Monsters

What is a safe space? When you leave your house or the confines of blogs you are familiar with, how can you navigate through life entering spaces that will keep you, uplift you, and ultimately shield you in some way from anything bad happening to you? Be it physical, verbal, or in writing. The truth of the matter is you can’t. You can hope to be surrounded by people with decency and respect. You can hope to be surrounded by people who don’t see you as a target. People who though they might be strangers, would stick their necks out for you, in the event that something went wrong. People who pause before hitting send on a comment, reversing the words they have just written back onto themselves. Asking: Is this ok?

Isn’t that what humanity is?

Last week I was forced to question. I was forced to question safe spaces, feminist spaces, and internet decency. How to make a long story short? I was home in New York visiting friends and family, and had ultimately decided to have the time of my life. Because well, why not? I was homesick for New York, and planned on using my vacation there to visit all of my old dives, my favorite parties, see friends, and for lack of a better word: rage. So Friday night I did what I had done so many Friday nights in the past, I headed down to the west village with a bevy of friends to cut loose, and lose ourselves on the dance floor.

Monster is a west village institution. It is right across the street from the infamous Stonewall Inn. This corner of the west village is an epicenter for gay history and rights. It is my favorite street to walk down during PRIDE, and until last week was one of my favorite places in Manhattan.

For gay and queer people, finding spaces where we can literally just be has no doubt become easier and easier over the years, but that doesn’t mean that we still constantly have our guard up. Gay bars and queer parties are inherently meant to be spaces where the only thing you have to worry about is running into your ex. Monster has proven to be a gay bar that likes to handle it’s patrons like subway rats. Male bouncers, treating lesbians and trans* people like pieces of trash. I have both been a part of and heard countless stories about these men. Until last week these stories were flags they weren’t blockades. I have spent the past week trying to put that night into words. This is what has materialized:

To the girl on the floor at the bar we know well

I don’t know if you know what happened

After your body fell

My friends and I saw you laying there

Alone and asleep

Dancers were dancing around you

The DJ didn’t stop a beat

Amongst my friends we had a doctor

And those trained in CPR

You could have died there and no one would have cared

I guess a free party only gets you so far

We made a circle around you

And breathed life back into you

In the background the venue shook with music

The drinks continued to flow

With their illegal over pours

I asked the DJ to lower the music

So we could get some order

He told me that the music had to stay on

I turned to a bouncer

Who was standing over you looking onward while my friends did what they could do

He put his hands on me

And threw me aside

He did this while

Doing nothing to make sure you would survive

You should know that no staff member check on you

Until the EMT’s came it was your peers who tried to rescue you

You should know that the bar manager was twenty feet away serving drinks

He never stopped for a second to make sure your heart was still beating

He never bent down over you to see if you were in fact still breathing

He let your body shake to the beat

I wonder if you had been a white man

If the staff would have cleared out the dance floor

But upon seeing another black body laid out

They did what white people usually do in these moments

Ignore

You should know that the group of people that tried to save you

Are as diverse as could be

We have been attacked by the bouncers here

Based on who we are and what these men apparently see

Attacked both physically and mentally

They have made it clear that we are not welcome here

And after the other night

Showed us that even our lives are disposable

I do not know your name

There were no friends around to tell it

You fell alone

But please know that we did all that we could do

So that we would not lose you

I have had a heavy heart since that night. How can we make sure that the spaces we are in, the spaces we create as queer people, are spaces where we uphold each other? As I sat reeling from that evening another event was happening in my life. My good friend was throwing a 25th birthday party. One in which she was welcoming 60 queers to a strip club. I won’t use this space to talk about how I personally feel about strip clubs, I will instead present the series of events that ensued. After weeks of hilariously fun posts on the group event wall, we began to get serious about the fact a collective of lesbians and queer individuals would be entering a mostly cis space. A space dominated by cis men at that. Many conversations followed. How would we fit into this space? How would we as feminists act in this space? Was there a right way? There was definitely a wrong way. Let’s be responsible adults and talk about these things. This event wall is a safe space. It is a private, by invitation only space, these are our friends, we get each other. Who knew that our conversations would end up polarized by the public?

