Julien Baker’s Quantum Queerness

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S1: Hello and welcome to this very special Pride Month edition of our Slate’s LGBTQ podcast. We’re especially excited for this episode, not just because it is gay Christmas and we’ve got some great presents for you, but also because we were kindly featured in a few best Queer iPod list and expect we’ve got a few new listeners, if that’s you. We’re super glad that you’re here. I think we should probably introduce ourselves. I’m Brian Lowder, editor of Outward and one of my partners just ordered five new wigs for the household with names like Cynthia, Tulsa and Multa. So clearly our pride is off to a solid start. Wow.

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S2: How are you going to decide who wears what?

S1: Well, I think I think it’s sort of for the house so everybody can change based on their mood. Yeah, that that that momentous day.

S2: I’m Christina Carter Ritchie, a senior writer at Slate. And now that we’re finally going out dancing again, I have to say I would give my left arm for a cut of Montoro. Call me by your name. That’s longer than two minutes. Not my right arm. That’s my good one, but my left one. I will pay because little more. Why is that Bangar of a song so short? It’s like I think it’s under two minutes. It’s homophobic short. So listeners, if any of you are DJs, please send me your mixes. I need them.

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S3: Christina, that is just a condition of the modern attention span. You know, two minutes and you’re done now.

S2: My booty is just getting started.

S3: I’m Ramona Lum. I’m a writer and one of your outward co-hosts. And I at the moment suffering from a case of absolutely terminal senioritis. I am feeling this crazy, crazy itch about the impending end of the school year, which in my household has taken place mostly at the dining room table. I am not prone to going out to a club, but like Christina said, my booty is itching for more. I am ready to run out of the house and absolutely lose my mind once I am free from the obligations of school.

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S2: I feel like for some parents summer is even harder because there is no school. What happens in summer for you guys?

S3: Well, we just go outside. I think the solution of just being able to run around outside in the absolutely disgusting, oppressive New York humidity. I’ll take it. I’ll take it. Anything’s better than math worksheets at this point in my life.

S1: OK, so here it outward. We believe pride should be both a joyful celebration of LGBTQ life, of course, and also a time for engaging with Queer politics, both historically and today. So with that in mind, we’ll take some time this month to discuss one of the community’s most heated and ongoing debates. Should Cops be a part of pride events? We’ll cover New York City’s new, very controversial ban and talk it out with a guest who’s both a police officer and a proud trans person. Then we’ll shift to celebrating Queer artistic excellence as we’re joined by the amazing Julien Baker our conversation with this talented musician. And if I may, very wise Queer thinker is one of my favorite interviews we’ve ever had on the show. So you really won’t want to miss it after that. We’ll wrap things up with our updates to the gay agenda. But first, it is time for pride and provocations.

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S3: So name notwithstanding, every month we check in about our pride and our provocations. This is a segment that is named in honor of a seminal art exhibition featured on the L word. It’s a chance for us to kind of unload about what’s irritating us or pleasing us. And I’m very eager to hear how you guys are feeling this month. Christina, do you want to get us started?

S2: Yeah, I’m proud this month. So I feel like we’ve talked enough on this show about how embarrassing it is to watch businesses try to deal with Pride Month. I don’t need to tell our listeners again how much it cheapens the celebration and the political valence of pride to watch AT&T try to like, make a graphic that celebrates gender Queer person dancing in a parade. So instead, I’m going to applaud the one brand that I think is doing it right this month, and that’s the brand known as Skittles. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Sofaer Pride. This year, Skittles, a brand of candy, has taken the rainbow colors off of their candies and bags and made everything gray all every flavor of Skittles. Grab the bag. It’s great. I tried to find these. I went to like three different bodegas in my neighborhood trying to find these Skittles. I even asked someone behind the counter and they’re like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you talking are they doing this? I found them online on Wal-Mart’s website, but I was not about to spend six dollars to have a three. Bag of candy mailed to me, so I’m just imagining what it would be like to eat a bag of all gray Skittles, and I feel like it would give me the impression of cruising. But in the future, where everyone is forced to wear like gray positive pressure suits because, you know, there’s like a postapocalyptic climate outside, everyone looks the same. It’s really hard to tell if anyone’s gay because they’re like the classic aesthetic signifiers are gone. So you’re eating the gray Skittles and all of a sudden it’s like there’s a grape one, you know what I mean? And that one’s the gay one. Anyway, I’m probably thinking too hard about this.

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S3: Oh, I just need to push you on. This is the great skiddle the gay skiddle SlateGay. Oh yeah. It’s by far the best that’s so controversial.

S2: It’s perfect. Yeah. Yeah. It’s out and proud. Usually not during pride month but it’s great. But this is the one kind of corporate pride that I can actually get behind. And, and I think all companies and honestly all straight people should be doing with Skittles is doing this month, which is don’t come to the parades and parties, don’t change your avatars, don’t put out a flag, don’t really have fun this month. Like, don’t get late, don’t go dancing. Don’t look cute. That’s our thing. We only stay off the sidewalks. Don’t go to Buffalo Exchange and hog all the good leotards. Wear gray, stop talking, stay inside, you know, limit your socializing to your own spaces, Irish pubs and I don’t know, daddy daughter dances and you know, we’ll see you all in July.

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S3: It would be it would really solve a lot of problems of street people would all wear gray for a month. You know, it would really be clearer that

S2: I know we’re supposed to be pushing back against, like, stifling personal expression and binary ideas of sexuality. But, you know, if there’s nobody like me sort of pushing the boundaries of radical requests for Pride Month, nothing will change. So thank you. Thank you. Just a little. Yeah.

