The OutCrowd Spring 2021

Page 1



Spring 2021


Cover and spread photo by Em Burris (she/they)

@theoutcrowdmag @mydimensionco

Cover and spread photo by Em Burris (she/they)


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Patrick Linehan (he/him) Writers Ash Alexander (they/them) Sam Baylow (he/him) Alora Blosch (she/her) Samuel Schappell (he/him) Eden Stratton (she/her) Runfeng (Franklin) Wang (he/him) Alexis Wilner (she/her) Avani Singh (she/her) Madison Hilimire (she/her) Jean Duggirala (they/them) Photographers Maddi Jane Brown (she/her) Zoë McCreary (she/her) Illustrators Chris Bennett (he/him) Kevin Camelo (he/him) Kristen Warner (she/her) @theoutcrowdmag

MANAGING EDITOR Brogan Thomas (she/her) EDITORS Arts and Entertainment Payton Dunn (he/him) Sex and Health Sydney Rednik (she/her) Features Amanda Paule (she/her) Narratives Gabriel Alvim (he/him) Social Politics Yuki Jiang (she/her) Photo Em Burris (she/they) Design Chris Bennett (he/him) Video Phoebe Sessler (she/her) Social Media Yzzy Liwanag (she/her) Web Development Kevin Camelo (he/him)

Designers Kevin Camelo (he/him) Amanda Paule (she/her) Sloane Sexton (she/her) Kristen Warner (she/her) Models Sarah Adams (she/her) Barrington Bucknor (he/him) Sam Cady (he/him) Emery Cilluffo (she/her) Ian Dorbu (he/him) Jean Duggirala (they/them) Hunter Gorick (he/him) Madison Hilimire (she/her) VJ LaShomb (she/they) Becca Malamud (she/they) Alex Middleton (they/them) Avani Singh (she/her) Jean Duggirala (they/them) Ash Alexander (they/them) Special thanks to George Matos! (@mydimensionco)

A Note from the Editor year ago I was shuffling around my childhood bedroom, anxious about classes restarting completely online. Every day seemed like a brand new experience. A year of collecting spit for COVID-19 tests at the Dome, contact tracing your friend’s boyfriend’s possible exposure, and collectively cringing at renditions of “Imagine” that no one asked for has taught me a lot about what it means to be human. It has become cliché to call this year unprecedented, but I am going to do it anyway. I don’t mean unprecedented in the macro sense, although that would also be accurate. I mean unprecedented in the micro sense, little moments that, when added together, add up to something big. For me, those moments had a lot to do with my sexuality. I told my family that I’m gay this year. I had hard conversations with friends who wondered how long I had been hiding it. I went from identifying as a “top” to very much a “bottom.” I found a man that makes me giggle like I’m a toddler. And so, in September when I heard that Syracuse and SUNY ESF’s only LGBTQIA+ student-run magazine was about to fall off the list of registered student organizations, I took it upon myself to make sure it did not happen. You’ll probably pick this up, look at the nice illustrations and photos, and shove it in some drawer. But, if you were to read the magazine, you would find that this year’s edition is trying to answer the question, “How do LGBTQIA+ people at SU and SUNY ESF fit into the story of the past year?” We set out to answer this question because we thought it deserved an answer. Printed in this magazine is a partial answer, probably less than 3% of it . But, no one asked for a 500page magazine. Our answer is most definitely flawed. The amazing team that worked on this magazine consists of imperfect students trying our best to listen, grow, and learn. If you have difficulty with what is printed in these pages, let’s start a conversation. Our email inbox is open. This issue is a first step toward reclaiming The OutCrowd magazine as an inclusive community of LGBTQIA+ and ally creators who want to share their art in whatever form that may take. By picking up this magazine, you have already joined us in this mission.

Patrick Linehan

The OutCrowd strives to create an inclusive community of LGBTQIA+ and ally creators at SU/ESF who want to share their art in whatever form that may take. We are dedicated to revealing the experiences, concerns, and opinions of the many intersectional identities that make up our community.

The opinions expressed herein are not those of Syracuse University, The Office of Student Activities, the Student Association, and the Student Body.Body.

Spring 2021 issue Narratives 18...Chop Chop

by Eden Stratton

Arts & Entertainment 8...Lil Nas X

by Samuel Schappell


Clemmons: Forgiveness When the Cameras Cut by Sam Baylow

12...From TikTok

to the Top


on my hospital bracelet by R.M.


Coming Out Story by Chris Bennett

48...Looking for

a Connection During COVID-19 by Alexis Wilner

by Eden Stratton

14...‘Caving’ the

Way for Indie Pop Artists by Ash Alexander


Influncers Are Stepping Up TikTok’s Game by Franklin Wang

Sex and Health

44...Fatphobia is a

Gendered ClusterFuck

by Brogan Thomas


Non-Binary Voices in Healthcare

by Eden Stratton

49...Safe Dating in a

Virtual World by Eden Stratton

Features The Quarantine Series by Ash Alexander, Jean Duggirala Madison Hilimire, and Avani Singh

pg 24

40...A Place for

LGBTQ Youth Shelter in Syracuse

by Alora Blosch

pg 30


by Madison Hilimire

42...Self-Love as

Trans Military Ban

by Ash Alexander

pg 34


by Amanda Paule

LIL NAS The LGBTQIA+ Icon Gen-Z Needed Lil Nas X pushes boundaries without a care as to what societal norms tell him a successful musician should do. Story by Samuel Schappell (he/him) Illustration by Chris Bennett (he/him)




il Nas X pushed boundaries and blossomed into an icon for his generation. The Georgia-born artist has the record for the longest running song atop the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for his single “Old Town Road.” He is the first person to ever come-out while their song sat atop the chart. His list of accomplishments spans much further than most everybody else his age. He has only completed 21 trips around the sun. These impressive feats in 2019 left his new following yearning for fresh content from their new icon. Lil Nas X, born Montero Lamar Hill, has become just that – an icon, and not just for the LGBTQIA+ community. Nas X is an icon that embodies Gen-Z’s ideal celebrity. He has an undeniably infectious internet and social media presence, his songs are always popular on TikTok, and he is unapologetic in his lyrics, style, and sexuality. These are qualities an audience as progressive as Gen-Z looks for. Lil Nas X’s rise to fame is the first of its kind, and it remains to be seen if future artists will indeed follow the same path he did. The young artist’s aforementioned qualities lend his songs to TikTok success quite seamlessly. He uses his own account to interact with fans, advertise his music, and further embody how a 21st century celebrity carries themselves. Furthermore, Nas X has been brought up, like much of Gen-Z, on the internet. As a result, he markets himself on any and all popular meme platforms.

While his dedicated fandom has been waiting all of an otherwise miserable 2020 for something out of their favorite artist, Nas X gave a promise for a late-year delivery of new content. “Nasvember” as he calls it, was set to be the biggest month of his life. He kicked off the month by releasing a single, “Holiday.” In the song, Nas X delivers captivating lyrics over an undeniably catchy trap beat. The new single bends genres, something that he has come to excel in. The accompanying music video contains the exact right amount of icy, eclectic style and flair his fans adore. Combining this with some unapologetic lyrics about his rise in the music industry and his sexuality, Nas X continues to push boundaries and undoubtedly rubs his detractors the wrong way.

“I might bottom on the low but I top shit” Lyrics such as “I might bottom on the low, but I top shit,” as well as the release of merchandise depicting the 21-year-old kissing himself brought on criticism. Nas X, as he did when “Old Town Road” was at its most popular, refused to apologize for his content. By not apologizing, Nas X portrays confidence in himself and continues to blaze trails for LGBTQIA+ artists to make art that truly represents themselves in the mainstream. Nas X has represented a larger shift in the United States. Amidst the 2020 election, he was vocal in his support for electing President Joe Biden and removing Former President Donald Trump from office. The artist helped his home

state of Georgia flip blue for the first time in nearly 30 years. The outspoken, unapologetic Lil Nas X is a model of what the youth in cities like Atlanta are looking for in a celebrity - someone who is themselves without backing down to any naysayers. Critics of Lil Nas X often attack his musical style more so than his sexuality, bypassing homophobic claims. The most common critiques of his music include that it lacks intricacy, does not belong to a genre, and tries to appeal to fading trends. The artist, like he does with other criticisms, fails to care, making music the way he wants. Nas X addressed these criticisms in his newest song. Nas X starts the second verse of his song “Holiday” by declaring, “Man, I snuck into the game, came in on a horse,” A reference to his 2019 smash hit song, “Old Town Road.” “I pulled a gimmick, I admit it, I got no remorse,” Nas X continues on, somewhat admitting his record-breaking single was a cop-out, but certainly not apologizing for it. He flexed a bit on the next line. “Nobody tried to let me in, nobody opened doors. I kicked them m*therf*ckers down, they didn’t have a choice.” Lil Nas X realizes he is a trailblazer and an icon. These lyrics are meant to announce to the world that he is proud of how he got here and does not plan to go anywhere. 9

Officer Clemmons: Forgiveness When the Cameras Cut Story by Sam Baylow (he/him) Illustration by Sloane Sexton (she/her)

On set one day, Officer Clemmons, of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, entered a meeting with Fred Rogers that, unbeknownst to him, was about his sexuality. What follows is a tale of betrayal, inner struggles, and, forgiveness.

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood defined the morals and empathy of a generation of public access television watchers, both young and old. With a low budget and unrivaled ambitions, Rogers sculpted a television program that defied social norms and unwritten rules of children’s media by treating younger viewers with worth and exploring their emotions and thoughts.

However, Rogers did not give the same respect to Clemmons’s sexuality that Clemmons gave to defying stigmas against people of color. In his memoir, Officer Clemmons, he details the events, struggles, and resolutions behind how Rogers handled his sexuality.

While Rogers receives the bulk of the acclaim for the program, the supporting cast of the show is as deserving of gratitude as its sweater-wearing protagonist.

“Francois “Officer” Clemmons is a role model for African Americans and LGBTQIA+ members.”


