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Where do you Co? Shane

What is Co-Dubuque to me? It is a community, even a sense of comradery. Co-Dubuque is a group of diverse friends that are easily made by the events that we make available to the community. Whether rich, poor, skinny, tall, black or white; you are always welcome to sit with us and have a great time as we work to bring the community and those surrounding it together. Co is all about everyone living peacefully and being equal. Co is a friendly, safe environment; and that’s what we work to achieve with our events as well. We vary in age, helping to gain the mindset of others, no matter their age; allowing us to do things in their best interest. To me, Co-Dubuque is family. We work to help each other, those around us; and to make sharing this Earth more comfortable, we strive to make Dubuque a better place to live and create a brighter future.


I am Lawrence Jaime, creator of law-photo and member of Co Dubuque. I became interested in Co Dubuque because I learned in my recent move to the Midwest that the LGBTQ+ community in this area has become somewhat scattered. I wanted to help. I now serve as Co Dubuque’s photographer and graphic designer, and I utilize my talents to capture and promote events. Co has given me an opportunity to showcase my skills [ and] for the community. Especially as a new member, it means a lot to be a part of something that helps my community. I am grateful that my art can shine through Co.

I feel that Co has already made progress in bringing the community together. Its pride events were my first realization that Dubuque and the tri-state area really are home to many LGBTQ+ people. It was great to see them come together, and it was great to really feel like a community again -- like the one I used to know and love in Los Angeles. I look forward to many more Co events, community activities, and educational workshops.


When was the last time you felt passion? When was the last time you felt conviction? Of myself, I can’t remember - but recent circumstance has caused me to stop and feel a passion building. When I first spoke to President and Founder of Co Dubuque, Luis Morteo, I found myself at a crossroads. He spoke of his dreams, dreams of a fruitful garden, and they aligned with mine. I found conviction and passion alongside Co. To be clear, Co’s pillar and priority is education. Everyone at Co is creating a lifestyle where our main prerogative is to better the community at large. Educating the people on the things we can change is very important. We do this in hopes to break harmful social norms and open minds. We aim to prove that all people are capable of amazing things especially when our garden, Dubuque, is bearing so much fruit. At Co Dubuque, I have a new home. And I know Co’s going to get back as much as it’s given me. So, to you I offer indulgence in the sweet fruit our vast and self-perpetuating victory garden: join the Co community!

January 2017 | Co-ZINE




Shattering Taboos

“Real Boy” Movie

Photos by S. Godwin

Oppressed Juice

Learning to say “Forget it!” to Passing

What’s Going on at Standing Rock, ND?

10 14 20 18 26

42 The Intergalactic Gag 40 On Coming Out 33 Book Review 34 Zodiac 38 Book Review 36




Co Dubuque 1900 John F Kennedy Rd, Dubuque, IA 52002

Call for Writers and Artists

We consider submissions from members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies.


 • Personal Experiences  • Opinion Pieces  • Photography/Art  • Journalism  • …and more!

Submit to


Applicants will be notified January 25th, 2017.


Luis Morteo

Vice President Cindy Lewis


LAW-Photo & Others


Luis Morteo Cindy Lewis

Graphic Design Alina Crow Luis Morteo

Editor in Chief Andrea Becker


Travis Nelson


Andrea Becker

Co Volunteers

Andie Donnan Antonio Pirillo Darren Oakes Shane Norton Lenny Benhke Aaliyah Fondell Indigo Channing

Contact Co

January 2017 | Co-ZINE




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January City Council Meeting Jan 3, 5:15-7:30, Historic Federal Building Retro Rewind Dubuque Jan 7, 9am-8pm, Five Flags Center LGBTQ+ All Ages Game Night Jan 12, 6pm-8pm, The Smokestack Real Boy Showing Jan 17, 7pm-9pm, Mindframe Theater Community Action Poverty Simulation Jan 20, 8am-12pm, Loras College January Thaw Drag Show! Jan 21, 10pm-12am, The Smokestack Creating Culture (National Migration Week) Jan 23, 4:30pm-6pm, St. Raphael’s Cathedral Dance, Show & B-Day Jan 28, 8pm-12pm, The Smokestack January English Afternoon Tea Edition Jan 29, 2pm-5pm, Inspire Cafe

Resources Unite strengthens communities by creating connections. We connect people to volunteer opportunities and resources that lead to a happier and more engaged way of life.


11,748 300+

individuals were connected to volunteer opportunities through RU.

local nonprofit organizations were strengthened through our marketing, strategic planning and connection to volunteers.

RESOURCE CENTER 1900 JFK Rd, Dubuque / (563) 231-6280

Letter from the Editor Dear Co communtiy, Welcome to the new year, and welcome to the new year of Co-ZINE! This year, Co-ZINE becomes its own entity, no longer presented by Co, but our mission is still to showcase work by and for the LGBTQ+ community of our own region and beyond. 2017 is shaping up to be a mysterious year already as we enter a new politcal atmosphere and much of the world remains in turmoil. Going forward, it is tantamount that we remember the importance of community, compassion, and companionship. Without these, it can be almost too easy to lose ourselves to fear and despair... but by making efforts to understand the world around us, and to understand each other more, we can build the compassion and the strong relationships that will carry us through dark times into the light. By always seeking to learn, we can engage in meaningful discussions with the people around us and start to break the systems of oppression that harm us, our brothers and sisters, from the inside out. Co-ZINE is here for you as a resource to join your community, explore far off communities, and as a bridge to other resources, should you ever need help. If you have any questions, would like to help with or submit to Co-ZINE, I can always be reached at I look forward to sharing the new year with you!

Andrea Becker, editor in chief

January 2017 | Co-ZINE



IA & Tri-States Cedar Rapids PFLAG Monthly Meeting Thu, January 7th, 7pm – 9pm Grant Wood Area Education, 4401 6th St SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404 Belle’s Basix Drag Show Fridays & Saturdays, 9pm, $5 3916 1st Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402 (319) 363-3194 Next Fall at Theatre Cedar Rapids ($21 - $30) 102 3rd Street SE, Cedar Rapids, 52401 Geoffrey Naufft’s central story focuses on the five-year relationship between Adam and Luke, and goes beyond a typical love story.

Quad Cities Connections Game Night Every Wednesday 822 W 2nd St. Davenport, IA Connections Drag Show Every Friday 11:00pm Connections Night Club 822 W 2nd St. Davenport, IA Sunday Funday with Bobby!!!! Euchre Tournament @ Mary’s on 2nd Every Sunday 5pm Sharp, $5 832 W 2nd St, Davenport, IA 52802 (563) 884-8014

We have not reached our goal. For the Ron Friichtenicht Angel Tree. These gifts go to children living with HIV/ AIDS or have a family member with HIV/AIDS. All Proceeds Benefit Ron Friichtenicht Angel Tree.

Iowa City A View From The Bridge $28 - $30 January 20th-29th, 7:30 pm – 9pm Riverside Theatre, 213 N Gilbert St, Iowa City The great Arthur Miller confronts the American dream in this dark and passionate tale. A story about family, immigration and who gets to belong.

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Sasha Belle Drag & Dance Party Every Friday, 8pm, Studio 13, South Linn Street, Iowa City, IA

Madison Aces Wild January 21, 3-5pm (608)-255-8582 2701 International Lane, Suite 101 Madison, WI 53704

Do you identify as asexual, gray-ace, demi, or aromantic? Come to Aces Wild! We will play card games, word games, board games, etc! This is a social gathering so feel free to bring your friends! Third Saturday of the month from 3:00-5:00pm

Patti LaBelle at Overture (free) January 12 7:30pm-9:30 pm

Patti LaBelle, known for belting out classic rhythm and blues renditions, pop standards and spiritual sonnets, will perform in Overture Hall.

PFLAG Madison Meeting January 15, 2-4pm, 1704 Roberts Court

PFLAG promotes the health and well being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning persons, their families and

Rollers (Retired Older Lesbians) Lunch January 17th, 12pm-2pm (recurring) Elie’s Family Restaurant, 4102 Monona Dr. Queer Tango Lessons ($15) January 16, 23, and 30th, 7-9pm Happy Bambino, 4116 Monona Dr.

