All posts by magpie

I’m Not Even Going to Try to Pass

I walked into the activist meeting feeling good. I had on my short shorts over tights and my makeup was good. I took my seat next to a stranger, a transwoman.

“Are you in transition?” she asked me. Like, within thirty seconds. I genuinely think this was the first thing she said to me after maybe telling me her name.

“Well, I, uh…” I stammered.

“Have you started hormones yet?”

I stammered some more.

I get it. She was new to the group and excited to see another transfeminine face in the crowd. But goddam is that some personal shit to ask a girl within a minute of meeting her.

I didn’t really answer her in the moment, but let me answer her first question more concretely now: I am “in transition” in the same way that I used to be a baby and one day I’ll be dead.
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Cede No Ground To Fascists

When the nazis came to town, a friend of mine got in her pickup truck and drove around the entire night. Not just to keep track of the fascists, but to give rides and offer safety to anyone and everyone who felt threatened by them. I know without a doubt she would have climbed out of her truck and intervened more bodily if it had been required of her.

She’s also white and has a rather large and prominent tattoo of Mjolnir, “Thor’s hammer.” She listens to black metal, writes in runes, tends towards misanthropy, and draws strength from the old gods. These are all things a lot of nazis do too. Which is to say, my friend spends a lot of her time in contested cultural terrain. I love her for it.
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Home Sweet Not-A-Van

Ah, van life. The rain beating down on tinted glass, the sunrise lighting the world in every direction. The freedom to wander as you will. Car insurance is cheaper than rent; car repair is cheaper than utilities.

When I first moved into a van, every day was an adventure. I’d shove five or six people into my old minivan—later my full-size van—and off we’d go across the country. Some of my favorite people in this world I met because someone I was traveling with dragged them along.

No wonder people romanticize van life.

After seven years of it, I am so glad I don’t live in a van anymore. Simple living is great, I guess, but having stuff is great too.
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I Was A Teenage Anarchist And Now I’m A Mid-Thirties Anarchist

Fifteen years ago today, on February 2nd, 2002, I became an anarchist. I was nineteen, living in NYC, and I attended the World Economic Forum protests. I knew the anarchists by reputation only — they wore all black and they smashed things. They were going to wear masks in defiance of NYC’s anti-mask laws. I wanted to know why, so I approached a man with his face obscured by a black bandanna.

“What’s anarchism?” I asked.

“Well, we hate capitalism and the state.” He was very forthcoming, which I appreciated.

“What do you all do about it?”

“We build up alternative institutions without hierarchy while attacking and interfering with the existing, oppressive ones we despise.”

“Oh,” I said. I pondered this for a moment, but honestly only a moment. “Do you have an extra mask?”

He did, and he gave it to me. Simple as that, I became an anarchist.
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Actions Speak Louder Than Votes

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” —Assata Shakur

I admit, I’m terrified.

(Usually I write blogposts several days ahead of time and put them through several rounds of edits. This one I wrote and posted this morning, because even though I’ve been thinking about, and listening to others’ thoughts about, a Trump victory, I didn’t actually think it was going to happen.)

We don’t know what happens now. We don’t know if all our much-acclaimed checks and balances will keep the status quo of the country (already a totalitarian nightmare of police check points, deportations, stop and frisk, and mass incarceration for many of its inhabitants) intact. We do know that this nation elected an “unelectable” racist demagogue who quotes Mussolini, brags about sexually assaulting women, and isn’t even a very good businessman.

We also know that the Republicans control the house and senate. This isn’t unprecedented: George Bush, Jr. came into office with a republican majority congress as well. Which didn’t go so well for anyone, at home or abroad, though most of us survived it.

But, at least in rhetoric, Trump makes George Bush, Jr. look like a beacon of tolerance and love.
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Lower Leftism: Expanding Upon the Political Map

There’s a simple-but-effective “political compass” used by many people I know. “Compass” has always seemed like a misnomer, and I prefer the word “map.” This map has two axes: left/right economics and libertarian/authoritarian structure. The idea is that individuals, groups, and societies can be placed on the map so that they can be understood in relation to one another.

It’s a good starting point. I’d like to expound upon it by recalibrating it and providing further subdivisions.

Proposed two-axis political map, with subdivisions.
Proposed two-axis political map, with subdivisions.

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From A Snowflake of Science Fiction

content warning: homophobic slurs, street harassment

Last weekend in Kansas City, at the 74th WorldCon, women swept the fiction categories of the Hugo Awards. Last weekend in Kansas City, at the 74th WorldCon, Dave Truesdale clutched his pearls.

As part of his apparently-prepared plan to hijack the panel he was moderating, “the state of short fiction,” Truesdale said that “science fiction is not for snowflakes.” He said that those of us critical of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. suffer from “microaggressive disorder, or MAD.”

With an admirable dedication to a visual metaphor, he pulled out a string of white beads and placed it around his neck. He said that those of us who are easily offended should clutch our pearls instead of saying anything critical, apparently ever.
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I Pity the Immortal

If elves were real, they’d be whimpering, anxious wrecks, too wracked by fear to leave their towers or trees. For an immortal, no risk would be worth taking. A plague, a stray arrow, or an angry bandit might rob a human of fifty or eighty years. The same might rob an elf of the lifespan of the planet.

I was a nerdy, anxious kid. I’m a nerdy, anxious adult. I spend a lot of my time thinking about even my mental health in terms of Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings.

Elves, as popularly understood, can live thousands of years, watching mortals grow old and die like we might watch the leaves on trees turn color and fall. When I was younger, I idolized elves. Now? I pity them.

Avoiding danger is a self-reinforcing behavior, a behavior that elves would have centuries or millennia to perfect.

“Parent, what is death?” an elf kid might ask one night, in that gender-neutral language I figure elves probably have because that would be awesome.

“It’s the end of everything,” the parent elf would say back to their kid, tucking them into bed under a blanket of moss or unicorn wool or some bullshit like that. “But don’t worry. You’re an elf, you get to live forever. As long as you never slip up ever. Sweet dreams!”
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Men With Beards Wearing Dresses Are Ruining The Country

I was driving through northwestern Ohio, which from the car window sure looks like a series of small towns strung out along cornfields. No offense to cornfields of course. My high school in Maryland was surrounded on three sides by cornfields. But my phone was broken so I was stuck listening to the radio and I’d made the mistake of tuning in to the local Christian talk radio station.

“Now, they say they just want to use the bathroom,” the announcer said, “but it’s really a trojan horse. What they actually want to do is destroy the nuclear family and drive us away from God.”
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How I Learned to Hate My Rapist

This post contains my account as a survivor of rape. I’m not looking for public expressions of sympathy nor to argue the specifics of my situation. For context, despite my feminine name, I grew up as a boy and am genderqueer.

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

“Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”

So say the Lord’s prayer, Martin Luther King Jr., Yoda, and some random picture I found when I image searched “forgiveness meme” while researching this article. There’s no shortage of cultural wisdom extolling the virtues of forgiving people. There’s a lot there I agree with — as someone who desires to live in a society with neither prisons nor constant warfare, forgiveness is an important part of my political practice. I’m no pacifist, either, but I think the cycle of how violence begets violence is damn important for revolutionaries to understand.

And yet.
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