Page 1

No. 1

I Don’t Do Boxes

Queer stories from the south

No. 1

I Don’t Do Boxes

Queer stories from the south I Don’t Do Boxes is a magazine for and by queer youth gathering stories from the southeast and beyond. I Don’t Do Boxes is a project of QueerLab, a youth-led platform for digital storytelling at Elsewhere a living museum set inside a former thrift-store, in collaboration with YouthSAFE and the Guilford Green Foundation.

Special thanks to all the contributors, editors and team of youth involved in the planning, design and development of this first issue. Editorial Team: Red Behnke, Elijah Cameron, Eric Ginsburg, Carrie Hart, Christopher Kennedy, Brent Simoneaux 606 South Elm Street - Greensboro, NC 27401 - Cover art by Red Behnke


Dear Reader,

June 2013

As queer people, we move through indeterminate spaces. We move through safe spaces, dangerous spaces, confusing spaces, loving spaces, hilarious spaces, joyful spaces, dark spaces, and colorful spaces. As queer people, we move. Being queer means composing our own lives in language, in images, in sounds. It means thinking critically and being open to experiences outside the norm, a radical way of being that is shared with small pockets of people. Queerness is an interface for ongoing curiosity, a way of living artfully with what you’ve got. It means asking new kinds of questions, and you don’t need a big city, a rainbow flag, or currency to do that. The inaugural issue of I Don’t Do Boxes brings together a wide range of stories and artworks that explore queerness from a youth perspective. Our fabulous contributors take you to places rooted in the south and beyond. They explore your questions about school, acceptance and mental health. They guide you to the latest Queer-Hop, provide advice for safe binding, draw you comics, and tell you stories about love. As you’ll find, our contributors don’t do boxes. They prefer movement and fluidity, not stillness and stagnation. That’s what being queer is all about. We hope that you’ll read this and not stay still. Pass it on to friends and contribute to our next issue. Sincerely, Red Behnke Elijah Cameron Carrie Hart Eric Ginsburg Christopher Kennedy Brent Simoneaux




Forced Out at School, Erica Lenti.........6 Gender Boundary, Morgan Hakala......7 Heavy Hearted, Lydia Henderson.........8 Untitled, Megan B. McKinney..............10 Interview Kerry Downey & Rachel L. S. Harper...............11 Gay-Straight Alliance Organizing......12 Queerology Syllabus.............................14 An openly gay teacher in North Carolina, Eric Ginsburg........................16

Did You Always Know?........................40 Ask Eli, Elijah Cameron........................41 Queer Tarot Reading, Red Behnke......42 Binding Safety Guide, Red Behnke & Elijah Cameron.....43 Adventures in Abstract Coping Mechanisms, Red Behnke.....................45

STYLE & CULTURE Fashion is an X, Y or Z, Raven Hillferty.............................18 Exploring Queer Hip Hop, Samuel Silverstein.........................20 VALIDnation, Stacey Kirby.................22 Coloring Outside the Lines, Jason Watson.................................26 Ignite Change, Allen Moore.................28 Invisible Boyfriends, Abby Archer......30 Untitled, 27961.....................................33 Girlfriends, Peter Pendergrass.............34 Untitled, Samantha Persons................36 Reading OUTLoud, April Parker.......38

Visit for more stories, full color images, artworks and to submit your own story!

POLITICS Ten Best Ways To Practice Consent, Eric Ginsburg...................................47 What Inspires a Professional LGBT Advocate Working in Washington, DC? YOU!, Ian Thompson............................49 Finding Self, Kiticia Hayes...................51 We Don’t Do Boxes, Kia Vaughn.........53 GEOGRAPHY Untitled, Michelle Fay Nowitz..............54 Fantasy, Collins Bennett........................57 No Place Like Home, B. Marshall.......58 CALLING HOME, Karl Cronin..........60 MISC. Local & Regional Resources................61 Summer Reading List...........................62


Forced Out Erica Lenti (Toronto, Canada)

The school board continues to fund crappy lessons about Internet safety and the effects of drugs; but I am a teenager and I think we know everything about everything and fail to listen.

mocking me. You know who the dyke is. It’s E-R-I-C-A. Erica loves the ladies. Dykerica! I am just a dyke.

I throw up my dinner, and then return to the computer In my spare time I play online to save all the comments. I throw up again and delete games like Habbo Hotel them from my hard drive a and spend hours in lesbian lounges, chatting up girls. But few hours later. on Facebook, I keep a low profile; I try to stay invisible. But I can’t delete them from my head. My wallflower act pays off when I stumble upon a video The way they laughed so playfully, the way they spit by a friend of a friend. It’s out my name on camera like called “DYKE.” Curious, I it was their job, stays with me. press play. For the first time in my life, I sincerely want to die. They’re making fun of me. I go to class the next day and I scroll down and read the comments, a dialogue driven take notes and try my best to solely on the entertainment of stay invisible.


I am big. But boys are bigger. I am tall. But boys are taller. I am fast. But boys are faster. I am strong. But boys are stronger.

Gender Boundary

Morgan Hakala (Greensboro, NC)

I have always been a tomboy. I climb trees, I explore the woods, and I play mud football with my family and friends. I have always been rough and tumble, though I’ve never broken any bones. I can reach things on high shelves and move furniture for my mom. But does anyone ever take these things into consideration. No. When I was younger my mom would always fuss at me, “you don’t know your own strength” or “you are bigger than them, be gentle.” That was before the boys hit their growth spurts. Now all I ever hear is, “you’re smaller than them, you could get hurt” or “you can’t play with them, they are stronger than you.” It’s not just my mom though. It’s everyone. I will be moving things while stage managing and a boy will take the prop from me and ask where I want it. Almost as if I couldn’t merely carry it for myself. I know when people ask if I need help that they are being nice, but then they ask if I’m sure until I finally get to where I was moving it. Or when teachers need something moved or help putting something up they always ask for a few guys to come help. I’m sitting at my desk done with my work and bored to tears. They will never ask for me to help, because of the boundary that has been stopping me my whole life. I am smart. Not all boys are. I can empathize with people. Not all boys can. I am mature. Not all boys are. I will not let this boundary stop me. I will become successful. I will be like a phoenix rising from ashes, as I rise from the masses. To be the most I can be.

For more of Lydia’s work visit



Megan B. McKinney (Berea, KY)

Being a closeted gay woman in Appalachia is a scary experience. When I went off to college, I was still lying to myself and trying to convince my brain that I was straight, all the while knowing that was wrong. Once I began accepting my sexuality, I knew that coming out would be the next step. I knew it, but I wasn’t ready to take that step. I would practice saying, “I’m gay” in front of a mirror, over and over again. It became easier, so I decided that my best friend on campus deserved to know. She and I were sitting outside of our campus café one night, talking about things going on in our lives. She began to talk about a few of the guys on campus and their sexuality, so I saw my opportunity. I asked what she thought of being queer, and she said that she was fine if a guy was, but she thought it was weird for a girl to be gay. I became silent, and she knew that I was thinking. She kept asking what the matter was, and after a painful inner argument, I finally blurted out, “I’m gay, dammit!” There was silence as she began to process it. After what seemed like an hour, she exclaimed, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry about what I said about lesbians! I’m such an idiot! I didn’t mean it, and I still love you!” After that, we were able to have an open discussion about sexuality and she asked honest questions while encouraging me to be open with others.



Kerry Downey (NYC) Rachel L. S. Harper (Chicago)

Kerry and Rachel met when they were 13 at an arts middle/high school in South Florida. They fell in love at 15 and both went on to be teaching artists at art museums in Chicago and NYC. Kerry recently produced an artwork based on letters written to one another while teenagers.

