You wrote a really great Twitter thread last summer explaining how you pitch stories, addressing the "structural barriers that prevent writers of color from landing stories with white editors." I guess I don't have a question there, I just think it's awesome that you did that.
Thanks! I'm glad it led to freelancers getting work published. I made it a couple days after those nazis murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. I'd read this thread that Jen Richards (who co-created and stars in a deeply watchable web series called Her Story) tweeted urging other white people to talk about white supremacy and how staying silent because you're worried about saying the wrong thing or saying something that's not the exact right thing is a really fucked up and narcissistic way to respond to white supremacy. I was trying to think of some way I could contribute something more useful than a "this stuff? it's bad!!" to the industry I work in from my position as a freelancer. I started thinking about how isolating freelancing is and how much we rely on each other to share knowledge and skills in order to get better. If freelancers rely on these informal, social, one-on-one exchanges to get better and the U.S. is a super racially segregated place where a lot of white people only really spend time with other white people, white freelancers are going to inevitably exclude freelancers of color from their support networks and withhold skills and information from them in the process (e.g., how much places pay; the fact that you can write your own contract, apparently, something I only learned via fly on the wall'ing Study Hall listserv email threads where dudes with book deals talk about freelancing). I know how to pitch in a way that yields results and I have some contacts I figured other freelancers might want—not that anyone is ever under any circumstances obligated to share their contacts or whatever. I did some thinking and saw the value in sharing these things beyond myself. I implore other white freelancers to spend some time thinking about the things they do and the things they know that they're withholding from other freelancers, whether they're doing it unintentionally or not!
You wrote a really fantastic piece last year for "them." titled "The Daily Things Queer and Trans People Do to Avoid Violence." The last few lines of the piece were especially powerful:
"But I still live, every day, in the shadow of this violence, much of which is rained down upon 'men' in dresses, a category I find myself being assigned to by others despite my own intentions. I feel the weight of something much greater when I’m out in public, even when the only thing a stranger has laid on me are his eyes."
The piece is extremely well-researched and you have great interviews and statistics. How do you find the right balance in writing a piece like that between including your personal narrative and helping to tell the stories of others?
Thank you for saying that!! Most of my freelance work contains some degree of reporting, even the essays and op-eds. I'm always spiraling over whether people (readers, other journalists) actually see the work I put into my writing about queer and trans stuff, especially when it's heavily reported. I didn't initially plan on weaving my own personal narrative into the piece. I just found myself a few days out from the time I agreed to file my first draft and I didn't have enough sources. Writing about my own experiences with feeling comfortable and safe/r in public, on the subway, etc. as a legibly trans person (or at least legibly queer/faggoty/however people interpreted me during the first few months of my transition) was kind of a cornered-by-a-deadline "fuck it" solution. I went on to interview a dozen new people during subsequent rounds of edits, but I ended up feeling really strongly about what I'd written about myself and my experiences and wanted to keep that in. I tried not to center myself or any of the other people I quoted in the piece, but rather use our collective experiences to demonstrate how violence against queer and trans people radiates outward, traumatizing a wide range of people who didn't experience that violence firsthand. I hope I succeeded in doing that.
What can people expect from your reading?
I'm reading some short fiction, which I usually keep locked away in my Google drive, so liiiiiiiiiiiiiike expect me to be mortified!!!!!!