This June, we’re so proud to celebrate with our LGBTQ+ community by sharing stories, events, writing prompts and more that center queer joy!
- At Calling Identity Home, queer Black American slam poet and performance artist Jasmine Mans read three poems from her highly-anticipated poetry collection, Black Girl, Call Home, and offered prompts grounded in love, justice, mourning, wonder and glory.
- At (Re)writing Our Past, queer, mixed American-Cuban author Christina Olivares read from her forthcoming poetry collection Ungovernable (2021), and led participants through three writing exercises to help explore how we might articulate the smallest traces of memory in new poems, and how we might think about writing sequences of small poems to articulate larger memories.
RESOURCES FOR WRITING FOR LIBERATION AND LAUGHTER CURATED BY Sheena Daree Miller
- Sarah LaBrie on Why Writing and Reading About Race is a Privilege, Not a Burden
- Roxane Gay on Writing for Social Change
- Gold Comedy: Comedy Tutorials and Resources for Young Women and Non-binary Folks
- Leigh Anne Jasheway on How to Write Better Using Humor
- Julian Hanna on Writing Manifestos
- Comedian Gina Yashere shares “The Rules of Meeting My Mom”
Watch & Listen
And There I Was, an Excerpt
By Hoke Rosenberg, Class of 2021
When I was younger, I thought everyone had an equal share of misfortune, but I know now that is untrue. Suffering isn’t something to be quantified or depleted. And who’s to say the trans experience must be defined by suffering? It doesn’t have to be. Questioning can be exciting, defying norms empowering. It was only when I pressured myself to figure everything out fast that discovering myself became anxiety-inducing.
I may never be truly sure about who I am. My perception of myself will probably change ten times over as I learn and grow. I will never find what is perfect and exact. But the search is what makes being nonbinary so divine.
The rest of this story—and many more—are coming soon to our site!
Move Type of Way
By Tatyanna Wills, Class of 2021
‘Everyone’s a little bit GAY!!!’
By Amina Castronovo and Angelica Puzio, Class of 2021
Are you a queer youth trying to navigate the waters of coming out? Do you enjoy hearing other people’s coming out stories? Or do you just want to laugh at the innocence (and sometimes ignorance) of teenagers? Look no further, this podcast is meant for you! Inspired by their own queer experiences, Amina (16) and Angelica (25) explore what it means to be queer today and in olden times when Angelica was a teenager.
By Sophia DeMartino, Class of 2018 Mentee
My name is Sophia DeMartino. I’m a senior in high school and have been accepted into University at Albany with the help of my mentor, Elle. She helped with writing my college admissions essay, a short story of how I came to redefine myself as a human being, titled “Fag.”
A ROOM OF MY OWN
By Meril Mousoom, Class of 2021 Mentee
Join me on this four-year journey to become the Meril I am now.
I’m balancing three plates at once, wearing my Salwar Kameez, struggling to serve food to the men at the table. The upcoming protest needs all hands on deck—the hands of men, as per Bengali custom. Intuitively understanding I don’t belong, I exit the men’s room.
My Salwar Kameez grants me entry into the kitchen, the women’s room. Amid the family party preparations, I’m surrounded by a sea of aunts and grandmothers, whose dresses, like mine, have thousands of embroidered sequins in true Bengali fashion. Yet, I feel like an imposter. The women around me have walked the well-worn path of child marriage, dropping out of high school to become housewives.
I’m dressed like them, but I dream of transcending the confines of the two rooms. I want to be with the men. Not as a server, but as an organizer. To be seen as a capable mind, not a beautiful dress. My mouth opens, yearning to bring politics into the women’s room.
“If I was your father, I would have married you off already!” an auntie interrupts. “You look beautiful in your Salwar Kameez,” she adds, scanning my prepubescent body. Here, I’m just another woman, and I can’t hide my shame. My mouth closes and my cheeks redden. I remain silent, despite the voice inside screaming, “This is not who I am.” I struggle to find someone—anyone—like me. But if I’m not a woman, what am I?
A year later, I’m closer to figuring that out. I’m balancing three pamphlets at my gender justice advocacy program. While I took the job to support my family, I’m devouring articles about gender identity.
As the meeting starts, I look around the room. At 13, I’m the youngest of the dozen high school- and college-aged women of color. Among the drab beige walls of the conference room, their colorful conversation and personalities perk me up. But in a room of inspiring activists, I feel like an imposter once more.
A few weeks and many pamphlets later, with the group’s support, I’m emboldened. I start speaking.
Everything comes spilling out: worries about graduating high school, escaping child marriage, forever being relegated to the women’s room. The applause and affirmation that follow my story make it clear that activism is the space for me. The canyon between the rest of the room and me shrinks as I discover that I belong here. I can make change like these women of color.
