Finding a way forward

Finding a way forward

(This post was available a week early to Patreon supporters.)

The picture is my sister and me, on my birthday. I’m holding a little replica of Brambles, the name we gave the giant bush in the alley that we used as a secret hideout, where we cut out two rooms and a little hallway between. Domini made the replica for me, and I love it. 

I turned 40 on August 11. 

40 feels significant.

The word quarantine comes from the Italian quaranta, referencing the 40 days that ships were isolated during the bubonic plague. I turned forty in this time of quarantine.

In Christian mythology, a big part of my own cultural background, 40 is also significant. 40 days and 40 nights of flooding. 40 days fasting in the desert. 40 years wandering. There is often something significant on the other side of 40. Some new beginning. Possibility.

And, too, I’m reading Astrid the Unstoppable to Astrid at bedtime, and the book makes the point regularly that round-number birthdays are a big deal! 

I approached 40 with exhaustion and more than a little despair.

Everything has been feeling impossible.

I know that’s dramatic, but it’s also true.

It’s been hard to see value in my work. 

Earlier in the season, I had to significantly cut back my narrative practice, and pause working with new community members because I was having so many panic attacks and my health was so unpredictable. What is the good of an unreliable narrative therapist? 

In my community organizing, I have felt ineffective and unreliable. Important projects, projects that really matter to me, have been indefinitely postponed. Group conversations went in difficult directions, and it felt like my fault – I didn’t anticipate the direction and I fumbled my responses. What is the good of an underprepared facilitator?

In my contract work, time has slipped past with little progress being made. The same is true in my day job, and in my own personal projects. 

I haven’t been writing – not in my journal, not on my blog, not for any of my many started-and-stalled collective documents. 

I haven’t even been doing tarot, for months!, with only a handful of exceptions.

Everywhere, failure. False starts. Fumbles. 

Everywhere, disappointment.

That’s what I brought to the day I turned 40.

But despite what I brought to it, the day was full of joy and hope and light, and in the last couple weeks I’ve been trying to figure out how to invite more of that into my life. How to turn towards what sustains me. How to find my way back to a sense of myself as possible, a sense of myself as worthy.

On my birthday, Joe and I spent the day together, went for a long walk along the river and drank good coffee. His card to me reminded me of the connection we share, our friendship and love. (And it included stick figures! My favourite!)

I connected with some of my favourite people. (And Nathan told me a bit about the stars on that day, and in my natal chart. Venus and Pluto, helping me get through this dark time.)

And then my mom and sister picked me up for a secret birthday dinner, which turned out to be entirely magical.

We had a lovely charcuterie picnic dinner (including a rice krispie square cake), and then… the gifts.

I arrived in this year feeling so disconnected from the good things about myself.

Mom and Domini tethered me back to myself. To the parts of me that I have chosen and cultivated over time, to the things I care about and the actions I’ve taken to invite those things into my life. And to the self that has been here for 40 years, loving things and doing things and being loved.

All of the gifts came with a note and were connected to a memory. 

One gift was a copy of Beethoven Lives Upstairs, with a note that reads, I remember you listened to this a lot when you were little. One night your dad asked what you wanted to listen to. (You were only 3!) You told him but he put on different music. Your little voice called out, “Daddy that’s not the right music!”

Another was an envelope containing black lipstick and liquid eyeliner. The note – When you were a teenager, these were 2 items that were staples in your wardrobe department!

A travel journal, and the note – This reminds me of how you have wanted to travel! Like going to Europe; seeing things, planning the trip, expanding who you were becoming. Going to Australia for school! Another trip that built on your development as a person. Going to Jasper by bus! That, for me, would have taken a lot of courage. So proud of where you have been; it helped you become YOU!

A paper doll, a tin of Earl Grey tea, a jar of garlic and pesto. A telescope for watching the stars. All with notes and memories.

And letters from family – cousins and aunts and uncles sharing memories (and telling me I’ve made a difference in their lives).

And pictures.

Quite a few pictures, but this one especially. Me and Dad and Tasha, with the note, I found this picture and remember how much you put into working with Tasha to make her as good a dog as she could be, and the work you put into your relationship with your dad.

In Retelling the Stories of Our Lives, David Denborough describes degrading rituals as “rituals that make us feel unimportant, useless, or worse.” In contrast, re-grading rituals are “alternative rituals… that honor survival and all that is important to us.”

Existing within this current context often feels like an endless loop of degrading rituals. Capitalism, ableism, cisheteropatriarchy, climate emergency all impact me directly. Colonialism, racism, fatphobia, classism, and so many others impact people that I love. I often feel powerless against any of these oppressive systems, and I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. 