My friend throwing the party, decided to make a bullet point list of the conversations we had been having. In hopes of bringing forth both clarification and comfort. After the events that had happened the previous Friday, this space felt uplifting. No one in our party would be that girl. No one would have to deal with aggressive and insensitive security. How you ask? Because my friend went to the club prior to let them know about the diversity of this crowd. Their would be trans* people, there would be girls kissing girls not for sport but because of love, there would be straight men who were feminist. This was a different crowd than who would normally walk through those doors, and we wanted to be safe. Imagine our surprise when our very private conversation ended up on Jezebel:

http://jezebel.com/dont-be-an-idiot-at-the-strip-club-a-strippers-guide-1681793887?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Jezebel has always been a place I have seen as an internet safe space. They even did a story on me after I did Barneys Spring Campaign. They were the women warriors of the internet. But just like Monster, they have fallen. They have become bullies, articles feel more like click bait, authors seem more like Regina George’s than Bell Hooks.

When I spoke to the bar manager at Monster he was more concerned with getting back to bartending. This was not managing, it was working for tips.

When I read the comments on Jezebel, the author was more concerned with generating “likes” on her post and making snide remarks. This was not journalism, it was a high school locker room.

I’m not sure if these events collide for you, as much as they do for me in my head. But both occurrences have made me realize that feminism is not inherently good. That feminism is not just a word you can slap on anything an empowered woman says. Because you write for a feminist blog, it does not mean your core is that of a someone who is both strong, and trying to create safe spaces for other women: for all women, no matter their race, class, or birth gender. With that said we must do everything we can not let feminism become a bad word. But how do we do that when some of the loudest “feminists” are actually just bullies that hide behind avatars on blogs?

I realized that just because a bar is historically gay, the people that work for it can not only be transphobic but strongly anti-woman. It is then imperative for the queer community to call out these spaces. It is our responsibility to demand fair treatment, even if that isn’t the popular rally cry. Even if you are then calling out a party you have frequented for years, thrown by one of your friends. Silence will not only destroy you personally, but your lack projection will destroy countless others. We can not speak in absolutes, we have to always leave room for others, you must always leave space otherwise there literally is no room for growth. And what is the point of living if you are not also growing?

*My friend responded to Jezebel on Medium and her words are well worth your time.

https://medium.com/gender-justice-feminism/what-happens-if-you-plan-a-strip-club-birthday-when-youre-a-lesbian-the-idiot-speaks-52121eee099c

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Let It Lay

In my mind I have always had this dream conversation with my dad. He would sit there and listen to me talk about my childhood. He would take in all of the things I had to say about how shitty things really got. He would let me cry and vent, and support my words. And when I was done, he would say how he saw things, why he thought things had played out the way that they had, and then he would apologize. He would look me in the eye and apologize for all of the bullshit. For all of the late nights I spent being screamed at, for his wife, for his tantrums, for being kicked out. It would be a heartfelt apology, one that meant he had sat down and thought about all of these things, and realized that maybe a good chunk of my teenage years were unfair. We would then hug and kiss, and maybe go out to dinner, or go for a walk, or really do anything because MAGIC, the air would be so crystal clear for us. Right?

My life has always seemed to be a stream of connections and unsettling disconnects.

Recently I have come to realize that 1. My dad will never apologize. 2. I no longer need him to.

If you met a stranger, and that stranger told you that they loved you, what would you say? At large family gatherings I often feel that way.  The way in which there are people I see maybe at most once a year, but when we embrace or leave each other at the end of the day “I love you’s” can be heard, under the rifling of jackets, the packing away of leftovers. It is engrained in all of us, that we love our family. We do this without question and without much thought; because you are SUPPOSED to.

As I get older my life begins to have more and more layers. And with those layers, come secrets. There is no doubt that there are some members of my family who I can dive into those deeper layers with, but there are others who stay at the surface. We stay on the surface. There are other family members who I have a much deeper more blood stained relationship. And there comes a point, where you don’t so much as give up, but you let go.

We are taught that blood is thicker than water. That there is nothing more bonding than a family, and therefore nothing that you should hold on to harder. Just like in marriage family is “for better or for worse”. Can it maybe be time that we moved past this thought? I will in no way say that family ties should be cut for simple fights, traditions and culture are engrained into us, and when we have families that uplift and hold those things true, well than we are in luck. But not all families are this way. Just because you are related to someone does not mean that you like them; but it does mean that you love them? This concept seems so crazy when you put it on paper and think about it. Those who come from overall great homes may not be able to grasp the concept of not wanting anything to do with a family member, but for those of us who grew up in fragmented homes, the idea does not sound far fetched.

