids with more opportunity than you had during that window for dance to be a regular part of one’s life for a non-professional. It’s being in dance groups that make you uncomfortable and are sex-positive only if you really like sex, just so you can dance in a casual environment. It's checking out ballet books from the library standing in fifth position ever since. It's wondering if your intense desire to do all the most feminine sports is yet another plea to be accepted as a normal socially acceptable person, yet still wishing to dance anyway.

Poverty is not being able to participate in the “buying-your-friends” scheme that is middle school. It’s wondering every day why no one likes you and then one day realizing that all the “cool kids” (even that kinda-masculine girl who always wears T-shirts) are the ones with money. That’s the day you accept the fact that you’ll always be an outcast, an untouchable, and forgetting that this kind of social rejection is not the only reality you’ll ever know. It will take you more than a couple years of spending every single day with extremely kind, loving people to realize that they're not going to one day decide you no longer exist.

Poverty is hiding your pain and becoming a master of illusion, perfecting the art of appearing a “normal person” at a fraction of the cost. It’s learning to make your core identity invisible because that’s what poor people who want friends have to do. After all, you can’t just advertise your struggle, that would be off-putting (unless you're actually super wealthy—then if you dress like a homeless teen you'll get so much social capital and people will still take you seriously no matter what you wear!)

Poverty is never telling anyone about any struggles of any kind even when it has nothing to do with money, because poverty has taught you to despise pity since it seems like the only reason anyone’s ever nice to you, and that makes you feel really gross inside.

Poverty is learning to never ask for anything that is not absolutely necessary, even when it’s entirely acceptable and even expected of you. It’s the conviction that you’re begging when other kids see asking for an opportunity as an obvious step on the ladder to success that seems to have been ingrained in them so damn well but why don’t you have a clue what any of those steps are and what’s wrong with you?

Poverty is keeping your teenage angst to yourself because even though you’re closer to your mom than to any other human being and can tell her anything, you can’t imagine adding more stress to her life, so you let yourself get to the breaking point and leave her baffled about how you ever got there, ashamed she wasn’t aware of all the times you cried behind a closed door, and you meant well and were only trying to protect her, so why is she crying and how did I ever do this to her and why do I suck?

Poverty is the inability to wrap your head around the idea of being able to afford to pay $70,000 a year for college, and knowing that an almost two-thirds of the incoming class of students at your university exist within this unimaginable reality.

Poverty is never acknowledging that you've been through things your peers haven't, and not learning until later that your life isn't normal. It’s being taught about all the other kinds of oppression, and no one ever validating your invisible burden. Later, once you take classes aimed at educating your wealthy suburban peers, it will be shoved down your throat every single day of class that your experience doesn’t belong in this classroom. That you are destined to fail because of these “objectively scientifically proven” risk factors. Sorry kid, it’s just what the research says. After that, you will never return to this fantasy world of being just another kid living in half a small room within a land of opportunity.

Poverty is laughing when someone replies to your future career path with, "oh so you don't want to make any money," because the amount of money teachers make sounds so amazing for a party of one.

Poverty is oscillating between being terrified of, and in complete performative denial of your sexuality for over a decade of your life. It's waiting until you're in a place with enough wealthy liberals to feel normal, it's finally reaching a point where you’re so good at hiding your class status and looking and acting normal that being queer doesn't make you even more of an outsider. (Actually, at this point, you're an outsider because you dress aggressively middle-class in a swarm of wealthy people trying to dress poor.) It's thinking back and not wishing you had come out earlier because you got enough shit in high school for wearing the “wrong” clothes, and hanging out with the “wrong” kids, without needing to add being a “weirdo-lesbian” to the fuel—even though almost everyone could very clearly see your disgust with boys as a concept.

Poverty is the instant connection you feel when you realize that a fellow human knows this pain, a bond strong enough that when your first year of college starts, you’re still friends with the girl you met for two days back in April, and only get closer from there. It’s spending hours offering advice to an incoming freshman, a complete stranger from a similar background, and smiling at random strangers who you know are connected to a student organization for people like you. After all, if we don’t watch out for each other, nobody will.


