Color - OutWrite Newsmagazine (Spring 2023)

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OUTWRITE EST. 1979 SPRING 2023

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CONTENTS LETTER FROM THE EDITOR (FIFTY) SHADES OF PINK Beauty, Past Blood and Shame, in “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” To the queer youth, to my younger self PHOTOSYNTHESIS Recognized Amongst Nature Our Final Farewell: Generate Inspiration in pursuit of peace to live, not just to survive: the queer indomitable spirit References HERE’S TO THE FUTURE 1 2 6 10 14 18 20 24 28 32 34 OutWrite Newsmagazine is published and copyrighted by the ASUCLA Communications Board. All rights are reserved. Reprinting of any material in this publication
the written permission of the Communications Board is
Board fully
PREFACE
OF
without
strictly prohibited. The ASUCLA Communications
the University of
student media
SEX LIFE HEALING SUNSHINE NATURE MAGIC/ART SERENITY SPIRIT POSTFACE

Editor-in-Chief: Christopher Ikonomou

Managing Editor: Zoë Collins

Developmental Editors: Judah C., Kristin Haegelin

Graphics Head: Jackson Harris

Copy Chief: Bella Hou

Writers: Judah C.*, Brenna Connell, Rainer Lee, Giulianna Vicente, Jackson Harris, Christopher Ikonomou, Lorely James Guzman, Gwendolyn Hill

Artists: Noel Guzman, Steph Liu, Paheli, Jackson Harris, Izzy Taulli (guest), Elliott Couts, Kelly Doherty, Maddie McEwen, Mieko Tsurumoto

Copy Editors: Min Kim*, Bellze T., Gwendolyn Hill, Ava Rosenberg*, Maya Parra, Gisselle Miranda-Vázquez (guest), Zora Lam, JQ Shearin, Brooke Borders*, Michel R., Emma Blakely

Layout: Christopher Ikonomou*, Elliott Couts, Ellie Chun*, Sarah Belew, Giulianna Vicente

Cover Art: Charis Shargel

* contributed to multiple articles

CONTRIBUTORS
FOLLOW US @outwritenewsmag outwritenewsmag.org Check out our PODCAST on Youtube or your favorite podcasting platform! in order of appearance

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Dear Reader,

I stand at the end of an era. To be entirely dramatic, I have put my heart and soul into this magazine for my entire college career and I can’t imagine my time at UCLA going any other way. Forty-four years ago, in 1979, a collection of queer people — perhaps just like me, perhaps very different — started OutWrite (then TenPercent) because they wanted to fill a silence. That silence was a purposeful stifling of queer voices, created in hopes that the quiet would kill us. My four years of impact is an inkblot, one-eleventh of the legacy of this historic publication, but that inkblot filled me up, bled me dry, and left me a far better version of my most unapologetic self.

One year before this magazine’s inception, artist Gilbert Baker weaved a universal queer symbol — the first Pride flag — and made his own mark on the silence. Although his original eight-striped design quickly morphed into the simple rainbow we know today, he created his own era: one of recognition, identity, and unabashed color.

It’s fitting that my final print edition at OutWrite relishes in this idea of color and its connection to collective queer community and values. Each piece herewithin explores each stripe of Baker’s original vision: pink (sex), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunshine), green (nature), turquoise (magic & art), indigo (serenity), violet (spirit). Much like color, queerness is brilliant and beautiful, but most importantly, it is infinite. If OutWrite has taught me anything, it’s that there are no other words to encompass the queer experience and we shouldn’t be trying to find them anyway. It is okay to exist in messy, complex contradictions; to invent words when there aren’t enough to satiate our needs; to scream and cry and fuck and beam. Queerness does not lessen our humanity, it expands it. We are supernovas.

I will leave you with these oversimplified revelations. My trans, disabled body is gorgeous. I am happy to be alive. My trauma does not define me. The future is bright. Improving the world is my responsibility. I am creating what I want to see. We deserve peace. We are not going anywhere.

(FIFTY) SHADES OF PINK

Written by Brenna Connell & Judah C. Illustrated by Noel Guzman Layout by Elliott Couts

For many of us, sex is a process of trial and error. Sex, like gender, is subjective, something that requires nuance and space to be explored. Also like gender, sex is confusing, a process of trial and error that many assume is automatic. More often than not, sex as a form of intimacy and euphoria is policed by cisgender, heterosexual social norms which in turn leaves a lot of pressure on us to have sex that isn’t necessarily fun or comfortable. But how do we know what we like when it comes to sex, especially in an era where it feels like we must constantly conform to others’ notions of sex?

Baby Pink/Purity

My high school’s sex education class and smutty fanfics were really the only sources I had when it came to questions around sex. Sex is awkward. Pink dusted my cheeks as I continued perusing queer fanfics since my classes only talked about cishet couples. Exploring my sexuality was confined to the Internet, through a screen that fit in the palm of my hand.

There was a lot of pressure around sex in high school. Unfortunately, growing up AFAB (assigned female at birth) meant I was forcibly enrolled in the virgin/whore dichotomy, harsh labels ascribed to you based on your perceived promiscuity.

These labels added all the more stress to sex, and most discussions around it were based on cisgender, heterosexual experiences. It left out those of us who didn’t fall within those labels.

