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The Importance Of Friendship Between Trans Women

Culture
collage photos via Getty Images

“Sisterhood assembled itself as we assembled our bodies”

Loving a man can be brief; knowing a woman happens with time, it matures. Existing with my trans womanhood on the margins of romantic and familial love, I became accustomed to the embrace of my own hand. Bearing the untapped resource of love that was reserved for other people, I attempted to pour it back onto myself. This solitary baptism took place parallel to the lives around me. I watched relationships begin and end, babies being born, and I was nearly finished with love. That is, until I felt the presence of a home being built next to mine. A collection of stories, laughs, and heartbreak came together in the form of a woman.

She materialized from a haze of curly hair, with strands in dialogue framing her face. Her eyes echoed my own story of a trans womanhood that had been earned. Love that exists somewhere between platonic and romantic had found me, just as my sights had been set on the opposite direction. She was someone to transcend sisterhood with and share the responsibilities of motherhood. A hand to grasp that was not my own. Sisterhood assembled itself as we assembled our bodies. We met in the region of the Internet that was designated for girls like us. Both of us were still using the names that were given to us without our consent. While everyone slept, we coaxed the girlhood of our shared childhood dreams into reality. 

We purchased illegal hormones online. We reintroduced ourselves to each other in new hairstyles and shades of lipstick. The physical world wouldn’t make room for our growing breasts and expanding hips, so we ventured into each other’s hearts. Our delayed puberties took place as we shared the stories of watching our two older sisters develop into themselves. We were both the unacknowledged third daughters of our mothers. Having never lived in the same city together, our world was created over the phone. In the evenings we could cast away our fears and retrieve them in the morning. 

Our flourishing bodies demanded new names. Jasmine chose her own name, and she unknowingly became the embodiment of the nocturnally blooming flower that grew outside of my childhood window in Tennessee. My new name was chosen out of necessity, when the doctor administering my first shot of legal hormone therapy asked me what I would like to be called. This accidental name fit easily into my life, as it was similar to my dead name. However, "Devan" didn’t mold itself to the mouth of my Spanish-speaking mother. Hoping she would undo the damage caused by the first name she gave me, I came to think of my new name as temporary; she promised to rename me, and I waited until well into my transition. When the reversal never took place, I consulted the only woman who had witnessed my second birth. I called Jasmine to ask her to give me a middle name that could accompany me when we were away from each other. 

"Isabel" she said, after weeks of deliberation. "It means ‘Pledged to God.’" Somewhere between her rural Maryland and my concrete New York, the angels watched us pledge allegiance to each other as this ceremony took place. 

We carried our love into the world like an amulet. Our phones were our gateways back into our alliance. However, the protection of our pledge had limits. Men quickly found us, and we were tempted by the allure of romantic love. Romance was a chance to prove to the world that trans women could be loved. Ignorant to the fact that we were being seen as temporary in their cisgender lives, we let ourselves be the sort of women who imagined having children and weddings. We told each other it would different this time, that we were destinations instead of detours. The shelf life of these sorts of relationships lay unexcavated as their expiration dates drew nearer. We weren’t meant to find the photos of them cheating on us with their real life girlfriends, but we did. The man I loved was scattered along every social media platform, with a smiling cisgender woman his mother had envisioned for him. Trying to give each other answers to the questions left in their absence, we repositioned ourselves back at the intersection of motherhood and sisterhood.

We reacquainted ourselves with the shelter of our friendship. Our voices filled the newly empty spaces beside us. We described our surroundings to one another to prove that we still existed. Through her descriptions I could smell the late summer of Maryland. Sitting on my fire escape, I described my clear view of the Empire State Building. I told her how its lights went out at 3am. Most nights, we clung to each other’s voice long after that. Although the ties of our bond thrived at night, sometimes it spilled into daylight. One day while at work, my phone tells me I have two missed calls. In the past she’s told me it’s because the call never goes through the first time, but I don’t believe her. I excuse myself to the bathroom and lock the door. The sound of water running adds a blanket of protection from the outside. She picks up after two rings, and we usher each other back into the world only we inhabit.  