By Gabriela Bonfiglio

Looking at figs in hand
Bitten fig
Smashed fig in hand
Decorative squiggle
Decorative squiggle
Decorative squiggle

you have been wanting figs all summer
i know this not because you told me but
in the way you moan under your breath
when we pass them in the supermarket
smirk at the child eating them in cookies

on the train

on a night when you think i’m asleep
you tell me about the older man
who chopped down your family’s tree
how you knew him
at times, intimately
how you continued to know him, even after
how you never mentioned the figs
          even when you saw them in a cake
          cooling on the windowsill

i buy them for you one week later
to keep with the pretending that i was sound asleep
you hold eye contact with me as i pluck
a whole one, skip the rinsing,
right to the stem
you smile,
no, not like that,
roll one between your fingers,
run your tongue along each follicle
sink your teeth in.

Hand-drawn star
Hand-drawn star
Hand-drawn star
Writing out Kel
Writing in journal

What's in a Name?

By Kel Boland

Though I was born a girl, the label has never quite fit me. For years I avoided thinking about my own gender, because I had neither the words to describe it nor the courage to label it. I would write off my confusion as typical. I genuinely convinced myself that all cis girls frequently wanted to look and act and be seen as a boy. Yet, as I discussed some of these feelings with my friends, I gradually realized that my gender was definitely not part of the cisgender experience. And so began the questioning.

In the beginning, I tried everything in my power to understand gender analytically. I made color-coded charts. I drew Venn diagrams. I even used percentages that summed up how I felt on each day. However, my gender, fluid and flexible as it is, does not follow the basic rules of mathematics or any of the roles society assigns it, and for many years this frustrated me and drove me into a sinking sense of confusion and denial.

Someone asked me recently what my gender means to me. In the early stages of my questioning, I would have been too hopeless to give a response. Now, nearly two years after going through the excruciating process of self-identification, I have a thousand answers. My gender is my foundation. It is the person I want to be. It is the way I see myself, alone in my room with my imagination running free. It is the taste of a question on my tongue and the hesitation I feel when a stranger asks me my name or pronouns. My gender is me, getting ready for school in the dark, because I cannot bear to look in the mirror. It is me, smiling without faking it when I see myself in my brother’s old Henley, because after months of reflection, I have learned how to see myself truly.

Along with the determination of my gender came the intrinsic impulse to achieve an ambiguous, androgynous appearance; I desperately desired a departure from femininity. Even before coming to Tufts, I had already started to mold the way I presented myself to align with the way I imagined myself. I started shopping in the men’s section, I stopped wearing makeup, and I changed my pronouns. The only thing remaining was my name, which brought a whole new set of challenges. The first time I had to introduce myself on campus, I floundered, frozen with panic, and eventually settled for the brilliant solution of changing the topic instead ofaway from my name. After that, I just kept introducing myself with my birth name, because I didn’t know what else to do.

As the weeks passed, I became more and more dissatisfied; college was supposed to be my fresh start, and I was determined not to let my anxiety rule my decisions. A month in, I started asking people here to call me “Kel.” I have since been catapulted into a strange limbo where everyone in my immediate proximity uses my chosen name, but I still internally refer to myself as my birth name, simply out of habit. To add to this imbalance, I have not yet told my parents about my new name. Every time I call home, I hear my dad greet me with warmth surrounding the sound of my birth name, and I feel something akin to nostalgia. Somehow I can’t bring myself to tell them, knowing that once I do, I may never again hear the name of my childhood, the name that carried so much of my personality and self-identity throughout adolescence. I find myself in a difficult dynamic, unhappy with my old name but unwilling to let go of familiarity.

