Tuesday night was the launch party for the fifth issue of No Tokens. We were back at the Center for Fiction, who gave us a green room and made us feel like rockstars. The readings were all amazing, and I was once again knocked out by the real diversity of our contributors. Not in the superficial way that people throw the word diversity around now, that encourages the tokenism we’re fighting – in the true way, where each person had an utterly unique voice and point of view. Equally heard, and celebrated. It was astonishing to hear them all cuddled up together, literarily speaking, and I am grateful for the night.
I love this journal.
Leah = the weary one. She was the sister of Rachel, the ugly one whom Jacob was tricked into marrying. I always wanted her & Esau to blow that popsicle stand and run away together. I do in fact have a friend named Rachel, she was one of the prettiest girls in school, she did get more guys than me, and she was my first kiss.
I was not named after that Leah, however. I was named for the Roy Orbison song.
My middle name, Shannon, is the river that winds its way through the gorgeous emerald hills of Ireland. I was also not named for that. Nor was I named for Castle Shannon, the lower-middle-class Pittsburgh neighborhood where my mother grew up. Nope, I was named for the Shannon trolley, which my mother took to her job at U.S. Steel.
And Schnelbach is German, obviously, and means swift brook.
The first time I remember thinking about this:
it was in a middle school science class. The teacher explained that it was a symbol for hermaphroditism – a condition in which people believed they were both male and female. I later learned that this wasn’t remotely accurate, but at the time, I didn’t know that, and anyway I was too busy processing my thrill of recognition to care. The (again, science) teacher went on to say that these people were sexually attracted to both men and women (cue more thrilling) – oh, and that people who used this symbol usually ended up dead of AIDS.
Did I mention that this was not a sex-ed class? That he just brought this up out of nowhere, with the symbol loaded up on the overhead projector?
I remember being angry at the teacher, and deciding that he was wrong, but it’s entirely possible that my brain is retroactively making me stronger than I was. I had always liked him; I was crushed by this weird mini-lecture; memory is tricksy. What I remember is being so exhilarated – feeling like someone else was showing me myself – only to punch the mirror next to my face as I started to smile.
When I saw Prince using his own version of the symbol as a name I remember feeling that same thrill. In my mind it’s woven together with how I felt reading David Bowie interviews, watching The Man Who Fell to Earth, realizing that I had more options than the binary that had always felt like a trap. They gave me that sense of exhilaration back. They demanded that I look in the mirror again. The told me to love what I saw, and fucking dance with my own reflection.