Queer Issue 2024

The Books of Love

Charlie’s Queer Books Is a Welcoming Space for Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Lit Nerds

The Future of HIV Treatment Is Injectable

Promising Drugs Could Expand Treatment–If We Get Out of Our Own Way

What’s Next for Denny Blaine?

Maybe New Rules, but Certainly Fewer Thorns

Dave Upthegrove Wants to Save the Trees

...And Become Washington State’s First Gay Executive While He’s at It

Queer Issue 2024 Pickup Locations

Looking for a Copy of This Year’s Queer Issue? You Can Find One at the Following Locations.

Can Seattle Drag Afford to Stay Weird?

Rising Costs, and Fewer Beginner-Friendly Venues, Are Sanitizing Seattle’s Drag Scene

50 Years of Queers

Gay Betrayals! Rich Prudes! Queer Futures! And an Absolutely Stuffed Pride Calendar!

The Gays Who Slayed and the Gays Who Betrayed

Not Every Queer Politician Is an “Ally”

The Reality Behind the Story I Told The Stranger

I Said I Was Detrans, but Really I Was Struggling

Out of This World

Forming the SassyBlack Universe

The Futures of Seattle’s Gayborhood

An Architect, an Urban Planner, a Documentarian, an Academic, and a Business Owner Imagine What Capitol Hill Will Look Like in 50 Years

A lot of weirdos want cis people to believe that trans people hate our bodies, which would be laughable if their narrative were not so damn dangerous. Saying we hate our bodies is a lot like claiming your uncle hates the muscle car he endlessly tinkers with. He loves that thing, even when it gives him trouble, or when it’s up on cinder blocks in the yard. Trans people, like everyone else, have a complicated relationship with their bodies. There’s just more to navigate.

Given all this negativity, The Stranger wanted to focus on what trans people love about their bodies. We wondered what wisdom they’d share with their younger selves if given the chance.

The five trans people we posed this question to—an electrical engineer, a writer, a powerlifter, a comedian, and a multidisciplinary artist—sent us five moving letters concerning the body, the spirit, and what joy awaited them in their futures.

Ginger Chien 

Xavier Schipani

I know you. You pass your loneliest, quietest days in silence. You walk the same sidewalks and pass through the same doors as others, but you feel invisible behind a façade built for their comfort. You are the mute ghost begging to be seen, who is unable to reach out for fear of being vaporized.

You spent the nights of your childhood meditating and praying for a different body only to wake in the same one the next morning. You’ve yearned for an explanation, a mere word to describe this alienation from the body. Yet none appeared, and the mirror continued to torment you and violate you. On some days, you wanted to shed the burden of playing pretend and to instead live your destiny. You wanted to be free. To simply be. It was never about obtaining the approval of the attractive crowd. You only sought peace in the indescribable wrongness.

Then one day you’ll show your face to the sun. You’ll find your name, your voice, a home. You’ll forge beauty, hope, bravery, and kindness in fiery self-hatred, and you’ll extinguish the flames in the roaring, wild river that is you. The universe will welcome you. It will call you by your name. The sky itself will embrace your glow. In time, you’ll learn this journey never ends.

With each step toward embodiment, you will chart the course of your wending voyage with direction and purpose. Living your truth will bring clarity, and you will be guided by the simple directive of authenticity and kindness in this random, fearful, and angry world. I know you tolerate your body, and you hold the heartless roll of the dice responsible for this in contempt. But you will accept the complexity of your paradoxical vessel. Your body–our body–gives you breath and the opportunity to experience the world.

You’ll also accept that you did the best you could with what you knew and with what your moment in time made possible. When you worry that you decided on transition too late, a gentle elder will say that you’re just in time. Fear will become a companion, its secret, clever voice telling you exactly where to discover newness.

You’ll be surprised to learn that people respect your tenacity. Few will remark upon it, but a stranger that watched you from afar will tell you how you’ve inspired them to reach for their stars.

