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, you just put out your first book, and you have a publisher. How does that happen? Love: [Laughter] Friendship, magic and a lot of hope. My friend Biyuti, who runs Biyuti Publishing, we've been talking through tumblr and we're both trans women of color. We were just having a lot of conversations about writing and gender. I heard that they created this publishing house and I was really excited for them at the time, and I was working on my memoir but I never really thought of publishing through them. I just thought that I would write my book and find a way to self-publish it. Then I started asking them questions, like, “What do you do when you publish a book?” and “Where do I have to go?” and they kind of handled all of it. I honestly think that if it wasn't for them then this book wouldn't have been made, because I get [laughter] very overwhelmed, very easily by bureaucratic situations and processes and I hate automated phone thingies [laughter]. Which probably happens a lot when you're trying to get all the legal stuff done. So yeah, they were my friend so that helped a lot. It helped to know someone who owns and runs a publishing house. Nia: Is it a pretty big publishing house? Love: It's very new, it barely started this year. My friend published their own book on there, and then my book was going to be the second one. Nia: When did you have time to write a memoir while in college? And what made you want to do it? Love: I've been writing this memoir for years, quite literally. For this memoir I pulled journal entries from as early as 2008, because anything from before that my mom had found and threw away. So I had to restart, and I cherished those little treasures, and I saved them somehow throughout all my moving and my journeys. I withdrew from UC Santa Cruz in April of 2012. For a month I was kind of just floating around San Jose with a friend, before I moved back to Mountain Hill, a really small town in central California. I was living there with my grandparents for a year, and I just recently moved this last week. During that time I didn't have to worry about rent or food or anything so I just had a lot of time to decompress from my year and work through my trauma and work on this book. I was very fortunate. I couldn't have done that in college, I couldn't have done it while working or anything else. Because writing this book took hours, and the emotional vulnerability just takes a toll out of you. So yeah, it was very difficult. Nia: So have you been promoting the book? It sounds like you just did an interview on radio. Love: I'm doing the push now. To be quite honest it's kind of really scary to have my story out there. It's very, very vulnerable. It's the most raw, vulnerable thing I could ever imagine writing. And initially I had planned to just write this book for my family and my close circle of friends and community, just so that they understood where I was coming from. Because the work I want to do is communal care, which is around talking to other survivors and building this network of survivor support. We understand each other and we don't shame each other for our experiences, and learning how to heal through loving each other. This book was very much to give to my family to tell them what has happened because they don't know the details of it. But now I don't mind sharing it, so I'm kind of pushing it more out of my spheres. Nia: So your family is finding out about this at the same time as the rest of the world? Love: Yeah. Nia: How is that? Love: It's nerve-wracking. Nia: Have they read the book? Love: Not yet. I'm waiting- I sent myself a few copies so I could edit it. What I mean by that is I'm going to stick sticky notes on the pages and be like “this talks about sex”Nia: Like trigger warnings for your family? Love: [Laughter] Yeah, pretty much. I told my grandpa this past weekend that I had published it. I told him that I was doing the whole process of getting the paperback first and editing it, because there are certain parts where it's very much personal and I think it's a little TMI for family to know. So that's why I'm kind of giving them a heads up, like, “You
might just want to skip this page or two.” It’s nerve-wracking, it's really, really terrifying. Nia: Yeah. So I feel like on one hand I hear you saying it's nerve-wracking, and on the other hand I hear you saying, “Well, I was just going to give it to my family but then I decided why not give it to the whole world?” So how do you get to that place? I mean it seems like an incredibly courageous thing to do to publish a book about your personal experience of trauma. Where does that courage come from? Or is it something other than courage that sort of compels you to tell this story? Love: In the last year there have been a lot of trans women of color who have been murdered and brutalized. And I know nothing about them besides what's reported on them. I wanted to write this book to kind of give everyone a background to who I am. To let them know that being a trans woman of color is a dangerous thing to be in the United States. I thought, “If I was ever murdered or if anything ever happened to me I would want someone to know the story.” I