Maybe because I am queer, and embrace many thought systems that cis society shuts away, this whole idea of breaking up with family makes perfect sense to me. The same way that poly relationships and pansexuality make perfect sense to me. If someone is making you excruciatingly unhappy why on Earth would you keep them around? If your friends boyfriend was abusive, would you encourage your friend to stick it through because he does at the end of the day love them? We do not apply the same rules to those we meet in life, to our families. We are taught to be tethered to our roots. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, you do not turn your back on family. But is that really healthy?

I look at certain members of my family who are miserable. They have exactly what society wanted them to – a home, cars, a spouse, kids etc. But what they do not have is inner peace or sanity. I look at so many of the adults in my family and their relationships with their parents and just shudder. No one ever broke the cycle. This is not to say breaking the cycle is packing up all of your shit and never being heard of again, but no one ever sat down with anyone and had that dream conversation that I used to pine for, with my dad.

Maybe the problem is, that we put all of the pressure on those who enter our life, and not enough on those who have always been in it. We expect girlfriends or boyfriends to change bad behaviors, otherwise we leave them. We call out friends on their bullshit, and give them ultimatums. How often do we do that with family?

Both my grandfather and father have always said this one phrase to me: Listen to what I say, not how I say it. Which is word by fucking word, absolute bullshit. It is them giving up on pursuing ways of checking themselves before blaring out hurtful words at others. It is them checking out so hard in fact that they have left all of the sorting, unpacking, and understanding up to you. It is selfish as all hell, but it is also the way that they have chosen to be. Now I love both of these men dearly, but it is this mindset that has severely hindered us being able to have conversations centered around emotions as opposed to black and white subjects like finance.

Family unlike friends provide for us. For better or for worse, your parents did probably feed and clothe you as a child (some more than others). Your family is basically obligated to make sure that you make it as a human. That obligation I feel makes some parents absolutely lose their minds. The obligation of taking care of, sculpting, minding after, and BEING A GOOD PARENT to a kid. Jesus. I am too young to know what qualities an individual most possess to be a good parent, but I am old enough to know that I have met a lot of folks who do not fit the basic criteria. But society tells them to have children, so they do, and then their kids spend their lives waiting for apologies that they will never receive.

Telling a straight cis man who has been life tracked to have a good job and 2.5 children, that he is not fit to be a good parent, sounds like a quick way to end up nursing a wound. The media still to this day shows women as milk machines, who are meant to throw dinner parties, shuffle the kids off to school, have dinner on the table, build a rocket ship for Timmy’s science fair, etc etc. Of course we as individuals and many of us as feminists have moved away from this all American ideal, but that is only SOME of us. To many people that is the future that is expected of them. They will go home to family on the holidays and be asked about jobs, and about their love life. But what if we DID start telling certain people that they should maybe wait out parenting for a bit. Get their own shit together before they tried to (literally and metaphorically) start taking care of someone else’s.

How are people like my dad, who came from mindsets like my grandfathers, supposed to raise emotionally stable children?

At what point will we as a society see the importance of therapy and mental health diagnosis? You know that friend who often refers to her mom as crazy? What if her mom had the means to see a therapist before she had kids, and was therefore able to find the trigger of that “crazy”?

It’s funny, growing up I ran away a lot. I would drop off the face of the Earth and go sulk in unknown cities. My family would always say: Running away won’t solve anything. Thinking about it now, I realize that while I have always had the literal flight response those who I am close to in my family run away in their own ways. They run away into their own heads, and don’t talk about things out loud. Which then creates tension whose core you are totally unsure of. Just because we aren’t yelling, doesn’t mean that everything is ok. In my house it was either screaming, or silence. There were no casual conversations, no dinner time laughs, we were all separate bodies barely co-existing. The thing is I don’t think my dad sees this at all. Sometimes I wish I could dive into his head and see how he replays scenes, scenes that I play over and over in my head and try to break down, burn, and forget.

It is terrifying to realize that some of the memories that haunt you the most, are forgotten by everyone else who was there.

Relating to people is one of the hardest things we are faced with in this life. Understanding when to let things go is something I feel we will all always battle with. For better or worse we all have our own egos to cradle and defend. Our own egos that get in the way of us saying: I’m sorry. The words of our parents ring in our ears without us even realizing. The weight of fights we had years ago sit with us. I can still remember the worst nights of my life. You can too. But it is what we do with those residual feelings of pain, how we finally figure out how to extinguish those flames, yet still realize that those embers may never fully turn to dust. Realizing that love is just as much the most amazing feeling in the world, and the feeling that will cause more pain than hate. It is the love we inherently have for our families that will break us again and again. That is. until we get right with ourselves. You are not always right, but you are in control of steering yourself towards what seemingly is.

