The Weapon We Have Is Love

It’s no secret I love being busy. Just four months after I graduated college, I had somehow managed to lock down a full time job, a part time job, and a volunteer position. And while many people could not understand why I would want to spend my free time doing work that I wasn’t getting paid for in addition to a 40 hour work week, I couldn’t be happier. Especially because my volunteer position was with one of the best organizations out there – The Harry Potter Alliance.

I’m sure you’ve seen posts from me over the past year sharing about the HPA’s campaigns, various articles I’ve written for our Medium publication, or simply expressing my love for my fellow HPA volunteers and staff members. When I talk about the HPA to my friends and family, I always describe it as “a social justice initiative themed around Harry Potter”…to which most people respond “how did you find something so perfect for you?” And honestly, they couldn’t be more right.

Even though my full time job is also at a nonprofit, The Harry Potter Alliance has given me the opportunity to expand my social justice actions even further. I truly can’t imagine myself doing any other work besides somehow helping people, which is why I was drawn to nonprofit work in the first place. So it’s no surprise that even when I’m not at my 9-5 job, I’m continuing the fight for social justice with an organization that not only aims to improve the world by turning fans into heroes, but also believes it’s just as important to share your Hogwarts House as it is to share your pronouns.

It’s been one year since I’ve joined the HPA as a volunteer, and in that time I’ve had the opportunity to take on many different roles on our campaigns team, better known as the Department of Magical Causes and Correspondence. First and foremost, I am the LGBTQ+ Researcher, responsible for keeping our staff updated on the latest LGBTQ+ related news in the world and providing resources and information that can be referenced in future campaigns, on our social media channels, and other projects conducted by the HPA. I’ve also spent time on the social media team, contributing to the HPA’s Pinterest page and assisting copywriters on various platforms. I also love to write articles for Medium, as well as generally help behind the scenes however I can. Working with the HPA has helped me embrace the fact that my love of fandom and my love of activism don’t have to exist separately. In fact, they’re infinitely stronger together.

Fandoms are a place where I’ve always felt comfortable. Whether I’m gushing about Harry Potter or YouTube or Broadway, I thrive when I’m surrounded by other people who share my level of passion and aren’t afraid to show it. There’s nothing more freeing than connecting with others who respect, understand, and celebrate your authentic self. With the HPA, I’ve been able to do that on a whole new level that I’ve never truly experienced before.

People feel comfortable in this group the moment they join. Though our communication is almost exclusively virtual, our relationships develop quickly and are always a solid form of support. We have come out to each other before anyone else in our personal lives, we’re open about our struggles with mental health and the need to take time off and recharge, we share self care techniques when we notice someone struggling, we have staff-wide discussions on how to better our communication both within the organization and out in the world, and more often than anything else, we’re always sending love, positivity, support, and lots of virtual hugs.

There are people in this organization that I’ve never met before who I consider some of my closest friends. We share jokes and bond over TV shows and always know the perfect GIFs to send each other. We all share a passion for making a difference, and it just so happens to be in a way that attracts other like-minded Harry Potter fans. Working with this group of superheros, wizard activists, and genuinely caring group of nerds is quite literally the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to magic. I could not be more grateful.

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Monsters & Unicorns, Welcome to Nightgowns

I’ve always admired the art of drag, but it wasn’t until this past year that I’ve really gotten immersed in its culture. Obviously, a big part of that was through RuPaul’s Drag Race. I unapologetically love that show; I think it’s truly special and I will defend it against anyone who says otherwise. But my love of drag extends far beyond the queens I watch on TV.

As someone who surrounds herself with as much queer culture as possible, the more I learn about drag, the more I appreciate how its history has shaped so much the queer world we know and love today. From the first time I watched Paris is Burning, to the books I read in undergrad, and the various queer spaces I’ve been introduced to during my time in New York City, I’ve had the pleasure of learning about the trailblazing LGBTQ+ heroes that have paved the way for us in so many ways. Honoring and celebrating these people is more important than ever, which is why I’m still reeling from my experience at Nightgowns.