wanted to preserve that, so that was very much a huge motivation behind it. So yeah, it was kind of just [that] I’m scared, you know? It's very scary and I just want to be remembered, I guess. I want this to not be a secret. And the book talks a lot about how my trauma has been forcibly silenced. I wasn't allowed to talk about it and I had to just keep it in for so many years. This is my way of breaking that silence. It's my way of not being ashamed of what happened to me. I've been theorizing a lot and thinking about how my abusers got away with abusing me. And then I have to carry all of the weight of keeping it a secret and keeping their personas and egos safe and keeping them safe, while I'm dealing with all of these triggers and all of this mental illness. It just seems very unfair. This is kind of my way of saying a giant “fuck you!” I'm going to share what you did to me because that was not okay and I don't care if my family doesn’t believe me. Some back story: When I was fifteen I finally told my mother that I had been raped as a kid for six years, and my family didn't believe me. Part of my family didn't believe me so they completely cut me out and wrote me off as a liar. I cannot lie about that. I had no motivation, no reason to. It was interesting because I have four abusers from my childhood and I only talked about one of them, and seeing everyone's big reaction to that one abuser made me feel like I couldn't talk about the other three, and that's why I didn't. This is me confronting all of it in its entirety, and just being like “I'm not going to be silent about this any more.” Nia: You talked a little bit about the idea of communal care, which I thought was really interesting. That's not a term I've heard before. I guess what comes to mind for me in talking about survivors supporting survivors, is how do you not get triggered? How does it not set off a chain reaction? Not that I think survivors are not capable of fully supporting each other, but I’m thinking about my personal experience living with depression and living with a partner who was depressed. I feel like I would try to pull him out of his depression and he would pull me into his. Or he would try to pull me out of mine and end up falling in instead, it just was a mess [laughter]. Love: A tug of war. Nia: Yeah, so how do you support each other without sort of falling into a cycle of... triggeredness? [Laughter] For lack of a better term. What does that look like? Love: There was this screening of Secret Survivors. It's a documentary and it was showing in Oakland in January or February 2013. And I went with two of my friends and one of them was also a child survivor. On the way there we were kind of talking about, “If we're triggered at all we're here for each other, we can hold each others' hands.” That's what I call communal care. It’s making sure that you have a community to support you while you're dealing with this depression or these triggers and feelings. During the movie, which is all about adult survivors of sexual assault and was the first documentary I'd ever seen focused specifically on that assault, I broke. I just started pouring tears and I kind of clammed up. I just sort of shut down and was very closed into my body. My body language was showing how I was literally trying to hold myself together. And my friend's hand was just kind of lying on the couch arm next to me. There was this moment where I grabbed their hand and just had that feeling of someone else's warmth and touch. That feeling of knowing that someone was supporting me through this moment was very, very transformative. I feel like this documentary and that screening opened up that ability to connect to someone on that level and just to be able to support each other. I've held their hand before and it never felt like that! [Laughter] But during this very, very precious, deep moment, that touch literally changed me. That was one moment where I truly felt that I was supported by someone else and that I wasn't alone. We all know how it feels to not be alone in certain moments of our life, and that was one of those moments that was really important and imperative to my healing and my growth. To answer the question of, “How do we support each other without being triggered?” I think it may be impossible not to be triggered. It's kind of hard not to be triggered by each other’s stories because our bodies have experienced similar, if not the same, traumas. What skills we can learn are how to cope with it. I've heard so many survivor stories from my friends and my loved ones and each time it feels like as they're telling the story they're also being healed through it. They're finally not carrying this secret alone, and even if I'm triggered there's this love for them for sharing this story