Orchid/Desirability

I didn’t start having sex until I was 18 and in college. The unfortunate process of puberty graced my body at nine years old, which meant that by 18, I had a good idea of what my body looked like. I was a bit of an ugly duckling in high school, hiding my body behind large sweatshirts and jeans that never quite fit right. I was a bit jealous of the teenagers I saw in movies and TV shows, whose bodies were beautiful and skinny. They didn’t have awkward hip dips, crooked teeth nor did they seem uncomfortable in their bodies. Western society (ugh, Western society) gives us a very clear understanding of what the ideal-gendered body looks like from a young age. It’s pretty bad already for cis folks, but it’s a lot worse for trans folks in general. Black and Brown trans folks have to struggle against more than just the norms of cisheteropatriarchy. As Jamee Pineda notes in the book, “Trans Sex,” they must also reckon with how “white supremacy and colonization forced many to normalize white European gender roles and standards of beauty.”1 At the individual level, there

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are many ways to resist the conception of certain bodies and certain body parts as inherently masculine or feminine.

Think about language. If you aren’t a fan of how society tries to label your parts, find or make up new words and explicitly ask your partner(s) to use them! There are already plenty of these mental shifts existing within trans communities; for example, a transfeminine person referring to their penis as a clitoris and vice versa for a transmasc person. Like Lucie Fielding puts it in “Trans Sex,” “A re-naming can be a way of reclaiming a part that would otherwise be cloaked in dysphoria.”2

Same with adjectives or names — if it’s a turn-on to be referred to as a “boy” or a “girl” in certain scenarios, even if that doesn’t match up with what you’d want to be called in everyday life, go for it. Let your partner(s) know!

Rose/ Communication

Many movies and shows tell us that sex is something serious and erotic, often a pact between two lovers or two strangers letting all their sexual tension out. It came as a surprise to me that sex isn’t like this, not most of the time anyway. Your body makes a weird noise, prompting laughter from your partner while you’re shocked that your body can even

make such a noise. Kisses on certain parts of the body can feel ticklish and you must repeat to yourself, “Don’t laugh,” lest you ruin the moment.

The most important part of communication during sex is consent. Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly kinky, having a safe word or some sort of check in system planned ahead of time is a great idea. Checking in with your partner, ideally, should just be a regular part of sex. Come on, you’ve made it this far in life by adapting cis folks’ conceptions of sex: you can definitely make seeking consent sexy.

Again — sex is awkward. No matter how many movies, porn videos, or romance novels try to depict it as some fluid, graceful act, they can’t change the awkwardness of real life human bodies. Add in genderfunky feelings about your own body, and the awkwardness can be a turn-off more than anything else. But here’s the thing: many of the anxieties about sex with a partner(s) can be relieved by openly communicating with them.

Coral/Beyond the Body

Under the covers, the brightness of my phone screen illuminates my face, almost embarrassed that it’s Archive of Our Own (AO3), a fanfiction

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website — but where else could I find something specific to my fantasies? Where else could I discover new things in the bedroom that I liked?

Not to speak for all the queer folks out there, but a lot of us have gone through something pretty similar. Like . . . how does sex work for trans people? It’s not as though they show us on TV. Most porn is absolutely not a healthy or realistic example. So what does that leave us with, as horny, curious, anxious teens and young adults? Fanfiction and fanart.

Ah, Tumblr, Twitter, AO3, you beautiful, wonderful cesspools and purveyors of smut.

I’m not trying to say that all the queer sex in fanfiction and art is inherently healthier or more realistic than in other forms of media. But, surprisingly — or not, if you consider how many trans creators there are — some fics are the encouraging, trans-inclusive, sex-positive sex education most of us never had. Trans creators, of both erotica and adult entertainment, also produce many examples of how trans people can be seen as desirable. While some depictions do fall into stereotypes or align with societal norms, there are many multiply-marginalized trans folks out there who write or draw desirability onto Black and Brown trans characters, fat

trans characters, disabled trans characters, and trans characters who haven’t yet gotten or don’t want to get surgery. Taken in their entirety, these works are revolutionary and empowering because they reject what society deems as “normal.”

And yeah, a lot of trans folks are kinky, too. So whether your fantasy is having a stable life with a loving partner or seducing several tentacled aliens, fic has got you covered.

Hot Pink/Blossoming

“It’s why I’ve arrived, your sex god,” Mitski sings in my headphones, as I jam out to “Stay Soft” from her album, “Laurel Hell.” I straighten my shirt, taking a peek at myself in my jeans. Confidence, formerly anxiety, runs through my veins as I await my partner’s arrival. Sex isn’t always guaranteed during our time together, but when it does happen, I no longer feel pressure to perform a certain way or to conform to cishet sex norms.

Sex is about what brings you and your partner pleasure. But part of the work of unlearning restrictive structures of sexuality is decoupling pleasure from the purely physical and the confines of the arousal-to-orgasm pipeline. Instead, pleasure can unexpectedly involve turning away from the fear of dysphoria and towards the experience of gender euphoria.

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Content warning: child abuse, homophobia, racism

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong (he/him) unearths the life and history of a young gay Vietnamese-American man, Little Dog. Though the novel moves between his grandmother’s and mother’s lives in Vietnam to his life in the U.S., it isn’t only an “immigrant story” or a “gay story.” Rather, it encompasses his queerness, race, class, family, and humanity.

Throughout the novel, Little Dog struggles to feel human. Not only does American society other him for being Asian, but he faces homophobia both in and outside of his ethnic community. For instance, as a child, he wears his mother’s dress to resemble her, but this innocent imitation exposes his queerness. His peers call him homophobic slurs until he realizes they mean “monster.” He learns that wanting

to look like his Asian mother is queer and to be queer is monstrous. Subsequently, fear and shame drive many of his actions.

