Xpress Print February 2020

Page 1







Amy Bigelow

Letter from the editor


Wilson Gomez

Managing Editor


Diani Ellis

William Wendelman

hen I first set foot on this campus in the fall of 2018, I didn’t quite realize how much of a personal impact I would make as a journalist in San Francisco. Having some small significance not only from the stories I wrote in my reporting classes, but also from the many connections I have cultivated both in and outside the third floor of our Humanities Building.

Paul Kelly

Dyanna Calvario

Granted, I practically live in the newsroom.

Malakai Wade

Art Director

Patrick Tamayo

Copy Editor

Paige Acosta

Multimedia Editor

Sam Joson William Wendelman Contributing Writers Clara Applegarth

Online Editor


Photo Editor Contributing Photographers

Anne Lima

Tahjai Chan

Fernando Martinez

Robin Costa

Ryce Stoughtenborough

Emily Curiel

Shelley Wang Andrea Williams Special Thanks Joanne Derbort Kim Komenich Laura Moorhead

But now, as Xpress Magazine editor-in-chief, I have come to value those connections and my contributions as a journalist even more so. I am thrilled to be working alongside a staff of reporters who are just as driven and devoted to writing stories and taking photos for this long-form publication. Your eyes now bear witness to our efforts which made this first issue possible.

Daniel Da Silveira Saylor Nedelman Maddison October Shandana Qazi

Within these pages you’ll stumble upon stories that address a wide range of topics, including: fertility, homeless street art, the SF housing crisis and questioning your sense of style. Above all else, each page contains a bit of character and personality reflective of the spring 2020 Xpress staff.

Sandy Scarpa James Wyatt

Rachele Kanigel Amber M. Weher

After all, this is how we Xpress ourselves. Find our essential spring playlist on Spotify at Xpress_Magazine

On the cover Brett Vanhorn poses for a portrait on February 18, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif. (Photographed by Maddison October / Xpress Magazine)

Social media Find XPRESS online Xpressmagzine.org Tweets @XpressMagazine Instagram @xpressmagazine







By Paul Kelly

By Sam Joson





By Clara Applegarth

By Diani Ellis


LOST AND FOUND IN STYLE By Fernando Martinez


COSMIC CAVEMAN By Ryce Stoughtenborough


TUNED-OUT By Andrea Williams




Reality Bites at the Story by Paul Kelly Illustration by Paige Acosta


f one, by chance or misfortune, happens upon t Sunset District, draped in its customarily mela cholic clouds, how often would the horizon be br ken with the height of something new? With ea one would find a neat, unbroken row of single-fam ily homes stretching to the sea, this line interrupt only by the occasional church spire piercing the fo Senate Bill 50, a contentious housing density b proposed by California state Sen. Scott Wiener which would have attempted to reshape areas su as the aforementioned Sunset by allowing the creati of multi-story housing units near transit lines — w shot down by the California state Senate this month. The bill, which has appeared in previous iteratio before the state Senate, has drawn vehement voca izations of support and dissent. A point of discour that has not drawn major conversation are the ec logical effects, said Aritree Samanta, Ph.D., profe sor of environmental studies at San Francisco Sta University. She feels it will soon prove to be a pivo

Photo by Daniel Da Silveira 4

the anroase mted og. bill — uch ion was . ons alrse coesate otal


Housing Precipice point of discussion in the larger conversation surrounding high-density housing. “Housing policy is climate policy,” Samanta said. “When you have a plot of land and you build one house on it, and when population in cities increases, where are you going to put those people? You have to build more and more houses, you know … which means you are cutting down more forests, you are changing more agricultural land into housing land and you are building out and out and spreading.” Samanta said she was impressed with the bill’s progress despite its defeat. She doubts that any bill similar to SB 50 would have made it nearly as far five years ago. However, Samanta’s enthusiasm for the future is not free of concern. Joseph Smooke, an affordable-housing developer and member of the Housing Rights Committee, feels a persistent point of contention is the fear of exacerbated gentrification of neighborhoods and tenant removal, as SB 50 did not adequately address



“sensitive communities,” nor precisely define what those communities were. “The disposition or the kind of analysis of these politicians is that communities that critique developments are standing in the way of development,” Smooke said. “There is this kind of disconnect between policymakers at a state level and people who are working in the community.” Smooke said that there are two pieces of California state legislation that make the creation of affordable-housing and prevention of exacerbated gentrification doubly-difficult; the Ellis Act and Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. The former allows landlords the unconditional right to evict tenants so as to “go out of business.” The latter allows

landlords to raise rent as much as they like, exempting them from many rent control laws. Smooke said it is difficult for communities to have any sort of robust response to potential displacement with these two laws still in effect. “It’s really really hard to get these laws repealed. It needs some intense leadership … from the legislature,” Smooke said. “It would be nice to have somebody like Scott Wiener, the chair of the Senate housing committee, step up and use his leadership role … to deal with these. Otherwise, it’s just really hard to get these laws repealed.” Without appropriate attention given to these legislative hurdles Smooke doubts that any future iteration of SB 50 will pass without some form of ex-

pedited removal of tenants. “Once the new housing gets built, and it’s more expensive, then everybody wants to cash in on increasing values,” Smooke said. “And basically what you’re doing is, if you upzone property, basically you’re granting value to landowners and then, in turn, increases rents and increases acquisition prices and that whole escalation of property values. … It ends up destabilizing and displacing existing residents.” “It creates this really difficult paradox,” George Wooding, former president of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, said. “Where you have one group that desperately needs to move into the city and another group that desperately needs a safe place.”

