As a Southerner, I often start out a lot of my writing by telling a story. My master's degree advisor never really got on board with this habit. Thankfully the only person grading me on my blogging is our gifted content editor, Alex. This story is my attempt to welcome you to our project, the Bilerico Project.
Holidays in my family have always been sites of gender divided socializing. My extended family always gathers at my Mamaw and Papaw's house on Peach Orchard Hill in Pikeville, Kentucky. If you happen to be in town you should stop by and my Mamaw will gladly make you an Angel Food Cake and show you baby pictures of me. She is a firm believer in the more the merrier and likes for people seated at her table to eat.
The men always stake claim to the living room and avoid talking by playing cards or watching sports. My Papaw and one uncle - being the only consistent male presence in a family dominated by four sisters, three of whom went through more than one male partner while I was coming of age - found themselves making fun of the new guys in the room. The jokes were funny but sports never entertained me even when I played them. I was always craving conversation.
So obviously, I found myself hiding under my Mamaw's kitchen table as she held court with her four daughters and the other women in the family. The kitchen was always thick with cigarette smoke and gossip. My Aunt Bobbie would smack me for calling it gossip and insist that they were just worried about people. Trust me - it was gossip. I love the quick pace of their conversations, the way silence never enters the room and the way they seamlessly weave talking and listening together into a beautiful non-stop banter. The men's space feels smothering to me while the women's space is alive and dynamic.
Years later, I took Logan, my first serious partner, home to meet my family. He was overwhelmed with the cacophony of voices. He bonded immediately with my papaw and my uncle Charlie by acknowledging that my communication style was clearly inherited from my mom and my aunts. After living with me for a while he could sympathize with my uncle. By the time he visited I was allowed to actually sit at the table and no longer had to hide under it.
The lasting relationships in my life are based on sustained verbal communication. My two best friends and the longest relationship of my life are marked by large spans of time, sometimes years when we are never in the same place for more than brief visits. Instead of physical proximity those relationships rely on the telephone to maintain intimacy. I don't really buy into the idea that a healthy relationship is one where people can be quiet together. Loud bickering and riotous laughter are the marks of thriving relationship in my book. Conversation is the key to my heart.
Today, I am packing because my two-year stay in Indiana is coming to an end. The relationships that I have developed here are taking new forms. I am moving to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to pursue a Ph.D. in Curriculum Theory at Lousiana State University. I am leaving my staff position as Advocacy Coordinator with the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance behind and transitioning into my new role as Director of Curriculum Development for TransYouth Family Advocates. I can't help but recall a line by Dorothy Allison to make sense of my swirling emotions. She wrote, "Change when it comes cracks everything open." I believe she was right.
As I approach this new period in my life I want to thank Bil and Jerame for inviting us to join them at their kitchen table to discuss our lives and the state of the world as a large queer family. Although the topics will be different than those all-day-female-talk-fests that represent everything I love about my family the energy is the same - passionate, engaged and questioning. To me, The Bilerico Project is about dynamic conversations. The sorts of conversations that will hopefully change the ways we talk to each other within the queer community. I want to participate in conversations that aim to radically alter the ways we talk to the world about each other and ourselves. Ultimately, if we get really lucky, maybe some of the things we say will change the world.
So help yourself to some coffee, pull up a chair and stay for a spell. Bil, you may need some pancakes it seems like we are going to be here for a while.