The queer tango movement began in 2001 in Germany and Argentina, and is now an international movement offering lessons, social dancing, and festivals worldwide.

Derek Ramnarace, Sam Ness, and SHESHE Thursday Jan 5, 7-9pm 3001 Latham Dr, Madison, WI 53713

You’re invited to join us in SOSONIC’s beautiful rehearsal suite for a night of stellar music! We aim to bring you a one-of-a-kind, up-close, intimate Experience in a cozy setting. Seating and tickets to this private party are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot!

Shattering Taboos at Noty Kity Q: Tell us about yourself. Who are you? How did you arrive at this place in your life? A: My name is Monique Demerise, but everybody knows me as Mona. I’m 34 years old, and I came from the East Coast to the Midwest as a professional body piercer. I retired from that in June and decided to see what my other options were. There was a new business opening up in Galena – Noty Kity, which is an adult boutique. I’ve always been comfortable and open with my own sexuality. I’m able to talk to anyone about anything openly, without embarrassment or shame. I picked up that job and found it was a hidden talent of mine, working with people who are both open and shy about their private lives. When it comes to sex, not everybody is open with other people, let alone open with themselves, about what they like. That can be hard because sex is something that brings us joy. Q: We know you have many skills and passions. Please share them with us. A: I’m passionate about many things! Cooking, nature, cats, art, music – all of it. Little bits in each category. My best skills are customer service, working with people, working with the community. No matter what kind of job I’m doing, in some way I’m serving the community. Q: How do you think your work touches the lives of your customers and other people? A: I’ve met so many couples [and] singles who have problems with intimacy. What I love about what I do is, because I am a people person, I can get them to let their guard down and open up to me and, you know, tell me what it is they’re trying to achieve. Sometimes I run into couples that have been married for twenty something years who stumble into our store not looking for those types of products or to change anything about their intimacy… but once you start talking to them, you can see that something missing, or that there could be more. You can sense tension in their relationship, and sometimes it’s sexually related because they don’t know how to open up to each other. I’m the middleman there. Tell me what it is that you want, and then maybe I can help explain that to your partner, and then we can all come to an agreement. Q: Once people actually get into bed with each other, I think there’s a sort of embarrassment to say what our own desires are. We get shy about saying what we want. Even then, we’re not always centered on our partner’s desires, either. We are thinking, “What do I want?” but we’re not saying it. A: Exactly! Q: Why do you think that is? A: It can be with a new couple, or with couples that have been together for thirty years. Some people have the inability to be honest with themselves, and you can’t be honest with others until you are honest with yourself. Maybe it’s out of embarrassment or self-shame, which is ridiculous because there is nothing to be ashamed about. If you like something, you like something. Own it! Also, I find it really cool and fulfilling that no matter what the situation is – whether it’s a single or a couple, or a person who is straight or a person who is gay – I get to play a small role in their personal, private intimacy. I love that. Like, somebody buys something and then they use it either by themselves or with their partner, and somewhere in the back of their mind there is a, “Thank you! Thank you, saleslady! You just made my life so much better.” Knowing that you get to play that role in other peoples’ intimacy is really cool. Q: So you get to be the cause of someone else’s pleasure. A: Exactly! It’s not about the sales. I mean, I can sell expensive, high-end products all day long – it isn’t about that. It’s about fitting a person for the product that they may not know they want or need. After talking to them, they start to open up because they are comfortable with you. They’re comfortable with you because you’re comfortable with yourself. You start to learn, and next thing you know, everybody’s happy. Q: What kinds of reactions do you see when people enter the store?

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A: Oh boy! A couple comes in and the female is super excited, like, “Oh my God! This is so great! This is awesome!” and the husband doesn’t want to walk past the door. He thinks, “This is for the women,” or, “This is not my thing.” He’s just kind of shy about it. Then you get people who come in and once they realize what kind of store we are, they walk right out. Or we get people who come in, have never been in a business like that and are really curious, want to be educated, want to know what are these products, what do they do. All kinds of different reactions from all kinds of people. You never know; it’s always something different.

A: Absolutely. For instance, we have a fetish section. When people think of fetish or BDSM, I think that they think it’s taboo. They automatically go to “It’s wrong,” or “It’s supposed to be painful,” or, you know, “You either need to be submissive or dominant.” The fetish wall is my favorite part of the whole store because when you use something as simple as a blindfold or some fluffy handcuffs, what you are doing is losing a sense. Then, you open up new senses. If you blindfold yourself, now, all of a sudden, you are using your touch, smell, taste senses more than you would if you could see. If you use some wrist restraints, now you eliminate the touch sense, being touched without being able to touch. Q: Is there a big diversity of customers that enter the store? That allows you to focus on other senses, too. There is a lot of taboo surrounding our products, but I think the most important part is educating A: Absolutely. You have your regular locals, who are familiar with these people, showing them there’s no taboo; it’s just different for everybody. products. If you’re type of person who buys this type of products regu- If you try something, you might like it. That’s how I feel about that. larly, you’re looking for the next new thing, so it’s really important that we keep up with technology and what’s new. Then, tourists. There are Q: In regards to fetishes and BDSM… maybe people shouldn’t be so two kinds of tourists. Some come in and they already know what we afraid of pain. If you consider the fullest extent of pain, versus the full sell, what we do, and are ecstatic because we’re there. They’re not from extent pleasure, we express them both the same way. town, and now they get to maybe pick out something new and play with it while they’re away from home. Or else you get tourists that come in A: Absolutely. I think that even with pain can come pleasure. Orgasand have never been to a shop like ours before. That will go one of two ming, urinating, pooping, vomiting – you throw up, it’s miserable, you ways: “Oh! Whoops! Nope. Sorry. This isn’t what I thought it was,” or feel better afterwards. It’s all the same, you just have to look at it that there are people, again, who are curious – those are my favorite kind way. Pain doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it can be very pleasurable, of people because you can tell that they have open minds and that they and until you try, how are you going to know? It’s about expanding your want to learn. mind, being open to ideas and possibilities. If you don’t, then you are really not doing yourself any justice. You are shutting yourself off from Q: Do you think you break or reinforce any taboos in your day-to-day work? How?

January 2017 | Co-ZINE


things you could possibly really enjoy. So, it’s about having an open mind, I think. Q: Do you think there are many taboos surrounding the idea of shops like Noty Kity in general? A: Oh sure! Q: Do you help break those taboos? A: Yes. It all revolves around your ability to have an open mind and see things through other people’s eyes, to see things… to see things! Don’t be so blind to all of the possibilities. You help break them through education. Once you educate somebody, they start to look at things differently. If they have never been educated on it before because they never asked, how are they going to know? Yes, that happens all the time. Q: How is Noty Kity and other stores like it relevant to the LGBTQ+ community as well as the straight community? A: Yes, Noty Kity is a sex shop; we like to call it an adult boutique. There is a stigma around sex shops because they are all different. Some of them offer videos, magazines and booths, are kind of dark and dingy, and the employees don’t interact with you. Noty Kity is special because we are fun. We like to call ourselves a boutique because we do more than just toys. We don’t even do videos, booths, magazines or anything like that. Again, education, education. We have pamphlets all around our shop, free for the taking, on lubrication, on vibrators, on anal, on BDSM. We offer literature for you to take. You don’t even have to buy anything! We want you to be educated about what all of these things are. We are unique because we really do try to create a fun, interactive, educational environment. That’s what people love about it, even if they aren’t familiar with these types of shops. If you come in here with an open mind, you are going to have a good time, and you are going to learn something, and that’s what I love about Noty Kity. In addition, we are a boutique for everyone. We are for male, female, single, married, straight, gay. We have products for everybody. We don’t try to cater to one or the other. I don’t know if it’s because of the location, but one thing I think we are lacking is gay men. I don’t know

