ESSAY: What, You Can't Hear Me?


keisa

In this essay, there is the use of the n-word, which the author spells out. The author wants to warn Black people who might experience discomfort in seeing the word.

by Keisa Reynolds

Berkeley, California, 2014. There is a Marine-turned-political-science-student facing me with a blank stare. Perhaps he is a republican. Moments ago I finished my rant about Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel. I stressed the evils of his policies and the damage he has caused communities of color across the city. Lance*, the potential republican, looks at our classmate, Jonathan, who nods and says, “You know, I’ve heard a lot about Rahm,” and shares his piece. Jonathan is a sweetheart for pretending I didn’t make an ass of myself by delivering an unwanted rant. I thought they wanted my opinion because I was a Chicago resident. Of course I have some level of expertise. I pay attention to these things, you know?

Lance didn’t want to know what I thought about Rahm Emanuel, he wanted to know what I thought about our quantitative methods professor’s dickish move of writing “Read the fucking manual” on the whiteboard. Oh, I guess that makes more sense. Let me file this moment under the neverending list of embarrassing responses I had to what I thought I heard but was in no way related to what was actually said. This is a moment that reminds me exactly who I am, and while I am not afraid to say it, it often gets awkward for everyone around: I am deaf.

What? If you are like me and didn’t hear, I am deaf. Yes, I am capable of speaking. I have a habit of doing that. My first language was sign language, then my parents decided they wanted me to be more normal. Don’t shame them; they are also deaf, and they, unlike me, don’t have the privilege to pass as anything but. My parents speak too. Deaf people know how to speak; sometimes with our mouths, sometimes with our hands, sometimes only one over the other. There isn’t only one way to be deaf.

*

My family knows a lot about passing. My dad and his siblings were called niggers by their cousin who didn’t realize they were related by blood. The cousin thought his father was fully white, certainly not half Afro-Indigenous. He ran off crying when my aunt, the youngest at the time, put her hand on her hip and said, “Well, if I am a nigger, what does that make you? We come from the same family!”

There was a look of pride on my aunt’s face when she recalled that moment when I interviewed her for a research paper during my junior year of high school. My English teacher, who is Black and Jewish, encouraged me explore what it meant to live in between cultures. We shared a mutual love for our Blackness and recognized the ways in which we came to fiercely identify as such. We are not people who happen to be Black; everything about looking and living as Black people shapes how we understand the world. However, I couldn’t focus solely on race for the project; I realized there was more to my own identity than my family’s multicultural background.

My aunt doesn’t pass for white and has no desire to do so, but she codes as anything other than Black or Afro-Indigenous. “I am Black,” she says without hesitation whenever someone asks, “Wait, what are you?” During our interview she said she chooses every day to affirm her identity regardless of how people think they understand her. Her love for her people is the only measurement of her Blackness.

“I am deaf,” I told a childhood friend shortly after I moved away for college. She responded with, “I know you had hearing aids growing up, but I didn’t realize you consider yourself deaf.” She wasn’t wrong. This was a recent revelation. I realized I was exhausted living between not quite hearing and not quite deaf.

*

An aspiring sign language interpreter blew my cover on a tour of the ASL department of my undergraduate institution. As the tour guide I delivered the usual spiel about the department and its accomplishments. The guest was a student of ASL and deaf culture for years at this point. She was passionate about her field and the people she served. She thought nothing about asking me if I was deaf in front of a handful of strangers. Visibly shaken, I answered yes. The prospective student smiled and said, “I knew it.”She was proud of herself for recognizing what most people mistake as a Valley Girl accent. It is the same voice an English professor, a fellow Black woman writer, thought was insincere and unprofessional. The professor urged me to practice changing my voice or no one would take me seriously. She warned my career would not go very far. I wanted to hide anywhere on the street where she accosted me. Instead I reminded her I spoke for a living, and I was fine as long as my paychecks cashed.

But the student didn’t have the same ill intent to shame me. She wanted to show she had the potential to be an expert of deaf people. The rest of the tour looked at each other as if I transformed right before their eyes. My voice no longer sounded like mine, but a deaf person’s.

Later my mother assured me I don’t sound deaf. In sign language, she told me that student didn’t know what she was talking about. I reminded my mother she cannot actually hear my voice. Others can. My ability to speak the way I do doesn’t mask my disability. And I wasn’t sure I wanted it to. The less people who know I am deaf, the more people I have to repeatedly remind that I am incapable of fully hearing them. Most people say, oh, I am sorry, and speak slightly louder, then promptly return to the same mumbling mess I heard. I am part of the circle, but often, I have no idea what is going on. And rarely will someone try their hardest to help me.

*

My mother insists I am hard of hearing or hearing impaired, not deaf. Deaf is a word  reserved for who the world considers the most helpless. She gets frustrated that I don’t know sign language as well as she feels I should. I can hold my own in conversation, even if my hands don’t go exactly where they belong, but it does not feel like the language I learned to speak first. My father blames her for not teaching me throughout my childhood. “What was I supposed to do? She was supposed to be normal.” Normal. Or Mainstream, the word used to categorize me as a student the disability office kept tabs on, but mostly left alone. I can read a lips, a survival tool well-meaning people assume is a party trick. Try me, can you read what I am saying?

I would prefer you tried to speak to me like a person, but yes, I can read you saying sometimes you masturbate with hot dogs.

*

“They are just jealous,” my mother assured me when I told her about the isolation I felt when I was mocked by my deaf classmates. Two of them, whom I knew for years, spoke in sign language while I sat directly across from them on the train. In school they saw me walk down the hall with my friends. They saw the smiles and laughter. They didn’t notice I often faked it. Like my mom, they saw me as normal. They questioned my presence: She isn’t deaf, what is she doing here?

As a mainstream student, I was invited to attend field trips that would keep me in the loop about Deaf culture. For my classmates, that was their culture, not mine. We went to the School for the Deaf, where we saw students perform entirely in sign language. The hearing people were the ones who needed interpreters. It was a switch that seemed to delight my classmates. Their eyes lit up when we sat in the cafeteria after the show. They were surrounded by people they considered their equals, peers who couldn’t make them feel less than.

I felt the same way. I knew they didn’t think so. They assumed I was anxious to return to the hearing world. The School for the Deaf was their safest place because once we returned to school, I was the one who could pass. It didn’t matter that I had to ask people to repeat themselves until they grew frustrated and said, “Never mind.” And you know, it really didn’t matter. My inconvenience was nothing compared to the teasing they faced and the assumptions our hearing classmates made about their intelligence. My inability to hear has hindered my life, but I was never discarded in the same way as most Deaf people are in our hearing society.

I recently got hearing aids for the first time in almost eight years. I know I can’t hear. Everyone around me knows I can’t hear. Yet most hearing people are more comfortable with me saying “Oh, I have a bad ear” with an apologetic giggle than me saying I am deaf and need them to try to accommodate my needs.

My new audiologist showed off the latest hearing aids and gushed about their invisibility. Part of me was relieved because I grappled with the fact that strangers will look at my hearing aids and try to practice their sign language on me. Those strangers were always as annoyed as my deaf classmates and parents that I wasn’t an expert. Part of me felt my option of visibility was removed by people who want deaf people to fit in.

There is no normal. There is no magical solution that will help me fit inside the narrow space I fear will suffocate me. There is the only choice I make every day: Hi, can you speak up? I am deaf.


INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Helena Deland



by Mackenzie Werner

Helena Deland is an electrifying chanteuse from Montreal who released 4 EPs this year as four chapters of a series "Altogether Unaccompanied". 

I first became aware of Helena's music when seeing her perform as a solo singer-songwriter in Calgary, Alberta in the summer of 2017. I was struck by her elliptical narratives and bright, clear voice and brought her debut EP "Drawing Room" (2016) into my heavy rotation. 

In the time since she has added a full band, lush, new sounds, and high concepts to her work. Hooligan was thrilled to sit down with her before a recent show, where Gia Margaret opened. Here is our conversation: 


Helena: I had an interview the other day that I had forgotten about, a call, a phoner, and the guy …. I was in the bath, and he just called me up, I wasn’t sure who it was at first and he kind of was more of the “let’s have a conversation” style, so it took the longest time before I realized what was going on. He was like “Hey! Helena! Helena Boxing! Like that Lynch’s daughter’s movie…

Mack: (laughing) and you were like, “Okay, we’re doing this!)”

I wanna start with a question about you calling your music “sincere pop”, I know that a lot of people ask you about that, but I was just wondering because I really like that name that you gave it and I feel like there’s been this cultural shift away from apathy, where people are really craving sincerity and earnestness, and I was wondering how that shift has felt for you and informed your music (if it has), and how that’s felt for you as a creator.

Helena: I’m really afraid of it being misinterpreted. It is something that I liked the sound of; I guess it implies that pop isn’t always sincere, which isn’t what I want to do.

M: Especially because there’s a stigma against pop a lot of the time, and women who make pop especially.

H: Exactly, and I did feel like kind of disdain towards pop growing up, just because I grew up in the early ‘90s, and my mom was kind of like “you shouldn’t support Britney Spears’ message” and I feel like I was really impressed by that, like it’s not feminist to support…. Pop legends are probably not feminists, and that was a huge thing for me growing up, and I only really recently started enjoying pop in my twenties  probably and it’s been such a revelation.

I feel like your question was more about the shift in resenting apathy…

M: Yeah, I feel like maybe five to ten years ago the main cultural idea was to be apathetic

H: Yeah, and ironic.

M: Yeah, ironic, and there’s been a big push back against that recently.

H: Well, I’m happy to hear you say that, because I haven’t really noticed that honestly. But yeah, I guess it’s true.  It’s such a part of how you want to present yourself as not wanting to take yourself too seriously, but yeah, it’s a tough thing to deal with. It was such a thing in all of culture, to have that distance, which I’ve never been able to really have with my music. I was so scared at first, I’ve been validated since, and I’ve changed my perspective on it, being sincere, but I was so scared at first of making myself vulnerable. Because it’s raw. But, you know, now [I know] that’s actually what I want to do -- the thing that will be the most true, and be as sincere as possible. [I want to] embrace that.

M: Well, good job doing that, because that’s hard to do.

H: Yeah, it’s easier at first, but then for it to become public, that’s the scary part.

M: Totally. With you being from Montreal, and being bilingual, French and English, I was wondering if your music being in English, and your life in Montreal being more in French, if that gives you some sort of distance between your personal life and your performer life.

H: It did at first, for sure, it felt like such a venue to express stuff. There are so many reasons why I write in English, but that was I think one of them, at least thinking about playing those first shows in front of like 30 friends, and being like, “oh these can’t be in French…. They know.” I mean, they know anyway. There is something about, saying some things that aren’t easy to say in conversation, or face-to-face, in a language that’s not the one you use when you’re together. But I also wonder, because French is a language I’m more comfortable with, that I navigate a little bit better than English, I wonder what if English were my first language, if it would be different. Hard to tell what it would change but, I wonder if it would be easier to write in it. But maybe it also gives me a distance that’s playful, or freer in a way.

M: When you’re writing do you ever think of your lyrics first in French and then…

H: No, but sometimes I’ll hear a song.  Like, I’ve been listening to Adrianne Lenker’s album (we both make sounds of warm recognition and laugh), and oh my god, it just feels like she has nothing stopping her from writing such beautiful lyrics. It came to mind, is it kind of a detour to be French first and then writing in English?

M: And talk about someone who’s raw and vulnerable in their lyrics…

H: And seems to have no problem with that! It’s so impressive how close to her her lyrics seem, and apparently she’s so prolific and just has so many songs.

M: Yeah, I think she produces more than her record label can keep up with.

H: It’s really exciting.