The next four years certainly proved it. My passion for equity has brought me in front of the NYC Chancellor of Education, lobbying him to address school sexual assault; into the pages of the New York Times, covering the plan I created with peers for an inclusive pandemic school reopening; and onto the Zoom screens of classmates whom I’m mentoring on how to testify for the citywide Panel for Educational Policy. I have even founded an organization, PoliFem, to educate young people on local politics.
This passion brought me to the thing I’m the most proud of. After many meetings with a state senator, a petition, and a town hall I organized, I convinced him to support a bill—helping ensure its success—that funds New York State schools by an additional $4.53 billion dollars annually.
I also finally found the word that describes who I really am: nonbinary.
Fast forward to fall of 2019; I’m at a police-free school protest I planned. I wear something I used to despise: my Salwar Kameez. I face the crowd of thousands, fully inhabiting my first-generation-nonbinary-Bengali-American skin. The host misgenders me, assuming that I am a “girl.” I correct them, “Dresses weren’t made just for girls, I wear this because I’m Bengali.”
I realize that the personal is profoundly political. I have not settled for bringing politics into the women’s room. I have made my own room, for nonbinary people of color and others with intersectional identities.
This piece is excerpted from Girls Write Now Unmuted: The 2021 Anthology.
A BOLD MOMENT IN MY LIFE
By Stephanie Quintero, Class of 2019 Mentee
During my childhood, I was very uncomfortable with my own sexuality until I actually spoke up about it, and at age seventeen, I decided to write this piece.
Tears on my mother’s freckled cheeks trickled down quickly, one after the other. Her face flushed pink as I tapped my finger against the window switch on the passenger side of our car. Seeing Mami in a state of confusion felt like staring into a mirror. My fingertips tingled and as I looked down at my hands, my vision blurred. I closed my eyes and continued to replay my confession to her.
After a string of painfully quiet days, I’d received a long-distance phone call from my family’s priest back in Colombia: “You must know that the decisions you make now are essential to your future. They have consequences and you wouldn’t want them to hurt you, would you?” I remember the way the priest’s soft voice had echoed through the receiver. As we spoke, my mother stood in front of me with her hands folded together tightly, as if she was praying that I had not just told her that I was bisexual.
“Yeah,” I reluctantly mumbled, eager to get off the phone. After that conversation with the priest, loud dinner table talks turned into silent ones. At thirteen, I felt entirely alone.
Growing up in the Catholic faith, Religion class taught me that men and women are created to only be attracted to each other. According to the Catholic interpretation of the Bible, the pure thought of falling in love with someone of the same gender is sinful. Members of the church community bad-mouthed the LBGTQ+ community. Openly gay women and men would not dare to walk into Our Lady of Fatima Church. I doubted my own presence as I sang “Hallelujah” on Sundays, relentlessly questioning if my feelings were just a phase. I questioned the unconditional love that God supposedly promised while feeling great judgement by my mother. Her plan did not consist of processing my sexual orientation.
Mami grew up in the small town of Tulua, Colombia where everyone knows everyone, and being different makes you the subject of the juicy gossip swapped between women who stay home to cook and clean for their families. Growing up in a traditional Colombian Catholic household, Mami was never exposed to an openly gay community. On her eighth day after arriving to the United States as a twenty-year-old, she stood in shock when she saw two men kiss in public. My upbringing was different; being raised in New York City where queer couples openly expressed their affection for each other in the streets encouraged me to love without shame. I remember feeling similar butterflies from excitement as she did when she had her first kiss with a boy. Mine was with a girl.
After four years of living in silence about my sexuality, I finally spoke up.
This piece is excerpted from Ctrl+B: The 2019 Girls Write Now Anthology.
LGBTQ+ Book Recommendations
- Justine by Forsyth Harmon
- You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
- The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, ed. by Roxane Gay
- All Adults Here by Emma Straub
- Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock
- Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
- With Teeth by Kristen Arnett
- A Guide To Gender Identity Terms, NPR
- The Trevor Project: Text and phone based crisis counseling and support
- Hetrik-Martin Institute: HMI is a leading professional provider of social support and programming for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ+) youth. HMI offers counseling, homeless services, referrals, a food pantry and more.
- National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color: “The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN) is a healing justice organization that works to transform mental health for queer and trans people of color. Launched in May 2016, our network has quickly grown into a community of care, resource sharing, connection and learning. We provide a space for queer and trans people of color committed to improving mental health for our communities.” –NQTTCN Mission
RESOURCES RELATED TO BLACK AND LGBTQ+ CULTURE AND LIBERATION CURATED BY Sheena Daree Miller:
- Queer Black Poets Since the Harlem Renaissance: A Reading List
- Wanda Sykes on LGBTQ+ History
- Janelle Monáe on Growing Up Queer and Black
- Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on “How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective”
- New York Historical Society: The Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Share your favorites with firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d love to add them here!
Interested in joining our community of writers and changemakers? Visit girlswritenow.org/enroll to apply as a mentee or mentor!