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if that’s just because gay men don’t shop in retail stores, or they do all of their shopping online because, you know, some people prefer to shop online… we also have an online store. When you can tell that somebody is interested, but not ready to buy; we always give them our business card and say, “Hey. Take what you’ve learned here, go into the comfort of your home, take your clothes off, and do some shopping. Or keep your clothes on – do some shopping, you know, continue to browse.” Whether you’re straight or LGBTQ+, I think that we accommodate for everybody and make everybody feel comfortable. We have products for everybody. And it would be nice to actually see more local LGBT people come in. I think they would say, “This is great! This is in my community and I don’t have to resort online shopping.” The problem with online shopping is that you never know what you are actually going to get. When you come into our store, we’re gonna educate you about each product. We have products out of their boxes, all charged up, with batteries in them. You can pick stuff up, turn it on, and see what it does. That’s the first thing I tell people when they go to our middle room – we have three rooms. The first room is PG-13, and then we have two more rooms – I always say, “Don’t be afraid. Pick something up, turn it on, and see what it does.” When I say we are interactive, that’s what I mean. We are giving you an opportunity to pick these products up and see what they do before resorting to online shopping. Q: How do people react to having that opportunity? Do they have fun with it? A: Yes, it is so fun! We do like little vibrator races. We’ll be like, “Okay, everybody pick up a vibrator,” and we’ll do these races where they put them on the floor and whoever wins gets a free gift, which is really fun. We’ll take a bride to be and tie her to a pole and give everybody dongs to take pictures; these are memories that they’ll have for the rest of their lives. That’s what we try to do: make it fun, and the experience you will never forget. Q: What unique and specific approaches you take to better understand and meet the needs of LGBT customers? A: Personally, I feel like everybody is the same and that everybody is equal, and we want everybody feel comfortable no matter what your

age is (unless you are under 18), what your sexual orientation is, what your race is. When somebody walks in the door, it’s just another human to me and everybody gets the same treatment. Q: Right. Every human has their own personal desires. A: And none of them are wrong, as far as I am concerned. Again, it’s – what pleases you, and it doesn’t really matter if it pleases somebody else. Q: Do you ever notice someone who is shy and embarrassed to shop in Noty Kity? What do you do to help them feel comfortable? A: Oh yeah. All the time. People come in and we’ll be like, “Hi! Welcome to Noty Kity!” We are welcoming because we want you to feel welcomed and for you to feel like it’s a warm, happy place. “Is there anything specific that you might be looking for?” If they say no with their head down, trying not to make eye contact, then we just kind of let them browse and explore, give them some time to take it in. You don’t want to be overbearing because that’s just not nice. When I know somebody is shy and maybe even a little embarrassed, I just approach them. Instead of being overly excited, I am calm and I use a nice, calm, relaxing voice, and whatever they might be looking at, I will start to explain what they’re looking at. One of two things will happen: they’ll just be like, “Nope!” and they don’t want to have a conversation with you, or they will start to open and warm up to you. I think it’s important that, as an employee, you are able to read people and give them the space that they need, and when they start to relax a little bit, you know, you start to engage with them. I try to keep it less intense, because not everybody wants that or likes that. Q: Why should I shop at Noty Kity? What can you show me that might improve the quality of my life?

A: You should shop at Noty Kity especially if you are local because we offer a ten percent discount to anybody that lives within a 30-mile radius of Galena, so that’s a benefit all by itself. You save money and get to be educated by somebody in person versus, like I said, online shopping. Also, you don’t have to travel to Madison or Davenport anymore. We’re right here in your hometown. So why not? Shopping local is important – we all know that. By offering a discount to locals, we’re encouraging you to shop local. And, if you come in, you are going to see products that you might not even know exist, that might be beneficial to your sexual health, and that might provide you with pleasures that you might not have known existed. Q: How do your experiences at work carry over into and affect your personal life? A: I’ve always tried to maintain some type of a barrier between my personal professional lives. If anything, working for Noty Kity has expanded my mind into the realms of different pleasures and things I like that I didn’t realize I liked, and that goes with having partners. I don’t have a partner now, but if I did, maybe I would even be more open-minded to understanding what their needs and what their pleasures are. Q: So, you feel like you are better equipped to communicate with your partners? A: That’s right. Definitely. If I had a partner, I feel like it would be much easier to communicate with them and make them feel comfortable communicating with me. Q: Awesome! Is there anything else you want to add? A: Peace, love, and happiness.

January 2017 | Co-ZINE




Real Boy (2016)

Directed by Shaleece Haas “Real Boy” is a candid documentary about a family in metamorphosis. Bennett Wallace is nineteen years old when the film begins, having recently started HRT. In dialogue with his mother, Bennett lets his true identity unfurl, building meaningful relationships and making forever friends along the way. Bennett navigates hardships and suffering through music, finds independence, and overcomes addiction. “Real Boy” is not always a lighthearted account of physical, intellectual or emotional transition – but it is an honest one. For Dubuquers, “Real Boy” will be especially fun to watch: Bennett and Joe are seen for a moment playing a show with our own River Glen, and a mural by local artist Victor Cayro makes an appearance as Bennett walks down a flight of stairs. “Real Boy” will play at Mindframe Theaters in Dubuque on January 17th at 7:00pm.

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Joe and Bennett in Dubuque, IA

Mindframe Campaigning for Improvements M

indframe Theaters is a locally-owned movie theater and hub for community events. They host special events such as film premieres, concerts, comedy nights, community meetings, parties and more. They have provided space for more serious ventures such as corporate meetings and public forums on topics such as human trafficking, gender diversity, and sustainability. Mindframe Theaters is an advocate for local events, like the upcoming screening of award-winning documentary, “Real Boy�. They provide special free screenings during school breaks, free outdoor screenings in parks, and sponsor special events, such as the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. Currently, Mindframe is conducting a campaign on Indiegogo to raise capital funds to modernize their facility. The initial campaign goal was reached, and now they hope to raise enough for additional improvements such as replacing screens, updating signage, and installing new sound equipment. The campaign goal $150,000. If additional funds come in, they are looking at replacing the seating for $60,000 per theater. Three years ago, Mindframe made the switch from old projectors to digital theater. This came with a hefty price tag and slowed down their ability to make upgrades to the building, which is more than thirty years old. This fundraising campaign can improve the

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building for everyone. During this campaign, Mindframe is offering many discounts and special promotions to their customers and supporters, including official movie posters, free popcorn for life, or free movies for a year or a lifetime. Even donations as small as $15 will help (and get you a commemorative piece of a real film!). If $15 is too much, please consider a $7 sponsorship and vote on what gets fixed first. The Mindframe community appreciates your continued support and hopes to see you at the theater soon! View the campaign here and support Mindframe Theaters:


of the month

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” Lyndon B. Johnson

January 2017 | Co-ZINE



O P P R E S S E D J U I C E OPPRESSED JUICE: My story spoken and transcribed. Remaining rooted in thuh oral tradition and paying homage to my native language, AAVE/Ebonics. My approach to writing this article was specifically styled around the concept of challenging the professionalism of white queer academic discourse and the acceptability of african american vernacular english (AAVE.) I consider the way I wrote this to be intentionally controversial in the sense of knowing that the white gaze and its tendency to view black language development as a denigrated form of English is problematic, and I believe in black people self-determining how we choose to speak and express our own experiences as LGBTQ people and agents in challenging the tradition of queer liberation as centering around white middle class subjectivity.

wuz. At dat time, becuz I wuz presenting as a gurl, I wuz fuckin a lot of straight bitches. Same shit. It wuz thuh only way dat I waz able to present cuz doz wurr da categories dat dere. And it made me feel seen; Like dis person appreciate me for actually activating myself in a rhill way. When I look at my Ohio experience I realies that I lived in a veree colonized, reguluur azz, suburban place. When I go back home, my familee all dey talk about is gittin a house and a car and den like gittin a betta house an car. Dere wuz never any acceptance of our blackness. continued on page 28