 

Enter Life Plan Here

 

I think I’m growing up.
Or something.

I have a new big kids job, across the country,I have friends who I love more than anything, who I know will be in my life for longer than a season and I am genuinely pretty god damn happy. But about that growing up thing, for the past few months I have found myself becoming more and more bored by what I was doing with my life. I have fallen into a routine: the same bars, the same rotation of groups, and active dating life that had some amazing highs but ultimately kept on feeling wrong or lackluster. Everything felt like a colossal let down. For the fist time in my New York life, I felt out of place. I would go to parties and feel like I was watching from behind a piece of glass. My mouth would instinctively work on autopilot but my brain was a million miles away. I was a million miles away. My feet knew the path they had to take me on everyday, and so I got where I needed to go, where I was supposed to be, but I was essentially wandering. I also wasn’t writing.

I’ve been experiencing a very extreme form of writers block recently, not necessarily the head pounding excessive whiskey induced kind but instead one in which I literally could not string together sentences. Words were swirling around my head but they were not manifesting into anything.  I felt like I was in a washing machine. I had a sudden influx of newness in my life. The past year of my life has been this absolute blast of change. From relationships to work environments to my gender representation and my sexuality. That swirl of words was in direct correlation with the tornado my life was. Tornado is probably the wrong word to use, no part of this past year has felt destructive it has actually felt the opposite. And yet I felt incomplete. And for the first time in a long time I felt this mixture of being both out of place and left out.

 

I like to think of myself as someone who is usually very up on music. Actually I like to think of myself as someone who is very up on most things that are trending on the internet, after all I literally get paid to do social media. Living and working in New York makes this hyper focus on all things new and “cool” easy. A majority of people who move to the city do so with the very serious goal of being either part of or the reason for hype generation. I have always actively told myself not to get too engrossed in the politics of trendy. To happily comment and take part but not let being a dun dun millennial shape who I was. Hidden party in Bushwick? Cool, yeah I’ll totally go, but by chance you know? Not because it’s like where I have to be. But god just being in Brooklyn you feel like if you aren’t going (somewhere) you aren’t going (anywhere).

 

I recently accepted a job in San Francisco. That sentence alone makes me feel like a solid adult being. It also makes me realize that I am leaving behind the place that I have called home for my entire life. It means not being able to walk into bars and coffee shops and get free drinks and shoot the shit. It means having to ask people for the best spots to go to, instead of being able to direct others. It means getting lost and actually not knowing where the fuck I am. It means walking into parties and having no idea who anyone is, and in return them not knowing who I am. I am too overwhelmed to be scared, and too excited to be cautious. For the first time in the history of absolutely ever, I am thinking about the future. I am thinking about everything I want out of life, and being scared that I won’t be able to attain it all. I feel like a sky diver who is just about to jump. I have been toeing the edge for years now, with the mindset that eventually certain things would naturally change. My brain would calibrate itself to whatever the hell my family meant when they said: adulthood.

 

I have realized that my brain may never ever get on the same track that my family planned for me. And with that realization has come so much relief. I have also realized that my feet are not tethered to any location. That my ears are not bound to specific genres of music (thank the lord). My sexuality is not set in stone, and is evolving and will continue to evolve. My gender is this thing that like totally exists, but also totally doesn’t. My family are a base of support, but are not the only base. I can do it on my own.
Shit New York I am going to miss you. I am going to miss hot dogs at Crif. Burritos on Bedford. Dumplings in Chinatown. Beer and shot specials that come with free pizza. Korean BBQ available to me 24 hours a day…
Basically I’m just going to miss the food.

 

This city has taught me so much, and by this city I mean all of the people in it. The friends and lovers that I have met and made and fallen in love with and hated and then fallen in love with again. All the new bands that have pounded my ears. The art of the unknown, the art of the most famous. Being in New York you know that whatever happens, happens here first. I am ready to be second or maybe even third. I am ready to relax and revamp. To meet a city full of strangers, and fall in love with them the way that I have fallen in love with New York.