I have to admit I was far from prepared for the magic I had the pleasure of witnessing at the show Sasha Velour hosts at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. I could go into all of the details of how the show was structured and all of the queens I was excited to see perform, but to be honest, that isn’t the essence of Nightgowns that I’ve been holding on to. Of course the queens were incredible – New York is overflowing with amazing drag queens who know how to entertain. But this show was a completely new level.

It was a celebration of queer spaces, voices, and experiences. It was a place where anyone could be a drag queen – or king, or whatever monarch you felt in your heart. The queens paid tribute to women, performers, and artists of color, they made statements about voices that are silenced and identities that aren’t discussed, they were weird and extravagant and bold and unique, and absolutely everything that drag celebrates.

Truthfully, it’s easy to forget about the history when you’re watching your favorite queen lip sync to the latest Ariana Grande single. And I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – far from it, I would argue. The very essence of drag is to have fun and be entertained in a space that makes you feel welcomed, safe, and carefree. For me, this was just a piece of what Nightgowns delivered.

All of the performances left me speechless. My jaw fell open in awe too many times to count, and not only because of the talent I saw displayed on stage. What moved me most was the emotion, the artistry, and the bravery to do the complete opposite of what the audience expected. There were moments when I didn’t completely understand what was going on, and I was quick to realize that I didn’t need to. While there are definitely messages to be shared and feelings to convey through drag performances, there’s also the freedom to not necessarily need those things. It’s enough as a drag performer to go on stage, show your art, and simply – or maybe not so simply – subvert the ideas of what is normal. The very fact that I was fully captivated watching these artists perform is enough to prove that authentically existing in these queer spaces is enough, and worth being celebrated.

Something Sasha shared that I can’t seem to get out of my head is the idea of screaming when we need to be heard, and when we don’t, sitting down and listening with our full attention. As a drag fan, this hits extremely close to home. I’ve had a lot of privileges in my life that have afforded me the luxury of needing to seek out books, movies, and other media to truly learn about the history of drag and why it’s such an important part of queer culture, rather than living through it myself. These spaces encourage us to learn and think openly no matter our own personal histories, but I realize that I have been granted the opportunity to do for this for the majority of my life. So I feel it’s my responsibility to highlight the voices of those who haven’t been allotted these opportunities, supporting their art and their personal journeys, and remembering to sit down and listen with my full attention when these amazing people have something to say.

As a member of the queer community, I am so grateful to be surrounded by folks who want to celebrate the history and beauty of our community. It’s one thing to read about queer culture, or to watch a movie about it, but to experience such moving expressions of pride in person was transcendent in ways I never thought possible. Nightgowns gives me so much hope as a writer, an activist, and an advocate for using queer history to lead us further in the revolution.

Pride // Playlist

Happy Pride Month!!!! I was inspired by Spotify to make a playlist of all of my favorite queer and allied artists (but mostly queer). I also added some commentary for a few of my favorites. Check out the playlist below!

 

Gasoline – Troye Sivan

I remember Troye’s first EP being released not too long after he posted his coming out video on YouTube. Knowing that one of my favorite queer YouTubers was releasing music made me REALLY excited, especially when I heard this song. He was (and still is) a very young kid who has a major platform, so hearing him share a song with male pronouns made me feel like such a proud mom.

Hold Each Other – A Great Big World

Truly the first time I’ve ever heard both male and female pronouns sung by the same person in one song!

Born Naked – RuPaul

The quote “we’re all born naked and the rest is drag” is so revolutionary. This song encompasses Ru’s ability to challenge norms, break barriers, and serve as a prime example of living as your true self even when you’re told it’s wrong. If RuPaul is wrong, why would anyone want to be right?