Photo by William Wendelman 6

In a calm, vitriolic tone Wooding said that the text and language of SB 50 makes no special allotments of funds to transportation systems. “The worst gripe to me was … to dance around transportation,” Wooding said. “[The] bill gave absolutely no money to transportation.” Samanta said one of the main environmental appeals of density-housing is the reduction of carbon emissions used in commuting to transit stations and lowering traffic congestion. Wooding said he thinks the future of housing legislation might lie in equity housing programs and used the example that if the city were to build a unit meant for 100 people, and if there were some sort of equity housing in effect, the

city would then, in turn, be obligated to build 100 affordable units to balance. Wooding said that many would be resistant to such policies. “Everybody’s definitely afraid of [equity housing],” Wooding said. “Developers in particular, because of their [profit] margins.” Despite these points of debate and legislative discomfort, Samanta feels that density housing will soon prove to be inevitable. As the effects of climate change increase the intensity and frequency of wildfires in the state, she feels that further expansion into fireprone bucolic lands will force cities to reevaluate their zoning practices. “Thirty percent of all houses or housing in California is at the wildlife-urban interface, which means they

are really close to and are in fire-prone areas,” Samanta said. “Instead of putting people at risk approving housing that’s next to, you know, areas vulnerable to fires, they might think about upzoning, which means that areas in the middle of the city, that are away from the fire zones … they might shift their zoning from single-family to multi-family.” Housing propositions, similar to SB 50, have made the news recently in the Bay Area. According to reports conducted by Berkeleyside and the SF Chronicle, both BART and Caltrain are talking with communities about creating housing near stations or tracklines. According to the SF Chronicle, Caltrain’s board of directors unanimously agreed upon a proposition

to develop housing, much of it purportedly affordable, at available spaces near tracksides. Berkeley is currently pursuing zoning changes, according to Berkeleyside, and allocating funds for potential housing developments at the Ashby and North Berkeley BART parking lots. Much of the push behind these BART oriented developments stem from a piece of 2018 legislation known as Assembly Bill 2923. The bill, according to California Legislative Information, gives BART the ability to develop and approve housing on its various properties. AB 2923’s text also states, “The bill would require that, where housing is proposed as part of a TOD [transit-oriented development] project, a



certain minimum of residential housing units is affordable housing, as specified.” Cities are also subject to whatever predetermined zoning standards BART has decided, and must comply with those standards by the summer of 2022. “[Building] multi-family housing units [and] building affordable housing instead of parking that was completely impossible, even like two or three years ago,” Samanta said, regarding Berkeley’s situation. “Things have shifted. And that’s because more and more progressive, you know, pro-environmental folks are being elected for office.” X


Fertility Awareness Method?...Bueller?

If the future is female, why don’t we have more conversations about the Fertility Awareness Method?

Story by Clara Applegarth Illustration by Paige Acosta


hile women continue to make impactful changes in 2020, with more females getting elected into Congress and having better representation of bodily anatomy prompted by protests, many women continue to stick with the pill as their choice of hormonal birth control. If we can break the glass ceiling in Congress, why aren’t we changing the way we see birth control? “Basically to sum it up, it just goes back to men not thinking women are capable enough to actually chart their own cycles,” Lena Ohlson said. “Not thinking that women are brilliant enough, determined enough, disciplined enough to actually have control of their own bodies.” Ohlson is a 25-year-old female sexual health practitioner who uses vaginal steams, energy

their cervical mucus daily. While it’s efficacy can be just as high as most other contraception, it depends entirely on the user, and their FAM practice. According to an article published in Kindara, FAM is not being taught in medical schools and only 6% of trained medical professionals know accurate stats and information on it. “I was not taught FAM in medical school,” Dr. Jennifer Karlin, family planning fellow at UCSF, said. “I think that there has been a lack of funding for health classes in middle and high schools.

work and meditation to help women dive deeper into pleasure, desires or heal from sexual trauma or trauma from experiencing abortion. She encourages women to reconnect with their natural cycles, while spreading awareness of this method on Instagram. While the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is hormone-free and non-invasive, Ohlson said it requires thorough education, observation of your anatomy and meticulous cycle charting. FAM is not for the faint of heart, but rather, for someone willing to take their basal body temperature and record 8