S3: Thank you for showing us the way to school.

S1: Do you want to if you want to sponsor our shows, look at all of

S2: our teams are up

S1: in arms or. Yeah.

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S3: Because know it’s so funny that you would want to talk about this because I also wanted to talk about this this month. I am feeling kind of like Medda provoked. I’m provoked by the endless provocation of being mad at Hollo corporate political message. Oh, well, you know, as you’re saying, every month, there’s a different kind of political charge in the air. So the pride is preceded by Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And so last month we had to see like Hertz rental car or whatever corporate entity talking about their support of that population. And this month, we have to see, you know, whatever, you know, easy storage unit with their rainbow filter on their Instagram. And people get so worked up about this because the same corporate entities that throw a rainbow up on their corporate Graham or the ones who are funneling money to, you know, bigots in Congress, I think at this point we need to simply accept that corporate forces are amoral. Right. That these kinds of expressions are hollow with the possible exception of the great Skittles, because I’m into them like it’s all kind of a ridiculous masquerade that has nothing to do with the actual political roots of these kinds of celebrations. And if we look to corporate actors for affirmation or for leadership, we’re always going to be disappointed. So don’t even let them bait you into feeling annoyed. Don’t let yourself get worked up when you see, like an American Airlines ad with the gay couple holding hands in first class, who cares? All those corporate forces want to sell things to you. They want your money and they want to pretend that you are valued depending on what month it is, because they want that money. We just need to let it go. So that is my provocation for this month. You announcing?

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S1: I, I feel that I think that’s I’m I’m tired of being tired looking that in that particular regard. Yeah. Yeah.

S2: I will say the gay couple thing, it’s very effective to me when companies put like cute Queerness in their ads in every month except month, because that tells me that like there are only doing it because if they didn’t do it during Pride Month, you know, they perceive that there would be some sort of political blowback when actually, you know, if they were doing it all year round, it would be a much more genuine seeming display of exclusivity.

S3: Yeah, it would show they’re real. They’re year round commitment to taking your. Not sure yet. June, June long is going to take you.

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S2: Yeah, I rent cars all year round.

S3: Right. Brian, how are you feeling this month? Well, I have

S1: a sort of similar like Medda provocation, I guess. I like I like that frame. So you may be aware and our listeners may be aware that there is a discourse happening right now with a capital D. And it is about whether King displays of King should be allowed at pride events. And so this means the leather community. I guess it means like jockstraps videos. And I don’t know exactly what all it entails, but is that kind of thing that sort of displays of sexuality. This was kicked off, as far as I can tell by. And I was I had some help with the sleuthing on this from our folks at Slate by a Twitter thread a couple of weeks ago where someone said that having expressions of sexuality like this in the parade was sort of discriminatory against people who are triggered by that or for whom that is unsafe. Right. So I’m not even going to engage with that discussion. You can there’s plenty of articles out there about this already. Everybody seems to have had to take. What I am provoked by is the fact that we keep doing this like at least every other year, if not every year. This is a respectability politics question. Right? And it’s like what kind of Queer people are allowed to be visible, like out in the world? And if our parades are these big moments of visibility, then the sort of the the stakes are a bit higher there. It seems like people feel like they are. At least we’ve had debates that centered on drag queens, for example. We’ve had trans people like back in the 70s for sure. All different kinds of groups have been under suspicion of being bad for the optics of pride. And now we’ve come back around to this to this one about King. The thing that is sad about this is to me is the historical amnesia. It’s like this has happened so many times and we don’t need to do it again. And I’m just bored with it honestly and not even like I like the merits of the debates of this particular debate about Kench on either side or fine as far as that go. But like, do we really have to do it again? So I guess I’m just asking that we all next year try to remember our history a little bit and not get baited into one of these respectability politics debates about Pride“A gun, because it’s just getting exhausting.

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S3: It’s an age old respectability politics, Trump, as you say, and it’s insoluble. And so in some ways, simply declining to take up the debate might be the most liberating thing at this point.

S2: Once upon a time, I half jokingly pitched a podcastThe to SlateGay called Queerness I love the concept was simple. Every episode I would invite on a Queer I love and then I would just gush over them in a truly embarrassing and shameless interview. For some reason, that show did not get greenlit. I’m not sure why you can send your angry emails to SlateGay managing producer, but our next segment I think, captures the spirit of what it might have been. Julien Baker, if you don’t already know, is a brilliant Queer songwriter, singer and instrumentalist who I love and who has been making music that has just destroyed my heart for most of her. Twenty five years, her solo work includes the records sprained ankle and Turn Out the lights. She also plays in the supergroup Boy Genius with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Jaquiss. Julians most recent album, Little Oblivion, is dropped in February, and it covers a lot of rich and painful territory that will be familiar to Julien Baker fans addiction, self-destructive impulses, hurting people you love. The album is definitely her most expansive, I want to say also ambitious work. To date, she played almost all of the instruments on the record. I’m obsessed with it and we’re so lucky to have Julien on the show this month to talk about pride in her career and her explorations of identity. Julien. Welcome to the show.

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S4: Thank you for having me. It’s such a pleasure.

S2: So June is Pride Month and it’s the second one in a row where pride will look a little different or maybe a lot different than usual. So I’m curious, just to start us off, what has been your relationship to pride as in the annual celebration, the set of festivities? And has that changed over time?