M: We’re all blessed.

H: Exactly.

M: You mention Adrianne, and I want to ask you what other releases have come out this year that you’ve been really excited about.

H: Mmm, okay, Tirzah! She’s got such an angle on music that’s so refreshing, I find. She was introduced to me by my booker, it’s his favorite album this year, and I was really excited.  It really moves me. I find it so alive that it grew really addictive. It’s a specific feeling that I can’t find, when I want to listen to Tirzah it’s just automatically, that’s the only thing that’s gonna do that. Apart from that … I found Yves Tumor’s album really interesting. They are this really multi-dimensional project that, this album, I’ve been enjoying getting really familiar with it. It doesn’t feel accessible to me, but it does feel magnetic in a way. I also liked Jenny Hval’s (we toss a few guesses at pronunciation back and forth and laugh) EP that she put out.

M: And she put out a novel this year too.

H: I know! I can’t wait, I’m very curious. Did you read it?

M: Not yet, but I can’t wait to. People that I know who’ve read it have devoured it.

H: Yeah, that shift is so interesting, I find. And it’s interesting that it doesn’t happen more, that singer-songwriters don’t write more fiction or prose, but it’s something that I’m really interested in for sure.

M: Yeah, I just heard that Japanese Breakfast is writing a memoir, and just gave a lecture.

H: Wow! That’s crazy, that’s amazing.

M: I feel like those boundaries are being crossed more.

H: Maybe since Bob Dylan won (laughing) the Nobel Prize for literature

M: Yeah, and I think there’s less of an idea of boxing yourself in to one discipline.

H: Totally.

M: Besides music do make any other types of art?

H: Not really, I write a lot. I write pretty continuously, but I don’t have a project. I hope I will someday. That is something that I’m really drawn to, but it seems like such a tedious practice, and you really have to have a lot of time to do it. I read as much as I can, because that’s what I most love doing. I’ve noticed that in phases when I forget about reading I just feel like crap, it’s my favorite hobby.

M: Was there anything you were reading while you were writing the songs for Altogether Unaccompanied that really informed that process?

H: Yes, there were a couple, there’s this French word that means, “to take a shape and move it from one area to another.’ I don’t know what it would be in English, but there were some that made their way like that into the songs. There’s Carson McCullers’ poems, she wrote a song about, the way I interpreted it, the way I used it.  She has a line that’s, “no longer is a stone a stone”, which is one of my song titles. Also I read this novel Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, it’s so beautiful! It hadn’t happened for me in a while that I’ve transcribed so much, it’s an amazing way of seeing things.

M: That’s a magical feeling.

H: It really is, when you’re like “finally, this makes so much sense!” and the, I guess, just her characters feel really familiar, which is a nice feeling as well. The sentence “Altogether Unaccompanied” was taken from that. She describes this old man, the protagonist’s grandfather, how every spring he becomes a man of his own and will be outside all the time collecting small bones, and rocks, and plants, and it’s not a negative thing, but how he was unreachable during that period of time, how he was “altogether unaccompanied” (she scrunches up her face), oh, it’s just so sweet. I guess it’s about the idea of being scared of that, but trying to embrace it as well. You can hope for proximity, but it’s often impossible. In choosing partners and friends you’re choosing who you’re going to be …. No I was going to say “alone with”, but that’s too tacky. Somebody’s actual core is always kept secret, we’re all kind of “altogether unaccompanied” in these beautiful relationships. Does that make sense?

M: It does, and it reminds me of your line from “There Are A Thousand”, when you’re saying…

H: “There are a thousand of each of us here, how will we recognize each other dear?”

M: Yeah, exactly.

H: Totally, there’s this really nice Rilke idea that every person has their own secret garden, and that you have to accept the fact that you’re never going to walk in past a certain point to someone else’s way of seeing the world and existing. Basically, how you choose the people who surround you, who are able to stand guard from where things only step out dressed in fancy outfits. It’s a really beautiful idea.

M: Definitely. I was really curious, the way this release is broken up into four different chapters, or volumes, what the thought behind the way you paired different songs was.

H: It was mostly instinctive. I usually say color-based. Thematically or sonically how they seemed to pair well, but it was really easy to do. It felt way more natural to do it that way than to release them all together. I’m glad I did that too, because it feels like a debut album is such a big thing to me. I’m really happy that it’s going to be all songs that were all written around the same time, rather than bunched together.

M: I like that you did it half in spring and half in fall, because I don’t know if you do this but I think of media very seasonally. Like I’ll think “oh, I really want to read that but I’m going to wait until the winter.” Or, “I really love this song and it reminds me of summer.”

H: Totally.

M: Or like some things just feel warm, or feel cold. So, I really loved the way it was split into chapters and released so far apart. It was like returning to something familiar, but that felt more appropriate in the fall.

H: Totally, I wasn’t really thinking of it seasonally, but I agree that that’s totally a thing. But I was thinking times of day. The first two volumes for me were day and night, well they were midnight and noon. And volume three and four were dusk and dawn. You hear something and it’s like “this sounds like 4 p.m., or this sounds like April.”

M: It’s funny how those feelings can come through so distinctly.

H: It’s like slight synesthesia I guess.

M: With “Claudion” specifically, that song just sounded like October to me for some reason, I feel like it hit at the perfect moment.

H: I’m really happy to hear that!

M: Yeah, of course. I want to know if you have a particular song from this collection that you call your favorite, or one that particularly challenged you, that you’re proud of getting out there.

H: I guess the one that’s most mysterious to me in a way is “There Are a Thousand”, it’s one of the first songs I wrote, and it was so detached from any relationship I was going through.  It was much more about how I felt as a 21-year-old girl, at that time. I don’t know how to explain it, it feels like because it’s so vague, yet I find it does describe well what I was going through, I’m proud of it in a kind of puzzled way. I feel like it’s going to exist independently from me for a while somehow, because it’s just hard to describe how it happened, how I wrote it. It was a very impulsive song, it took no time which never happens to me. Songs always take much longer than that, but I sat down and by the time I stood up it was just done.

M: Do you write poetry as well?

H: No, I don’t really write poetry. I write more ideas and citations. When I write in a more continuous manner it’s more prose, diaries.

M: The last time I saw you it was just you and your guitar. You were playing more sparse, folk, singer-songwriter stuff, and now you’ve got a full band, you’re doing this lush, atmospheric, electronic stuff. I was wondering, in that transition, what were your expectations, or your hopes going into it? And now that you’ve done it, how have they been fulfilled? Or not fulfilled?

H: It’s a very, very exciting transition. I think the solo version of the project for me has always been a kind of compromise for financial, or time reasons. It’s been the easiest thing to bring forth, the solo project. It was easier to travel alone at that point, I was always aspiring to having a full band. I don’t see the solo act as less than the full band, I need to just see it as different. It’s still something that I want to do and explore, but I feel like our final form is full band.

M: Do you have full band arrangements for that first EP as well?

H: I do.

M: So you’ve brought those into this era.

H: Exactly.

M: I’ve got a couple of quick questions to end: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?

H: Oh god I don’t know, I don’t have an answer to this question, and it’s a question that used to drive me crazy.

M: It doesn’t have to be practical, just anything that you’d like to be doing.

H: Hmmmm, just something that would have me reading and writing. So practically I was thinking of translation, music is so good for this, but something that would allow me to travel as well. Touring is such an odd little context to travel in, but it quells that need.

M: Can I ask you what your sign is and if you read into astrology at all?

H: That’s a fun question, my sign is Sagittarius.

M: Happy Sag season!

H: Thank you! I do, but I consider it as fun. The more I get into it the less I associate with it, but I guess it has to do with all of your planets, your chart. I guess the thing about Sag that I relate with in a bit of a masochistic way, is how fast you move from one thing to another, and get sick of things. That’s something I try not to do but definitely recognize in myself. There are other signs that pop up on the instagram accounts I follow that seem to be more accurate, but… My grandfather was a Sagittarius and he was always a party person until he was 95 and I always thought that was so cool.

(we talk about our grandpas for a while)

M: My last question is just a fun one, what’s on your rider?

H: If we can get anything we want…. I like tequila. But I’m trying to not drink at shows. Alexandre has beef jerky, that’s like his thing. There are two vegetarians and two heavy-duty meat eaters in the band, so it’s a funny mix. Nothing fun, we thought about asking the staff to bring their dogs, but we can’t hang out with it that much so it seemed irrational. But, that’s pretty much it.

(I tell her a story about a venue dog barking during a Daughter show)

M: Venue dogs are a bad idea but a green room dog is brilliant

H: As long as they get to run around!


Listen to Claudion by Helena Deland on Spotify below


Beach Bunny and the Passage of Time


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by Meggie Gates

Beach Bunny takes the stage in a hue of pink. Lili Trifilio, the lead singer, adjusts her mic and turns to the audience with an aura of cool, brandishing a one of a kind crème colored electric guitar with a light blue patterned pickguard. As she adjusts her mic, the rest of the band fills in behind her, Jon Alvarado on drums, Matt Henkels on guitar, and Aidan Cada on bass, all of them new additions following a Battle of the Bands show in Elgin, Illinois the summer of 2017. Vocals pour out of Lili like waves on Lake Michigan and the crowd roars, gathered at the feet of their surf rock princess.

I fell in love with Beach Bunny faster than my last boyfriend. Having my heart crushed in January, my friend insisted I go to their concert. It had been a month of crying and the need to move on was apparent. I bring this up the minute I meet Lili, hoping she doesn’t remember how much I rambled about my breakup seven months prior. “Oh yeah, I remember you guys.” I reiterate how much the lyrics, “Sometimes I wonder how life would be, if you had stayed for February,” ripped my soul apart. “Oh no! I’m so sorry!” She laughs.

“More people relate to February than I did. A lot of people told me that fit their timeline,” Lili tells me. Putting a timeline on the breakup process is a specialty of Beach Bunny’s. Their music hones in on specificities you may not have noticed before, concentrating on seasonal feelings. With this, the sadness becomes more visceral. No longer a cloud hanging out of reach, but more a snowflake you catch on your fingertips. Her earliest EP, Pool Party, categorizes the vulnerable safety net of summer. Lili explores the track July with such intensity, it’s as if you can feel the world melting through the sky. The authenticity of new feelings, the excitement of blossoming relationships, all of it uniquely explored only to be shattered with the reality of Crybaby.

You reach February and nothing is simple anymore.  

“I didn’t know how to express my feelings and that was Animalism. I did solo music for two and a half years and then around Crybaby I was really in my emo girl phase.”

As Lili’s music grows, so does she. There’s an understood maturity she carries herself that is envious. She makes art for catharsis, not spite. Unlike most indie pop breakup songs, where the object of desire is typically villainized, her care and compassion for the subject of her songs is incredibly apparent. “We were still good friends through the breakup. There was a time when we didn’t talk and then we became friends and now we’re in a relationship again.” Breakups are hard on both ends, and she has a deep understanding of this. “With Crybaby I was stressed because I knew the person I was no longer with would hear the songs and it was such a direct message. Even today, I’m like oh, I’m sorry about that.”

The days of Crybaby have certainly shaped Lili. Songs about crushes ghosting her are relatively in the past now that she understands relationships are not a longwinded game of hide and seek. “All the people I went for before were a challenge and the person I ended up dating, and am still dating, was someone that it was very mutual with. After that I was like, oh, this is what a relationship should be. It shouldn’t be like ‘I have to fight for this person’, it should just be easy.” This stark contrast in understanding the complexity of relationships, positioned against the hardships of her music, is soothing. “There are some people who are so incompatible realistically, but sometimes you just don’t care.”  I tell my friends this constantly, but the practice of putting it in to action is hard. Confidence is hard.