Strangers – Halsey feat. Lauren Jauregui

MY 2 BISEXUAL QUEENS!!!! Seriously, I’ve been such a big fan of these ladies for a while, and not only is this song an absolute jam, but it’s so important that the bi community has a song from two strong women who can sing about dudes in one song and ladies in another.

Ease My Mind – Hayley Kiyoko

All the female pronouns!!!! Hayley is so unapologetically WLW in all of her songs and I love it.

Come To Mama – Lady Gaga

This song makes me feel like Gaga is my queer mom who will hug me for 20 minutes whenever I’m sad.

Can I (Call You Summer) – Tyler Conroy

I met Tyler when I was a baby gay freshman and he was the president of our school’s GSA! He has always been such an inspiration to me as someone who works incredibly hard to achieve their dreams, and does so while being fearlessly true to himself. Also, it’s the perfect summer jam.

Girls/Girls/Boys – Panic! At the Disco

My true bisexual anthem from the marvelous Brendon Urie (…naked)

The Thrill of First Love – Falsettos

I will never shut up about Falsettos!!! But honestly, this show is such an important snapshot of queer history. It shows how far we’ve gotten, how much further we still have to go, and it’s all told from the perspective of a seemingly normal family who are flawed, complex, and ultimately relatable.

Know Your Name – Mary Lambert

Not only does this song make you want to dance all around, but the music video is basically the fun, queer version of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood”. Instantly obsessed.

I Know A Place – MUNA

I love MUNA’s entire album, but this song stuck with me when I read an article about how it was written in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando last year. Listening to the song in that context gives it an even greater impact of love and amazingness. Plus, this performance had me crying like a baby.

GDMML GRLS – Tyler Glenn

This entire album is a testament to Tyler’s strength as he navigated his journey toward the queer community while being dismissed from another. For me, listening to this song gives me such a clear image of a young kid whose identity is being constantly questioned by those around him, even though he wants to explore the truth that he knows has always lived inside of him.

I wish everyone a Happy Pride! Let’s continue to support each other while we stay strong, keep learning, resist, and be proud ❤ Enjoy these jams!

Back On Top

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@weezyvc

Dear Reader,

This post, like everything I write, comes from a place of explicit sincerity. For some reason, it felt important to remind y’all of that before I get started. Here we go.

Needless to say, this election was a fucking nightmare. When I think back to that dreaded week in November when it all came to a head, I still feel its horrible remnants. The hope I had built up from my peers and my supportive community came crashing down in a matter of hours. Some people were able to put their anger directly into action, while others had a more difficult time getting back on their feet. For three days following the election, I physically struggled to get out of bed. I had no fight in me whatsoever – which was extremely difficult for someone as passionate as I am about actively participating in working toward change. I had experienced depression before, but this was the first time I had ever felt depressed to the point of not knowing any way to end the suffering. All around me, my peers were encouraging the importance of fighting back. But I didn’t know how. I couldn’t find it in me.

And if you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, saying to yourself “Stop being so dramatic” or “Get over it”…congratulations, you’re privileged. Take a second to meditate on that. It’s hard to accept and acknowledge your privilege, but it’s too necessary to ignore. Because believe it or not, we are not acting spoiled or overdramatic about this. We are trying to swallow the fact that there are people in our country – peers, friends, relatives, etc. – who do not understand the extent of our adverse circumstances. We are struggling to understand how people we love and care about can actively (or sometimes passively) support the deterioration of our civil rights. And if you don’t think the circumstances are that drastic, you’re woefully ignorant. And that’s not me being an entitled millennial or whiny feminist – it’s a fact. Educate yourself.