that pulls me through that moment. And we're able to just be there for each other. I think the more you talk about it, the more that it a) becomes real and not a secret any more, and b) you find family who hears you, who just knows you. And that's a really precious thing. When I first talked about my sexual assault I did not have the words or language for it. After talking about it so many times it's been easier each time. Now I can tell you all about it, I wrote a book about it! [Laughter] I'm comfortable sharing the story. It makes it real, but it also puts it back in its place, as a past thing. For a long time it felt like I was dirty or filthy because I felt like I was just reliving it. Now it's just like, “I've lived through it but I'm also moving forward, past it.” Nia: So this is one of the questions I asked Ryka Aoki because her book is also sort of mixed-genre. Do you feel like using so many different types of writing was a political choice for you? Love: Yes. Ryka actually influenced the way my book was written, because I hadn't seen a multi-genre book before. I bought Ryka's book, Seasonal Velocities, while I was writing my memoir, and reading it I was just like “Yes, this is exactly how I want mine to be. Just poetic and prose and essays.” It was great, it was really wonderful. I do think it's political, because my book is a mess. It's not professional, it's not edited by anyone else besides me, it's very much my voice. And I love that because I am nineteen years old and I am not at this place of complete balance and healing. I am not above my trauma, I am not past that. It's very much me being this raw, young person going through these really tough emotions. It's me being fifteen years old obsessing over my first love and doing really weird shit that I [ laughter] would not do today! And the multi-genre of it helps because there are some moments where I had to write it like an author, I had to write it like a story. And there were other moments where I felt it. There's moments I've had with my partners where it felt poetic, so I wrote about it in a poetic way. And there's other parts where I'm writing theoretical stuff because it's me deconstructing my place and my social standing as a trans woman of color. So the book needed all of these voices because that's how I live. I live as a political person, as an emotional person, as a storyteller. And my memoir needs to reflect who I am and encompass all of those pieces. Nia: Yeah. I think it's really interesting - it feels a little bit like you and Ryka are sort of opening up doors. Not just for other trans women of color to tell their stories. It feels like there is pressure to write something that will sell, in terms of, “What is this? Is it a novel? Because then we can sell it as a novel. Or is it non-fiction? Because then we can sell it as non-fiction.” The pressure to turn this into something other people will recognise, by making it consistent throughout. It seems like two are opening doors by showing that something doesn't have to be consistent in tone or style to have an impact and change the world. Love: Definitely. I'm honestly a huge fan of multi-genre writing. If there are other people who've done it before I would love to read it, because I think it's fun. It’s really cool to read something that's like, “Whoa, this is really dense and really theoretical and heavy” and then go to something that's really light poetry, or a haiku or something. It was a fun thing to do, it's really cool to just flip through the pages and see journal entries, and poetry, and then really long rants, and just this really nice mess of things. Nia: I'm guessing this wasn't a book that you sat down and wrote from beginning to end. It sounds like some of the journal entries were probably there before you sat down to write the book, and then I don't know if tumblr might've played any role in how you wrote the book, in terms of... it is a popular place to post rants. [Laughter] So what was the process of putting it together? Because it sounds like a bit of a collage, in a way. Love: It very much was a collage. What I did was I went through all of my belongings. I went through my boxes where I had old letters from friends and cards, and I took that out. And I quoted letters that I had from people, that I wrote to other people, and that I never sent. And then I have journals from 2008 until now. Tumblr is also kind of a journal for me too, so there are some posts that were private that I used, and there were others that were shared online. And this process - my bed was a mess [laughter]. I had all of these journals, I started highlighting things, and - I forgot what those things are called, but they're colorful and you can stick them on pagesNia: Sticky notes? Love: Yeah. So I was tabbing things and it was a mess. [Laughter] It was a big mess. And I spent a lot of time transcribing the journal entries. I left those alone because I didn't want to alter my fifteen-year-old self, you know? That's just who I was at the time. And I think that gives it that level of real teenage angst. [Laughter] I can't be my fifteen-year-old self again. I would just be angry all the time and angry at myself for the things that I've done. But yeah it was a lot of fun, it was really cool to just map out my life. To draw family charts, because a lot of it's confusing and moving in so many directions. I had to draw this actual large timeline and write down each year that something happened to make sure that it went in chronological order. And even after all this work there's still some things that are [laughter] out of chronological order, but it's a pretty coherent piece, I believe.