“Do you love me?” asks the voice that was with me before either of us fell in love. We abandoned formal greetings somewhere along the way, but this sort of emergency typically occured at 2am instead of 2pm.  “Of course I do, I love you the most,” I say with the confidence her voice is lacking. Being well-trained in the variations of her silence, I listen for signs of her breath stabilizing. A knock on the door tells me that our time has run out. “I get out of work soon, I’ll call you when I’m home okay?” I whisper, hoping this brief exchange is enough to tide her over. She exhales, “Okay. I love you the most, too.” 

I stall the return of this phone call for as long as I can. Those who know, you can easily find traces of heartbreak. Jasmine can always tell I’ve been crying, no matter how much I practice speaking normally. For this reason, a Tinder date can be a diversion from the truth. Every calculated movement and inflection becomes part of the new disposition that’s been created for that evening. That night I go with a safe New York option, an investment banker from Connecticut. While running through the preliminary first date questions, I ignore that he drinks the same beer as the man I’m there to forget. I hold my tongue and try not to disclose my transgender status. Tonight, the spectacle that precedes my body can wait. I disregard the lust in his eyes when he invites me to see the roof of his apartment. As we get in a cab headed in the direction of his home, I allow him to kiss me. My cell phone buzzes with Jasmine calling me back to safety, but I ignore the call. I extend my stay in the world that I can never call home. 

As we step onto his roof, the views of New York City feel like memories I can almost recall. They might as well be from famous photographs, or memories of previous summers in the city. I get close to the edge, looking anywhere but at him. I feel him behind me, kissing my neck inches away from the favorite spot of the man that left me. As his hands hold my newly formed hips, I see into the apartments of the building across the street. Manifestations of the life that had been taken from me come to life inside of those windows. I watch as a small family gathers around a television to watch a movie. Moving lights flash onto the smallest child who has fallen asleep in her father’s lap. In another window, I see a couple sharing a bottle of wine. They sit close together, their limbs falling in line to suit the existence of the other. The different styles of furniture in their home are a clear product of their lives merging together. As I place myself inside of their lives, a pair of unknown lips find their way to my wet cheek and ask, "Have you been crying?"

The dampness on my face is a signal that the truth can no longer be stalled. The mannerisms of the girl I had created fall away. Neither of us knows what to do with the presence of the woman that has orchestrated a false evening. Before being called to task, I plan to flee. I fix the neckline of my blouse and look at my phone. Two missed calls. I tell him that there was an emergency and I have to go back home. Home is waiting for me on the other end of my phone. Once I am in the elevator, I realize that my necklace is still with him. I hope he will use it as a souvenir of one of the worst dates of his life.  The doorman looks at my tear-stained face with concern and I realize I hadn’t stopped crying. I'm grateful that eight million people lived in this city, and I never have to see either of them again. Once outside, I hail a cab immediately. Crying girls must be high on the list of people who need a quick escape. 

As the cab drives over potholes, the sudden movements remind me of the four gin and tonics I had consumed earlier. In an attempt to stabilize myself, I make a temporary bed out of the backseat. From here I can see the nape of my cab driver’s neck and the moon. This is the same moon that has kept a watchful eye on every conversation Jasmine and I have shared. I find her in the contacts of my phone and she picks up after two rings. 

“Are you okay?” is the first thing she says, and I hear how annoyed she is. “Are you committed to me?” I ask, needing to know that someone wants to be there when I’m gone. “Of course. Of course I am. Are you home?” I can hear her trying to figure out where I am. “Nearly. Just in a cab, crossing the bridge. It’s a full moon tonight. What do you see?” I close my eyes and wait for her response. “The clouds are covering the moon here. This always happens. What else do you see?” she says slowly, probably realizing how intoxicated I am. “I see us decorating an apartment in the future, and I see you being the godmother of my babies.” We both pause to allow this visual the room it needs to expand. Finally, she says, “I love you the most, Devan.” 

“I really love you the most, Jasmine,” I say.

Photo by Lloyd Pursall.

"I don't regret it at all. I mean I'm a man, and as a man, you do real things."

