What has being kicked out meant for you?
In an instant, being kicked out defined my possibilities by forcing me to answer this question: do I want to be true to myself, or do I want to seek my family’s approval. Being kicked out was an initiation into developing a family of choice, which is something I continue to work on in life. I wrote the piece in this anthology to identify the realities of the riddles that result when you are expected to choose between your family and your life. Choosing to live honestly certainly presented me with opportunities for growth, but also difficult challenges, mostly of the economic variety. The personal freedoms of the journey didn’t come without a cost.
Being kicked out snapped me into a reality where many of the things people with a supportive family take for granted vanished – I had no “back up” plan, no safety net. And I was relatively lucky, in that I had a friend who literally took me in totally unannounced, unhinged, and unprepared. So, being kicked out also helped me realize the role of luck in life, sensitizing me to a myriad of realities and risks: the inherent vulnerability of the human predicament . . . I coped by exercising some tight discipline and self-restraint in my life choices. At this point, I see that overnight indoctrination into adulthood may have served me well, but I know there are hundreds of other youth who may not have that reliable friend to call on to help them find their feet. That’s why this book is so significant- hopefully it’s a call to action as much as an awareness raiser and a source of support so future youth feel less isolated.
What role has art & writing played in your life, and how do you see that as part of community building?
Writing has been a necessity in my life- giving voice to experiences, observations, questions, etc. provided me with an outlet when I was beset by contradictions, hypocrisy, and confusion. Yet as profoundly personal as it can be, writing can also be a deeply social experience. I was fortunate to attend college (period) at a time when lesbian, queer, and feminist writers seemed everywhere. Attending readings by authors like Minnie Bruce Pratt, Robin Becker, Chrystos, Eileen Myles, and others was quite literally like an intellectual and emotional lifeline. Sure, in some regards I wish I would’ve spent more time (or more accurately, I wish I had had more time) actually interacting with those writers as people, their work along with the work of so many queers/lesbians/feminists stood out and remained amazingly central in my life, so I believe deeply in the potential of a sort of abstract community to exist in the lives that writers and artists touch with their work.
What has being part of the Kicked Out anthology meant to you?
Being a part of this anthology is tremendously meaningful- for the first time in all these years, I gained some perspective on really how impacted my life was by the strange, fast expulsion from my home. Kicked Out creates space to acknowledge what this has meant, but also gives voice to those too often silenced stories. I hope the project adds some strands to the safety net for other youth who are kicked out (or people who know them, love them, work with them, etc.). Knowing you aren’t alone, knowing where to look for help, knowing there are resources can make a huge difference, and I’m really honored to be a part of the book and tremendously inspired by Sassafras’ commitment and dedication in bringing the anthology to life.
What are three things people don’t realize about being kicked out?
wow- big question.
– it happens to all sorts of youth in all sorts of families (I thought my family was pretty progressive- I never would’ve expected what happened)
-it creates little mini adults, whether ready or not, who still need support and direction
-it’s obvious that the risk factors skyrocket for youth who are kicked out, but risks and statistics about the horror show of the world aside, there is a human side that matters most. That’s why so many of us see this book as a call to action and solidarity.
What is one message about homeless LGBTQ youth you hope people take away from reading Kicked Out?
This is something that impacts the whole community, and supporting LGBTQ youth is a necessity. A central message I hope people will take away from the book is also that we are a resilient lot, but we still need to grow support networks. Despite the sadness, loss, and pain embedded in many of our stories, these are not tragedies – the
y are success stories, against the odds survival stories. These are the stories told by those of us still standing- what we need to figure out is how to strengthen the webs in our communities to allow fewer and fewer youth to slip away unprotected.