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S4: It’s changed a lot. I well, I don’t want to get heady and dark with it immediately, but that’s kind of my M.O.. So here we go. Sure. Like, so when I was a kid and I first came out, I didn’t like pride because something viscerally like within me was, I think, intimidated by such an expression of Queerness. And I think I think it’s because I came out like the middle. You I grew up in was sending me a lot of, like, mixed information about like just how to be a person in the world. And a lot of my friends, I mean, I don’t have to say it, but the church obviously and then also just like growing up in the South and being like a largely Republican family. There are certain kind of folk ways that you learn, especially about being a woman, about like modesty and self-expression and like the general social conditioning to not take up space. And obviously the the kind of making any reference to sexuality or sex taboo, like completely off the table for discussion. So it’s like that is the way that I was raised to have this immense shame around anything attached to the body or sexuality, self-expression. And I couldn’t cope with it. I was like, I am Queer and I want to advocate for my rights as a human being. And I am committed to this struggle. But I don’t think I had the language yet around it because I also like the Queer friends that I had. It was like one of two ways. Like either you were still very closeted, even though everyone knew that you were Queer or you came out and you instantly rejected every institution ever. And I am a non confrontational Libra, so I did not do that. I did not feel empowered to do that. So I didn’t go to Pride for a long time. And then in college I was all up on my high horse about like companies are just like Titos. Vodka’s just using the Queer market to make money now that we’re a profitable demographic. And where I’m at with it now is I’m so bummed that it took me so long to be able to, like, sit in Queer Joy. I’ve been thinking about the idea of Queer joy so much because like any kind of advocacy, like with anything that’s going on, any marginalized community, usually the advocacy is rooted in righteous anger or grieving. And it’s actually so radical to express joy in the face of a world that writ large does not want you to have it. So now I love pride.

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S3: That seems very commonplace. Yeah. And it seems like that’s exactly what. The conditions that you’re describing of your own upbringing seem very commonplace and it seems precisely what Pride“A is calculated to exactly right like that. It’s so it’s so like underlined and so loud that you can’t actually retreat from it. And so and actually hearing you talk about it in a weird way reminds me there can be such a spectacle to pride celebration. And it’s a reminder that, like, the spectacle is actually for Queer people, it’s for them to see and not for straight people to see, which is kind of a remote. Oh, my

S4: God. Yeah, that’s the other thing about it, too, is like I, I live in Nashville and I live like a couple of blocks from Lipstick Lounge. I mean, that is a token lesbian Queer bar that is frequented by like hetero normative straight people who are observing the novelty of a Queer space. Yeah, and I like that you just brought that up about pride, too, because I feel like I don’t know how it is performing, performing not in a bad way, but just performing as enacting Queerness for other Queer people like that is the fundamental purpose of it. And then there is like the secondary purpose of enacting it for a world in which it’s not normalized.

S2: I think about pride now as being like a bouquet of things that can serve different purposes for different show like. And I think about pride. I no longer think about going to the D.C. parade because I don’t do that anymore. But I think when I was first coming out, going to that parade, even seeing straight people, there was an important step to be like, OK, this is a place where it feels normalized enough where like it feels like a little baby step. And now, you know, I don’t need that kind of spectacle anymore. But it’s still an excuse for like everyone in the community to get together. All of my friends like to do our own thing or to go to the parties that suit us. And we don’t have to go to the ones. We’re like Tito’s vodka.

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S3: Sure.

S1: And I can also look different and different, like Pride“A can look different in different places. One of my favorite books of sort of Queer studies, Queer theory is it’s called Out in the Country by Mary Gray, I think is the writer. And one of the main things that’s explored in A is like essentially like the pride as it looks in New York City or in DC or somewhere like that works in certain ways that Queer is in those spaces need. And maybe that same model of Pride“A is not appropriate for smaller towns in the South, say, because what are the people there on the ground trying to sort of do in their community? Do they want to be visible in that particular style or are there other ways of sort of building community and recognition? And it sounds like that’s sort of what we’re talking about here.

S4: But we’re even like, you know, I think about Pride“A evolving beyond because, again, if I’m returning to what unfortunately was intercepted into my mind, I think by the street gays, if that makes it go straight, straight to gays, that sounds like an oxymoron. Funny turn of phrase, but I think being around my family, who sees gay people the way that they talk about the queer community as gay people, so like using this terminology of like gay people are like this and like envisioning having the archetype of pride in my mind, be ass less chaps and feather boas is like it is in a sense, further radicalizing Queerness to dismantle like that being the only expression or manifestation of Queer Pride“A. I think it’s really unfortunate, but that’s something I think about quite a lot too, is like like how do Queer people perform Queerness and for whom. Like am I even always conscious of how I’m performing Queerness or does it like for me it gets even more complicated in my obsessive brain because it’s like I exist in a on a platform where I am observed, you know, to whatever degree I’m not can like. Right. Ellen or like Elton John. So it’s like but it’s like a decent amount of people listen to my music and then I wonder about like what is the what is the implication of how I choose to perform Queerness or not perform it.

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S2: Because your music is so personal and unsparing. I think a lot of people do feel a connection to you as a person like as a Queer person, as a Christian, someone who’s been sober. And I wonder if you felt any parallels between any pressures you feel to sort of enact those experiences or identity is or like being asked to sort of represent those experiences or identities for other people. Oh, man.

S4: Yeah, I mean, I think. I guess. The two fields, realms in which that is really apparent is sobriety and Queerness, but specifically the intersection of Queerness and faith. So I have this crazy, intrusive thought, fear of saying something hurtful or problematic or like not because I fear public ridicule, but because I fear that I will say something that takes us a step back in the discourse, or maybe that like hurts or invalidates someone. And I feel like I have already done that a lot in my life. And where I’m at with it now, like especially in how I spoke about Queerness and faith when I was very young, like God loves me even though I’m gay. Like, that’s a really problematic. But that’s a starting point that had to evolve from God doesn’t love me to God loves me even though I’m gay, to God loves me because I’m gay. And then to like God is radically different than I have imagined it.

