You’ve landed at the internet home of writer|editor|translator Tanya Paperny.

Culturally Progressive is my blog where I write about literature, culture, and politics and share work of mine that has been published elsewhere. Scroll down for new posts. If you want to read more about me, click About Tanya, or click on appearances for upcoming and past events. All my recent published writing is listed on the Writing page. To subscribe to my awesome monthly newsletter, click here. Thanks for stopping by!

MeganRapinoeThis video is making the internet rounds. It’s been described as triumphant. (It’s of U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe being asked to describe herself in one word, and she responds with “GAAAAY.”)

I’ve certainly felt triumphant about being queer before. In fact, being queer is possibly my favorite thing about my life.

The queer community and queer love are so important to me. Queer people are my closest friends. I tend to be attracted (intellectually, romantically, and friend-wise) to people who play with gender, who are attracted to multiple genders, who don’t shy away from nuance and gray areas, who mess with binaries, who feel some kind of identification (even if complicated) with the words “queer” and “genderqueer.”

I love who and how I love. I love that my form of love plays with gender and sexuality norms. I love queer bodies, mine and those of the people I love. I love people who play with color, who bind, who shop in the side of the store not traditionally “designated” for them, who shave shapes into their hair, who take feminine accessorizing and inject it with a hearty sense of play, self-awareness, and edginess.

My love makes some people uncomfortable, makes some people stare. It might be because they are trying to read the gender of my partners, the most recent of whom have identified as trans* or genderqueer. But there might also be some young people who see themselves reflected in my love and know that soon they too will have real queer love. Maybe I’m being presumptuous or self-absorbed. Or maybe just hopeful. Or maybe I’m just remembering how I looked upon queer couples before I knew myself to be queer.

I’m sure straight people have communities or groups where they feel most at home, most affiliated. And I know that as a white person, it’s a privilege to be able to choose which identity is most important to me. People of color in the U.S. are often told who they are in a way that erases their intersections. But I can relate to Megan Rapinoe. I love celebrating my queerness.

More to say on this in the future, but for now, these are just some initial (read: jumbled) thoughts. Thanks for reading. Love you.

Writes my smart poet/translator friend E.C. Belli:

Because we are so multi-rooted, because we are from everywhere, we are no longer really from a place. Instead, we are from beings. Saint-Exupéry noted, “We come from our childhoods as we come from a country.” But what is childhood if not the moment in which we experience some of the strongest social bonds of our lifetime? For all of our nomadic existence, our roots today are as people based as they are placed based. We belong to beings as we belong to a country.

From here.

It’s such a weird day to be a queer person.

I know that today’s Supreme Court ruling signals some kind of social shift, moving the needle on mainstream acceptance and visibility of queer relationships. I know how important this victory is for so many families who will no longer have to worry about whether their union will be recognized across state lines.

And yet reading Kennedy’s majority opinion just confirms my discomfort:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.

No. I don’t actually believe that marriage is a form of love that trumps all others. It’s not everyone’s ultimate ideal. If social acceptance of queer love relies on my love looking a certain way, I’m not interested. I don’t want conditional acceptance. I want non-traditional families celebrated.

And I worry that some will see this as “mission accomplished.” I worry there will be less energy (and therefore less funding) for the work that remains: battling violence against trans people (especially trans women of color), ending LGBT youth homelessness, assisting LGBT asylees and refugees, addressing mental health and suicide among LGBT people, expanding access to life-saving healthcare for trans people, the list goes on.

As a dear friend wrote earlier today: “What a moment to be queer, to hold all the complexities and limitations of social acceptance and legal recognition. To celebrate and know the fight has just begun.”

Today, companies like WordPress are showing their support by adding a rainbow to their logo. But will they do the same when we finally pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act?

I feel so ambivalent. Maybe I’ll bike over to the Supreme Court to be surrounded by happy LGBT people and allies. Maybe that will allow me to just celebrate. We’ll see.

I was humored and humbled when Columbia University asked me to be on this panel:LATMFA

Very much looking forward to reading, to hearing the work of my fellow alums, and to seeing anyone in NYC who is able to come!

– – –

Columbia Selects: MFA Alumni Readings
Thursday, March 5 @ 7 pm
KGB Bar 85 E. 4th St
F Train to 2nd Ave

What is Columbia Selects?  The first Thursday of each month, the Columbia MFA program hosts a reading series featuring Writing Program alumni. These fresh talents are finished with or near to finished with their first books, but do not yet have a book contract and/or an agent. In recent years, many of our featured writers have achieved critical and commercial success. This is your chance to glimpse who you’ll be reading in 2016!