 

P.S.
I figure this is the best place to leave this little dating anecdote. Aka I have gotten all of the out of touch: A few weeks ago I had a mild tiff with a girl I had been seeing, I was a bit tipsy and we were having a disagreement about something pretty medial when she said this:
“‘You don’t love me like you say you love me.”
To which my response was:

216

HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW IT WAS A DRAKE LYRIC?!? I have also spent an absolutely ridiculous amount of time recently, trying to figure out what the hell Jason Derulo means when he tells me to: Go ahead and go ham sammich.

sandwich_ham-and-cheese

Jason I’m a Jew.
Am I finally at that place where I do not understand what the youth are about? Or has popular music actually just turned to shit? What is happening? Will I ever be able to get on a dance floor again? Is this like the point in my life where I start solely listening to classical music AT A REASONABLE VOLUME? I’m out. Me and Mozart are OUT New York.

Bye_bye_bye

Maybe Sometimes

I have an idea of my true self
But I have no idea where that self will take me
I know that this self
This person
Is ever changing
I just want to be seen
In the light I project
Which isn’t always the clearest
Or the brightest
My worried mind will often interject and leave me with feelings of anger or worse thoughts that I was either not enough or was much too direct
I get this really bad feeling
When I feel tension
When I feel like my words are misinterpreted
Or your tone was taken out of context
The simple complexities of conversation
What is taken
What is given
What is left as a question
If only we asked
So then we would know
Why that silence just got longer and longer
Why nothing dissipated
But instead chose to grow
Why we distance ourselves from those we once loved
And still do if we were honest
Friends lovers and in betweens
We are whatever we were
We are has been
Used to be
But if we take away the negative
And holes in our conversation
Could we get back to something
Get back to simplicity
Simply

Silently sensitive
I am
Not too proud to be emotional
But
Too cautious to show hurt

But still most things eventually hurt
And because we are not here forever
Maybe we should try not to say words that could break us apart forever

Maybe apologies should come easy
For me they never have
But maybe part of growing up
Is learning lessons we always knew we had to
But never took the emotional space to

Because really who wants to admit they were wrong
Because really who wants to dig into that space that you tucked so far away
That trunk in the attic of your parents house
That you know contains both euphoric memories
And thunderstorms that caught you off guard
And wrecked you in that moment
For a few days
That trunk exists for a reason
Burden can be entirely too much to hold on to
But clarity is something we’re all entitled to

Dust forms on the things we leave untouched
But it doesn’t make them worthless
They aren’t worth less

Shake up a snow globe and watch a million pieces of sparkly nothing illuminate a fairy tale scene
For a moment everything is beautiful
Perfect
Serene
But eventually the glitter falls
And the music stops
What do you then make for that snow globe
Is it now just nothing more than a paper weight
Or is it just as useful when it isn’t putting on a show
When it just is

We can illuminate ourselves
We should illuminate ourselves
But we should remember life isn’t just about the show
You are the shell that holds a million pieces
Shake them wrong
Shake them right
Sometimes calm
But not always
Sometimes strong
But not always

Because nothing
Is always

On Race and Satire

Whenever my grandfather reads one of my blogs, the first thing out of his mouth 9/10 is: “But why do you curse so much?” He thinks that it makes me look quite unprofessional, and claims that it is unnecessary. Now being that he is from a totally different generation I understand that reading a 20 somethings blog is probably not only confusing but slightly painful. He grew up in a world where students took penmanship classes, men and women actually courted each other, the man has told me his has been drunk a grand total of ONCE in his life. Which I could say as well…back in my Freshman year of high school. For the most part of love the snark of the internet. I love the tone that our generation has. We are a funny bunch, dealing with a boatload of societal crap, and taking to blogs to get it all out. Sometimes however the internet can make me want to kick basically everything in sight. People often use sarcasm or irony as a free pass to say things that are actually not at all funny. They use their privilege to comically comment on conversations that go on in different corners of society as if they were invited to those conversations.

Last week we were all presented with the XOJane piece on the white woman who just COULD NOT with the black woman in her yoga class. In case you missed it

This week we have this web gem. Which I think is someones attempt to be ha-larious. But see the thing is. It isn’t. First off Thought Catalogue isn’t The Onion; which is known to be satire. And for those confused to what the definition of satire is this is it: “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” When done correctly AND IN THE RIGHT SPACE satire is the cats mother fucking pajamas. Satire can often be used as an excellent tool to make people realize how asinine a particular new story or line of thought actually is. Satire has proven to be extremely effective and popular online. I would say about half of the articles I read have some form of satirical tone. Our generation loves them some good ol satire. 