S1: Right.

S2: And I think there’s value in having people at all different phases of their own processes and development speaking about where they are in that moment, because there are other people probably listening to them who are in that same space or who might be challenged by that articulation.

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S4: Totally.

S3: Yeah, this is one of the dumbest things about American culture. And I feel like it’s related to electoral politics. Every four years, somebody runs for president and says that they still believe the things they believe to twenty two labors to prove to the electorate that they have been the same person. But really the values should be in having the intelligence to know that as you grow as a person, invariably, inevitably, the things that you believe will evolve. And that should be a goal. That should be, you know, that should be what we want. Not like anyone who’s still walking around with the same conviction they had as the sophomore president of the College Republicans is like not I know. You know, it’s like we should want more out of people totally.

S2: I think about the rhetoric of finding yourself or like coming out where actually for a lot of people, it’s a process of self discovery, not even self discovery, but just like growth that never ends because we’re constantly living and changing. And it’s not like I was something and didn’t know it. And now I figured it out and now I’m saying it.

S4: I’ve been thinking about this is the knowledge we are moving towards and discovering and trying to apply is that like things like sexuality and gender do not exist in a binary. Right. Like that has been kind of at the forefront of the conversation around Queerness. Yet it’s not like an either or. But things still seem to exist on a linear spectrum between two any two points in two diametrically opposed things. And eliminating the binary has started to it seems to me that it has started to mean like you pick a place along the spectrum that you exist and that is where you exist. And I wonder if as we move forward and how we think about sexuality and gender and Queerness, if we will start to believe that you can simultaneously inhabit two points or like start to accept that you’re moving, that you’re kind of like moving along this plane back and forth. Quantum. Yeah, quantum Queerness just

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S3: like and that’s the

S2: name of our next

S4: Queerness. I love that I bring this up specifically because of conversation I’ve been having with a lot of my friends is when you begin dismantling gender, trying to decide whether to share your own changing perception of gender with the world is really loaded because people think of it as an AB, for example, I don’t feel like I identify as a woman. So am I going to transition or am I going to change my pronouns? Am I going to make all these large social changes that are really definitive and feel permanent? And I don’t know if that allows for the kind of fluidity we’re actually after.

S3: Understanding fluidity is actually the key word there. And I think that it’s so challenges most entrenched personal and social conceptions of. Yeah, the self that it’s very hard to get your head around. It’s very, very hard to get your head around. People have trouble getting their head around. Like the idea that, like a white gay guy could play a sport like that is, you know what I mean? So, like, yeah, just that very notion challenge is something that’s so deep. So the idea of telling people that, like one person can exist in two different ways simultaneously or in different spaces than one space. They could be this in another space that could be situational. Yeah, it’s really a mind body. Ling challenge, but that is like next level. It’s like the level of physics, almost

S1: when I was listening to the interview you did with our other podcast working a few months ago, you talked about how in your writing process, you look at mundane life, everyday things, and if you pay close enough attention, you notice the sort of meaning that can be extracted from those from those things that other people might just sort of ignore. And when I heard you talking about that, it struck me as a very to my mind, Queer like relationship to life, to the world just being slightly apart such that you notice things in that way. I wondered if you think about is like a Queer sort of sensibility that you express in your in your process or completely.

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S4: I mean, the Queer experience has taught me to interrogate everything in my life in a different way. Like I honestly think if I would have been born a straight male, just a straight CIS dude, I would not have done the excavation that I did because of like the reason why I don’t want to say this is because, a, I don’t want to be like some knowledge is off limits to a person because they were not they didn’t exist in my particular upbringing or in my psychological world. And I also don’t I really hate when there’s like value assigned to trauma because it’s like it happened for a reason. It made you a better person. Like, no, it was bad. It was actually really bad and it shouldn’t happen. But I do think that what you’re saying is true where like you as a body moving through the world are operating differently and you have to look at and analyze yourself and say, well, there are rules about how I should be as a body, as a person, as I relate to others. And I have to investigate whether or not I want to adhere to those rules about my inherent nature. You know what it almost becomes like being a Queer body makes you relate to people differently. I mean, even objects. I find myself asking if there is another way for a thing to exist a lot, because I’m like, well, why? Why does it why do you do it this way? But also, that might not be my Queerness. That might just be how I was when I was a kid, which was really annoying. And I was like, why, why,

S1: why, why, why?

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S4: Why do you have to do it this way? Why?

S2: I want to ask you about something you said on the podcast, Queerology. I think a couple of years ago you said that faith is something that for you only fully exists in community with other people. I tend to think the same thing about Queerness, and that’s something that the pandemic really highlighted for me. Like I felt that part of myself Queerness in terms of like gender presentation, sexuality, political identity was all a lot harder to tap into in isolation. And yet I know some other people really like learned new things about themselves due to the process or the experience of isolation. And I wonder what that the past year has been like for you in terms of those things

S4: I’ve been doing a lot of I was going to say reflecting everybody has. It’s true, it became a trite thing because everybody was stuck at home reflecting. But it’s true. I’ve been reflecting a lot, reflecting a lot on just like how I’ve embodied and spoken about Queerness in the past. And I find as I get older, I’m like less convicted about things and I’m trying to interact with Queerness in a way that isn’t dogmatic. I think I made everything in my life dogmatic because I was raised in a faith tradition where you had to define the terms of your belief and then you performed that belief. It’s like essentialism versus existentialism. Am I Julien no matter what I do, am I Queer no matter what I how I enact that Queerness because I’m fundamentally Queer, or am I Queer because I do X, Y and Z because I say X, Y and Z and I don’t know. I’ve been trying to move towards the like just inhabiting Queerness and letting it be a part of my life without having to have like a manifesto about it, because I want to have a manifesto about everything and be ready, be ready to dispense my thoughts about myself. But it’s actually OK to still have unknown parts of yourself. That’s like what makes living fun.