In addition, I think that the other methods make more money for pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies.” FAM is the dark horse form of birth control in which a woman connects back to her own anatomy by tracking her menstrual cycle month by month, detailing every part of what comes along with being female, apart from hormones. No doctor or prescription is required. All you need is a handy thermometer, maybe an app or two and some research. It requires diligence and learning to recognize the different types of cervical mucus one has throughout their cycle. Karlin said the FDA approved an app called Natural Cycles as a method of contraception. While this particular app does cost money, Karlin notes

that there are several free apps for tracking that are just as effective. Ohlson experienced her own abortion a year and a half ago, which prompted her to move toward a more natural, but effective form of birth control. “After experiencing an abortion, which can be super traumatizing in itself, you definitely get a lot of pressure from the people that perform the abortion to take [birth control], and it just never, it never felt right,” Ohlson said. Ohlson had a short-lived experience on the pill in high school, but had a severely negative experience, which made her decide it wasn’t for her. “As we enter the fourth wave of feminism, we are trying to get FAM in schools and starting off having a conversation with young teenagers, starting to release the stigma off of what cervical mucus looks like,” Ohlson said. There are three different methods within FAM. There is the single method in which a woman tracks her fertility via her cervical mucus. Then the double method where a woman not only observes and understands her cervical mucus, but also tracks her temperature every day using a thermometer. And the triple method is tracked using temperature, cervical mucus and cervical position. Ohlson prefers the double

“I think it’s a very contradictory time for young women,” said Shelia Tully, medical anthropologist and Women and Gender Studies professor at San Francisco State University. “Because on the one hand, sexuality is commodified in so many different ways. And yet, at the same time, [women’s] sexuality is being regulated and disciplined. So

method over the single and triple method, and has been working with a practitioner of her own while she eases into the cycle of FAM. In order to practice FAM effectively for contraception or for fertility, you must be willing to take your basal temperature every morning, along with getting to know your cervical mucus very well. Ohlson stresses that dis-

“I think it’s a very contradictory time for young women,”

- Shelia Tully

charge and cervical mucus are often confused with one another. “As far as avoiding pregnancy you have to determine your fertile window via all symptoms: temperature, cervical position, cervical mucus,” Ohlson said. “There’s only technically one day that you can get pregnant, but any day that you see mucus, which for some women ranges depending, but every single day you see mucus you are fertile.” According to Hello Clue, a website and app that allows you to track your period and ovulation, discharge is a blanket term for fluid that secretes from the vagina, while cervical fluid is merely a part of discharge. Cervical fluid changes throughout a woman’s cycle to help or stop sperm moving through the cervix.

who are you as a sexual being? It’s very unclear.” According to a July 2019 article published by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health, users of FAM rose from 1% in 2008 to only 3% in 2014. Misinformation still circulates on its effectiveness and how to correctly practice FAM. “The most interesting question to me is why men, particularly white men, are so preoccupied with women’s bodies and the regulation of women’s bodies,” Tully said. “There’s not a real serious attempt to teach young girls about positive sexuality, about how their bodies work, that kind of stuff.” Tully argues that while California has surpassed several states with the Healthy Youth 9


Act, put into effect in 2016, requiring all public schools to teach comprehensive sexual education, that is, sexual education that includes consent, non-binary gender identities, LGBTQ health, etc., young women still are rarely taught about their natural cycles, and are instead encouraged to take birth control at young ages while not helping young women understand their period. “You’re not supposed to have cramps during your cycles. You’re not supposed to take time off. We have less time off for child bearing and child rearing,” Tully said. “The naturalness of the body has come under attack and what we have is this machine-like attitude toward women’s bodies.” While use has increased, it is still rare to be taught FAM at young ages when girls actually begin menstruating. “In my experience, people have vague understanding of their cycles,” Karlin said. “I work a lot with teens and I work with them to understand their cycles and their bodies. I think FAM is helpful for getting to know and understand one’s body and that can be an empowering experience.”X


Lost and Found in Style Story by Fernando Martinez


It’s the thing that you recognize when you see it and when you don’t. An average virtual stroll on social media platforms today is filled with the styles of other people — whether they’re famous, not so famous or wannabe famous. This awards season the red carpets have become stages for people like singer-songwriter Billie Eilish to wear new iterations of her signature baggy designer streetwear sensibility. Actor Billy Porter pushes and utterly dismantles the fashion envelope with his gender binary defying

such thought be put into something as seemingly mundane as clothes? Are those who consciously use style with great precision to highlight their inner selves different than those who wear clothes just to wear clothes? Well, this all depends on who you ask. To Cintra Wilson, who literally wrote a book about style titled “Fear and Clothing,” which details her national exploration of America’s style and its power in people’s everyday lives. The answer is an obvious yes. Style does matter. “I can tell how much sex someone has, how wealthy they grew up,

“lewks,” while rapper Lil Nas X redefines what it means to be a black man in hip-hop by wearing what he wants to wear, no matter how flamboyant or how pink. In doing so, these three extraordinary human beings are using style to accomplish what it should be used for: to reflect who you are on the inside. This is how style can become more than just the clothes we wear out of necessity — to not be naked, to stay warm and to feel comfortable. Discovering one’s style is a way to tap into a well of endless confidence, creativity and self-expression. Should