I want to make a difference, but I don’t see the way forward. Nothing I do will ever, could ever, be enough. And the creeping intrusions of individualism and productivity culture have me convinced that because I can’t, personally, individually, ‘make the difference’, then anything I do is meaningless. What good am I, with my failures and my pain and my trauma and my exhaustion and my day job and my despair? It all feels like so much. Too much.

But my birthday was a profound re-grading ritual.

My life hasn’t magically turned around in the last week and a half, but I feel more solidly grounded, and I feel more confident about moving in the direction of what gives me life and makes me feel possible.

I came up with a plan for structuring my year, inspired partly by the reminders in birthday. 

I’ve been thinking about how I want to feel, and what helps me feel alive and connected to hope and joy and possibility.

I want to focus on projects that have a beginning, middle, and end. When I’m in a good place, ongoing commitments feel sustaining and meaningful. But right now, when everything feels endless, I want to focus on smaller bites. (That’s one reason I’m wrapping up Possibilities.)

I am going to focus most of my energy on ’40 small projects’. My intention for these projects is that they will:

  • connect me to community
  • feel creative and energizing
  • support a sense of agency and skillfulness
  • be completed in less than 10 hours and/or less than 10 pages, and represent approximately one week of work

I have lots of ideas for what these projects might be, but I am not allowing myself to make a ‘to do list’ of these ideas. This post will be the first project on the page, and then we’ll see what comes next! I hope that I will complete some of the collective documents that have been languishing for months (or years), and that I will find ways to make projects smaller – to not always be working towards something massive, which often ends up being counterproductive.

I am also going to work on ‘4 big projects’.

My hope for these is that they will:

  • connect me to possibility
  • feel exciting and challenging
  • support a sense of growth and resourcefulness
  • create more financial sustainability
  • be completed in less than 50 hours, and represent about one season of work

I know what two of these projects will be – working with community to create something that commemorates and documents the work we did together in 11 years of Possibilities, and re-working and running another cohort of An Unexpected Light

I have some ideas about what the other two big projects could be, but I’m definitely not going to commit to them yet. There’s only two spots left!

The constraint of limiting how many projects I can do, and putting some boundaries around how much time they can take, feels really generative. I feel less like I’m floundering around uselessly, and more like I have some structure within which to test things out.

And the final type of project is ‘ongoing’. These are meant to:

  • connect me to myself and my life
  • feel grounding and nourishing
  • support a sense of integration and calm
  • take as much time as they need

These projects are:

  • Journaling.
    The last time I journaled was May 16, after a month of not writing, and I wrote, “I don’t know where to start. It has been a pretty terrible month and I have not done well in documenting it. I want to write about it but how? It’s all this weird, sad, overwhelming, overlapping tangle.”
    I know that regular journaling helps me feel connected to myself and my life, so this project is one I want to come back to, even though I still feel the way I did on May 16.
  • Magic.
    Similar to journaling, I haven’t been doing anything with my tarot cards or the moon cycles. I’ve just felt so disconnected and sad. But I know that these things help me feel more hopeful and grounded, so it’s on the list, too!
  • Movement.
    The one thing I have been doing is going for walks, and I’m going to keep up with that. Or try, anyway.
  • Relationship care.
    I’ve been disconnected from many of my friendships for a long time, even pre-dating the pandemic. And I’ve made some pretty significant realizations about myself within my partnerships. I want to work on being intentional in my relationships, because being connected to myself and my life is also about being connected to my community.

So, that’s how I’m trying to find my way forward!

It feels hopeful.

I still woke up sad and tired today, as I have so many days for so many years. 

But, as mom reminded me, the Gloom Fairy has been part of my way of being for a long, long time. Turning my own struggle into fuel for my work is part of my history, part of who I am and how I want to be in the world. There’s value in that. It doesn’t make me a ‘lesser’ therapist or facilitator or community member, even if it does make me imperfect and sometimes unreliable. It was good to be reminded of that.

And, as a last little note, I am slowly restarting my narrative practice now that the headaches and panic attacks are more reliably under control. So if you’ve been hoping for a session but waiting while I waded through the swamp of this summer, send me a message! I’m not booking as many sessions per week as I used to, but I am working again in my narrative practice, which feels pretty great.

(Also, puppies exist. Magical! I got to snuggle this pup on my birthday.)

All the sudden, mushrooms

All the sudden, mushrooms

The right rain comes and all the sudden, mushrooms.

A letter for our friends in the United States, following the 2020 presidential election.

From Lindsey Boyes and Tiffany Sostar

Artwork: mycelium and mushroom 2 by Lindsey Boyes

Download this letter as a PDF here, or email Tiffany to have a physical copy mailed to you. You can support more of this work at Tiffany’s Patreon.