Nia: So that's how you organized it, chronologically? Love: Yes. Nia: So you're producing art and knowledge and work, both through video and also through writing. And then you're also studying Psychology, and Community Studies, which you described as social justice praxis and feminist praxis. The way you described that to me it sounds like those things are really separate: what you're doing and producing as an artist, and what you're studying. You haven't said explicitly what field you intend to go into, I'm assuming psychology? Love: Yeah, psychology. I want to focus on abuse and trauma survivors and their brains and behaviours, specifically. Nia: As a research psychologist or a clinical psychologist or...? Love: As a therapist. In grad school what I imagine I'm going to do is research or read things that have already been published, and then make parallels, or connections, or deductions, or whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing. But what I really want to focus on are new coping mechanisms, or healing methods for healing this trauma and abuse. I want to focus on healing through communal care, through having other people come into your life. I think that's really important because currently there's this huge move for self-care and taking care of yourself. To me that's very isolating and there are people who need support. Especially as a survivor you need people who will - this is my take on it, it doesn't apply to everyone - but for me, I needed people to love me because the kind of love I grew up with was very abusive. Had I done self-care, I would have just kept abusing myself because that's the idea of love that I learned. So it did take communal care to teach me that love is tender and love feels good and people will cook you things and bring you gifts and watch your favorite movies with you and make you happy. [Laughter] That's the kind of love that I now understand as being love, but growing up, to me love was supposed to be painful, or a compromise. So the psychology I want to go into is looking at abuse survivors and seeing how they're coping. And seeing if adding a community to them who can support them can help. And my part in doing that is being their therapist, being that person who is listening to them, who is not just giving advice but building relationships with them. I'm not entirely sure it's going to be able to work through an office where they have to pay me, but I'll figure some way out. Nia: I could talk about self-care with you for a long time. [Laughter] When I came across the term, I was working at the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, which is an LGBTQ anti-violence program working to support survivors of sexual assault, domestic abuse and hate crimes. Being there you get exposed to a lot of trauma. I was there when Angie Zapata was murdered. The family didn't want to deal with the press, understandably and so it was my co-worker’s job to [serve as a liaison] between the family and the press. So our phone was just ringing off the hook. And even though I wasn't dealing with the family directly, just being in that space was really... hard. I feel weird saying that because I'm not the person whose family member was just murdered, you know? I'm not even the one who's talking on the phone. Maybe I'm just really sensitive to trauma around me. But self-care came up in that context of “We have to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves as we’re trying to take care of others, and meeting these needs in our community that are so great and so intense and so triggering”. It's fucking hard [laughter]. I feel like self-care is one of those things that sounds really great on paper but actually in some ways can be kind of oppressive? [laughter] Love: Definitely. Nia: I think being able to take time and energy for self-care is kind of a privilege. That doesn't mean that people shouldn't do it or that it's bad. It just means yes, we would all love to be able to take care of ourselves, but that's not always possible or that doesn't always look so healthy. People cope in different ways. Are you familiar with the concept of “harm reduction”? Love: Yes. Nia: The idea of, like, you can't fix this situation, but you can help the person get through it in a way that is going to be somewhat healthier for them. What do you think of that idea? Love: Of harm reduction and self care, or? Nia: [laughter] I guess I kind of should've let you answer the previous question first, huh? I guess I'd love to hear your thoughts on self care, I'm also just thinking about- I think the first time I came across the idea of harm-reduction, it was through an organisation that was doing outreach to sex workers. And it was like, “okay, we're not going to get them off the street, that's not even our intention or necessarily what's best for them, but if their heel is broken we can get them another shoe.” Love: I like that.