In 2017, Atlanta-based artist iLoveMakonnen (or just Makonnen) had already experienced exhilarating career highs and disappointing lows. Drake had hopped on a remix of his viral hit "Tuesday," and then signed him to his OVO Sound label in 2014. Hits like "I Don't Sell Molly No More" and "Look at Wrist" on his first album, I Love Makonnen, put him on track to be the next best thing in rap. Makonnen was part of a class of rappers and producers who were expanding the trap genre to broader audiences. But problems with OVO led to a delay in a follow-up album, and so he parted ways with the label and, later, announced a short-lived retirement from music. Then in January 2017, Makonnen tweeted that he was gay.

While fans and followers voiced their support for him, there was a loud hush from the hip-hop artists he'd been so connected to in the previous years. It was as if none of them wanted to be associated with a gay artist. That is, nobody except Lil Peep, who was one of the first people to reach out to Makonnen, offering his support and asking if Makonnen wanted to meet up. What followed was an intimate friendship between the two, that helped Makonnen heal from some of the rough patches—and there have been many—in his life. But less than a year later, Peep would be dead.

Below, I talk with Makonnen about his friendship with Lil Peep, as well as that fateful tweet; Martha, the beauty school mannequin head that has become synonymous with his brand; and how he really feels about the people he feels turned their backs on him.

Can you tell me about Martha and why she's so important in your imagery and your branding and stuff?
Martha was from when I was in beauty school, and I had to, you know, make my doll one-of-a-kind, and make it into my doll for the class and stuff. And then, so I was doing that, and I was getting creative with my doll and then with my music, at the same time, I was working on that, and I was like, Oh, I don't have a model for my artwork. And at the same time, [the school was] like, "You need to take pictures of your doll to show the hairstyles." And so I just started doing these high fashion pictures with the doll outside and in water and leaves and all types of stuff. And I was like, Oh! Martha is like… she's a celeb! She's a top model! And then I started putting her on the cover of my work, and I was just like, Oh yeah, this represents me. This is me. And the face is kind of… people say it's scary, but the whole overall thing is, don't judge on the outside. Take some time to get to know somebody on the inside.


How did you end up at beauty school?
My mom was always in the beauty industry and cosmetology. She was a nail instructor for almost all my life, so I've always been around it. And then I got into my legal situation where I was on probation. I had to do something productive with my time, so my mom gave me the idea of coming to beauty school and learning a skill and a trade and how to build confidence in others and have fun in socializing.

You have a flashy sense of style. Did your mom or your experiences in the beauty industry influence that?
Yeah, definitely. My mom was always showing me artists from the '70s and the '80s and a lot of costumes, and just the theatrics of arts and stuff. Then in beauty school, you also have to have some sort of creativity and flair in there and bring flamboyance and all these types of things to capture the eye.

I want to talk about when you came out in 2017. Why did you feel the need to send that tweet out?
I just wanted to be, I guess, more open. And then, I felt like the times that we're in… people need to be braver. People need to be more open and have a sense of bravery, because I feel like a lot of people are scared. [I think it's important] especially for the younger generations coming up. They don't really have many real leaders, you know?

They just all follow one after another. And so it's like, they're following things that they may not fully be themselves, and so they're confused. I just felt like I've seen a lot of fans, I've seen myself, people before me, everybody sort of dealing with this. I was in a position in the industry to make a larger impact for more than myself. So I just wanted to take it into my own hands and share it with my fans on Twitter, rather than trying to take it to some publication or some TV show and be like..."Oh yeah, I'm out I'm gay. Everybody celebrate this."

I just wanted to be able to be an Aries and, you know, break through that, and help get some inspiration to a lot of the younger people that are dealing with some of the same issues.

How was the response from fans? Also, what was the response like from your peers?
A few people reached out, but most people just kind of ignored it. Most people in the industry just turned the other way to it. I guess they were kind of like, "I can't be around it," because that would end up making them look different. So a lot of people have to withdraw from being around me as closely as they were. The fans, I think, embraced me more, especially younger fans. They were very happy and excited and accepting about it. But I feel like the biggest issue may have came from people around my age group or people a little older than me.