“Mushroom Mycelium represent rebirth, rejuvenation, regeneration.”

– Paul Stamets

A small imagining, based on the metaphor of mycelium in forests. In this imagining, we are the trees.

Mycelium are fungal material, spread throughout soil and other substrates, which can fruit into mushrooms under the right circumstances. Mycelium can be tiny, or, as the Armillaria in Oregon, vast and ancient. Mycelium not only break down dead matter, they also distribute resources across ecosystems. The mycelium network within a forest can link trees across a vast distance, sharing nutrients from one part of the forest to another.

  • What is the soil in which you find yourself?
    (Your social context, your environment.)
  • Does this soil feel rich and nutrient-dense, or does it feel depleted?
    (Are you nourished and supported by your social context?)
  • Do you remember a time when you were in different soil?
    (Have you ever found yourself in a different social context?)
  • Who is in this soil with you? Who is in your forest?
    (Who is alongside you? Perhaps these are cherished companions, perhaps they are not. Forests are places of magic, and also danger, after all.)
  • What else is present in the forest?
    (Are there birds, squirrels, bears, bees, mosquitoes? What other non-tree / non-human companions are in your forest?)
  • Who are you connected to across distance?
    (What companions do you cherish and stay connected to? These may be living or not, they may know you in return or not. The mycelium network is magical because it can connect us in seemingly impossible ways.)
  • What nourishment is shared across your connection?
    (What do these connections make possible – what do they offer that you do not receive in your immediate environment?)
  • What information is shared?
    (What have you learned from these distant connections?)
  • What do the mycelium share from you, out to other parts of the network?
    (What contributions have you made, what has your existence made possible in the lives of others?)

Dear friends,

We (Lindsey and Tiffany) are writing this letter from Calgary, Alberta, in so-called Canada. From Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani) and Stoney-Nakoda (Wesley, Chiniki, Bearspaw) and Tsuut’ina land. Métis land. From the place where the Bow meets the Elbow river.

This is beautiful, breathtaking land.

We wonder about the land that you are on.

Are there trees? Rivers? Mountains?

What do you see when you look out the window, when you step out your door? What do you smell? What do you hear?

What is the landscape, and what are the plants and animals that you share space with?

What is your relationship with the land you’re on?

In an Indigenous Counselling and Trauma Work course, Cree/Métis therapist and academic Karlee Fellner taught Tiffany that the land is old enough, strong enough, wise enough to help us hold our pain, no matter how vast that pain is. As we write this letter, we are thinking about the pain that exists following the events of the last years.

The land we write this from, and the Indigenous people on this land, and every marginalized community here, is currently threatened not only by the conservative government in power in this province, but also by Canada’s ongoing commitment to extractive and exploitative relations with land and people.

We’re sharing this context because we want to be clear that we recognize as much racism, as much white supremacy, as much racial capitalism and neoliberalism here in our country, in our province, in our city, as we see happening in the US. We are not writing from a position of distance or superiority, but from a position of shared struggle against these oppressive discourses and systems. And, as white settlers, also from a position of complicity with these discourses and systems.

We planned to write this letter before the results of the 2020 presidential election came in, because we wanted to offer some care to our friends in the US. But we found ourselves, like so many other folks, slowed down by the thick mud of distraction and doomscrolling through our social media feeds. So, instead, we are writing this after Joe Biden has been named president-elect, after the wave of celebration and the deep collective sigh of relief. (We were relieved, too!)

This little document contains some of our hopes for you, and reflects some of our hopes for ourselves. It also contains some art, a little recipe, and a few reflection questions that we have found helpful for ourselves. The document comes out of our work together in the Unexpected Light speculative fiction and narrative therapy course, and we hope that this document can be a tiny invitation to imagine more just, more liberated, more possible futures.

We wonder about what kinds of futures you hope for, and how you learned to hope for them.

What are the systems and structures that you hope will change?

What do you hope will be possible once these systems change?

What are the existing forces that have the power to change these systems – what are the networks working underground to transport nourishment, encouragement, information; what are the histories of collective action, the legacies of resistance?

Do you see a place for yourself in these existing frameworks of resistance and change?

We hope that you can sink your strong roots down into the earth, and feel the mycelium surround you, supporting you and enabling you to support others.

How to Make a London Fog

To start:
2/3 mug of strong Earl Grey tea

Flavouring:
Spoonful of vanilla sugar
Splash of vanilla extract

To finish:
Warmed and frothed milk or milk alternative

London Fogs are one of Tiffany’s most cherished soothing rituals of care, both alone and with friends. This recipe was included in the Unexpected Light course, and has become one of Lindsey’s soothing rituals, too. So, we decided to share it with you, too!