Nia: And… that's another thing that sounds good but it's also like... I feel like sex workers are not a good example because I don't want to assume that, you know, they're all victims, but I also watched this video recently where… it was a video of a training. It was a white woman that came in to help these - I think she was a physical therapist or something – teaching these sweatshop workers basically how not to let working in a sweatshop totally fuck up their bodies. Like, “Here's how not to get tendonitis, here's what it looks like if you start to get it,” that kind of thing. Out of all the stuff I saw that was the one that broke my heart the most, because it was like, “We can't get you a better job than working in a sweatshop. That's where you are, that's not going to change. Here's how to not get tendonitis while you're doing it.” So that's “harm reduction,” but sometimes it feels like not enough, you know? So I guess I'm interested in… do you try to change the whole system, or do you try to help people navigate it as best they can? Love: That's a big question. Hmm. With harm reduction, I think about it in terms of drug abuse, like that's the context I've heard. It was just like if people are going to be doing... heroin injections, to make sure they have clean needles. That was the kind of harm reduction I've heard about. I think that's important, I definitely think if we're reducing the risks of infections... I would say that's a positive thing. But again, that's not really going to move them out of this addiction. They have to have this want to do it. I'm very careful about not forcing someone to do something they don't want to do, because we're all at different places and we have different ways of coping. Applying the idea of harm-reduction to my experience doing sex work, I kind of got stuck in it. I'd been doing it for two years, I started when I was seventeen, and I got trapped in this notion that all I was was a sex-worker, all I'd ever be great at was sex work. That was kind of because I couldn't get a job, and when I did get a job I had to conform to being a man, and that required shaving my hair, and that was the most dysphoric thing I've ever had to do. I just knew that I didn't want to do that any more. So to have control of my body and feel comfortable in my own skin, I had to do sex work, and that was one of the only things that I could do. Harm-reduction in that sense was having condoms and making sure I was safe and checking in with someone. At the same time no one was really pushing me to get out of sex work, they'd all kind of just accepted it as like, “Okay yeah, you're going to be doing this profession, and here's some ways to make sure that you're doing it safely.” In the past few years, no one has told me, like, if you quit sex work your community will take care of you. I kind of had to like do this work of saying to myself, “Sex work is not healthy for you.” As a survivor, having these clients say really awful things about my body… It got to a really intense point where I had to like shave my body hair all the time and that made me feel gross because it was just like, literally not having control of my body, and performing in this way that wasn't... wasn't healthy for me. So I quit sex work, and it was really difficult because I was unemployed, and I had no access to income, and then I finally told people, “I'm going to fundraise for this, I just want people to cover my rent for the summer and I will go back to school, and it'll be okay.” Doing that was just like really radically revolutionary to me, just because it was finally asking my community to take care of me: asking them to get me out of doing sex work, because I couldn’t do it any more. The fact that people had just been kind of like harm-reducing it was still kind of enabling me to do it and not giving me a way out of it. So I had to do it myself. I know it's a privilege to be able to ask my community for that support. I have enough of a basis of community organizing and know enough people that I was able to fundraise enough money to last throughout the summer. I think about how many other people don't get that opportunity. How many other people have probably asked for that and then not had their needs met, you know? I think that like with harm-reduction, maybe going further than that, like if people are working in sweatshops, offer them another position or job, if that's at all possible. Nia: And what about self care? Love: Self care, oh my god, self care. Nia: [laughter] Love: Self care. The way that I've heard the term used has been very oppressive, it's like, “You need to be out in your community, you need to be doing all your work, and you need to go home and take care of yourself.” Nia: [laughter] Love: Like it's another list of things to do. Like, “You need to do yoga, you need to ‘go healthy’, you need to drink water,” and it's just like yeah, some of these things are great but you're still judging or assessing me on my level of productivity… Like, “You need to do self-care so you can go back into the community, you need to do self-care 'cause you have work to do.” Nia: Right. “Because we need you, so don't burn out.”