Encouraged by his mother to be quiet and unassuming, Little Dog shields himself behind this invisibility. Yet he longs for love, unachievable unless he allows himself to be seen. Trevor, the white boy he falls in love with, disarms him — and when he is seen, Little Dog finally feels real.

Queer love both grants and denies Little Dog the safe haven he searches for. He finds companionship and pleasure in Trevor, but both of them are haunted by their pasts. Their love alone can’t save Little Dog.

Violence pocks their lives. Just as Trevor’s father beats him, Little Dog’s mother beats Little Dog until his conceptualization of love neces-

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sitates violence. When everything in his life, including his own family, is a threat, he shies away from genuine intimacy to prevent himself from being unexpectedly hurt again. Instead, he chases the familiarity of controlled physical violence at Trevor’s hands and finds a twisted freedom in choosing how and when he is hurt.

In contrast, nearly every time one boy attempts to show the other boy kindness, the other boy pushes him away.

Beyond the deep-seated effects of their trauma, Trevor and Little Dog’s shame plagues their relationship. In particular, Little Dog’s shame of being both queer and Vietnamese coalesce into a general shame of existing. One of the first instances of racism Little Dog experiences is when a white boy on the bus demands he speak English and the white boy’s name. After Little Dog repeats the boy’s name, the boy mockingly calls him “a good little bitch.” The bully confirms that an Asian man can never meet white American standards of masculinity and that failing to be a man is “gay.”

So what happens when you’re gay and Asian? The bully’s usage of “bitch,” a term for a dog, answers that you become more animal than man. You fail to be human, twice. Little Dog internalizes these harmful ideas about himself and seeks to escape them via Trevor.

However, Trevor accepts his father’s toxic masculinity, which develops into internalized homophobia. Trevor’s shame of being gay leads him to hurt Little Dog. Trevor tells Little Dog he cannot bottom because he’s not “a bitch” and that it is a role exclusively for Little Dog. Overcome with shame and disappointment he cannot verbalize, Little Dog mourns the crumbling sanctuary of their queer love. He believed that despite their relationship’s secrecy, they had created a sacred space, free of the world’s rules. Instead, Trevor’s implication that Little Dog is meant to be “the bitch” because of his yellow body shatters the illusion of a pure, harmless love. “The rules,” Little Dog says, “they were already inside us.”

While Trevor never explicitly cites Little Dog being Asian as the reason he should bottom, he echoes the boy on the bus’s racist emasculation of Asian men and then frames being “feminine” and gay as unwanted. Thus, Trevor reinforces society’s marginalization of Asian and gay individuals. As a gay man himself, Trevor only mires them further in shame.

The desire to be saved by love is nearly universal. I think

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of the Thomas Yingling quote: “This homosexual dream of perfect metaphysical union is not so much a reflected heterosexual ideal as it is compensation for having wept in the darkness.”

But eventually, Little Dog grasps that he and Trevor cannot be each other’s refuge. Neither boy has been given the guidance or space to unlearn hate. Without healing, they cannot engage in the communication and vulnerability healthy love requires. Little Dog learns that growth must come from within. His story displays that while the people in our lives can aid our healing, we must firstly want it for ourselves.

Seeking healing, Little Dog recounts his life in a letter to his mother — the letter being the novel itself. As he guides her through his beginnings to his first love to his

career as a writer, he expels his pain and shame by allowing it to take shape outside of him. He comes to understand its origins and effects by speaking its name.

Without turning away from the negative impact his mother’s abuse had on him, Little Dog makes peace with her actions. He describes her beatings as preparation for war. Reacting as a woman raised in a war-torn nation, she sought to ready him for life’s cruelties. Recognizing their inescapable link of blood, especially as immigrants in a foreign country, he calls himself and his mother “monsters” but recounts the word’s root meaning as “divine messenger[s] of a catastrophe.” Little Dog doesn’t view monstrosity as

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evil, but rather, he writes, “To be a monster is to be a hybrid signal, a lighthouse: both shelter and warning at once.” He reclaims his position as the “other” and reframes it into something beautiful. By the novel’s conclusion, he tells his mother that they come from beauty, not violence, and that living is enough.

Thus, no lover absolves Little Dog of his fear and shame. Queer love and its accompanying human touch do empower him to feel real and beautiful during the years he needed it most, yet writing to his mother — not loving Trevor — is what grants him catharsis and the ability to acknowledge his past in order to live beyond it. Queerness becomes only one aspect of his varied, nuanced life, and the novel does not end conclusively. Vuong doesn’t provide easy answers to the looming questions of race and gayness, but he confronts its intersection with an unflinching sincerity.

When I’d burnt out from reading last year, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” reignited my love for books. The lyricism of Vuong’s prose is not only hauntingly transcendent, but the truth behind it unveils the duality of beauty and blood, love and loss. It doesn’t shy away from the shame that can eat away at queer people’s cores or the racial divisions between people of color and

white people, regardless of their shared love. It reveals what it’s like to not feel real and how wanting to save someone is sometimes not enough.

Vuong’s novel will move you and change you. For those of us who are queer and Asian, it will force you to face difficult parts of yourself, but as Little Dog says, “We look into mirrors…to make sure, despite the facts, that we are still here.” Regardless of who you are, I encourage you to read this novel and embark on its heart-wrenching journey.

“All this time I told myself we were born from war — but I was wrong, Ma. We were born from beauty.

Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence — but that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it.”

