Making The Yuletide 'They'

Dec. 2020 — Newsletter #004

Fresh-Basked Idea: QTPOC Happiness Is Radical

Chile, can you believe we made it this far? Statistically speaking, it’s a miracle I’m banging out these words right now. With that in mind, one of my main social justice platforms has quickly become: Black joy is radical. Better yet, Black queer joy is radical. I’ve started calling myself a “Black trans joy advocate” — not out of self-importance, but out of survival.

Actively seeking and holding onto happiness is the main pillar of my resistance work. So I’m going to keep ordering bomb quesadillas from my local Tex-Mex spot. I’m going to shimmy out of situations that drain me, and conserve this precious introvert energy for me, myself, and I. I’m going to keep watching Living Single, keep catching up on old episodes of The Friend Zone podcast, keep studying my spiritual ancestry, and keep doing me. Being goofy. Being bougie. Being free. Black trans siblings, I invite you to do the same.

Happy Holi-Gays! An LGBTQ+ Holiday Gift Guide

We don’t stan capitalism, but guess what? Money is power. The economic empowerment of marginalized people — in this case, LGBTQ+ folks — is a worthwhile cause to champion as you’re crossing folks off your nice list. Here’s a cute little gift list I’ve curated that’ll put some money back into the pockets of queer BIPOC artists for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Yule.

1. “Old Fashioned Love” Poster, Felix d'Eon ($72.25)

Shop Felix d'Eon on Etsy

2. “Equality Ain't Exclusive” T-shirt, Brownie Points For You ($38)

Shop Rinny Perkins' store

3. “Monogram Print Durag - Brown,” Telfar ($90)

Shop Telfar

4. I Can Make You Feel Good, Tyler Mitchell ($60)

Check out Tyler Mitchell's photography

5. “XS” Long Sleeve T-Shirt, Rina Sawayama (£35)

Shop Rina Sawayama's merch


6. “Let Niggas Be Gay” Hoodie, Crafty World ($50)

Shop Crafty World

7. Desert in Revolt 8x10 Giclee Print, Bobby Larson ($20)

Shop Bobby Larson's Store

Queer Creative Of The Month: Nomi Ruiz of Jessica 6

Earlier this year, I (virtually) met Aria Sa’id, co-founder and executive director of The Transgender District in San Francisco, while writing a story about Black joy as resistance. It comes as no surprise, then, that Sa’id, The District, and NOLA-based trans housing House of Tulip are hosting a Winter Gala this Friday, on Dec. 11. The goal of the virtual event is to raise awareness and funds to address “community-driven homelessness solutions” affecting trans people of color in 2021. The gala is also meant to “close out a rollercoaster year with a moment that reminds us to celebrate our lives and joy,” Aria says. Co-hosted by T.S. Madison and Diamond Stylz of Marsha’s Plate, the event will also feature guest appearances from Indya Moore of Pose, Trace Lysette of Transparent and Hustlers, and writer and activist Raquel Willis.

“We want people to be safe, at home, dancing in their socks to incredible music they know and love,” Aria adds. “And also hear from some new, emerging transgender artists who have high energy and really, really dope records everyone needs to hear.” Enter Nomi Ruiz of Jessica 6. This disco-infused singer-songwriter, who’s also an actor, producer, and prolific essayist, is one of the headliners for Friday night. I got a chance to speak with her about activism, identity, and healing through creative expression.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Caroline Colvin: How do you feel like your trans identity influences your creative process as an artist?
Nomi Ruiz:
My creative process has definitely been fueled by my need to heal from my journey of self-discovery in a world that doesn’t want me to exist. There is always a sense of healing that exists when I’m creating — whether that’s working through relationships, inner turmoil, oppression, sexual exploration, and frustration. I’ve learned over time that putting out work that heals myself, in turn, heals others. I create with more intention now that my soul is more at ease than it used to be.

CC: How did you get involved with The Transgender District and House of Tulip’s winter gala?
NR:
I was previously asked to perform for The Transgender District’s launch party before COVID-19 and the event had to be canceled. I was so excited to hear about the Winter Gala, that I’d get to perform for the organization, and that House Of Tulip had also come on board to make the initiative that much stronger.

I’m a firm believer that all things happen for a reason and I think this is an opportunity to reach more people than we would have before. Aria has been such a huge support of my work as an artist. I’m really appreciative of people like Aria, and organizations like The Transgender District and House Of Tulip who recognize the work I’m doing, find joy in it, and allow me to express myself while creating awareness and support for our communities.

A post shared by Nomi Ruiz (@nomiruiz)

CC: Why did you feel like it was crucial for you to get involved with these two advocacy organizations?
NR:
I believe it’s necessary to align myself with my community whenever and however I can. There is still so much work to be done and it all starts within our own communities. Its crucial that those who are marginalized have somewhere to turn to when in need. These organizations not only provide a safe space for us to belong, and find resources and information. They are laying the groundwork for trans folx to exist, thrive and flourish in a world that may seem diminished.

CC: I know you’ll be performing virtually as the one headliners. What kind of visuals/energy are you looking to bring to this gala?
NR:
I haven’t been doing much virtual performing, but I feel I’ve been saving myself for this upcoming performance at the gala. I’m bringing all the things my fans love: the glitz, the glamour, the drama, stamina, passion, production.

CC: When it comes to being an artist in quarantine, what are some aspects that have been particularly fun or exciting?
NR:
It’s actually been very rewarding to stabilize for once. I’d become so accustomed to traveling and building little lives for myself all around the world that I forgot to set roots anywhere, and was beginning to feel a bit lost internally. I’ve finally been able to build a home and further develop creative projects that I’d left waiting in the wings.

A post shared by Nomi Ruiz (@nomiruiz)

CC: What parts of it have been difficult or frustrating? How do you work through those challenges?
NR:
Not being able to perform and connect with my fans face-to-face has been a bit difficult. That’s an energy that can’t really be replicated. I work through that by reminding myself that one day we will be reunited and there will be a glorious energy that maybe would not have existed before — or maybe it existed but we took it for granted.

CC: Something my queer friends and I have been thinking about a lot is how quarantine has affected our perception of self, especially in regard to queerness. Do you think quarantine has shifted the way you think about your gender or sexuality?
NR:
During quarantine, I published an essay titled “Trans Women Have Always Been Prepared For The Apocalypse.” It touched on how the world around us is now getting a sense of the trauma we’ve endured all our lives. I think I found strength in knowing that trans women are some of the strongest beings on earth, and our trauma can be used to keep us safe when the world around us comes crashing down.

Follow Nomi on Twitter @nomiruiz. Listen to her on any streaming platforms under Nomi Ruiz or Jessica 6.

The Transgender District and House of Tulip’s Virtual Winter Gala is free to the public and will be held on Friday, December 11th, 2020 at 5:30pm PST/7:30pm CST/8:30pm EST. It will be streamed on Youtube via bit.ly/transgenderwintergala.

The Final Beat

Another Cherry newsletter you’ve seen through — and from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you for reading. I can’t say what’s in store for 2021 yet. Lots of reflection, meditation, and exploration will be necessary. Cherry has historically taken a break for January and come back in February, and that’s what I imagine I’ll do this time. See you then.

Sending hot cherry tartes with maple-vanilla ice cream on the side,

Caroline Colvin