Q&A with Featured Artist: Teah Marcotte

Q&A Teah Marcotte

peculiar‘s most recent Featured Artist is photographer Teah Marcotte. Her images don’t just capture a momentthey encapsulate a state of being. Her use of striking contrast breathes life into everyday moments, highlighting the beauty found in both joy and sorrow. We fell absolutely in love with her work, so we asked her a few questions to find out more about her photography, and in so doing we learned what makes her happiest and the spiritual faith that keeps her going.

When did you first start creating art?

I was probably around eight or nine when I started figuring out what art was, and realizing that I had an interest. I wasn’t sure what kind of art I wanted to create or what kind of art I even liked, but I knew I had a fascination lingering. As I got older, I started drawing and doodlingand became pretty decentbut I eventually lost interest. When I was fifteen, I picked up a camera for the first time and never stopped. Finding my own unique style of photography took years, but I eventually found it.

Why are you an artist?

I’m an artist because of many reasons, one of them because it’s a huge escape from life. I love being able to grab my camera, plug in my headphones, and just shoot, blocking everything out, not a worry in the world, just what my next subject is gonna’ be. Being an artist, I feel, gives me a purpose in life. I absolutely love being able to provide people and families with long-lasting memories. Seeing their smiles and excitement when showing them preview shots is one of my favorite parts of being a photographer.

What artists do you yourself admire?

One big inspiration of mine is a good friend named Sarah Kappos, who both writes and paints. She’s an incredible artist! The way she talks about her art and what inspires her to create art inspires me more and more every time I see her.

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“Dreams” by Teah Marcotte

What’s your artistic process?

My process is kind of just go with the flow. Whenever I find myself overthinking shoots or ideas that I have, I feel myself psyching out. Like, I either try too hard or I end up hating my end product. I usually get an idea, kind of arrange it, and then let it go until it’s time to shoot. Either that or I will just go and see what I end up with.

What inspires you to create art? Do you have a muse?

My nieces and nephews definitely inspire me the most. Their innocence always helps me create new-found projects. Other photographer’s work sometimes helps me come up with foreign projects as well.

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“Heart of Gold” by Teah Marcotte

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?

My favorite thing I’ve ever created… I don’t think I have a favorite. Or I have a lot of favorites [laughs]. Portraiture in general is my favorite thing to do, so any portraits of my nieces and nephews are my favorites.

What effect do you hope your photography will have on people?

I hope that people will see my photos and feel happiness. I want them to, for a slight second, be able to breathe and not stressto remind themselves that everything is gonna’ be okay.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

That’s kind of a hard question because I see myself in a lot of different places. My biggest dream is to be a photojournalist traveling the world, taking thousands of pictures a day, eating foreign food, meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and just taking in as much of the world as I can. I would, however, also love to find a partner and settle down in a big city, have some kids, and do that sort of thing. For now, I just plan on taking pictures and traveling as much as I can while I’m still young.

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“Perspective” by Teah Marcotte

What’s it like being queer in Utah?

I lived there for about a year and a half, and it was actually a good thing for me and my whole coming-out process. I come from quite a religious family and my coming out wasn’t the smoothest, but living in Utah and being surrounded by such a huge LGBT community was really good for me and really cleansing. I met a lot of amazing humans  who really helped me on my journey in different ways. I wasn’t ever scared to be publicly open about who I really am, which was foreign for me. It took some time to be comfortable with doing so, but eventually I came to be 100% accepting of who I am. I loved every second of it.

What makes you peculiar?

Well, I am double-jointed in six joints, so I guess that could be considered peculiar! On a more serious note though, I would probably say that what makes me peculiar is probably the fact that I still have my faith and belief in God. Like I said previously, my family is quite religious and, with me, coming out was really hard because I wanted to keep that relationship with God, but I was told day in and day out that being gay and believing in God was an oxymoron. It took a lot of years for me to come to where I am now. I no longer go to church, but I do still work on my faith and my spirituality. It’s probably been the one thing that has gotten me through all of the heartache and pain while coming out to such a religious family. I’m very thankful for my faith and I’m proud of myself for sticking through to what I believe in my heart.

 

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Teah Marcotte is a twenty-five-year-old photographer from Boise, Idaho. She started taking photos almost eleven years ago, and she has been obsessed with it ever since. Photos feed her soul happiness and blur out the darkness in this world. Capturing beauty, which not a lot of people can see, makes her heart the most content.

“Chemical Emigration” by Greg Bayles

chemical emigration

Chemical Emigration

by Greg Bayles

Sacred tablets, broken as host
over sinless tongues. We dissolve like
powder on mucosal membranes, bitterness
washed down with mangoed sweetness.
Take my tithes, alimony for the child
I leave behind in these experiments
in closeness.

Melt into the careless ocean, roll
into methylated gentleness, synthetic
tides of ecstasy washing over you.
Fireplace breathes onto naked
torso, its tempo flickering crimson
and amaranth inside us. Fiery tongues
plunging deep inside us: all else is water
and transience.