Ocean Vuong, “On Earth

We’re Briefly Gorgeous”

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To the queer youth, to my younger self,

Layout by Sarah Belew

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Coming out is hard in so many ways. I came out to myself when I was 18 years old — well, I didn’t “come out,” rather I abruptly clarified it to myself that I like women. Big deal.

I hate categorizations and boxes and lists, yet it also relaxes me to put things and ideas into categories, boxes, and lists. The LGBTQ+ spectrum is mindblowingly expansive and, as I’m sure you already know, it is so beautiful. The multitudes of identities and expressions, the inexplicable drive toward activism, the intrinsic nature to care for others, it is all so wonderful. And frankly, the term “coming out” reduces our minds, our bodies, our experiences into moments of uncomfortable conversations that can often lead to distressing responses.

According to the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health from The Trevor Project, 73% of LGBTQ youths between the ages of 13 to 17 experienced symptoms of anxiety, and 58% experienced symptoms of depression.3 This is often influenced by internalized homophobia, lack of parental support, absence of queer communities, and other childhood experiences.

Internalized homophobia has been studied and analysis suggests that it is correlated with levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidal impulses,4 tending to affect individuals their entire lifetime because heteronormative social expectations do not align with homosexual attraction.

To make matters worse, homophobia, bullying, and a fear of rejection forces young people to silence themselves and their identities from those around them and ultimately creates additional stress that can trigger anxiety or depression.5 All of these debilitating forces have a direct effect on the way young people view themselves and react to the world around them. As a young, queer Latine myself, I can attest directly to this statement.

I wasn’t able to come out to myself for what felt like an eternity. I remember having my first real crush on a girl in the sixth grade, but I didn’t actually acknowledge that for another six years. The reasons? I was raised in a Catholic-Latino household and I assumed I would

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inevitably find my Prince Charming. Despite feeling no genuine attraction to the boys my age, I thought that all I needed to do was find the perfect formula to succeed. Maybe if I dated all of the popular soccer players like my mom, I would eventually find “the one” like she did. I hoped that if I “liked” enough guys, one would stick. Time that I should’ve spent enjoying friendships and crushing on girls was instead used to hyperfixate on finding the perfect boyfriend. I also dealt greatly with anxiety and depression, due in part to the cognitive dissonance I was feeling, which acted as an additional barrier to discovering my queer identity. And because of this, I feel I robbed myself of queer adolescence. Second Adolescence. The idea that some queer people experience two periods of adolescence. One during their teenage years, where they experience puberty and the awkward physical changes that come with it. The second happens after coming out, or when one is finally safe to be open about their identity. Adolescence is normally a time to discover yourself, make mistakes, and grow, but as queer people, we are robbed of these experiences during our teenage years. Many grow up with no feeling of LGBTQ+ community. We are unable to find support from our peers and have no access to queer resources, whether that be because of a complete lack of resources or the fear of exposing our true selves to the world. We aren’t usually given the safety and comfort to explore our sexualities and bodies. Second queer adolescence can happen at any point of one’s lifetime, whether that be at the age of twenty or at the age of seventy.6 During this period, we are finally able to explore and rediscover ourselves and our identities.

College was a breath of fresh air; it was my chance at a second adolescence. For the first time, I found myself outside of my family’s influence and in a space that embraced all identities. I am becoming my truest self.

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Someone who researches at a Neonatology lab, goes on dates with girls, is a part of too many queer organizations, attends weekly poetry nights, and aspires to serve the queer community as a doctor. Getting to be myself includes being anxious and depressed, though they aren’t exacerbated by me not being “out” anymore. I am healing. I am able to enjoy the overwhelming giddiness I feel when I like a person, and I have the tools to take care of myself when I experience heartbreak and pain. I was able to take a girlfriend to prom last year, I made community with my queer friends, and I have been able to open up to my parents more about my sexuality. Healing can take a long time, but once it starts, it can be so rewarding. Though I wish that my younger self got to experience her queerness at an earlier part of her life, I’ve stopped dwelling on the “ifs,” and I try to live more presently. Instead, I simply reflect and try to find ways to help our community thrive and to support it. Queer youths are targeted everyday for their identities, expressions, and livelihoods and we need to focus on inclusive, collective and comprehensive healing for the entire LGBTQ+ community. Queerness has always existed, and it will continue to exist. We must make a united effort to prevent our traumas from following suit. To the queer youth — from the past, in the present, of the future: You are not alone. Four words, 14 letters, they come out so easily yet seem indigestible. I would know. For years, alone was the perfect word to describe me. Yet, here I stand, at 21 years of age, writing to you, and I am not alone. The journey here wasn’t easy, and yet I know I’m not done. Healing requires a conscious effort that lasts a lifetime, but it is worth it. I am slowly becoming the person I have always wanted to be. I hope this letter, my teenage ruminations, my euphoric second adolescence brings you whatever you need, whether it's laughter, grief, hope… or healing ;)

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PHOTOSYNTHESIS

It is a beautiful thing, wanting nothing at all from someone you love because you live with mutual understanding beyond the primal need for physical touch, found in fleeting evenings doomed to end with someone closing the door without looking back. It is a beautiful thing, telling them that

you love them over the phone while you’re crying your eyes out because you don’t know what to do now; then you’re laughing until there’s a moment you allow yourself to forget. I remember life before my queer friends, how it felt begging for someone I could see myself in just enough to spark a casual conversation built on genuine interest instead of twisting those unwilling into sharing hyperfixations created for those of us who know what it’s like to have to fight for the ones you love. Falling for your friends, the oldest cliche in the book, is that moment of silence after sharing a look that lingers for a moment too long. It makes the lines start to blur, then get harder to hold on. Queer friendship is like sunlight: burning, golden, bright. It has the power to make time stop, to reinvent the ordinary by embracing it with a willingness to exist. Seldom, however, is it written with the same care and candor as romantic partners of worlds past, despite its limitless potential. To change this, we must go back.