Tell me more about your relationship with Lil Peep. How did you guys meet?
I actually met Lil Peep in person right after I came out as gay. He was one of the artists who reached out to me and was like, "I love you. I'm a big fan always." [He] was like that: supportive. And I was like, "Oh snap! I'm in L.A., let's meet up. I've been seeing you do your thing." So we met up. We have a mutual friend, and we went by his house. We all hung out and talked and vibed and just got to meet each other. Then in July, my manager was in London, and Peep was being managed by someone who my manager had a friendship with. They ended up meeting, and Peep was like, "Tell my manager Makonnen's my favorite artist. I was about to work with him." We got on the phone, FaceTimed, and I was like, "Oh! When we link back up in L.A., let's get up and make some music. Let's try to do some stuff."

Then we met up in L.A. around July, and we started making music and formulating this album. Then we went to London, we finished working on the album. It was a friendship, like a relationship: "You have a broken heart. I have a broken heart. Let's try to help mend each other's broken hearts." We were not boyfriend and boyfriend or anything, but we care about each other. So we were just doing that for each other, just helping each other out. Building each other's confidence back up and, you know, just two friends coming together to uplift each other

Why did you have a broken heart at that time?
Oh, I always had a broken heart since I was a child.

That's real!
[Laughs] It just keeps going on and on. At the time, I was sort of seeing somebody that I guess wasn't seeing me the same way I was seeing them. So there was a little confusion, and then I was a little down. Then I had a really close friend of mine who was with me from Atlanta to New York to L.A. We were working together at a restaurant at the InterContinental in Buckhead. Then [I made] "Tuesday," and he got to come with me and assist me. He ended up passing away in May of 2017, and then I got back at it with Peep in July of 2017. So that was very heavy on my heart at the time as well. And I told Peep about that stuff, so we were becoming friends and going through the motions.


I can't even imagine what that was like for you to have to face Peep's death so soon after that. Have you found other artists to collaborate with on that level today? Is there anyone who are you really vibing with?
I've kind of just been on some solo stuff. I haven't really been in the studio with many artists from Atlanta. Right now I'm just focusing on my stuff and trying to get my stuff together. I've worked with producers, and that's where my vibe's been at in the studio, but as far as with other artists right now... I don't know. I haven't really found another artist that I can connect with… I've felt like I've stepped into a new world of art, especially since coming out as gay. Expressing myself in these ways, a lot of the artists that I used to work with aren't trying to go in that direction as far as, you know, expressing themselves and art like that. I feel like we've had our time. If they want to come around and do something again, I'm always open. But, you know, I'm going in my own direction right now.

Do you ever regret coming out?
Nah, I don't regret it at all. I mean I'm a man, and as a man, you do real things. If [people] can't understand that, then that's on them. I have to be Makonnen, and one day when y'all reach a maturity level the same as mine, we can have conversations. But I am very hurt over the treatment and the resentment or whatever. Y'all can't fuck with me no more, especially after I was in Atlanta and came to fuck with all of y'all when none of y'all were getting fucked with at all. I was really a spearhead over there, coming to this studio to that studio, linking artists with producers. Now all these people got successes together, and they've all reached new heights, but nobody can call me to even say: "Thank you... We fuck with you... How you doing?... I hope all is well." Nothing. It's just like, damn. That's how we kicking it? I guess that's how we gonna be kicking it.

FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Illustration by Vivie Behrens

Liberation can come from completion, but then, we are always becoming something new

They say the full moon is about completion. About looking back at the intentions you crowned the new moon with and seeing where those intentions led you. The new moon in Gemini was the pebble that began this cycle, and the full moon in Sagittarius is her echo, the ring getting larger in the water. The new moon in Gemini asked us what we wanted to change about our habits, what we wanted to do with our hands, and our hunger for newness. The new moon in Gemini was interested in the way shifting ideas can give us the freedom to think differently and, in thinking differently, become new people. The full moon in Sagittarius reminds us that we are never not becoming new.