Love: Exactly. Nia: “Whatever that looks like, just handle it, because we need you out here.” Love: Exactly, exactly. So to me communal care is a response to self-care because self-care kind of has this idea that you go home and you do whatever it is you want to do, basically. It may cost money or it may not. To me, communal care is having a friend cook you dinner, going home and having someone watch a movie with you, going home and talking to someone, or just doing something with someone so that you're intimately involved with each others' lives. To me, that's important because in a lot of the movement work that I've done and am doing, it's kind of like we meet in these spaces, and we talk and we organize and we theorize and we go home and don't talk to each other. If it's not workrelated then don't call me or don't interact with me. I very much got that feeling from doing social justice work for four or five years, like “We're here to work for our cause but we're not here to be intimately involved with each others' lives.” I watched this documentary called Free Angela and All Political Prisoners last week. I don't know, have you seen it? Nia: Not yet. Love: No, it's okay. It's really great, I absolutely recommend it. I think one of my favorite things about it was that there was a Q&A session afterwards and Bettina, who is Angela's friend, she's here at Santa Cruz, she's a professor. So we had the privilege of hearing her talk about Angela a little bit, and she was talking about how when Angela got released, she went to Bettina 's house, and Bettina 's... I think Bettina had one child, Joshua, and there was another child whose name I forgot, but Angela had both kids sitting on her lap and she was like at the dinner table and when Bettina walked in, like. She just had this really powerful moment of seeing Angela with her son for the first time outside of prison, and like... I view that moment as so precious because they're so intimately involved with each other’s lives that they just go into each other’s homes, meet each other’s kids, and it's just like, you're coming home, this is your home. The movement work that I see being done today, we don't have that kind of unity, that kind of family feeling. I never went into any of my co-workers' houses and met their families or kids or partners, unless they were organizing with us. If they weren't doing the work, then it wasn't like they existed, you know? So to me communal care is like having those relationships, because when Angela was in prison, everyone was rallying around her. Bettina had some of Angela's family staying with her, I believe. That's the kind of support that like in care that I think is necessary, whereas self care to me is very individualistic because it relies on the individual doing the work to heal or take care of themselves. I think that's important, to me it's not like “Abolish self care, don't ever do it,” but I would never tell someone to go home and take care of themselves. I would first ask, "Is there anything I can do for you?” Self-care is very much like, "Go home and recharge your batteries because we need you to run, at full speed tomorrow." Nia: Yeah. It sounds almost like “personal responsibility”, when you describe it like that. Like, "Just pull yourself by your bootstraps!" Even though in theory it's supposed to be the opposite of that. Like, "Go home and relax, so you can [laughter] pull yourself up by your bootstraps." Love: Exactly, exactly, and there've been critiques on it that I've read, too, that people feel the same way, not enough, I guess. I think there's also kind of like a set idea of what self-care is, you know, and there's this idea that doing yoga or eating good, healthy food, and like- I'm putting quotes around that, "good healthy food," like what does that mean? 'Cause for me my kind of self-care was eating junk food. My self-care was going to see my friends because being by myself was not the most pleasant thing all the time, and very much relied on seeing other people. I used to call it selfcare but this is what I'm now calling “communal care.” It's asking people to check in with me, if I'm feeling really bad it's hard for me to reach out to others, so I might send a message out on Facebook or Tumblr and ask people to say nice things to me or to be kind to me. I think as a survivor that was really important because I grew up with this really negative self-image and like no ego whatsoever, so when people compliment me it's having new voices to wash out the old ones. That's a form of healing through community because no matter how many times I tell myself I love myself and I'm the greatest person ever, I don't really feel like it's genuine. When it's coming from someone else and I can tell that they're genuine about it, then that really helps in defeating and diminishing this negative self-image. Nia: Yeah, I think it's- it's really hard to ask for help. I mean, I'm speaking from my personal experience. I'm curious how you get to a place where you feel able to do that. You say you have no ego, but I feel like in order to ask for help you have to believe that you're worth...something. You know what I mean? Love: Right, right, good point. Nia: Like, HIV prevention is about more than just getting people to wear condoms. It's about, like, getting people to want to wear condoms because they value their lives. You know, it's like a much bigger thing than just... you have to have sort of the theory before you can have the practice, which I guess it like you have to value yourself before self-care