Photo by William Wendelmen


how much sex they’re not having and even how they treat other people all based on their style,” Wilson said. “Fashion is about stretching your personality. It can be through a pair of boots that someone can become that person with confidence for that job interview to feel like somebody. It’s a way to fake it until you make it.” Beth Alyse Synder, founder of Guerilla Makeovers, an image consulting business in San Francisco that specializes in makeovers and personal shopping, agrees. Style does matter — even if you think it doesn’t. “It doesn’t matter if you’re just rolling out of bed in


a hoodie and a beanie, you’re still saying something,” Synder said. “Fashion at its core is a tool. A tool that can be used to bring someone’s personality and voice to the outside. It’s using the internal through the external.”

care about any of it. And there are also those who do care, but are hesitant to embrace any of it as inspiration for their own style. “So many people are hung up about it or are intimidated by it,” Synder said. “ It’s not about if you’re doing it right, but if it feels right.” One of the reasons why someone might have an aversion toward style and fashion is because they think looking “fashionable” means having to look like the seemingly homogeneous models in the fashion world. Skinny and white, tan and buff, lean but not too lean. How is someone supposed to discover their style through fashion if they don’t view themselves worthy enough to wear the clothes society at large deems as worth wearing? “I’ve worked with thousands of people and each

“Fashion is who you are. The more you dress according to who you are, the more stylish you become.

Know yourself, show yourself,” - Cintra Wilson

However, sometimes we can be bombarded with so many fabulous fashionistas, gag worthy runway couture opulence and jealousy-inducing shoes that it can be easy to forget that there are still people who don’t



Sydney Keller, 21, poses for a portrait in the Creative Arts Building at SF State on Thursday, February 13, 2020. (Saylor Nedelman / Xpress Magazine)

one has an individual story with style that defines them as a unique individual,” Sydner said. “There is no one size fit for all in style. Not realizing this is what causes a disconnect to style.” Size is another component in style that contributes to this disconnect. It’s in this process that such a disconnect to style can foster and grow in a person’s life until it eventually rules how they view themselves and how they think the world views them, if at all.

ies like they do and wear whatever they wanna wear with confidence. That’s why I’m so glad that body positivity is so popular right now.” Despite the current state of fashion’s apparent progressive sentiment toward inclusivity of different body sizes, representation still might not be enough to convince someone that they’re worthy of having a style that’s all theirs. This is where stylists come in. “Women are so fucking ahead with their bodies.

Arguably the place to go in the Bay Area to see the total amalgamation of gross commercialism and idealized beauty standards is San Francisco’s Union Square. “People are starting to stop striving to look like those models,” Synder said, pointing toward the the huge images of two thin models in the windows of one of many designer clothing stores at Union Square. “People look at girls like that and think they don’t deserve to own their bod12

I’ve made women cry by pointing out the parts of their bodies that make them who they are that no one else had acknowledged as parts of themselves … Everyone has their own innate style, it’s a matter of purifying it,” Wilson said. “All people have a [dress] code, but no one’s given permission to dress as they like. That’s why some people need an outside eye to grant them that permission. You as an individual are biased toward your style


that to see it actualized, you need another person to nurture it with you.” No matter someone’s size, age, gender, sexual orientation, income, education, race or ability, and no matter what anyone says about them, their style is what they make it. It’s in the forsaking of striving to inhabit whatever style at the moment in society reflects the most trendy, most desirable and most must-have materialism that an individual’s style can truly flourish and become all their own. “Fashion is who you are. The more you dress according to who you are, the more stylish you become. Know yourself, show yourself,” Wilson said, debunking centuries of unattainable, self-programming indoctrination done by the world, its societies and ourselves. X

Gayla Biggers, 23, poses for a portrait in the Creative Arts Building at SF State on Thursday, February 13, 2020. (Saylor Nedelman / Xpress Magazine)



Story by Ryce Stoughtenborough Photos by Maddison October


rett Vanhorn was sitting in his Honda Fit Sport on the corner of Castro and 18th Street. He was shoveling globs of peanut butter into his mouth with the help of the handle of a plastic fork. Vanhorn is an artist, and it is not hard to tell from his car. Lilac, yellow and electric green paint smudges adorn his side mirrors. Dozens of sun-bleached photos covered in spray painted polka dots sit like tiles plastered across his front and back doors. There isn’t a piece of metal or plastic on his car that hasn’t seen a paint brush or spray can — including the green and blue spotted mannequin leg that sits atop his roof.


anhorn, 44, is an enigma whose car and art can be easily recognized throughout the Castro District. What sets Vanhorn apart from most artists is that he has been homeless for the last four months. A paint foreman for 15 years, he has been selling his art on the streets for the last seven years. Vanhorn was diagnosed with bipolar I, border-