The feeling to prove yourself to someone who’s not worth it sometimes feels like the only thing that’s worth it.

Prom Queen, off Beach Bunny’s new EP, digs deep in to these feelings of insecurity. Screaming around to it in my bedroom, I couldn’t help but laugh at how much the line, “I never looked good in mom jeans/Wish I, was like you, blue-eyed blondie, perfect body” reminded me of days spent comparing myself to my ex boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, a roundabout carousel ride I bring Lili on regardless of talking about my breakup too many times now (three). It constantly feels like no matter what you do, there’s always someone better out there; the ideal woman now more accessible than ever with Photoshop. “With social media, there’s so much pressure to be perfect. The person online isn’t even real. How are you supposed to look up to this model that’s airbrushed?” I ask Lili how the internet might affect young women today and what they can do to avoid this hell trap. “If you’re going to do any comparison, compare your present self to your past self. Don’t compare yourself to other people.”  


Maneuvering the complexity of relationships is ground Lili often covers. It is a well-established mold she has laid out in tracks prior, which makes the release of Prom Queen so enticing. Exploring breakups is still there but now, the corners are sharper. Instead of asking, “if you love me why can’t we be together?” like Lili does on Jenny, the question is now, “are we something that’s worth saving?” Her confident voice is strong and passionate. Gone are days of Animalism where Lili nurtured the listener with her soft, vulnerable voice. The contrast can be mapped by her significant remastering of 6 Weeks. “I’m not constrained to this box of sad girl anthems. I can write other songs and people will like them. I got more confidence in my writing abilities and it’s been cool with the higher production and bringing the boys on.”  

Beach Bunny’s new EP further explores other themes peppered throughout the band’s history. Shoegazer, a song off Pool Party, first introduces Lili’s fear of growing old, “You’ve been feeling alone since you turned 21/ and the older you grow the more you come undone/ your life has just begun.” This adolescent feeling of loneliness finds a more mature friend in Adulting, a track off Prom Queen. Now on the cusp of graduation, Lili admits to me she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. This sentiment is mirrored back when she sings “the older I get, seems like the less that I know/Trying to be more than, ever before/It’s hard adulting.”

Existentialism has always been something Lili has grappled with. “I have an extreme fear of dying. I think about it very frequently. Turning 22 and having friends with birthdays coming up, I’m kind of freaking out. It’s my last year of college, what am I going to do with my life?” For being so young, the fear of growing older is obvious when Lili talks about her future and her family. “2017 was hard because my grandpa passed away and my brother ended up in the hospital. It was the hardest year of my life.”

Though time feels like an enemy, Lili understands that healing begins as the clock ticks. It’s a part of growing up and moving on from people and pain. “I look back and I know why it (2017) was sad but I can’t even put myself in that mindset anymore.” Despite Beach Bunny’s success, Lili has an acute understanding of what she expects from herself in the future. She is at a place artistically where she can grant herself liberty to relax. Beach Bunny’s listeners will continue to support her. It’s evident in the fact, at 22, she is touring with one of her favorite bands and about to play Riot Fest. As opposed to an interview she gave last January, where she talks about big goals she has, she’s now giving herself the luxury of enjoying life instead of burning out. “I still want to make a ton of time for friends, family, and a relationship. Even though music is my life and my dream, I don’t want it to become the only thing I do. Imagine becoming so successful that you lose everyone on the way up.”

She looks around the colorful back porch and picks a bench to sit on for pictures. I don’t ask her about touring with Remo Drive because the energy she carries herself with says it all. Excited. Nervous. Proud. As a plane flies overhead, I decide this is one of my favorite days of summer. Hanging with a woman so young and powerful, with everything before her and so much behind. “Focus on gratitude.” She tells me as we wrap up our interview. I fight the urge to ask her advice on my past relationship, again (four). “When you get existential and think about the loss of time and childhood, you lose focus on appreciating everything you have. Living in the moment is so important.”

The passage of time can hold the greatest treasures and the worst heartbreak. It can be the start of a magical journey or a terrible end. It’s never stopping, and neither is Lili.

Her life has just begun.


Stream Prom Queen below


International Whores Day Direct Action 2018 - Chicago, IL

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“Sex work is real work,” Sophie said into a megaphone in Daley Plaza Friday afternoon. A sizable crowd of sex workers and allies gripping handmade signs and red umbrellas returned the chant with equal measure. 

June 2, known as International Whore’s Day or International Sex Workers Day, was recognized with demonstrations in Chicago, New York City, Oakland, Los Angeles, Los Vegas, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Austin and Washington D.C to demand the decriminalization of the profession, the end of police raids and to address the harms of FOSTA/SESTA.

International Whore’s Day celebrates the anniversary of the occupation of Église Saint-Nizier in Lyon, France in 1975 where more than 100 sex workers took over the church for eight days to protest inhumane and unsafe working conditions. During the occupation they chanted “you who threaten us with hell, we come to eat at your table.”

“We as a sex working community and our family have come to eat at the table of those who have threatened us,” Sophie said. “We will make them see our faces and see who their laws, their raids are harming.”

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43 years later, sex workers are taking to the streets in seven-inch Pleaser shoes, carrying the added weight of the passage of FOSTA/SESTA.

FOSTA, known as Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and SESTA, known as Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act were signed into law April 11 by President Trump to the dismay of sex workers. In attempts to eliminate online sex trafficking, the bills hold websites liable for any content that could “promote or facilitate prostitution,” even if it’s posted by a third party. Since FOSTA/SESTA was signed into law, sites that host ads used by sex workers to screen clients have been reduced or shut down entirely. Craigslist took down their personal ad’s section for fear of legal ramifications and the popular ad hosting site Backpage has been seized by the U.S government. 

Without sites like Backpage, sex workers have lost the resources used to do their job safely. Sex workers are unable to screen clients online and many are being forced to go back to the streets for financial security, which can lead to increased risk of violence, sexual assault or death. A study done at Baylor University found that during the time Craiglist had an “Erotic services” section, they saw a 17.4 percent decrease in all female homicides, not just sex workers. Since the shutdown of Backpage, at least thirteen sex workers have been reported missing and 2 have been confirmed dead, according to anecdotal data acquired by Tits and Sass. 

“I stand here in solidarity with my brothers and my sisters and my siblings who cannot be here because they are criminalized, they are in jail, they are dead,” said Avia, a sex trafficking survivor and self proclaimed current whore. “Since FOSTA/SESTA has been passed I have been raped three times by long term clients who have told me that they know that I don’t have any other option. These laws are killing us.”

The seizing of free or low cost sites like Backpage also puts poor, disabled and undocumented sex workers out of their source of income. And for those who cannot physically work on the street, their livelihood is on the line.

“I’m disabled and poor and I just lost my job,” said an anonymous individual in a statement from the Bay Area Pro Support Group. “The only job that is physically possible for me. Every website that I’ve ever used to connect with clients has gone offline and I have no way of getting work now. Thousands of chronically ill and disabled people have just lost their means of survival.”

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There was no march on Friday. It was a supportive space for statements and discussions about how these laws affect real people and how they can move forward. When a speaker would get choked up, members of the crowd would say “I love you.” Amidst the pain and the sadness, there was also laughter and hope. Against everything, this chosen family of sex workers say that they are stronger together.

Attendees also stressed the need for allies to speak up and fight for the rights of sex workers and to not make sex workers fight these battles alone. “Social justice issues are kind of a hot button topic and have been in the past decade but we don’t hear anything about sex workers in mainstream media and people in the general population really know nothing about this,” said Rowan, an ally.

“Many of us can’t even admit to the majority of the people in our lives that this is happening because it’s too risky,” said the anonymous individual from the Bay Area Pro Support Group. “We desperately need non workers to talk about what’s happening, to explain to people that these measures only harm. They don’t help trafficking victims or anyone else — but they do ruin lives.”
 

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“A Shirt is a Shirt”: An Interview with Katie Cooper of Button Brigade

By Anna DiTucci-Cappiello

Button Brigade is the brainchild of Katie Cooper. With Button Brigade, she’s seeking to design button up shirts that are are gender-neutral, more size-inclusive, made in the U.S.A., and give back. Katie was kind enough to sit down with me and talk a bit about her mission, breaking into the fashion industry, and the trials that come with inclusivity.

Photo by  Nate Packard

Photo by Nate Packard


Anna: I was just looking at your Kickstarter and it looks so cool! Do you have a background in fashion at all before starting Button Brigade?

Katie: No, not particularly. I am a freelance graphic designer, that’s my day job. The only kind of apparel experience I have had is working for a screenprinter. So different kind of apparel — not at all the same. That’s the only experience I’ve had in the fashion industry.

A: So Button Brigade came about in more of a “necessity is the mother of invention” kind of way, when you saw a need for something in the industry.

K: Yeah! It was more like seeing a need. I wear button ups all the time and I really struggle to find any that fit me, whether that was in the men’s or women’s department. So I decided to just make some that were actually more inclusive.

A: Totally agree with you there! Was it daunting to take on that idea? I can imagine there are quite a few hoops to jump through before seeing it really come to fruition.

K: For sure, I mean it’s definitely had its ups and downs. The fashion industry is very slow at getting things done, and it’s driven me up a wall. And it is a little daunting. But once I started making connections with people in the industry that were actually willing to help it became a lot easier, because they were willing to teach me and take the time to make sure I had things correctly and things like that. But there’s a lot of people who are like, “I’m doing my own thing, don’t ask me for help.”

A: Riffing off of that comes to my next question. You’re really seeking out to be as all inclusive as possible. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while trying to accommodate all of those body types and sizes and gender presentations.

K: So, it’s really difficult. As you can imagine, there are a lot of different body shapes and sizes…small and large and the whole shebang. I think more than anything trying to be gender-inclusive and then size inclusive, which kind of go hand in hand — the shirt is very much inspired by menswear. So it’s taking a man’s shirt, because they have all the best things, and then accommodating it more for a "female" body, or just curves in general. But making it in such a way that (cis) men can still wear it, because it’s not the total extreme of a woman’s button up with the darts, cut in different ways and the fabric is usually different. So it’s kind of just a very good in-between, if you will.

Photo by Nate Packard

Photo by Nate Packard

A: Another focus that I’ve noticed is that you’re working out of Memphis, trying to keep it as local as possible. How has where you’re from influenced your brand, if at all? Are you bringing some of Memphis to the world with these shirts, along with the message of inclusivity?

K: I’d like to think so. It’s been hard to work locally, the production side of things or the behind the curtain stuff. Most of the people I’m working with are in Chicago. So it’s been, as far as resources go, having things in Memphis is extremely limited. As far as finding a manufacturer, or finding a pattern maker was difficult. One person I met who does fabric sourcing out of Chicago had all of these connections in Chicago so it kind of just went from there. As far as Memphis goes, and I guess showing some of the community of Memphis, is through the models and our friends and people here and things like that. It’s not all local, per se. One thing I will say about being in Memphis is that it’s been hard bringing people together to fundraise — it is still kind of the Bible Belt and conservative in some aspects. There’s definitely been some hurdles to jump through. Gender neutral is still such a new concept for some people, even though it’s just another word for unisex. People have a hard time with that.

A: Right yeah, it’s just another word for unisex! I noticed you mentioned in another article, I believe in Teen Vogue, that it seems like a radical idea but a shirt is a shirt.

K: Yeah! A shirt is a shirt, it shouldn’t matter who’s wearing it. You know? It doesn’t need to be labelled as male or female — anyone can wear it. Even the term unisex, if you think about a unisex t shirt it’s honestly just a man’s t shirt. There are issues with that, of course, but it’s easier for people to wrap their minds around unisex rather than gender neutral. And on top of that, with us giving back to LGBTQ organizations it just like, “whoa! What are you doing?” [laughs] There’s a bit of a hurdle with that.