becomes a thing you can do or ask others to help you with. Love: I think that for me I came into asking others for help because everything else I was doing was not working. I tried every last thing and it just was not working, and my idea was maybe I should just ask other people for help and, you know, see what this does. It felt good and it felt like it was one of the best methods I had. Nia: And it worked! Love: And it worked! It worked. Because therapy was... I hate therapy. [Laughter] I hate therapy because you go into an office, you talk for an hour and then you leave, and then what? You don't have a relationship- most people don't have a relationship with their therapist, like you don't go out and meet them for drinks. I don't think you're allowed to, actually. Nia: [laughter] Love: It's illegal. Nia: Yeah. Love: It's very healthy for some people to get insight, but for me, I want people who I can talk about really heavy stuff with, and then watch an anime, or be able to reach out to them whenever I need them, and they can help me back. Through asking people for help, other people came to see me as an example. You were talking earlier about triggering people to a bad place, this can also trigger people to be like, “Oh, I'm worthy of this help too.” I've had people tell me, “Thank you for reaching out to others because it's helped me also reach out to others” and, like, view that as a valid… good thing for them. But yeah it definitely does take a lot of courage, I think is what it is, it takes a lot of courage to just say "I'm miserable, and I need someone to take care of me, or be nice." And it definitely wasn't easy, it took many years to just ask for it, so yeah. You're right, it does take a lot of practice to get there. Nia: The other question I had about communal care was... you know, we talked just know about how it's hard to ask for help. I feel like personally it can be really hard to give help. Like, when I'm feeling crazy, I kind of retract into myself... I want to be able to be there for other folks who might need support, but… I don’t know. My partner and I show up for each other and support for each other, but that's also kind of individualistic in a way… You know? You start out as a young person maybe take care of other members of your family, and then you get a little bit older and hopefully you and your partner take care of each other, then maybe you form your own nuclear family, and that sense of responsibility sort of extends only to those people. But what we're talking about is something much broader than that, which is being invested in your community, not just your blood relations in a way that is... that is long-term and...[laughter] continuous… So how do you show up for people when you're feeling crazy yourself? Or when you need to be shown up for? Love: Right. Nia: Because sometimes you don't just feel crazy for a day, sometimes it's a lot longer. Love: Definitely, definitely, and this past year I was living with my grandparents, I fell off the face of the earth. I remember one time I was like, “It's been like two weeks since I've had a hug.” I was just in bed all the time, and I had no social interaction, like, it was that bad. So yeah, I guess I understand, how do you show up for people when you're in bed and just can't deal with it? Nia: Like when you can't show up for yourself, I mean you can't make lunch for you, [laughter] how do you make lunch for someone else? Love: Exactly. It's tricky, but once you get to know someone, you know how to take care of them. I think once someone also starts looking into themselves and being introspective, they also know what to ask for. Nia: Yeah. That is definitely a process in itself, being able to figure out how you can be supported, then how to ask for support, then how to accept support! [laughter] It's a long, ongoing process. Love: Yeah, you have to know your needs and then you know have to ask for them, and when they're met you have to be able to receive it and not feel guilty or shameful about asking for it. Nia: Yeah, or like deflect compliments [laughter]. Love: That too, that too. They're all separate processes, and people have different levels of dealing with it. I mean in terms of, accepting compliments. I don't know, it's a very complicated thing. I try really hard not to say, "I'm above all
this, I'm like the master of all these skills." No, no, very much not. It's just that when I ask for help, that's a sign that I'm not fully healed. I'm still hurting and in pain and I need others to fix this or to help with this. Like you were mentioning, extending outside the immediate family is important because that's how you build those long term friendships and relations, that's how you extend your family. We kind of understand that, like, nuclear families are very capitalistic, you know? You look out for your own. But your own can be your neighbours or people that you organize with. To be quite honest, a lot of the support I get is from my online friends and like community that I've never even met before, we just have Skype calls or text each other, and like that's just as valid and just as helpful as someone being in my physical presence. Especially when I was in Mountain House, there was no public transportation there, and I couldn't always drive or afford to drive out to see people, like, I did rely on text messages and whatnot. But it’s also really important to know what you need. For me, I needed positive affirmations, because I would get all these voices in my head telling me I'm this horrible awful terrible person, and it was so easy for me to believe that and get into this cyclical thought of like, “You are awful,” and just hating myself.. In order to break that, I needed other people outside of my head to send affirmations that I wasn't these