Brett Vanhorn is pictured straining his paint before he starts working on a piece in his studio space in San Francisco, Calif. Photographed on February 18, 2020 (Maddison October / Xpress Magazine)



Brett Vanhorn sits on his bed that was once his daughters when she lived with him and packs a bowl of Marijuana. Everyday Vanhorn has to pack up his bedding and put it into a suitcase and hide his bed behind the piece of art that is behind him in order to hide the fact that he is living there. Photographed on February 18, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif. (Maddison October / Xpress Magazine)

line personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anti-social traits, narcissistic traits and psychotic behavior which led him to leave his job.


think. I think like you should put all of this in the interview,” Vanhorn said, referring to him offering me a hit of his weed. “But I mean like you should even put that in the interview. And I think if people are reading this right now they might giggle a little bit. And listen, if they giggle a little bit — you should write this down,

eccentric art pieces, like his car. After repeating the beginning of his statement twice, he paused and sighed in frustration. “So, these are just my

keep writing this down are you recording it? ... If they giggle a little bit, then those are the type of people I want to hang out with.”

“Listen, this is how I live. Terribly, raw.”

- Brett Vanhorn


anhorn is tall, with a slight hunch in his shoulders and is a self-proclaimed “Art Viking or Cosmic Caveman,” according to his Instagram bio. He began explaining how he’s able to create

beliefs and lets just say real quick here that what I believe is only make believe,” Vanhorn said. “I believe that in order to move forth in art movements and really generate and make powerful, gorgeous, beauti15

ful art, not only do you have to be practicing all the time, you have to be practicing actually losing your mind in a sense.”


anhorn said the symptoms of his mental health gradually built over the years, until they became virtually unmanageable. When he met with a psychiatrist July of last year, he was “5150’d” — which refers to California law code for involuntary psychiatric admission. He stayed at San Francisco General Hospital for 26

XPRESS MAGAZINE hours. His eyes began to gloss over as he stared straight ahead, avoiding eye contact. He went on to explain how he did everything he could, yet he still felt powerless. “I think when I say I had to lose my mind I think I totally like, went to a really dark place that I can’t really describe … It’s a place that I’ve never been to before emotionally. Having manic episodes and going into psychosis, and wanting to die because I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Vanhorn said.

Channeling the boldness of the 60s pop art era, every painting of his contains brilliant colors.



ccording to Jacqui Ray, an old friend of Vanhorn’s and fellow San Francisco artist, their relationship deteriorated because of the type of person he was during this time, but not because of his mental health. She went on to describe how after they drifted apart, she witnessed his life spiral. “If I ran into him on the street ... I’d be like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ and he’d be like, ‘Oh nothing, I just lost my studio,’ ... or ‘I lost my job,’ or he’s like ‘I have no income. I’m literally a starving artist now,’” Ray said.


e struggles to survive since the money he makes off of his work goes toward food and art supplies.

Brett Vanhorn hangs off a couch that he painted. Photographed on February 18, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif. (Maddison October / Xpress Magazine)

“Listen, this is how I live. Terribly, raw.” Vanhorn said, while pushing aside trash on his passenger floor. Among the pile of plastic coffee cups and water bottles lay one of his paintings of a DJ in the Castro. It’s the diameter of a round coffee table, with a fluorescent blue, yellow and orange stripe meandering a peach background. He placed it on the sidewalk under a color-changing street lamp causing the painting to shift shades.

He hasn’t been able to pay child support or rent for his art studio where he’s been living for 15 months. His voice perked up when he spoke about the progress he’s made working with doctors and trying Seroquel — an antipsychotic used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — even though it didn’t work for him. He’s since applied for full disability benefits and said he’s working with a lawyer to resolve his homelessness. 16

he inspiration behind his art comes from his ability to constantly use his imagination, no matter how old he gets. He said that as he’s aged he realized this because he was allowed to play a lot throughout his life and use his imagination. It helped him channel his emotions into his art. Vanhorn has since passed his knowledge on to other homeless artists like 25-year-old Raven “Skeeter” Surrell. “I’ve been selling art on the streets for about seven or eight years,” Surrell said, rearranging his plywood masterpieces underneath the Castro Street lights. “I use chains and burn them on wood using a hand torch.”


aptivated by Surrell’s work, Vanhorn sometimes uses old techniques from his time as a paint foreman — like covering each piece in two-part epoxy resin, a coating that gives a glossy finish — on the street artist’s creations. “It’s scary because people start to want more flashy, blue shit pumping into their fucking brain through their phone instead of like, all natural, all tasty ingredients into your eyeballs, do

you know what I mean?” Vanhorn said, about society’s consumption of art through phone screens instead of seeing it in person. “Our eyeballs crave real art,” he said, with a tone of desperation. “[It’s] almost like, you want to smell it because it looks so beautiful, you know? Like you want to smell the fucking red in it or the orange in it, you know? That’s how I feel. I want to lick the fucking red. I want to know what red tastes like.”



anhorn’s artistic vision for the future involves creating more interactive art like

his car. He loves the engagement his colorfully, chaotic car has with the public and plans to paint

“I believe that in order to move forth in art movements and really generate and make powerful, gorgeous, beautiful art, not only do you have to be practicing all the time, you have to be practicing actually losing your mind in a sense.”

more cars going forward. “The car is just a want to like, throw it all together and not care about it, and just have fun,” Vanhorn said, before getting distracted by a man in a purple, glitter jumpsuit and long, black wig. “Cher, where are you performing tonight? Cher, come back here! Write this down. Put this in the interview. This all needs to go in the interview. It’s very bohemia.”