A: On the LGBTQ side of things, can you tell us a little about the organization you’re donating to? How did you choose OutMemphis?

K: The idea is to not just give to one organization, as time goes on it’s my goal to give to multiple organizations. I want to keep things to local community centers, to give locally and put them first. OutMemphis are the local LGBTQ community center, they have a ton of programs for trans services, LGBT youth. I want to give specific projects instead of giving to an organization and being like, “do with this what you please.” So I can kind of keep track of what’s actually happening and how that money’s being used. With OutMemphis, I want to give to their senior citizens program first. They have services and make calls for, like, seniors who can’t get out of the house. We’re still working out logistics for that. Longterm I’d like to switch that out for other local community centers that need a little extra help.

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A: That sounds great! So, what are you hoping the average person will be able to take away from seeing Button Brigade around or wearing one of the shirts?

K: I guess just creating more awareness around being gender inclusive. I’m really excited for people just having something — a shirt they can own that isn’t labelled. Especially for a person who’s gender non-conforming and forced to either shop in the men’s or women’s section. Giving them the confidence to be themselves and to express themselves the way they’d like to, I think, is probably the most important thing I would like people to take away. It doesn’t matter, and the end of the day it is just a shirt and it shouldn’t be labelled. That’s kind of where my focus is, and creating conversation around it especially with — I have a very conservative background. So, like, all of my outer circles probably are like “what the hell is she doing?” [laughs] But I think leading this conversation, and making gender neutral clothing more accessible and a real thing…yeah.

A: You had mentioned that you had done very different work in the industry with screen printing. What would you say you’ve learned from being at the helm of this project, either on the fashion or activism side of things?

K: You have to be extremely careful with how you choose your words, you would think the LGBTQ community or people who are into body positivity would be so supportive. People who are all about inclusivity, or in the queer community — when it comes to activism, you get a lot more criticism about not being perfect. Which was very surprising from my end of things. Because it is just me running a business. I think people assume I have a team behind me, so they can troll the internet and do whatever and think they’re not just talking to a person. So I have learned a lot about choosing my words carefully. I don’t know, the internet’s crazy. Like, learning things and figuring out the market and who my customers and consumers are. I learned a majority of them are poor, I mean statistically speaking. Those who are gender non conforming have a harder time finding work, you know it’s hard for them to even afford the product. Which has never been my intention, it’s just the price for what it is. That was one thing — how can I make this accessible without going bankrupt?

A: The internet is crazy. Have you seen mostly positive or negative feedback over the course of this project?

K: I would say the majority good. One negative comment and you’re like, "I don’t even know..."but the majority of the feedback has been good. I’ve gotten some constructive criticism, which is good. Anything negative has been people sitting around waiting for you to make a wrong move.

A: What does the future look like for Button Brigade? Either with aspiring next steps or things you already have on the horizon?

K: For sure, well, my focus has been on getting it funded and the first round of shirts done. Just getting funding has been extremely difficult. Dreaming, I would love to open up a storefront and offer different styles in the shirt. I’ve been playing around with doing a tall version, whether or not the budget allows right now. Or even go up in sizes, things like that are in the works. Trying not to think too far ahead when I don’t even have my product out yet, you know? But I would love to have a storefront.

Support / shop at The Button Brigade here

Sol Patches’ 'Garden City': An Audio Love Letter / 'GamesStop' Video Premiere


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I had the pleasure of interviewing Chicago-based artist Sol Patches (they/them) about their latest album Garden City, described as an audio love letter to Chicago. An audio love letter “written in music for trans people, we who dream and live to unlearn - creating in a field that denies our very existence.”

20 year old Patches is no stranger to political activism, nor a stranger to fusing elements of protest into their art. The fourteen-track LP, executively produced by Chaski (they/them), is selfless in its mission. It challenges the social structures forced upon black trans people. This is especially exemplified in the music video for the track ‘GamesStop’, featuring + and Ireon. The video pays homage to voguing and black queer dance.

After gaining some insight from Patches and Chaski, I was able to enjoy the album with an entirely new set of ears. I was excited to learn more about the diverse, dance-driven and lyrically dense project.


The project features a great number of people. What drives you to collaborate with other artists?
What drives me to collaborate with other artists, is that we are all we got. I do not believe solely in single authorship, and having being raised around grass-roots organizing, I’m aware of how many people go into making it possible for such political campaigns to take place. I don’t want to be a token, and I create spaces in sound that are sustainable and able to amplify the truth of those seeking nuances in a gendered world. 

The production on this project varies. From the uptempo 'Basketball', to the dance-feel of 'Rooftops', to the warped boom-bap of 'Heat War'. Who produced these instrumentals? What was the thought-process behind which beats were used?
I produced ‘Basketball’ and ‘Heat War’. When I lived on the westside of Chicago, footworking was always popping at my elementary school and I really wanted apply some of that flavor to basketball stories from my upbringing. ‘Heat War’ emerged post-election after a session with my friend in NYC who goes by the name Naked Family. We wanted to produce a song that reflected climate change, executive branch based politicians tweeting, and an ever-pending nuclear war. Eiigo Groove, my sibling, produced ‘Rooftops’ about 3 years ago and it was on my mind constantly. He really puts his heart into music and has drums out of this world. 

Lyrically, I hear themes of identity and protest. What is Garden City addressing and who is it's audience?
Lyrically, I would say Iientity appears in this project in a very subtle yet intentional way. Sonically, I wanted to mix the project in a way that was above all else, healthy for the ear. I wasn’t concerned with commercial standards. Garden City addresses the gaps in Chicago’s music scene with its LGBTQI+ artists and strives to outline how entangled in resistance my practice actually is within an often basic and cis/heteronormative mainstream Chicago music culture. It is a reminder to that scene that we are here, we have been here, and we’re not messing around.

Is this project Chicago-specific?
Garden City, though directly inspired from all that makes up Chicago, is more so specific to the traditions of power that occupy cities and effect lower income residents. This piece speaks to my many homes, and also the ways in which I am homeless.

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How did the GameStop music video come about?
Chaski and I worked on the video together. The visuals were largely compiled from Chaski's personal archive as well as video we've collected together. 

The music video displays the following concepts: "The rule of minimum quantity, rule of sufficient ideality, rule of lateral effects, rule of perfect certainty, rule of common truth, rule of optimal specification." What do these rules mean to you?
If I were to describe directly what Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish,” rules mean to me we would be talking forever...and I would love that! These rules as it applies to this video, I feel, gives us a critical lens on interpreting how state violence disciplines those along the spectrum of blackness with the mask of a food and liquor store with no community-based grocery options available.

CHASKI - This piece draws on Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’ to discuss systemic rituals of racialized punishment and consider the political anatomy of black bodies being subjected to state violence through imagery of voguing, popping and postmodern movement practices. The rules are almost like mini-intermissions, or choreo-political queries/ruling out a binary notion of power to acknowledge a whole field of contestation. We engaged with a lot of afro-futurist and as well as afro-pessimists in the making of this piece.

The soul is the effect and instrument of political anatomy; the soul is the prison of the body.—Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish.

Traditionally, media is supposed to mirror the society it displays. Of course, there is a huge lack of representation for non-binary and trans people in TV and movies. Do you think this is something that will change in our lifetime?
Chaski quotes Foucault a lot, and one quote I remember them saying is “Visibility is a trap”. Representation in itself is not enough - a lack. It’s going to take a lot more than auctioning bodies off to be cast, it is important that the oppressed are in positions to cultivate creative sustainable spaces. We are experiencing more elevated trans, non binary, genderqueer folks - but there could always be more. That representation is not void of it’s own violences in terms of who receives platform and whose voices are not welcomed into these discussions. I’m sure certain such things will continue to happen on a larger scale. The true question is how do we keep the integrity of non-cis people who have died and been killed waiting for that moment in their lives?

I was very gravitated towards the hook of 'Sims'. "How much does it take to feel your skin?/how much can you taste within yourself?/strawberries in your palms, the blood runs deep..." What is the story behind that song?
My co-producer Chaski and I were talking about how the state configures people’s lives throughout space and time as if it was simulation. The idea of a simulated reality emerged from my conversations with my guardian and mentor Ricardo Gamboa who is from Chicago and lived in NY. Gamboa argues, “that a gun backed by a badge is a form of terrorisms, and is very much so automated in a reality on parallel with US Military drone strikes”. Chaski and I were also listening to a lot of Philip Glass during this time, and I started to play around with an arpeggio on my synth. Strawberries represent blood in this song, and in a lot of ways an ode to Strawberry Fields Forever and my never-ending obsession with the concept of Sims [the video game] in my mind. 

What is the sample at the end of 'Magic Isn't Real'?
During the ending of Magic Isn’t Real, we decided to include an interview from Nina Simone to ground the abstract lyrics. 

How did this project, or it's process, differ from 'As2Water Hurricanes'?
This project differs from As2Water Hurricanes in that it focuses heavily on sound frequencies, attempts to verbalize the music of politics, while rhythmically and melodically paying homage to queer musicians. 

What are your influences?
My biggest influences would be.. Sylvester, Nina Simone, Ricardo Gamboa, D-Sisive, Octavia St. Laurent, and Noname. 

How old are you? When did you begin making music?
I just made 20 years old in October. I was 11 years old when I started pursuing rapping seriously. I started off recording at this spot home to many Chicago artists, Classick Studios, and learned as much as I could in order to engineer music myself. My little brother Eiigo was a big part of my journey with production. He’s always been my teacher. 

What can we expect from Sol Patches?
You can expect more visuals, spring time collaborative projects (duo tape with Chaski) and summertime tunes


PREMIERE: SOL PATCHES' 'GAMESSTOP' (FEAT +, IREON)


Sol Patches | Garden City

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Volumes Bookcafe: An Open Community

Photo by  Elmer Martinez

Rebecca and Kimberly George are two sisters who once dreamt about opening up a bookstore. Both sisters have master’s degrees and are certified to teach, but they have focuses in different areas. Kimberly’s foundation is rooted in theatre and working with younger children while Rebecca’s is focused primarily on English and teaching high school and college students. This is why their passion for Volumes is so strong. As former teachers, they deeply understand the benefits and difficulties of the American education system, recognize the needs that the Chicago Public Schools have, and are actively working on giving young people resources and spaces that help them feel empowered and comfortable. Due to their hard-work and ambition, they were able to create something that encompassed their visions of what a bookstore should look and feel like.

Photo by  Elmer Martinez

Volumes Bookcafe was founded on a love for books and community. The store sits on the consistently hectic Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, an area known for its coffee shops, consignment stores, and trendy brunch spots. I was hired with the first wave of employees when the shop first opened in March of 2016. The immediate reaction to the store was phenomenal; people kept commenting on how beautiful the store looks, its selection, and most importantly, how smart the idea of including a cafe is. It not only serves coffee, but beer, wine and cider, too. Volumes is a hit, but my appreciation for it stems from a slightly different perspective; I am moved by the owners' dedication for their community and the people that are a part of it.

Volumes is surrounded by coffee shops, used bookstores, and other niche indie bookstores in the area, but what draws people in and what makes it so special is the warmth it exudes. The sisters and staff work very hard to make sure it remains inviting and open, while also being, as Rebecca says, a “prolific mainstay of the literary world of Chicago.”

The way the Volumes staff works together is similar to how a family functions. This is because both Kimberly and Rebecca have a lot of love for their family and built the store as a family project. Since they are so family-oriented, Volumes is naturally a hot spot for families. They have already had children’s workshops and they hold weekly storytime sessions every Wednesday and Saturday morning. “We would love to offer additional programs for the neighboring schools, camps, classes, birthday parties, [and] books clubs,” says Kimberly.