Here are children of euphoria, heathen
princes seeking new religion. Here
are perfumed linens and wintered
hilltops, mirrors in our pilgrim eyes.
Here are gods encapsulated.

The feline strobe blinks on, blasé,
only just unbowed like the rest of us
in jocks and harnesses and liquid
atmosphere. Outside the shower
she perches catlike, witnessing the timeless
rites of sugar scrub and tabloid hither-coming;
electric gaze holds scattered pearl drops
and slivered still-frames in the human air.

Here are bolt-grinders and coke
shovellers in a back room, feeding
the inferno lacking leather or
rubber to hide their skin. Sputtering
blood engines pumping virility into ready
chambers, pneumatic, gasping. Quench
the blade with fleck of sweat and
flood of dopamine.

We wake to morning shadow. Surely
I have left the fabled country of my youth
but for a world still rich in fictions.
I have traded all my truths for purer
fantasy. But what of matins
we awoke to, my skin on yours
on his? What of quiet breath and
words of whispered promise?
Was all our love ingested?

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Greg Bayles is a project manager at the University of Utah’s Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab. He received a BA in English Literature from Brigham Young University and went on to complete a Master’s of Entertainment Arts and Engineering at the University of Utah. In his free time, Greg enjoys reading, making video games, cooking, wandering art galleries, and rock climbing.

Read our Q&A with Greg Bayles or order the latest copy of peculiar.

Call for Submissions!

Submit Typewriter Background

peculiar is a queer literary journal that aims to showcase the prose, poetry, art, and photography of Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and otherwise queer writers and artists. We hope to recognize the creative talents of the often overlooked queer community within Utah’s unique culture.

In our first issue, co-editor-in-chief Aaron Gates wrote the following in his foreword: “To belong, isn’t that what we are fighting for, constantly? Every day a wave surges against us, telling us we are too different, telling us we have no place, telling us that something is wrong with us. No one can tell you what you are worth; that is for you to decide.” So we hope you’ll decide to be brave. To be strong. To be beautiful.

The SUBMISSION DEADLINE for our fifth issue (volume three: issue two) is JULY 16th at MIDNIGHT (MST). After which, peculiar staff will do blind readings to select the pieces to be published. Those chosen will be kept in the loop throughout the editing process, with the journal going to print sometime in the fall. If published, writers and artists will received a FREE copy of the journal. No other compensation will be given. After publication, rights revert back to the author.

Submissions of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, art, and photography can be submitted online at peculiarjournal.com/submit.  We do allow simultaneous submissions and previously published work, but please inform us in both cases. We are interested in many genres and the subject matter does not need to be queer-themed, we only ask that contributors identify as queer and live, or have lived, within Utah.

Further guidelines are given online. Again, to submit work, go to peculiarjournal.com/submit before July 16th.

Q&A with Featured Writer: Greg Bayles

Q&A with Greg Bayles

For our newest issue of peculiar (volume three, issue one), we chose Greg Bayles as our Featured Writer because of the way he so carefully crafts his poetry. His precise command of words infuses his writing with striking imagery, complexity, and classical—yet contemporary—tones. Greg agreed to answer some questions about his writing, and we hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as we have.

When did you start writing poetry?

I had written poems here and there all through elementary school and junior high, but 8th grade was really the first time I devoted any substantial amount of time to poetry. My English teacher, Mrs. Medlock, had us write eight or ten poems and do illustrations with them, and that taught me a ton about different styles of poetry. It was kind of my foray into literary poetry.

Why do you write poetry?

Because I’m super angsty! But really, writing has just always been a way for me to sort through emotions and take something negative or confusing and turn it into something I could own and be proud of. I guess I’ve never thought about it too much, but all my major life transitions have poems to accompany them, and I have a poem for every love I’ve ever had and lost. I guess poems are sort of my way of dealing with grief and other hard emotions.

What poets do you yourself read?

My reading isn’t super regimented or methodical, but some of my biggest inspirations and all-time favorites are Ginsburg, Kerouac, Gibran, Hafiz, Eliot, and Levine. I’m really heavily influenced by British and American Romantics, especially Blake and Whitman. More recently, I’ve been reading a lot of Dan Magers and Saeed Jones, but I guess I’m always on the lookout for good writing in whatever form it may come. I literally have Google Alerts set up to notify me whenever certain food critics post reviews, because I love their writing so much. I also think poetry is kind of happening around you all the time—conversations on streetcars, jokes at bars, people smoking on tired balconies—you just have to be there to witness it.

What’s your writing process?