I can tell you what I’ve learned. Abiding by the rules of others is folly. You won’t find perfection in the standards of others. You are perfect, perfectly human, beautifully and uniquely imperfect. The world hid your true purpose: To seek joy.

Find peace. Accept yourself and unravel the magic you’ll use to make this world more compassionate. Your rare perspective on the human condition is not a curse. It is a gift.

Ginger Chien is an electrical engineer, inventor, open-mic storyteller, and a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging speaker who lives in Bellevue. She currently works as a device architect at AT&T and plays keys in an ’80s cover band called the Nasty Habits.

Ari Drennen 

Xavier Schipani

You came home today doubled over with the kind of side stitch you solve by heading straight for your couch and cracking a beer. “I just need a few minutes,” you told your girlfriend, “and then I’ll get dinner started.” You picked up a PlayStation controller and left your body and your apartment and your boring job. Hours passed.

Last time you asked a doctor for help, he’d told you to Google prebiotic foods, took a seat in front of the door to the tiny exam room, and asked why you were wearing nail polish. When you got back on the subject of your health, he said that your latest blood work indicated issues with your liver. “How much,” he asked, “have you been drinking?”

You quit the company softball team when you could no longer tolerate your teammates’ exasperation when another fly ball bounced from your mitt. You gave yoga a try before writing off your body as miserably inflexible. Your girlfriend keeps coming up with reasons to eat takeout at the office. Drinking, that’s how you pass the valley between work and sleep.

You live in your head and your computer and, once a year, on your balcony as you sweat over the alley above a Whole Foods dumpster while the Pride parade beats down the street on the other side of the LaTrobe apartment building. You will live here, in your body, in a house in the trees between the mountain and the Sound.

Someday you’ll wake up in silk, blonde strays and mascara stains on your pillow, raindrops and cedar needles out your window, gold and diamond sparkle on your finger. Your partner is there. “Good morning, pretty lady,” are her first words to you. You’ll bring her coffee with a little oat milk, and then roll out your yoga mat.

 The reason you cannot touch your toes with your back and legs straight is that your hamstrings are too tight; to do it right, you’ll need to bend your knees and practice every day. You won’t mind, you’ll get there eventually. Everything is connected and the pain will get so much worse before it gets better. You’ll know that the reason you could never catch a fly ball is that you were somewhere else. You’ll know that you were here.

Ari Drennen is a trans writer, poet, and content creator who works as the LGBTQ Program Director at Media Matters.

Angel Flores 

Xavier Schipani

Hey, baby. I didn’t want to write your full name. You’ve always hated your middle name. So feminine. You’re afraid of being associated with anything so womanly, I know. You still hope nothing will break that masculine shell, the one you’re probably hardening at the gym as I write this in an attempt to reach the “perfect ‘male’ physique.”

You won’t–at least, not in the way you think. I remember how you felt waking up so incomplete in the morning. You stood in front of the mirror in our bedroom, searching every inch of our body, cataloging every out-of-place piece, scrutinizing our outline. At night, with the lights off you’d catch only a shadowy reflection, and the eternal question echoed through your mind. Why does nothing feel right?

Baby, as hard as you try, masculinity is not and will never be the answer to your query. Deep down, you know that. Be honest with me. You love the sensation of long hair brushing your shoulders, the hem of a shirt dangling at your midriff, and the shortness of shorts just short enough. You wonder why you feel so queer and why you never act on the feeling. Those poor boys–as much as they loved your presence, they never had a chance. And as much guilt as you’ve swallowed about the disconnection from your girlfriends, they never had a chance, either. You’ll all laugh about it later, trust me.

Everything will change when you meet that trans girl at the thrift shop, the tall one with the pretty dress and the cute voice. You’ll panic, and confusion will surge through your body. She’s gorgeous, you’ll think. You will be jealous. That’s okay. Turns out, you’ll be gorgeous, too. You’ll love when clothes hug your curves like that, when pants sit just right on your hips and someone cute can’t help but grab them.