With different author readings, discussions, monthly women’s comedy showcases, celebrations, and other endeavors that typically support small businesses and local writers, Volumes is constantly stirring something up for the community to enjoy and it’s exactly what Chicago needs.

The night after the election, Rebecca emailed me at midnight asking if I wanted to host an impromptu open mic so the community could be comforted by strangers while also sharing their thoughts and writings. Of course I said yes.

This impromptu open mic, or otherwise known as, An Open Community, was Volumes’ entire purpose and message. This is what Volumes stands for, what they believe in, and what they are actively working to amplify.

Kimberly and Rebecca George started Volumes because they wanted to give everyone a home of some kind—a place where people can come and feel comforted, where there will be light all around and hot chocolate with marshmallows in the front. At Volumes, there is no judging. There is no intimidation or pretentiousness—no explicit hierarchies or aggression. It exists as a place for anyone and everyone because at the end of the day Rebecca reiterates, “books make people happy.”

For The Love of Brown Girls

By Keisa Reynolds 

Still from "Brown Girls"

Still from "Brown Girls"

Brown Girls is a tribute to what Chicago offers in arts, music, film, and most importantly, in its people. It explores two areas we can always appreciate—sisterhood and friendship—but it offers another perspective we don’t often see in media: two women of color from distinctly different ethnic backgrounds loving each other and having each other’s backs.

Loosely based on the friendship of Jamila Woods and the writer of the series, Fatimah Asghar,  the series follows Leila (Nabila Hossain), a South Asian-American writer just beginning to own her queerness, and her best friend Patricia (Sonia Denis), a sex-positive Black-American musician who is struggling to commit to anything: jobs, art or relationships. While the two women come from completely different backgrounds, their friendship is ultimately what they lean on to get through the messiness of their mid-twenties.

“I think this series is going to explore sisterhood and friendship in a different way that I never really explored in my own writing, and not what we’ve seen around women of color,” says director and producer, Sam Bailey.  “Usually you see all black girls or all Latinas, this is all brown people enjoying and loving each other. As women and women of color, we’re just so hungry for that content. It’s really important to me to contribute to that.”

Bailey is a Chicagoan, born and raised in Logan Square, where her hit web series You’re So Talented was filmed. Brown Girls was filmed in Pilsen at an arts collective space called the dojo.

Everyone in the crew—behind the camera—have a specific view and are all Chicago artists,” she says. “You feel it on set. The energy is vibrant.”

Watching the series, viewers might find that it feels “innately Chi-town.” Popular local artists and personalities are easy to spot in the trailer, which was released in early November.

All people I worked with before either through You’re So Talented or other films—people were connected to each other from one way or another,” says Bailey. “I think that’s why it went so well. No one really had to prove [themselves]—only to show up to set and bring their best work and it showed.”

The series might strike a sense of familiarity in brown girls of various ethnicities and nationalities as they watch these women of color unabashedly discuss sex, kiss, and laugh with each other on screen. It’s much like the lives of people of color every day, but it’s rarely showcased in this way.

“The entire series is all people of color,” says Bailey. “There [are] no white people, including extras. The world [doesn’t] crumble or change when there’s no white people. People are still loving and fucking.”

Brown Girls is out in early 2017. We’re waiting!

View the whole spread here.

What’s Your Sign?: On Horoscopes and What the Internet Is Saying About Me

By Jaclyn Jermyn

“What’s your sign?”

My friend leaned closer towards me and squinted, as if my facial expression was going to give away the answer.

“Taurus,” I said quietly, looking down at the drink in my hand. I knew what she was going to say next. Of course I was a Taurus. I am often described as stubborn and possessive by those I am unfriendly with—reliable and fiercely loyal by those who are fond of me—all apparently classic Taurus traits.

I do occasionally glance at a horoscope to see what the world apparently has in store for me. It’s sometimes hard to resist the temptation when the internet is telling me that apparently this will finally be the month that I find true love or lose a lot of money—usually it can go either way. I try not to make a habit of it because aren’t I just unconsciously holding myself to someone else’s standards? Maybe I want to be more of a gentle, peaceful Libra this week.

When I turned 18, or maybe it was 16, my grandmother gave me a folder with a stack of yellowing paper stapled together inside of it. This was my natal chart, otherwise referred to as a birth chart and loosely related to more widely known horoscope concepts. Wikipedia defines a natal chart as “a stylized map of the universe,” that is, “calculated for the exact time and location of the native's birth for the purposes of gaining insight into the native's personality and potential.”

This stack of papers that my grandmother had quite possibly been hanging onto for the entire duration of my life, was supposed to have me all figured out and as I started to read through the descriptions, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the universe did have me all figured out or maybe I was just once again holding myself to someone else’s standards.

I don’t have that original packet anymore, it’s probably in a box somewhere in my parent’s basement, but I did my best to try and replicate it by using astro.cafeastrology.com because it was the first option that came up on Google:

Taurus natives are sensual folk—and this includes sex, but extends to pleasures in all areas: they delight in the sensual pleasures of food, a comfortable blanket, a richly colored aquarium to look at, the smell of flowers or spring rain, pleasing melodies coming from their stereos, and so forth. Some might even say they live through their senses more than most. 

This is fair, I think. I can’t speak to whether I live more through my senses than others but I do take pleasure in moments and feelings and then work very hard to get them back, even after they have passed.

In love and relationship, there is an earthy kind of possessiveness that may be considered jealousy by some, but there is actually quite a difference between being possessive and being jealous. Taurus natives are rarely jealous and petty. They do, however, think of the people they love as theirs—it adds to their sense of security.

This is absolutely true and it tends to get me in trouble. Security is key for me in a lot of aspects of my life.

You are a humanitarian who aims to treat everyone as equals. You seek to be unique and original, and you do your best to avoid bias and prejudice. Social status is less important to you than belonging to a group of diverse personalities. Your identity, in fact, is somehow linked to a larger unit than yourself. You have high hopes and goals, and tend to look at life in terms of opportunities. You have magnetic appeal, as people sense your broad tolerance and openness. The friendships you establish are crucial to your development.

Well, I at least hope that that part is accurate. Can anyone confirm? This would be a nice thing if it is in fact, true.

The thing about reading through these passages is that I got further into the text, I started started skimming over the parts that didn’t fit quite right or those that were a stretch to apply to myself. This leads to an overwhelming sense that “wow, yeah the whole thing was spot on,” when I look back on the experience. But no one person can be fully explained by the time and place they were born. We grow up. We meet new people. Sometimes, in my case, we move far away from where we were born and mix with different cultural values that help shape us. Of course, my East Coast elitism occasionally shines through but that Midwestern niceness has seeped into my life as well.

So, yes, go look at your natal chart. Waste an afternoon trying to twist someone else’s loose astrology to your life experience. Send screen shots to your friends when parts are just too accurate, it’s laughable. But you’re still a complex human being who is far more than what the internet says about you. Or maybe that’s just my stubborn Taurus self talking—I hate not being right.

 

On TV Shows and Trigger Warnings

Courtesy of Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix

Warning: Contains spoilers

I'm in line at Midway Airport, waiting to go through security. It's already a less-than-ideal situation - I'm late, my bag is heavy, I'm hungry. The woman next to me is talking loudly. It's impossible for me not to hear her say, "It's annoying! He's just so OCD sometimes!" I bristle. I think, "OCD is not an adjective." I think, "I'm lucky that I haven't had to deal with mine in a long time."

That woman might have cursed me, because I spent the New Year ringing in a fresh set of intrusive images, a major component of the OCD experience that is excluded from the average person's understanding of the disorder. My mind gets stuck sometimes, cycling the same thoughts over and over. I lie in bed forcing myself to push images out of my mind, fighting what feels like myself but is just my diagnosis. On December 30, 2015, I started season 3 of House of Cards. The Netflix Original series follows  Frank Underwood, an incredibly corrupt House majority whip who connives and manipulates his way to becoming President of the United States. Perhaps he eventually becomes king of the planet later in the series. I don't know, because I couldn't make it past the first episode of season 3.

Douglas Stamper is Frank's right hand man. He does the dirty work that leads to Frank's success — bribing Congressmen, killing prostitutes who know too much, and more. In the first episode of season 3, he wakes up in a coma. The cinematography is excellent, but harrowing. He can't move. He's scared. All he wants to do is go back to work for Frank, who is directly responsible for the terrible injuries he's been hospitalized for. When he recovers, Frank doesn't want him, that’s when  my empathy kicked in. He had thrown his life away for this man, and without him to work under he has nothing to live for. He relapses on alcohol, after abstaining from drinking for 14 years.

For four days, I saw Douglas Stamper's bruised face in my head sporadically every hour of the day. Dancing at a club on New Years, working, laying in bed to go to sleep. I stopped watching TV before bed because I couldn't handle it. The minor keys in the Mad Men theme scared me. Bob's Burgers scared me. I was afraid, and it felt like I was afraid of myself.

I believe in trigger warnings, but I had never expected them to become so widespread. My first experience with the word "trigger" being used in that context was in a mental health treatment center in Wisconsin when I was sixteen. Thinking I was very, incredibly punk, I wore my favorite shirt — black, with an image of a cat with a machine implanted into its’ brain. It said, “CONFLICT: THE UNGOVERNABLE FORCE” and below the image, “TO A NATION OF ANIMAL LOVERS.”  I didn't know that one of the patients on my ward's OCD was oriented around the death of her kitten growing up. When she asked me to not wear the shirt around her, I listened. We were all very sad in there, each with unique but similar struggles, and I wanted the other patients to feel safe. I wanted them to have the best chances of recovery, so I wanted them to be comfortable. We all helped each other. If someone turned Law and Order SVU on the TV, I could say it triggered me and the channel would be changed without argument. When another patient who had an intense fear of germs and bodily fluids needed to do exposure therapy, an element of treatment that involved exposing yourself to your fears in a safe environment, her behavior specialist asked me to take a TB test so she could watch. I held her hand after when she shuddered.

Trigger warnings meant recovery, they meant compassion and safety and community. I never expected to encounter them in a place outside the hospital. When they suddenly appeared in popular culture outside of a hospital context, I was surprised, but excited. It made me feel like the world was becoming a more compassionate place. Maybe it was naive, but I never expected people to dislike them. But then again, I had never been neurotypical.

A trigger warning could never have prepared me for the way that House of Cards scared me, but there are many instances where  a trigger warning has helped me in the past. When I left the hospital, regular life took a lot of getting used to. I got nervous going to the mall because there were so many people around me. All I wanted was for the world to be more like Rogers Memorial. When trigger warnings started showing up on social media years later, I had adjusted to real life and didn't feel that I needed them. At the end of the day, trigger warnings are focused on cultivating empathy. — you can never know what someone else is experiencing. There is nothing wrong with being kind and considerate. No one should fault another for taking the time to warn someone, to say, "Hey, I don't know your experience, but if it includes this specific thing, you might not want to read/watch/listen to this."

In The Eyes of a Sorority President: Rape Culture on Campus

By Amanda Saper

Courtesy of  Flagler College

Courtesy of Flagler College

When I became President of my sorority they told me a lot of things. They said, 

“Leading 200 women takes a very special person” 
“This will look great on your résumé”
“Empower your girls”
“You’re unbelievable”
“I expected nothing less from you” 
“They are so lucky to have you”

And this was exciting. This was thrilling. Truthfully, you have to be kind of crazy and yet, kind of wildly passionate to agree to lead 200 college-aged women at a large public university. 

They told me about the logistics: The papers, the meetings, the interviews. 