I usually get an idea and write out a few lines on my phone, just as they come to me. Then I go through and handwrite big lists of “words of power” and images and phrases associated with the subject matter, just kind of letting my mind wander and make odd connections and running with it. I don’t like too much structure early on. Then I start to chunk out sections and drop ideas into more metered phrases (I’m an iamb addict), and eventually rough stanzas sort of emerge. I just keep reading through it aloud and cutting and revising until I feel about 80% content with the poem, and then I stop and call it done. I usually shoot for lots and lots of visual imagery (also a symbol addict) and a healthy dose of mysticism/ambiguity. I also spend a lot of time thinking about words: their various meanings, their etymologies, associations with other words, how much breath you release in saying them, symbolic linguistics, etc. It’s kind of an extension of the early wandering I do when exploring a topic for a poem, and it usually ends up shaping the overall direction of the poem as well.

What inspires you to write?

I think life’s pretty amazing, and I want to be able to capture all the beauty I see around me. People, especially, are such an inspiration for me—not just their good parts, but their complexity and everything that goes into a human soul or consciousness. I spend a lot of time trying to intuit how other people perceive the world, and my writing is sometimes an exploration into that. I love nature and art and technology, and all of those things flow together in my writing and more generally in my day-to-day life. I guess great writing also helps me to want to write more. I read a ton, and it’s always refreshing to come across writing that feels like “home,” in a way. I guess eventually I want to be able to create that for other people.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

I had a novel that I was working on a few years ago that still means the world to me. It was my first major attempt at writing a novel, and it’s definitely the piece I’ve spent the most time on overall. I think more than that, though, it became a place where I could live out different lives, through the characters I was creating. This was at a time when I was still closeted, trying to figure out life at BYU, so it became an important way for me to express the conflict I was feeling and to experiment with different facets of my personality. There was a young, selfless, believing hero who represented my desire to stay with the faith of my youth; an old, cynical but kind inventor who embodied my growing distrust for religion and my hope for the tech of the future; a young woman who saw the value in the traditions and rituals of her community but cared more about the people than the culture; a tomboy trying to figure out how she could deal with others’ expectations. I didn’t realize this as I was writing it, but each character (and the conflicts they faced) became a way for me to live out, in a sense, a possible route for my life. I was able to sort through a lot of my conflicting emotions and come to some clarity as to where I fit in the world. So long story short, I guess it’s my favorite because it got me through a crazy time. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back and finish it, but it’s still something I look back on very fondly, and something I like to revisit from time to time.

What effect do you hope your writing will have on people?

I know my poetry sometimes isn’t the most accessible or relatable (as is often the case when mysticism and transport are two of your fundamental writing values!), but I hope that my writing becomes a catalyst for people to explore parts of their personality that they’re afraid to explore. I think for a long time before I came out, I was afraid to live out my gay life because I thought that I wouldn’t find real happiness or belonging or connection outside of the religion and community of my youth. I hope my writing shows that queer life is full of richness and meaning! That’s not to say it’s not complicated, because obviously there are still hard days and difficult decisions and heartbreaks and all that. But when you’re living your life as you choose, you feel a lot less like a victim to circumstance, and you can feel like you are choosing some of those difficulties in exchange for bigger and better things that you really desire. So, yeah! Be yourself!

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Hopefully a lot of places! I make video games for a living, and I hope that in a few years, I’ll be able to start my own games studio! I have lots of big, far-flung aspirations, though, like opening an art gallery or doing a pop-up restaurant. In terms of where all that will happen, I’ve definitely thought about staying in Salt Lake City, but I think at some point in my life, I’ll live in New York, the Pacific northwest, and San Francisco. Those just seem like big tech hot spots, and they have some of the best creative communities in the States. I’ve also toyed with moving abroad for a few years—maybe China or Scandinavia somewhere—but that thought is definitely still in its infancy. Dunno about the rest of life yet! I think I’ll probably settle down one day, but if not, I think I’ll be okay with it. Generally, I just plan on having lots of great relationships with lots of kinds of people, and if lasting romantic love comes out of all that, all the better!

What’s it like being queer in Utah?

I mean, that’s kind of presumptuous of you to assume I’m queer just because I like men and publish in queer literary journals, but I’ll take the bait anyway. Being gay in Utah… That’s a hard one. I guess the word I’ll use to describe it is a word we use a lot in the gay community but not one we think about very much. Fabulous, or belonging to fables. There’s something really epic about being gay in one of the biggest fundamentalist religious centers of the world. Something so rebellious and wonderfully perverse about having grown up in that faith culture and received its rites and lived its myths, and then departing and coming out and embracing such a rich (queer) culture. I think there are a lot of similarities between the two: an appreciation of emotional intimacy, a strong sense of community and belonging, a love for things beautiful and artistic, vibrant symbols, and the list goes on. As a believer, I felt that the whole world had this sort of magical aura about it, and to be honest, I feel like my gay life is a little bit enchanted: wild parties, crazy personalities, genderfuck drag shows, galas, and brunches galore. And unicorns everywhere, obviously! So yeah, fabulous. In all the best ways!

What makes you peculiar?