What are some of your rituals of care? Who taught you these skills? Who do you share them with?

We chose mushrooms (or, more accurately, the mycelium network!) because of the way that both hope and oppression can live underground, barely visible for such a long time, sustained by nearly invisible threads sometimes across vast distances and over unimaginable lengths of time, and then, given the right circumstances, the right rain (to quote Tiffany’s beloved Nathan), they spring up again like mushrooms.

We were thinking about how shocking the rise of fascism has been in the US and also in our own province, and yet how unsurprising, how these networks and threads have persisted. Death cap mushrooms. Indistinguishable from harmless button mushrooms when they are just sprouting.

And we were thinking about hope, too. About collective action. About the community care, the mutual aid and networks of support that sprang up in response, and that had always existed. Truffles. Precious, hidden, sustaining the roots of trees and feeding the forest, even when they are deep underground. Protecting ecosystems from drought and making the most of available nutrients in times of scarcity. (May we each be some glorious truffle-hunting animal, seeking out what is delicious and life-giving.)

What are some delicious things in your life right now?

What delights you?

What comforts you?

What brings you joy and ease?

And what are some nourishing things in your life right now?

What sustains you?

What warms you, strengthens you, fortifies you?

What brings you energy to keep working towards change?

We thought about how, in the last four years, many mushrooms have sprung up, and how some of them represent decay, rot, destruction. How the mycelium network can be so sustaining but also how it can be something other. How it can represent “ruptures in our unspoken contract of trust and care” (to quote BK Chan[1]). And also, how even decay (maybe especially decay) offers us the opportunity to take something noxious and turn it into something nourishing.

To quote Paul Stamets[2] (the real-life mycologist that the Star Trek: Discovery character is named after), “fungi are the grand recyclers of our planet, the mycomagicians… Fungi are the interface organisms between life and death.”

If we are, then, between life and death, and with choices about how to navigate this liminal space, perhaps we can learn from the fungi around us.

Have you experienced or witnessed life-affirming transformation?

What made it possible?

What supported the work of transformation

Credit must also be given to adrienne maree brown for identifying a tugging between life and death in her post on unthinkable thoughts[3], which was written specifically for movement organizers in Black and Brown organizations.

We recognize that the nourishment we find in her words was not first meant for us, and parts of it are not ours in any way. Thinking about life and death, cultural urges that sustain life or that threaten it, we must acknowledge how white supremacy, which benefits us, which makes our lives easier, makes the lives of Black and Brown and Indigenous people in both of our colonial nations so much harder to hold onto. As Claudia Rankine and Judith Butler[4] so clearly named, the scripts available to us as white people acting with whiteness lead to the death or incarceration of Black people. Access to life, to systems that support life, is not equal across social location.

And, equally true, we share adrienne maree brown’s hopes when she writes:

“i want us to want to live in this world, in this time, together.

i want us to love this planet and this species, at this time.

i want us to see ourselves as larger than just individuals randomly pinging around in a world that will never care for us.

i want us to see ourselves as a murmuration of creatures who are, as far as we know right now, unique in all the universe. each cell, each individual body, itself a unique part of this unique complexity.”

We thought about the ruptures that interrupt our togetherness and how perhaps hope can be a balm for the ruptures. We thought about hope as a collective practice (to quote Angel Yuen[5]), hope as a discipline (to quote Mariame Kaba[6]), hope as something that we can carry together.

We imagine the network that connects us to you, our friends in the United States of America, whose country has suffered such ruptures – ruptures as deep, as old as the founding of your country, so similar to the ruptures that also fragment so-called Canada. We want to connect, like mycelium. The threads and tendrils that stretch across distance, and that, given the right rain, fruit into mushrooms.

May we grow the medicinal mushrooms, the transformative mushrooms, the mushrooms that rejuvenate and regenerate. And may we also rest sometimes, knowing that this network is vast, our connections are real, and the mycelium can sustain us even in drought, and support us through transformation.

We love you, and we are stretching our roots out to you, with hope for all of us to find the way through, to do the work of decolonizing, of amending the soil, of being part of an ecosystem that is more wildly diverse, chaotic, joyful, and generative.

Lindsey and Tiffany

mushroom 2 by Lindsey Boyes

References

[1] Chan, Karen BK. (2020). In Calling in: Doing social justice with compassion. Webinar.