Photo editing by Christopher Ikonomou
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Layout by Giulianna Vicente

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

September 2021: The boy I sit next to outside of my creative writing class — who I’ll ponder from a distance until his poem gives me the chance to ask for an origin story — with a tendency for kindness in being supportive will be the recipient of a commemorative text I send a year later to celebrate us being best friends. He doesn’t know it yet, but we’ll return to the garden that held us through our first conversation when I ask him where he has been my whole life across planned and random situations as we write breakup texts on Google documents, outlining every crush that has ever crushed us and discussing how our bodies were made by us but not for us. I’m going to learn how to say “I love you” in so many different ways and wake up with

my eyes flooded by the rays of light that creep in through his bedroom window the morning after we wander through a sex parade, realizing queerness can be made and remade in our own image. Together, we will learn what it means to find peace in coexistence and, for the first time, the world will go still.

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May 2022: The girl I message one quarantine summer about “Solar Power,” despite not really knowing each other, will show up to our first dinner with answers prepared about her favorite Taylor Swift albums to expand on something we share: a need for nuance in the newness, to bring life to stale narrative structures. She doesn’t know it yet, but we’ll bring out a desire in each other to capture the fact that gender is a performance, creating an aesthetic in androgyny and chaos in the calmest of spaces. Posing as a girl in a suit and a boy in a dress is far from any kind of novel apex, but it paints an interesting picture of how our queerness intersects: free of the domestic and in a tradition of taking back the body. Together, we prove that truth is but a facet of every situation and reinvention is the only thing that is safe for one to expect. I find my partner in pictures and in developing the art of weekly practice, Tuesday dinners and Thursday lunches, until our love is so ingrained it becomes blood.

January 2023: And then we’ll go to a party, this girl, the boy, and I, and we’ll dance to the music until we become the music. I’ll think

about everything I ever was, what I could become, and all the people I had to love and lose to get there. It won’t be glamorous, — holding watered down drinks and thinking that a cow bag and jacket were the peak of fashion — but that one song we love will play, and with it will come this incredible feeling of inhibition lost. I will take a step outside of myself, look down, and see them all around me. I’m so happy that you found me.

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Recognized Amongst Nature

OurFinal Farewell

Written by Judah C. & Christopher Ikonomou Illustrated by Kelly Doherty Layout by Christopher Ikonomou
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Generate Inspiration

1st level conjuration

Casting Time: 3 weeks of training

Range: Self

Components: V, S, M (a pen, a piece of paper, and an inkling of queerness)

Duration: Concentration, up to the rest of your life

Majors: All

You step into the first meeting of Student Media’s queerest magazine, OutWrite. It is one of UCLA’s hidden gems, where people can truly be themselves. You applied as a writer on a whim. This was the first queer organization you were involved with during your college career. Seeing other people enjoy their time at OutWrite (and finding you do, too), you stay in the organization for the remainder of your academic years. You drift from being a staff writer to becoming a Developmental Editor and even a co-host of “Speak Out,” OutWrite’s very own podcast, each role challenging your creativity. Here, you are allowed to flourish, trying different techniques to hone your craft.

Perhaps you stumbled in from a different path, intrigued by the promise of free cookies and vibrant queers (who will later be your closest friends). Your self-taught artistry and rookie confidence bloom into unabashed love. Your first piece explored the joy of living on the outskirts of normative society. Now you find you’ve built a cozy home on those outskirts during your stay. Eventually, you proudly accept the crown of Editor-in-Chief (but you still shoot the shit with the aforementioned Developmental Editor whenever the opportunity presents itself). Either way, you have made it, you have grown, you are happy. It was worth it.

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You smile, thinking about all the great friendships you’ve made here. Your heart aches, knowing that your time at OutWrite will end, though you both left a fantastic legacy for future queer creatives of all kinds. You both started a podcast, became part of the editorial team that keeps the organization running, and took part in the many prints that graced the hands of queer students at UCLA. You remember when OutWrite struggled during the Great Plague, but like a phoenix (thanks in no small part to the necromancy of our amazing Editor-in-Chief), it rose from the ashes and became the powerhouse we know today. You know that with the foundation you built over years, the people who take your stead will do an amazing job.

You will look back and wonder how you could have possibly done so much. Dozens of past articles wave at you from the beyond, reassuring you that you did. They push you from behind toward bigger and greater opportunities; you couldn’t have done it without them, and they wouldn’t be here without you. No matter where you end up, this place will be a fond memory you cherish like a loved one. You may even send a letter asking to go on the podcast one last time, hoping the bonds you fostered will be there to welcome you. It is a privilege to grow older and see your impact unfurl before you. Your work will ripple past what you can even imagine and erupt in a powerful storm whose aftermath only strengthens what you leave behind.

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OutWrite will always have a place in your heart years down the line when you’ve both made it somewhere, somehow. You hope that new classes of OutWrite members will have the chance to grow the same way that you did.

At Higher Levels: If you retain concentration for one year, your inspiration is likely to become everlasting and your creative force unstoppable. The world should really watch out.

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in pursuit of peace

by Lorely James Guzman • Photographed by Maddie McEwen • Layout by Christopher Ikonomou

“When you think about what you want to be, what do you lean toward? A man or a woman?”