I guess I’m peculiar because I don’t feel the need to hold myself to any one world view or way of living. My life is full of changing values and contradictions that come together in a beautiful, messy amalgam, and I couldn’t love it more. At times, people think it’s pretty weird. “Video gamers can’t like poetry; poets can’t be interested in chemistry; chemists can’t rock climb; and rock climbers can’t…” Obviously none of that is true, but there’s always sort of this pressure to fall in line and be like everyone else—like other game designers or poets or gays or liberals or whatever—and that’s just not something I’m interested in! I get a lot of value out of being uniquely me, and I reserve the right to change and change and change again, all throughout my life. I spent long enough trying to live up to other people’s expectations, and if being me means being a weirdo, then I choose to be peculiar every day of my life!

 

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Greg Bayles is a project manager at the University of Utah’s Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab. He received a BA in English Literature from Brigham Young University and went on to complete a Master’s of Entertainment Arts and Engineering at the University of Utah. In his free time, Greg enjoys reading, making video games, cooking, wandering art galleries, and rock climbing.

You can read his poem “Chemical Emigration” on the blog, or read more work in the newest issue of peculiar.

Together We Will Rise: A Personal Narrative on the Park City Women’s March

by Amanda Steele

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I woke up that morning at 6 a.m. Pulled on boots, layers of pants, scarves, gloves, and looked out the window to inches of fresh snow. A quick search online let me know that Parley’s Canyon would be treacherous in these conditions, and I wavered about whether or not to chance it. At risk of sounding melodramatic, it felt like a turning point for me. Was I going to turn back when things were difficult? Would snow and icy roads deter me from coming together with millions of women across the world to march for equality and rights for all people? The air seemed to buzz with a collective energy, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t even try. Deciding that I could always turn back if the roads were too bad, I zipped up my coat and headed out the door, a makeshift sign that read “Together We Will Rise” in my hand.

The slow-crawling, barely-moving drive to Park City seemed a metaphor for the state of women’s, and other minority groups’, rights in our country. An uphill battle, slow moving, where little progress seemed to be made. Danger was also involved. Toyota Camrys, Dodge pickups, and Walmart semi-trucks dotted the side of the road as emergency vehicles came to their rescue. Traffic was heavy, and there was bodily risk for all of us—just as those with bodies outside the norm. The bodies of women, people of color, queer people, disabled people, DAPL protestors, etc. are at risk as things stand now in our country. Even more with the inauguration of Trump.

Nearly three hours later, I found a place to park amongst the thousands of people gathered for both the Sundance Film Festival and the Women’s March and grabbed a bus to Main Street where the march would begin. Hundreds of us jogged excitedly to the start of the march that was already beginning to make its way from the Wasatch Brewery. I had made it just in time.

The snow was still coming down in soft, large flakes as I joined the throng. Signs held aloft with phrases such as, “my body, my choice,” “how long must women wait for equality,” and my personal favorite “a woman’s place is in the resistance” among others. There were children, men, celebrities, locals, and lots of women and queer folk. Accompanying us was a peaceful but determined quality to the atmosphere.

The rally afterwards was overflowing into the streets. People climbed up onto snowbanks to get a better view over the sea of pink hats and cardboard signs that were now a bit droopy from all the snow. We were Queens in the North. Winter was here, and nothing was going to keep us from the fight. Despite the stress of getting here, I was happy I had made it. It is hard to describe knowing that you are surrounded by thousands of other people who care about equality just like you and knowing that millions of other women around the world were marching that same day. It truly did feel historic, and I am proud that I pushed through social anxiety, dangerous roads, and crowded buses to show my support.

For me, marching represents a personal commitment to put my words into actions. To become involved in my community and state government and organize with others in my area to create change. To agitate, to protest, to show up. I’ve always been the sort to focus my energy into writing, art, or changing the minds of those around me, and while those are important things, sometimes we all need to be willing to do more.

I was also made aware that even for all the positive aspects of the march there is much work to be done. I had the privilege of never feeling the necessity and urgency of showing up to a protest or march before Trump’s election. Many people have been showing up and fighting long before me because they had no choice. They have always been at risk. These marches were mainly centered on the issues of white women, and the chants could at times be too focused on a gender binary. We need to continue to recognize privilege and get out of the way for people of color, nonbinary people, and other groups that often get pushed aside so that white, cisgendered bodies are the most visible. I, and other white women, need to show up to marches for Black Lives Matter, need to speak up and say that vaginas don’t make a woman. As with all social movements, we need to be continually checking our privilege and critiquing ourselves. We need to celebrate our victories but keep striving to do better.

In the end, I came to the march because I decided enough is enough. It is time for all of us to call our congress people, show up to protests, organize together, and end complacency. For ourselves and even more so for others with less privilege than our own. When I look back on this weekend, one that will be talked about for years to come, I want to be remembered as someone who stood up. Someone who was willing to do hard things because they were the right things. Someone who didn’t sit complacently by and let others do the work for me. May we all continue fighting the good fight and be a little braver and bolder during the oncoming years. May we keep each other safe and keep showing up. If we do that, we can keep the tide of nationalist, bigoted beliefs at bay.