But here’s the thing: Not all journalism has to be funny. There is still a place for serious blogging. Thought Catalogue, while allowing some pretty dull, vain, and typical millennial dribble is not a site built on satire. So when someone takes it upon themselves to write an article such as the one above one begins to question whether or not the entire internet is just trolling OR if people, hiding behind the veil of satire are actually being racist as fuck. 

Every Black History month a section of our country takes to the media to say some really truly inconceivably ass backwards shit about why Black History month either shouldn’t exist OR why White History month should exist as well. Now I don’t have the time or the energy to thoroughly get into why White People are basically THE LAST demographic in our country who need an actual on the calendar month to be openly celebrated. All one has to do is look at who runs this country to understand that white people do not need anther pedestal to stand upon. The problem with articles such as these, is that white people have gotten to the point where they do not know what to do with their privilege. They can’t assert it the way that they used to; they are no longer slave owners, the civil rights movement wiped out Jim Crow and segregation, oh and we have a black president. Now I am in no way saying that ALL white people are racist. That would be a a horrible sentence to write, as it is not true. But young white kids looking for I don’t know, support? Acceptance? A voice? Are taking to the internet to say some really backwards things. And they are doing it by hiding behind satire. 

Men in our society are not taught not to rape. In sex ed their is no point in time where the teacher devotes a lesson to why rape is a horrible crime. Instead women and girls are taught how to not get raped. They are told the best ways to avoid getting assaulted. The people who are responsible for the crimes, are not held accountable. They are men, and they are privileged. How often are rape victims put on trial for telling the truth? How often do entire Universities and towns support rapists while degrading the woman or girl who was assaulted? 

White people are taught about slavery in school in books penned by white authors. They attend college classes, where some are fortunate enough to learn that white privilege is a very real thing. They then enter the real world and see first hand that society still does bend for them in ways that it does not for minorities. In the LGBT community white people often talk about how black people are missing from their parties and events yet still go through with naming them “Queer” and giving parties titles that fetishize or isolate minorities. They then sit back and complain that their parties are too white. They then go on the internet and write pieces about how sorry they feel for black women in yoga classes. They jokingly write about White History Month. White people have gotten to the point where they are so privileged that they can learn about their privilege and then complain about it and then do nothing to fix it because they actually do not have any plans to make things any better for minorities.

Sites like Thought Catalogue and XO Jane will continue to publish these pieces, because their audience is mainly white. Black voices will come up in the comment sections, but they are drowned out by the fact the authors are white and privileged. If you are going to be racist, be a fucking racist. If you are going to be a journalist who sticks up for minorities and talks about the very real race problems in our country, do that. But if you are just looking for laughs, kindly do not do so at the expense of a race of people who have had to be the butt of not only your jokes, but the end of your whips for far too long. 

The Lucky Ones

This piece is a compilation of many feelings. Of many thoughts. It is the pouring out of the things that have been going through my mind for the past 5 months while interning. They have all come to a head now that I have left my internship feeling no more connected or accomplished than I did when I started. The length of my internship had no limit or minimum. Other interns had been there for going on a year. Seeing no employment opportunities within. The company I worked for was lovely and our work atmosphere was amazing. But the underlying fact is we were working full work days without pay. In a city like New York it is almost impossible for 20 something’s to make ends meet with entry level jobs. Never mind no source of income. Does “experience” really override monetary payment? I worked at a pizza place in high school. I had no experience working in a restaurant. I quickly learned how to answer phones, make pasta dishes, top pizzas, and handle money. I also received a paycheck every week. I gained experience while earning. And to this day can still make pretty delicious Italian food. In 2013 only 37% of grads who worked unpaid internships received jobs from the companies they worked for. Who can afford to work for 6 months to a year for free? That question is mainly rhetorical as we all know the answer is: The Rich.

Many jobs now require intern experience as a prerequisite to being hired. Entry level which is what an intern used to be is now a notch above being an intern. Which means in many fields you should expect to work for free well after graduation without anyone thinking anything about it.