K: How does your experience dating me in high school and being queer affect the work you do now? R: I love this question because I know it is impossible for me to really trace all of the lines and layers of influence that you have had on my becoming who I am. Your influence, and our relationship, is at the core of the way I understand art, since I first came to understand interpretation then. I don’t know if it was more because you were a poet, or more because being very truly in love is so illuminating. My eye is drawn to the word “dating” in your question This word really perplexes me because there was certainly a moment when our relationship turned into a romantic one, or when we acknowledged that we needed to categorize it that way, but we had been quite deeply in love with each other for a long time before we were “in a relationship.” We were socialized to think we needed categories. I remember the conversation we had around our first kiss, after which we assured one another that we did not want a sexual relationship. Do you remember that conversation? I remember slamming into a wall of doubt about being queer, and I remember moving through it. I hit queer walls like this in teaching, too-- and I think maybe they are always about the problem of categories or fixed definitions. K: We were lucky because our high school experience allowed us to move from best

friends to that queer space of something else quite fluidly. I remember getting some taunts on the bus or on the train (especially when sharing space with the other high schools) but for the most part our arts high school was a refuge, a safer place than most where there wasn’t an intense pressure to define our love. I also remember there came to a point in my youth when it was an important political statement to say that we were girlfriends. It was about visibility and acknowledgement. I’ve moved in and out of this need to articulate the frame of my love an/or gender identity my whole life. On one hand, queerness as a concept allows for exceptional forms of fluidity. On the other hand, my life demands recognition. It is through visibility and recognition that our rights and subjectivities are formed. As a person who clearly does not register as either gender (androgynous, genderqueer, gender non-conforming), I am always slipping in and out of recognition. My art plays with this dynamic as well (between form and formlessness). When I’m teaching kids there’s that burning question I was hammered with all through my youth: Are you a boy or a girl? Falling in love with you made all of this anxiety drop away. Even though it was a heart-wrenching time, it built a foundation of self confidence that being me was a worthy and desirable thing... To read the full interview visit:


Gay-Straight Alliance Organizing Youthsafe & carrie hart (Greensboro, nc)

What is a GSA? GSA traditionally stands for gay-straight alliance. A GSA is basically any group that works within a school to address and enhance school culture around issues of homophobia, transphobia, and all other sorts of isms that make it difficult for students to learn and live to their fullest potentials. GSAs are usually led by students and sponsored by a faculty member who works at the school.

Why should you start or join a GSA? GSAs are a good way to meet other people in your school who want to create change and equity around issues of gender, sexuality, and other forms of identity. Have you ever felt frustrated by how often your classmates use homophobic and transphobic slurs? Have you ever wondered why your classes don’t address anything but straight, cisgendered people in history, art, and literature? Chances are some of your classmates are wondering these things too. A GSA can be a great place to start dialogue about these (and other) questions and to think about how to change them.

GSA Organizing Resources YouthSAFE provides a safe, welcoming, confidential, regular social networking program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning youth in Guilford County, NC. YouthSAFE can help you with GSA organizing materials. They meet in person the 3rd Thursday of each month from 7 – 8:30 pm at Higher Ground House, 210 E Bessemer Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27401. Visit or contact for more info. g

iNSIDEoUT provides a list of North Carolina GSA’s here: g

The Gay-Straight Alliance Network provides resources for GSA’s around the country. Visit: for more info g

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLESN) provides some resources for educators and GSA organizing: g


GSA Organizing Tips Members of YouthSAFE, a community-based GSA in Guilford County, NC provided some tips for GSA organizing : Make a Facebook group for your organization and use it to communicate with members, share resources, and publicize events


Cultivate a family environment in your group in which people feel comfortable talking and having conversation g

Provide a space for conversation in group meetings - see what your members have to ask or offer g

Find out when your school’s club day happens (usually at the beginning of the school year) and have a table and a signup sheet to collect names and contact info (email, phone numbers, etc.)


Give members the option to receive text reminders if you want to communicate via group text


Search online for resources and activities to do with your group


Discuss the whole LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, questioning, intersex, ally, asexual) spectrum, not just one part of it g

Ask your group members if you think there are other letters that should be added g

Have conversations about school culture and language (inside and outside of school) g

Collaborate with other groups in your school on events, fundraisers, and other activities


Address social norms and how they impact people differently (LGBTQIA people also have other identities - racial, ethnic, ability, etc.) g

Support future leadership in your group - pick dependable future leaders and include them in decision-making processes the year before they step into their new role


Find a faculty sponsor who is knowledgeable of LGBTQIA issues and who will be active (look for someone who isn’t too busy with other commitments)


Initiate creative and active projects that invite conversations about differences and how to navigate them g


Queerology: A Syllabus

Raven Hillferty, Chris Kennedy & carrie hart (Greensboro, nc)

Course Description Queerology is a collaborative resource for educators inspired by LGBTQIA youth in the southeast. It’s imagined as a creative platform and a collection of ideas to help inspire you to create and sustain a safe dimension (not just a safe zone) for any queer, cis-gendered, LGBTQIA-identifying, or straight student in your school community. This is not a “one-size fits all” guide, but rather an adaptable blueprint for considering issues

of identity that go far beyond gender, sex or the politics of safety and victimization. Queerology is rather a time and place to recognize current forms of oppression such as homophobia, transphobia, bullying etc. and develop creative responses using the frameworks of equity, art, and social justice as guides. This is not a pass or fail course. There are no grades, only opportunities to experiment, persist and try again. Welcome to Queerology.

Developing a Queer Mindset Queer is a term with many meanings. Historically, queer has been used as a slur to marginalize gay, lesbian and trans communities. More recently, the idea of “queer studies” has sought to reclaim the word in a positive and critical way. For many, identifying as queer is linked to an understanding of gender and sexual identity as complex and fluid, providing an umbrella term for LGBTQIA-identifying communities. Developing a “queer mindset” is about Literacy: understand and become familiar with issues/struggles of sex/ gender identity and politics

decentering dominant belief systems, thinking critically about whose story is being told, from what perspective and for what purpose. A training session or professional development workshop does not ensure a complete understanding. The idea of adopting a queer mindset is always ongoing and changes according to the conditions of circumstance. To get started, consider some of the following ideas: Practice: develop a set of practices (some of which are outlined here) that develop a method for embracing a queer mindset



Experience: be open to experiences that may challenge your ideas of what is or is not “normal”



Repeat: continue to seek new knowledge and experiences


Learning Outcomes g

Don’t pathologize queerness


Be aware of your power as a teacher

Language shapes a school culture, culture shapes language g


Address the complexity of bullying and homo/transphobia with dialogue and not more rules

Challenge assumptions



Queer issues are everyone’s issues

Identities are complex and warrant discussions that are ongoing g


Support GSA’s creatively

Course Schedule Phase One: Research

Phase Three: Beyond the Safe Zone

To begin your Queerology journey make it your business to really understand what’s going on in your school. Talk with fellow teachers, observe public spaces in school, talk with students and reflect personally on instances where gender/sexual identity has been an issue at your school. Develop a personal assessment and share with others who may be interested in joining your effort. Identify areas of focus, start small and develop a long-term plan for addressing issues of bullying, homophobia etc.

Next, work with your school community to ensure your school goes beyond just a safe “space” and develop comprehensive anti-bullying platforms. Convene a group of students, teachers, parents and local community members to develop a creative and realizable project (see resource list below). A good place to start is by collecting stories. You can host a StoryCorps session in the cafeteria and anyone can tell their story.

Phase Two: Implementation After your initial research, begin to implement some of your Queerology plans or recommendations. Start with your own classroom. Host a forum about a particular issue - queer culture, homophobia and transphobia, bullying, local current events etc. Note: This is an abbreviated version of the Queerology syllabus, visit idontdoboxes. org/queerology for the full version!

Phase Four: GSA Organizing If your school doesn’t already have one, support the start of a Gay-Straight Alliance. Provide guidance and ideas for projects that help continue your Queerology recommendations. Phase Five: Reflecting and Re-infusing of Strategy After implementing some of your strategies, take time to reflect, reconfigure and reassess what’s working.


An openly gay public school teacher in North Carolina Eric Ginsburg (Greensboro, nc)

Being an openly gay teacher in Iredell County, North Carolina isn’t as scary as some people think, including Andrew Martin’s close friends. While navigating when and how to be out is a continuing process for Andrew, he hasn’t experienced any backlash working at various schools in his home county just north of Charlotte. “I think the biggest thing that I keep coming across is the fear that is projected by the people around me,” Andrew said. “It’s like there’s some kind of monster around the corner that I haven’t actually seen yet but am made to believe is there.” People who care about him caution him about the possible backlash if a parent complained about his sexuality. A coworker approached him once about a photo on Facebook of his partner kissing him on the cheek, scared of what would happen if people saw it. While he hasn’t felt “a huge amount” of homophobia around him or felt directly attacked at his job, people around him who care about him regularly caution him to keep quiet. Initially he did.