I’m two hours into an evaluation with a gender therapist, and my heart has been hammering inside of my chest the entire time. If all goes well, I’ll be approved to pursue gender-affirming care. But this new question is one that I’ve spent my life struggling to answer.

“I want to be …” I lose my words. I clear my throat. I decide. “Nothing.”

It’s quiet. My hands shake.

“Let’s reframe that,” he says finally. “I want to be … ‘Something Else.’”

Woman.

I roll the word around my mouth like a stale, unbitten gumball. I linger on it until it dissolves, and I’m left with a chalky, acidic aftertaste coating my mouth. The word is sour, sharp, and unshakable. Even then, I couldn’t tell you what it means.

I was eight when my shape started to shift from straight lines to soft curves, and discomfort began festering inside of me. My discomfort mutated into disgust with each second I spent in an increasingly foreign body. I was eight when a man leaned out of his truck to whistle at me for the first time, and I learned my body exists for the world to look at, and they will look at it and think what they’ll think of it regardless of how I feel about it. I was eight when my body became my enemy.

I oscillated between hatred for my body and detachment from it for years. Girls envied my curves, and boys praised me for them; all the while, I said nothing about the countless nights I spent praying to gods I didn’t believe in in hopes that someone, somewhere had the power to rid me of this curse. I told my mother I felt that way, and she said one day I would love every curve I had because they were marks of my womanhood. I didn’t tell her that I dreamt of a world where I had no body at all, or that I felt a wave of nausea every time someone reminded me that I was a girl who would one day become a woman. I punished my body for sentencing me to this womanhood that I had never asked to be a part of. I punished myself by accepting this as the only way things could ever be.

I didn’t hate womanhood or femininity. I revered them in other women, and that reverence only furthered my disconnect

with these concepts existing within myself. I admired my older sister’s gradual steps into femininity, yet felt a selfish twinge of frustration as she grew to love and respect her body — a body just like my own — while mine had only ever been a battlefield. I watched women on TV become mothers and wives, but any attempts to imagine myself in their place only resulted in white noise. I stood in fitting rooms with my boyish friends as we tried on prom dresses together, and when our mothers cooed over our transformations into women, there were stars dancing in their eyes while there was only panic in mine.

At one point, I threw myself into performing womanhood in a doomed effort to fit into the world the way I thought I had to. I wore dresses and blouses that highlighted the curves I hated. I put on soft, sweet eye paint, and I kissed my boyfriends with my fire engine lipstick. I conformed to everything I was supposed to be, and in doing so, I became a spectator in my own life. My hatred for my body twisted into hatred for myself and for a life filled with rules I was forced to abide by.

In a desperate bid to find some way out of the neverending hole of self-hatred I was marinating in, I bought a chest binder. I saw myself without the part of my body that had plagued me with discomfort for so long, and for the first time in my life, I caught a glimpse of an end to the war I had declared on myself from the moment that womanhood had first been pushed onto me.

I explored masculinity. There was joy in aligning myself with manhood through dressing up in masculine clothing, expressing the natural mannerisms womanhood had demanded I repress, and ordering coffee with different masculine names just for the thrill of hearing them called out in a crowded cafe. When I further masculinized myself by getting a cropped haircut, I felt conflicted. There was simultaneous overwhelming euphoria from seeing myself in my reflection for what felt like the first time, and frustration because I knew that masculinity was not all that I was.

What is masculinity? How can you define femininity, womanhood, or manhood in ways that capture the nuances of how different people experience them? Defining these concepts by biological sex is reductive, and these definitions often exclude intersex populations and people assigned a biological sex who don’t conform to the definition of that sex in one or more ways.

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Defining them by traditional ideas of these concepts erases the different ways people experience them. Even definitions rooted in queer theory are vague and consequently can’t capture every experience. It’s a Sisyphean effort.

My foray into the ends of the binary solidified that whatever I was, it was Other. I use nonbinary — specifically agender, or genderless — to describe myself. However, I quickly learned that, like womanhood and manhood, being genderless comes with its own set of expectations. The legitimacy of nonbinary identities is frequently called into question. If you were born into the kind of body I was born into, you need to keep your hair cropped, your clothes oversized, and your body thin to avoid as many curves as you can. If you are not pursuing medical transition, you are lying about your identity, and yet if you are pursuing it, you are still thought to be lying about your identity. Does my physical appearance need to clearly convey the intricacies of my relationships to masculinity and femininity for me to have the right to say that I exist outside the gender binary? Can specific styling choices and body shapes only convey either masculinity or femininity? I can continue to wish that more people would ask themselves these questions instead

of invalidating nonbinary identities. But in the end, I am the only person who can make peace with myself. Part of establishing that peace has been pursuing gender-affirming care.

I initially thought that wasn’t a possibility for me because I didn’t have a binary identity. What does gender-affirming care look like when you feel you have no gender to affirm? I started to contemplate it after I came out to my supportive family and friends, and through playing with my gender expression, found myself connecting with the gender nonconforming experience in a way that I never had with womanhood or manhood. The thought that I could create a body I was fully comfortable with was like finding an oasis after a lifetime of wandering a wasteland.

I am tired of war. Living has always been my birthright, yet I had never felt alive before I was approved to get the care for my body that I used to desperately pray for, before I had the language to describe all the Otherness swirling inside of me, and before I was surrounded by love and support for all that I am. I know now that instead of reducing myself to Nothing, I can just be Something Else. It’s not my job to deconstruct womanhood and manhood or to broadcast my identity in an easily digestible way so that I am allowed to claim it. It’s my job to live.