[2] Stamets, Paul. (2012). Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDkR2HIlEbc

[3] brown, adrienne maree. (2020). Unthinkable thoughts blog post. http://adriennemareebrown.net/2020/07/17/unthinkable-thoughts-call-out-culture-in-the-age-of-covid-19/

[4] Butler, Judith and Rankine, Claudia. (2020). Visionaries Series: Claudia Rankine in Conversation with Judith Butler. https://vimeo.com/473984783

[5] Yuen, Angel. (2020). Dulwich Centre Meet the Author session.

[6] Kaba, Mariame. (2020). Hope is a discipline. https://towardfreedom.org/story/archives/activism/hope-is-a-discipline/

Download this letter as a PDF here, or email Tiffany to have a physical copy mailed to you. You can support more of this work at Tiffany’s Patreon.

November events and happenings

November events and happenings

You can find me at a bunch of public events this month. I’ve put them all together here to make it easier!


A jar of fairy lights on the beach. Text reads: Shiny! a speculative writing group

Shiny! speculative writing group

November 8, 4-5:30 pm mountain time

Our offshoot group from An Unexpected Light is open to anyone who wants to join, whether they’re in the course or not. October’s event was cancelled, and I’m excited about getting back to this group because it is always so lovely to share space imagining better futures, and I think it will be particularly needed this month.

To register – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUrd-ChqjosGtZNN4oj_-oMNiA6FKBSeat_


A galaxy and tree silhouettes

Possibilities

This month, Possibilities will have two events (this is not because I am so ambitious, but rather because I forgot I had already scheduled the paint night when I scheduled the chat event with the October participants. *facepalm*)

Everything* to do with bi+ sex

November 7, 6-7:30 pm mountain time

* “Everything” includes: representation in media and pop culture; accessing sexual health care; learning how to have bi+ sex; and asexual erasure in pop culture and social spaces; and how we’re navigating sex in the pandemic.

To register – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIqd-ChrDgvGtGWRIvprr8fjdYeRBwrzSiq

Paint night: Galaxies

November 17, 6-8 pm mountain time

Our second paint night will be painting acrylic galaxies. I will not be providing craft packs as the default, but I will be offering to help anyone who doesn’t have access to supplies (paint in black, white, and a few bright colours for the nebulas; at least one paint brush; a sponge; and paper or canvas).

To register – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwpc-uurD8uH9Afo_WG8lBwZklvxFBc2GNY

Succulents. Text reads: “Do not be afraid. Do not be cynical. Continue to trust in yourself and others. Continue to dream of collective liberation. – Scott Crow

Presentations and Workshops

PolyCon Canada 2020

My time isn’t confirmed yet, but I believe I’ll be doing a short (15-minute) presentation at 9 am mountain time on November 23, followed by a 45-minute chat with participants, on the topic of polyamory and speculative fiction. Planning for this talk has been fun, because polyamory has such deep roots in speculative fiction – Robert Heinlein’s influence on North American polyamory is significant! But I am way more interested in the speculative work of marginalized writers, so although obviously I’ll acknowledge Heinlein, I want to focus on works like NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth and the polyamorous representation in Sense8.

I will also be talking about An Unexpected Light at this event.

Anyway! If you want to get up early on a Monday morning to geek out with me about speculative fiction, do it! http://polycon-canada.com/


Ally Toolkit Conference 2020: Free Community Day Programming

Imagining Possible Futures: Speculative Fiction and Social Justice

November 26, 3-4 pm mountain time

I’ll be presenting a workshop on reading and writing speculative fiction as a tool for social justice, for the Calgary Queer Arts Society’s Ally Toolkit Conference. Especially for allies, reading visionary fiction (Walidah Imarisha’s term for fantastical work that makes existing power structures visible and helps us imagine pathways to more just futures), can be one way to be in solidarity with marginalized communities. That’s the angle I’ll be taking in this workshop – how to use our reading (viewing, listening, etc.) more intentionally as a tool for justice and liberation. 

Register at – https://www.allytoolkitconference.com/schedule-1/community-day-free-programming-imagining-possible-futures-speculative-fiction-and-social-justice


If any of these interest you, I’d love to see you there!

And if you’re interested in An Unexpected Light, registration is ongoing and the course is fantastic. Join us!

An Ocean of Possibilities zine

An Ocean of Possibilities zine

The Ocean of Possibilities Zine is finished!

It was available to contributors and patrons a couple days early, and is now publicly available for today, Wednesday, September 23, Bi+ Visibility Day!!

The PDF is available for free, and you can download it here. If you’d like to purchase a copy they are $12 CAD, and you can order one by emailing me.

A line from Candice Robinson-Horejsi’s essay Living the Possibilities, “When nobody talks about bisexuality, how are you supposed to recognize it in yourself?”, overlaid on a pink jellyfish. Photo by Pan Da Chuan on Unsplash.