I walkda in thuh club at eighteeeen in a crop top an’ some tight eayss shorts and nobodi waz feelin me and I felt a typa uh way about it. I wuz like, “Why izn nobody feelin me?” and I thought it wuz just becuz I wuz like… realay skinny and underrrdeveloped but realay it wuz becuz, I’z jus always been cuz I wuz black. An genderwize I wuz servin a look dat wuz a litta too turnt for Ohio, especially fo da roll in look. Low key I didn git any play until I put on a dress one day. I did uh competition wif my fren becuz dey thought dey would be prettiurr in drag dan me and dey wurrn’t.*little petty laugh* It wuz da first time dat I had received like rhill affurmations dat wurr like, “Oh my gawd, you’re so beautiful.” “Oh my gawd, izz like so like, you should do dis.” So I did. My drag name waz Syimoan Diamond annnn lookin back I realize dat like, I jus like putting on wiiigs and dresses, it had nothin to do wit da performance part of it. It wuz mo centered around wat my gender wuz. And dat life of: wat is acceptable fo a black person in femininity? Wut duz dat look like to be femme presenting? It mos’ definitely doesn’t look acceptable in da masculine body. Like low key, beiiing black means, in orda to be socially accepted, you havta fit da social norms of wat a black person iz in thuh eyes of white supremacy. Dis means hella aggressive, hella toppy, hella musqular, hella you know. A black twink doesn’t exist in any kinda white culture or anywhere. You can see it if you watch white culture’s porn… dere iz no black femmes. I moved into uh house of eight drag queens, da house waz thuh House of Desmond. Our mother waz a trans woman named Nadira. Alluv us wurr dancin’ bitches and yeah we hustled. We would steal rhinestones and I would steal just bolts of fabric from Joann’s, just like literally walk out da do’. But wat I really realized wuz dat shit wuz queer. Like back in thuh day, queer didn exist, non-binary didn exist, gender expression waz either male or female. So dinkin back, like low key I wuz where all da freaks wurr. Like, it just didn exist as a word as it duz now. But it looked uh type uh way. Becuz wut happen’ izzzz like our mother, Nadira, couldn git a job. Laverne Cox wazn poppin, so a trans woman walkin in to even gita a job at Wal-Mart wuz not really uh reality. So you had to do drag to make coin, and you had to do drag fo survival. And dat’s kinna how it

January 2017 | Co-ZINE



ubuque grown, Los Angeles residing; Seth Godwin is an aspiring photographer, cinematographer, and writer. He’s selected some of his best captures from 2016 to send home for the New Year, seen on the previous pages.

January 2017 | Co-ZINE


Suicide Prevention This piece was written anonymously by a brave young woman who battles depression and hopes to instill hope in other people who feel lost or unsure about reaching out for help.


uicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24. It is a worldwide issue and can be prevented with mental health resources. By sharing my story, I hope I can convince suicidal teens to not go through with it. You are important. Your life matters. Trigger Warning: The beginning of this story contains graphic images related to depression and self-harm.

My Story

I grabbed a razor from the tool box. Perfect. This will calm me down. Yes, the term “perfectionism” runs my mind… unachievable perfection. I swear I hear voices in my head: music, talking, inner chatter constantly playing in my mind. I just want everything to shut up. Perhaps this is related to having ADHD. I have a fast paced mind. Cutting allows me to demand silence. I slide the blade down my arm, opening an intricate red line. I feel the scream inside me as I cut. Next, my leg. Before I know it, I’ve cut a little deeper than I wanted to. I press down on the outside of my arm with a wet wash cloth to stop the flow. I cut my forearms because the other side (the one they draw blood from) makes me too queasy. I’m not totally suicidal, but I want the pain of clinical depression to stop. I rinse the blood off in the sink and pour cleansing alcohol over the cuts before bandaging them. Often when my wounds turn into scabs, I cover them up with concealer or makeup. Sadly, this cutting routine has been with me since the beginning of college. My scars aren’t visibe – they are light and even faded. I don’t cut every day.

needed experience on my resume for job applications. What did I have to lose? Over the summer, I sent an email to Ann*, the leader of one such program. Right away, it felt as though I was able to get to work and start helping her. Upon volunteering, I followed the official “Heather’s Wings” Facebook page. Ann often posted quotes like, “Your loved ones are always there for you,” and, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” My first encounter with Ann went very well. She seemed glad for me to begin volunteering. She is a tall, Jewish woman with fine wrinkles, bright eyes and bronze skin. Curly brown locks bounce atop her head. She has two daughters and a husband. She is from my neighborhood. When I first met Ann, I didn’t know what to expect. I felt that she was afraid of me, and I was afraid of her. As time passed, we came to understand each other. We both were hurting, but in completely different ways. Frankly, she was hurting a lot more. Somehow, we suffered in cadence with one another and grew up from our experiences. Ann’s non-profit is called Heather’s Wings for her daughter, Heather, who committed suicide. Ann is the president and manager of the organization. Heather’s body was discovered, tragically, by her mother and sisters. All I knew about Heather was what she looked like. She was beautiful. As I grew closer to Ann, I learned that Heather had been raped, and bullied in school, but was an avid reader and a poet. She seemed like someone I’d love to befriend: kindhearted and artistic. Before I joined the non-profit, I had now idea how much of Ann’s life was grieving over her deceased daughter. Ann’s suffering caused me distress, too, because I care for her so much. Ann continues to save lives with her SOS program. She travels to schools to educate teens about signs of suicide. Heather would be 29 today if she were alive; she died eleven years ago. To this day, I still

I’ve battled, intermittently, with wanting to kill myself since I was twelve years old. It comes in waves. One of my triggers are peers. Big ones for me are rejection and perfectionism. Sometimes I wonder why I have depression at all. I come from a wealthy background. I am an attractive female with many friends, and I’ve always had friends. I’ve never been horrendously bullied. I’ve just never felt good enough. Part of me is curious about the other side. Perhaps it is simpler to be dead than to face the world. Also, I deeply fear the uncertainty of my future. Depression is difficult to understand. It shows itself from time to time, and when it does, it completely warps your brain. So far, I’ve learned to cope, and the truly bad times eventually pass.

Heather’s* Wings

I don’t know if I was ever at serious risk for committing suicide. I’d like to think I wasn’t, that I was a normal, angsty teenager. I sought out a suicide prevention volunteer program because I thought it would help me with my own battle against depression. Plus, I

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Photo by Dan McEachan

Photo from

cannot wrap my head around it. I only feel the smallest fraction of what Ann feels for the loss of her daughter. How did she survive this? How does Ann keep going after such a tragedy? Because of Ann, my perception of suicide is changed forever: it was the wrong thing to do. The aftermath from a loved one’s suicide continues forever. My life changed, and I stopped living for myself. My purpose was not to stay alive for me, but for others. I wish no one had to suffer like this: not the sadness that caused Heather’s death, nor the enduring pain it causes Ann and her family. I was so shocked by the indelible devastation a suicide could cause a family. What I found particularly interesting about working at Heather’s Wings was that I thought all my empathy would be for Heather, and for Heather’s battie with depression. However, I have much more sorrow for her family, who bears the burden of always living with this experience at their backs. I really can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child to suicide. In most cases, I think a caregivers love their children far beyond comprehension – much more than we can love them back, even if we do not always agree with or understand them. At least, that is what I see in Ann.

If you think you or someone you know might be at risk for suicide, please take a look at the following resources. Help is at your fingertips. Dubuque Crisis Lines: 855.800.1239 888.557.0310 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255 I’M ALIVE Online Crisis Network:

You’re Not Alone

Troubled teens and people everywhere: please don’t do it. There are so many reasons for you to stay with us. Without you, your friends’ and families’ lives are forever shattered. No holiday or birthday will ever be the same without you there. Whether you are close to your family or not, you are still important. You have a purpose here people that care about you. You matter. You have the power to make a difference in this world. Depression lies! Don’t believe the lie. The truth is, you are good enough. Suicide is tragic and it begets a unique grieving process because of survivors’ self-blame, anger and sadness. The pain echoes forever. Loved ones forever blame themselves for missing the warning signs. Please don’t be afraid to seek help. It is okay not to be okay. Something that deeply helped me was helping others recover. Bond with people who understand depression, anxiety, mental illness. By healing others, we heal ourselves. We have to choose life. We must reach out to others. We must. Joining Heather’s Wings has made me realize that even though I can’t bring Heather back or heal Ann’s grief, I can help prevent others from following through with committing suicide. I can help because I have been in the darkness myself. I possess a unique voice. Finally, it is important to remember that if you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with them. Mental illness can be helped, healed and overcome in a huge variety of ways, if we seek the resources for ourselves and help those in darkness find them, too. *names have been changed.