- Brett Vanhorn

Pictured is Brett Vanhorn reaching across the canvas to pick up a side to allow the paint to drip in the direction he wants. Photographed on February 18, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif. (Maddison October / Xpress Magazine)



Hey Toxicity! Let’s Break Up


How to determine the signs of a toxic relationship

Story & Illustration by Sam Joson


was 16 the first time someone I was dating didn’t take no for an answer. But I stayed because — at the risk of sounding like I’m defending them — I generally didn’t feel unsafe. Underappreciated and neglected? Yes, but not really unsafe. Somehow, I’d convinced myself that the absence of physical violence in that relationship was enough to masquerade itself as functional. If I understood then that I was being targeted by someone with toxic behaviors, I like to think I’d have left sooner. Nothing like it ever happened again, but all things considered, I’m lucky it didn’t. According to Love Is Respect, an organization dedicated to ending dating violence among young people, women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. But a relationship can be toxic and abusive long before — or even without — physical violence. Familial relationships and friendships can be toxic too. Here’s the bottom line: No one deserves to be

a toxic relationship:

in a relationship where they feel unloved or unsafe. But sometimes, it’s hard to tell when those lines are crossed. Here are some signs of

There’s an uneven balance of power Almost always, the abuser 18

exploits the uneven balance of power. “I would say there’s a lot of overlap between a toxic relationship and abusive relationships,” said Ivy

FEBRUARY 2020 Chen, a sexuality health educator who’s been teaching Sex and Relationships at SF State for 17 years. “A lot of it can be much more subtle, like emotional [and] psychological abuse. And that can actually be just as harmful.” Examples of emotional abuse include belittling the target, swearing at the target or expecting the target to bear the brunt of the toxic person’s emotional baggage. A common psychological abuse tactic is gaslighting, where the toxic person manipulates the target into questioning their own sanity when they bring up legitimate concerns. “[Toxic people] also often will say things like, ‘No one else would love you,’ ‘No one else will care for you’ or ‘I’m the only one that would put up with you,’’’ said Deena Solwren, a Berkeley-based licensed clinical social worker with a private psychotherapy practice. “And unfortunately, [targets] tend to believe this. They feel trapped.” But ultimately, Solwren says, people should know they are not responsible for anyone else’s feelings or behavior.

Always self-censoring

“They’re scared of losing their partner. And so the way they think they should solve it is by controlling the partner.” Toxic people might attempt to control the way their partner looks as well. Slut-shaming based on clothing choice and body-shaming are also signs of a controlling partner.

Partners don’t feel like they have to tiptoe around each other in a healthy relationship. If you find yourself constantly watching what you say, what you do or how you act for fear of upsetting your partner, that relationship may be toxic. “Arguing doesn’t necessarily mean that’s toxic. It’s OK to disagree,” Solwren said. “It’s about disagreeing with respect.”

A general feeling of unsafety A healthy relationship should make partners feel cared for and nurtured. Fearing for safety should be a red flag. “[Have] a safety plan in case things escalate or if someone is concerned for their safety. This could include saving money, contacting proper authorities and having a safe place to get to,” said Karen Boyce, director of SF State’s Health Promotion and Wellness. “Either a shelter, a friend’s house or someone else they trust.” Boyce said the best way to deal with a toxic relationship is to set boundaries — and set them early. If they’re consistently broken or ignored, it might be a sign to exit the relationship before it gets more serious. Communicate

“Arguing doesn’t necessarily mean that’s toxic. It’s ok to disagree, but it’s about disagreeing with respect.”

- Deena Solwren

Intense jealousy and controlling behavior If a partner demands access to social media accounts, tries to control who their partner sees or makes constant accusations of cheating, that should be a red flag. “Actually, what jealous feelings are often rooted in is the person’s own insecurity,” Chen said.


boundaries clearly and consistently. If the person continues or escalates the behavior, seek help. Admittedly, it’s easier when the relationship is between significant others, friends or even siblings. These power dynamics tend to be more equal, making tough subjects more approachable. When the toxicity is in a parent-child type of relationship, it can be more difficult for targets to advocate for themselves. Chen said to use “I language” when setting boundaries. Use phrases like, ‘I don’t like it when you say this’ or ‘It hurts me when you do this.’ “When you’re explaining how you feel, it’s powerful. You can’t be wrong because you’re talking about your own feelings,” Chen said. “That’s easier for someone to hear because it relegates the negativity to their action and not who they are as a person.” Targets should also consider ending the relationship and cutting all contact completely. Toxic people will likely try to re-enter the target’s life and make it hard to end things for good. Familiarity with unhealthy power dynamics can make it hard for people to break out of a