Following the example set by a lesbian coworker, he kept his partner and sexuality mostly private. As far as he is concerned, there isn’t much legal protection for teachers in North Carolina in general, both in regards to LGBT rights and job security more broadly. He has a friend who works in the Iredell County school system who was fired because of their sexuality, but who — because of successfully documenting that the principal was acting out of homophobia — ultimately kept their job. Many of Andrew’s coworkers know he identifies as gay — at first it was an issue when he brought his partner to a staff event, but eventually people grew used to it. Though he is relatively careful, Andrew promised himself he would never lie if he was asked directly about his sexuality, and he’s stuck to it. The issue came up more when he was teaching high school, and at the middle school where he currently works Andrew has been more careful about disclosing anything to students. They are mostly too young to have the “context or emotional readiness” to understand it, but it hasn’t come up very much, he said.


“He knew that I was gay and he asked a lot of questions,” Andrew said. One of the student’s friends came to Andrew and asked him how she could be supportive, and he offered her advice too. His friends and coworkers freaked out a little bit about him counseling the LGBT student, but Andrew said the fear can’t get in the way. “There’s just so much fear from my friends saying you know you’ve got to be careful, you’ve got to be careful,” he said. “I’m not going to let fear dictate my life, you know, especially when it comes to a [student’s needs]. It’s difficult because as a gay teacher I know that we have a lot of fear. We have to remember the people that are there for us and be there for kids.” Soon he will be transitioning into an administrative role at an area high school, and in a recent meeting with students there, he was greeted with a knowing acceptance. Students made coded comments about being “an open bunch,” but the administrative position will also mean that he is supervising other staff, creating new situations and challenges to figure out with particular care because of his sexuality. When Andrew moved back to Iredell County to teach, he was looking for a similar support system to rely on while figuring out how to be careful and stand

up for himself at the same time. He created an unofficial group of teachers that meets to support each other and has since met several other nearby gay teachers living fairly open lives. There isn’t a Gay-Straight Alliance or any similar support group for students that Andrew is aware of at Iredell County high schools, but he is hopeful that some day one will exist at the school he will be working at. It would be best if it was student-initiated, he said, in part because an organic effort would be more difficult for people to shoot down then if he tried to make it happen, but it seems like even in rural North Carolina, there are teachers who would be ready to step out and support it. Note: Andrew’s name has been changed in this story, but everything else is accurate.

A game piece found in Elsewhere’s collection

He tries to create an open and affirming environment in his classrooms, especially in one at his old position when he had an LGBT student in the class. The student gravitated towards him as a mentor, Andrew said, and it wasn’t until years later that he came out to Andrew.

Raven hillferty (Greensboro, nc)

Fashion is an X, Y or Z

Top Left: Maria Sollecito, Red Behnke, Adam, Renee, Eli Cameron, Wesley Martz, Kia Vaughn, Alex Graves, Above: Emily Ensminger Bottom Left: Red Behnke, Melissa Clendinin, Eli Cameron


Exploring Queer Hip Hop Samuel Silverstein (Summerfield, NC)

In December, 2011, alternative R&B artist, Frank Ocean, surprised his fans by announcing that his first love was a man, making him the first hip hop musician to have international success and come out of the closet. “4 summers ago, I met someone,” he wrote “I was 19 years old, he was too.” The note was a detailed explanation of his struggle with confused feelings and a growing need to tell the world about them. For those of us who identify as queer, these feelings are familiar: a longing for openness, and acceptance from those around us. Frank Ocean ended up receiving a somewhat refreshing response. Besides an expected tabloid buzz surrounding his coming out, there seemed to be public respect for Frank. This is refreshing considering a notorious history of homophobia in Hip Hop. “Faggot”, “dyke” and “no homo” are thrown around frequently and with little thought. Male rappers avoid discussion about anything remotely gay and place themselves on the defensive to maintain a hyper-masculine reputation. Well, that was up until last year, when the Hip Hop underground made a place for a generation of queer emcees. A gay rapper? That’s a revolutionary idea that requires a new way of appealing to listeners. Instead of recycling the same violence and sexism that has defined the image of rap for years,

MCs like Mykki Blanco, Le1f, and Cakes Da Killa are pushing the boundaries of the genre and paving the way for something more innovative and unique. Mykki was one of the first to reach an audience outside of the Queer Hop capital of New York City. Born Michael David Quattlebaum Jr., Mykki performs in full drag, slinging bold, catchy verses over heavy, psychedelic beats. Her absolute swagger is palpable on first listen: she exudes nothing but confidence. Just watch the video for the single “Wavvy”, where she attends a whacked out party in lingerie. Mykki has become the figurehead of androgyny in the Queer scene and has gained recognition internationally, by making quality music and boldly pushing an image radically different than anything before. Then, there is Le1f. Utilizing futuristic, detailed dance beats and a speedy flow, his style is totally distinct. Le1f ’s voice is so singular, that at moments, listeners may compare his timbre to that of a throat singer or Voldemort. That is not to say, however, that it feels strained or weak, but it has a strange quality that requires a short adjustment period. As a result of this quality, his delivery is very expressive; often, he climbs to his high register to emphasize a highly sarcastic punch-line. His breakout single, “Wut”, is a catchy club banger that has an earworm hook, heavy,


dirty bass, and saxophone production a la “Thrift Shop”. His Dark York and Fly Zone mixtapes are dark hypnotic listens that evoke alien images far more successfully than Katy Perry did last year. Many expect Le1f will gain wide indie appeal in the coming months. The third of the New York, QueerHop pioneers is perhaps the most like “traditional” rap. Cakes Da Killa is very lyrical; his verses are dense, finely crafted and very memorable. He has a kamikaze approach, spitting word play, and blatant innuendo at a lightning fast speed in songs that rarely exceed the three minute mark. His debut from this past January, The Eulogy, is the most blood pumping and enthralling Queer-Hop record ever, a ride that deserves multiple listens for full enjoyment. Though its energy is consistently high, the songs create a diverse collection, borrowing from dance, juke, and trap. Cakes, lyrically, is boldly sexual. In every track, he happily alienates the uncomfortable homophobe. Every straight rapper includes some graphic images of sex, so why can’t a gay one do the same thing? By making music that is undeniably of exceptional quality, Cakes Da Killa is bringing attention and respect to Queer-Hop New York.

Music has always been a harbinger to social progression. Queer Hip-Hop is becoming more and more integrated into the general underground. Last March, Le1f performed at SXSW festival in Texas, in of the reddest states of the south, and Mykki is touring Europe this Summer. The greater hype that surrounds these artists, the more accepting the future will be. Hip Hop is enjoyed everywhere in the western world and these artists have found their places in the folds of the underground. Soon, they will gain influence through their music. The gay MC is not merely an entertainer, but a harbinger of a more accepting future culture. To listen to some of the music mentioned, visit:


g album/the-eulogy g


VALIDnation Stacey Kirby (Durham, NC)

On May, 8th 2012, 61.04%* of the citizens of North Carolina voted for a divisive and discriminatory amendment that broke my heart. The passing of Amendment One altered our state’s constitution and redefined marriage to exclude my queer community: AN ACT TO AMEND THE NORTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE THAT MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS THE ONLY DOMESTIC LEGAL UNION THAT SHALL BE VALID OR RECOGNIZED IN THIS STATE.

But I am proud to say that I am a part of the 38.96% that attempted to defeat Amendment One and I am committed to calling attention to this hate legislation. As an artist, I channel my frustration about the denial of our civil rights into a nationally focused performative interaction in the streets. My newest work, VALIDnation, is an ongoing interactive performance art piece exploring civil rights and the validity of communities, families, and individuals throughout the United States. As the Civil Validation Officer during the performance of VALIDnation, I ask the public to fill out a Civil Validation Notification card describing their FAMILY/LIFESTYLE/PARTNERSHIP. As the officer on duty, my job is to determine each participants’ VALIDITY in the community based on their description. If approved, a large VALID stamp is placed

over the participants’ response in red ink. All completed Civil Validation cards are mailed to the U.S. Supreme Court to reaffirm the validity of all relationships in our country. As I perform VALIDnation, my “political performative” fire continues to burns as our nation’s states pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage (12 as of May 21st) and the U.S. Supreme Court Justices write opinions about same-sex marriage to be revealed in late June. We are experiencing a huge awakening in our communities and country. Now is the time to use our creative skills to cultivate more conversations about supporting one another’s ability to love – regardless of gender, race or sexuality. Included in this publication is a Civil Validation Notification Card. Take the time to fill out the card, add a stamp and send your validity to your Supreme Court as they consider same-sex marriage in the United States. Now is the time to let your voice be heard!