An Ocean of Possibilities is a zine by Tiffany Sostar, with contributions by:

Jocelyn LaVon
Candice Robinson-Horejsi
Gloria Jackson-Nefertiti
Aoife Byrne
Sheri Osden Nault
Marlena Chertock
Julene Tripp Weaver
Jan Steckel

I’m not sure how to introduce these essays, poems, comics, and fiction, and, like everyone else, I am swimming in the cold waters of exhaustion and overwhelm. Bi+ Visibility Day lands 6 months into the novel coronavirus pandemic. Every one of the contributors to this zine, from Aoife in Ireland to the folks in the US and those of us in Canada, are affected by the pandemic. 

Search for “bisexual health outcomes” and you’ll find years of studies that demonstrate that, as the HRC puts it, “bisexuals face striking rates of poor health outcomes” (you can read the Health Disparities Among Bisexual People brief here).

And we know that the pandemic has already highlighted multiple systemic health and social inequities. The economic impact, the differential access to health care – none of these fall equally on different communities. Fat folks have faced significant increase in fatphobic discourse during the pandemic. Women are bearing the majority of the increased burden of childcare and at-home education. Black, Indigenous, and brown communities are seeing the pre-existing unequal access to health care and social support escalate.

And it is not just the pandemic that impacts these (and so many other) communities. Overt acts of racist violence are more frequent – white supremacy and colonialism lashing back at those who are protesting. The pandemic arrived in Canada as the invasion of Wet’suwet’en was ongoing, and as the pandemic crosses the half year, more colonial violence is being enacted on Mi’kma’ki – coast to coast, Canada has escalated the violence against Indigenous communities. In the US, police violence (in response to protests against police violence!) has been going on for months.

In Alberta, where I live, Bi Visibility Day comes as disabled Albertans are under increasing and aggressive threat, as our government cuts funding from the most vulnerable.

These issues matter on Bi+ Visibility Day because the bi+ community includes fat folks, women, Black, Indigenous, and brown folks. The bi+ community includes parents, and folks who are living alone. This community includes trans and non-binary folks, disabled folks, poor folks, homeless folks. This community includes folks with difficult relationships to substances, and folks who have experienced trauma, and folks who are experiencing trauma right now. 

Every issue of justice is an issue that matters for this community, and when we ignore any part of this community – when we forget that this community includes all of these intersections, includes every intersection! – we just recreate the harms that are already happening.

So, how do I introduce a zine into this context that is so overwhelming?

A line from Osden Nault’s poem ‘habitat: Unravelling substrate-species relationships‘, “a soft and unshakeable belief that we could nourish one another”, overlaid on a photo of physarum polycephalum slime mold by Helen Ginger. CC BY-SA 3.0.

I think, first, by acknowledging that it is overwhelming.

And then, perhaps, by also acknowledging that despite these daunting realities, there is also a resilience, a persistence, a revolutionary ongoingness within this community.

It is worth celebrating our lives and our experiences.

It is worth being visible, today and every other day.

The pandemic, the colonial machine, the vice-grip of capitalism, the clenched fist of patriarchy – these things are not more meaningful than this community.

We exist within these hostile waters.

We exist, and we have always existed, and we will continue to exist. 

We are jellyfish – you can find us in every ocean, in every part of the ocean.

A line from Marlena Chertock’s poem Water bear body, “I can exist through anything” overlaid on a black and white image of jellyfish. Photo by Greg Ortega on Unsplash.

The pieces of writing in this zine touch on issues of aging, parenting, and navigating relationships (with others, with communities, and with selves). They include poetry, essays, fiction, and art. 

Multiple essays address the tensions between bisexual and lesbian spaces, and the questioning of “queer enoughness”. 

This zine is not representative of the entire bi+ community. There are so many intersections missing in these 32 pages, so if you read this zine and find it interesting or inspiring or encouraging, I hope that you go out and find more. 

We are here in every space. 

We are telling our stories. 

We are visible, not just today but everyday, if you know how to see us.


Download the 32-page PDF here.


Dayenu

By Marlena Chertock

 דַּיֵּנוּ‎
Hebrew, it would have been enough

I say to
myself each
day you are

not enough. 
It is so
exhausting

tearing my
own self down.
Not strong, not

queer enough,
not a real
writer. Still,

deep down, I
know the truth:
I’m enough.

Repeat this
mantra.
Believe it.


“Contributors” on a jellyfish background. Photo by Octavian Rosca on Unsplash.

Jocelyn LaVon is an A++ parent, friend, and community member. (This bio was written by Tiffany, not Jocelyn.)