One day during the filming of the beloved television program, Rogers called Dr. Clemmons into his office. What he heard next would break his heart and test his self-confidence and strength. Recounting the meeting in his memoir, Clemmons details that Rogers said, “someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all. Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the neighborhood, you can’t be out as gay.” After taking to heart the fatherhood and mentorship of Rogers, Clemmons endured what many members of the LGBTQIA+ community endure: the feeling of disappointing the people you

love most because of the way you are. The words uttered by Rogers halted the community’s opportunity for that same onscreen prominence. “I could only have the job if I stayed in the closet,” remarked Clemmons in his memoir, detailing how he uncontrollably sobbed when Rogers stated his dehumanizing prerequisites. Later in the meeting, Mr. Rogers suggested he marry a woman as a compromise of sorts. Clemmons felt destroyed beyond belief, writing in his memoir, “The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer.”

At the end of his memoir, Clemmons details his final phone call with Rogers. “ We were communicating about the need for the world to love one another and show their care and appreciation,” he wrote. Clemmons was able to guide Rogers to understanding that a world that loves one another is a world that values the LGBTQIA+ community. Clemmons laid the groundwork for a world that loves one another, and those people, like Clemmons realized, are closer than one may think.

“I could only have the job if I stayed in the closet” Approximately fifty years later, after publishing his memoir, Dr. Clemmons has forgiven Rogers for that traumatizing work meeting, understanding how much the show meant to Rogers. “This was his dream,” Clemmons says to People Magazine. Clemmons has not hidden his sexuality by any means, however. After divorcing his wife in 1974, he lived his life as an openly gay man and currently lives with his partner near Middlebury College in Vermont. In publicity photos, he wears brightly colored garments that enunciate every aspect of his personality. Clemmons transformed a homophobic threat of termination into an illustrious acting, teaching, and singing career. What Clemmons underwent in that meeting may have parallels to the struggles of those who watched him on television.


rom Tiktok to the Top

Story by Eden Stratton (she/her) Illustration by Chris Bennett (he/him)

Clairo’s ‘Sofia’ capitalized on trends to reach new heights, while bringing queer storytelling into the mainstream.

ueer music has come a long way in the past ten years. Artists like girl in red and Dodie are bringing queer culture into the spotlight in unprecented ways, as well as bringing it into the mainstream through the ever-growing indie genre. However, one artist that has been trailblazing her way into our hearts and ears is 22 year old Claire Elizabeth Cottrill, professionally known as Clairo. The singer-songwriter has been active for much longer than one might expect, as Clairo began posting covers and original material on the internet at the young age of 13. It wasn’t until her song “Pretty Girl” was released in 2018 however that she gained nationwide attention. The song, recorded with basic equipment and a keyboard to benefit the Transgender Law Center, and its subsequent video ended up going viral. From there, Clairo became synonymous with the LGBTQIA+ community, especially when the artist came out to her fans via Twitter as bisexual. The artist explained in a 2019 interview with Them Magazine that when she arrived at Syracuse University, she “immediately started talking about [herself] as if [she] had already come out, as if everyone already knew,” remarking that 12

it was her best friends, out and proud, who inspired her to be unapologetically herself. This newfound confidence in her identity would motivate Clairo to make music that was unabashed in its queerness, resonating with the community in a profound way. Things began to slow down for Clairo after “Pretty Girl’s” initial success, but luckily for both her and her fans, her work would make a crater-sized impact as Tik Tok gained international popularity. Her song “Sofia” would go viral on the app, spreading like wildfire throughout the community and into the contemporary music world. While the exact reason isn’t known, the production of the hit single itself may yield some answers.

arry Todd of Paste praised the song’s “heavily processed guitars and crunchy drums,” a mainstay of the indie rock genre that has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to TikTok. The iconic percussion in “Sofia” is courtesy of Rostam Batmanglij – a gay person of color and former member of the band Vampire Weekend, no less – who acts as the song’s producer. Batmanglij has repeatedly implemented this personal style of “dynamic percussion, delicately arranged

strings, [and] vocal melodies that would sound beautiful stripped of all instrumentation” in other projects, and his guidance only works to bolster the ear-catching aura Sofia already possesses.

oreover, the song held immense popularity among the LGBTQIA+ community, as it was a rare gem where queer love was expressed in an explosive manner. When it went viral on TikTok, a mass amount of people (on top of the audience from the app) created a perfect storm that would propel the single to mainstream popularity.

that was unabashed in its


“Sofia” earned its place among the US Spotify Top 50, as well as hit 98 on Billboard’s Hot 100. This would mark not only a momentous milestone in Clairo’s career, but a visual symbol of acceptance of queer songs within the realm of mainstream music. In order for “Sofia” to make it onto the Hot 100, it required not only an appreciation for the sounds and beats Clairo created, but an acceptance of its content – content that tells stories about what it’s like to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. 13


Though you probably know him better by the stage name “Cavetown,” the career of Robin Skinner has a humble beginning. The aromantic, transgender singer-songwriter and record producer from England uploaded his first YouTube video when he was only fourteen years old. Releasing his debut album, Everything is Made of Clouds, on Bandcamp that same year, he built the fanbase of his early bedroom pop music from the ground up. Over the next several years, Cavetown continued to post both covers and original songs on his YouTube channel, and he released three more self-produced albums on Soundcloud before dropping his debut single, “This is Home,” in 2015. The song, which explores the experience of being aromantic, has received over 100 million streams on Spotify.

Only three months later, his entirely self-produced debut studio album, Cavetown — which mixed electronic and acoustic bedroom pop textures in a novel way — was released as a digital download and made available to stream on major music streaming platforms. The following year in 2016, he built upon his eclectic sound and released his second studio album, 16/04/16. The album, named for the day his childhood friend died from leukemia, leaned further into the bedroom pop aspects of his debut album, creating the beginnings of the lo-fi, indie pop sound that he is recognized for today. In 2018, after winning several awards at the Cambridge Band Competition, Cavetown released his third album, Lemon Boy, the titular track of which has received over 60 thousand streams on Spotify. It was the release of this album which truly began to


Engligh singer-songwriter and producer makes the journey from childhood bedroom to concert stage.

propel his music career toward the heights that it has reached today and, in 2019, he released a series of singles with several guest features and began producing music for other musicians as well. Two artists — Chloe Moriondo and mxmtoon — were particularly impacted by their work with Cavetown. The queer musician Chloe Moriondo had spent five years quietly posting covers recorded in her bedroom to her YouTube channel before her single “Waves” appeared on Cavetown’s 2019 album Animal Kingdom, and she was featured in his 2020 song “Snail.” In the time since her collaboration with Cavetown and the release of her debut album, Rabbit Hearted, her YouTube channel has surpassed 3 million subscribers, and she has been signed to Warner Music Group’s record label Fueled by Ramen. The music career of mxmtoon, a bisexual bedroom pop artist, was similarly propelled by her work with Cavetown. He produced her 2019 single “Prom Dress,” which took TikTok by storm and has garnered over 100 million streams on Spotify. The song is featured on her debut album, The Masquerade, which was fully produced

Story by Ash Alexander (they/them) Illustrations by Chris Bennett (he/him)

for INDIE POP ARTISTS by Cavetown. In addition to their studio work with Cavetown, both mxmtoom and Moriondo have played as the opening act at several of his live concerts. Though the tour for Sleepyhead — the 2020 album that served as Cavetown’s major record label debut — was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the album itself was still widely successful and even allowed Cavetown to make his debut on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart. With many of his songs expertly exploring his experiences with gender, sexuality, and mental health, Cavetown has proven to be quite a voice for the queer community within the indie pop genre. One of the biggest indie pop artists and producers in the music scene right now, he has paved the way for other queer artists like Chloe Moriondo, mxmtoon, and so many more. He is one of the driving forces behind the popularity of indie and bedroom pop music in the queer community.


ver since the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, TikTok has blown up to become the most influential social media platform in the entertainment industry, because many people craved escapism while staying at home. With countless content creators and viewers varied by their diverse interests, TikTok’s “For You” algorithm automatically divides each individual into targeted communities, such as those based on sexual orientation. Queer TikTok, with its originality and creativity, has provided a safe space for LGBTQIA+ netizens to feel liberated from societal pressure and celebrate their uniqueness. Hilarious skits predominately maintain queer TikTok’s atmosphere as positive and comforting. Queer comedians, who possess an unmatched sense of humor, utilize real-life experiences to uplift their audience’s spirits after a day of grinding in school or at work.

With the unprecedented pandemic, many ious embarrassment and to demonstrate introverted queer folks suffered from their anxiety relief after watching Sun’s immense social stress and felt somewhat funny video. insecure about how quickly everything has changed over the year. Subsequently, those in need have taken to TikTok to find genuTrending hashtag ine support, avoid potential self-generating negativity, and build healthy online interacTrending hashtag tions within the LGBTQIA+ community. Trending hashtag

For instance, Aaron Sun (@aaronheyaaron) is a gay Asian Canadian with 6 million followers; his popularity is credited to his self-deprecating jokes. In one of Sun’s most engaging TikTok videos, which has garnered more than 7 million views, he pokes fun at an extroverted female classmate who insists on asking him to talk on Zoom. While having the “crying-laughing” expression on, Sun claims, “So I decided to bark at her, and I was like arh-arh-ar.” Since many LGBTQIA+ members in Sun’s audience resonated with his awkward encounter and contagious laughter, they replied with the “skeleton” emojis in the comment section as a response to this vicar-

Several rising queer artists, such as Clairo and girl in red, have been placed on Tik Tok’s playlists, which gives them a form of free promotion. 16

nd for any community on TikTok, the hype of a song is the key to great commercial sales. If a sound is trending, TikTok’s end users will be exposed to it over and over again since they binge-watch a large number of viral videos in one sitting, thus making them more likely to set it as a piece of background music in their own videos. Then, people who are intrigued enough by those popular songs will start streaming on music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music,


#Queer Influencers Stepping Up TikTok’s Game which boosts the charting of songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the past few months, several rising queer artists, such as Clairo and girl in red, have been placed on TikTok’s playlists, which gives them a form of free promotion.

rag transformation is another beautiful form of queer art. With RuPaul’s Drag Race’s exclusive content posted on TikTok (@rupaulsdragrace), people can learn to express themselves by wearing makeup, wigs, and gowns if they want to. Drag queens such as Jasmine Masters (@msjasminemasters), Shangela (@itsshangela), Bob the Drag Queen (@ bobthedragqueen), Gia Gunn (@gia_ gunn3), are finally receiving long-overdue recognition with skyrocketing views and loyal fans who truly appreciate their unique talents and mesmerizing personalities.

