Unfeeling, or, The News
I am trying, above all, not to be unfeeling. Joy may be the one I felt least of all, for a time. It feels more balanced now.
It seemed logical that, in the course of writing this newsletter
(which has become a book, one which I’ve tried many times in the past year to pretend was different from a newsletter, hoping that the book would be deeper than a book born from a newsletter, but I now realize I need to embrace it because, if this were a book which was a newsletter, then I’d be telling you the news — and I believe, deeply in my soul, with every inch of my body, which I have lately learned to hold much more dearly, that I am doing just that. I am telling you the news)
in which I write about sex, weather, climate and death, that I’d end up asking my partner, my love, with whom I’ve lived for the last ten years of our lives, what were some of the memories that came to mind for him when he thought about me and climate — the weather, if you must.
(for if we carry through the News metaphor, then there must be Weather Breaks, for there is always a weather break with a man — historically, a man — in front of a green screen, waving his arms gently to the left and to the right, bringing some reprieve from the carcrash of the world while also providing reassurances for the weekend, that we would enjoy three straight days of sun, or we’d see that rain we needed, or the first december snow would come, and somehow there never was a downside, no matter what the sky was doing)
And my love, he said to me that it wasn’t a memory, exactly, but a feeling that he’d had early on when we visited my parents’ house. There are still many old pictures of me there on the wall, on the side table, in which I am smiling widely, and he said that he used to hope that one day he could make me smile like in those pictures again.
(but, if I were still telling you the News, now would be the time I’d switch to a commercial break, and I can’t do that, not for reasons of profit or non-, but because it is so mind-numbingly boring, to the point where I run adblock on every device I own just to tune out the noise)
He paused, and I thought about this. I thought about how for a period of two or three years I thought I was depressed because of being trans, because of how that made the world difficult. It’s been awhile since I’ve really believed that. Or, more specifically, it’s been awhile since it’s been that bad for me. For starters, as a result of the small gains made in very basic healthcare that middle class, predominantly white trans people in my state can afford through insurance at their jobs, it’s been made much easier for me to get the right dosage of testosterone reliably. I receive a text when my TES (pharmacy SMS abbreviation for testosterone, like SER for serotonin) is ready, and I just need to press 1 and it will be shipped, in 2-3 business days, along with the right size needles, even, for free, to my house. And as far as i can tell, this is the one thing that’s really changed for the better in trans lives in this one corner of this one state in this place we call a country in the last ten years. Which is sad. And depressing. And then depressing again because it’s the one gain that has come to pass, the one for which middle class white trans people with jobs have had to exercise their voice the least.
(but now it’s the ten seconds of zen or lottery numbers or the quick peak at the latest tiktok dance to make us smile and transition into another part of our day, our routine going to and from the office, if we’re unlucky enough to be in an office right now, even though mine is largely empty all the time and softly lit by nonfluorescent bulbs)
And I wondered if, without exactly realizing it, I let that anger and angst from those early years bleed over into the despair and angst of an apocalyptic world that’s still here and a climate that is changing in ways I find undesirable, and the weather, always the weather and what it’s doing now; and for some people, climate is just that — something we talk about — but writ large.
But, he said, my love said, that it seems lately like you’ve been smiling like that more — or not exactly like that, he added, because there were hidden hurts in those smiles that looked wide in pictures even back then — and that that makes him really happy. And I am, at first, guilty, that I should feel happy These Days. There are many reasons why I should not be happy, I remind myself frequently. But then I think that, it’s actually quite interesting and unique to be that responsible for another person’s feelings, to the point where your joy and well-being and the size of your smile are significant positive factors and impacts on the enjoyment of their own life. It gives you a unique outlook to have such an intertwined sense of well-being.
And I realize again and again that I want to continue fisting climate change with our stubborn joy.
Where I’m Teaching
A slight departure from what I’m reading this week (although I did finally get my copy of this picture book in the mail, and it is everything I dreamed it would be). I’m excited to be returning to the virtual classroom to teach a short fiction workshop at the 2022 Tin House Winter Workshop, which runs from February 17-21. I have missed teaching, and I’m really looking forward to this! Scholarships are available, as well as application fee waivers, but apply soon — the deadline is November 3.
And, while it’s not exactly a class, I will be co-hosting a reading and Q&A on November 7 with the new queer-owned Portland bookshop Bishop & Wilde! I’ll be joined by poet and editor Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch and novelist Jeanne Thornton in a celebration/fundraiser for smoke and mold. If you don’t know, smoke and mold is a journal that publishes ‘nature writing’, broadly defined, by trans and Two-Spirit writers, and we just published our 5th issue. The reading will be free, but you do need to register, and it would make me very happy if you made a contribution to our gofundme to help us keep paying trans writers.
I’d love to have the opportunity to invite and answer questions during the Q&A portion of the reading — maybe you have questions about editing and publishing? About how to get started writing and submitting your work? You should definitely come and ask those, or ask us on Twitter.
The Sundance Institute is accepting applications from “nonfiction mediamakers” for the Humanities Sustainability Fellowship, which will award 20 storytellers $5,000/month to supplement their income as they work on a project. Deadline December 1.
The International Conference on Non-Western Approaches in Environmental Humanities is seeking papers. The conference will take place in July 2022 in Warsaw and on Zoom, abstracts due January 15.
You Are Here: The Journal of Creative Geography is seeking submissions for its 2022 issue: Queer Ecologies. The journal is run out of the University of Arizona’s School of Geography, Development & Environment. Deadline January 15.
The Kit Reed Travel Fund is accepting applications from Black and Indigenous women and nonbinary writers for financial assistance to attend a workshop, conference, or other opportunity. Rolling.