XPRESS MAGAZINE string of toxic relationships. People gravitate to what feels familiar whether they realize it or not, but just because something feels familiar doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Chen said a pattern of unhealthy relationships can be indicative of deeper traumas. “Particularly if you grew up with that as a child, you don’t have any control over the way that a grown up is acting or treating you,” Chen said. “And so now that you’re a young adult, they might be replaying similar dynamics in their romantic relationship, now feel-

ing like they might be able to fix it.” Boyce said it’s common for targets to become dependent on the toxic person, making it tough to leave, especially if the target relies on them for financial support. They may also still love the toxic friend, family member or significant other despite the toxicity. “Keep in mind that this toxic behavior probably has broken down their self-esteem enough where they often start to have this learned helplessness,” Chen said. “The longer you stay in it, it starts to affect the way

you think about yourself.” The earlier people learn about healthy and toxic relationships, the better. “I talk about this starting in eighth grade. When I teach sex-ed, I talk to people who are in middle school and high school about what a healthy relationship looks like, even if it’s years before they actually start their first serious relationship,” Chen said. “Most people do by high school or college, but they form ideas about what a relationship is much earlier.” With all this information about what makes a relationship toxic, it’s

Res ources

worth mentioning what makes a relationship healthy. There’s mutual acceptance, trust and respect. There’s also a healthy balance of power and open communication. But above all, love and kindness. Every relationship has ups and downs, and that can make it hard to know when it’s time to leave, especially in toxic relationships. Targets should continually ask themselves if they can answer one question without hesitation: Truly, does the good in this relationship outweigh the bad? X

There are also resources on campus for those looking for help with their relationship.

If you feel trapped in a toxic relationship, you aren’ t alone. Here are some resources to help you take the first step in reaching out.

Health Promotion & Wellnes s HPW provides knowledge and skills to identify signs of unhealthy relationships and prevent escalation to violence through workshops, programs, events, and other outreach that connect people to on and off campus resources.

National Dating Abus e Helpline Phone: 866-331-9474 Text: 866-331-8453 The National Dating Abuse Helpline is a resource for young people to receive one-onone service from peer trained advocates. Advocates are available to talk 24/7.

The SAFE Place Located in SSB 205, The SAFE Place provides confidential advocacy services for survivors of dating or domestic violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Phone: 800-799-SAFE Text: 800-787-3224 https://www.thehotline.org/

Equity Programs & Compliance Equity Programs & Compliance is located in SSB 403. They support students who have experienced sexual and domestic violence and stalking.

Callers can speak for free to representatives who can help with safety planning, crisis intervention and referrals to other agencies 24/7. Assistance is available in over 200 languages. 20

Tracking the life of a student athlete at SF State Journal by Diani Ellis


FEBRUARY 2020 Disclaimer: to keep authenticity intact, this journal is intended to be as is









Story & Illustrations by Andrea Williams


t is election season — again. Back to the constant chatter of campaigns, candidates and fundraising. Back to exciting campaign rallies and hope for the future. But also back to being force-fed political ads and our news feeds being incessantly flooded with media coverage of candidates attacking each other and President Donald Trump attacking people on Twitter. For some, election season is an important and exciting time that they gladly stay updated on. But that isn’t true for everyone. There are also people who feel discouraged and disconnected from the 2020 election and politics in general. Amber Hilton is a young San Francisco transplant from Washington, who like many other young people today, no longer identifies with her government. “I feel alienated, almost as if it doesn’t matter,” Hilton said. In the previous election she was very active and felt lost after. She explains how she was too wrapped up in the constant negative news that

cause I don’t see myself represented,” Hilton said. Sara Allen volunteered heavily with the Bernie Sanders campaign

she had to take a step back. “It’s hard to feel passionate about it when I feel like there’s no point be-

“Politics is all about power. It is important to remember that politics extends far beyond just who is president.” - Sara Allen


in the 2016 presidential election. After being so involved with the campaigning process, similar to Hilton, Allen now finds herself “disenchanted” with the scene and at odds with herself, feeling like she should be paying more attention. She finds herself unable to watch the primary debates because of their showy and combative energy, but pays close attention to the results and outcomes. Instead of focusing on the current presidential campaigns, she tries to stay involved in local politics. Allen is in many ways burnt-out and frustrated with the current political climate but she believes that being active in local politics is just as important as the presidential election, if not even more so. “Politics is all about power,” Allen said. “It is important to remember that politics extends far beyond just who is president.” Hilton and Allen are not alone in tuning out the current presidential campaigns. Some people say they don’t actively follow the news but hear about it enough from second-hand sources, others say they