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16142996_10154733640881815_8309407749215901025_nAmanda Steele is a feminist killjoy and bisexual woman living in Sandy, UT. She is a recent graduate of Utah Valley University with a degree in creative writing and a gender studies minor. Amanda has been published in peculiar, along with multiple other Utah-based publications such as Touchstones, Rock Canyon Poets community publication, and Intersections along with online journals including wordhaus. In the past, she has served as an associate editor for Essais and prose editor for Touchstones, both student publications. She is currently applying to graduate school in gender studies and loves to mix her love of activism with her love of writing and fandom.

I Don’t Want a Penis Anymore—Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Commit to Change

by Aubrey Kesler

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Talking about gender dysphoria is like trying to drive a nail through a plume of smoke. I’ve often said that I am a goddess of love and beauty born into the body of a Greek hero. The world sees the hero and expects one thing of him, but the goddess feels another way. She can’t imagine leading the Argonauts or slaying Medusa. Instead, she seeks the golden bangles and flowing dresses that will express who she is inside, but realizes that the world expects her to don the helmet and breastplate like the other men. Can you imagine how ridiculous a towering man with the strength of an ox would look in a dress?

When I was young I ventured out into the wide, psychotic bazaar of the internet in search of people who felt like I did. I found forums, I found news articles, and I found other goddesses who had shirked the expectations of society and cashed in their breastplates for bangles. But when anyone tries to wear makeup for the first time it is hardly ever a success story, and that’s what I found when I entered these forums. It was such a mix of emotions, because on one hand I found my tribe, but on the other hand this tribe confirmed everything I had felt about myself: I am different. The beauty I sought was about nine feet beyond the furthest reach of my desperate fingertips.

I will never be beautiful. Look at this body! How can I make this figure appear feminine? If I dress like a woman, I’ll be a hiss and a byword—the joke of songs and movies—and whispers will rise up like a chorus in the wake of my presence.

Thoughts such as these ran through my head in the dark hours of the night. In those moments I made a decision that would affect me for the rest of my life: I will tell no one. God gave me this struggle so that I can overcome it and return to Him with honor.

You must know that I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this is the purpose of life that’s given to you: put on blinders to “The World,” read your scriptures, follow the commandments, and march on in a single file line. I mean no disrespect to anyone who currently practices the faith—I have met many with the milk of human kindness flowing in their veins—but it’s truly a restrictive lifestyle. There’s a list of things you must believe and it is not open for debate. If you are different than what is binary (male or female, Priesthood or Relief Society—no in between), then the doctrine will not allow you to come to terms with the true person you are beneath the masterwork of pulleys, levers, and chemical compounds that is built around your soul. That is the predicament that all queer-identifying people find themselves in when it comes to the LDS faith. Boys wear ties and girls wear dresses.

So I soldiered on in the breastplate and helmet like I was expected to do, and deposited Aubrey the goddess into a prison cell in the darkest corner of my heart. Perhaps my angst and self-loathing were the echoes of her cries for freedom. After years of confinement her shouts finally climbed the stone staircase and reached the ears of the scared, insecure person who sat on the throne of my mind. I left the Church in 2014, and in 2016 I talked to my wife about dressing in drag so I could express the femininity inside of me. I was twenty-eight years old and had wasted eighteen years acting out a role whose lines I could hardly read from the script. In today’s gun-riddled society, eighteen years is all the lifetime that some people get to live.

I talked to my wife about cross-dressing or doing drag once or twice a month, and she said that this would be something we could try and make work. I immediately began looking through Pinterest for dresses that I’d always wanted to wear. I told people at work in special confidence, and even telling one person made me feel so powerful. All it took was a moment of holding the scepter for Aubrey to assume control of the legions and the senate; Derick, that scared fool of a ruler, knew that his time on the throne was at an end.

I came home after a long day of work and my wife knew something was wrong. I had a glass of whiskey in hand and was watching the TV like I wished life could be as simple as all the stupid sitcoms: beginning, crisis, punch line, resolution, and the credits. She asked me how I was doing and I lied. She knew—she always did—because she had a way of reading me and telling me what the next three paragraphs of my emotions said. I took a sip and told the truth.

“I don’t think a weekend here or there will be enough.” I was still staring at the TV. It was all flashes of color and light to me.

“Do you want to be a woman?” She was afraid of the answer because she probably already knew it—she just had to hear it.

“Yes.”

“So you want to cut your penis off and live the rest of your life as a woman?”

Another sip and another slide deeper into the Jacuzzi of truth.

“Yes.”

With that single word Derick abdicated the throne. His statue in the square was toppled, and Aubrey’s banner was raised around the capitol. The next day we called our friends and family and told them that we were getting a divorce and that I would be transitioning to live life as a woman.

Keep in mind that at this point I had no idea how beautiful or hideous I would look as a woman. I only had in my hands the smallest, most potent kernel of truth, and it was one that I had always known and poured over in fascinated horror: I AM a woman inside and I must live that way even if I look like Fiona the ogre.