Here’s the deal: the new administration is dangerous. Because of these people in power, basic human rights continue to be denied to marginalized communities, including women (and basically all genders that are not cisgender men), LGBTQ+ people, people of color, immigrants, low-income citizens, people with disability, the homeless, incarcerated, and so many more varying intersections of people in the United States. And while I could go into detail about how there is actual proof to back up these claims, I truthfully don’t feel qualified enough. Instead, here are some sources:

My main intention for this post is to share how we can continue to take care of ourselves in such a heightened moment of need. While I have spent as much time as possible taking care of myself in this post-election dumpster fire, there is still a fear that the reality of Friday’s inauguration will hit me harder than I’m ready for. For any of y’all who are feeling similarly afraid, I wanted to share some self-care techniques that might help you get through the weekend. Because I am unable to participate in any of the women’s marches happening this weekend (if you are looking for somewhere to march, take a look here!), I figured sharing some of these techniques would be a good idea for anyone else who wants to feel productive, supportive, or just plain distracted.

1. Surround yourself with like-minded people

For some people, having time to themselves is a crucial part of their self-care routine. However, if you do better during difficult times when there are people around you, it could be particularly important this weekend to make sure they are like-minded friends, peers, etc. For example, while spending time with family might be a go-to method for you to unwind, make sure you’re not putting yourself in a potentially toxic environment. This could also be the case with friends or others in your immediate circle. Make plans now with people you trust will understand your needs. At least for these few days, try to take politics off the table by asking those around you to respect your wishes and wait to have those conversations at another time. 

2. Make your voice heard

Personally, this is my favorite way to combat any feelings of defeat or lack of purpose. We all have the power to take action and participate in making positive changes in our society. I find that by actively voicing my opinions against our system’s injustices, I can stand a little taller with the satisfaction of making even the smallest dent.

As some of you may know, I am a volunteer at the Harry Potter Alliance. We are currently running a campaign called Neville Fights Back to encourage everyone to take action in our political system. The HPA offers links to help find your representatives and their contact information so you can easily make your voice heard – literally, you can call them and share your message. I also like this infographic called How to call your reps when you have social anxiety. Personally, I hate speaking to other humans on the phone, so I found this resource super helpful.

Additionally, I stumbled across this handy dandy Google Doc called the “We’re His Problem Now” Calling Sheet. Basically, this is your one stop shop for who you can call, scripts for exactly what to say, and additional tips for how this actually works and why it’s important. Share it like crazy and give Kara all the credit for being an activist superhero.

3. Unplug

It might be a good idea to stay away from social media as much as possible. While this can often be an outlet for us when we want to feel connected to a greater cause, it could be draining to continue refreshing your pages only to find repeated coverage of the same event. Trust me, if anything extraordinary happens, you can read about it on Monday.

4. Donate

When it comes to donating, most people immediately think of money. While that’s definitely a wonderful option if you have the means – FYI, I’m personally a big fan of the movement to Donate $20 to Planned Parenthood on 1/20/17 – money isn’t the only way you can contribute to the causes you care about. We all have our own unique passions and skills, and this is your opportunity to share them in a way that can be both selfless and selfish. Write, create art, share your voice and share it out loud.

5. Don’t forget the basics

If you feel like you need to stay in bed all weekend, don’t get discouraged. Just make sure that at the very least, you’re taking care of yourself on a very basic level. Eat breakfast, drink plenty of water, take your medication, change your clothes. Take a short walk around the block for some fresh air. Text your best friend. Rely on your favorite self-care techniques, whatever they may be.

Let me know what your plans are for this weekend. Are you going to a march? Spending time with your pup? Having a Harry Potter movie marathon? ALL THREE? The possibilities are endless! Stay strong. Remember that you’re not alone and we are all in this fight together. I love you.

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Bisexual Awareness Week

Happy Bisexual Awareness Week, everyone!

While we passively acknowledge the bi+ community every time we say LGBTQ+, the B in this conversation is given little recognition. So this week, the bi+ community comes together with our allies to remind everyone that bisexuality is a valid identity and there is still plenty of work to be done to end bi erasure. We’ve all heard the ridiculous misconceptions; there continue to be predominantly negative and inaccurate representations of the bi+ community in the media, as well as discussed in queer spaces. Contrary to what some people believe, bisexuality has a very nuanced history, and the work that has been done over the years still continues today.