*34.66% of registered NC citizens voted. Stacey L. Kirby is a performance and installation artist living in Durham, NC. VALIDnation is supported by the Durham Arts Council.




DIRECTIONS - Fill in this card and return it to the Civil Validation Officer. Card to be mailed during threat or attack to any person who might be concerned about your family’s validation.











Form 800 (February 2013)












Stacey L. Kirby during a performance at the Ackland Museum Store


Coloring Outside the Lines jason watson (charlotte, NC)

The drawings shown here are part of a self portrait series by Jason Watson, playing with wigs and hair styles as a mode for exploring queer personal aesthetics. He is expanding this work through a project called Coloring Outside the Lines in partnership with the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, the McColl Center for Visual Art, and Time Out Youth, an organization dedicated to offering support and advocacy to LGBTQ young people. During a residency at the McColl

Center, Watson will work with LGBTQ youth and young adults to help them reveal and reflect who they truly are through the creation of drawn portraits. Watson will inspire participants to explore the many layers of their identity and individuality through journals and blog entries and will incorporate their shared revelations into a collaborative portrait of each participant. You can see the final portraits at

Ignite Change Allen Moore (Rockingham County, NC)


Invisible Boyfriends

Abby Archer (San Francisco, CA)

Fourteen years ago, I was turning 14, and it was both the end of a century and the start of a new millennium. A lot has changed since then. Back then, my telephone had a cord on it, and the Internet dialed up through that cord, so no one else in the house could use the phone if I was online. And I was either on the phone or on the Internet 99% of the time. Some things haven’t changed. For my friends and I, the hours on the phone or online were consumed with gossip about who had just come out as Bi. Most of us -- in a suburban town in the central valley of California -- had no idea what it meant to come out. The idea that there were some among us who weren’t 100% “straight” or didn’t feel 100% right with their bodies or assigned genders was extremely radical to us -- worthy of phone calls and folded notes passed in class. We were taking Sex Ed that year as a segment in our biology class. Most of the discussions centered on videos we watched in class, dramatic reenactments of situations I’d never been in: a girl flushing with shame as her bookbag falls to the ground, revealing a box of tampons to the boy she likes; a boy nobly rejecting a group of menacing delinquents brandishing marijuana cigarettes. In the last 5 minutes of class, the teacher would field questions

we were asked to write on scratch paper. (How much blood comes out when you have a period? Can you get pregnant from being in a hot tub? Is it normal if your penis curves to one side? Do you bleed when you lose your virginity? Does Mountain Dew really lower your sperm count?) Most of our concerns had to do with the blood and guts of sex -- the blood, sweat, cum -- and so much less with relationships, intimacy, and our actual desires and fears. Our middle school had a Gay-Straight alliance that met once a week in the art classroom. Art Class was hosted by a very relaxed teacher, in a room with a very large closet. The kids were allowed to paint and graffiti the closet walls to their hearts content, so it wasn’t uncommon for students to sneak in there to “paint” and steal kisses from each other, and make the discovery that they themselves weren’t entirely as straight as they thought. The Band Closet was the other site for rendezvous like these. Under the guise of looking for a lost drumstick or spare clarinet reed, it was easy enough to sneak behind a pile of busted bass drums to grope each other upon the dusty orange shag carpeting. And if your were a girl that played the drums or brass, or a boy that played the flute or violin, if you had technicolored hair, and, most of all, if you attended the Gay-Straight Alliance, rumor


would spread that you were Bi. Those who came out as Bi didn’t only endure stigma, but also skepticism. Girls would confess the fact that they were Bi and kiss each other in front of boys. They’re just trying to get attention, their less forthcoming friends would say. What counted, and what didn’t, as hard evidence of bisexuality? Did one kiss make you Bi? Some of us were having our first kisses for the first time. Others were getting suspended for giving blow jobs on the back of the bus on school field trips. Wouldn’t it be impossible to say, at this point, who and what anyone was? It was in the spring of that year that two friends of mine, Marie and Helen, started dating boys from another school - Matt and Steve. They were elated they were best friends, the boys were best friends. It was to be an endless double date - swimming at the pool, eating hamburgers, riding bikes down the greenbelt, throwing ice cubes on pedestrians from the roof of the movie theater - all summer long. The two girls constantly chatted with each other about their new loves. They giggled and whispered in each other’s ears. They squeezed each other’s shoulders with excitement. They were never apart. At the spring school dance that brought students from both of the two middle schools in town together, I met Scott. Pushed together by our two cliques of friends, we slow danced. Afterwards, we chased each other around on the soccer field in the dusk. We started going to movies with groups of our mutual friends, and talking on the phone late into the night. I supposed that made

him my boy friend. We lived on opposite sides of town. I assumed that he would, of course, know Matt and Steve. “They’re best friends, they’re always together,” I told him on the phone. But he didn’t. When I mentioned this to Marie and Helen, they brushed it off. “Oh, no, our boyfriends go to Christian Brothers,” they said, hand in hand. That was the Catholic School the next town over. “Really? I thought you said they went to Emerson … “ In a place and a time where the overarching frame of thought appeared to be Straight thought, it was assumed that being Bi was somehow not serious or real. You were either Straight, like 99% of people we knew, or you were Gay, 100%. Coming out in school took an incredible act of courage. The word Queer -- a word in which we now can find empowerment and inclusivity -was used in my school as an expletive, an insult, and in the context of games like “smear the Queer” -- where a ball is thrown up into the air, whoever catches it is “the Queer” and the crowd does everything they can to tackle the person, retrieve the ball, and throw it up into the air again before they too are “smeared.” It’s not surprising, then, that Helen and Marie chose to invent boyfriends rather than to come out as Bi or Queer. Their invisible boyfriends gave them the chance to become close, hidden in plain sight. It bought them some time to figure out who they were and what being together meant for them, before being smeared by their peers. At the moment when, after 6 months, they announced that Matt and Steve were, in fact, not real, they began fielding the kind of

SCHOOL’S OUT STYLE & CULTURE ADVICE POLITICS GEOGRAPHY MISC. questions from their “allies” that they’d been happy to avoid (who’s the boy in the relationship? when are you going to tell your parents? which one of you turned the other one gay?) Like most middle school relationships, like mine, theirs didn’t last into high school. Marie continued to date both boys and girls. Helen, who’d only wear dresses when forced to, stopped wearing clothes from the girl’s side of the Junior’s section. She cut her hair short, and changed her name to just Elle, and then to just L, and then to Leo. It wasn’t until high school was receding safely into the background that Leo was able to change genders on Facebook, and publicize who he was. I hope, 14 years later, that we are moving towards a world where we can be Queer in whatever way we are, without having to twist up elaborate fictions for the sake of others.