The next day I went out and expanded my already extensive makeup collection (I did theatrical and cinematic makeup as a hobby which I had planned on making a career) and did myself up as Aubrey for the first time in my life. I’m lucky in that I already had the skills of a practiced makeup artist when I did this. I’m so vain and self-possessed that I shudder to think what the outcome would have been if I had botched together a makeup look and thrown on a $15 Halloween wig. I might have backed out.

When I was finished, I looked in the mirror and saw the goddess shining through my features.

I am Aubrey Marie Kesler, the heiress who has come to power after twenty-eight dark and dreadful years of captivity. If my frame is large, it’s only because so much soul cannot dwell in a smaller tabernacle. Someday I will have breast implants and sometime after that I will undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery and will have a fully functioning vagina. I say this boldly because I’m not afraid of this anymore.

If you are reading this and you are in doubt about yourself, do something about it. Do it now. Do not waste another day in unhappiness when you could be spending your time sailing into the golden horizon of the future. Do not be so concerned with beauty standards, as I was, that you let time blow your years away like so many leaves in a cold wind. You are beautiful for who you are and who you get to become. God didn’t make a mistake when He poured me into a body and He did not make a mistake when He did the same for you. Learn what He wants you to learn by developing who you are and finding ways to help others to whom he has given a similar quest as your own.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

That’s such a cliché my fingers hurt just typing it.

But it’s true.

 

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Aubrey Marie Kesler is a trans woman who dwells in Utah and spends her days living out the wildest daydreams she never thought could come true. Her identity is rather nebulous and unexplored at this point, but the few constellations she can point out are shaped around aspirations of a career in beauty, art, writing and anything that has to do with creation. The nearer she gets to the stars ahead, the brighter they sparkle in her eyes.

She writes the blog The Life of Aubrey where a version of this post originates under the title “Continuing the Tale.”

http://transaubreygirl.blogspot.com/2017/01/continuing-tale.html

My Label is Aaron

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by Aaron Gates

As people, we often like to put ourselves into categories. As writers, we tend to do the same thing. We say things like, “I’m a fiction writer” or “I’m a poet” or, if you’re me, “I’m, like, kind of a poet, I mean, I like to write poetry, but I don’t know if I’m a poet, exactly . . .” And, well, all dear-god-am-I-really-a-writer issues aside, what I’m trying to get at is that often we limit ourselves as we seek to define ourselves. We forget the complicated nature of things, of humans, as we try to classify what we do and who we are. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Labels and classifications can help us find the next book we want to read, the next TV show we want to watch. Labels can also help us find support groups, communities, friends who have had similar life experiences.

Recently we’ve seen a movement to break away from labels that are too broad within the queer community. The queer community has had the label of “Gay,” “LGB,” LGBT,” and “LGBTQIA+,” to name a few. People are moving more and more to show the diverse parts of their identities. Gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, asexual, demisexual, biromantic, and others. This movement to encompass all the diversity of someone’s identity is what led us to use the term “queer” as an umbrella term here at peculiar. We want to represent the deep diversity in every writer and artist, and in the queer community.

What does this have to do with writing and creating? I think it’s important that as we create, we acknowledge ourselves and the history we bring to our creative process. When I traveled back to my parents’ home for the holidays this year, I was reminded of how much I have changed from the shy little boy who grew up in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Now, this was nothing new to me. Ever since I came out, I’ve worked to become more of who I feel I really am. I’ve worked to let more parts of my personality out that I was ashamed of or hid while I was in the closet. I felt that process meant I needed to change a lot. And maybe it did. But somewhere along the way, I pushed a lot of my past away. Maybe it was from painful memories, maybe it was from a loss of ideals and connections that were held in my youth. I don’t know. But either way, I focused more on my now.

Buy my past is part of who I am. And as I’ve worked more on my writing, I’ve realized more and more that there are parts of me that don’t make sense if I don’t accept every history I have. As I came home for the holidays, I remembered again that no matter what, there will always be a part of me that grew up walking through the forest, playing in crick beds, going to church, and so many other things. As much as I come home and see that I don’t really fit in my hometown the way I used to, I still come home and feel a connection.

I believe that for us as writers, artists, creators, we have to accept every part of us, whether we like it or not, to find our truth. We are complicated, with a million different facets to our personalities, to our experiences. But if we do not acknowledge these parts, accept them, celebrate or learn from them, we are cutting off a part of who we are. We are denying it. We can’t love ourselves if we don’t even fully acknowledge who that person is to be loved.

So, for the new year, I hope everyone can work to explore their own identities, to question why they dislike any part of who they are, and to see themselves more fully. We are so much more than any list of labels in our lives. And I hope we can apply this to our creative processes. Learn from other techniques. If you write prose, study poetic tools of assonance, repetition, concrete imagery. If you write poetry, learn how prose writers craft their work through scenes, outlining, rhetorical situations. Learn how artists create their works through layering, perspective, focus. Learn how writers use words to frame, to build, to create ambiguity or paradox. And through this process, I promise, you will become more skilled in what you create. But, perhaps more importantly, you will learn more about what you have in common with those around you than what your differences are. You will understand more what it means to be human.