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S3: You spoke with such like consideration about like the self and Queerness. But I’m curious about like the artistic. Product, is there a way in which you think of your body of work as Queer or not Queer, or are those terms even salient when you’re talking about art?

S4: Similar to the conversation about pride, I feel like I. Maybe didn’t value or didn’t like immediately click with artists who are. Queer on purpose in their performance, like think of somebody like Dorian Electra, they’re rad, awesome, but that’s not the kind of music I make. And then I have this reconciliation with myself or as like, is that what I should be doing? Like is the fact that I. Don’t speak explicitly about Queerness in my music a lot, is that a direct result of the way that I have felt like I’ve been made to quiet or hide or watered down my Queerness? And it was really difficult for me to be like, am I actually contributing to the like, obfuscation or like hiding of Queerness when I am not explicit? Like with this most recent record, I think it felt good to be really candid in a way that I hadn’t allowed myself to be. But also like I mean, just being completely honest, I don’t think I lived a very embodied life until after turn out the lights. I think I lived in my brain. I think I lived in my thoughts and my ideas, my ruminations and anxieties. And I didn’t at all interact with myself as a Queer body in the world. I thought of myself as a Queer concept. It only took years and years of therapy. But I was just like I really didn’t I don’t know, like I was very disembodied person. And so those thoughts and like making art about being a Queer body in the world like that is new for me. Even though I have been speaking about Queerness conceptually for many years,

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S3: I would argue actually that like the one of the fundamental hallmarks of Queer art is like the audience’s desire to make it Queer like it really has less to do with the artist’s endeavor. But like like, for example, like to me, like the greatest Queer book for boys anyway is a separate piece. Oh my God. All those books about boys at boarding school are actually just book boys love. And it’s like I’m sure that I’m sure the author would be like horrified to hear anyone say that. But it has to do with, like, something that the audience is doing. And I suspect that you have I mean, I’ve never been to one of your shows, but I just imagine younger than me women. And I imagine that, like, it’s a body of work that really means something to a specific audience and that like nothing could be more than that, actually.

S4: Oh, I love that. I actually love that way of looking at it. Like the Queerness of a work is like the viewer, the listener’s willingness to do a Queer reading of it. Yeah, I love the idea. And also it grosses me out to talk about things that people who listen to my music say because it makes me feel like I’m like people really get something out of this, but I don’t like straight up. That’s probably like eighty percent of the things that people say to me at the merch table or like outside the van. They’re like, hey, I’m Queer and I grew up in church. There’s nothing inherently Queer about the words that I’m saying. But just like the power of existing and being visible, that seems like the only really valuable thing that I can do in a sense,

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S2: like the value that I get out of Queer art isn’t so much whether someone uses, you know, the pronoun she in a love song or something like that. But just seeing like Queer people being who they are, like presenting themselves in whatever way they are. And there are so many, Godlove, this moment, like there are so many different genders and representations of Queerness almost like in mainstream culture, that it’s just incredible. I feel like proud. Yeah. You know, it’s Pride“A like I literally I’m like, we’re everywhere. We’re doing this incredible stuff. Like it’s Queer excellence just to listen to. It’s the art that Queer people are making.

S4: But I’ve been thinking so much about, like being deliberate about that stuff, like being deliberate about saying she or being deliberate about making things explicitly Queer. I don’t know. I guess it’s a balance I could sit here and ponder like my duty as an artist forever. So, yeah,

S2: that’s a lot of pressure to consider it a duty, you know what I mean? I think like even just the fact that you talk about it, that you’ve allowed yourself to be like a little bit pigeonholed and come on, this Queer podcastThe, you know, it means a lot.

S4: It’s OK. I mean, that’s the other thing, too, is that I like I used to have such a problem with people pigeonholing me and like, honestly, when I was a kid and I came out, there weren’t a ton of Queer people around me, like there wasn’t a big the Memphis Queer community is interesting. And it was even more interesting when I was a kid. And so I really was just like going to house shows with a bunch of dudes and straight people and trying to make my Queerness like a non-event by assimilating myself into normal, hetero dominated society. And I feel like I’ve carried that behavior a lot. And now that I’m starting to unpack it and unpack the impact, it makes me excited. And this is. Important, you know, this is like something I value about myself that I want to talk about, that I’m excited to explore Julien.

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S2: Thank you so much for coming. This was an absolute joy for us.

S4: Of course, it was a joy for me as well. I really appreciate you having me.

S1: Happy Pride“A.

S3: Yeah.

S4: Thank you so much for the great conversation. And I really valued it. Thank you. Happy pride.