Candice Robinson-Horejsi (Calgary, Canada). Wife, mother, engineer, NaNoML, writer, runner, knitter, nerd. Candice wears many metaphorical hats. You can find out more here: candicerobinson.ca

Gloria Jackson-Nefertiti is a breast cancer survivor, public speaker, workshop leader, panelist, artist’s model, published poet and soon to be published memoirist. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram as GloriaJacksonNefertiti, and on Twitter as @gloriajn. She lives in Seattle, WA.

Aoife Byrne is an artist living in Dublin, with her Partner and two Pups. She focuses on illustration, photography, animation or a combination in her work. She loves cosplay, choirs and dancing.

Sheri Osden Nault is an artist of Michif and mixed European descent, whose art practice and research are grounded in queer, feminist, and Indigenous world-views. Osden lives in Tkaronto on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations, under the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, which precedes colonial treaties on this land. Through their work they strive to elicit a sense of social and ecological responsibility to one another on a damaged planet.

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific writing. Marlena is a bisexual writer and serves on the planning committee of OutWrite, Washington, D.C.’s annual LGBTQ literary festival. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Breath & Shadow, The Deaf Poets Society, The Little Patuxent Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Paper Darts, Rogue Agent, Stoked Words, Wordgathering, and more. Find her at marlenachertock.com and @mchertock.

Julene Tripp Weaver, a native New Yorker, is a psychotherapist and writer in Seattle. Her book, truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and won the Bisexual Book Award. www.julenetrippweaver.com. Twitter: @trippweavepoet

Jan Steckel’s latest book Like Flesh Covers Bone (Zeitgeist Press, December 2018) won two Rainbow Awards (for LGBT Poetry and Best Bisexual Book). Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Steckel moderates the Facebook group Bi Poets and is an active member of the Bay Area Bi+ and Pan Network. She lives in Oakland, California, USA with her husband Hew Wolff, host of Berkeley BiFriendly.

This zine was initiated and formatted by Tiffany Sostar for Bi+ Visibility Week 2020. Tiffany is a writer, editor, community organizer, tarot reader, course instructor, and narrative therapist. They are bisexual, non-binary, and chronic-pain enhanced. You can find them online at tiffanysostar.com and foxandowltarot.com or email them at sostarselfcare@gmail.com. You can support their work by picking up this zine, enrolling in An Unexpected Light, booking a narrative therapy session or tarot reading, hiring them to facilitate a workshop for your group, or backing their Patreon at patreon.com/sostarselfcare.

Our Own Deep Oceans Writing Prompts

Our Own Deep Oceans Writing Prompts

Perhaps you want to send something in for the Ocean of Possibilities Bi+ Visibility Day Zine, but you’re not sure where to start.

These prompts, which expand on our jellyfish theme, might be helpful.

If you’re having trouble getting started, I would suggest reading through these questions and prompts and picking the one that brings a thought to mind most easily. Then set a timer for 15 minutes and write. Try not to edit yourself as you go, just let the words flow! You can edit afterwards.

If you love what you’ve written, awesome! Keep going on that track.

If you don’t love it, that’s okay! Pick another question or prompt, or take another crack at the one that first drew your attention.

(Keep in mind that you do not need to stick to a jellyfish or ocean theme – this was just a fun theme I went with this year. The zine will include all kinds of writing and themes.)

Send your submissions in by midnight, September 13, 2020.

The prompts:

Jellies have been around since before the dinosaurs, and our communities have also always been around.

  • What community do you identify as belonging to, or being part of?
  • Do you know the history of that community?
  • When did you first learn that there was a community that shared your bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or otherwise non-monosexual orientation?
  • What experiences have you had in these communities?
  • Have you felt welcome in queer communities, either communities of shared orientation or other queer communities? What has contributed or stood in the way of feeling welcome in these communities?
  • Write a story about a bi+ person in history. (This could be in any genre.)

Jellies are found in every ocean, and in every part of the ocean, and our communities are also found everywhere.

  • Our bi+ communities overlap with trans communities, fat communities, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, disabled communities, poor communities, substance using communities, sex working communities, and every other community. What overlaps exist in your bi+ experience?
  • Are there places you didn’t expect to find bi+ community, but then they were there?
  • Write a story about a bi+ person in an unexpected location, such as the moon, the bottom of the ocean, or a space station. (This could be in any genre, but my love of speculative fiction is certainly present in this prompt!)

Jellies can be hard to see because they blend in, and our communities can be hard to see, too.