Despite the disequilibrium my name change has brought into my life, I cannot regret my new name, because it allows me to be the person I am without being so weighed down by the expectations and roles of my assigned gender. If there is anything I have learned throughout the course of my identity formation, it is that my gender will never sit still; rather, it will push me forward one step at a time as I learn how to be brave and bold in my self-expression. My name is only a small part of a much larger journey, and I know that in time, I will fill this empty name with memory and color and noise. Just as I have grown into my gender, I will grow into this new name—inch by inch, step by step, I will become the person I know myself to be.

Writing in journal
A yellow rectangle Drawing of a home with a car in front

(poem in response to experiencing my first Pride Month as an “out” person)

By Jillian Impastato

pride: (attempt two)

am i proud?
if so, proud of what?

it seems like i am given this time and space to be proud
proud with other people that are proud of similar things.

i guess i am proud

but now it seems like people are watching me, expecting me to be proud.

but now it seems like if i am proud, if i have this "pride," then people will continue to stare.

staring at my "pride"

but i guess i still am proud

proud that i wear my crocs with the two little rainbows

proud that i can now allow myself to think about a future, my future, with another girl

daydreams of getting old and gay with someone

shared flannels
a rainbow flag in the front yard
perhaps a Subaru or two

living the stereotypes
the good kind
(the kind i get to choose)

no one looking
staring at our "pride"

besides maybe a little girl or two that sees a little bit of themselves in us

the good kind of looking

Drawing of a home with a car in front

It's Time

By Caroline Blanton

Drawing of 2010 calendar Drawing of 2012 calendar Drawing of 2015 calendar

It’s October 2010. My friend Paige and I are locked in a staring contest, and she’s standing just a little too close to me, our noses practically touching. After a beat, she laughs and backs away, declaring me the winner and teasing me for being so serious with a gentle punch to my arm. I feel jittery for the rest of the day, and without quite knowing why, I find myself constantly gravitating towards Paige, hoping for another passing touch from her, another glance that will send my stomach straight to the floor. She is my first crush.

It’s January 2012. My best friend in the world sits me down on her sofa and tells me she’s gay. I feel a startling amalgam of jealousy, anger, and awe. I’m mad at her for being able to do what I can’t even allow myself to imagine at the time: come out. After that, I distance myself from her, afraid that our peers might think I’m gay by association. I project all of my confusion, hurt, and fear onto her, and only realize later that what I was really scared of was myself.

It’s March 2015. I’m watching a YouTube video on my phone under the covers, after my parents have gone to bed. The video is famous YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen’s viral coming out video. As I watch, tears slip down my face and splash the screen. I don’t know why just yet, but watching Ingrid tell her millions of viewers that she’s gay makes me physically ache with longing. I go through a long period of depression, spending every day feeling incredibly alone and ready to burst because the secret inside my chest is growing and expanding until I can’t breathe or think about anything other than my shame and my fear and my pain.

It’s August 2016. I’m at dinner with my family, and my sister is joking about dating girls following her recent breakup with a longtime boyfriend. “I would,” I mumble. “I would, you know, date a girl.” After a beat, my parents laugh a little and the conversation moves on to a safer topic. Later that night, my sister asks me privately if I was serious, and she becomes the first person I actually come out to. She gives me a hug, tells me that she’s proud of me and that she loves me, and I feel a tiny bit of the pressure inside my chest give way. A few months later, my mom brings it up in conversation. She tells me that she thinks I’m "too young to know,” that I shouldn’t “make my life harder than it needs to be,” that I don’t need to make a “political statement” like that at my age. I’m shocked at what a cliché she is in that moment.

It’s June 2017. Almost a full year after I came out to my family. I am more comfortable in my own skin, and after graduating from my Christian, all-girls high school, I feel like I can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel. I go to my first ever Pride with one of my friends, and all day I refuse to let fear take up its familiar residence in my mind. I wave my rainbow flag, smile more than I have all year, and let myself just be, for the first time in my eighteen years.

It’s October 2017. I am in my first year at Tufts University. I decide that, for the first time, my story deserves to be told. I am an out, proud, queer woman. I am the sum of all of these experiences, and so much more. I deserve to be heard.