Story by Runfeng (Franklin) Wang (he/him)

Although some other quintessential queer art forms are not mentioned in detail, the overall artistic values that queer TikTok has created for the world are beyond precious. At the end of the day, spreading love, acceptance, and awareness is what the LGBTQIA+ community primarily focuses on and forever cherishes.


Chop Chop

Being a woman who aesthetically does not represent what others expect of you can be a real challenge for girls growing up. Self acceptance comes at a cost, but the freedom from embracing it is worth it.

hen I was a little girl, I always wanted to cut my hair. I was boyish in my mannerisms - eight years old with blonde, pin straight locks adorned with bangs, and more than anything I wanted to just cut it. I grew up envying the way my brothers’ could comb through their hair, while I spent mornings before school in the bathroom as my mother raked an old brush through mine. I asked a few friends and family members about cutting my hair in high school, and I was constantly met with, let’s say, mixed reviews. Plenty of friends expressed that I’d look good with my hair cut short, but I was always met with strong opposition and doubts from a few close friends, and even family. “You wouldn’t want to look like a man, would you?” It’s easy to give in to these kinds of intrusive thoughts. It’s easy to allow ourselves to seep into our own fears and the expectations of others - giving up who we really are in the process. We are socialized from a young age to fit into preconceived boxes when it comes to gender and subsequent expression. But in this day and age, we can no longer allow ourselves to fall prey to the rhetoric that disenfranchises us from the people who we want to become. 18

Story by Eden Straton (she/her) Photo by Zoë McCreary (she/her)

A small voice in my head repeated the years of doubts my peers and family held. What if I wouldn’t be seen as a woman? Would I be giving up a piece of my femininity? But unlike before, I realized that in the end, this would be for me - no one else. Hair always grows back, right? And that’s how I found myself in the middle of Westcott Barber Shop getting 12 inches of my hair lopped off. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. The aura of the shop was warm, comforting, and the staff made me feel right at home. As soon as the final snips were made, I found solace in the short, cropped strands now atop my head. Now, I still struggle with the words as to how it felt, but the one that feels best is relief. I am just as much a woman as I was with long hair. The difference is that now I am a better representation of the woman who I always wanted to be. As I write this, I can’t imagine ever having long hair again, and frankly I don’t think I could ever go back. I took my box, and simply remade it. So to all the girls, gays, and theys who want to cut their hair, remember that while it may seem daunting to take those first steps, you have so much more power than you realize. Your expression is not only valid, but just as stunning as the other wonderful pieces of you.

“You wouldn’t want to look like a man, would you?”


s a trans-masculine nonbinary person who also happens to have bipolar disorder, I’d love for this to be a lighthearted recollection of an amazing event in my life that changed me for the better. Unfortunately, I have very little of those, and a plethora of bad stories to share. Here is the worst, and it starts like this: in October of 2020, I tried to kill myself. At the time, my mental health was failing and I was doing an awful job getting help. I could talk about the failures of our society’s mental health systems, the struggle it was to find help, my constant brushing off by the Barnes’ Center, the way no one would take me seriously. But in honesty, these are things I’ve heard my cisgender peers complain about alongside me. Instead, I want to talk about how I specifically was failed as a queer person. The tip of the iceberg looks something like this: testosterone is known by a lot of doctors to induce mood swings that can worsen the episodes that characterize bipolar disorder. At the beginning of September, I was prescribed T, and the immense rush of joy I felt was like no other I had felt before. However, the doctor did not inform me of the effects it could have on my bipolar disorder, and the result was a complete and intense episode that ended with me in the hospital. The worst thing was this: I was not out to my parents. I let everyone who handled me, from the ambulance to the ward, know that I didn’t want anyone contacted, to the point where I had it written out and all my emergency contacts removed. To this day, I don’t know who did it, but they ended up outing me to my parents within twenty four hours of my hospitalization. Since the hospital would have no way of knowing my parent’s numbers, I’m leaning towards the school. I don’t have to detail how hard it is recovering from a suicide attempt surrounded by people who won’t even call you by name. I really don’t. I am just glad I had an awesome support system of friends back home.



“I am just glad I had an awesome support system of friends back home.” Unfortunately, I know I’m lucky. Several doctors have told me so. I am reminded every time I see another statistic on queer youth suicide. But I can’t help but think that it’s awful that I’m a lucky one. Because this is awful. I’m lucky my parents just try to ignore my queerness instead of anything worse. I’m lucky that my case manager at Syracuse isn’t transphobic. I’m lucky that I’ve only ever heard ‘faggot’ in real life once, and it wasn’t even aimed at me. I just wish there were more protections for trans people in the healthcare system. I wish that I was given a list of negative side effects that weren’t just, “you might get cancer and also you can’t get pregnant.” I wish doctors were more informed about trans health care. I wish I didn’t get deadnamed on my hospital bracelet. I wish my case wasn’t a ‘lucky’ case, and I hope one day no one has to go through what I did.


deadnamed on my hospital bracelet How the healthcare system failed one non-binary transmasculine person.




A depressive episode leads a Long Island native to come out to his parents during his senior year of high school. I woke up in my 2006 Jeep Liberty. The car wasn’t designed to sleep any 18-yearold comfortably, but I made do. I glanced around the library parking lot for police cars or anyone familiar. I made the mistake of entering the library the week prior and ran into my friend’s mother. I lied my way out of speaking with her for too long, but I needed to be more careful. The digital clock read 3:35 p.m., which meant I could return home to bed. I rearranged my things, placing my backpack and sweatshirts in the passenger seat. They had been acting as my pillows. I drove three short blocks towards my house to finish sleeping the rest of the day. My gravel driveway rumbled and crackled beneath my tires and it was the first real thing I felt that day. I gathered my things, 22

held a few books in my arms to keep up the illusion, and entered my house’s side door. My mom was in the kitchen washing dishes, but she wasn’t playing any music. She always played disco when doing chores. I said my usual quick hello before making my way towards the stairs. “Chris, I want you to come here a minute,” she requested. I was nervous but dragged my feet to the kitchen table. “I got a phone call from the school,” she said, her eyebrows perched between concerned and angry. My heart dropped. “They said you haven’t been in school for weeks.” There was no avoiding it anymore. I could never explain what I was doing without devastating her. The entire point was to never disappoint anyone. My plan

was to disappear after Christmas once all my bridges were burned. My eyes started to well up. “What is wrong? You are not leaving this table until you tell me.” Tears ran down my cheeks. I stood in front of what I feared most with no way out. No escape. “I think I’m gay,” I whimpered. “And I really don’t want to be.” I cried. I cried harder than I ever thought capable. A full body cry where your body aches from all the strain. All of my hard work up until now was ruined. I sold away everything that could be promised to me with those eleven words. I could never be happy again. I tried standing up from the kitchen table, but my knees buckled. “Chris, I am so sorry sweetie.” She held me close to her chest. “I wish you could give me all your pain. Just put your pain on me.” Any of my mom’s judgement or disappointment was overpowered by her love for me, and I could never thank her enough for that.

She drove me to the hospital a few hours later. I had to come out to every intake specialist, nurse, and doctor one after the other, reliving my biggest hurdle, not knowing if any of this was going to help. I sat in a waiting area by myself for a while until the doctor asked, “If it were up to you, would you rather learn to accept your homosexuality, or would you rather be cured of it.” I chose the cure.

my own way so often I thought I would fail out. I almost did, too. I no longer blame myself for how I acted, but I do have regrets. Looking back, I fear my defining moment of high school was my depressive episode and trying to recuperate. My behavior hurt a lot of friendships.

But I try not to think about it often. I’m in a good spot now. I’ve been in and out of therapy, which I no longer hold preconceived notions about. I have plenty of good friends, started a career change I am excited to lay groundwork for, and even found someone who thinks I’m their someone too. If only 18-year-old me could see me now.

I spent five days and four nights in South Nassau’s Adult Psychiatric ward. My mom visited every day, and she would drop off notes from my brother, my favorite snacks, and other knick-knacks. It turned out skipping school, sleeping in the parking lot the entire day, and keeping my phone off were signs of depression. My time in the hospital alleviated a lot of the pressure I put on myself, but my dad couldn’t help reminding me how expensive this fiasco was. I got out in time for my senior year winter concert. My marimba part was featured, and I was excited to play. That last sentence sounds ridiculous now, but it was true. I wish I could say things got better from there, but the road stayed rocky for a while. I passed on a lot of senior events, skipped classes, and continued to isolate. I was angry and sad for a majority of the time, and I worried about the future. I was bright enough to go to college, sure, but I got in

Story by Chris Bennett (he/him) Photo by Patrick Linehan (he/him)


Q 24

isolation & community during a pandemic


Life and Light: From Lost to Found by Ash Alexander (they/them)

It’s the one hundred and twenty-eighth day of March, and I can’t get out of bed. There’s a pile of books by my bed that I told myself I would read, but every time I try, the words slip past my brain like smoke through fingers. The walls of my bedroom are as empty as I feel, and a half-finished embroidery project lies abandoned on a piano keyboard that does nothing but gather dust. I don’t live here, not really. It’s my bedroom, in my house, in the city that I’m from… But it doesn’t feel like home. “Home” is scattered into the winds — in California, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania. “Home” is a dorm room that I haven’t slept in in months, a long walk up the Mount stairs, a massive couch in the resource center. “Home” is a best friend who I’m in love with, even though I haven’t figured that out yet. We FaceTime. We write each other letters. We send each other queer literary analysis papers just for fun. We talk about everything and nothing and, in a lot of ways, they feel like the only connection to my queerness that I have left. I stopped wearing a binder the day I left Syracuse, unable to justify the discomfort of wearing it when I was the only one who would even see me. I stopped wearing my favorite outfits, choosing comfort and ease over style and flair. I let my buzzcut grow and grow and grow. There were no more meetings to attend, no more queer friends to physically spend time with, no more passersby to see the pins on my backpack. 25

They cancelled pride, and June came and went so quickly that I barely even missed it. Except that I did. Except that the emptiness sat like a black hole in my chest that grew bigger and heavier with every passing day. Except that I felt so removed from myself and my identity and my community that I started to lose time. Days blended into weeks blended into months; and even though each day looked exactly the same as the one that came before it, I couldn’t remember what I’d done. Months later now, what memories I do have of quarantine are a blur. I remember sleeping in until 10 a.m. became 11 a.m. became 12 p.m., until I was consistently sleeping half the day away. I remember learning to embroider. I remember reading, but I can’t for the life of me tell you what I read. I remember going for a walk every day before dinner, my one desperate attempt to hold my brain together. I remember feeling lost — pulled from my home and my community and thrown into unfamiliar waters, floating, fading away from myself.