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Peter Pendergrass (oakland, ca)

My first girlfriend’s name was Brittany. Well, to be precise, she was my first friend – and my first best friend – and she was a girl. We were backyard neighbors, our mothers were pregnant together, and we were delivered on each other’s due dates. We spent the first years of our lives more or less doing everything together. We played together, ate together, bathed together, slept together. We ran through sprinklers in the yard, had screaming contests, put on princess dresses and did karaoke to “Achy Breaky Heart,” made pretend for hours with Hot Wheels, dolls, action figures, and whatever else we had on hand. Her mom was a hairstylist, and she gave me just about all of my haircuts until they moved a few towns away. I can’t remember how old we were when that happened, but I remember being sad. By that time I had a little brother, but my best friend, the person who was my same age and with whom I had a more in common in terms of life experience than anyone else, was all of a sudden very far away. In pre-school, I met my second girlfriend. Her name was Omega, and our relationship mostly consisted of chasing each other around on the playground. I had another girlfriend at church. Her name was Chelsea, and our relationship mostly consisted of us re-enacting scenes from Aladdin on the steps of the stage in the gymnasium, where little kids got to hang out before they were old enough be forced to sit still in mass. I

also made a new best friend, Cameron, my first boy best friend. I can’t remember exactly why we became best friends, but we were in the same class from pre-K through second grade, we were in Cub Scouts together, and I think we were in the same recreational soccer league for a while. After Cameron changed schools, we stayed best friends through Scouts, eventually starting Boy Scouts together, but Boy Scouts sucked, so I quit, and as a result we stopped seeing each other very often, and eventually stopped being best friends. In the meantime (kindergarten through second grade), I was still long-distance best friends with Brittany and church best friends with Chelsea, and I had a good number of neighborhood friends, plus school friends who weren’t my best friends. But things started to change in third grade. Since Cameron had left, I was best friendless. Of course, I had classmates who I got along with better than others – in third grade it was Kareem, Justin, and Melissa – and we played together at recess, went to each other’s birthday parties, etc. The next year, I was in a combined classroom with all the fourth and fifth graders together with one teacher. I still had most of my third grade friends, and I befriended a group of fifth grade girls – Caitlin, Lindsey, and Rian. Lindsey and Caitlin had been best friends for a while, and when they adopted Rian and I, we became a little clique.


We were obsessed with the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys, which was pretty standard for a group of elementary school girls at that time; less so for a boy, but I wasn’t really aware of that. I just loved music. My father was a professional radio DJ for much of my childhood, so I grew up in a house full of records, tapes, and CDs. Every weekend my parents would wake up early and put on music in the living room. My mom’s favorite back then was Basia, and my dad’s was (and still is) Bruce Springsteen. I would wake up to Earth Wind & Fire, Weather Report, and all kinds of other music blasting out of the stereo downstairs. My dad would bring promotional tapes and CDs home for me. I remember getting the “Whoomp! (There It Went)” Disney remix single, Taylor Dayne, Jon Secada, and Exposé, just to name a few. The first album that I specifically asked my dad to get for me was “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1998. I had a booklet of CDs that I took to school with my Discman when I was allowed to, and I would listen to Lauryn Hill on repeat while gliding back and forth on the swingset with my headphones on. In short, music taste was not something I understood to be gendered, and the fact that the people who liked some of the same music as me were girls did not strike me as even remotely important.

For a variety of reasons, but mostly because Caitlin, Lindsey, and Rian went to middle school and I switched schools for fifth grade, our little clique dissolved. I started going to the school at my family’s church, St. Pius X. As you may have already figured out, it’s a Catholic church. I was not very happy about switching schools, and I was especially upset about switching to a school with mandatory uniforms. By fourth grade, I had already tired of Sunday school, which I had been attending since kindergarten, and I was certainly not looking forward to what was, at least as far as I could tell, Sunday school times infinity. But when you are ten years old you don’t have control over those kinds of decisions, so I went. My mother, on my first day of school, encouraged me, telling me that it would be good for me to, “take a swim in a bigger pond.” She also told me it would be a good opportunity to, “make some new friends who aren’t girls.” This caught me completely off guard. I had always been friends with girls. What was the big deal? But I didn’t get to voice this confusion. Instead I got out of the car, sighed with resignation, and reluctantly started my first day of fifth grade… To read the full version of this story, visit

Samantha Persons (Champaign, IL)


Reading OUTLoud April Parker (Greensboro, NC)

“the healing through books” and can lead to one’s journey towards self actualization. During the cathartic process of reading we are able to identify ourselves through the stories of others in recognition that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Some of us read for entertainment and instantly feel better, or we seek out information and once it is located we feel relieved. For more info visit:

Photographs by Tee Dubose

Reading OUTLoud, is a captured opportunity to combine activism, books and identity through art and photography. An exhibit of the work generated from the project was on display at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Multicultural Resource Center the spring of 2013. The show addressed the absence of LGBTQ lives in literacy campaigns, mainstream education, and healing through bibliotherapy. Bibliotherapy is


Samantha Persons (Champaign, IL)


Did You Always Know? Did I always know that my son was gay, the answer is no. I did know that from the minute they laid him on my chest and he relaxed in my arms that I completely and utterly loved him. He was my first son, shy, loving and with a mop of curly hair. However, it wasn’t until I had my second son who was all boy, who loved cars, and sports and action figures, that I fully realized that my first son’s softer temperament was different from other boys. He did not always fit in and my heart ached when I watched him having difficulty making friends not truly understanding why. All of my children have different personalities, but his love of art, his sensitive nature, his love of flowers did not intimidate me, and I haven’t really told him, but his searching and thoughtful nature more so endeared him to me. I love my son whole hardheartedly and at many times felt him my closest ally. And for years it was painful to watch my husband, who loves all of his children, be filled with a deep consternation that he did not know how to communicate with our first son, a son who did not like cars and sports and action figures, yet still dearly loved. I wished that as my son was growing up that I had more awareness, I wished that I had realized sooner that my son was gay, I wished that I had known that he was so unhappy, but mostly I wish that I could take back all of the years of misunderstanding and sorrow and just hold my son close to my chest and feel him relax in my arms with complete and unconditional love. I wished that I had realized sooner that my son was gay.


Ask Eli

Elijah cameron (Asheboro, NC)

Q: I am having issues with body dysphoria. I am upset that I don’t feel at home in my body, what do I do? A: Body acceptance is a process, sometimes life-long. While that may sound like a preconceived response, it simply means there is a lot one must work through to free themselves of the death-grip society has on body image. Those who fall outside the gender binary can suffer even worse. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. While body acceptance does not mean you disregard who you are by ‘settling’ for being what other people think your body means. You are the only one who can validate your identity and never let anyone tell you otherwise. What I do mean is acknowledging and respecting the body you were born with and finding new ways to interact with a body that does not reflect your mental state. While many adults have the luxury to pursue medical options, as a younger individual most of the time that isn’t necessarily a feasible reality. Working with parts you have as best you can is a great practice no matter what your body type or situation.

Have a question for Eli? Visit his column online and submit your own question to Some questions currently in Eli’s Inbox: How do I deal with long-distance relationships and coming out? g

I am intersex. How do I come out to my partner and not scare them away?

I have a crush on a boy at school and I don’t know if he “plays on my team”. What do you think I should do?



What do I do if I don’t like anal sex but I do like to get it on with guys? Can I not be a bottom or top. Maybe on the side?


How do I get a job when I am under 18 & I am not read read as either gender or read as queer? g

I am with a guy that is in the closet. How do I handle hiding my affection?



A Queer Tarot Reading Red Behnke (Saxapahaw, NC)

Q: Why do I depend on medication? A: So, the card that I drew was Judgement. The Judgement card signifies a sort of turning point in your life based on self realization and reflection, often times. It also signifies an awakening, or a new beginning. Maybe the fact that you are asking this question means that you are “waking up,” so to speak. Try to spend some time thinking about why you decided to take medication, and why it is that you feel as though you depend on it. If you’ve been having a rough time, this card may signify that your troubles will be resolved soon. It might not be easy, or pleasant, but you’ll make it. Judgement also suggests that you should let other people help you along; you don’t have to be alone. This could mean friends and family, or strangers. In this instance it could even mean medication. Sometimes we get into such a headspace that we need some outside help to give us the ability to Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist! I am just a teenager with some cards and maybe a bit of experience dealing with mental illness!

help ourselves out of it. Taking medication doesn’t make you weak or dependant, it can help you on your journey, or help you get to a point where you can be independent. Remember, Judgement is about finding absolution with yourself. It’s okay if you need to lean on something or someone to help you reach that point!