things. When I was depressed and trying to support others, I had to just ask, "What do you need right now?" If I was able to give that I would, and if I couldn't then I would tell them, "Maybe not tonight but I can try and call you tomorrow or something." So yeah, it's tricky but one of the things I love about being crazy is that other crazy people understand you. Nia: [laughter] Love: They will not be mad at you. [laughter] They will not judge you or be upset. I have this one friend Melanie who is absolutely phenomenal with my crazy, she just knows how to handle it so well. I will be withdrawn as ever and she will still text me like, "Are you okay? I haven't seen you and you haven't been on Facebook or Tumblr lately. What's going on?" There's other people who send me messages like "Hey, just want to check in with how you're doing, but take your time responding, there's no rush, I understand you're going through a lot," and just hearing someone say, “I understand what you're going through, you don't need to respond right now, I will not be mad if you take a week to respond to this,” was just like... [laughter] great. I’m lucky have these people in my life. Nia: That's... so inspiring. [laughter] It's making me feel good about life right now. Love: Good, good! Nia: Is there anything else that you want to share or say about your book before we wrap? Love: The most important thing about it to me was to create a novel that shows such unapologetic vulnerability, that like really goes there, and then goes beyond there. I gave everything in that book. There are things I am ashamed of, that I am embarrassed about, and I'm reading through it and I'm just like, "Oh my god, I can't believe people are going to read this about me!" [laughter] But it's okay, I think that being this honest, uncomfortably honest, will allow other people to feel okay doing that too. I think in a lot of memoirs, and a lot of queer books I read, they don't really ever go into these really deep places, you know? They don't really go into the depths of what depression actually looks like, they don't really go into these really hard feelings that are really difficult to talk about. For me it was all about going there, because I needed to. Going there because being a young trans brown girl was difficult not having access to books [about people like me], not having these real, vulnerable stories of heartache and trauma. I wanted to write this book as a foundation, so that whenever I do other writing, people will have something to start with and I don't have to explain myself any more. Nia: I think one of the other things you said that I kind of wanted to follow up on was... you talked about wanting to write this book in case you were murdered. Love: I have attempted suicide before, so I am no stranger to death. There's this there's this moment right before dying, where I either accept death and I'm okay with it and I'm okay falling asleep and not waking up, or I completely hate the world for putting me in this position of hating myself so much that I would take my own life. And then that empowers me. A lot of the times I've overdosed on medicines, your heart is pounding and your brain goes into this weird fog, and in those moments that I felt so alone, I knew if I were to die in that moment then no one would know what had happened to me. To write this book was very much like, if I were to die, I would be okay [because] these stories are out there and I will be remembered. There is a piece of me that will forever be alive. So it's kind of like... I don't want to say a legacy, but it's like a document, a document, documentation of what I have gone through and survived. Nia: Like an archive of your life. Love: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, I don't know, it is very deep and dark and depressing but my life is very deep and dark
and depressing, so I think it needs to reflect that. I know a lot of people don't really like to talk about or focus on trauma or these, like, really depressing issues – I also apologize for using “dark,” I shouldn't associate darkness with, negativity or badness, and I apologize for that. I think that trauma's something that people try to acknowledge, but also are quickly, like, "Okay, how did you heal?” You know, like, “Oh, that's so-" Nia: “Tell us the happy parts.” Love: Mmmhmm. Like, "That's so sad, I'm so sorry. How are you feeling now? How'd you get through that?" I've gotten to the point where it's I'm no longer being traumatized all the time, but I also haven't healed a ton. I've healed some, but not a ton. I very much needed this memoir to reflect on the turmoil because there's just been a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle ways of telling me not to tell the story and to like just “suck it up” and move on. This is me telling my story and just being very comfortable with not “sucking it up” and just being like, "I am a depressed suicidal person and I'm not going to sugar-coat my own memoir to make you feel better about your feelings because you're uncomfortable!" Like, then don't read the damn book! [Laughter] So I just want to make room, I want to make room for depression, I want to make room for sadness, because [sigh] there is not enough room. I think there's a lot of feelings that are invalidated, like anger, like bitterness, like trauma. I wanted this book for other people to read and just… I want it to sit in their gut, I want it to feel heavy in their heart because if they don't feel that way then they're not really feeling who I am, like, they're not carrying me in them, so, yeah. [laughs] That's how I feel about that. Nia: [laughter] That's a great place to end the interview.