I attended conferences. I wrote letters. I became an administrative queen. I argued on behalf of us. It's exhilarating. I am learning critical skills on how to be a leader and how to represent my organization. They told me all this would happen. I knew about the strength of sorority women and the power of a chapter president.

But there were things they didn’t tell me.

There were things that live in the corners of dark rooms.

One week in. It was late on a Friday night and a girl showed up knocking furiously at my door. When I opened it, I remember her being kind of frozen until she collapsed on my floor. She didn’t have to say it. 

This was the first time that I was confronted with the idea that I would be dealing with sexual assault as a sorority president. 

I did what I knew to do. I called the right numbers, said the right things. But her eyes were somewhere else and I had to wonder if a phone call would ever be enough. 

I let it go. Because she asked me to. Because it is difficult to report. Because I thought this would be a rarity. Because she wanted to forget, so I thought I had to too.

But weeks went by and another girl showed up at my door. The same knock. 

“No I don’t want to report it”
“He is my friend” 
“We social there too often” 

Two days later, another girl came with the same steady knock. Ending in the same way, asking me to forget. 

There were days when their knuckles against the wood of my door felt steadier than their muted voices, as they rushed through stories with missing pieces. 

Sisterhood. Was this what they were talking about? Trying to piece them back together, a kind of quiet struggle only we knew. They didn’t want justice; they wanted a friend. So I kept their monsters with me.   

The knocking never stopped.

They didn’t tell me about this part; the part that I couldn’t put on my résumé, the part that had nothing to do with a strong public speaking voice, or a well-written email.   

I see him sometimes. I see all of them actually. I watch them and I wonder why they never told me about this part. About knowing people’s pain, but not being able to do anything about it. There is nothing empowering in this part.  About seeing them at crowded parties and having to smile. But they seem okay, so I think that I have to be too. Because after all, it wasn’t even me it happened to, it wasn’t even my story.

But that’s the issue here; It is is my story, It is everyone’s story.

Being in a sorority is about taking care of each other. And we do take care of each other. We pick each other back up and try to make sense of a messy world. But the mess keeps getting larger and there is silence where there should be words. I am in desperate search of those words.

They told me being president was about empowering women. And some days, it is. But these people’s monsters have become my own, and there must be more that I can do than carry the weight of it with them. 

Being president of my sorority is the greatest thing I have known, but I am told to empower women in a rigged system where there are silent heroes. Heroes that do not know they are heroes. Heroes that think it is their fault because sorority women are sluts, and we are stupid, and we did this to ourselves. 

Sometimes I wonder when I will be next. Whose door will I knock on? And how far must this go on until we run out of doors?

When You Cannot Hold Her: What Grief Has Taught Me

By Lyndsey Bourne

Courteous of Kelsey Martens

Courteous of Kelsey Martens

I remember swing sets, I remember summers filled with macaroni and cheese. Mid-day, my grandma would stand on the porch with a cigar in her hand and call out to us kids swimming in the lake to come inside for lunch. Those early summers on Skaha lake were filled with laughter, sun tan lotion, swimsuits and fresh picked peaches. Every night we’d play cards, drink iced tea (or “kids beer”, as we called it), and all seven cousins - Danny, the eldest, was too adult for this - would crawl into bed and watch Jumanji, Madeline or The Adventures of Robin Hood. The house was filled with mismatched pillowcases and furniture left over from the ‘70’s. We loved that house. When I think of it, I feel warm, and slightly sticky from all the melted ice cream-stained shirts. I was happiest in that house. I still am, though now my visits are few and far between. The air there is now sullied, tinged with grief and nostalgia. My grandma is dead, but I can see her everywhere on Skaha Lake, and I can tell the house misses her footsteps.

She’d been sick for a while, but time seemed only to intensify the pain. The summer before my freshman year at NYU was especially awful. I was depressed, overwhelmed and confused about the future. My grandmother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, lived with us for part of that time. This detail is particularly important, because the memory of that summer clouded my four years at NYU. Often I was left alone with her, expected to help take care of her. I could tell my dad resented the time I spent with friends. Taking care of her was difficult to say the least. She was restless, despondent and incredibly unhappy. She knew she was sick, though the how’s and the why’s, like everything else, eluded her. She fought, she needed something to hold on to, something to ground her.  Keeping her away from the phone was the hardest. She obsessively dialed the disconnected numbers of her dead parents and siblings. Keeping her occupied was a challenge, a frustration.

 That summer, I watched myself grow impatient and tired of looking after her. She wouldn’t eat. She couldn’t sleep. I remember the moment I knew I was changed by this. The moment I hated myself. My hair was dripping wet, soaking through my t-shirt as I sat her down on the couch in front of a rerun of Bewitched. I was unfocused, in a rush waiting for my dad to come home and relieve me. I turned on the stove to heat up a can of Campbell’s tomato soup. A few friends and I were about to meet for lunch. I packed up my bag and returned to the soup, which had come to a boil. There were tiny, white specks swimming in red. I had left the rubber spatula in the pot, and it had partially melted. I looked at the numbers on the clock and out at my grandmother, who was now obsessively rearranging the objects on the coffee table. I should’ve made a new pot of soup. I should’ve, but I didn’t, and reaching for the strainer I cursed myself for not taking better care of her.

I worry you can’t see her. That right now, I’m conveying only the pain. There’s no one I’ve loved more than my grandmother. She was magic. She looked at you and showed you all of herself. She looked at you and made you feel like the most important person in the world. Now, lying in bed, I realized how hard a spirit is to capture. How - when someone dies, you can still feel them, see them, hear them, but what I can’t seem to remember is that she keeps being dead.

My grandmother was stubborn and impatient, she loved to laugh. She had the biggest smile. She was restless too, she could never sleep. Her hands – like ginger roots – were always busy making cookies or kneading dough for her famous biscuits. She worked all her life, taught her sons to be feminists, and poured me my very first drink. She was opinionated, feisty, and intensely loyal. She loved my grandfather with a kind of fervor I’ve yet to experience or even understand. At five, she caught me snooping through her bedroom. With confusion, I held up the prosthetic breast I had just discovered from the inside of a dresser drawer. Without shame, anger, or condescension, she held my little hand to her chest and explained to me what a mastectomy was. That’s the other thing about my grandma – she understood pain better than almost anyone I’ve ever known. She carried it with her, never letting her misfortunes perceived as weaknesses.

It’s been two years since her death. I was studying abroad in London and my friend Bubba and I were at a local pub, already a few beers in, when I got a phone call from my dad. I don’t know exactly why I chose to answer his call. He was with my grandma. He asked if I’d like to speak with her. I hurried outside into the cold London air. She barely spoke, in a voice frail and distant, but I could hear her breathing. I was suspended in that moment, my own voice becoming small and naïve like a child’s. I told her I loved her, again and again and that I missed her. And that was it. I went back inside and finished my beer, tried to insert myself back into the night. Two days later, she was gone.

Of course, this wasn’t my first experience with death yet is still feels new, and different. I can’t look at my dad without seeing her. I can’t step into our summer house on Skaha Lake without expecting her to walk through the kitchen or call out to me from the back porch. I have to keep reminding myself that she’s dead. I know that I’ll never be able to articulate loss with the same fluidity and finesse as writers like Joan Didion and C.S. Lewis. All I can do is try to wear my grief with the same kind of grace and truth that my grandma did, try to remember to love more, love better and look at people with tender eyes. 

On The Insulin Dependent Road: The DIY Guide to Touring with Diabetes

 

By Tim Mack

Photo by  Ashley Kossakowski

Photo by Ashley Kossakowski

So you want to go on tour? Fantastic!

Going on tour is one of the best parts of playing music. It’s time to pack all your gear and a few of your closest friends into a van that isn’t fit to drive down the street and head out across the country. But before any of that happens, there are a few things you’re going to have to do to prepare for your journey.

First, do you have all your gear? Drums, guitars, bass guitar, etc. This stuff is arguably the most important because if you don’t pack your gear then you’re missing the whole point of a tour, you big dummy!

Second, do you have all of your clothes and essentials for the tour? Rule of thumb for packing tour clothes is to take the total number of days you will be on the road then divide that number by itself. The resulting number is how many pairs of clothing you will need. Using this equation, we find a 13 day tour yields one shirt, one pair of pants, one pair of underwear, and one pair of socks. Same for a 30 day tour. It’s simple mathematics. A toothbrush, sleeping bag, and pillow are all musts and will be a nice addition to whoever’s home you forget them at.

Third, do you have all your meds? Your meds are important because, unlike socks and underwear, you WILL need them. Do you have enough insulin to make it the entire tour? How many days will you be on the road? Divide that by 6 and that’s about how many vials of insulin you should bring. What about test strips? Do you have enough to last the entire trip? One vial of test strips usually lasts about 5 days. Hopefully you accounted for the upcoming tour and tried to be frugal with your blood sugar testing in the weeks leading up to it. That way you will have plenty of strips to bring on the road. Don’t forget to bring your insulin pump supplies so you can swap out your pump site every three days and bring that bag of syringes just in case your pump stops working. Of course everything would be for naught if you forget the cooler and lunchbox you will need to keep your meds from frying in the heat during those long drives.

Do you have everything packed up and ready to go? You do? Radical! Time to hit the road! It’s day one of tour and you’re first up for driving duty. But hold on. Don’t go putting the pedal to the metal yet. There are a few things you have to do first.

Make sure you adjust your mirrors. The rearview mirror is useless since you can’t see out the back window anyway thanks to the pile of gear blocking your view. The side mirrors, though, should be adjusted properly. Make sure everyone is buckled in and then check your blood sugar. If it is under 100, you are not fit to drive. In the case of a blood sugar reading under 100, eat a few glucose tabs or drink some soda to get your blood sugar back up. Once it is back up above 100, you are all ready to head out on your very own tour adventure!

TIP: IF your van does not have air conditioning, make sure your insulin pump is not in your pocket. If you find yourself on a long, non-air conditioned, drive then you need to put your insulin pump in a lunchbox alongside an icepack. If you don’t do this, then your insulin pump will heat up and make the insulin inside of it useless. This will send your blood sugar skyrocketing and you will not be a happy band mate.

Hopefully the drive went well and you made it to the venue.  If you made it to the venue in one piece then it’s time for the show! Load in your gear and put it wherever the promoter tells you to put it. If you don’t know who the promoter is just look for the only person there. So load in, set up, and then wait the 2 hours after the actual start time for people to start trickling in. At some point you will receive a rough estimate of what time you are supposed to play.

Test your blood sugar about a half hour before you play. You probably want to go into the show with a blood sugar of around 180. This way when your blood sugar drops after the show due to the physical exertion, you will hopefully stay in the range of 80-140 and not go too low. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water before the show as well because nothing ruins a set like heat stroke. Head to the stage about 5 minutes before the show starts to make sure your gear is all set and ready to go. Time to rock!

If you prepared for the set then you shouldn’t have a problem, but if you begin to feel light-headed or dizzy, make sure you check your blood sugar. If it is under 60 you need to stop the set and raise your sugars right away. In case of a low blood sugar emergency, just ask your guitarist to play some tunes from his solo project while you down a Pepsi and wait for your body to stop shaking.

As soon as you finish your set, you should start tearing down your equipment. Take all your gear offstage and then break it down. This way you’re not taking up time mucking around on stage. If the headlining local band needs to borrow your gear, then you can just leave it set up. Sometimes it’s difficult for the band that lives 20 minutes away from the venue to bring amps, drums, and talent.  But what are you gonna do? Say no? Ha! If you do that then there’s no show, dummy! So lend up!

