Charting Extreme Milestones

It’s not wrong to talk about climate and joy in the same breath. 

Installation view of micro | macro” (2018) by Ryoji Ikeda


A newsletter should occasionally contain some actual news, so I’m excited to share that I have a story in the anthology KINK, edited by Garth Greenwell and R.O. Kwon. It publishes in February 2021, and I almost can’t believe my piece about cross dressing and canada geese will be alongside work by Carmen Maria Machado and Alexander Chee who’ve inspired me for many years. You can read more about it here.

In other non-newsy news, I’ve been writing and thinking about the benchmarks of weather writing, and all of the ways we keep track of storms and droughts making their way across our landscape. Marks that exist only to be surpassed, as a sign of some lost era of climatic perfection so benign we didn’t even register it. This sentence, for example, from Yale Climate Connections is one of several that got me thinking on this path:

“Edouard was the earliest fifth Atlantic named storm formation on record, beating the record set by Emily on July 12, 2005. The fifth named storm of the year typically does not occur until August 31, so we are nearly two months ahead of climatology. None of this year’s named storms have been hurricanes, and the first hurricane of the season usually arrives by August 10.”

I think climate reporting would benefit from more art, sentences that makes people sit up and say damn, that’s noteworthy, or wow, I want to read more about this. Numbers can’t do that alone. Climate writing would benefit from the old writing adage ‘show don’t tell’.

Throughout my early twenties I watched hours of vlogs in which young trans men obsessively charted the slow march of facial hair and deepening voices and slimming hips. Enjoyable but addictive to watch and measure oneself against the benchmarks provided, to worry about whether or not I was falling behind. Weather and secondary sex characteristics: it makes little sense to measure the ways in which they move across the body/land, but it’s hard to resist. If there were a way to do both, to take stock while letting go, to acknowledge the march of time, rising temperatures and thickening vocal chords, without the concomitant obsessive sense of competition, I’d say do that. But I don’t know if this is possible.

So much of climate reporting seems intent on tracking down the exact moment the clock flips over and we run out of time. ‘Benchmark’, before being adopted as an all-around metaphor, came from the lingo of nineteenth century surveyors, being one of a suite of tools that allowed them to record maps of land and land ownership as accurately as possible. But if this is all climate reporting is, it becomes much easier to shut it out; if all it can provide is a sense of numbers ticking by, and no healing, no reason for joy, then we’ll end up with an atmosphere ripe for movements like the disturbing Deep Adaptation, preparing for the demise when there is still so much left to do and take in.

Perhaps climate reporting should strive to be more like sex education, informing people about the attendant risks, but also telling us about precautions and prophylactics that can prevent undesirable outcomes, that can even help us live more secure, fulfilling lives in the coming decades. Something queer liberation has given to sex ed is the knowledge that sex education is not comprehensive unless it also tells about the pleasure to be found. Maybe the same thing can happen for climate.

What I’m Reading

With no disposable income for new books and being currently separated from my own collection by an entire continent while visiting family for the first time in a year, my options have been limited. (I just don’t do ereaders.) So I’ve gone prospecting in my father’s shelves, surfacing with Clarice Lispector’s The Apple in the Dark (beautiful, slow and sometimes boring) and the collected letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West (unexpectedly timely).

What I Wish I was Reading

Multigenerational trans & chosen family sagas. 

Know of something that sounds like this? Writing something like this yourself? Let me know!

Publishing Opportunities

Foglifter’s Emerging Writer Fellowships for LGBTQ+ Youth and Elders in the Bay Area is open to applications until August 2. $1500, editorial mentorship, and more: https://foglifter.submittable.com/submit

The Operating System’s Janice Lee and Elæ [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson] are offering a workshop “interrogating the speculative potentialities of post-capital futures.” Six sessions beginning July 23, flexible sliding scale fees: http://www.theoperatingsystem.org/polyphonic-intersubjectivities-with-janice-lee-elae/

Quarterly West is accepting applications for both prose and poetry readers. Unpaid, but a very good way to get into editing, lit mags, and to improve your own writing & submission game: https://quarterlywest.submittable.com/submit/107538/prose-reader-application

The Song Cave is accepting full-length poetry manuscripts until August 15. The submission fee is currently being waived: https://the-song-cave.com/pages/open-reading-period

Autostraddle’s trans subject editor is currently accepting pitches at xoai@autostraddle.com:

If you ever have an opportunity you think I should list here, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 


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