S1: The debate over whether uniformed police officers or their LGBTQ affinity groups should take part in private events like parades is not new. We actually discussed it on the show before with the group’s reclaim pride and no justice, no pride way back in twenty eighteen. But in case you have missed the debate so far, here’s the gist. Due to police violence against Queer people and people of color stretching all the way from Stonewall to the present, many community members find the presence of Cops unacceptable at pride events and have pushed for restrictions for years with success in cities like Toronto and Washington, D.C.. Of course, on the other side there are folks, including many Queer Cops themselves who think they should be included and even celebrated as part of pride for their profession. So this year, New York City’s Pride“A organizers, which is called Heritage of Pride, escalated the issue by banning uniformed NYPD participation in events until at least twenty twenty five. In a statement, they said, quote, The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening and at times dangerous to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and or without reason. NYC Pride“A is unwilling to contribute in any way to creating an atmosphere of fear or harm for members of the community, quote. As you all know here at Slate, I felt very strongly about this editorial board piece that came out swinging about this in a way that that was sort of surprised. I mean, not surprising at the Times’ would be propolis, but that they felt so strongly as to make this like an actual, you know, the voice of the of the paper. How do you feel about the cop participation aside? The fact that the Times’ would act as a pride sort of should not be a place for politics, which was really, really the sort of the core message there was was sort of offensive to me, given that we should always, always remember that Stonewall was a riot against police violence, riots, at the very least, there’s that.

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S3: But at this at this point, every fuckin week, there is a prestige cable adaptation about fucking Stonewall, you know what I mean? Like, if we do not understand this story at this point, culturally, then we are stupid. Yeah. So it is preposterous for The New York Times to lecture as though the police were not the catalyst for what happened at Stonewall. Right. As you point out in your writing on this subject, Brian, like, obviously institutions are capable of change. And certainly we have seen the institution of police and its relationship to legislating on the street level. The behavior of Queer in New York City like that’s changed. That doesn’t negate the fact that there is still more change to be done or that this is a very painful history and also a very recent history. Yes, like it sort of the Times op ed was really I don’t know, it was like it struck me as like an especially bad faith argument. If they wanted to say, oh, it is important for all people, young and old, to see, like gays of all political persuasions and in every profession standing up and marching together. That’s one thing. And I don’t disagree that that could have some resonance with with, you know, with everybody. But the insistence on having to wear the uniform and define yourself as a police officer hand-in-hand with your identity is Queer is just very silly to me. It’s very silly to me. It’s as if I insisted on carrying my laptop and being paid due deference as both a writer and a gay person. I’m sorry. I find it I find it a little silly.

S2: I also felt a little bit like the fact that this was not Frank Bruni or somebody, but the editorial board. Like how many queers are on your editorial board and the rest of you get our names out of your mouth. You don’t have the right to opine on the pride parade. You know, you as I said in my skills segment, you know, like keep your judgments to your Irish sports pubs and we’ll take care of pride. And it it also made me think of the all of these sort of disingenuous debates about free speech and who has the right to speak and the right to publish a book. You know, none of these things. Publishing a book isn’t a right. Marching in the Pride parade isn’t a right. It’s a privilege that a lot of people don’t have plenty of Queer people don’t march in the pride parade in or out of uniform. The idea that one particular group should have a special privilege to march in their uniform, which includes weaponry that has been wielded against many of the people who will be attending that parade. And it’s just if you think about it for two seconds, it’s completely nonsensical. You know, Facebook. Employees don’t have a specific right to wear their Facebook t shirts in the Pride parade, you know, it’s it you know, there’s limited space in any sort of celebration. And the idea that some of that space should be reserved for these people who have for this institution, I should say, that has a particularly fraught and harmful history with the people who the Queer community needs to be supporting most. You know, I I think there’s a vibe or like the trajectory of Pride“A has been such that the more legal rights and protections we get, the more people get glommed into the parade and the more institutions get glommed in where I think it should actually be the opposite. Who has gained the most from the strides made toward LGBT rights and protections? Well-off white people, maybe white men? And who feels the least threatened by Cops that pride? Probably well-off white people and white men. On the flip side, whose lives have been least impacted by the achievements of the LGBT rights movement, the same groups that are disproportionately likely to be harassed by the police, black, trans women, sex workers, homeless, Queer youth. You know, those people’s unmet needs are what the movement should be focusing on. And for that reason, like those needs should be the ones that are honored at something like pride.

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S1: Yeah. And I mean, I think that’s very much a heritage of pride in their statement about this, that that was that was the sort of. No, they sounded right. Yeah. That this is this is who needs our attention and protection and sort of most care, I think at the moment. Not not police and anyone, you know, as I say in my piece, like whatever it says on your your lanyard or badges or name tag, like, is sort of irrelevant Pride“A like we’re all just Queer like that’s that’s sort of I think at the root of it, what it’s about. Well, so it’s obviously a really complex question and we feel a kind of way about it. But we wanted to hear from someone who actually is living and working as a police officer in the middle of a Jillian. Hanlon is a police officer in upstate New York, as well as a trans woman and self-described liberal. We’re really, really glad to have her on the show this month. Thank you so much for being here, Jillian.

S3: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity to to join you. Before we go further, I just wish to say that all opinions are my own and do not reflect my agency or the Republicans who signed my paycheck.

S1: That is very fair. So we wanted to just start very generally by asking for your reaction to the Heritage of Pride NYC decision this year. What did you think about it?

S3: I don’t blame them. Hmm. I really don’t blame them. You know, even before the turmoil of last summer, there’s been an awful lot of pushback against Cops joining pride after the The Pulse nightclub shooting that changed that year. But but then once once the feeling of safety had returned, the fear of the police also returned with it. What we saw happen last year with excessive use of force, we’re almost being spoon fed police violence on a day to day basis. If the police are going to be viewed as guardians and protectors, then we need to behave as guardians and protectors. The NYPD Officers Action League, or GOAL, which was very angry at being disallowed to to participate. I don’t know any of them. I don’t have any contact with them. But I wonder what it is that they have been doing to help the Queer community. Have they been advocating for the escalation? Have they been advocating for proper gendering of trans women? Have they been trying to engage the community in other ways?