January 2017 | Co-ZINE



Learning to Say “Forget it!” to Passing Originally published on by Rachel Williams If you’re a trans person like me then you’re probably hyper-aware of and during all gendered activities. Last night I went to Denny’s with some cis female friends and when the server brought our food out, she was served the other girls and said things like, “This one for the lady right here,” but when it came my turn, she didn’t repeat the pattern – she didn’t know how to gender me. She didn’t know whether I was feminine enough to warrant being called a lady. In my own assessment, it was probably my voice: the downfall of many trans women. During the first year or so of my transition, I put an immense effort into making my voice more passable. My results were not fantastic, probably because I never saw a professional voice therapist. Now, I’ve given up that pursuit entirely because I am trying to learn to say “forget it” to passing. It’s so hard. So, so hard. I want to pass more than anything. I want to interact with people just for once and not have my gender questioned. I don’t want a simple, fleeting interaction – I want to be able to have intimate, one on one conversations with people and not have them suspect I was born male. Oh, that would be so nice. I suppose I am lucky, though. I fall into a strange class of trans women who don’t pass perfectly, but who people say are attractive. The very concept of a beautiful, non-passing trans woman is almost a contradiction of terms if you believe all the transmisogynist, TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or gender-critical feminist) rhetoric out there. If you don’t pass, you look like a man – yet how can a woman who looks like a man be considered beautiful? Beauty and passing are not the same. You can pass but not be beautiful, and you can be beautiful but not pass. So I don’t have it that bad. I’ve been told by my local trans community that I have “the epitome” of passing privilege. However, I live my own experience and I know from how I interact with strangers that I get clocked pretty much every time because of my voice. I don’t actually have passing privilege, because I don’t actually pass. I get clocked. It is currently impossible for me to go stealth. Most people are polite or smart enough to not “sir” me, but I don’t always get the gendered pronouns I so crave, the ones I need to find validation. My experiences are often genderless

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despite observing people around me consistently being gendered correctly. I pass enough to largely avoid being gendered male, but not enough to be consistently gendered female, especially after opening my mouth. At the intercom for a drive through? Forget about it. Over the phone? No way. Still a man. Is there is a secret to learning how to say “forget it” to passing? No. I have no tips. No advice. For some people, it’s impossible to totally say “forget it” to passing. Their dysphoria is just too intense for that. I’ve been blessed with relatively low levels of dysphoria. Others are not so lucky and ignore the pressure to pass. For some, passing is an omnipresent concern. I have no words for these people – all I can offer is empathy and a hug, if needed. If you have that internal fortitude and resolve, it’s possible to learn to care less about passing. If you live in an area of the world that is relatively friendly to trans people, or at least not actively unfriendly, then you too can learn to say “forget it” to passing. The number one goal is to stop caring what others think of you. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it is possible to foster this attitude through deliberate cognitive practice. Say to yourself “I don’t care. Forget you.” It helps. At least, it helps me. If someone misgenders me, I try to just tell myself that it doesn’t matter what strangers think of me. What matters is how I am gendered by my friends and people who know me and are close to me. If those people see me as a woman, then that’s what matters; they truly know me and respect me, acknowledging the authenticity of my gender.

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Strangers don’t know you. All they’re socially equipped to do is judge you based on cis-sexist stereotypes about how people are supposed to look or sound. Trans woman with a deep voice? Too bad. I’d rather spend time with people who don’t assume that a deep voice makes you less of a woman. It is the company of people like that that I cherish. Strangers are just reacting to surface-level gender cues… But gender is not a surface level phenomena. It goes deep into the core of my being. Strangers can’t see that, nor should I expect them to. There are two types of transphobes: those who can be educated to change their minds and those who can’t. The latter are always going see me as a man. Why not just blow their minds with how much a “man” can shatter gender stereotypes by embracing femininity? In a way, TERFs use misgendering as a political weapon, to upset trans women and get under their skin, provoking anger which can then be used to “prove” they’re still male socialized. Another tactic is to call trans women “male to trans” (MtT) instead of “male to female” (MtF) because they don’t believe trans women can actually change their sex. Once male always male. But one of my personal strategies for learning to say “forget it” to passing is to flip TERF logic on its head. If they’re always going to see me as a man no matter what I do, then it ultimately doesn’t matter if I put more effort into passing. I’m not going to change their minds. It’s not worth stressing about. Many TERFs purport to be all about shattering stereotypes associated with what “males” are supposed to be.. So go ahead: think of me as a man. You’re not going to change my femme identity. Femme man or femme woman – ultimately these are just labels with no concrete definition. People are free to define these terms for themselves how they wish. I have long since given up on convincing the world to unite behind what it means to be a man or woman, male or female. Everyone has their own pet theory. TERFs think they can dehumanize me by saying I only transitioned male-to-tranny. But echoing Kate Bornstein – I am proud to be trans! It’s an identity I welcome and embrace. Not because being trans comes without problems, but because being trans is the only way I can genuinely be myself. My trans identity is a source of many difficulties but it’s also a source of great happiness through the power of self-determination and self-actualization. I recognize I am speaking from a place of privilege. Not all trans people are lucky enough to see their being trans as anything but a nightmare, a horrible biological malady that they wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. Oh, what has the world done to you? How has the cruelty and transphobia of society twisted something so beautiful into such a tragedy? I am a strong believer in the hashtag #transisbeautiful. It’s a powerful message precisely because so many people don’t believe it’s true. They have been convinced that trans is ugly, sinful, diseased, pathological. These are social constructs. In a utopia, there would be room for trans people not just to exist, but flourish. Think about that. Think about life in a trans utopia. The very possibility of that imagination proves that trans is not inherently pathological – it’s not an intrinsically horrible experience.

rant about trans identities. Their minds can be changed. They can learn about gender and how it’s different from physiology. They can learn about neuroscience and the biological basis of gender. They can learn about pronouns and how important they are. These are the people who can learn to feel bad after they misgender you. They can’t help it. But they can learn. They can change. They can learn to see me as the woman I really am. They can learn to move beyond the rigid male-female binary essentialism that fuels cis-sexism. It is through this process of education that trans people have any chance of approximating our trans utopia. Holding onto these ideals, we can create and develop the all-important idea of hope inside our hearts. Hope leads to optimism and optimism leads to change, even if individual, internal change. We are our own best resource for mental contentment and satisfaction. By giving ourselves a chance to accept ourselves, we can learn to say “forget it” to passing and just be ourselves. Again, easier said than done – but it is attainable! Maybe I am a dreamer. I can’t help but imagine a better world for trans people. A world where passing is done only for ourselves, not for others. A world where passing is about being true to our internal image of ourselves not a defense mechanism against transphobic violence. I myself haven’t quite learned how to truly say “forget it” to passing. I still care about passing very deeply and perhaps always will, but I’m learning. I’m learning there is an alternate way to exist, even if it’s a fleeting existence. The moments when I can truly say “forget it” are magical, because it’s within those moments that I learn to be myself with love.