Both Gemini and Sagittarius are mutable signs, they exist in relation to the other and they know how to speak each other's language. But, while Gemini relishes the endless capacity of air (of thought), Sagittarius uses the energy of fire to transform thought into action. Everything Sagittarius touches can't help but change. How can this be completion? The wheel is always spinning, reader. Sagittarius marks the completion of the fire trine. Here, fire is generous and social. It means to gather and teach, to illuminate. Sagittarius lives in the sector of the zodiac chart related to education, philosophy, and the awareness of others—their beliefs and their right to freedom. Because of this, our June Sagittarius full moon is both a completion moon and a moon that reminds us that all endings create space for beginning. The more you leave behind, the more you find. There is no dead end in the universe.

If you are a seeker like me (perhaps you have lots of planets in Sagittarius in your natal chart), you have already come across Jessica Dore's Twitter account. Every day, Dore posts a tarot card and her interpretation of it. It is a gift to many of her readers. Yesterday, she shared The World with us, reminding her readers: "the moments of beauty, belonging & elation that you've experienced up to this point in your life… would still only amount to the tiniest sliver of what this world has to offer in terms of sweetness & pleasure."

I thought about this card and her words all day. The World is, numerically, the last card in the Major Arcana journey—the last card if you don't think about the Fool, who is numbered at 0 and so is the beginning and the end. The World is, therefore, a completion card too, a big echo of a full moon.

This morning, holding the sweet and expansive nature of The World, thinking on Sagittarius people and their love of travel, of reckoning with the edge of an atlas and questioning the map-makers, I pulled the nine of swords from my own Tarot deck. The other side of knowledge is to overwhelm and shut down. Gemini, ruled by Mercury, holds information in her hands. She understands duality in all things. Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, yearns for the expansion of mind and the illumination of power. The philosopher and the moralist, a Sagittarius at her best can teach anyone to break open a prison. A Sagittarius at her worst can justify any cage. Don't forget that Jupiter was the king of the gods. His lightning bolt was a weapon. Sometimes, we are too exposed to each other. We imagine we know others through the stories we create about one another. We imagine we know the future because we refuse to be humble about how vulnerable we are to the universe's ever-shifting outcomes. We refuse abundance by convincing ourselves that the cage of identity we build for ourselves is our only possibility.

For the next two days, as the Sun lingers in Gemini and we feel the effects of the moon's fullness in Sagittarius, reflect on the ways you have used knowledge. When has your knowledge been a tool of empowerment for yourself and others? When have you shared the beauty of the world and the joy of radical ideas/ways of living? When have you used knowledge to understand and relieve your own suffering and the suffering of others? And, too, when have you used knowledge as permission for self-delusion? When you have expanded so far into your idea of the world and your own work in it that you forgot how to be accountable to your daily life, your body, your friends, and the people you love? You know when Janis Joplin sings "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose"? That's only one kind of freedom, and it's the kind that Sagittarius thinks it knows very well. Freedom can be about nothing, if nothing is what you want. Then welcome to the monastery, friend. Freedom can also be another word for everything you revel in not knowing. Freedom can be about having everything because you are part of everything, even if you can't see the relation, even if you can't imagine yet how what you want also wants you.

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Photo courtesy of Netflix

Geena Davis joins the cast for the new season

Netflix dropped the trailer for Season 3 of GLOW, and it looks like the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are thriving in Las Vegas.

The new season picks up where Season 2 left and finds the wrestlers taking their talents to the fictional Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino. While things seem off to a great start—two weeks of sold-out shows and some Blackjack wins during their downtime—Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and Ruth (Alison Brie) are struggling. Debbie misses her son, and Ruth, despite having a new boyfriend and a job, feels "lost" and seems to be conflicted about her feelings for GLOW's director Sam. We also get a look at Geena Davis, who joins Season 3 as the Fan-Tan entertainment director Sandy, who wants to extend GLOW's contract to mixed reactions.

Season 3 of GLOW is slated to release on August 9. Until then, watch the trailer, below.

GLOW | Official Season 3 Trailer | Netflix www.youtube.com



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Photo courtesy of HBO.