New York is a city that will test you in ways that you never even thought would come across. From judging the correct way to side step the person yelling at you on the subway, to dealing with a bug bed outbreak in your apartment. New Yorkers deal with shit daily that would break most people down. But we keep on grinding. You don’t move to New York by accident, you’re here for a purpose. To fulfill some dream no matter what it may be. The problem with dreams is that sometimes they are just that. We all imagined our lives going towards a certain trajectory. If we put the time in, networked with the right people, and worked our asses off we would get to where are parents always told us we could.

Right off the bat I will say there are some factors that immediately get in the way of my trajectory going as planned.
1. I chose to work in the arts and activism.
2. I’m black.
3. I’m transgender.
4. I think way too many people are full of shit.

Let’s attack each of these bullets.
The Arts and Activism/Non Profits
LOL
So you’re a musician, a writer, a designer, an actor, an artist, a…you catch my drift. This world was not made for you to make a shit ton of money. You’re a professional activist? Good fucking luck. No one is trying to pay you. You’re fighting battles because the government and mainstream don’t give enough of a fuck to. Which means you will forever not have enough funding and will be climbing what will feel like a metaphorical Mount Everest for the rest of your life. Some artists get lucky. Some musicians and actors go on to fame. And some writers find themselves in great positions. But those are the very small, fortunate, lucky few. Activists much like teachers will always fight the biggest fight and always make the least. That’s it.

Being black.
I mean I don’t even know how much of this I have to explain. More often than not when I talk to an older white person they look back at me and reply: Well aren’t you articulate? I’m surprised good for you.
I think that about sums up what my skin color attracts and pushes away.

I’m transgender.
Remember puberty? Remember how shitty that was? PUBERTY WAS THE WORST. Now let’s imagine shall we coming out of the closet, and also realizing that the gender you were born wasn’t the gender you wished to be. This happened for me around 20 and for the last 4 years I’ve ben trying to piece together who the hell I am and how I want to present to society. Which let me tell you, is super fun. I haven’t changed anything legally. My ID still has my very feminine birth name and says Female. I however present as a male. This causes daily anxiety and fear. Now the good thing about New York is that for the most part people are either too preoccupied with their own shit to care about yours or are extremely LGBTQ friendly. But that does not mean that a percentage of ignorant individuals and homophobes does not exist. And those motherfuckers, well they are motherfuckers.

When I apply for jobs online there is always a moment of hesitation before I send out my resume. If I land an interview how will I explain within the first few moments meeting that I am trans*? Will the interview than shift from my skill set to my gender? Will it kill my chances of getting a job altogether? And if I do get it, what will life in the office be like? How often will I have to correct pronouns? Or have awkward conversations?

Do not think for a second that I pity myself. I don’t. I pity neither being gay or being trans*. In fact I am thankful. I realize for instance that my climb in the nightlife world would not have been as easy as a straight person. Being gay often is horrible but if you tap into your community and win their support you will thrive. It is a lot easier to be a big fish in a little pond. Being gay and trans* in New York definitely makes you a big fish, but as a big fish you are also a bigger target.

The Shitty Ones.
The quicker you learn how many people are full of shit, the easier your life will be. This is not to say that there aren’t wonderful beautiful people out there. There are. Treasure them. But in a city of dreamers, in a city of people working towards fame, money, power, or all three you are bound to meet a lot of assholes. A lot of them who will use you and manipulate you as they see fit. Someone can use you and not be an asshole. Those are the trickiest kind. You know who are the trickiest users? Companies using your wide eyed dream having self as an unpaid intern.

First of all working and not being paid is only ok if you are doing charity work OR helping out a good friend or family member. Which even than has its limits. But working a full work day without payment is a crime.

Are you paying for my meals? Or commute? Or housing? Are there jobs open at your company for me at the end of my internship?

Would you date someone who brought absolutely nothing to the table but the promise of CONTACTS and EXPERIENCE? Look I won’t say that internships don’t provide some base of experience of course they fucking do, you are working a full motherfucking work day. Which you should be compensated for. Since when did experience overshadow payment? This isn’t an apprentice position. This is what used to be an entry level job position, that companies realized they could hire rich college or post college kids to do for FREE.

Note that I said rich. I also forgot white.

When I was a wee gay I had a huge problem with the word queer. It felt incredibly exclusive. It felt incredibly high and mighty. It felt incredibly white.

I now feel very similar thoughts to the word “intern”.