In a perfect world, being trans would be like having freckles: just another thing that defines us as unique individuals. In a perfect world, passing wouldn’t have the all-importance it does now because safety wouldn’t be an issue. If trans people could be totally assured this wasn’t a dangerous world for them, so many more trans people would come out of the closet and transition. So many trans people would learn to say “forget it” to passing because they can finally just be themselves without worrying about all the pressure to pass. It is the first type of transphobe, the one who can be educated, that I truly care about. They are the ones who are merely igno-

January 2017 | Co-ZINE



My grandmother waz a direct descendent from, and a product of slave rape. Half white, half black. She alwayz instilled in me that I needed to fit in an like, read a book. Go git som knowledge. But she never talked about da struggle dat she had as a black person. And becuz uh that I just assumed dat dere wuz no struggle and we had like, come thru. An so of course, den I went to a white school. So den all I really wuz doin low key or actually high key, wuz tryna be white. I wuz being told by my family to be white. BE WHITE. An so, it lookt like that. I wuz wearin cargos. I wanted a honda. I downplayed my rythumm – I’m jokin I’m jokin. It continued thru in eurocentric beauty standards becuz all I wuz seein wuz white boys. So then when I grew up, I didn even know it but I wuz being taught or told to be a white boyy. An so thas wut I diyud. I went to a white beauty scool instead of goin to thuh black beauty school cuz I didn wanna be hoooood. I started straightenin my hair so dat I could hav spikes an like use texturizers an waxes. I only dated white boos. An so, wut I wuz really fighting through which I didn even fukin know wuz anti-blackness. Internal hatred dat wuz handed down to me from my grandmother to my mom. Dis belief system dat moving into AmeriKKKan Value Systems, which iz only rooted in white bullshit, wud give me a betta life. An that shit jus like continuuueeed fo ten yeeeears. I hella believe every black person- thuh day day’re born dey start hemorrhaging. Dey start bleedin. An Dey’re bleedin from da racism around dem. But I had no idea at thuh time that I waz even having sum blood loss. My wokeness stardid in Asheville, North Carolina. I had moved dere becuz I wuz goin thru recoveree. I had two of my bes frens who wurr white say dat they wud put me up. It wuz cute at first. I wuz doin yoga. an goin to meditation. I got a job. I wuz so hella focust on self care that I didn really dink abou anytheen. Until six months iiin, I realize I didn hav a black fren. I wuz like, “Iaingotno black fren.” And I always hava black fren. Dat’s just like, really basic. An I kept talkin bout it. Dey wuz

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like *white girl voice*, “Oh dere’s tonz of black people who live in Asheville.” An I wuz like, “Where are dey? An why aren’t u frends wit dem?” Dere wuz neva any ansur. An I wuz da only one talkin about thuh problem, cuz I waz da only one who wasn white. thuh rhill T wuz that all thuh black an brown people had beeeen pushed to thuh edge of town an thru gentrification wurr not able to work in thuh downtown area becuz it wuz serving uh white audience. Dey wadnt comin dere. Dey wuz neva comin downtown. Da part that wuz reaaally bad wuz listening to da arguments, lisin to thuh reasoning of wat Ashy looked like.*chuckles* So, I would be like, “Dere’s no diversity hurr. Dere’s no different types of pipo hurr.” And dey wurr like, “Oh my gawd dere tons of diffurent type of pipo here.” AN dere WUZ. Dere wuz white punks, dere wuz white hippies, dere wuz white yoga pipo, dere wuz white collard whites, basic becky’s, white trash. Wipipo now wurr equating dis bullshit to diversity. Dey wuz always defendin how beautiful Asheville wuz and da convo wuz neva dem takin accountability or holdin any space fur da fac tha’ literalee dey had pushed out every brown and black person dere. Da thing dat pushed me ova de edge, wuz dat dey dere innnto it. An it wuz like dis: “Of course I love dis. I walk out thuh do’ and I see wipipo. I just bought a succulent at da succulent store: full of wipipo…” They lovvvved it. …” An I wuz just sooo upset. So I stopped talkin to em. I realized I had too many Becky’s, Suzy’s, and Joyce’s in my life that I didn have any mo space for dem. I couldn be nobodi else’s token black fren. I went to two black lives matter rallies wen I lived in Ashy an dere wuz only TWO black ppl at dose rallies. An wats even more intresting, cuz white ppl like space; dey like taking up space, dey like stealin space: dey had da megaphone. So at a black.lives.matter.rally yoo have white Cindy-Loo-Who holdin down da mic. I jus couldn really process it without anger. That’s wat happend, dat anger moved into “I hata to git out of hurr, I’m gonna git all cray. Literally dat’s da rage dat goes thru a black person’s mind all thuh time iz like: “I been hurr fo three years, you don’t giva fuck bout wat I’m saying. Yurr continuing dis white bullshit. If I continuu to stay hurr I’m jus gonna punch a ho. Crispy noddawls smash to da floo” Like, I’m now rollin down da street wit my music so loud; jus like sittin outsida yoga studios just mean muggin. Tryna break up

people in different cities because dey livin an strugglin too. When you rollin around an you got nothin, you appreciate wut everybody else got cuz dey workin and hustling jus like you are. An you realize you waz never meant to be white. An thank DA LORT. Repeatedly. Hallelujah. So I’m connectin to all these ppl an we’re talkin about white surpremacy, antiblackness, transphobia. Shit dat affects us. So many queer ppl are struggling an that activates dat anger. Activates dat sadness. Activate dat disappointment in da sitchuayshun dat you wuz born in. An den like havin absolutely no controlla over who da fuk u are and havin to continue to live an be resilient can only be met wit also bein hella pissed. Dat’s when da flip happened fo me.” Wut white ppl don wantchu to do iz finda pride in yoself and da more you find pride in yoself da less important dey become. In da words of Yocheved Cohen “The more you love yourself and you love your blackness, thuh less able you are to tell white people apart.” Literally, when you take da importance of white bodees an white culture away, you realize fo da first time dat you’re hemoraging. So now you tryna plug it up, an now you got blood pumpin through yo body an you feelin good an you feelin like dat white bullshit has nothin to do wit you. White bitches take dat personally. Dey dink that you’re racist. Which is impossible so whateva. But truthfully Its just me actually, finaly, speaking my mind. Tina Knowles just said da same shit on Solange’s new album like, “What’s irritating is when somebody’s like ‘They’re a racist. That’s reverse racism.’ Or, ‘They have a black history month but we don’t have a white history month.’ Well all we’ve ever been taught is white history. So why are you mad at that? Why does that make you angry? That is to suppress me and to make me not be proud.”

yur concentration, you know? I aint been able to concentrate fo three years an its eating me alive. It wuz no different dan Ohio had been. Literalee here we are almos ten years later an I’m actually wearin da same outfit dat I wore on da firs fukin day I rolled inta da club. I’m jus finally cool wit me bein myself an I see you wit dat V neck. An becuz I’m not wearin that, I don git to belong. That’s just like, some misogynist, homophobic bullshit of wut it looks like to be uh man. And its like, I honesly am not. Dat’s thuh rhill T like, I’m jus not. A man. So it wuz also veree lonely. Which is low key jus da struggle of bein black an not cisgender. I realiesed that even tho I lived in Ashy, dey never seen me as eve belonging. You can colonize, whitewash yureself buh like you ain white an so when you look aroun at that like perfec white utopia it really looks like you not spose to be dere. So. I left. I left so I cud git thuh fuck outta Ashy. At da time I wuz like, “I don fukin wanna job. And imma learn howta not git a job.” Cuz anytime you gotta job you workin furr da white man an I am tired of talkin to thuh white man. I wuz trying to look for some other sitchuayshun. I jus really believed it wuz out there. Just goin towards blacks and queers. Iunno where you are so imma go every single place. I’m not gon hava job. Imma take this little $400 in thuh back uh my fannypack and hustle. Hustle hustle hustle to survive. I ran into every type of gender expression. Highly focused folks who wurr POC an POC focused mentally and in deir art. But all displaced. Everybody’s fukin displaced. So you goin to New York, Oakland, New Orleans, an dey strugglin; dey strugglin to survive, dey strugglin to be demselves. Buh dey givin you nothing but hella love. An den when you git to dose places its just like *lean in to whisper a secret*, “You jus stay away from da wipipo.” You stay away from da tourism an da gentrification . Cuz in dhose spaces you don fit, you don git to be you, you feel uh typa way, dey look at you uh typa way, dey fuk witchu. You could potentchuualli be in danger. Using rhetoric like “hood” an “ghetto”; words dat are plugged in by wipipo so that you don feel comfortable in yo own hoods. . I wuz travelin, jus bringin back sum love to black