I held their hand in the mall and kissed them in the snow and realized how important being queer is to me.

But then I also remember coming back. I got on a plane and flew “home.” I saw my friends and fell right back into my life again. Latenight trips to Target, chosen family dinners, looking like the gayest person at Trader Joe’s. I started going to queer events again, started taking another queer studies class, started to feel even more like me than I had before the pandemic. I started making my mental health a priority. I made myself as involved as I could. I focused more on loving myself and my identities. I adopted a cat with my best friend, I realized that adopting a cat with my best friend was a pretty gay thing to do, and xI told my best friend I was in love with them. I held their hand in the mall and kissed them in the snow and realized how important being queer is to me. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and, for the first time in my life, it didn’t seem like a hollow promise, but like something that I was already standing in.


Queer Resilience and Revolution: Coronavirus Edition by Jean Duggirala (they/them)

I’ve been walking to Starbucks the past few months just to hear my name said out loud. Every time the barista calls it out, the knot in my stomach eases. Jean. Quarantine has meant losing my name in my mother’s mouth. Becoming daughter again. Girl again. These past versions of myself, false deities that I’ve learned not to pray to, resurrected in my hometown. Sometimes, when the barista does call my name, it takes me a moment to recognize it. Who am I if I can’t remember the name I gave to myself? My gender spent Christmas tucked into my grandmother’s niceties. I am told not to talk about my partner at the dinner table. That my love is controversial and confusing. I am wearing a dress. I am so pretty. I am walking around wearing a dead girl’s face, and I’m the only one who can see it. I ache for the spaces I’ve lost to this pandemic, the shelters we as a queer community have built for ourselves. Queerness is a shared experience — both of pain and of joy. Before coming to Syracuse, I had only experienced the generational trauma of being young and closeted and knowing that, eventually, I was going to break my mom’s heart. I didn’t know there were happy endings for people like me, that there were places that would embrace me and people who would recognize me, even before I could name the feelings I was experiencing. It was only here that I learned what it feels like to be on the other side of this dichotomy — to experience queer joy. I found a little family at Syracuse. One that understands the mornings where I wake up in a body that I do not relate to; one that cherishes my love and the hope and happiness it brings me. A community that knows my name. Leaving it during this pandemic has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. Syracuse helped me forget, momentarily, what it felt like to be in hiding. To be

wrapped carefully in the expectations of others. To be loved with too many preconceptions. For nearly three months, I survived off of three-hour FaceTime calls with my partner — the love of my life and my very best friend. On the days where I forgot what it meant to be me, when I lost my queerness in someone else’s make-believe memories, I looked for them. A lifeline. A reminder that I am a testament to all that has tried to silence me. A reminder that being queer and alive and in love is a revolutionary act. In many ways, the loss of this community during the pandemic has been crippling. I’ve had to learn how to embrace my queerness in a vacuum, in a space where no one understands. Yet, in other

It was only here that I learned what it feels like to be on the other side of this dichotomy — to experience queer joy.

ways, it has been the most hopeful experience of my life. Even as our physical contact waned, we still found a way to connect — reaching out across social media, reminding each other of our own resilience. Over and over, in a million ways, this community has comforted me throughout the past year.

You exist, it tells me.

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You are brave.

And, most importantly, this community comes together to remind me of one simple and undeniable fact: we will survive. We’ll be here when everything is finally over, waiting with open arms to welcome each other home. We will relearn the names we lost in other people’s mouths, and we will come back stronger and more unified than ever. This is not the first disaster we have weathered, and it won’t be the last. But we’ll make it through. Families are funny like that. 27

A One Time Only Super Condensed Coronavirus, Heartbreak, Coming Out Special™ by Avani Singh (she/her)

Put a finger down if ten days before the world went into lockdown, you thought it was a good time to come out to your parents. That day began at 6 a.m. (a homphobic time) as I was forced awake by chills and a fever. I immediately called my mom. Worried shitless, she made it her mission to call me every hour to make sure I was OK. After a weirdly exhausting walk back from the Barnes Center to my Ernie Davis dorm, the girl I was seeing FaceTimed me... Enter one of life’s most powerful milestones: first heartbreak.

My day quite literally went like this:

My moon is in Pisces, so naturally I spent the next few hours sobbing, listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ “Garden Song” and ignoring my mom’s calls. There was no way I’d be able to keep it together on the phone. And I didn’t. As soon as I finally picked up the phone, the tears came streaming. I knew there was no way getting around this. I had to tell her.

6 a.m. Wake Up With Coronavirus!

2 p.m. First Ever Heartbreak.

6 p.m. Come Out To Mom!

I’ve (sort of) known I was a lesbian since I was four years old, but the thought of telling my parents was the one of — if not the — biggest thing that kept me from exploring even the thought of being queer. I would “think about it when I got to college.” The chance to explore my sexuality away from the threat of my family finding out was a major reason I pushed myself to go to a university far from home.

Two weeks later, COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown and SU sent us all home. Life didn’t seem real. I couldn’t party my broken heart off or even see a friend. I had just come out to my family, and now I had to spend every single second of every day with them. And also, a global pandemic was happening? All I wanted to do was go out and dance, celebrate facing my biggest fear, not see my parents,

“What’s wrong?” my mom asked.

I thought about the pros of telling her right then: It’s over the phone and not in person. I’m a few hundred miles away and it’s the middle of the semester. I’m sick and heartbroken. She has to go easy on me, right?

So I told my rather traditional Indian parents that a girl had broken my heart. After assuring my mom that no, she was not a best friend and no, I was not experimenting and yes, you could say I’m bisexual, she was taken aback but accepting. Oh, and an antibody test later confirmed that those chills and fever were caused by COVID-19. 28

So while you may have experienced 2020 in a year, I experienced it in a day. Looking back, I might be superhuman.

I thought the pandemic would put my growth on pause, but in reality it did the opposite.

and express and embrace my queer identity. It’s hard enough to do that at home during normal times, but doing it during a pandemic was almost impossible. But with my first relationship behind me, I was starting to understand my identity more than ever. While I didn’t get to explore my identity in the ways you might expect — by going out, meeting people, experimenting with clothes and makeup — I really got to pick at my brain and explore who I was within. I thought the pandemic would

put my growth on pause, but in reality it did the opposite. Lockdown forced me to be introspective, forced me to feel everything, forced me to sit with my thoughts and analyze my journey with queerness. Halfway through summer break, I decided I didn’t feel right with the label bisexual and I wanted to go by queer. My family didn’t seem to get it at first, but while we were home together all day, every day, I made it my mission to get them to understand everything queer. It was frustrating. There were tears and arguments. But it was definitely worth it. The pandemic forced me to rip off the BandAid. What would have been a series of small realizations, small coming-outs, and family explanations over the course of a few years became a one time only super condensed coming out special. By the end of summer break I ended up coming out as a lesbian (oops). Living as a lesbian sometimes still feels surreal to me. Maybe it’s because of how fast everything happened, or because of how long I lied to myself. Regardless, if the pandemic never happened I wouldn’t be as wise, as strong, as queer, or as antibodied as I am today.

majority of my time feeling extremely alone and isolated. I started sleeping 10 hours a day, regardless of the time of day. I asked myself what the point of even getting out of by Madison Hilimire (she/her) bed was. My family couldn’t understand the “We’re just really worried about what way that I was feeling. everyone else is going to think, honey.” That’s the reaction I got when I told my But my program at Newhouse began in July parents I’m gay. I had worked up the courage and although it was virtual, having people for months to tell them, and all they could to talk to made me feel less lonely. I started think of was the opinion of our small town. coming out of my shell. I posted a picture

Locked In Meant I Couldn’t Be Out

Homophobic parents, and a global pandemic that shut everything down and sent me back to their house — you probably know how my quarantine went. But not everything was so bleak; the real story, and the happy ending I found with it, starts back a little ways, when I met my girlfriend in November 2019. We instantly hit it off, and in “lesbian time” you know that I was ready to move in with her after the first date. But I was still a senior in college and she had graduated the year prior and was already living on her own. And then there was my parents’ disapproval. After the first date, they were disgusted with me.

on Instagram of myself in front of a camera doing work, and lo-and-behold that girl I went on one date with reached out.

When I got her message literally just asking how I was doing, I was in awe. I felt so badly about what had happened and I didn’t want to mess it up again. She understood the situation right away; her parents aren’t accepting of her either. We started talking again and I felt like the weight of the world fell off my shoulders. Talking to her gave me hope that I could become myself again. Flash forward to now, and I’m so happy. Even though I’m not out to my entire family and my parents still aren’t very supportive, I’ve found my person. In quarantine, I never would’ve thought that I could have the love that I have now. I went from not being able to get out of bed, to holding my girlfriend’s hand in the cutest little mountain town in the Adirondacks.

So I did what I thought was best at the time and I didn’t see her after that. In January of 2020, Newhouse accepted me into their graduate broadcast journalism program, and I was so excited to see where my life would take me. I was a college softball player, so we still had our spring season left. After a lifetime of doubting future plans, I was finally living in the moment and certain about what lay Even though coming out is challenging, I wouldn’t take it back for the world. Finally ahead. deciding to not hide a piece of myself has Then March hit. In a day’s time, my season, been the most rewarding experience of my the rest of my senior year, and my post-grad life. Not only did I find a person that I love plans were thrown into disarray. I had to dearly, I also found myself — who I love move back into a house where I still don’t feel even more. comfortable expressing my true self. I spent a


new youth homeless shelter to open in syracuse in 2021 As youth homelessness rises, the Syracuse Rescue Mission Alliance plans to renovate a 10-bed emergency shelter inclusive for LGBTQIA+ kids.


April of 2018, the Rescue Mission Alliance announced the development of a new emergency shelter with a focus on LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing homelessness. In the spring of 2021, that project is almost finished.

“It’s been almost three years since we announced that project,” said Tori Shires, chief development officer at the Syracuse Rescue Mission. “But to go from not having a shelter to opening a shelter — finding a location, renovating that location, having COVID interrupt those renovations — it’s been a long process.” According to Shires, the Rescue Mission’s idea came after a study by two professors at Syracuse University’s Falk College who found that LGBTQIA+ youth often described existing shelters as unsafe for 30

Story by Madison Hilimire (she/her)

them. Professors Deb Coolhart and Maria Brown interviewed teens across Central New York to evaluate the growing problem of LGBTQIA+ youth homelessness: 320,000 to 400,000 LGBTQIA+ youth face homelessness every year in the United States, according to the Rescue Mission’s website. The influx of queer youth experiencing homelessness was beyond the capacity of local organizations like the Central New York Q Center in Syracuse, which provides a safe space and resources for LGBTQIA+ youth ages 8-25. “People at the Q Center, they serve all kinds of LGBTQ youth, but they were getting more and more homeless kids showing up for services than they had before,” Brown explained.

“People at the runaway and homeless youth office were seeing more and more homeless kids who were identifying as LGBTQ.” The seven LGBTQIA+ youth and nine adult informants (including shelter employees, LGBTQIA+ youth service providers, and school counselors) interviewed by Coolhart and Brown consistently mentioned that LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing homelessness would benefit from a shelter specifically for them. Within existing shelters, the youth described problems with gender segregation, mistreatment by staff based on religious views, mistreatment by other youth, and violence. “One of the young people we interviewed reported being isolated in terms of when they eat their meals and when they were allowed to do homework,” Brown said. “And they were almost allowed no interaction at all with the other youth of the shelter.”

“People at the Q center, they serve all kinds of LGBTQ youth, but they were getting more and more homeless kids showing up for services than they had before” Even though the Rescue Mission has a 183-bed shelter in Syracuse, state regulations prevent them from housing minors. Until the new youth shelter is finished, the Rescue Mission will continue turning away anyone younger than 18. 31

The new shelter will provide temporary, emergency housing to youth ages 12 to 17 regardless of their gender and sexual identity. “The design of the youth shelter is to be affirming and accepting and welcoming to LGBTQ youth,” Shires says. “However, it is not only for LGBTQ youth, so we’re not going to turn a child away if they don’t identify as LGBTQ.” The youth will come from referrals from guidance counselors or other social service partners, but Shires explained that most of the referrals will come from local schools. The goal of the shelter is to reunite youth with a family member other social service partners, but Shires explained that most of the referrals will come from local schools. The goal of the shelter is to reunite youth with a family member


“The design of the youth shelter is to be affirming and accepting and welcoming to LGBTQ youth” that is affirming and accepting of them within 30 days, Shires said. The Rescue Mission will be working with ACR Health, and the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center to provide counseling and case management, and they will provide therapy if the child requests it.

“The goal is to work [out] terms with their direct family to allow for acceptance, and whether that’s family therapy, individual therapy, we would be the conduit for other resources,” Shires said. “If this child has an aunt or cousin or someone else who is fit to be a caretaker or guardian, and that is allowed by the state then we could place the child with those family members.” In addition to providing the youth with therapy resources, the shelter will also help them continue their education. Youth experiencing homelessness are covered under the McKinneyVento Homeless Assistance Act, a national law which requires all homeless children to be enrolled in school and provided with necessary resources. These include school supplies, free transportation, lunch, and access to wifi. “Even if we take in a homeless youth from Baldwinsville, and they’re living in Syracuse at our home, they can still take their remote classes,” Shires said. “Or the district is required to provide the busing from Syracuse to home.” The shelter will feature 10 single bedrooms so the youth can have their own privacy, Shires said. But the Rescue Mission can also add more beds to a room if needed. The shelter will also have three full bathrooms, one of those being fully handicap accessible. Staff will be present around the clock, with two members present during the day and one at night. The shelter is still undergoing renovations as the Rescue Mission renovates the house from top to bottom, but Shires expects the home to be completed by the end of this year. In the meantime, homeless youth ages 13 to 17 can find shelter at the Booth House operated by the Salvation Army.

“At the end of the day our goal is to put love into action, and that means that we are going to love and accept everyone for who they are in all their diverse forms, and we’re pretty proud of that”

“At the end of the day our goal is to put love into action, and that means that we are going to love and accept everyone for who they are in all their diverse forms,” Shires said. “And we’re pretty proud of that.”


USED, ABUSED, and REFUSED Just a few weeks before her college graduation in May 2019, a call pinged Jennifer Kemp*’s phone in the middle of her history class. Kemp, who asked that her name be changed because of her current active-duty status in the U.S. military, glimpsed the name of her university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program director flash onto her phone screen. She rushed into the hallway before answering, and her lieutenant colonel got straight to the point: the national Cadet Command had decided that, because of her transgender status, she wouldn’t be allowed to continue with the program. Kemp knew there was a possibility that verdict would come down, but hearing it as a reality stunned her. She had, after all, just dedicated four years of her life to daily physical training sessions and military classes, and she had aced every task thrown her way just the same as the other cadets in her cohort. But under President Trump’s reinstated transgender military ban, Kemp was to be cut out of her chosen career. “Is there any chance that that’s going to be overturned?” Kemp remembers asking her 34

Trans ROTC cadets in programs nationwide reflect on the damages of Trump’s military ban and the Department of Defense’s about-face on their right to openly serve. Story by Amanda Paule (she/her) lieutenant colonel on the call. His response came through the phone as a decisive blow: seems to easily follow from that momen“It’s unlikely,” he said. tum — but trans service members won’t forget that they’ve been the only group the She plummeted past tears and straight into military has ever welcomed only to again emotionless shock. Just like that, she truly slam the door in their face. believed her military career was over. Beyond the recent show of support from Not Just “Another Political Pawn” President Biden, no current legislation When Kemp began and completed her prevents another president from again reingender transition her senior year of college, stalling the ban. the process was not a violation of military policy. But she became the victim of a first- “The next step in this is working toward of-its-kind policy reversal — in the span making this a permanent condition that of three years, the U.S. military approved transgender people can serve in the military open service for transgender Americans and removing us as just another political in June 2016 only to ban it again in April pawn,” said Nicolas Talbott, a 27-year-old 2019. And two years later President Biden trans man and prospective service member again reversed the transgender military who became a lead plaintiff in one of four ban during his first week in office in 2021. court cases filed against Trump’s ban. “We Biden’s approval for trans service members need to make sure that this never happens to serve openly reaffirms a decades-long again, and not only to trans people. We trend toward a more inclusive military. shouldn’t be banning perfectly qualified From the desegregation of the armed forces people from the military for stuff that has in the 1940s to the repeal of the infamous zero relevance to their abilities.” “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2010 to the opening of all combat jobs to women Despite the Department of Defense’s bans in 2016, open service for trans Americans and fickle sympathy for trans service mem-

bers, trans Americans are twice as likely as all American adults to serve, and approximately 15,000 trans adults currently serve across the military’s active duty, reserves, and national guard components. Examples of trans participation in the U.S. military, including the well-documented cases of Albert Cashier during the Civil War and Christine Jorgensen during WWII, date all the way back to the American Revolution. Kemp had every intention of joining the ranks of the hundreds of

“Trans Americans are twice as likely as all Americans to serve” thousands of trans Americans who have served throughout the history of the U.S. military. The only difference between her and them was, this time, the military promised she could serve openly in her authentic gender without fear of being discharged. Kemp, now 22 years old, had joined the ROTC program at her university in Pennsylvania when she stumbled upon an Army ROTC information booth at her freshman orientation. The cadets and commanders at the booth encouraged her that with ROTC she could ensure a career for herself and focus on her studies at the same time; a week later, Kemp started her first day of classes with an early morning physical training session with her new ROTC battalion. She had long imagined she might one day join the military. Her grandfather

had served as an officer for colonial troops under the British Raj during the Burma campaign in WWII, and when Kemp was 12 her cousin, who was like a sister to her, married an Army engineer. They did their best to answer Kemp’s questions truthfully: the military isn’t for everyone, and it can be tough, verging on miserable at times — but it can also be a source of exhilarating experiences and loyal community. That first week of her freshman year Kemp bonded with cadet James Lam* (whose name has also been changed), a fellow Californian from Los Angeles also attending the small east-coast college. For the next four years they drove to before-dawn PT sessions and trudged through field training trips side by side. When they and their fellow cadets were given practice missions to plan for during field training, Lam watched Kemp take the lead time and time again. Their senior year, he attended a trip to a shooting range that Kemp had planned and executed. And when Kemp reentered her history classroom after taking her lieutenant colonel’s call, Lam, who was also taking the course, was the first person to hear the news that the military was rejecting her commission. The idea that in the coming weeks Kemp would only be in the audience, rather than up front, in uniform, commissioning alongside him, felt like a weight sinking in his chest. “She had put in four years of work and by every other measure had earned a commission,” he said.

When Kemp received her gender dysphoria diagnosis in March 2018 and began her transition that August, she and her lieutenant colonel had navigated president Trump’s reintroduction of the trans military ban with the hope that Kemp would be “grandfathered in,” or allowed to serve openly under the previous rule, just the same as the around 2,500 trans service members who had come out and received a gender dysphoria diagnosis before the trans military ban again took effect in April 2019 (current military policy requires service members to provide a gender dysphoria diagnosis in order to transition, though this diagnosis is not universally considered a requisite for being trans). But Cadet Command had decided that because she was only a cadet, and not an enlisted service member or a commissioned officer, she didn’t qualify for the “grandfathered in” exemption policy.

Prevented from Performing to Full Potential

Around the same time Kemp received the news she wouldn’t be able to commission, Map Pesqueira, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, made national news when the Army revoked his three-year ROTC scholarship due to the ban. The lack of uniform guidance on transgender policy across the nation’s thousands of ROTC programs has hindered attempts to detect the magnitude of the ban’s effect on trans ROTC cadets. Lt. Col. Bree Fram, herself a trans military officer and vice president of SPART*A, a national advocacy and support 35

group for trans service members, said they’ve only been able to collect anecdotal evidence of the ban’s consequences for cadets with stories like Kemp’s and Pesqueira’s.

been so lucky. George Brown, a military doctor who has worked with hundreds of trans troops since the 1970s, said he’s never seen anyone able to finish a full military career while in denial of their identity.

“A few people were in and qualified under the policy to allow them to commission and graduate, but right now as far as we can tell that spigot is completely turned off,” Fram said during an interview before Biden’s re-reversal of the military ban. “So if there are trans people in ROTC today, they likely have to be hiding who they are in order to receive a commission.”

“Obviously if there were open trans service then many more people would make it a full career because they wouldn’t have to hide from themselves or hide from who they are once they are in a position to reach self-acceptance,” he said.

Former ROTC cadets like Elliot Sommer, a 23-year-old trans man and a first lieutenant medical officer in the Army Reserves, sometimes wonders about the difference it could have made if he was out of the closet during his time in ROTC at Kent State University in Ohio from 2015 to 2018. Sommer recalls not being in touch with his trans identity at the time, and it wasn’t until August 2018 after he commissioned that he began to accept his identity and to socially and medically transition. He knew he was risking being discharged from the military when he came out during what looked to be the final months of open service, but he knew the greater risk to his military career would have been not transitioning when he had the chance. While Sommer suspected and avoided the perils of trying to serve while closeted, many service members before the recent repeals of the trans military ban have not 36

“It does make a big difference when you’re comfortable in your skin, as opposed to wanting to crawl out of it” Sommer was able to transition and have the mandated gender dysphoria diagnosis entered into his military medical records one nail-bitingly-close day before the April 12, 2019 deadline to be grandfathered in to the pre-ban open service rule. He didn’t feel that the diagnosis fit his experience, but he and many other trans service members — including Lt. Col. Fram of SPART*A — were all faced with a 30-day window to either get that diagnosis on record or lose their military careers. “From a psychological and scientific standpoint, you don’t have to experience dysphoria to be trans,” Sommer said. “I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed that diagnosis to validate my identity, but the

government needed that diagnosis for me to validate my identity.” Now that he can serve openly, Sommer has seen a noticeable improvement in his leadership. He feels the experience has been humanizing, allowing him to be more vulnerable and more approachable as an officer. Looking back to his time in ROTC, he thinks that not having to hide from his identity would have enabled him to be even more invested in the program. “It does make a big difference when you’re comfortable in your skin, as opposed to wanting to crawl out of it,” he said. For trans service members and cadets, some of that comfort could come from policy updates as straight-forward as permitting them to wear the uniform that corresponds to their authentic gender. Lt. Col. Fram agrees that regulations prohibiting chosen gender expression have impeded trans service members. “Any time you have to have that filter in your brain that sits in between your thoughts and either your actions or your words, that limits you,” she said. “For those cadets who are willing and able to [commission despite the ban on open service] and to get through, I mean hats off to them, that is fantastic, because we need them. We are going to fight and win future wars with brainpower, and if those brains happen to be in the body of a trans person, we still need them.”

Military Might Not Be the Answer

Not all activists for trans rights have rallied behind the call to allow transgender people to serve in the military. Queer critics of trans military inclusion have noted that the vast majority of media advocating for open trans service has relied on implicit pro-military, pro-war messaging, just as the fight to legalize gay marriage in the U.S. relied on messaging that bolstered support for the institution of marriage itself. Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and creator of the Queer Trans War Ban toolkit, is an open critic of queer and trans military involvement. Spade recently voiced his opposition in Wren Sanders’ February 2021 article “‘It’s Pinkwashing:’ The Case Against LGBTQ+ Military Inclusion, Explained” for them magazine. “When it comes to trans advocacy, we want to ask what reforms will save trans people’s lives. The answers are clear: access to housing, income, food, childcare, health care. Military inclusion advocacy does not make the list,” Spade told them. “Further investing in legitimizing the military, an institution that causes immense harm to people all over the planet including the people enlisted, is not a pragmatic solution to trans people’s suffering.” Brynn Tannehill, an advisory board member for the Modern Military Association of America, said she has often been called elitist for her work writing policy and advocating for trans open service. She

recognizes the contrast between the lives of trans military members — who have a steady paycheck, access to healthcare, and few cases of suicide — and the lives of trans folks like Black and brown trans women who each year are murdered at disproportionate and alarming rates. But in Tannehill’s mind, trans military inclusion remains a powerful way to fight transphobia through altering American public opinion. “Most other trans folk in America have it way worse than trans military folk,” Tannehill said. “But unfortunately, in order to generate the sympathy and political will to go forward to protect the people who are in worse situations, we need to win this public relations fight, which we largely have, and continue to put forward trans people that America sees as its ‘best’ to be able to argue for everyone else.” But while the case can be made for trans military inclusion at the system level, at the individual level military participation is not ideal, practical, or even feasible for many Americans. Twenty-five-year-old Jazzy Graham-Davis, for one, remembers applying to ROTC as a teenager before they realized their decision to apply was also an emotionally stunting process of “deciding to not be trans.” Graham-Davis saw ROTC as a way to pursue their interest in computer engineering with job security as a prospective engineering officer and with the aspiration

of being a part of something bigger. At the time, three years after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and three years before the introduction of open trans service, they felt they would be satisfied to express themself as “the typical butch lesbian.” Now, Graham-Davis identifies as non-binary and is grateful they weren’t accepted to the program. In their first year of college they decided to medically transition, and they now proudly sport a goatee and a flat chest from successful top surgery earlier last year — both are developments in their gender expression that military service would have made impossible. Ultimately, Graham-Davis found the financial stability and community they were looking for within a civilian career and within LGBTQIA+ spaces, and their perspective of the military has turned to a disdain for the way military participation can often feel like the only option for people, especially young people, who feel they have nowhere else to go. And while they condemn the military and the economic pressures that can force people to join, Graham-Davis also condemned Trump’s military ban. “As much as I despise [the military], I want people to have that opportunity, if they so choose,” they said. “But I think, for other people, really look at is that what you want to do? Or are you doing this because you have to? And if you have to, I think make sure you explore all your options.”


Capable Recruits Rejected

If Graham-Davis had it their way, the U.S. would have another option for income and housing stability equally as accessible as the military, especially for people who do not fit the military mold. In fact, only around 29% of Americans ages 17 through 24 qualify for military service (and thus military benefits) for numerous reasons including ability status, weight, and education level. And it’s no secret that the military has struggled to meet its recruitment goals in recent years. In 2020, for example, the Army recruited only 2,000 soldiers rather than the intended 14,000. Dr. Brown offered his perspective from the military side of this equation: “Point being, we as a country are not in a position to be turning away people who are physically and mentally capable of serving their country and who want to join.” Nicolas Talbott is one such recruit — a fact that has brought him, at 27 years old, to be a leading face of one of the four court cases filed against the Trump administration’s trans military ban. When the ban took effect in the spring of 2019, Talbott was finishing his first year of ROTC at Kent State as a graduate student studying criminology and global security. He had to make a decision: continue with the program knowing that his physical exam would be automatically marked as a failure despite his ability to pass in every area except for his transgender status, or step back from the program. His legal 38

team advised him to do the latter. When he didn’t return to the program in the fall, many of his peers and sergeants wondered what had happened to Cadet Talbott — the majority of them had no idea he was trans. Before stepping into the media spotlight as a plaintiff in Stockman v. Trump in the fall of 2017, Talbott had kept his trans identity well under wraps. As Talbott tells it, one of his best friends, who currently serves in the Marine Corps, didn’t know he was trans until he saw an article on Facebook about Talbott and the court case. He said to Talbott that knowing him and finding out he was trans brought him to reevaluate misconceptions he had about transgender people and their capacity to serve. Dispelling false, preconceived notions about transgender people is a large part of what motivated Talbott to become a plaintiff in the case — “to stop sitting on the sidelines” and to take the opportunity that had presented itself for him to take action in support of transgender equality. “Even if for some reason the military doesn’t pan out for me, if I can help even one other person achieve their dream and get into the military, [if] I can help them get a career, whatever it may be, I want to do everything that I can do to help every other transgender person out there who wants to serve their country,” Talbott said. In hopes of one day pursuing a career as an officer in the Army or Air Force, Talbott has been reluctant to start up his career

elsewhere. Instead, his resumé has become a compendium of odd jobs that have fit around his school schedule over the years: bus driving, truck driving, home health care, substitute teaching, TSA, Planet Fitness, Walmart, Amazon. When the pandemic interrupted his stint in substitute teaching, he returned to an old job as a courier for veterinary clinics, transporting lab specimens from clinic to clinic. For Talbott, the past few years of back and forth on transgender military policy have been years spent in limbo, staying in shape and studying his old ROTC materials for the day he can finally start his career and move forward. “I don’t like to be told no to things for no good reason,” Talbott said. “ROTC proved a prime example of why I’m fighting this so hard. I was there. I put the uniform on. I participated with everybody else. And I know darn well I can do it again — I just need to be presented the opportunity.” The morning of January 25, 2021, Talbott paced around his house as he spoke to a reporter through his AirPods. Reporters had been asking him all morning to respond as though President Biden had already overturned the trans military ban. They knew Biden would at any minute be putting pen to paper to reverse Trump’s ban; but during that particular call, Talbott didn’t have to fake a response. He got a text from one of his lawyers that it was official, and every moment of turmoil and toil from the previous four years crystalized into a single exhalation of relief.

Multiple recruiters have since extended offers to help him join the military at last. Last year Talbott wanted to rejoin a ROTC program while pursuing a PhD, but now with the ability to commission again within reach he can’t fathom waiting for another four years. The 27-year-old who became the face of the crusade against Trump’s ban is done putting his life on hold.

An End to the Tumult, but a Policy Still Unfinished

Jennifer Kemp couldn’t begin to fathom her future as she told her classmate James Lam the news passed down by their lieutenant colonel. Both of them shocked and unable to process the news, they left their history class early, and Lam offered to walk with Kemp back to her dorm. They walked mostly in silence. Kemp’s fiancée Leila Collins*, whose name has also been changed, met her at her dorm. Kemp was in a stupor. “She was trying to process the idea of like ‘What do I do now?’” Collins said. “And that feeling of everything that she wanted and had planned to do with her life and career suddenly being ripped out from under her.” But after a day passed, a second call from her lieutenant colonel pinged her phone, again during class. Again she ducked into the hallway. But this time she cried, and laughed as she cried, as her shock and stress transmuted at once into pure relief. The U.S. Army Cadet Command had overturned the decision after all.

By then, Kemp had completed more than six months of her medical transition, was passing as a woman, and felt ready and willing to commission alongside the rest of her cohort and enter the service. But the military’s one-size-fits-all, year-and-a-half “stabilization period” for gender transition mandated for the Army to put off her commission for another year. It was a small hurdle compared to the ban that nearly rejected her from the military entirely, but it was a reminder nevertheless that the policy for open service introduced in 2016 was an unfinished product. With Biden now in office, Brynn Tannehill of the Modern Military Association of America hopes the military will now take the opportunity to revise the open service policy’s bureaucratic imperfections. At the top of her list to revisit are regulations governing transitioning and the medical administrative system, including the rules that arbitrarily delayed Kemp’s commission. “We’ve had trans people serving openly for almost five years now,” Tannehill said. “The only difficulties we’ve had are administrative, and that’s because we haven’t been able to fix the policy the way we wanted to.” Though Kemp finished the mandated “stabilization” period last spring, the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. delayed her commission another six months. But in September 2020, a year and a half after the other cadets in her ROTC battalion, Kemp finally arrived at her own commissioning ceremony. She tied back

her long, dark hair into a regulation bun beneath a service hat belted with a halfinch gold band, a decoration that signifies the status of an entry-level Army officer. The folded brim hat (worn only by female service members), skirt, and simple heels of her dress blues ensemble marked the military’s official approval of her right to serve in her authentic gender. In front of the small gathering — Kemp’s lieutenant colonel and her parents among them — Collins pinned one of the gold bars to Kemp’s shoulder and felt her stress dissolve as Kemp’s entry into the Army took material form. No more uncertainty, no more hitches or delays, no more news that her military career would be ripped out from beneath her. “She could have adapted, obviously, she could have made it work,” Collins said. “But throwing away the amount of skill, talent, and just incredible dedication she has to the Army would have been a tragic waste.” In December 2020, Kemp reported to the Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, to complete her training as an Army armor officer. Meanwhile, Talbott labored away at his master’s and took night shifts delivering lab specimens from one vet to the next. With the promise of new open service policies currently in the works, he hopes that, come his graduation in October, it’ll finally be his turn to commission.


A Place for Ace I engaged in sex because society said I should,

Asexual (adj) - reproduction that does not involve the fusion of gametes or change in the number of chromosomes. This was the only definition I knew for years. People have mentioned asexuality in reference to the alphabet mafia (that is, the “A” in LGBTQIA+), but I never really thought about what that meant until Sex Education, Season Two. At 25 years old, sitting on my couch, a television show changed the life I thought I knew. “It’s like being at a buffet with all of my favorite foods, but not being hungry.” I’ve never had a connection to sex. I engaged in it because society told me I should, but I had been mistaking sensual and romantic attraction for sexual attraction. Sensual attraction is the desire to cuddle or touch someone, while romantic attraction is the desire to have a romantic relationship with them. Sexual attraction is the desire to have sex with them, but asexuality is simply a lack of experiencing sexual attraction. Sex in western society is still a taboo. It’s not an appropriate conversation for the dinner table, and it makes for very uncomfortable chats with parents (usually). When we assume we share common definitions, in my experience, miscommunication is common. People say things like “that’s sexy,” for example, without realizing that others may be using the term differently. My discovery led me to research more and more on the subject. Television led me to forums, forums led me to Facebook groups, Facebook groups led me to TikTok, and TikTok led me to the


but it never felt right – I had a lot to learn. Story by Alora Blosch (she/her)

book ACE (which is really good so far and has led to even more epiphanies, if I’m honest). My research led to reflection; I discovered that the reason my past relationships have failed is because I didn’t understand my sexuality, or lack thereof, and it created an unspoken conflict. A boyfriend told me that I didn’t want a relationship, I “wanted a roommate,” because I didn’t feel sexual desires for him. The epiphanies came a lot slower when it came to figuring out my romantic orientation. Like sexualities, there is heteroromantic, biromantic, panromantic, and homoromantic. I thought I was a cisgender heteroromantic asexual person, but something about it felt wrong. I had always desired more with women, but the idea of sex with them made me uncomfortable, just slightly more so than sex with a man. I then realized that when I take sex off the table, I wanted a relationship with a woman far more than I wanted one with a man. I have always found women more attractive (see what I mean about terms we use without realizing we are using different definitions?). I find women more sensually, romantically, and aesthetically attractive than men and always have. So now I’m a cisgender panromantic asexual woman longing for an intimate and emotional connection with someone. I want to love and be loved for who I am and not what my body has to offer.

Terminology Asexual

the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire

Allo(sexual)/Allo(romantic) to experience sexual attraction or romantic attraction regularly


to experience sexual attraction only after a close bond has formed. This could rarely happen if at all.

Grey Ace

somewhere between Ace and Allo

Emotional Attraction

the desire to get to know someone, often as a result of their personality instead of their physicality. This type of attraction is present in most relationships from platonic friendships to romantic and sexual relationships.

Sexual Attraction

attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s)


to experience romantic attraction towards another of the opposite sex or gender expression

Ace of Spades

asexual, aromantic

Ace of Diamonds demi / grey ace

Ace of Clubs

questioning / unsure

Ace of Hearts

asexual, alloromantic

Aesthetic Attraction

often compared to looking at a nice painting or landscape; a stronger desire to admire or gaze at a person: their physical features, their curves and shape, their bearing, how they move, how they dress, etc.

Intellectual Attraction

the desire to engage with another in an intellectual manner, such as engaging in conversation with them, “picking their brain,” and it has more to do with what or how a person thinks instead of the person themselves.


to experience romantic attraction towards any sex or gender expression


to not experience romantic attraction


to experience romantic attraction towards another of the same sex or gender expression


to experience romantic attraction towards more than one sex or gender expression


Self-Love as

Self-Care Story by Ash Alexander (they/them) Photo by Em Burris (she/they)



ver the past few years — especially recently — as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, one buzzword we’ve all become increasingly familiar with is “self-care.” Be it sheet masks or water bottles, eating your veggies or balancing your sleep schedule, going outside or taking time off, self-care has become a common and encouraged practice in our lives. And yet for many, one extremely important facet of self-care is left out of the conversation: masturbation. It’s an act that has been around for thousands of years. Many pieces of ancient Greek pottery feature paintings of figures masturbating; archaeologists have found dildos dating back nearly 30,000 years. There’s even a word for it in Latin, masturbor, so why is it still so taboo, particularly for those of us with vulvas? In part, it has a lot to do with the phenomenon of the male gaze. First used as a critique of nude European paintings, the “male gaze” refers to (to put it binarily) the tendency for men to look and women to be looked at. But, since we still live in a patriarchal society, this gaze extends to far more than just the fine arts. In movies or television, female warriors are often scantily-clad and unprotected. In video games, strong main characters are often hypermasculine men. And, of course,

as nothing more than an object for men’s pleasure, with little to no thought given to any pleasure of her own. Since our sex education curriculum is widely lacking, porn becomes the primary source of sexual knowledge for many people growing up and — though this seems to work out fairly well for cisgender hetereosexual men — it leaves the rest of us in some pretty uncomfortable positions, both literally and figuratively. For queer women, as well as trans and nonbinary

Since our sex education curriculum is widely lacking, porn becomes the primary source of sexual knowledge for many people growing up and — though this seems to work out fairly well for cisgender hetereosexual men — it leaves the rest of us in some pretty uncomfortable positions, both literally and figuratively. For queer women, as well as trans and nonbinary people, the effects of the male gaze can be especially damaging, particularly to our sexual lives. 43

Fatpho biaISA gender edclus terfuck Story by Brogan Thomas (she/her) Illustration by Kevin Camelo (he/him)



No fats. No femmes.


Zack 22

For example, there is a very disturbing intersect of LGBTQIA+ phobia and fatphobia. This means that many of the prejudices which underlie LGBTQIA+ oppression are similar to the assumptions that cause us to fear fatness. Both communities face harsh criticisms from accusations of

While members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies tend to observe gender as a social condition, we have quite a way to go before this view is universally adopted. The same persistent fear of “otherness” in our culture, which attacks the LGBTQIA+ community, also seeps its way into many other forms of oppression.

f you’ve encountered the unfortunate reality of being judged simply for existing -- which I must assume is the case if you’re reading this -- you’ve likely been forcibly made aware of the devout, intrusive allegiance to the gender binary that is deeprooted in our culture.

be physically weak and lazy (traits often associated, in poor taste, with femininity).

Illustration by Kevin Camelo.