Piecing Together the Past

By Britt

You didn’t tell me no,
but you never told me yes.

Those years were only defined by freedom,
but even freedom falls within boundaries.

She filled that teal plate
over and over
until the box
of cutout vegetables was gone.

I filled my mind
over and over
with cutout pieces
of the world around me.

I touched those magazine strips—
the vegetables,
the dresses—
wanting to claim them as mine
only to be told
that cooking was her job
wearing the apron was her role.

Eating was ours.

Pretending to eat paper
is surprisingly easier
than pretending to be a boy.

The paper—
depicting something real,
something that is possible,
within grasp.

The high heels,
the dresses
sitting in the back of your closet
on the top shelf
remind me of what will never be mine.

This game
where my sister makes the food
and we eat it
is just that.
A game.

But this game of gender
is much more.

Its rules
come with consequences.
Ones that I am just beginning to understand.

The denial of humanity
is one of these consequences.

Bruises on my knees
from being shoved down on the sidewalk

Being yelled at in the bathroom

Getting fired from my job
the first day I wear a dress
because it is “too short.”

Merely the beginning
of a list
that can go on for pages.

My queer body
and my queer mind
remain battlefields

Yet they will one day
be the fields
where flowers bloom.

Where my soul is reborn.


Photo Inset

Jordan Delawder

What Does Your Queerness Mean To You?

queerness means imagining the world i want to live in <3

my future

shiiiiit I just like myself a lot more now and that’s good enough for me


feeling like a weirdo a lot but then sometimes feeling fully held by my pals and communities and it’s amazing

listening to my vagina, not society

my queerness means healing, means breathing easier, means being held and holding myself, means "shiver down my spine" kisses, means actually liking sex and not having to fake it, means getting to know my body for the first time, means limitless, means love and love and love every day

it means i'm not boring as hell thank god

queerness is simultaneously being me, and knowing that I will never be defined



queerness means not letting cissexist binary gender dictate the way I interact with my friends, chosen family, the people I kiss, and the people I fuck. Queerness helps me know that those categories are not mutually exclusive. queerness is a constant becoming—becoming what? dunno yet. but i feel like i am on my way somewhere, somewhere beyond the structures that have told us how to position our bodies thus far.

having the freedom and confidence to portray myself any way i want every single day of the week! it's a new confidence, but i like how it feels, and i think i wear it well :)

my queerness is not telling anyone about it because I didn't want to give anyone the satisfaction of saying "I already know."

being queer is two diet cokes, 10 flavor ices, and a night in by myself because they only wanted the popular gay at the party.

agency over my desires

thinking that once I came out I could finally be like the gay guys in the movies I'd watch at 1am when I thought my parents wouldn't find out, but then finding out that I am too yellow to be like them

in recent weeks, being queer means i can finally wear a rainbow pin on my backpack instead of pretending to be straight as i did at home every day

friendship, coming out to someone in diesel cafe, love, ina garten, fighting with my parents, reimagining community, yelling at my professors about gender over email, resistance, calling everyone daddy, finding ways to feel good in my body, demi lovato's "cool for the summer," timtums, tweeting too much, drama, remembering those who came before us, the word "binch," wearing a dress and feeling both beautiful and unsafe, dolly parton

resisting definition and rejecting normalcy

“I identify as heterosexual”


Every meeting, every walk of privilege, every introduction, that’s what I tell them. Everyone. That’s what I tell myself. And all my life, I’ve fallen for the boys—the quiet boys, the geeky boys, the funny boys, the charming boys, the popular boys. But in the back of my mind, I occasionally dream about the girls.