The kids who were using this word: queer. Were those whose parents were ok with them going to school for poetry and gender studies. They were white liberals with money who had the patience and time to let their kids find themselves. Which is great I guess; an amazing education is something that should not be snuffed at. But none the less these kids have always made my skin crawl a bit. These same kids who I would later in life be invited to parties with and see what I had thought all along the word queer did in some ways means white. Want to see a party with little to no black people? Advertise it as queer.

This is not to say that queer black spaces and queer black people do not exist. But it has taken some the for the word to spread past the halls of liberal arts colleges and lofts in Brooklyn.

How do I say this without – ah fuck it black people were slaves for long enough. Working in offices for white people for no money just hit very close to home for me. I realized that most of the people around me had parents that were still funneling money into their bank accounts. They could work 40 hours a week for free because some way or another they were being paid for it.

I also realize that I am in a different situation than most black people my parents are white (twist). Granted I did not have a fairy tale childhood, but my family are liberal open minded Jews. My entire life I have been told by black people that I was too white and by white people that I was the whitest black person they knew. You’ve heard the story before so I won’t preach it again. My point being that just like being trans and gay me being black with Jewish parents has lead me to opportunities that I do not think many other black people my age with similar life stories can say.

Black trans people go through hell. From their families. From society. From within the black community. Of all of the people you would see interning in an office in Manhattan a black trans person is probably dead last.

So I guess I’m lucky. Yes I am lucky, lucky in the sense that I am able to navigate through a very white world. I understand this. I understand that I will probably never meet another me working in an office. Because other “me’s” were never afforded the chance. I feel grateful while also feeling angry; feeling sad, feeling used, and being broke.

These are as I’m sure you can imagine a mess of feelings to be feeling while also starting the process of going on Testosterone.

New York is a whirlwind. No where else do people have roommates well into their 30’s. No where else is Happy Hour essentially mandatory at least twice a week. And totally excusable every night of the week. Drugs of all kinds are norms. Adderall to get more work done. Xanax and Ambien to calm the fuck down. Alcohol and cocaine because you either have way too much money and it’s making you sad or way to little and it’s making you sad. Marriage? Children? You didn’t move here to fall in love. This isn’t Paris. You came here to make it. There is something about New York that is beautiful. The amount that people hustle, the communities that flourish here that would not be allowed to exist anywhere else. The food, the entertainment, the breathtakingly beautiful people you see everyday. But New York wears you out. It’s like the rope swing in gym. It takes you years to get anywhere, and you often feel like you’re just dangling in the wind. Waiting for something either really good or absolutely horrible to happen. You get higher eventually, and closer to the top, but what the hell do you do when you get there? To the end of that rope? The ceiling. Are you now the master of your own life? Or have you just spent years climbing to meet a wall?

But Mom: What’s a Gender Queer?

*This is a little informative piece I threw together for a party and now for the Interwebs, to simply breakdown what it means to be gender queer. Heads up, chins out, glitter gun locked and loaded lets do this:

So you aren’t trans? But you’re not a girl? But you pee sitting down? Sometimes you pack and sometimes you don’t? You look like a guy though. But a lot of what you say is kinda feminist like. I’m really confused. Are you confused?

No. I’m just gender queer.

Lets break this down:
Gender
Queer

Gender is that thing that was slapped on your birth certificate determined by what was between or not between your legs.

Queer is that wonderful word that we can consider an umbrella term for many LGBTQ people.

Now when I slap the words gender and queer together. I am telling you that I am a little bit of both. What is between my legs is not thoroughly who I am. If gender is black and white I am gray.

“So what gender pronoun should I use when addressing you, or people like you?”

No person is the same. No gender queer person is the same. GQ folks range from accepting and being comfortable with words you’ve heard all of your life like: Mr. and Miss. too some other words you may not have even known to exist like: ze/ hir

Zir? What is that about? Think of it this way: he, she, ze / him, her, hir / his, hers, hirs

Names work too. So instead of saying her or him insert said persons name and ta da no need for an awkward moment. They and them are also pretty common.

“So who do you date?”

EVERYONE. And no by that I don’t mean that every gender queer person dates every other sexuality automatically. What I mean is, gender queer people can fall into any sexuality. Because you see, gender and sexuality are separate.

For some of us gender has always been pretty clear. While for some of us gender has been much like sexuality – a question. Anyone who falls under the gay umbrella knows what it is like to question who they are, and question what it is society expects from them, and looks at them. Being gender queer is just another one of those things.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. To stay curious. When done so with respect, there is SO MUCH TO LEARN.

<;3 Ryley