Your friendly neighborhood binding safety Elijah Cameron (Asheboro, NC) and Red Behnke (Saxapahaw, NC)

You are walking out and about town when suddenly you don’t feel quite right. Your chest feels tight and you find it hard to breathe. Your back is sore and your skin feels pinched. Your pulse quickens and you begin to panic. Why is this happening? It is likely that your breathing and circulation are being cut off. This is because you are not binding safely! Body dysphoria can often be difficult to cope with, but there are ways to bind without compromising your health. For starters, you should probably know what you might be doing wrong, or what you shouldn’t do in the future. Here are some tips, tricks, and guidelines to consider when creating a masculine appearing chest. Safety first. As with any shapewear, binding should be approached with careful understanding and respect for your body and its well-being. Extreme binding can cause severe health problems both short and long-term if done incorrectly. Ace bandages are a big no-no. The use of ace bandages to bind is probably seen the most in pop culture like movies and books, but it is definitely not a good idea. Ace bandages are not made to move with

your body, and they can cause serious issues such as tearing muscle, bruising of the ribs, misshaping the spine, and serious lung damage. If you for some reason bind with an Ace bandage, and begin to feel soreness in your back and your chest as well as difficulty breathing or a “chest cold” feeling, take it off immediately. If the pain and breathing difficulty persists for a while after you’ve taken it off, please see a doctor as soon as possible.


Leave tape for arts & crafts. Ductape and other adhesives may seem like a tempting option if you don’t have access to professional binders, but do not do this. Tapes are typically NON-breathable and can cause serious medical problems, including ripping and scarring skin. If you are ever in the unfortunate position of having your chest bound with tape, take a hot shower and slowly peel the bandages off your skin. You can try using lotion as well. If the tape does not remove easily then go to the emergency room. R & R. Binding more than a couple hours can typically cause aches and back pain. We recommend binding for less than 6-8 hours at a time. Give your body time to rest and recover and don’t sleep in your binder. Sleeping in a binder can cause all sorts of complications including breathing problems similar to sleep apnea and generally interrupt your ability to sleep. Just don’t do this. Tightness ≠ better binding. The goal is to create a masculine shaped torso, not to crush your ribcage. Many binders work with stretch material to compress your chest but there are binders with nonstretch fronts that focus on altering the silhouette of your chest instead of just compressing the shape already there.

Disclaimer: This guide does not advocate for anything that would compromise your health. Please consult your doctor before making any decisions.

Sport bras. This is not an option many like to hear, especially if chest-binding is part of an androgynous or masculine identity but if you do not have the most accepting guardian figures in your life this may be an option with which to work. Shop around and look for “no bounce” sport bras (such as the Frog Bra) and try on a size or smaller than usual. This combined with clever layering can do wonders. Layering. Concealing cleavage is not the only thing that will help your androgynous or masculine presentation. The use of clothing layers, patterns, and styles can be a valuable aid. T-shirts, button-ups, and jackets can all help to distract from the shape of your torso. Check out: for an excellent examination clothing and how to manipulate masculine fashion for curved bodies. Online Resources g



g DIY Binders: post/34631541789/tutorial-chest-binder

Red Behnke (Saxapahaw, NC)

Adventures in Abstract Coping Mechanisms



Ten Best Ways To Practice Consent Eric Ginsburg (Greensboro, NC) Courtesy, Yes Weekly!

Defining consent Consent is usually discussed in the context of engaging in sexual activity with someone else, but can really be applied to interpersonal interactions in general. By defining what we mean by consent, it’s easier to practice, whether that means sleeping with someone or not crossing boundaries people may have around any number of things.

Asking questions To understand what someone else wants and feels good about, as well as what they aren’t interested in, it’s easiest to ask questions. People often revert to reading body language or even vague comments rather than just asking something like, “Do you want to _____?” or “What if we did ______ or tried ________?”

Checking in Even if you’ve done something before with another person, it’s still good to ask them things like, “Is this okay?” to make sure you are still on the same page. It doesn’t just make for good consent —

checking in means the experience will be better: questions (“Do you like it when I _______?”) and statements (“That feels great!”) lead both people to be more in tune with each other as an interaction is developing.

Expressing desires It’s not just about what someone else wants, but what you would like too. Sometimes people will passively wait for someone else to ask what they want before speaking up, and may still feel uncomfortable verbalizing their desires. By being open and honest about what you want, there’s less room for confusion and a better chance you’ll actually get it.

Listening Go ahead, roll your eyes at how obvious this is, but if you are asking questions and communicating with someone about what they want, it’s crucial to practice active listening and not just hear what you want. By reiterating what we understand someone to be saying, even if it seems redundant, is a good way to make sure we’re listening well.


Nonverbal cues

Be ready for no

While they won’t suffice on their own, in part because they’re easier to misinterpret, nonverbal cues are still a helpful part of understanding boundaries and consent. Sometimes even if people verbally consent to certain things, their actions will suggest otherwise, in their eyes, expression, body language or participation. Be aware of how other people are responding to your words and behavior.

Part of practicing consent is being ready for and accepting when someone says no or is not okay with something. “Maybe” and “I guess so” aren’t substitutes for “yes” and asking relentlessly until someone concedes is not consent either. Be comfortable and safe with each other — saying no should not be difficult, and should be expected sometimes.

Identify power dynamics

Setting up boundaries and communication before getting into a situation where substances are involved is ideal, but this clearly goes against our socialization. Many people use substances as windows of opportunity to interact with new people, and some will use them as an excuse as well as a crutch. Learning to initially engage people when you’re sober means less drama and more fulfilling interactions, sexual and otherwise.

Consent is not possible where there is coercion, and it can be intentional or completely by accident, which is why it’s important to have this dialogue internally and with others. People can be coercive in a variety of ways, such as guilt or pressuring people into doing things they don’t want to do. By proactively identifying power dynamics, we can deal with them.

Awareness of substances


What Inspires a Professional LGBT Advocate Working in Washington, DC? YOU! Ian Thompson (Washington, D.C.)

Each day, I have the great privilege of working to secure basic fairness and equality under the law for LGBT people all across the country. The ACLU has a long and proud history of fighting for the rights of LGBT people. We brought our first LGBT rights case in 1936 – in defense of “The Children’s Hour,” a play written by Lillian Hellman that was banned by Boston’s public censor due to its “lesbian content.” An important area of the ACLU’s LGBT rights work today is focused on issues related to youth and schools. We regularly work with and sometimes represent as clients – students fighting to establish gay-straight alliances (GSAs) or to attend school dances with same-sex dates and dressed in gender nonconforming ways if they choose. We firmly

believe that all young people should be taught in an environment respectful of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Without question, my single biggest source of inspiration in motivating me to do the work of advocating for LGBT rights in the halls of Congress are the stories of incredibly courageous young people who are willing to stand up and fight for their rights. Young people like 14-year-old Bayli Silberstein in Ocala, Florida who sued her school for the right to establish a GSA to help create a safer and more welcoming environment for all students. Or 18-year-old Issak Wolfe, a transgender high school senior in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, who was denied the chance to run for prom king when his principal placed his female birth name in the column for “prom queen” despite repeated requests to be listed under his correct gender identity. The ACLU is currently representing Issak to ensure that he will be able to attend his high school graduation wearing a black cap and gown for boys, as opposed to the yellow cap and gown mandated for girls, and to have his male name read at the ceremony.


Creating a safer school climate and wanting to be recognized by your school as the boy you are. These are such basic things that, in the year 2013, it seems almost baffling that students would have to be willing to stand up and challenge their schools for them. And yet they do it and it takes a lot of courage to do so.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act would give LGBT students and their families the right to take schools to court when they fail to take harassment and bullying seriously, or engage in discrimination (e.g. refusing to allow a student to bring a same-sex date to prom).

Part of what I do in Washington, DC is actually quite simple – I tell stories. Yes, that’s right. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools that advocates for civil and human rights have to move progress forward. By sharing the stories of young people like Bayli and Issak with members of Congress, for example, I can help build support for the Student NonDiscrimination Act. What is this and why is it important you ask?

When members of Congress here about what LGBT students like Bayli and Issak have endured, it becomes quickly apparent that there is a need for action to prevent other students in the future from having to go through similar struggles. When LGBT students stand up and fight for their rights, they are not just standing up for themselves. They are standing up for all the young people who will follow in their footsteps in the future.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in every public school in the U.S. The need could not be clearer. A 2011 nationwide survey of more than 8,500 students between the ages of 13-20 by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that eight out of ten LGBT students reported experiencing harassment at their school within the past year based on their sexual orientation. Transgender students experienced even more hostile school climates than their non-transgender peers, with 80% of transgender students reporting feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.