Join us Thursday, March 5th, at 7 pm, for our stellar March lineup! Selected by the Columbia Writing Program, our readers are sure to dazzle and delight.

Our lineup this month:

Tanya Paperny is an essayist, translator, and editor based (mostly) out of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in Pacific Standard, VICE, Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, The Literary Review, and in many other fine journals and magazines. Her collection entitled “Short-Shorts” was a semifinalist in the Gazing Grain Press 2014 Poetry Chapbook Contest. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and OMI International Arts Center, and she is at work on a collection of essays about violence, trauma, and resilience.

Elysha Chang is a writer from Virginia who lives in Brooklyn. Her short fiction has appeared in Bodega Magazine, The Literarian, and Park Slope Reader. She is an Emerging Writer Fellow at The Center for Fiction where she is at work on her first novel.

Andrew Eisenman is a writer and editor in New York. He’s a former assistant fiction editor of The American Reader and, before that, an editor at NOON. A 2012 teaching fellow at Columbia, he’s currently a senior editor of Kindle Singles. Andrew is working on a novel about the unraveling of a wealthy Ohio family.

Columbia Selects is curated by Bryan VanDyke and Emily Austin.

Last week I wrote about FBI Director James Comey’s speech on law enforcement and race relations. A few new thoughts since then:

Can institutions with toxic origins or a toxic past ever be truly reformed? (Consider school turnaround strategies and whether those are effective). Can people imagine a day where our law enforcement system is just or do we need something new entirely? What do we do until then in the absence of real community accountability alternatives?

Two things that seem relevant:

  • The U.N. Committee against Torture recently “urged the United States … to fully investigate and prosecute police brutality and shootings of unarmed black youth…”
  • Activists are demanding reparations for the survivors of police torture in Chicago.

These are both things I wish got more coverage, and they both make me wonder if we need some sort of equivalent of a “truth and reconciliation commission” — an external body to help our country face and move forward on race and policing.

FBI Director James B. Comey addresses students and faculty at Georgetown University. Seated is Edward Montgomery, dean of the the university’s McCourt School of Public Policy, which co-hosted the event

Photo via of James B. Comey delivering Thursday’s speech

FBI Director James Comey gave an unprecedented speech yesterday [full text] on law enforcement and race relations, giving a thoughtful — though at times frustrating — take on the relationship between police and communities of color.

David Graham of The Atlantic wrote: “[Comey] seemed genuinely concerned about the tensions between the two groups.” And I agree: much of the speech thoughtfully decried the far-too-frequent circumstances that bring young Blacks and Latinos in contact with police, the lack of consistent annual data collection around how many African Americans are shot by police, and the ugly history of law enforcement serving as an enforcer of the racist status quo in the United States. (I wish I wasn’t surprised when an FBI Director says thoughtful things.)

The best parts of Comey’s speech made me consider that I need more of an open heart and mind when it comes to members of law enforcement, especially as someone who is not frequently targeted by them. As an anti-war organizer from 2003-2009, I often heard the phrase “love the warrior, hate the war.” For me, this means directing criticisms at institutions rather than individuals when relevant.

But it’s the solutions he posed that missed the mark in some places. According to Graham, “[Comey] placed a heavy burden on communities of color to solve the problem, while deflecting police responsibility […] [B]lack men can do everything right and still end up on the wrong side of an encounter with the police.”

There were a few other things that irked me about the speech. For one, Comey insisted that “…racial bias isn’t epidemic in…law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts.” This comment felt like speculation. Has anyone seen research about this?

And I didn’t like Comey’s assertion that “officers had rescued [Bedford Stuyvesant] from the grip of violent crime.” For one, “rescue” is a very loaded term, but there are also many more factors at play in that changing neighborhood (where I used to teach).

Still, as Graham wrote: “Comey’s speech is a milestone in the conversation springing out of Ferguson and Staten Island and Cleveland […] The question is whether he will confine his search for such solutions to communities of color, or shift his focus to address the systemic problems with law enforcement itself.” I, for one, am hopeful that smart pressure by activists and writers and thoughtful reactions from elected and appointed officials can lead to reform of our criminal justice system.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers