On Pride: L.D. Green
“If someone asks me: What does Pride mean to you? I want to shout: the first pride was a riot!”
As we at NAB celebrate 2021 Pride—as California begins to open up, and we start to find our footing in these long-anticipated after-times—we caught up with North Atlantic authors to ask how they’re marking the month this year. They passed along their queer reading, art, and audio recs, and explored what Pride means (or doesn’t mean) to them; how community evolved during lockdown; experiences and insights from 2020 that are worth bringing forward; and words of love and support for those who aren’t out—or don’t have the ability to be out—right now. Read on below for an essay by L.D. Green, co-editor of and contributor to We’ve Been Too Patient: Voices from Radical Mental Health—Stories and Research Challenging the Biomedical Model.
If someone asks me: What does Pride mean to you? I want to shout: the first pride was a riot!
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, trans women of color, incited and midwifed Pride. The mainstream corporate co-optation and aggrandizing of Pride is unsettling. But it’s not just because MasterCard has floats and cops are part of it, when the whole inception of our resistance was against police brutality. That’s part of it. But for me personally, there’s something else amiss. When I was younger, I used to love the parties, the exuberance, the crowds…the drinking, the hooking up. The pissing between cars in the streets. I don’t think it’s just crankiness in my ripe old age of 42—it’s probably good to leave most of that behind. I am also neuroatypical, and the crowds are just too much now. Especially as the years have gone by and more and more straight people started taking over—so why stress my nervous system for this dubious celebration of, what? Unicorns and light beer? This year, I am partnered and have tender connections with other queer and trans friends that do not require the mayhem.
This year I plan to use my Mormon Grandmother’s famous recipe for buttercream and shortbread Santa Claus cookies to make Trans Flag treats. I will drop by the Trans Resource Fair. The Trans March can’t happen yet for COVID reasons, and for these same reasons, the crowd will be manageable on my nervous system. I am looking forward to a nice dose of Queer Christmas and a chance to mingle with my wider community, but I won’t stay long, and this event is purposeful and joyful, and unlike Sunday (and even Dyke March Saturday in recent years) is not flooded with straight people and booze (although neither are happening this year, because pandemic). Not that there’s anything wrong with straight people or booze. But when it comes to a time of year celebrating a marginalized community, the mainstream, I feel, should stay on the margins. (And drinking heavily is not for me anymore.) And this month, I will continue to reach out to, and connect with my queer and trans friendships and community in zoom calls, outdoor brunches, and walks…we are still in a transition time, after all.
I think it’s important to take things slow as we “come back” from shelter in place. I know the isolation of the past year or so can bump up painfully against feelings of isolation a lot of us queer and trans people have had to struggle with in earlier parts of our lives, but it’s important to remember that what’s happening now is temporary, and is not the same as our pasts. The pandemic was (and is) a collective trauma. It reshaped us, continues to reshape us again and again, and new phases create new shapes. We should be slow, gentle, compassionate, tender. Moments of connection and community will present themselves again, and we shouldn’t have FOMO, which homos (and queerdos) are famous for. Just speaking for myself, I know if I forced myself into big social situations before I’m ready, my nervous system might short-circuit from the overstimulation. As we say in recovery, easy does it. One on ones, small groups, build up to bigger functions. I have to acknowledge that as a neuroatypical person emerging from the cocoon of Zoom and the past year and a half, going to the Trans Resource Fair will take some spoons, but for the sake of a genuine, sober gathering that will give me a sense of belonging in real space and time, it’s worth it, but it’s something I really had to assess for myself. I think that’s important for all of us now—take time and be mindful about how we emerge.
Like a lot of people this past year, I leaned into stories in all kinds of media to get me through, especially queer stories. Stories have always helped us survive as a species—they can be instructive, transporting, healing, and motivate change. I have dug deep in my own writing of long form narrative, and this has been a resilience practice for me. One of my screenplays of this past year, Journey to the Enchanted Inkwell has the following logline:
A young nun has visions beckoning her to journey across medieval Europe for an enchanted ink that rewrites history. But she meets a genderfluid, sword-fighting lay nun, and if Charlot can’t love and accept Etude for who they are, the two will be torn apart by an ancient prophecy of two cults that would also ruin the world.
When I was a young queer in Oklahoma, I was involved with Stone Soup Community Theater. The parable of “Stone Soup” is built around a clever conceit—or maybe deceit. A wandering “magician” says they can create soup from only a stone. Intrigued, the townspeople gather around the pot, and the wandering magician keeps asking other people to add “just a bit more”—the onions, the vegetables, the herbs…the chicken…and soon…there is a delicious soup. Stories aren’t birthed in isolation—not even novels. I started with a stone—a heavy, cold need to not feel alone in my transness (as I am only two years in to a process of coming out as non-binary) and an even deeper need to embody the knowledge that trans-ness has a historical lineage. I wanted to be nourished with narrative and knowledge of trans community in this moment in time, and throughout history.
I made a stone soup from this cold need that became a vibrant story (currently a screenplay, I am developing it into a novel as well) which can hopefully one day nourish others (other than the ten or so friends I’ve shared with so far).
Where did I get the other ingredients? Well, I connected with trans friends; one close trans masculine friend helped me develop the plot and characters, and as no work of art is without the ecstasy of influence, I sought out texts that would make a hearty stew. Maybe if you’re looking for some great queer and trans story-food to get you through these days you can check these out too:
I wanted to be filled up with the spirit of my trans-cestors, and literary queers throughout time.
I read Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg, a delightfully footnote-y metafiction of trans/historical, anti-capitalist queer romance of wonder and brilliance. I read Hild by Nicola Griffith, a shining, cut jewel with deep reveries on gender, queerness, literacy, and religion in a stunningly realized historical fiction package about the medieval St. Hilda. I watched Gentleman Jack with a dashing, dapper masculine-of-center hero from nineteenth-century England lighting up the screen. I watched Dickinson, with hotly literary queer sex scenes exploding like volcanos.
All these flavors blended together, along with a good stock of my own personal experience, and a good helping of the spices of The Princess Bride, because I wanted to write a crowd-pleasing, swashbuckling, romantic comedy/adventure that all audiences would enjoy, and thereby sneaking in the lessons on queer and trans identity for anyone who wants to get on the ride. And whatever happens with this project, I made myself and my friends who read it feel good in a hard year, and that counts for a lot.
Other queer and trans media of this year, some highlights and suggestions: the sharp and funny Feel Good, Lil Nas X’s iconoclastic “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” season three of Master of None, written by and starring Lena Waithe. To support performing queer and artists, I recommend attending National Queer Arts Festival events, as well as the Fresh Meat Festival, for trans artists. I will also be hitting up Frameline, the queer and trans San Francisco Film Festival.
So what is Pride to me? Well, Pride was a riot. And then it was a party. But really, it’s always been a culture, and that culture continues to evolve, and is multifaceted, and not singular. Part of my work in the world is making sure that queer culture isn’t just gestured to by the mainstream culture in the month of June. I want to continue to write stories that appeal to everyone who shows up with an open mind and heart, and that center queer and trans heroes as the humans to be with, to root for, to identify with. Reading and writing queer and trans stories—that’s how I’ll celebrate. But really, that’s what I do year-round. So, this June, I’ll also bake some cookies from a repurposed recipe from my given family and feed my chosen family.