I always told myself these were just dreams, never to materialize into my actions. These were hormones raging in my body, neurons carrying chemicals that resulted in messy, conjured up love affairs. I identify as heterosexual. I was meant to have the classic wedding, the Prince Charming, the soulmate, with my parents stifling their cheerful sobs as I walked down the aisle, my groom looking at me with eyes brimming full of love. But damn, the thought of a touch of a girl, soft lips, skin on skin. I identify as heterosexual. But then I met her. I love the way she smiles, with her mouth scrunching to the side, facial expression almost as if her own joyous emotion startles her. She talks with a hint of passion, a spoonful of curiosity, and a cup of fascination with a finish of acceptance. Her voice is like chamomile tea with honey. She has brown eyes and short brown hair that she usually puts up in a ponytail. Her eyes show the capability for deep, complicated love. She holds herself in a manner like a beautiful piece of art with her “mom jeans” and vintage shirt, yet she doesn’t even realize it. She reminds me of wildflowers. I identify as heterosexual.

I imagine us just sitting, casually strewn over a bench next to each other in the outdoors. We would be talking, perhaps laughing, and then the moments would be a blur. All of a sudden with the looks in our eyes we would know, and she would lean in as she puts her hand on my cheek. And then we would kiss. Soft lips, skin on skin, the touch of a girl. I identify as heterosexual.

But who knows if daydreams are as sweet when brought into reality. Cold, hard-hitting reality. My parents, in theory, would accept me. But I refuse to imagine the expression in their eyes. Would they show betrayal, distrust, or sadness? My other family would never process it, never fully accept it, because even though they support all orientations, they whisper under their breath thank goodness I don’t have to deal with that. Because saying I’m bisexual is more than just an orientation—it’s also a political statement, a stigma, a stereotype, and a judgement. It’s a weight on your back, a sign on your chest—it will always be on you. And of course, I will be an ally, of course I believe love is love, but there is a difference between cheering on the sidelines and playing on the field. I identify as heterosexual.

But I am not.


By MJ Griego

The color of my depression is off-white.
I saw it today in the science complex:
The high ceilings,
The natural light.

I passed a kitchen with two fridges, two sinks, bare counters.
I passed the two bathrooms on the first floor there’s a gender neutral one in the basement I think
Everything for me feels like it came from a basement;
That same church grandma smell, the layers of caked on dust,
The It works if you turn it just right
Every piece of me is a questionable piece of equipment.

Anyways I was in the science complex and I wondered if this is what god gave a fuck about.
I thought about what hunk of the place would mean a year of my survival,
Which ugly futuristic café chairs would pay for someone like me to get a counselor that wasn’t shit.



Instead of writing the usual reading responses, students in Professor Khubchandani’s Intro to Queer Studies class are asked to respond to each week’s reading and class discussion by posting on the class’ shared Instagram page (@queerstudiestufts). Here are some of their responses:

High school student comes out as Japanese, circa winter 2015, “colorized.”

- I.M.

it’s my birthday tomorrow and my friend made me this as a gift. it’s a jenny holzer stamp that she got to use in an smfa class, and she decided to give me this one in particular after i spent many hours last week trying to process my own body and gender trouble with her. right now, i feel grateful for this body that has allowed me to live 19 years tomorrow, for its health, growth, and for my own, and for friends like her.

- Jesse Ryan (@6jlo66)

My pal said to me yesterday at spy pond, “the problem is we don‘t have always have the right words”.

Its Rosh Hashanah and I am considering Jewish time and I am thinking about how I mistranslate my own faith and traditions.

The words new year is a mistranslation of Jewish tradition. Rosh Hashanah does not mean the new year. It means the head of the year. The word sin is a mistranslation of Jewish tradition. The hebrew word for sin is more precisely translated as to go away. As in to stray from what is right. The word repentance is a mistranslation of Jewish tradition. The hebrew  word for repentance is more precisely translated as to return.

In Judaism time is cyclical rather than linear. This year is not new. The high holidays marks a return to the next cycle of time. The next rhythm of straying from and returning to our intentions. To recalibrate our relationships with our community, our friends, and our family. To return together.