XPRESS MAGAZINE don’t follow politics or the elections because of the constant negativity and maddening corruption scandals. Some people are convinced a two-party system doesn’t work and others are just trying to figure out what the hell the Iowa caucus is. And then we all know at least one person in our lives who stays updated on political news like it’s their job, or watches the same MSNBC or FOX News shows every night. San Francisco State Uni-

versity political science professor Al Schendan says that the 24-hour, often negative, news cycle and confusion and frustration over our election system might be the reason why so many people are tuning out the elections. Schendan explains that negativity around the elections is an outcome of negative news coverage, which isn’t a new thing. Schendan said the Pentagon Papers, Watergate scandal, explosion of cable TV and the elimination of the Fair-

ness Doctrine — which required broadcast networks to show issues of public importance in a fair and balanced light — all played a hand in the political media beast we know today. News coverage aside, confusion and frustration over things like the

electoral college is very real, especially after the last election. Some people feel as though their votes don’t actually count. Today, the Republican and Democratic Parties choose their electors and each state has different rules regarding how they are chosen. Each state gets a set amount of electoral votes determined by the number of elected officials the state has in the House and Senate. California has the highest number of all the states with 55 electoral votes. Some states require the electors to vote in line with the state’s popular vote but others don’t as there is 26

no constitutional law. The popular vote held in each state for the election is done merely to “help” choose the president. Whoever wins the electoral college, wins the presidency. Schendan explained that U.S. didn’t have a popular vote in every state until after the Civil War, before then the electoral college were the only voters. “The electoral college is a mechanism the founders used to insulate the election from the people,” Schendan said. During this time the men chosen to be in the electoral college were wealthy, educated and well-connected landowners. Although there were some valid reasons for an electoral college at the time because of low literacy rates, Schendan explained that the electoral college isn’t really democratic but elitist. A president has lost the popular vote but won the election only five times. Three of those times occurred in the 1800s, but the two most recent times were George W. Bush in 2000 and President Trump in 2016. X

The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City - Beach Slang FEBRUARY 2020

An Album Review by Amy Bigelow


ith the recent release of their latest musical endeavor, Beach Slang will perform in San Francisco on March 31 at Bottom of the Hill during their upcoming tour, which kicks off next month. Their newest record delivers an energetic, unabashed attitude through a diverse range of instrumentation. Its malleable sound is tough, loud and sometimes serious. Amid the subtle infiltration of brass horns and traditional orchestra strings, Beach Slang asserts with audacious certainty that rock ‘n’ roll is still their favorite sin on the band’s fourth studio album “The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City.” Explosive guitar riffs and palpitating drums nearly overpower James Alex’s throaty voice throughout the tracklist, but the occasional somber tune interjects itself to unexpectedly break up the action, keeping the LP grounded. Compared to the band’s earlier work, “Deadbeat” warrants a progression away from being consistently labeled under one definite genre. While Beach Slang has always been a rock-centric group with punk undertones, their early work appears to be more melodic and predictable than their recent punchy approach. Rather, the new album is an accumulation of different elements drawn from prior Beach Slang material and other influential musicians. As the follow-up to “Quiet Slang” (2018), which features orchestral renditions of the band’s first two albums, “Deadbeat” incorporates a similar musical style found in both the intro and outro songs. Surprisingly, the band melds together the softness of the strings and crunchy guitars on the first track “All the Kids in LA” seamlessly. Still, their rock roots remain intact at the album’s core — but that isn’t the only commonality still found throughout the band’s discography. Beach Slang continues to capture feelings of youth through Alex’s lyrics, driven by punk-infused instrumentation. This holds true for “Let It Ride,” the second track on “Deadbeat.” “I’m headed out tonight for a real cheap thrill … my face ain’t much, but it pays the bills.”

Album art from Beach Slang’s bandcamp website via Google Images

For many devoted Beach Slang fans, it’s probably not a shock to discover the group channeling The Replacements, whose shambolic punk rock style continues to inspire Beach Slang’s musical approach, at certain points throughout the album. Especially with “Tommy in the 80s,” an ode to the late power pop songwriter and musician, Tommy Keene. The track features The Replacements Tommy Stinson on bass. Alongside Stinson’s contributions, a more overt Replacements influence reappears toward the end of the record with “Kicking Over Bottles.” Emulating the same bass riff and horn section found on The Replacements 1987 hit, “Can’t Hardly Wait” from the album “Pleased to Meet Me.” Beach Slang creates an identical instrumental buildup and break heard on this track. While Beach Slang may mimic their rock heroes, the band proves to to find their own identity on “Deadbeat.” Tickets for Beach Slang are available at Bottom of the Hill’s website or at the door. X Scan here to listen to a great Beach Slang playlist curated by Amy Bigelow 27

XPRESS MAGAZINE Brett Vanhorn crouches down to pour an excess amount of paint onto the canvas in order to get the effect he is looking for. Photographed on February 18, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif. (Maddison October / Xpress Magazine)


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