As always, give love.

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Aaron Gates is a Utah Valley University graduate, having majored in Writing Studies. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of peculiar and has also served as Editor-in-Chief of Intersections, Tech Editor of Touchstones, and a senior editor for Essais, all student publications. His poetry has been published in Warp and Weave and Touchstones. Aaron has an unhealthy obsession with Channing Tatum, Calvin and Hobbes, and Thai food; he and The Walking Dead are currently seeing other people.

21 LGBTQ+ Literary Magazines/Journals

by Trish Hopkinson

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The listings below are literary magazines/journals that specifically focus on the artists and writers in the LGBTQ+ community. There are many other literary magazines that support LGBTQ+ contributors. For a more general list of all-inclusive/feminist lit mags, check out my list here: Feminist Lit Mags and Journals.

These literary magazines/journals are listed alphabetically; some are currently accepting submissions, some are temporarily closed. I’ve also included whether or not it is a paying market in the notes column. These lit mags/journals also fit the following criteria:

  • Generally do not charge fees to submit (although some may charge fees for some types of submissions and for contests).
  • They accept poetry submissions.
  • All accept electronic submissions.

If you have suggestions for lit mags/journals I’ve missed, please contact me here or leave a comment below.

Lit Mag/Journal Web Site Notes Duotrope
Adrienne https://siblingrivalrypress.com/adrienne/ Queer women specific https://duotrope.com/listing/10584
Assaracus https://siblingrivalrypress.com/assaracus/ Gay male specific https://duotrope.com/listing/5024
Crab Fat Magazine http://crabfatmagazine.com/ https://duotrope.com/listing/16260
Gertrude Press http://www.gertrudepress.org/ Not currently accepting submissions https://duotrope.com/listing/1375
Glitterwolf http://www.glitterwolf.com/ Currently on hiatus https://duotrope.com/listing/16182
Lambda http://www.lambdaliterary.org/ https://duotrope.com/listing/13740
Lavender Review http://www.lavrev.net/ Lesbian specific https://duotrope.com/listing/5351
Peculiar http://www.peculiarjournal.com/ Utah only n/a
RFD Magazine http://www.rfdmag.org/ n/a
Sinister Wisdom http://www.sinisterwisdom.org/ Lesbian specific https://duotrope.com/listing/1709
Smoking Glue Gun https://smokinggluegun.com/ https://duotrope.com/listing/15810
The Dandelion Review https://thedandelionreview.com/ Women and gender non-conforming specific https://duotrope.com/listing/21079
The Gay and Lesbian Review http://www.glreview.org/ Paying https://duotrope.com/listing/1395
The Quilliad https://thequilliad.wordpress.com/ Canada only https://duotrope.com/listing/20418
The Wanderer http://wandererpoetry.com/ Paying https://duotrope.com/listing/21153
Vagabond City https://vagabondcitylit.com/ Paying n/a
Chelsea Station http://www.chelseastationmagazine.com/ The editors do not respond to all submissions. After waiting 90 days, assume your submission will not be accepted. https://duotrope.com/listing/6362
Plenitude Magazine http://plenitudemagazine.ca/ Paying https://duotrope.com/listing/13055
Raspa Magazine http://www.raspamagazine.com/ Latinos specific n/a
Vetch http://www.vetchpoetry.org/ Transgender poetry specific n/a
Creating Iris http://www.creatingiris.org/ Young adult specific https://duotrope.com/listing/13582

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hopkinson-path-zoomTrish Hopkinson is a poet, feminist, and LGBTQ+ ally. She has been published in several anthologies and journals and her third chapbook is forthcoming from Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson is co-founder of a regional poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets and Editor-in-Chief of the group’s annual poetry book series entitled Orogeny. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow her poetry adventures on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community at http://trishhopkinson.com/.

2 Poems Inspired by the Holidays

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Traditions
Spencer Ballard

I was a free shoes kid again,
the result of the stroked ego
of some smug Santa.
Boots. Brown and yellow
like the shit I would get for standing
here. Coal-eyed clinging to my old
sneakers. Loved. Mine. Holy.
The only thing worse than
stinging eyes and sweaty socks
cold office tiles and sympathetic stares
were these boots so carefully disguised
as a gift.