So the show is done, you’ve packed up all your gear, and you have found a place to crash for the night. You are exhausted from a long day of driving and rocking out but before you can get some sleep you need to make sure your blood sugars are in a good place. By now they should be dropping a little from all of the day’s activities. Remember, you cannot go to sleep with blood sugar under 100. This is very important. If your blood sugar goes too low while you sleep, you may not wake up at all. So if you are under 100 then you need to eat or drink something to bring your blood sugar back up. Some fun activities you can do while you wait for your sugars to go back up are: watch your band mates sleep and wonder what their dreams are like, watch Adam Sandler’s The Cobbler on your phone, or just stare at the ceiling for a while. The sky is the limit!

Make sure you rest up because you’re about to do everything again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. At times your health will stress you out to the point where you think, “why the fuck am I doing this to myself?” Your blood sugars will refuse to go down then refuse to go back up. You will lose at least one vial of insulin at some point. You will Google search nearby hospitals because even though you drank a coke and ate a bag of skittles, your blood sugar is still 54. You will be on the phone with the company who made your insulin pump trying to figure out why it isn’t working the way it is supposed to. Everything will feel out of your control and you will just want to quit.

But you won’t. You will keep going because the good will outweigh the bad. Long days will end with nights spent with familiar faces you haven’t seen in what feels like ages. Unfamiliar faces will become new friends. You will experience the kindness of strangers firsthand when one puts a roof over your head and a couch for you to crash on for the night. And once you’re sharing a stage with your best friends and playing music you created together, you will remember why you do this. Because touring and playing music is what you love, and it’ll take more than a broken pancreas to take that away from you. 

A Taxonomy of Femininity and Sisterhood

By Annie Zidek

We are lucky to live in a part of the world where feminism has forced a marriage between equality and women, even though there are still many steps that need to be taken. Regardless, it’s important to realize that there are still parts of the world where women are disregarded in their society; their femininity is oppressed, and their softness is taken advantage of. About a month ago, I went to the Chicago Film Festival with my friend Erin to go see the Turkish film, Mustang, which depicted this discrepancy in feminism through five sisters and their emotional, sexual, and physical maturation during their time in a society where they and their Sisterhoods are overlooked.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Set in a small town in Turkey, Eastern Islamic ideology drives the familial forces in this household; there is a total disregard for women and feminine beauty. The five sisters—Sonay, Selma, Ece, Nur, and Lale—are suppressed of female rites of passage throughout their female rites of passage because they were innocently fooling around at the beach with some boys after the last day of school. Consequently, the girls’ uncle and grandmother hide them from sex and other female liberties while breeding them for marriage. Scattered along the spectrum from child to woman, the girls are interconnected emotionally because of their isolation. They find beauty in their disregard: they sprawl on floors, limbs entangled with the others’ while bathed in Turkish afternoon light. During “wife lessons,” they joke with one another and what the unknown future holds for them. On their occasional excursions out of the house, they pile into tiny cars together and joke about sexuality. They’re their own girl gang, supporting each other through the trials and tribulations of their caretakers’ emotional and physical abuse.

The sisters watch one another get married. Sonay and Selma are wed off first: Sonay is the lucky one who marries the boy she loves while Selma is stuck in an arranged marriage—her unhappiness clearly illustrated through her belligerent drunkenness and disarray at her own wedding. Not only do they celebrate together, they grieve together. When death kisses one of the sisters and their sisterly dynamic is hindered, they come together—though only for a moment—and lament. Their unadulterated bond and pure love is once again highlighted through their spooning and caressing and soft weeping.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

The dynamic of their Sisterhood clearly explores serious subjects such as love and suicide and also womanhood. Though femininity is not a necessary role in Sisterhood, its function is enforced in the girls’ lives and relationships. The girls are constantly shown in their bras and underwear but never fully nude, a symbol of their simultaneous liberating innocence and sexual awakening. This depiction kills the idea of nudity’s warped sexuality and puts the nakedness in the context of familial boundaries and sisterly comfort. 

Not only do their clothes represent womanhood, but their long hair, left uncut due to their Islamic heritage, also symbolizes their stark femininity and strong sexuality. The oldest sister, Sonay, who coincidentally boasts the longest hair among the sisters, is the first to openly admit to her sexual escapades when she talks about engaging in anal sex to avoid pregnancy and the breaking of her hymen; next is Selma who tells her gynecologist she “slept with the whole world” after she didn’t bleed on her wedding sheets. The last sister to partake in sexual encounters is Ece, who sleeps with a random man in her uncle’s car while he’s in the bank. All their sexual encounters mark a transition from youth to adulthood, giving sexuality regality.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Cinematically, sexuality and femininity are distinct: with visceral colors and light in nearly every scene, the director adorns the girls with strong female characteristics. In many scenes, light engulfs the sisters, putting them in an almost angelic framework. Draping them in natural lighting presents the girls as mundane goddesses. And the colors, varying hues of blues and greens and pink and yellows, give them a sense of life and vitality and youth, memorializing their childlike Sisterhood. These sisterly and womanly visuals offer a glimpse into the interworking of Sisterhood and the pivotal role femininity plays for this family of sisters specifically.

Compared to the Sisterhood of these Turkish sisters, my personal Sisterhoods seem insignificant and petty. Yes, we’ve had our own family struggles but never to the extent of the sisters in Mustang. Still I found solace in the distinct connection between that family and my own: Sisterhood is powerful. In Sisterhood, you are a band of sisters working through life together, leaning on each other, feeding off one another, being there for one another.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

This Is Why I Stopped Coming To Class

Courtesy of  Jaclyn Jermyn

Courtesy of Jaclyn Jermyn

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Dear Vic,

I took your class, Gay and Lesbian Studies in the spring of 2014. It was my second semester of college and by week three, I was was in over my head. It’s not that the subject matter ever confused me; you were clear and concise and I felt my heart hurt more each week that I showed up 5 or 10 minutes late to your lectures. I felt guilty. That’s never the kind of student that I was. That’s never the kind of person that I was.

What you didn’t know, actually what I didn’t know, was that I was being abused.

I was never a morning person and arguably it was sort of my fault for choosing a Monday morning, 9am class. I remember those mornings. It wasn’t that I was oversleeping all the time. It was that I wasn’t sleeping at all.

When there’s someone that you think is looking out for you and they tell you that it’s better for you to stay home, you stay home—for weeks on end. Sometimes he was there with me. Often he would leave—to hang out with friends or to go to class himself but it became increasingly hard to get up, to shower, to put on clean clothes and drink some coffee and get out the door.

When I could, I felt better. I would come to class and listen to your lectures or to the guest speakers and I would realize that I saw something of myself in the way that they spoke. I would come home and try to vocalize that feeling. I would get laughed at for even considering that I wasn’t straight.

Vic, I need you to know that I’m not a terrible student. Those half-assed papers that I passed in on queerbaiting and Billie Jean King were written in the middle of the night while a drunk boy who stunk of cigarettes berated me and threatened to leave me.

I need you to know that you just caught me at a bad time. You only had a shell of a person sitting in front of you. And if I could do it over, I would.

I would come out as queer a month after the semester ended.
I would leave my abuser for good two weeks after that.

You don’t know me but I know you.
And I feel like you need to know that I made it through.

Your former and grateful student,
Jaclyn Jermyn

 

Hide Weird Brain

By Allie Shyer

I do not know what makes my brain work differently from other people’s brains. They took me to a lot of doctors as a kid to try to figure it out. They determined that I was slower at arranging blocks by size or pattern than other people, and this was somehow an indication of something about me.

Nobody ever told me what, really. I was put in special classrooms for kids who weren’t like the other kids. I just wanted to be good and normal, but the tests said I was not that. Having a learning disability means that people will tell you what you can and cannot do, what you do and do not know, do not listen to them. It is true that lines curve downwards when I try to draw them straight, and columns of numbers jumble themselves in front of my eyes, this does not make me unintelligent. It means that my outlook will always be unique. I spent my entire time within the education system trying to prove to people that I was smart. Because there were tests that said I was different, I had to prove to them that I was worth keeping around. I knew what happened to the kids who were sent to schools for people with LD. They never ended up getting the opportunities or the education that I strived for.

I learned to pass at an early age. This meant acquiring skills and coping mechanisms that I used to hide my learning disability. One if these mechanisms is being able to read and anticipate the desires of others because I am often unable to perform tasks effectively. Instead I read social cues that will allow me to understand to root of motivation behind the task. If I can mimic the attitude that a teacher or boss desires, sometimes it is unimportant if I cannot actually perform the duty that is assigned to me.

The problem with accommodation in a society that has limited models of success is that although we claim not to discriminate, within the current educational model things that set you apart will set you behind. I am lucky that I had the ability to hide my difference to get through a system that was angled against me. Today I embrace the mystery of my own brain. I like to draw and see the wavy lines and collapsed distances. It helps me to think creatively and poetically, to see the middle distance and associative quality of mundane things, to embrace incorrectness and disorder both inside and outside of myself.

Dear Pope Francis

The Creation of Adam  by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." -Albert Camus

By Kat Freydl

Dear Pope Francis, 

Let me start by saying this: I would not be a good protagonist. I am not beautiful or particularly brave. I’m weak and dependent and I lack a hook. I don’t have a good voice for reading poetry, which is especially unfortunate because my heart reaches for it. When I speak, my voice often shakes. I suppose that’s the beauty of the written word. Either you are reading this or you are not, and either way my voice isn’t shaking for you.

 I’m part of Generation Y. Sometimes I am proud of this, and other times I want to hide my face in a pillow. We are known for our indifference and our self-centeredness, and I would like to say this: if we do not care about us, who will? Certainly not the generation that calls us lazy but whose only obstacle was deciding which bank to put their life savings in. The generation chanting that Mike Brown deserved his demise. Don’t think I’m brave for being topical. There will always be a controversy to write an essay about.

(If I sound melodramatic, know that it is because I am angry. Teenagers always are. I think it’s because this is the age in which we starting realizing that nothing is fair and everything is permitted. Mazel tov.)

In 1982, Your Holiness, a student could work 9 hours per week, full time during school breaks, receiving minimum wage, and pay their college tuition in full with $3,500 to spare. Today, if a student worked for the same amount of time, they would come up $11,000 short. In addition to this, college admissions are more competitive than they’ve ever been; a 4.0 is no longer impressive. We must be book smart and altruistic and well-rounded and globally-minded. If taking a string of selfies makes a teenager feel better about their inevitable debt and crippling inadequacy in the eyes of college admissions boards, then so be it, I say. Please correct me if I say this in error.

I am not here to lament the comparative ease of being part of generations past compared to my own. Being a human comes with a set of struggles that aren’t bound by time. You will experience loss and disappointment and heartbreak. You will cry—oh, will you cry. This transcends generational barriers.  My point here is that sometimes I’m a little in love with my generation. We are impossible and dissatisfied and full of rage, but we make art. Boys kissing boys is more of a crime than shooting black teenagers in the streets, but we make art. We remind each other not to forget these things that are happening. On social media platforms that started as blogging websites, teenagers are posting pictures and links and information that you have to work for to scrounge from news networks. From my peers I’ve learned that there are more than two genders, that I am not lesser because I am a woman, that I am not lesser for who and what I love. Let me riddle you this:

 I’m sure you know all about oracle bones. In ancient China, they would carve Chinese characters into tortoiseshells or animal bones—questions—and heat them until they cracked, then interpret these cracks as the answers. I’m no oracle. I don’t know everything. I don’t know a fourth of everything. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve told you plenty of times in this essay all of the reasons why I’m not here, so let me tell you why I am: on Thursday afternoons, I used to go to philosophy club, a circle of teenagers on the floor talking about the universe, asking questions not deemed important enough to be in our school curricula. On Mondays, I went to GSA, and we’d talk with fire in our eyes about how great it was to be alive in a time on the cusp of revolution. To be part of the demographic that will make that revolution happen.

