ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to, something to read, and something to listen to. Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
This is Paula. She’s one of my favorite humans in general, and definitely my favorite Brazilian in our lesbian book club. She says that hate crimes against LGBTQ people in Brazil are a serious and familiar problem.* From Paula: “The current administrations both in Brazil and the US continue to instigate the same ideology of violence and hate. I’m committed to do what I can to fight for the rights of our community to exist and thrive without fear.” To see more pics of Paula and other cute queers who are fighting the good fight, find me on Instagram @leongstagram. Central District, Seattle, October 2020.
In honor of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito kicking off LGBTQ History Month with a four-page statement** that vomits all over gay marriage, this week’s ROCK PAPER RADIO is like a little Pride parade for election season.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
Nancy is an excellent WNYC podcast featuring LGBTQ stories which is hosted by two BFFs who are not named Nancy. In this 30-minute episode, Hello, Hello, we hear the coming out stories of hosts Kathy Tu and Tobin Low.
Coming out stories are a tried-and-true LGBTQ narrative guide, but this is different. We get to hear the hosts and their Asian parents grapple with what it means, as Tu says, to come out as a conversation instead of as an announcement.
At about 4.5 minutes in, Tu explains that she’s had to come out to her Chinese mom over and over again. On her third attempt, she brings her recorder and Google Translate with her.
The Chinglish mom-daughter conversation that follows is complicated and endearing and a little heartbreaking. There’s so much love. But there’s also so much heavy history between them. We hear them reaching out across what seems like an insurmountable divide. And then, right when it seems impossible, we hear them connect.
SOMETHING TO READ
This essay by Jeremy O. Harris, Decolonizing My Desire, was published in December of 2016. The Electoral College had just elected a president whose tough guy brand was centered around a wall that would never be built and grabbing women by the genitals.
Raw and unapologetic, Harris offers readers a glimpse into what it felt like to come of age as a Black young gay man in the same white prep school world that our current Tax Evader in Chief comes from.
Even as a youth, we see the writer in Harris—noticing, recording. He emulates his peers with precision. It’s easy to picture him on a well-groomed campus reading David Foster Wallace in an Abercrombie & Fitch v-neck.
But it doesn’t work. Because it never works.
By the end of the essay, we see Harris now as a man and artist who has reclaimed himself and what he wants:
So I began to decolonize my desires the only way I knew how—through writing. That obsession, like an itch, spread through me in the way that had moved my forefathers; I began to slowly process what it meant to be a black, male body in a white gay's world. I wrote a play that explored a relationship between a 25 year old black artist and a 65 year old white art collector, to parse the ways I was cradled, coddled and collected by white institutions and how I've collected and used them in turn.
Two years after this essay was shared by Vice, Harris debuted his critically acclaimed Slave Play in New York City. According to his website, he is now working on a pilot for HBO.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
Bless the New York Times for asking hard questions. Like this: Can Animals Be Gay? Of course, the answer is yasss. And what’s the gayest animal of all? Apparently that would be the Laysan albatross, an Oahu-based bird boldly unafraid of commitment or PDA which you can see here.
The biologist quoted in this piece is not on board with calling these female-female albatross couples “lesbians” even though they raise eggs together, do annoying couple things like make a literal heart shape with their bird bodies, and have been documented to stay together in monogamous pairings for up to 19 years.
However, the rest of us can clearly see what this scientist won’t acknowledge: these birds would definitely bring a U-Haul on a second date, and they definitely should be studying up on this list of Six Tips for Responding to Supreme Court Decisions in case Justices Thomas and Alito are giving us a preview of what’s to come.
THAT’S A WRAP
Alright queers, allies, and curious birds, that’s a wrap for issue 11. Thanks for listening, reading, holding on.
It’s National Coming Out Day this Sunday, Oct 11. That might be a great day to send your queer friend this issue of ROCK PAPER RADIO and encourage them to join our misfit crew by subscribing.
Or maybe this weekend would be the perfect time for you to Zoom a good listener and tell them something about yourself that they don’t know yet. Who knows. They might tell you something in return. And then it’ll be like you’re in a little club, kind of like this newsletter.
See you next Thursday.
*According to The Advocate, over 330 trans and nonbinary people were killed across the globe in 2019, with the majority of those hate crimes happening in Brazil. In 2019 Brazil reported 130 murders of transgender people, and the United States reported 30.
**From Jay Michaelson for The Daily Beast: “Thomas’s screed is a terrifying warning for the millions of LGBTQ Americans who have built families together in the wake of Obergefell, and a reminder that we are not nearly as secure in our rights as many of us thought.”