When you learn to smile that huge, crazy, disarming smile again, the one that makes people feel safe, it’ll be bigger than ever because you’ll be happier than ever. You’ll be happier because you feel whole for the first time. You’ll find yourself. Not because of your career, your relationship, or the gym. The endless hours you’re spending torturing yourself there are a waste. You’re working for a body you don’t want. And the reason you hated your middle name? It hinted at who you were the entire time: Angel Joy Flores, the woman you never believed you could be and the person you never knew needed to exist. I love you. Be kind to yourself.

Angel Joy Flores is a Seattle powerlifter, content creator, and streamer who you may recognize from Season 6 of Netflix’s Queer Eye.

Howie Echo-Hawk 

Xavier Schipani

Gratitude for another sunset. For a beating heart. For an aching soul. For a tender wound. For a peaceful sleep. For a tearful smile. For another sunset. For another sunset.

The reassuring sound of the two black and brown (respectively) trannies (homophobically) so lovely you cannot possibly imagine it, who let you sleep in their drag room after the best show you have ever seen in your life.

Gratitude for years ahead of new and exciting tranny behavior, dirtier and more divine than before, to a fat ass and a mayonnaise (respectfully) diet.

Gratitude for new nieces, sisters, lovers, best friends, heartbreaks, lost loves, life partners, joy partners, grief partners, alive and in love together.

Gratitude for love, for you, for me, for grief, for the painful joyful gift of remembering, remembering we are who we are.

Gratitude for something that no one can take from us, for some truth–bigger, deeper, more expansive, true.

Gratitude for what has always been and always will be, for hot stupid tranny bitches.

Keep growing, keep becoming, keep finding, keep transitioning.

Mind, body, soul, become yourself.

I love you, bright and shining evening star.

Howie Echo-Hawk is the evening star, founder of Indigenize Productions and the Indigiqueer party, evil stepmother, aunt, best friend, sister, lover, and world’s best kisser.

Clyde Petersen 

Xavier Schipani

One day you’ll go to the cineplex at the mall and purchase two tickets to Love Lies Bleeding from a teenager who smells like weed and is half-heartedly counting cups at concessions. While buying tickets, you’ll feel the sting of something old and recognizable, but it will pass quickly, replaced by excitement. You’ll sit in the dark theater full of queers, gripping the hand of your lover, rapt, collectively holding a breath during sex scenes and spontaneously uttering an undiscovered-until-now sound when Kristen Stewart whispers to Katy O’Brian, “I want to stretch you.”

When the film ends you will be high on the power of queer sex and the notion that killing a man who has harmed the one you love is perfectly acceptable, because at some point in this life you learned that love and violence and sex all live in the same body, and that I would kill for you is just Queer for I love you with a passion deeper than any words can ever possibly express.

But as you leave the theater, you will feel that sting again. And you will think back to every moment in your entire life when you felt queer shame and the fear of your own queer body. And your palms will get sweaty and the sky will go dark. And suddenly, it’s 1995 in your teenage bedroom. Bong hits and too much incense to cover up the smell of weed. Peavey Stratocaster in your hands, mindlessly running scales. On the TV, hurled chairs, insults, “security!” The Jerry Springer Show. Between Brawlin’ Broads or Who’s the Daddy?—but not that kind of daddy—you see transgender people, but they won’t be called that. The word they will be called will try to be reclaimed but eventually abandoned, too heavy with violence and hate.

You’ll scan the TV for words to name your feelings. The Why do I feel so alone? The Nothing, growing inside you. You’ll find words that get close but never feel quite right. They will sound like lies in your mouth and you’ll fall silent, undefined. Unspeakable.