Know this: we are listening, Pope Francis. We are courageous. We are going forward. We are making noise.

 I think I’d like to be an anthropologist.

Most Sincerely Yours,

Katelyn J. Freydl

“You’re going to get where you’re going."

Photo by Mikey Jakubowski

Photo by Mikey Jakubowski

by Mikey Jakubowski

I’m sitting in the library on my laptop emailing a multitude of professors and deans, coffee dripping on me with every mouthful. I’ve been on the verge of tears all day, forcing myself to stay as busy as humanly possible; any minute I spend on breathing takes time away from figuring out my life, every detail, goal and step, all from my little corner of the university. As my mother continues to remind me, I am trying to answer question number 10 before I even answer question number 1.

If I know the answer to 10, I’ll know the answer to 1, right?

Earlier I got out of class, rushed to the quad, and called my mom, the most accessible number on my phone. I couldn’t handle it anymore: Yesterday I was dead set on switching to a completely different major, and today I am doubting my choices, sure again that my original major is what’s best for me. Follow your gut, I tell myself lately, but my gut is all over the place, and I only have so much energy to hold it still. There is no major at my university that allows for the various array of passions I have: Music, photography, film, modern languages, massage therapy, entrepreneurship, journalism, creative writing, botany… The list goes on. But I try to make it happen anyway. I try to do it all, and I try to throw graduating a year early into the mix. Without even meaning to, I convince myself that my college career defines my life.

I am woken from my weird personal-problems-computer-coffee fixation: There is a person walking towards me. They are red in the face and they something to me like, “Hi, I’m sorry, you probably will think this is creepy, but I was in the quad earlier and I heard you on the phone…”

Oh no. I’ve ruined my cover. Someone other than my mother has discovered my secret self-deprecating issues (“secret” heh).

“…and I thought I’d just share that my friend was a theater major, almost finished her degree, and now studies Spanish at a new school, and she loves it. She was an intern translator over the summer and fell in love, decided she wanted to change her theater major to a minor and her Spanish minor to a major.”

I am immediately humbled and, yet again, on the verge of tears. The simple act of reaching out to me to make me feel better completely trumps my embarrassment of being overheard in the quad. I am speechless while they talk but finally find the right words: “Thank you.” After we introduce ourselves and I explain my dilemma a little more, she tells me she is the same kind of person, the kind of person whose passions outweigh the possibilities, the kind of person who is all over the place, who is ambidextrous and always switching which hand they use to write.

She explains that she has transferred multiple times and switched her major even more, but she is here and she is studying what she loves and then she’ll graduate and she’ll do what she loves, undeterred by the amount of times she has made and remade up her mind.

“My sister lives in New York and works in a museum. I don’t get to see her much, but she gave me some of the best advice I’ve been given, that people don’t care what you studied in college. They care that you have a degree, that you have experience, that you have passion and ideas to contribute. Don’t worry if you’re doing the right thing, studying the right thing; study what you want. You’re going to get where you’re going.”

My parents have said it a thousand times before (“Trust the process,” my mom always says to me), and I’ve trusted them, but there’s something special in hearing it from someone you’ve never talked to before, someone you may never talk to again. This stranger had heard me in the quad and felt the need to share a little piece of love, of clarity, birthed from the same confusion and struggling she had gone through. There’s something to be said about the issues we all try to handle, and it’s that we’re all having them. It’s that, like my parents and this stranger have tried to tell me, there’s no use in stressing over the parts of your life you have not yet lived.

Accept the anonymity of your future. Welcome it, envelop it. You will be quick to find that the wonder of it all, the sheer amount of lives you could live, will always outweigh the fear.

The University of Uncertainty

Taken by Annie Zidek

Taken by Annie Zidek

By Joseph Longo

I picked the wrong college and it is only the first week of classes.

But here is the thing: I knew this all along, and I have accepted it. Back in January when most of my friends eagerly anticipated receiving their acceptance letters, I no longer admired my pick of  colleges and universities.

While thoroughly enjoying my time as a teenager filled with endless friends and memories, when it came time to pick schools I knew wanted change. Instead of a school dominated by suburban, Christian students, diversity was my goal. Out came small schools of only a few thousand and in came grandiose universities. No more days going to the same eight classes with the same rotating thirty faces, but instead big lecture halls full of unrecognizable persons. I had it all figured out.

Yet the funny thing about change is it can squeeze into the most solidified and secure of plans. From September to December of 2014 was self-proclaimed “coming of age” period where I realized exactly who “Joe Longo” wanted to be. I altered my clothing choices, frequented Chicago’s various neighborhoods, and embraced my truer self. But I could not alter my choice in universities. Much to my dismay, that decision was permanent.

While my peers made Instagram posts excitingly announcing their college of choice and proudly wore their universities on College Tee Shirt Day, I sheepishly announced on social media and wore a muted long sleeve. Wallowing in my negativity, I refused to embrace my choice in disbelief the path I was to embark on in just a few months.

Yet as senior year and my time in my hometown community came to an end, the dread of heading off to college failed to cease. Much to my parents dismay, little excitement preceded this new venture. We endlessly reviewed my options. I could stay home and attend the local community college for a year, but there would be no change in environment. Or I could go off to the prestigious university which had accepted me and make the best of the situation--the most logical answer. But I didn’t like that idea either. Stubbornness and perfection have always encompassed me.

It was not until my dorm room was decorated and inhabited with my personal belongings, that I accepted this campus would be my new home. It was not until spending much of the first week walking alone trying to find not only my classes but also a sense of self in this community, did I realize who I was. I had spent the majority of my summer refusing to acknowledge the many blessings this new chapter in my life would consist of. In my negative mindset, I forgot how fortunate I was to go away to college, to attend such a renown university, and to pursue a degree in a field I loved.

While still unsure I will find enjoyment and success at my current university, I can not know without embracing my new surrounding. After all, my choices will affect my journey. Going in negatively will surely have an unfavorable outcome. That’s the beauty of accepting uncertainty: I will not know what will come until I go alone.

Taken by Annie Zidek

Taken by Annie Zidek

An Act of Rebellion: Traveling Alone

 

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.”

-Goethe 

By Anna Brüner

All kids, I imagine, have been warned by their parents at some point about the dangers of walking alone. If you’re a girl, you’ve especially been warned. “Don’t go by yourself,” “Make sure so-and-so goes with you!” “Call me when you get there,” “Make sure you’re back by this time,” “Who’s all going to be there?” This has been the chorus of my childhood. 

What I am about to tell you will no doubt give my mother a panic attack, and believe me, I’m expecting the angry phone call promptly. But, all fear of maternal instinct aside, you should know that for the past five years I have been wandering cities alone. And not just American cities. New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, Asbury Park, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Nice, Amsterdam, Dresden, New Orleans, Savannah…maybe I should stop there. I’ve been going through them alone, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for days, and while I have plenty of stories and photographs as evidence, I have kept most of it private. 

As an only child I am used to being alone, and, having nothing else to draw comparisons from, learned very early on to enjoy my time alone. To say that I was “independent” from a young age is an understatement; I much more prefer the term “self-sufficient.” I have always been able to entertain myself. By age nine or so I could cook and clean for myself, and by twelve I was allowed to stay alone while my parents were at work or out with friends. It was during this time that I first started leaving the house to walk around town by myself, having always been allowed to explore and play in my neighborhood unattended since starting grade school. My parents were far from the overly protective yuppies whose sheltered children I babysit today. Soon I was walking all the way across town after school, sometimes sneaking out at night to do so, always in search of some yet-to-be-investigated patch of my small corner of the world.

My parents also travelled a lot, and were cool enough to forego all intimacy in order to bring their one and only progeny along. My mother made it her personal crusade that I would see all 50 states, no matter how long she had to sit in a car with me, and by the time I was a junior in high school I had been to six different countries (nine by the time I graduated). My attraction to cities especially, coupled with my comfort of roaming around unaccompanied, spurred a need to break away and explore by myself. I haven’t stopped since. 

 

It started innocently enough. I would be permitted by my parents to wander off for a short window of time, always meeting back with them at some pre-determined location. It soon turned into me sneaking out of hotel rooms, running off from class trips, sneaking away during the tour group’s lunch, or flat out lying about my weekend plans to drive four states away. In Europe, I developed a particularly dark gift for convincing teachers and tour guides that I knew where I was going and that someone would be with me at all times, before jumping on public transportation and delving deep into the heart of a foreign metropolis….my comrades always too frightened to even step foot on the train platform. I wanted to stroll museums, party in gay clubs, hang out in red-light districts, peruse casinos. I was in search of something real. Something authentic. Something that would make me feel like I could maybe fit in there. 

I would have taxi drivers take me to their favorite restaurants and shops, would have strangers order off menus for me, and would almost always come away with a story, a phone number, or a token of some sort that some kind local was willing to pass on. I’ve had a drag queen teach me how to roll a perfect cigarette, have had a Czech emigre tell me about how he didn’t hear about the Beatles until 1983 because he lived behind the Iron Curtain, have had a Russian cabbie offer me relationship advice, and went to the Love Parade in Berlin. I’ve exchanged screenplay ideas with old Italian men playing bocci ball in the park, drank absinthe on a rooftop overlooking a port in the south of France, and had my fortunes told by countless boardwalk psychics. I was invited to a Belgian artist’s BBQ where we argued over James Cameron’s Avatar in three different languages, had street vendors give me chili pepper covered mangoes the size of my skull after trading them German playing cards, discussed philosophy and the afterlife with heroin addicts in west Philly, and have tasted the best Trinidadian food in all of the Midwest. Had I done what I had been told all my life — to stay close, stay with somebody, don’t go out alone — I would have experienced none of it. I would have seen nothing beyond a hotel room balcony and a bus window. 

Keep in mind, there was always somebody waiting for me after all of this, somebody who would care enough to report me missing. I wasn’t totally ignorant to the dangers of going off for a few days to rummage through abandoned warehouses, or kick it in Oakland soup kitchens, or creep through the alleyways during the London riots. I always had someone who would notice if I was gone for too long. I was always in the daylight or in the bustling public, always knew twelve ways back to a safe place, always took note of every possible exit…and even while being cautious, while being careful, I never felt scared. I was never harassed or assaulted. Was never made uncomfortable. Was never isolated. While going through cities alone, I always felt fully immersed and accepted within my environment. I felt like I belonged there. 

Why do I do it? Besides being, in my opinion, the one true way to get an authentic experience from a place, exploring a city alone is also an act of rebellion. All my life, I have been told to never go anywhere alone — mostly because I am a woman. But countless men I know travel the world alone, or travel their own cities alone. They photograph graffitied warehouses and empty high rises, strike up conversations with strangers on trains, cruise an isolated Chinatown or Little Italy block alone at night. No one ever discourages them. No one ever tells them they’re being reckless. No one ever warns them about what might happen if they don’t “take so-and-so along.” All very real dangers of the world aside, I have never let my sex be enough of a reason to be treated any differently. 

Yes, something bad might happen to me. But something bad could happen to anyone in these circumstances. Something bad could happen in a group, in a hotel, in your own neighborhood. The world we live in, let’s face it, is chaotic, cruel, and above all: random. But it is also beautiful and diverse if you embrace it. I’ve seen things and met people and had experiences and conversations I wouldn’t trade for anything, and it has always been worth every risk. I might give my mother a panic attack for doing this, but my mother didn’t just raise me to be defiant and independent. She raised me to take care of myself, and to go after what I want, and to enjoy life. And what I want is to walk through cities alone, and see them for what they are: beautiful, dangerous, strange, and welcoming.