Today I am grateful for the friends and history and traditions and god (who is definitely queer) who help me find new words and new way to be, and new ways to return. #fullcomunism5778

- MJ

Just a gender failure trying to find love in a big scary world 😳

- @patchoy.m

#fullcommunism2020 #survivors

- @nicolemaliakkal

Finished showering and told the Terrible Reflection Rectangle how I felt about it.

- Meg K.

hey HEGEMONY, i see u!!! bye ~ thinking this week a lot about bodies, mine, how normal even starts to happen and why we notice it, what it means to be legible, and why i feel so nervous all the time!!!! i keep taking selfies and reading things and looking at the light on my wall and trying to listen to people and get them to listen to me and i know that is all v QUEER! #fuckbinaries #breathing #gayfeelingsareawesome #feelingsaregay #badfeelingsareokay

- @han.nah.nah.ar

Happy Holidays


Baby girl talks about cumming and Jesus
She doesn’t know the chapel floor
Like you and I do
I saw you haunt me again last night
In that back pew, grounded on cold brick
Always so stiflingly close

I know you don’t smell me in book pages anymore
But I sure as hell crave you when it rains

Baby girl talks about cumming and Jesus
This time I’ll let her hold me
While you hold down another ghost

By Anonymous

So you’re passing me on the street, checking me
Out, my smooth voice, smooth stride, smooth
eyes, and you’re
Thinking to yourself,
“What a sight”
“What an ass”
“What a picture” made of
A thousand pasts in your mind but
Not a single word of mine necessary for your art.
Not a single thought of my own let you into my head
Because you’re not seeing into me you’re
Seeing onto me
Mapping yourself onto me
Your passing self sees me and invites itself in.
At least take off your damn shoes before you take a seat on
My own bed and show me how to be a cis woman
As if I didn't already know
Tell me how to pass
How you think being trans is wanting to be cis, be you,
A being that passes.
I’m no endangered animal you need to protect and preserve by
Snapping photos
You’re not documenting me,
You’re documenting yourself.
You’re the one who will be remembered.
Your thoughts about me will be remembered. Not me. Not my thoughts
Forgive yourself for needing me and my trans body so you can exist
In the first place.
Without me, what mirror would you be looking as to in the morning to make sure you’re
Looking all right, looking healthy, looking like anything but me.
When you look at yourself, it forms a picture
Of a thousand pasts, thoughts, but not a single one of your own.
Map me and my language and my body onto yours,
You don’t need my permission.
(not that you would ask) in the first place.
Not that you asked in the first place.
It’ll either expose you for who you are or expose that you’re nothing but my reflection.
You follow where I lead.
My body forms your art.
My body forms your language.
My body is your structure.
Your skeleton,
Your organs,
Your skin keeping everything inside
Without me you couldn’t breathe your sweet air of security and rejected insecurity
(by the way, they’re still there).
Exist only when you can’t see yourself in my reflection.
Follow my lead and you’ll be lost.
Follow my lead and you won’t even find yourself again.
Follow my lead and I’ll turn the camera inward

Tactile Relief

By Anonymous

two raised lines hug around the front of my chest
the scar tissue is thick and warm and pink and feels like gentle reassurance

they nearly connect at the center of my sternum, almost kissing at the juncture of my ribs
ribs that are uneven,  from
  l o n g
    y e a r s
of long days
of aching binders, or three layered sports bras
and relentless pain

(i shiver when my finger presses over the gap)

i don’t want to be touched
even though i want to be touched

(i've never loved my body before now. i'm scared someone will take that away)

this trans body can't communicate the same serenity, joy, and relief to anyone else
that it does to me

(and even if it could, i might be too selfish to share)


By Sahana Callahan

To the first girl I’ve ever loved—

Every poem, every heartbreak I put to paper, for two years, was about you.
The circumstances were not ideal and neither was your family,
neither was the timing, nor the setting, nor our states of mind.
Nothing worked the way we wanted it to,
and “us” ending was a long time coming,
but it didn’t lessen the ache.

The weirdest part about seeing you again was how good it felt to see you again.