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Queerness is often about survival. While Torres is alluding to a space free from discrimination and violence, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, queer survival is being threatened even more. As much as we want to create a “safe space,” there is no true safe space as long as people are dying and becoming disabled from COVID-19. COVID-19 is being swept under the rug by our government despite clear evidence that repeat infections can leave lasting damage in almost every organ in the body.7 Currently, there is also a resurgence of anti-LGBTQIA+, anti-Black, antiimmigrant, and anti-free speech

rhetoric and legislation. When queer people are denied the chance to exist, we must find a way to live. By critically examining our past, we can shed light on the present.

Mass disabling events are already written into queer history. Take the HIV/AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s in the continental United States and wreaked havoc. The Reagan administration sat on its hands for years, claiming that HIV/AIDS was just a gay disease8 and a punishment from God.9 This federal disregard and inaction displays a lack of true concern about the queer community, particularly queer disabled communities of color. According to HIV.gov,10 disproportionately stigmatized populations, such as gay and bisexual men, sex workers, BIPOC, and trans people, continue to be the most impacted by HIV, leading to health disparities.11

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH),12 health disparities often stem from health

“‘Safe space’ is a cliché, overused and exhausted in our discourse, but the fact remains that a sense of safety transforms the body, transforms the spirit.”
— Justin Torres, “In Praise of Latin Night at the Queer Club”
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inequities, which are “systematic differences in the health of groups and communities occupying unequal positions in society that are avoidable and unjust.” The LGBTQIA+ community in particular experiences health disparities driven by social determinants of health, which include employment, socioeconomic status, access to quality healthcare, social and community context, and education. Within healthcare, queer people face provider and insurance-based discrimination, and there are bills passing right now to deny queer healthcare and reverse healthcare legislation.13 Therefore, it is crucial for queer BIPOC to understand how our intersectional identities result in heightened vulnerability to pandemics.

Just as HIV/AIDS is a lifetime illness, the COVID-19 pandemic is also a mass disabling event. In a recent media briefing by the head of the World Health Organization,14 Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “An estimated one in ten infections results in post-COVID-19 condition, suggesting that hundreds of millions of people will need longer-term care.” Every time you get infected with COVID-19, you compound your risk of developing long-term health problems, such as extensive organ damage15 and damage to the immune system like with HIV.16 Unfortunately, many people resist the idea that they are disabled after suffering from long COVID; this resistance is rooted in deep

stigmatization of disabled people and what “disability” means in the context of our society and healthcare system. On top of that, queer disabled people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The latest U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse survey17 reports that 35.5% of transgender adults, 21.4% of bisexual adults, and 20.9% of gay or lesbian adults are experiencing long COVID symptoms compared to 11.6% of cisgender men, 18.7% of cisgender women, and 14.8% of straight adults. Additionally, 24.7% of adults with disability versus 13.8% without disability report long COVID symptoms.

The lack of accessible healthcare coupled with these troubling statistics results in queer disabled people being made to seem disposable. Queers, disabled people, BIPOC, and intersections of those identities have always been the target of eugenics. After World War I, fascist forces in Italy and Germany used the fallout of the H1N1 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu) to garner public support.18 In the United States, Black people and Jews were blamed for the Spanish flu. Fascism in America has been on the rise for a long time, and COVID-19 has spurred racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, ableist, and homophobic rhetoric and legislature. How do we decide who deserves sympathy? At what point is there a cut-off for who gets to exist, who gets to live?

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Such cut-offs are ableist; anyone can become disabled at any given moment. The U.S. government is performing mass “cleansings” and “silencings” — by overturning Roe v. Wade, by reversing trans healthcare, by choosing to drop mask mandates and ending the public health emergency despite the science. In the context of COVID-19, including disability justice within our evolving fight for queer and Black liberation becomes more important than ever.

“But I’m anti-fascist!” Yet — choosing not to act, choosing to ignore the most vulnerable members of our community in the face of all these burgeoning threats, is exactly what allows fascism to exist. In this way, fascism and capitalism go hand in hand; capitalism, which demands a fee from every living being, is incompatible with queerness and intersectional identity. Everyone wants to act like they hate capitalism but forget that capitalism requires ableism.

You cannot be ableist and anticapitalist at the same time; when you engage in ableist practices, you are perpetuating capitalism, thereby perpetuating oppression of all people that don’t fit the white-cishetwealthy-male archetype. Ability is a factor of intersectionality that is often overlooked by mainstream sociopolitical commentary. While liberation is usually focused on racial or

queer identity separately, we must not forget that fighting systemic oppression will not be successful unless we fight for everyone who is structurally oppressed, including disabled people.

Our government has failed us over and over. It has always been clear that we cannot live under these conditions, but it is becoming abundantly clear now with the way we have abandoned each other during this pandemic. Capitalist individualism thrives when queer people isolate themselves; when it gets us alone, it rips us apart and swallows us whole. So how do we find joy amidst all of the suffering?

We choose to live. We choose to use our privilege to advocate for others and demonstrate that we care. Truly, all of queer history past and present is proof of what I’d like to call “the queer indomitable spirit.” Despite generations of systemic violence against queer people and historically minoritized people, we are still here. We can never truly be erased or silenced. Our hope, our joy, our fierce love for life and for each other — this is what makes us so incredibly human. The choice is quite simple: we must harness our queer indomitable spirits to create a better world.