But soon, soon you’ll be 16, and you’ll get your gay eyebrow pierced on Broadway. You’ll skip class, rip bong hits and practice the guitar solos to “Black Hole Sun” and “Comfortably Numb,” and you’ll start to know yourself a little better. You’ll find the queer weirdos at the all-ages shows and you’ll become possessed by rock and roll. Your clothes will smell like smoke and sweat after a Sleater-Kinney concert at RKCNDY, and you will silently swear to yourself that you are never washing this hoodie and you will remember this night forever.

And that excitement, that is the feeling to cling to. Because over and over, the thing you’ll find is that trans is less of a word to be placed on a body and more of a feeling to dwell within. To be other. To have potential. To recreate yourself daily, despite this world’s protestation.

Clyde Petersen is a Seattle-based artist, filmmaker, former Stranger Genius Award winner and a musician who fronts the band Your Heart Breaks. This piece is part of a larger exhibition at J. Rinehart Gallery on display from June 29 to July 24.

Vivian McCall 

Initially, your name will feel strange in your mouth, but it’ll stick. In time, people start asking if you prefer Viv or Vivian (you don’t care). Anyway, I want to tell you about the day you realized it was all worth it.

You woke up on a hospital gurney in the darkest corner of the recovery room, went unconscious, and then woke up again under fluorescent lights in the examination room. The nurse laughed when you insisted on standing. When you explained that you were bursting to pee, the words came out of order, as if you’d expelled a mouthful of fridge magnet poetry.

You looked something like the pulped visage of a disgraced prize-fighter who had been knocked into an ambulance by his younger rival. The nurses had mummy-wrapped a gauze bandage around your head like a spindle, and a railroad track of sutures at your hairline held up your face. Hours before, the skin had hung from your skull like a rubber mask.

I can’t remember if you traveled to the bathroom alone, or if your boyfriend held you up. You won’t remember pissing, but surely that happened. You will remember being more fucked up than you’d ever been, and laughing as you rode the anesthesia down from the clouds like a magic carpet.

You lost track of time, and then a nurse wheeled you under the hospital awning, located in a Wisconsin office park. The door slammed too loud and the car lurched forward, which upset your empty stomach. Queasy, you leaned on a pillow against the window and watched the clouds run by on the glass.

A song you’d never heard before and won’t forget jangled from the speakers: Have you ever sat on an empty beach with the sun and the stars and the sea so deep, and asked yourself again, "Is this for me?" 

The tears rolled down your cheeks slowly at first, and then they started flowing fast with each hitching sob. From the front seat, your boyfriend and your friend smiled and then turned toward the road to respect your privacy. Their faces looked too large, as if amplified beneath a magnifying glass. 

A great burden had fallen off your shoulders somewhere in the blank space between the toilet and the car. The burden was the trouble that began at seven years of age, standing in the bathroom mirror in your dinosaur pajamas, your face red and tear-streaked from the realization that you could not change what you saw. You began an abusive relationship with your reflection, tearing at your skin like Play-Doh in an attempt to mold it into different shapes. (The predicament of the mirror is a cliche that will outlive time, all because some ancient asshole polished silver into a torture tool.)

You don’t know what it’s like to live without that feeling, and for a long time you won’t know where it came from. You’ll still have your bad days–excising self-hatred with a scalpel is impossible, though some do try–but you won’t ever be that kid anymore, weighing the unalterable future. 

You could count the times you’d cried since childhood on one hand. Grandpa’s death, in bed with a girlfriend the day you went off to college, the time a bully threw a basketball at your nose, breaking it in front of the whole neighborhood. Now you’ll cry at an orchestral crescendo, an exquisite meal, a warm hug from a friend, a blue, cloudless day. 

And there’s a funny part. About six months later, when the swelling goes down, you’ll realize with a mix of horror and elation that you look like your mother. It’s a cliche. You won’t try to outrun it.

Vivian McCall is a staff writer for The Stranger covering queer culture and politics in Seattle and beyond. In her private life, she is a musician and Wii U apologist. If you’re reading this, you either love her or hate her.