Kat is making me relive my fat-teen trauma

When people say that HBO's new Zendaya-led teen drama, Euphoria, is triggering, believe them. In the pilot alone we're introduced to Rue (Zendaya) and her drug addiction issues via a graphic depiction of the overdose that sent her to rehab. Then, there's the disturbing rough sex scene featuring Jules (Hunter Schafer), a teenage trans girl who has just moved into town, and a middle-aged man she met on Grindr. Oh, and don't forget the unchecked, toxic masculinity of uber-jock Nate (Jacob Elordi); or the body obsession of his sometimes-girlfriend, Maddy (Alexa Demie). For me though, the ultimate trigger came via Barbie Ferreira's character Kat's experience, as she dealt with and internalized a vicious form of fatphobia.

Kat—almost alone amongst her friends—seems self-assured and dismissive of the idea that any high school drama should be taken too seriously. "You just need to catch a dick and forget about your troubles," Kat tells Maddy, following the latter's recent breakup with Nate. But internally, Kate craves male attention, and resents the fact that she's the only virgin she knows; she hints at this when she tells Maddy that she'd "settle for, like, four Corona Lights and some non-rapey affection," from a guy—any guy.

Kat's bravado leads her into a compromising situation at a high school party; she winds up in a room alone with three boys, where she talks a big game about how she's a "savage" who watches porn and has slept with more people than any of them can count. None of this is true, but Kat is determined to become "a woman of questionable morals."

The scene shows the fine line between being an empowered young woman deciding what to do with her body, on her terms, and being a teenager who thinks she's in control but doesn't fully understand the power dynamics at play. Because, yes, Kat is trying to make an intentional decision about her sexuality and how to use it, but she's doing so with a group of boys who don't value or respect her. This reality is made clear when one of them says to her, "You know what they say, right? Fat girls give the best head."

At those familiar words, I melted into my couch and said a silent prayer of gratitude that I wasn't watching Euphoria in the company of anyone else. Onscreen, Kat, too, shrinks ever so slightly into herself, all while trying to keep a poker face about the whole thing. We don't see exactly what happens in the room, but, later, she seems happy when she shares the news with her friends that she's lost her virginity; even though she then lays down, awake, scrolling through the guy's Instagram, seeming altogether less than happy.

Kat's isn't the most violent or necessarily the saddest story line in the episode. But it showed the ways that issues like consent, toxic masculinity, substance abuse, and body image—all of which are difficult to deal with no matter what your size—are further magnified when experienced through the additional trauma of fatphobia. This is something with which I've personally dealt, and so I felt my past experiences rise up inside me when I watched how Kat couldn't build her own sexual identity without being constantly aware of the ways her body exists outside the parameters of acceptable desirability.

My childhood and adolescence are defined by my experiences as a fat girl; it was a time that often felt like a hazy battlefield, when I could hardly navigate which feelings and thoughts were my own, and which ones were the result of outside forces. My body hardly ever felt like mine, and it took years to develop the autonomy that Kat is grasping at as a teenager. Kat, like so many other fat women, has a total lack of support from her peers when it comes to body image and acceptance, and there's a devastating absence of affirmation about her own worth and the importance of her pleasure. Because of fatphobia, Kat is going to be swimming against a strong, but invisible current as she navigates the already fraught social politics of high school. It's one thing to grasp this truth on an intellectual level, but letting those principles guide your decision-making is truly difficult—even for an adult, let alone for a teenager.

Euphoria airs Sunday nights at 10pm, on HBO.

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Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Serving us two of summer's biggest trends at the MTV Movie And TV Awards

On top of providing us with consistent bops and exuding endless body positivity, Lizzo has become quite the fashion icon. The singer-rapper-flutistand now actress—has been recently capturing our attention both on, and off, the red carpet. The latest example? Her look at the MTV Movie and TV Awards this Saturday.

Stepping out in a head-turning custom Christopher John Rogers dress, Lizzo rocked a shade of Nickelodeon slime green not for the faint of heart—complete with '90s-inspired ruching and an entirely feathered neckline. In this particular getup, Lizzo nailed not one, but two of the summer's biggest trends: neon green, which has been going strong since winter, and feathers, which have become a red carpet favorite of the stars this season.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Lizzo accented her look with an equally '90s-inspired messy updo, along with matching lime green-and-sunshine yellow eye look. While she paired her getup with a pair of embellished Gucci sneakers, her actual accessory of choice? Matching honeydew.

Photo via @lizzobeeating Instagram

We are not worthy.