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S2: I think I disagree with you that, you know, if goal, for instance, improved its treatment of trans people or did more outreach to the LGBTQ community, that that would make Queer people more friendly toward them or want them in the parade. Because I think that there is a sense that this isn’t just about police relations with LGBTQ people, it’s about the institution of policing in general and the especially the, you know, disproportionate harms visited upon black and brown people, Queer or not. And so this is a. General political stance that has very little to do with what exact actions the NYPD is or isn’t taking, and as you said, I mean, there are plenty of specific examples that they’re giving us to justify the exclusion of uniformed police officers and parades. But, for instance, the New York Times editorial advocating for police inclusion in the parade, the photo that they use to illustrate it was of a police duty belt with a Rainbow Heart sticker on the magazine pouch where Cops keep their bullets. I think they didn’t mean to do this, but for me, that was like the perfect encapsulation of why a lot of people don’t think cops should be uniformed in parades. They’re carrying weapons, which, you know, there’s no way to pinkwashing that no matter which way you pinkwashing it. And those uniforms cause justified fear in people. And I don’t think that will ever change.

S3: You’re right. You’re right. And in fact, when a police officer is in uniform, it is considered use of force. There is a use of force ladder. Right. That that escalates from mere presence. Right. All the way up to deadly physical force. So we’re not that far apart. And I don’t want to get the impression that goal should be transactional about there is a lot of intersection, especially when when you’re talking about brown and black Queer people and and women. There’s a lot of intersection with violence there. And when you are dressed and you are bedecked with with weapons and implements of violence, it is very intimidating. I always wanted people to say, rather than, oh, my God, the Cops are here, I’d rather hear than say thank God the Cops or Queer. Right, right. Because you can have responsible use of the authority. You can have a legitimate threat of violence. I mean, any big beefy dude with with hats and spikes and spider webs, his mere presence is a threat of violence, whether he intends it or not. We exist with violence in our society at all levels. And what I’m saying is, rather than it being transactional, it might be better for gold to be looking at ways to improve police Queer relationships, understanding that there is intersectionality, and coming from a place of understanding.

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S1: One of the interesting themes that’s come out of this whole discourse is the fact that it seems like some police, maybe not all, but some of them think of their identity as police officers as being sort of seemingly equivalent to being a lesbian or being a trans person or whatever it may be that that shows up in the The New York Times editorial piece that we mentioned. And I’ve seen it elsewhere as well. Like I, I, I’m paraphrasing here, but I as as a Queer police officer, deserve to have both of my identities honored in this context of a parade or a pride event. That strikes me and I think a lot of people as a somewhat strange comparison, because like Gaynes, I think is like much deeper than journalist. Right. For me personally, as as like a as like an identity. But I don’t mean to make fun. I think clearly this is a deep feeling for these folks. So I’d love to hear you talk about like what what police identity means or feels like and why that seems to be such a sticking point for these Queer Cops, because they really do seem to sort of think of them in the same headspace.

S3: Somehow people don’t identify as police officers, but there is a very close, tight knit culture that functions as a second family. When you’re Queer and you’re kicked out and you lose your family, you find you find yourself your own right and you’re accepted into a group that doesn’t normally accept you when you’re a cop, you oftentimes don’t want to say that at at cocktail parties, you know you know, you’ll either get questions about can you fix my ticket or you son of a bitch, you’re your pig. You know, those those sorts of things. One thing to understand about police culture is that it’s very, very insular. It’s a silo. And there is comfort and and and strength drawn from that association. Just as one might draw comfort from one’s faith, you know that faith community police officers draw comfort from each other because most people don’t understand what we do. I think that that siloing is problematic because we end up with this this kind of punisher attitude and we’re vigilantes. We’re going to we do the things that other people can’t do.

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S1: All right. I think that is a great place to leave it. Jillian Thanks again so much for your time and for just being willing to help us sort through this. It’s a really tough discussion in the community. And so we’re really grateful for your for your expertise and your time.

S3: It was my pleasure. And I hope you’ll have a wonderful rest of your Pride“A.

S1: Likewise. Thank you.

S3: That’s about it for us this month. But before we go, we’ve got a special Pride Month update to the gay agenda. Who wants to get us started?

S2: Christina Yeah, I’ll start. I want to recommend Drew Gregory’s interview with Daniela Sea, which is at AutostraddleBryan. For those of you who don’t know, Daniela played Max, who was the one trans man on the L word character who has really come to represent the wrong way to do a trans storyline, even though he was a pretty early and important trans touchstone for a lot of queer people. So the impetus for this interview was a lot of the discussion around the L word reboot called Generation Q, which is coming back for its second season in August. Oh, but in advance of the reboots premiere in twenty nineteen, there were a bunch of pieces revisiting the character of Max and a lot of them. The gist of a lot of them was basically, you know, this trans masculine character was played by a woman and that was wrong. Now Daniela, who’s sort of an off the grid artist, you know, not repped by a publicist, was reading these pieces and feeling like, hey, I’m actually trans and non binary and you’re getting this story wrong. Apparently, a lot of this misconception stemmed from Daniela Sea Wikipedia entry, which included a bad interpretation of an interview they gave in the 2000s, when at the time, you know, there wasn’t a lot of accepted language around trans and non binary identity, which is Daniela identifies as non binary and gender expansive. So the interview really brings a lot of nuance to our memories of Max as a character and what people thought of him at the time. And it really Drew, who was interviewing Daniela really allows them to evaluate what their performance meant, how they pushed back on some really trans phobic journalists and producers and a lot of people involved in the show at the time. But it also complicates the idea that things were bad back then and better now, because there were always people, always trans people taking what parts they could trying to make the best of of what they were given and trying the best to get it right. Daniela picked Max’s clothes, decorated his room, really tried to bring like a less mainstream Queer aesthetic to the character. There was also a lot of pressure on them because Max, for some people, is also like the only representation of a butch dyke on the show. And so when Daniela would talk about him, they would try to leave room for like many interpretations of Max’s gender. But they said at the time they’re Queer community was very supportive and just felt like glad to see somebody who represented them in some small and very imperfect way, which is not always how the character is discussed today. So, again, I mean, for anybody who has sort of followed this debate or anybody who has thought a lot about the L word, as I have, this is a great interview. Again, it’s by Drew Gregory at AutostraddleBryan.