While there’s an argument to be made that Fat Amy’s character from the Pitch Perfect series is generally empowering, these Under the subliminal influence of positive qualities are written away by jokes LGBTQIA+ phobia and fatphobia, people riddled with stereotypes. are stripped of their gender autonomy. Fat men are prescribed having feminine “The gag is that a ‘fat ugly girl’ either qualities, and are then mocked for them. believes she’s beautiful or men do,” wrote Jill Think of the running gags that cisgender Richardson in her article “Hollywood’s Fatfat men cannot “find” their penises and that Shaming is Getting Old.” they are suffering from “man boobs.” Both of these taunts are only effective under Perhaps one of the most blatant examples the assumption that femininity in men is is the Miss Piggy character of the Muppets something to fear. Similarly, cis fat women universe, who is written to be loud, greedy, are assumed to have “lost” their femininity. and physically aggressive. These are traits associated with masculinity, and, similar to “In order to be perceived as feminine, Fat Amy, many of her ‘humorous’ qualities we have to put so much more effort into are related to her desire to present feminine. our hair, our makeup, our clothes,” wrote Danny Jackson H. in their Medium article With queer and fat struggles so naturally “Why Are Fat Women Not Really Seen as connected, it seems a disgrace that our Women?” In our culture, the infusion of community does such a poor job lifting fat femininity into men and the reduction of voices. The pursuit of understanding and it in women are both perceived as a loss of acceptance between one’s body and mind is a worth. theme that rings out across both communities. Yet, we find ourselves putting only the Whether consciously or unconsciously, thinnest among us on pedestals. When we these preconceived notions about fat people are unwilling to associate ourselves with fat and gender identity make themselves people in our community, we are echoing obnoxiously present in the media. The traits the very homophobic and transphobic taunts of fat characters often have much to do with we’re trying to escape. Personally, I’m very their gender. Fat men are given “feminine” tired of seeing people avoid these subjects traits while fat women are given “masculine” out of discomfort. It’s not complicated and traits. it shouldn’t be stigmatized: fat liberation has a rightful place in queer/transgender/gender Consider Eugene from The Walking Dead, non-conforming liberation. who, especially in his first appearances in the series, was always portrayed to Brogan Thomas is the managing editor of TheOutcrowd.

“making poor lifestyle choices” and “setting bad examples.” It is important to note these blatant overlaps in the way people are oppressed, especially when advocating for the liberation of these people.



HEALTHCARE SYSTEM A deep dive into how healthcare professionals and providers treat nonbinary folks and lack appropriate training for bon-binary people.

Story by Eden Stratton (she/her) Illustration by Chris Bennett (he/him)


American healthcare has become a polarizing

referred to as a girl. This experience is one

Gender Identities,” which works to educate

issue, and while for some it is simply a topic

that is all too common in our society today, in

readers on proper pronoun usage, give examples

in political debate, for others it is a matter of

which one’s gender identity is not only negated,

of interpersonal conversation, and even provide

survival. It’s no secret that in the United States

but blatantly ignored when it comes to physical

pre-made health forms.

healthcare is a privilege, especially for those of

and mental healthcare practices.

low socioeconomic status. However, there are

Dr. Scott Mosser, a surgeon specializing in

groups that are often left unseen — worse yet,

The effect is pervasive, as patients no longer

gender-confirming top surgery, promotes these

unheard — within the LGBTQIA+ community

feel safe seeking out medical care through the

exact practices in his own office via six key

that battle every day to have their true

conventional medical system. The National

standards of care for his patients.

identities affirmed.

Library of Medicine released a study in 2018 detailing these effects, citing that patients felt

1. Standards of care should be established

Nonbinary and gender non-conforming people

“disrespected and frustrated as they sought and

and upheld for the non-binary population.

are the focal point of this struggle. Not only do

accessed healthcare.”

these individuals face discrimination and scrun-

2. Documents and systems related to

tity from the general public, but also in waiting

A following 2019 study found that

transgender and non-binary care should

rooms, doctors’ offices, and hospital beds.

“genderqueer individuals were harassed, sexually

reflect the patient’s identity on their own

abused, and subjected to traumatic events

terms (name, gender identity, pronouns, etc.)

Doctors and nurses work within a strict binary

at higher rates than were either cisgender

system (male and female) with little to no

or binary transgender individuals, with

3. Providers can demand change from the

opportunities available for patients to fluctuate

approximately 50% of genderqueer individuals

systems in place that aren’t inclusive of trans

between the two. Often, patients will be forced

reporting one of these experiences.”

and non-binary identities.

forms, examinations, official documents, etc.,

It is all too easy to write off this pervasive issue

4. Consultations should be shaped around

but many have testified that while it may seem

as merely another battle for us to face, alone

the patient’s goals and should not be steered

small, it has dysphoric effects.

and without adequate support. However, there

subjectively by the surgeon.

to choose between male and female for medical

are common-sense solutions that can be easily For example, in an NBC testimonial, 21-year-

implentemented to the benefit of both non-

5. Non-binary and gender neutral top

old Kam Brooks, a college junior by credit who

binary patients and the healthcare professionals

surgery techniques exist and are available.

identifies as non-binary and transmasculine,

who treat them.

described their experience at a healthcare facility

6. Providers caring for trans and non-binary

in which they were asked if they were “male

The most important one comes in the form of

persons should stay informed on what the

or female.” It’s a small phrase, yes, but one that

education. Without it, we fail to acknowledge

needs of the community.

completely negated the possibility of identifying

the complexities that these individuals face,

as both genders, somewhere in between, or

and moreover how to properly affirm their

Mosser’s practice is an example of what


identities. The National LGBT Health

healthcare can, and should, be for non-binary

Education Center, a program of the Fenway

and genderqueer individuals, while serving as a

Even after telling healthcare professionals that

Institute, has provided a comprehensive guide

reminder that inclusivity and affirmation doesn’t

they were a man, Brooks was eventually put on

for healthcare providers entitled “Providing

have to be a faraway future but rather a clear

a list of female patients and was frequently

Affirmative Care for Patients with Non-Binary

and comforting present. 47

Story by Alexis Wilner (she/her) Photo by Zoë

For this reason, among the many others that normally cause people to download dating apps, I wanted to see what my options were online. Yet it’s not as simple as just swiping, messaging a few times, and then meeting up.

McCreary (she/her)

After many colleges and universities decided in late July and early August that they would be returning to campus in the fall, some schools released memos to their students regarding COVID-19 considerations for outside of the classroom. A few schools, such as University of Georgia, went even further than vague statements about general recreational activities by specifically recommending for students to wear face masks during sex. Although many of these memos were mocked as they spread around the internet, I was grateful to see a university not only acknowledge that its students were having sex, but also provide detailed information about the risks and how to take precautions during a global pandemic. When I turned 18, I downloaded a few dating apps, made some accounts, and asked my friends for help picking out pictures. Once I began swiping, I felt a giant question mark hovering over my head. Along with the general anxieties that come from online dating normally, teenagers looking for a relationship or hookups are also stuck in a frustrating situation right now. Not only is it super hard to make friends in your classes, but it’s incredibly awkward to meet anyone when most of our interactions are virtual as well. Many organizations on campus are either not meeting or only meeting virtually, which makes even organization meetings and first-year events somewhat uncomfortable. Despite the university’s efforts, students who are eager to meet other people on campus are still left stranded in their dorm rooms alone. 48

While remembering that we are in a pandemic, I had to take a moment to reflect on the current circumstances. Do I really want to go “meet up” with someone I met online when I don’t truly know how safe (or not safe) they are being? Are there any set of precautions I can take in order to safely hook up with someone who isn’t in my bubble? The risk is obvious. Is the (possible) reward really worth it? I’m not going to say I have all the answers. I definitely don’t. I do know, however, that as part of the Syracuse community, I want to do my best to stay healthy so I don’t contract or spread COVID-19. By wearing a mask, not leaving central NY, and only “meeting up” with people who don’t have symptoms/are regularly getting tested, maybe both are achievable. All we can do is try our best to stay safe until this pandemic is over.

Story by Eden Stratton (she/her)


Illustration by Chris Bennett (he/him)

How to safely find the one in a socially distant world

Never be afraid to do a little snooping!

While social media isn’t the perfect indicator of who a person is, the types of things someone posts, retweets, etc can give you more insight into their views, attitudes, and tendencies that can make or break a potential relationship. On the flip side, keep in mind that social media is only one aspect of someone’s image, and there is always so much more beneath the surface of the screen.

Always Communicate Avoid First-Time Tinder Dates Tinder and other dating apps are a great way to connect with other people, but going out alone with someone you just met not only can be nerve wracking, but dangerous as well. Take the time to chat over text, phone, and better yet FaceTime to truly gauge your potential partner’s personality and if they are the one you want to be with.

If you choose to ignore step one, tell your friends and be sure to share your location

Even if you really trust someone, it’s never a bad move to let people know what’s going on and where they can go to find you. Don’t hesitate to share your location via apps like Find My Friends, Life360, or even enabling your Snapmap. In addition, I would highly recommend sending one or two texts every hour to said friends, so they (and you) know that you’re safe and sound.

Beware of the Catfish It’s a sad reality, but there are way too many out there, and unfortunately many prey on members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Never be afraid to ask for a snapchat username to see if the person is legitimately who they say they are. The aforementioned FaceTime app is a great way to confirm someone’s identity, but if said individual seems hesitant or unwilling, it may be a sign that something is being hidden—for better or worse.

Conversations about sex, boundaries, and preferences can be awkward, especially in the beginning of a blossoming romance. However, they are absolutely essential to the vitality of any healthy relationship, regardless of your previous sexual partners/ experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask about STD testing if things are getting physical, and never ever be afraid to ask about someone’s intentions. Your body (and your heart) will thank you later.

Stand up for yourself.

I personally hate confrontation, especially with the important people in my life. But in a romantic relationship with your partner, disagreements are inevitable. While amiable discussion is key, this doesn’t give your partner a pass to gaslight you or invalidate your feelings. You deserve better than that, and while it can feel awful, it’s important to put yourself first. Take the time to think about and process your partner’s words and rhetoric, and it never hurts to seek the advice of a trusted friend. 49

@theoutcrowdmag Photo Photo by Em byBurris Em Burris (she/they) (she/they) 50


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Photos by Em Burris (she/they)

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