I Don’t Want Snow, I Want Winter
Aaron Gates

Winter sits on windows ledge like piles of fleece blankets;
it presses in corners like packages waiting to be
shook, to be opened, to be husked and discarded
like fruit. Winter spreads up through the ground, it doesn’t fall.
Winter doesn’t stick to boots or mittens or tongues, it wraps
twice around and close to your chest. Winter burrows
under doorways. Winter isn’t white,
it’s grey, it’s lone trees and slush and soggy boots
by the fireplace. Winter is forgetting your coat
in November, it’s your parents singing on Christmas morning
as you drive to your grandparent’s house, it’s wishing
spring would come in February. Winter is a memory,
it’s an ache in your soul that reminds you
of sitting outside to watch the sun set.
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Spencer Ballard is an aspiring queer poet/artist recently graduated from The University of Utah. He has been the Featured Poet of peculiar, and published several times. He often draws inspiration from “those thoughts you have in the shower that monopolize your attention for weeks,” and is a firm believer that you have to let a poem run its own course—especially if it’s going in a direction you didn’t intend it to. Spencer is currently the proud owner of four pet typewriters, as well as a rat named Emerson.

Aaron is a Utah Valley University student majoring in Writing Studies. He is C0-Editor-in-Chief of peculiar, and has served as Editor-in-Chief of Intersections , Tech Editor of Touchstones, and a senior editor for Essais, all student publications. His poetry has been published in Warp and Weave. Aaron has an unhealthy obsession with Channing Tatum, Calvin and Hobbes, and Thai food; he and The Walking Dead are currently seeing other people.

Good Dreams and Bad Dreams: My Election-Night Dinner

by Brianna Cluck

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I’m standing in the kitchen cooking sausage and pierogies.  Suddenly, I feel hands around my waist and I lean my head back into his chest.  We’d gone on one other official date before this, and things are looking pretty good.

It’s November 8th at approximately 6 PM.

After eating some delicious food, we decide to turn on the TV for what was going to be the real entertainment of the night: watching the election results roll in.  The plan was simple: we sit down on the couch, enjoy a nice glass of wine, watch Hillary win the election and then celebrate with Facebook posts and the nearest taco truck.  Everything was laid out perfectly.

He turns on the TV and furrows his brow.

All the states so far are red.  I’m a little concerned.

“It’s okay,” he says.  “It’s just the start.  The southern states always vote Republican.  Let’s spend some time away from the TV and, by the time we’re back, the western states will have started coming in and we’ll see Hillary win.”

That seems to make a lot of sense, so we set about wasting some time. We talk about board games, I subject him to my hipster mix of psychedelic music and punk music and, in general, we just spend some quality time together.

But still, there is that feeling in the back of my mind.  What will happen?

~

“Wanna go see Doctor Strange on Friday?”

We first met a little over a week before.  A mutual friend invited me to lunch, and he happened to be there.  After lunch, we went bowling and, after that and a round of pinball (wherein we accidentally left our other friends to wait outside), we went to his apartment and played board games.  To be honest, this guy amazed me with how many things we had in common (like our shared interest in rare books and how strangely attractive I find a man with an old illustrated copy of Paradise Lost), but I just assumed he was in a relationship and tried to move on.  A couple days later he asked if I’d like to go see a movie and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was, in fact, that rare intersection of single and interested in me.  That was no easy feat in a culture where the last major interactions I’d had with any men in a romantic context were either a one week confusion or angry messages on OKCupid about how much they disagreed with my existence as a trans woman.

In a way, running into this guy felt strange, unlikely, and altogether appropriate.  If a guy could ask me on a date just in time to watch the election together, anything was possible.

~

Finally, it’s later into the night and he steps over to the TV and turns it on.

“Oh, shit.”

More states are coming in, most of them red.  What’s more, Trump has taken Ohio.  Ohio always predicts the winner.  I make a snarky post on Facebook about how the season finale of America is really heating up, to which my friends and family tell me that it’s more of the series finale, and to check the Google projections because they are more realistic than the ones we are watching on CNN.

My mild concern turns to a deep, unsettling fear.

As the rest of the results came in, the tone on Facebook had started to change.  First, we were joking, then we were mildly concerned.  Now, we were terrified.  Posts started pouring in: “What will happen to my marriage?” “How long until I’m deported?” “Will I ever get my gender legally changed now?”

I can’t bear to look, and end up falling asleep until much later when it seems like just about everyone is in the middle of either having a breakdown or trying to console their loved ones or tell them that, in their opinion, Trump “won’t be that bad,” or how we need to just support him as president now.

Now, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is here.  It’s like a funeral for all our trans loved ones we’ve lost. Usually, that message is mixed with a message of hope, imploring us to keep going, even when all hope is lost.

This year, that message seems even more dire.  Even if Trump himself is not terribly against trans people specifically, there’s been a shift in the atmosphere of our country, and more and more of our marginalized people are having to be careful when they go out, or even stay inside, for fear of violence.  If you’re an ally to the trans community, I ask that you stand with us.  I ask that you vote for our rights.  I ask that you stay with us, even when the day of remembrance is over, and even when it seems that hope is gone.

If you’re trans and reading this right now, I only have one message for you:

We will stand.

We will fight.

We will live.

And it will be beautiful.

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Brianna Cluck is a 23-year-old woman living in Provo. Working in an office by day, she spends her free time pretending to write poetry while actually looking at pictures of cats. When she’s neither writing poetry nor looking at cats, she can be found either singing karaoke or attending protests.