There was no resentment, no anger, no butterflies. When our eyes met after the show, me in the orchestra seats and you in the balcony, you smiled and I smiled and neither of us made a move to leave. You were there for your friends and I was there for mine, and we stayed in our herds, huddled past the venue’s closing time, talking to each of them respectively, as if trying to insulate ourselves from each other. I looked up at you a few times, but your back was to me. I wasn’t surprised.

Then, your friends began to leave. I said “hi” to those I knew as they walked past, but you—you hung back. You looked down at me and opened your mouth like you were going to say something, but closed it just as quickly, nervous—I think—to overstep the boundaries I had set. It looked like you were about to walk away and I wanted to tell you that it was okay, and that I was okay, and that it was so damn good to see you again, so I raised one finger as if to tell you to pause and I stalked up the stairs, taking my time, composing myself, catching my breath. It was thrilling to be near you again, because it always was, and my heart was conditioned to race around you. I doubt that will ever change.

You met me at the top, and I took a leap of faith and I gave you a hug and you were surprised, but you hugged me back, just as fiercely as ever. I said, “it’s been a minute,” and you said “more like four,” and I’m glad you remembered too. For a moment, everything was back to our “normal”, all of those summer days spent lounging in your bed, or sitting out on my porch, winters curled tight on couches, hoping our friends didn’t notice our hands intertwined rushing back to me.

I once made a list of things that you loved, just for reference, but not a list of reasons I loved you. Now that I think about it, the saddest part was when I forgot that you used to be my best friend.

I love you, always. Just differently now.

blue and white pencil drawing of folds in cloth with dark shadows

Nina Hofkosh-Hulbert

Queer Expressions

In Honor,
and Gratitude

By Carissa Fleury

This issue is only possible because of our ancestors, the queer and trans folks who came before us, fought for our rights to exist, and inform our work, lives, and identities today. Here, we honor two people whose names we think everyone ought to know.

Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson (August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992)

Marsha P. Johnson was a Black trans woman born in the sweltering heat of August 1945. As she grew up and into herself, she moved to Greenwich Village in New York City in the ‘60s. There, she changed her name and became a pillar in the area’s drag scene, where she was referred to as “Queen Mother.” In the words of Reina Gossett, a Black trans activist who has done extensive work on Marsha’s life (and whose words hold Marsha better than we ever could), Marsha “was a revolutionary black trans woman who was among the first to fight back against the racist and homophobic police at the 1969 Stonewall Riots. She was HIV positive, a sex worker, and an incredible performer and member of the group Hot Peaches. She organized people in jails and prisons, hospitals, and psych wards…She often wore discarded flowers in her hair and brightened the days of people on Christopher Street with her contagious smile.” Marsha’s life was stolen from her before her time. She was murdered, but the police attempted to cover it up and rule her death as a suicide. Today, we stand with her community who insisted that she was murdered. Marsha was a light, a bright flame, a revolutionary fire, and we honor her life, her fight, her labor, and her love. Rest in Power, Marsha.

Sylvia Rivera (July 2, 1951 – February 19, 2002)

Sylvia Rivera, a Latina self-identified “drag queen,” was born in raised in the Bronx, New York. After a series of traumatic experiences growing up, she left home at the age of 11 and found a new home on 42nd Street, where she found a chosen family filled with drag queens, sex workers, and sex-positive queer and trans folks. Sylvia was another leader during the Stonewall Riots, where she and Marsha met and became fast and loyal friends. Sylvia is proudly known as the first in the protest crowd to take action by throwing a bottle at the police. Sylvia and Marsha created “Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries,” or S.T.A.R, where they housed nearly two dozen homeless trans women, and provided support and community for trans folks in New York. She died in 2002 after a long bought with liver cancer. Like Marsha, she has become a household name in the queer community thanks to the archival work of trans activists. While many have attempted to erase her, she is one of the giants who we value, we cherish, and whose fight we continue each and every day. Her legacy lives on in the important and necessary work of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a group that “works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence.” Rest in Power, Sylvia.

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