Young people are often asked what they will do to make the world better. Leaving your school a safer, more welcoming and affirming place is a wonderful legacy. It also gives daily inspiration to me. For being true to yourselves and living your lives with honesty and integrity, I say thank you.

I welcome any feedback or questions you may have. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @iantDC


Finding Self Kiticia Hayes (Greensboro, NC)

I’ve forever been the oddball, outkast, never quite fitting in. I remember my first job right out of college as a reporter for a local newspaper. I wanted to dress the part: makeup, blue power suit, and straight hair. I wanted to impress the senior reporters who were predominantly white and male. As the young, new kid on the block, I wanted to fit in among my older coworkers. I wanted to flaunt my education from Elon University yet retain some hint of blackness by going by my first name Kiticia and purposely correcting people when they pronounced it incorrectly. It was a frightening experience for a young, black female who was still questioning her sexuality in the early 2000s but it would be the very place that I embraced ALL the differences that were me, eventually catapulting me into lesibanhood. Coming to terms with my sexuality was a process that I seemingly put on the backburner, but in retrospect I had to become confident in other areas before I could even begin to admit/ understand/embrace that I was a lesbian.

I threw myself into my job, becoming bored with my duties after three months and asking for more work and more responsibilities. I worked my way to editing, page design and finally reporter status. Seeing my byline in the paper and covering the news I thought was important was a major turning point for me and in turn boosted my confidence as a writer. Initially I balked at being the black reporter that covered the black news, but the black community trumpted my work in giving a voice to people they felt were neglected in the media. That confidence began to spread outward as I started to look at my self-images more closely. My lower middle class, single parent upbringing had me deeply connected to what it meant to struggle, to live paycheck to paycheck and to constantly have a desire to want something better. Education was a way out of that struggle; so school became very important to me. My neighborhood was predominantly black and lower middle class but as an honor student in elementary, middle and high school and eventually college, I would forever be surrounded by white kids of privilege


who looked starkly different than me. I felt I was never good enough among the kids that had long hair, blond hair, blue eyes, designer clothes, the best houses and cars and had both parents at school functions. This haunted me and made me develop very negative images of myself. A brown, plus size girl with thick, coarse hair would always stick out like a sore thumb I thought. I carried that with me for a long time but as my confidence grew, those images began to dissolve slowly. I wanted to show off my differences. I decided to grow my hair naturally in an afro and embrace it in its natural state; I stopped wearing caked on makeup and started dressing less feminine. I adopted a very androgynous look and it fit me like a glove. I remember a co-worker saying to me, “Kiticia you are always changing your must be going through an identity crisis”. At the time, I brushed this off but I was in fact going through a crisis that included my identity and sexuality. I was trying to date men because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing in my early 20s. My college friends were getting married and having kids (never priorities for me) and I was still trying to figure out what the big fuss was about men and sex and that whole thing. All my life, I had enjoyed being around women more and men always seemed like my homeboys rather than dating candidates. It was always confusing

but I was finally able to sync my mind, body and soul and embrace my sexuality around the age of 22. It was probably the hardest thing to face but once I did, I finally felt like I was complete. Or so I thought. Being introduced to the LGBT community felt like I was starting all over again; just like the first day I walked into the newsroom and saw a very white, male dominated environment. I was happy to finally be out. Happy to go to gay events, watch gay movies and do anything gay. But it was hard to find people that looked like me at those gay events and in those gay movies. Once again I asked myself where do I fit in? Where does a heavy-set, black, masculine of center lesbian with short locks fit in? I had to literally search for an LGBT community of color. Thanks to college campuses and online sites like Black Planet and Downelink, I began to discover people that looked like me, talked like me, and acted like me. It was a sigh of relief. Fast-forward to 37-year-old Kiticia, who feels like she is finally able to present her real, authentic persona to the world. She is totally ok with everything that she is, for the most part. Sure she still had some of the same insecurities, doubts, worries that she will carry until the day she dies but the fact that she can live boldly and out loud as a queer person of color speaks volumes. It feels nice to finally fit in.


We don’t do boxes Kia Vaughn (Greensboro, NC)

Queerness, boxes, identity, relationships, presentation, politics not just, but more Friendships, boundaries, family (chosen/blood), music, school, work, class, race, experience the world, food, showing affection, love, poly, media, perceptions, lost, broken, rebuilt, denied, affirmed. It’s a huge thing and a non-thing It encompasses whole lives, communities, politics, media But it is amorphous and can’t be pinned down It doesn’t mean the same for any two people Yet it is a community Multiple cultures have been created from this idea community of shared expression? Culture still develops no matter what Culture (big “C”) erases and minimizes cultures (little “c”) rears differences in experience of identity to create homogenous idea that still isn’t agreed upon people, lives, existences are erased to increase visibility in an attempt to make sense, to be more palatable to those who disregard/hate/ignore/seek to erase the many existences of what it is to be queer To drive a wedge and label different as inferior. The cycle continues.

Michelle Fay Nowitz (Chicago, IL)


Michelle Fay Nowitz (Chicago, IL)



Collins Bennett (New Jersey)

I have this fantasy of New York. I will have an apartment full of nothing. It will be downtown somewhere. The landlord will be an older man who charges too much. He will leave my lights on and write me a note when my rent is late. There will be an exposed brick wall and I will scrape away the grout between the bricks to nail found empty picture frames up—then post it on Instagram. My bed will have a grey comforter and it will always be in some setting of unmade- unfolded clothes in a corner, pillows on the floor, novel-shapedlump under the covers. I will bring home a girl and in that awkward walk from the couch to the bed half-dressed and moving too quickly she will trip over my cat’s bowl and fall, her skirt smeared with salmon-flavored can shaped cat food. The mood will be ruined. I will get rid of the couch and put chairs around the TV and a wooden coffee table left over from my parent’s move. The kitchen will be small—a fridge, a sink, and a trashcan. I will always have peanut butter and diet coke stocked. I will eat applesauce from the jar. I will have had a roommate, a girl. I will be utterly unattracted to her. Her boyfriend will be a programmer, we will drink locally brewed beer and eat homemade meatballs and pasta (I will cook well). We will own one tablecloth—it will be stained. She will want to move out with him, but won’t be able to afford the apartment in Tribecca, and I won’t be able to pay rent without a roommate. I will get a second job when she moves out—A bartending job at a small pub in Noho. I will take the Subway home at 4 am on Saturdays. I will work nights on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. My real job will be as a third

grade teacher at P.S. 128. I will walk to work every day, changing my adidas for real shoes that I keep in the closet in my classroom. I will let myself get Chai on Wednesdays and flirt with the barista at the local coffee shop. I will still not drink coffee. I will love my jobs. I will fight to get two weeks off to get a double mastectomy—Top—Top Surgery. Salmonskirt girlfriend will move in to take care of me and forget to move out again. She will rub my chest with scar cream and give me pain killer and Mac n’ Cheese. I will love her for this. I will teach her how to give me testosterone shots, getting rid of air bubbles and counting to five pressing on the plunger. She will hate doing this, but love the effects. I will cry when my mother calls and refuses to come to the apartment to see me. My sister will come from Manhattan to visit for a night. She will be proud of me. I will own a medium sized TV and 15 DVDs. I will splurge for an Apple TV and stream Netflix movies on Tuesday nights with my cat. I will watch A Beautiful Mind so many times the DVD will break in my cheap DVD player. I will watch and psychological thrillers. When Salmon-Skirt and I break up I will watch badly made Lesbian flicks with lots of sex and pretend it’s not a sad excuse for porn. I will have good friends. We will cook and save coupons for bowling and drinks together. We will talk and share stories and experiences on Saturday afternoons. I will have dinner parties with my old roommate and college friends where everyone will bring green beans and garlic bread and chicken. I will own a suit. I will look good. I will be happy. I have this fantasy of New York.