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S3: Brian, what do you have?

S1: So I am happy to be talking about John Paul Bremer’s new memoir and essays that’s out this month called Hola Papi, our readers and listeners will remember that JP has been on the show. He was actually joined us last Valentine’s Day to give advice to to our lovesick listeners out there. But he’s also been a contributor to to our as as a writer. And plenty of people will probably know his name from this advice column, Hola Papi, which has been around now for, I believe, about four years. It started in two, which was a the magazine that Grinder sort of weirdly published for a while. And it’s moved around a bit since then. It’s currently on some stock, but he’s taken that that advice column style and turned it now into this memoir. And I should say the subtitle is How to Come Out in a Wal-Mart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons. So that gives you a little a little of the flavor. But what he does is really it is a memoir. And so each essay picks up from a sort of very generic advice question like how do you keep chasing your dreams when you’re most definitely a failure? And then he has these beautiful and really insightful personal reflections on on sort of that theme. But they’re also super funny if you follow him on Twitter. He’s one of the the kings of Twitter. He’s fabulous there. But so all of that is combined in this memoir. And I’m just so enjoying it. So I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s called Hola Papi, and you should definitely go check it out for your pride month reading Rumaan.

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S2: What do you have for us?

S3: You know, my gay agenda this month is also very, very meta, as my pride publication was, because I was thinking a lot. We have been so excited about this month’s episode, we’re always excited. But, you know, June is Pride Month. It’s a specific kind of celebration. And I was feeling so guilty because the truth is, I don’t like big crowds. I don’t go to the Pride parade. I don’t take my kids to the Brooklyn Family Pride Parade. And I’ve always thought about how that makes me a bad gay. Right, like, I don’t show up. I don’t, like, deal with the loud music or the discomfort of the hot sun and all of that stuff. And what I realize now is that, like, simply existing in whatever capacity you do is kind of enough. It’s so Queer to walk around with your with your Queer self that, like, that’s enough. You don’t necessarily have to put on a special outfit and dance in the streets to underscore it. And it’s a quiet act of rebellion that I think really matters. I was thinking about Christina a few months ago on an episode of the show you talked about. This is so specific. You talked about the particular charge you feel when you catch like a butch presenting or sort of, you know, gender nonconforming person in like a television commercial in a context. But that’s not the point of them. Right. And their simple presence there is a reminder of something bigger. And, you know, maybe I’m just sort of lazily letting myself off the hook. Like I always come to the show and recommend, like a gay book to read, usually a book or a gay movie to watch. But I think this month I’m just going to say, like, just be, you know, like you don’t have to go to the Pride parade if you are not that kind of person you don’t have. There’s no one way to do it. There’s no one way to live it. And in some ways, that’s sort of the most Queer of all, I think.

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S2: Yeah, that’s really sweet. Always around this time when people are passing around photos of Harvey Milk and stuff, I think about his call to all of us to come out and show people that queer people are everywhere. And I was at the dentist the other day and. You know, I’m sure this will feel familiar to a lot of to you guys and to our listeners, like there’s always a moment in everyday interactions where it’s like, am I going to come out or not? Like when it’s like, oh, so, you know, what are your plans for this summer or something like that or like, oh, where’d you get that shirt? And it’s like, do I see my wife or do I just say a friend? You know, it’s like coming out is so awkward. And at my dentist in particular, my hygienist was playing like worship music. Everything I know about this person is telling me that it’s not worth it to come out to them because I don’t know how they’re going to react. And, you know, they start to clean my teeth. And it’s wild to me that I can still feel that feeling of apprehension when I have to say, you know, my wife and I just came out to someone and now their whole vision of me has probably changed a little bit. But that’s a good reminder, Rumaan, that those moments are political and a little bit what Pride Month is for two.

S3: That’s about it for this Pride Month episode of Outward. As always, you can send feedback and topic ideas to our podcast at SlateGay. Com or via Facebook or Twitter at SlateGay.

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S1: Outward, if you want to support what we do on outward, please consider joining Slate. Plus, you’ll get exclusive members only content zero ads on any Slate podcast, full access to Slate dotcom bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Danny Liveries. New podcast, Big Mood, A Little Mood and you’ll be supporting the work we do here on Outward. It’s only one dollar for the first month to sign up, go to sleep dotcom outward.

S3: Plus, this month’s episode was produced by Margaret Kelley and by June. Thomas Jun is of course, the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts and the Grand Marshal of the Gay Pride Parade of Our Hearts. If you like outward and you better please subscribe in your podcast up, please tell your friends about it. Please wait and review the show so that others can find it. We’ll be back on your feet on July 21st.