So now, I git uncomfortable around any white ppl dat don’t undastand da responsibility dat deir white bodees an bloodlines an genetixs have to fixin da problems of racism; which is all deir faults. All of deir great grandfathers faults. Everything about it belongs to you, and if you don take any kin of responsibility you’re jus a punk. Dat’s where my art comes from. If I didn fukin release dis in a way dat waz healthy I wuda already been in thuh prison system on lock. I wuda already hurt sumbodi. I used to perform to git white pipo feelin a typa way, angur, sadness. And now I’m creating art dat belongs to and empowers black and brown pipo. Cuz we can be self sustaining, and we can create our own shit, an you don havta git it. It aint never been aboutchu an now it will never be aboutchu. I’m workin on a project called Oppressed Juice, I’m in da beginnin stages. Everything that I’m doing iz to build up da sitchuayshun so dat I can fund it. I wud like to create a group dat is black and brown owned and operated. Working wit black and brown queer artists of all types. Creating a space where we have equipment: cameras, greenscreens, soundbooths, etc. So that when dese dope azz folks dat I met on da road are ready to release deir anger and talk about wut dey’re dealin wit da equipment iz accessible. Dere’s no money needed. And we push out our art. Check out Intragram @juicebox82 and Oppressed Juice YOUtube channel dey cute af. juicebox82 Oppressed Juice

January 2017 | Co-ZINE


To be continued

Far From Home: Conversations About Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and Discrimination in the Motherland by Andrea Becker & Sasha M.

Read on in Co-ZINE, beginning February 1, 2017. Far From Home: Parts I, II, and III available at

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On Coming Out Y

by Leonard Behnke

ou fucking faggot!” she screamed. Then I felt the whiz of keys being thrown beside my head, just missing my left ear. I calmly picked them up without a word and walked out of the house. I didn’t like her anger or disrespect toward me and the whole LGBTQ community — but I understood it. In her eyes, I betrayed her, lied to her, and pretended through 15 years of marriage. Earlier the same week, I woke up and had life changing epiphany. At ten in the morning, I told her I wanted a divorce.

I grew up in a household of five, with only a father as a parent. This was relatively unique in the 1970s and 80s; typically mothers won custody of children after divorces. My mother didn’t even show up to court. We grew up on a farm and had a wide variety of household duties. During the day, I would bale hay or collect eggs, cook meals, and clean the house. My sisters did less of the housework than I did, but I enjoyed seeing a clean house and loved to cook. I always felt I was different in this way, but figured it was due to not having a traditional mother do these things. I remember one night when a friend slept over, I reached into his pajamas and felt him. It felt strange, yet exciting. I achieved my first hard-on dancing with a girl in seventh grade. I was attracted to girls, especially their breasts, but I had this strange sense of exhilaration seeing naked boys in the gym locker room. I was amazed at the variety of attractive male bodies. I had several girlfriends in junior high and high school, never moving beyond kissing and fondling. I was shy and naïve, so it felt normal not to go any further. My first inkling that my attraction to men was real was when I met a gay guy for the first time. We spent the evening talking in my college dorm. I secretly wanted to get naked with him, but I pushed the thoughts away. By this time, I was already engaged to my first wife. I continued to have dreams about other guys, and of course, would think about guys while masturbating. But my real world was different — it seemed normal to get married and have children. So I did. After eight years of marriage, sexually satisfied, my wife divorced me mainly due to my depression and anxiety. In the two years that I was single, I frequented gay porn sites and had private fantasies about men I’d see on the street. I even imagined what it would be like to see some of my male friends naked, however, never acted upon any of these thoughts or desires. I still believed I was destined to marry a woman and live the rest of my life in the heterosexual world.

I married for the second time in 2001. I was truly attracted to this woman and thought she was the love of my life. Exciting, funny, sexy… but she also had a narcissistic personality and no filter, so sometimes she would say and do mean things. Her unkind behavior was mostly directed at me and my daughter. Nonetheless, this was my second marriage and I was going to do whatever it took to make it work. Several years of counseling, many heated arguments — I threatened to leave the marriage twice. Then came drag. On a dare, I performed to help fundraise for a friend with HIV. I loved performing! I decided right away that I wanted to perform in drag as a character called Marsha Mallow. I even created a local drag queen group that performs monthly at a local venue. Initially, my wife was concerned about why I was doing it. Eventually she came around and even helped make costumes, shoes and jewelry. For me, it was never about dressing up as a woman, rather just performing. I was very happy being a hairy, masculine man. I could tell that my wife struggled with my drag persona while we were in public. She would often say to people, “Oh, that’s my husband. He’s straight”. In 2014, I developed a tumor on my pituitary gland that inhibited my testosterone production. My libido no longer existed. I was relieved on one hand because I feared that my attraction to men was killing my attraction to my wife. One of the reasons I pursued medical help was that I realized I was no longer attracted to men either. Something wasn’t right. I did admit to my wife at this point that I felt attraction to both men and women and bisexual described me better than straight. This caused my wife to be suspicious anytime I

January 2017 | Co-ZINE


went out with male friends, particularly gay friends. I promised her that nothing ever happened, that I had chosen to be married to her. I kept that promise until after we split. During the subsequent two years of treatment to restore my testosterone levels, my wife attempted to cheat on me three times. She lied twice when confronted, but easily confessed the third. My testosterone was returning, but my feelings for my wife — mental, emotional, and physical — were still numb. I approached my marriage with the “fake it till you make it” theory. I said all the things I should say, did all the things I should do for a successful marriage. I couldn’t be un-numbed. Three months ago, when I had my epiphany, I realized two things. For one, my feelings towards my wife were never going to return. And the other — with my hormones back to normal, I felt a fierce, freshly focused attraction to men. I moved out of the house the day I requested the divorce. I wondered, “Did I just throw everything away?” My wife and I had built a great life together outside of her bad behavior. We traveled, had everything we wanted, had a beautiful home. But within a week, I realized I had made the right decision. That life no longer meant anything to me. I wanted a life where I could be myself wholly, one hundred percent. I felt totally free for the first time. I began to laugh without feeling like I had to fake it. My life energy returned. I unintentionally outed myself with a reply to a friend’s post on Facebook. Wow, I didn’t realize my friends and family paid that much attention! Unfortunately, my wife continued to out me to all of my friends and family through private messages, but I didn’t care. The weight had finally been lifted. My friends have been hugely supportive throughout this time, for which I am incredibly grateful.

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Our house is for sale, our divorce has been filed, and my wife is an emotional wreck. I offered her a sincere apology for the divorce, but I don’t think she will ever be the same. I am sad for her. For myself, I look forward to an honest life where I am now the Leonard Joseph Behnke I was meant to be. I’ve been asked if I wished I had come out sooner. I’m not sure. Life experiences shape us into who we are. I am happy to be who I am: I am a proud, confident, gay man.

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Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To


illian Daniel is a pastor in Iowa. Her last book, When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Seeing God In Surprising Places, Even the Church is a provocative case for why religious community matters. Described as biting, hilarious, pitch perfect, tender and often stunningly beautiful, Lillian Daniel’s much talked about book was featured on PBS and the New York Times. Her new book (Hachette, 2016) Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality Without Stereotypes, Religion Without Ranting explores the changing religious landscape, including the rising number of “Nones,” people who self-identify has having no religious preference. Her previous books include, Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony, the story of one church’s attempt to get people to talk to each other about God, and This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, celebrated for it’s humor and honesty by clergy and laity alike. She has taught preaching at a number of schools, including Chicago Theological Seminary, the University of Chicago Divinity School and at her alma mater, Yale Divinity School, where she received the 2010 distinguished alumni award for “Distinction in Congregational Ministry.” Lillian has spoken at the National Cathedral, Duke Chapel, Kings College, London and Queen’s College, Ontario, but on Sundays you can find her preaching at First Congregational Church in Dubuque, Iowa. “Earthy, perceptive, devout, toughminded, angry and laugh-out-loud funny, all in one”

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What Does Your Zodiac Sign Say?