“Simple,” however, does not mean “easy.” History has shown us that when we choose to love and care for all people, we see real change. Unfortunately, the revolution will not always be exciting; high quality masking, demanding cleaner air, demanding affirming healthcare, demanding better of our campus, demanding better of our governments and elected officials, and demanding the right to exist are not very “glamorous” revolutionary aesthetics. But the goal isn’t to make something look effortless or exciting — the goal is to live.

Queerness will never be accepted under 30

“‘But I’m anti-fascist!’
Yet — choosing not to act, choosing to ignore the most vulnerable members of our community in the face of all these burgeoning threats, is exactly what allows fascism to exist.”

capitalism, under fascism. But it is not too late; the pandemic is an opportunity for our healthcare system and society in the United States to change. Collective outrage over our government’s failures has been growing, especially in Gen Z. We must not hesitate to evolve our standpoints and practices: the pandemic is an opportunity to create lasting change amidst the turmoil. Choosing to prioritize the most vulnerable members of our community by protecting each other in any way we can is the path to change, to thriving.

Why must this be a radical goal? Is it really so radical to want to live? I dream of a world where we do not abandon sick, immunocompromised, and disabled people for our own convenience. Our indomitable spirit, our compassion and resilience in the face of

adversity is what we must harness. We must work collectively in order to change oppressive behaviors and policies, fiercely choosing to love and care for each other in a society trying to tear us down. We must choose to live and to help others live as well.

“In the long run, the people are our only appeal. The only ones who can free us are ourselves.”
— Assata Shakur,“Assata: An Autobiography”

References

1 Jamee Pineda, “A Decolonizing Approach to the Erotic and Medicine,” in Trans Sex: Clinical Approaches to Trans Sexualities and Erotic Embodiments, ed. Lucie Fielding (New York: Routledge, 2021), 163.

2 Lucie Fielding, “Coming Into Passionate Relationship” in Trans Sex: Clinical Approaches to Trans Sexualities and Erotic Embodiments, ed. Lucie Fielding (New York: Routledge, 2021), 91.

3 “2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health,” The Trevor Project, https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey2022/#trends.

4 Karine J. Igartua, Kathryn Gill, & Richard Montoro. “Internalized Homophobia: A Factor in Depression, Anxiety, and Suicide in the Gay and Lesbian Population,” Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health 22, no. 2, (2003); 15-30, doi: 10.7870/cjcmh-2003-0011.

5 William J. Hall. “Psychosocial Risk and Protective Factors for Depression Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer Youth: A Systematic Review,” Journal of Homosexuality 65, no. 3, (2017); 263-316, doi: 10.1080/00918369.2017.1317467.

6 Allis Weir, “What is the second adolescense experienced by some LGBTQ+ people?” Honeycombers, June 2, 2022. https:// thehoneycombers.com/hong-kong/lgbtq-second-adolescence/.

7 Shaziya Allarakha, “Which Organ System Is Most Often Affected by COVID-19? ” last modified Dec 22, 2021. https:// www.medicinenet.com/which_organ_system_is_most_affected_by_ covid-19/article.htm.

8 Tim Fitzsimmons, “LGBTQ History Month: The early days of America’s AIDS crisis,” NBC News, Oct. 15, 2018. https:// www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/lgbtq-history-month-earlydays-america- s-aids-crisis-n919701.

9 Anthony M. Petro, After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

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10 “HIV Statistics Impact on Racial and Ethnic Minorities,” last modified Jan. 20, 2023. https://www.hiv.gov/hivbasics/overview/data-and-trends/impact-on-racial-andethnic-minorities/.

11 Marguerita Lightfoot et al. “Addressing Health Disparities in HIV: Introduction to the Special Issue,” Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome 88, no. S1, (2021); S1-S5. doi: 10.1097/qai.0000000000002804.

12 “The State of Health Disparities in the United States” in Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity (Washington DC: National Academics Press, 2017). https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425844/.

13 “Mapping Attacks on LGBTQ Rights in U.S. State Legislatures,” American Civil Liberties Union, https:// www.aclu.org/legislative-attacks-on-lgbtq-rights.

14 World Health Organization (WHO). “LIVE: Media briefing on global health issues with Dr Tedros, ” April 26, 2023, video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLXhIdFu8vk.

15 Benjamin Bowe, Yan Xie, & Ziyad Al-Aly. “Acute and postacute sequelae associated with SARS-CoV-2 reinfection,” Nature Medicine 28, no. 11, (2022): 2398–2405. doi: 10.1038/s41591-022-02051-3.

16 “SARS-CoV-2 infection weakens immune-cell response to vaccination,” National Institutes of Health, https://www. nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/sars-cov-2-infectionweakens-immune-cell-response-vaccination.

17 “Long COVID Household Pulse Survey,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/ pulse/long-covid.htm.

18 Gregori Galofré-Vilà et al. “The 1918 Influenze Pandemic and the Rise of Italian Fascism: A Cross-City Quantitative and Historical Text Qualitative Analysis,” American Journal of Public Health 112 (2022): 242-247. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2021.306574.

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HERE’S TO THE FUTURE!

GOODBYE TO OUR 2023 GRADUATES

Managing Editor

Developmental Editor, Writer, Podcast

Copy Editor

Elliott Couts (he/she/they)

Charis Shargel (she/her)

Copy Editor, Artist

Illustrator, Podcast

Mieko Tsurumoto (any pronouns)

Lorely James Guzman (they/them) Writer, Podcast

Paheli (she/her)

Illustrator, Writer

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