There’s No Place Like Home B. Marshall (Texas)

One would think that being queer in a small town like Wichita, Kansas is a lot harder than it would be living in a big city. That person would be extraordinarily wrong. When I was back home, I knew practically every student in my school and practically every person they’ve ever dated. There was no such thing as “personal business” and for the most part, it always worked in everyone’s favor. It made finding friends and significant others with the same interests as you fairly easy, and whenever anyone was thinking about playing for your team, you knew about it instantly from a friend of a friend. This cultural invasion of privacy made fellow lady lovers visible so we could form bonds and build a close knit community. Sadly, mid sophomore year, my comfortable community was ripped away when I was exiled to Texas. Since then, I’ve been a surviving solely on the comfort of heterosexual male friendships for the past year, which itself isn’t too hard since my particular brand of butch corresponds with that of the notion “boy” culture. And while I do miss hanging with queer women, it’s nice to hang out with a group of friends where you can admire girls together, yet not have to compete for them, cause when that beautiful goddess with a preference for the Sapphic side of life comes along, you don’t have to go all Hunger Games just to get her phone number. The only down side to the whole gay-girl/ straight-guy friendship is the simple fact that most guys, especially in high school, are heterosexist assholes.

My two close friends, who love me dearly, also fall under that generalization. Due to their presumed “hetero privilege”, they feel that same-sex relationships (especially between two women) are all play but no substance, that our interactions, be it sexual or romantic, are childish and simply inferior to that of a heterosexual one. Since their sexuality matches that of what’s considered the norm, it’s understandable why they feel as if it doesn’t matter since it doesn’t apply to them. Though it does aggravate me how narrow minded they can be on that topic, I’m glad they feel differently than I do. It makes me feel like maybe I need more friends. Not someone who will be my “yes” man, but simply another person who gets where I’m coming from. Unfortunately, I’ve searched high and low and have yet to find a friend like that here, and I’m beginning to believe that it is absolutely impossible to find someone like that because I have already found her once before. My (platonic) other half is Kiara. She’s my Broham, my wingman, my lesbro, my best friend, you know—just… everything. I miss her a lot less than what I used to, but I still have a hole in my heart, a hole I’ve been trying to fill for the last year and seven months. Here in Stud Country, I’m beginning to find that there are a lot of racial ties to being gay in Texas and it leaves me feeling lost in a big blur of confusion. Whether you’re Black, white, Hispanic, or Asian—it doesn’t matter. Anyone can be butch, femme, etc. in Kansas if that’s what they felt like they were. Here it’s a whole different ball game.


If you’re black and masculine presenting, your automatically assumed to be a stud and are expected to act and feel a certain way and get corrected if you introduce yourself as anything else. It clogs up the whole friendship making/courting process, and it’s honestly very intimidating. How am I supposed to approach people if they’ve already written me off as a certain type because of my skin color? Why even bother to infiltrate an LGBTQ community if they haven’t been very welcoming thus far? Or maybe I have a bias and am judging Southern queers too harshly based off a few bad encounters. But I really just think I’m not in the right age bracket to find the type of companionship I’m looking for.

Mapping beyond ‘safe zones’ during QueerLab at Elsewhere

I am a sixteen-year-old girl who is a junior in high school and I yearn for normal things: friends that don’t secretly wish you were straight, a best friend who doesn’t live 700 miles away and girlfriend who doesn’t compare you to studs, and appreciates the small girlish things about you, as well as the mostly masculine. I don’t want to wait till until college, when boys are a bit more mature, and baby gays are willing to fight for each other instead of against one another, to have everything that I want.


CALLING HOME Karl Cronin (San Francisco, CA)

When I was a kid, our family moved from Denver to north Texas. My dad was in the military and he was restationed to an Air Force base in Wichita Falls. Our whole family packed up, and we drove down south. I was crestfallen. I said goodbye to the Colorado sky. To my friends. To the theater I worked in as a kid actor. To my dreams of meeting and marrying a mountain man (a common theme in my prepubescent queer mind). Texas. What was I going to do in Texas? A diary entry from age 12, written shortly after I arrived, reads “there’s not a gay anybody here in a 100 mile radius. What am I doing here?”. Like many queers, I was precocious. I knew about who I was and what I wanted at a very young age. My only strategy was escape. No matter what it took I was going to find a way out of there. My destination was New York City. Jonathan Larson’s RENT came out while I was still in high school, which only deepened my resolve. I was going to find my tribe of queer bohemians and never look back. No day but today, ya’ll! It took me 5 years, including four years of closeted high school life, but eventually I did “escape”. I went to school in Boston. I performed as a dancer, and eventually moved to NYC to study choreography. People don’t sing in the streets as much as they do in the musical, but yes indeed there are queer bohemians in droves. I was in heaven. I had arrived. But then something started nagging me. A little itchy something with a Texas accent. It started poking me on the shoulder. It grew more and more incessant. It demanded I pay attention to it. It began to grow into a personal and professional obsession:

Why do the queers have to move? More specifically, Why did I feel I had to leave to become who I am? AND...Can I go back? Do I want to go back? I began pouring all of these questions and their murky answers into my art. I formed a band called PRINCE de DAME where I write original songs about the places I’ve called home. These songs have become my beacon that I shine into the night sky - over the foothills of central Colorado and the arid prairie of the Red River Valley. Songs as revisionist histories; stories that might have unfolded had I stayed. Tales of places I would like to see again. A definition of my homeland in my own language. A request for an invitation to come home. I don’t know if I’ll ever live in Texas again. I’ve looked into property in Childress, TX, a town smaller than where I grew up. When I last visited, I walked the streets and imagined what it would feel like to live there without the hidden feeling I’d experienced as a kid. To walk the brush at night knowing that the land belonged as much to me as it did to the mesquite trees. Part of me can feel it so clearly, and I try to sing from that part. The other part feels jaded and angry, and I try to sing from that part too. Even if I never make it home again, I’m going to sing the song of where I come from. KARL CRONIN is a singer, composer, and movement artist living in San Francisco. You can hear his music at http://princededame. com


QueerLab Resources Local/Regional Organizations NC Equality -

The Bayard Rustin Center at Guilford College

Youth OUTRight (Asheville)

InsideOUT 180 -

Elsewhere - Time Out Youth (Charlotte) LGBT Center of Raleigh Campaign for Southern Equality (Asheville) Southerners on New Ground Guilford Green Foundation (Greensboro) YouthSAFE - UNCG Pride

GSAFE (Greensboro) - Triad Health Project (Greensboro) PFLAG (Greensboro) Queer People of Color Collective (Triad)

SPARK (Atlanta) - Southern Street Solidarity Safe Schools NC - We Are NC - Elon Spectrum Positive Wellness Alliance Planned Parenthood NCCJ of the Triad - Queer Explorers Club

Where to get free STI testing: Triad Health Project does free testing on Monday nights: STI testing at Guilford County Health Department - sliding scale (down to free) GSA of Greensboro College - www.facebook. com/pages/Gay-Straight-Alliance-of-Greensboro-College/288891404465650


Media Resources Rookie Mag - The Advocate - Homoground - QNotes - DapperQ - AutoStraddle - Sex Etc. - Qwear - The Peculiar Kind Words With Girls Mobile Homecoming Q.O.R.D.S. (Durham)

KiQ is a non-fiction web series about queerness and the ways that it shows up in all sorts of places - pop culture, language, identities, and actions. The episodes are good for sharing via social media, learning more about queerness, connecting with queer community, and starting conversations in all sorts of environments (between friends, in classrooms, etc.) Its first four episodes premiered in winter 2013, and four more episodes will be released in the summer. To watch episodes, learn more about the series, or get in touch with the producers to pitch an idea, visit

Summer Reading List! Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White Directed by Desire by June Jordan Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde Queer Spirits by AA Bronson and Peter Hobbs Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel Hello Cruel World by Kate Bornstein Queer by Simon Gage The God Box by Alex Sanchez The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd Ash by Malinda Lo Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters The Rainbow Boys Trilogy by Alex Shanchez Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan Geography Club by Brent Hartinger So Hard To Say by Alex Sanchez Maurice by E. M. Forster

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan How I Learned to Snap by Kirk Read The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver Memoir of a Race Traitor by Mab Segrest Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South by E. Patrick Johnson Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse Queer by William S Burroughs Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote Fun Home by Alison Bechdel Nobody Passes by Matt Bernstein Sycamore Choir Boy by Charlie Anders PoMoSexuals by Carol Queen, Lawrence Schimel and Kate Bornstein Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

I Dont Do Boxes  

I Don't Do Boxes is a magazine for and by queer youth in the southeast. IDDB is a collaborative project at Elsewhere, a living museum in dow...

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