Here for Community
26 Mar 2023
My friend E keeps a truck she calls the solidarity truck. The first solidarity truck was a hand-me-down from another friend who made it available for community use. It had a host of rather alarming problems; it was a win for our entire friend network when she admitted defeat and upgraded to a small, bare-bones utility truck that drives like it won't fall apart.
The solidarity truck came in handy in summer 2020 in a series of masked outdoor "Yarden Days" in which a rotating cast of characters visited a rotating set of yards and spread mulch, pulled weeds. One such Saturday was planned for S's house, but a few days beforehand, I'd received a threatening letter from the county about the state of my native plant front yard garden. E suggested we move the Yarden Day to my house, and a dozen people turned up and enacted a transformation over the course of a few hours. Then we sat in the backyard relaxing and talking about pod mapping and abolition. I had been so stressed about the fate of our garden under the county's scrutiny, and my community stepped up. We ultimately satisfied the city's demands without destroying our garden's progress.
Last fall a small group of friends and neighbors teamed up to launch a neighborhood email newsletter. Meetings for the newsletter were held on C's front porch, and A would bring her amazing baked goods. The newsletter project grew out of the collapse of a community development oriented nonprofit which had published a newsletter of neighborhood goings-ons that people found really valuable. In the small group that formed to launch the newsletter collectively, without the now-defunct nonprofit's backing, there was passion, there was joy, there were big heartfelt discussions on the mission and vision. There was not any funding or institutional support or even part-time dedicated staff.
At the time, my spouse and I were considering leaving Nebraska, leaving the whole country even. We were so afraid of the rising tide of transphobic legislation and rhetoric from powerful people. And when I thought about what we'd be leaving, I thought a lot about that front porch meeting. How, after living in Lincoln this past decade, I've found my way into a community of people who are passionate, and joyful, and often taking on more than they can handle, and willing to take initiatives for the community we want to see instead of waiting for some institution to hand it to us.
I don't begrudge anyone for wanting to leave. I almost did myself, and though it's not a plan now, I can't definitively say my family won't reconsider in the future. We have the baby to think about, after all.
We were thinking of moving to Ottawa, if Canada would let us in, and it was looking like there was a good chance it would. I coped with the grief of feeling like I had to go by pouring myself into research on how to get there and what to do to rebuild a life once we got there. I learned about the Ottawa Trans Library and Kind Space, an LGBT community center that, among other things, offers drop-in peer conversation groups. I found Reddit posts asking where to meet queer parents that went unanswered, and I imagined myself working to find them, too, and maybe some day to help fill the gap in spaces for queer parents to meet each other. Little by little, I imagined that I could make a life there. Could get back to a place, maybe in several years, where I was invited to the front porches where small-scale transformative community building happened.
And then we didn't move. We went as far as creating a profile in the Express Entry immigration pool, with a score that would have gotten our profile selected as eligble to do the full application later that day when the draw happened. We had spent thousands of dollars getting that profile ready - through education credential assessments and a trip to Chicago for language testing, and a consultation with a lawyer on our chances. A few hours after submitting the profile, I withdrew it.
My spouse and I decided maybe we were rushing things; maybe the United States wasn't rushing as quickly towards a trans genocide as we feared. We decided not to move. In January we even doubled down on our commitment to Lincoln and bought a new house here in town, not far from our old place, but with more space for our little family to grow. And some days I feel really good about that decision. I feel it when my mom or my aunt pick up my one-year-old to babysit for a few hours or even a blessed overnight trip. I feel it when E teaches me to patch the scuffed up walls of our old house to get it ready to sell. I feel it with neighbors gathered around my dining room table for a potluck, laughing and chatting before we get to the night's scheduled discussion on disaster preparedness. When I am with my people, it is easy to know that we should stay.
It is when I'm alone, or it's just me and my spouse, but usually both of us with our phones, that leaving feels imaginable. Even when we were in the balcony at the legislature this past week, bearing witness to a vote to deny healthcare access to transgender minors, I didn't feel we should be trying to get out. Because the senators down below who wanted to stamp us out of society weren't the only voices. There were senators fighting for trans kids, and I had V by my side, E in the row ahead, and so many other faces I recognized filling the balcony in solidarity.
When we're together, it feels like we're going to be okay, even if things are looking bad. When we get together, whether in someone's yard spreading mulch, or on someone's front porch researching email newsletter providers, or sharing food or borrowing trucks or playing board games at the queer-owned board game cafe or going on walks or dropping off food to someone who's sick... we can keep going. We can face whatever they're slinging at us to try to tear us down and break us apart. We are here. We are together. We will keep fighting in all our hundreds of big and small ways. We will carry on.
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I wrote a bit about my own decision to stay in Nebraska under the onslaught of regressive transphobic legislation; mostly it's about the forms of community I have seen been part of the last few years. cassey.dev/posts/2023-03-… source
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