Aries (MAR 21—APR 19) You do well with business... maybe you should take it to the next level. It’s nice to be comfortable, but not when it becomes your only state. Don’t settle for less.

and you can double your luck. Possibly triple it, if that’s what you really want. Keep it in mind.

Leo (JUL—AUG 22) Don’t you just love it when your head is scratched and massaged? Others do too. Find that special someone and give them a treat. Hell... Make ‘em purr..

Aquarius (JAN 20—FEB 18) Sometimes your efforts and accomplishments mean more to you than they do to others. Change is what you desire, so make the change and you’ll get what you wish for.

Scorpio (OCT 23—NOV 21) Do you understand what is going on with others? SomeTaurus (APR 20—MAY 20) You’re not as times you can be quite selfish and unavailsmooth as you think you are. Smooth, maybe, able. Don’t forget how much your sting but don’t you think the truth would serve you hurts those who care for you. better than lies? Be wary who you hurt. It Sagittarius (NOV 22—DEC 21) You are so does come back... sweet and tender, yet so crass and restless. Gemini (MAY 21—JUN 20) Festive, fun and Mean well and do well. Others love you and favored by the stars. At least in your mind. It’s even open new doors for you. Don’t forget just as hard as it is easy to switch those twins’ their efforts. personalities. Capricorn (DEC 22—JAN 19) Things don’t Cancer (JUN 21—JUL 22) Always emo- always work out as planned and that is just tional and full of those things called feelings. how it goes. If you’d like to smile, find a They are normal... Is how you are rationalizing sweetie and smile. You will learn that you are them normal? Or are you over-rationalizing? a sweetie, too.?

Virgo (AUG 23—SEPT 22) Things keep you occupied. Find the motivation and drive to get those things taken care of. Even better... Find the best way to make sure those things get taken care of properly.

Pisces (FEB 19—MAR 20) Things look good. Family over the holidays, breath in your lungs. Let’s be grateful for the time we have with those we love. Not everyone is so fortunate., just breathe an extra two…or ten Libra (SEPT 23—OCT 22) Yes, you’ve times before the feels come back. made good things happen. Keep up that pace

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Elektra SuperNova here – welcome to The Intergalactic Gag, my new monthly column here in Co-ZINE! In this column I will be covering topics ranging from makeup application, including skincare, what’s the E-Tea on exciting local, national, and intergalactic LGBTQ+ events going on in the universe today, fitness tips and tricks, and sometimes even schooling you out there on the intriguing subject we like to call sex! What’s a good read without a little sexual education? Being the fabulous space queen that I am, my column will contain many references to drag, and of course outer space, however it is my goal to create a column tailored to the entire LGBTQ+ community. So whether you are a drag king or queen, transgender, gender neutral, gay, bi, ally, or just a curious little Martian, this column is written for you! Much like an advice column, I will be asking for reader participation. Are you curious or uncomfortable about your sexual identity? Do you have questions about makeup transformation and application? Are sexual pleasures more your interest, or are you simply just trying to increase your daily intake of intergalactic drag? Write me at with any questions or topic recommendations you may have. Because this is my first column, I wanted to tell you some of my story, Elektra’s story – how I was abducted by aliens, and how I got started in the glamourous life of intergalactic drag. Ever since I was a little tadpole I was drawn to the stage! I was a singer and a musician in my early years, but the story really begins when I was just a boy of twenty years. I was housesitting for a friend who was out of town for work. Everything seemed to be going as planned. It was a calm, quiet night while I caught up on some Stargate SG1. I got up to use the bathroom and I suddenly heard a loud

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sound in the backyard, so I went down to check it out. Now, I don’t remember much after opening up the back door, except for bright flashing lights and something unidentifiable, something that appeared to be a flying object. I couldn’t get a good look, but I know it was big, it was bright, and it was round. I woke up inside a giant space craft, surrounded by dozens of little, pink humanoid creatures. They introduced themselves: The Warriors of Planet Nova. They performed various tests and procedures until I became the first of a new breed of hybrid warrior queen, part human, part Nova; Thus Elektra SuperNova was born! They enhanced my body to take on the shape and form of a radiant seductress. I was trained in battle, cosmology, and dance. It is my sworn right and duty to uphold the oath of my sister SuperNova: to cover the world in glitz and glitter, and spread fabulousness to infinity and beyond! Now that you know a little bit about me and my time in space, it’s time for the fun to begin. Keep your eye on the telescope for February’s edition of The Intergalactic Gag! And remember to write to me at with your topic submissions and questions, whether they be about drag makeup, trans makeup, skincare, sex, space, or anything in between. What would you like to see in next month’s column? Don’t be shy! Until next time, my little Martians! X.O.X.O

Photo courtesy of Bennet Goldstein

January 2017 | Co-ZINE


What is Happening at Standing Rock? S

ince the spring of 2016, people from all over the world have flooded in to Standing Rock Reservation to help protect its water. Most of the reservation is in South Dakota, but Cannon Ball, the community most in danger, is in southern North Dakota. Named for its unique round stones carved by the Missouri River, Cannon Ball is a sacred place for the Standing Rock Sioux. It is under the Missouri at Cannon Ball that Energy Transfer Partners soon hopes to complete their controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Several encampments have appeared at Standing Rock and have housed thousands of people throughout the last year. These people are Water Protectors – indigenous peoples from across North America fighting for sovereignty and against environmental racism, people willing to risk arrest, injury and death to save the water, lawyers, doctors and healers, activists and artists – from all walks of life joining together for a common cause. This is the first time that all seven Sioux Nations have occupied the same space for the same cause in more than a century. More than 300 tribes are represented at camp. Each encampment sustains itself on generosity and community – there is no place for the dollar in the economy at Standing Rock. There are community kitchens providing hot meals, dwellings, schools and community spaces being erected daily by hard-working volunteers, medic tents where trained professionals can help ease any kind of pain you might encounter. There are no drugs, alcohol, or weapons allowed at camp. Every camper gets oriented and learns the rules of camp, of cultural respect and reverence, and undergoes direct action training where they learn the tactics and philosophy of nonviolence. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was originally scheduled to run under the river at Bismarck, North Dakota, a nearby, predominantly white community. The pipeline was quickly rejected by residents of Bismarck due to concerns that it would damage their water supply, and rerouted through the reservation instead. Despite the outcry of thousands of people, unapologetic environmental racism, hundreds of arrests and injuries, and damage to the environment and sacred sites, things at Standing Rock are still bad. The constant presence of Energy Transfer Partners has elicited the use of militarized police from five different states on peaceful protesters. Despite orders this autumn from the Department of Justice,

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and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the DAPL is still under construction and people are still getting hurt. In addition, the Morton County Sherriff’s Department has created a sensationalist roadblock on 1806 South into Cannon Ball to deter people from joining the camps. This has garnered an unprecedented amount of negative media coverage and also delays emergency services from reaching the residents of Cannon Ball by about 35 minutes. While the news we hear about Standing Rock can be fantastical, confusing and controversial, it is important, above all, to remember that this is a fight for indigenous rights, and it is a fight for respect of the Earth. Besides doing some research and learning the truth for yourself, here are some things you can do to help the water protectors and the Standing Rock Sioux hold their ground. Take action now. Protect the water. Protect our human future (but don’t forget that anyone you call is human too!).

Contact Doug Burgum, the new governor of North Dakota, and tell him why he should help stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Phone: (701) 328-2200 Fax: (701) 328-2205 Call the White House and express your concerns about the sovereignty of native nations and the environmental repercussions of this project. Phone: (202)-456-1111 Call Energy Transfer Partners and tell them our future is more important than their greed. Lee Hanse, owner & executive vice president: (210)-403-6455 Glenn Emery, vice president: (210)-403-6762 Michael Waters, lead analyst: (713)-989-2404 Contact the Morton County Sheriff ’s Department and Correctional Center. Demand that they release water protectors arrested unfairly and that they cease and desist. Phone: (701) 667-3318

Article and photos by Andrea Becker








Happy New Year! 2017 January Issue Co-ZINE

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