In honor of this work and the celebration of Bisexual Awareness Week, GLAAD hosted the first ever panel about bi+ representation in current media, which you can watch on their Facebook page. This panel featured intersecting perspectives from within the bi+ community, including advocates Alex Berg, Eliel Cruz, Bryan J. Ellicott, Ashley Ford, Denarii Monroe, and Mathew Rodriguez. All of the panelists have experience in a number of mediums that give the bi+ community a more prominent voice and tell the stories of community members across the spectrum. One thought that I couldn’t help but return to throughout the night was the fact that I had never been in a space that was so focused and dedicated to the bi+ community. Thanks to GLAAD’s Senior Strategist Alexandra Bolles, we were finally given that opportunity. It was an incredible party to witness.

The panelists discussed many issues facing the bi+ community, such as the lack of representation in the media despite statistically being the majority of the LGBTQ+ community, the negative connotations people tend to associate with bi+ people, like being indecisive, confused, or overly promiscuous. and the work that has to continue to be done in order to give the bi+ community a more positive portrayal in the media. These panelists spoke from places of personal experience, which added an incredible sense of authenticity to the panel. Their intersecting perspectives were a genuine treat for the audience to experience, as we were all there to celebrate bisexuality and discuss the ways we can all contribute to bettering visibility and offering more accurate representations of our community in the media.

Panel moderator and Mic writer Mathew Rodriguez asked the panelists to share their first memory of seeing a bi+ person in the media, and I realized how difficult that question was to answer. Panelists shared answers like Dr. Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show and Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy, but I started to consider my own experiences and realized how upsetting it was to come to the conclusion I could probably count the amount of bi+ characters I’ve seen in the media on one hand. From a statistical perspective, Eliel Cruz, Executive Director of Faith in America, shared the correlation between visibility and funding. Using the trans community as an example, Cruz brought attention to the fact that there is a direct correlation between the representation minority groups have in the media to the amount of money and work being put into bettering their communities. We still have a lot of work to do.

On the topic of bi+ erasure, the panelists offered a number of experiences that contribute to one of the most prominent problems facing the community. Alex Berg, a producer at HuffPost Video, spoke about an instance in which a celebrity’s publicist forbade the word bisexual to be used – even though the celebrity has since come out about their sexuality and was in the process of writing a memoir in which the topic was featured. Denarii Monroe also spoke about a similar issue, sharing times when her work was not accepted because it was not the “typical” bi experience…whatever that means. In the words of Ashley Ford, “People are obsessed with certainty, which doesn’t exist.” As was proven by the different experiences of all of our panelists, everyone has their own personal relationship with what it means to be bisexual. There are different definitions depending on who you ask, there is no one “type” of bisexual person, and most importantly, our identity is not something for you to make assumptions about. Which is why we need our voices to be heard. Which is why we need to have better representation. Which is why Bi Week is so important.

I love being part of this community. After getting through the hard times of listening to people claiming that bisexuality didn’t exist and forcing people choose one side and claiming fluidity was just a way to get attention, I was able to grow and understand that my identity was valid. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by positivity within both my personal and queer spaces, but I know this is not the case for everybody. And this is why we have to keep working toward progress within the bi+ community. I want younger generations to be able to see their identities truly representation in the TV shows they watch. I want people to talk about bisexuality with the same validity they talk about gay and lesbian identities. Because of events like Bi Week and the recognition of the work that is continuing to be done within the community, I’d like to think that’s a place we can get to someday.

Thanks to everyone at GLAAD for hosting this event, and a special thanks to Alexandra for being such a rockstar.

Bi Week might just be until Friday, but for so many of us, it’s always Bi Week. 🙂

Check out my Twitter for some livetweeting from the event!