  • Have you experienced a sense of invisibility, or erasure when it comes to your bi+ identity? What was the effect of this?
  • Have you experienced being seen in your bi+ identity? What did that visibility make possible?
  • What do you wish people knew about bi+ experience, that tends to get lost when we are blended into our contexts (such as the discourses that flatten us down to “spicy straight” or “gay/lesbian lite”)?
  • Where would you like to see more bi+ representation?
  • Write a story about blending in. (This could be in any genre.)
  • Write a story about not blending in. (This could also be in any genre!)

Jellies are resilient and they survive in so many different contexts, and our communities are also resilient, and survive in many different contexts.

  • What skills of survival have you learned as a bi+ person, and in bi+ communities?
  • What are some of the obstacles that you have faced?
  • What are some of the skills of resilience that you have developed as a bi+ person, and in bi+ communities?
  • What is the history of your skills of resilience and survival – where did you learn them, and who supports you in them?
  • Write about your “care toolkit” – the skills and resources you use to care for yourself and others.
  • Write a story about bi+ survival. (This could be in any genre.)

Some jellies are bioluminscent, creating their own light, and so do our communities – bi+ communities have been creating queer-inclusive spaces for generations, including Brenda Howard and the first Pride March!

  • Has there been a time when you’ve “created your own light” for yourself or others – a time when you have held out against the gloom, or when you have offered hope to someone else?
  • Has there been a time when another member of a bi+ community offered light and hope to you?
  • Who in your life, now or in the future or in the past, would you want to create light and hope for?
  • Who in your life knows that you are holding onto hope or possibility?
  • What allows you to be bioluminescent?
  • Write a story about being a light in the gloom. (This could be in any genre.)
  • Write a story about finding a light in the gloom. (This could be in any genre.)

And if the idea of finding light in the gloom appeals to you, you can use code ‘jellyfish’ from now until the end of September 2020 for 23% off An Unexpected Light, in celebration of Bi+ Visibility Day on September 23, 2020.


Bi+ Visibility Week is September 16-23!

The zine is only the first of the Bi+ Visibility Week events!

There is also a virtual video dance party on Friday Sept 18 from 8-10 pm MDT (please RSVP for details – we’re still figuring out exactly how it will work but it’s going to be super fun). RSVP at the FB event – https://www.facebook.com/events/313322403260174 or send me a message.

And a panel on visibility and care on Saturday Sept 19 from 1-2:30 pm MDT. Watch for a blog post coming this weekend with full details.

And lastly, a virtual paint night on Bi+ Visibility Day, Wednesday Sept 23 from 6-8 pm MDT. Anyone can participate, and for folks in Calgary, I’m putting together craft packs with a canvas board, paint brushes, and paint. You can find details and RSVP in the FB event – https://www.facebook.com/events/1175049712880550

An Ocean of Possibilities Call for Contributors

An Ocean of Possibilities Call for Contributors

Bi Visibility Week is coming up from September 16-23 and plans are coming together!

One small project is a little zine about our queer experiences, open to contributions from anyone who identifies as somehow non-monosexual (not gay or straight, attracted to something other than a single gender). This includes bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and a whole range of other queer folks.

Since all of the Possibilities Bi Visibility Week events have a bit of a jellyfish/ocean theme going on, consider the following possible prompts for your writing:

  • Jellies have been around since before the dinosaurs, and our communities have also always been around! Not like The Bis Before Time, but, you know.
  • Jellies are found in every ocean, and in every part of the ocean, and our communities are also found everywhere!
  • Jellies can be hard to see because they blend in, and our communities can be hard to see, too!
  • Jellies are resilient and they survive in so many different contexts, and our communities are also resilient, and survive in many different contexts!
  • Some jellies are bioluminscent, creating their own light, and so do our communities – bi+ communities have been creating queer-inclusive spaces for generations, including Brenda Howard and the first Pride March!

Although I am quite excited about the vast ocean of possibilities presented by this marine theme, that doesn’t mean you need to stick to the jelly theme at all. You can write about anything related to your bi+ experience. About presence and visibility and resilience. About connections and community (blooms of jellies, schools of fish). Write a short story, a poem, an essay. Draw a picture. Make a collage. Whatever you’d like!

Anything that is about non-monosexual experience is welcome, and I am especially interested in writing with some kind of focus on visibility (and all the pieces around it – invisibility, hypervisibility, conditional visibility).

Submissions must be received by September 13, 2020.

All contributors will receive a printed copy of the zine, and the zine will be available for free download on my website, with physical copies available for purchase (to cover the costs of printing and shipping). Submissions can emailed.

If you want support in the writing, you can attend the Warm Water Write-Along on Thursday, Sept 10 from 6-7:30 pm Mountain time. Message me to RSVP!