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.
Continue reading Home Sweet Not-A-Van
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.
Continue reading I Was A Teenage Anarchist And Now I’m A Mid-Thirties Anarchist
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!”
Continue reading I Pity the Immortal
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.”
Continue reading Men With Beards Wearing Dresses Are Ruining The Country
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.
Continue reading How I Learned to Hate My Rapist
2015 has been good to me, as a writer and a person. This year:
- I made my first five professional short fiction sales. Three of these are published:
- I went to Clarion West. These six weeks did as much to improve my fiction as six years of writing.
- I made a five-figure income for the first time in my life, through freelancing.
- I ghostwrote a romance novel.
- I got over my phobia of flying.
- I went to England for the first time.
- I started seeing someone amazing.
Next year, I’ll hit fifteen years of veganism and five years with my wonderful van. I’ll leave my early thirties, and hopefully I’ll finish another novel of my own.
Content Warning: misogynist violence
It might be that the anarchist traveler scene died when Sali died, on September 15, 2008, as summer gave way to autumn. It was two weeks before her twenty-first birthday.
It might be that the man who killed her marked the end of a way of life.
There were probably hundreds of us in the early-to-mid aughts, us crusty anarchist travelers. We hopped freight trains and we fought the state. We ate out of trash cans, we shoplifted and scammed corporations. We stole photocopies from Kinkos to disseminate our zines, we broke into empty buildings to sleep and throw parties and convergences, because fuck capitalism and fuck asking permission from the system we detest. We worked hard, fought the State tooth and nail, and interwove play into everything we did. An endless summer.
There was no future in it, of course.
Continue reading September 15, 2008
Hi. I’m coming out as genderqueer.
For people who know me, and people who know what genderqueer means, this probably isn’t some big surprise. I told a couple of my friends that I was going to come out — like this, in writing — and they just assumed I was already out.
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary (yes, that one that comes with Mac), genderqueer as an adjective is: “denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.”
Continue reading Coming Out as Genderqueer
“Explain this thing to me,” my friends would say to me, while I was reorganizing my life around getting myself out to Seattle for Clarion West.
“I’m moving into an empty sorority house for six weeks with 17 strangers. And it’s not a reality show. It’s a writing workshop.”
Continue reading Clarion West
My great aunt, Sister Dominic, sat in her chair in her room in the hospice ward of the convent. She was watching Mass on TV. It hadn’t even occurred to me that someone would televise Mass. But there she was, arguably too infirm to attend in person, so she watched Mass from her chair while I waited awkwardly, patiently, to talk to her.
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year now since she passed away.
Continue reading Sister Dominic