Straddler On The Street: Ketzel

Hi crush monsters, this is Straddler On The Street, a feature where I celebrate all of you incredible Autostraddle readers by hunting you down, demanding you chat with me, and then writing about you on the Internet so we can all crush on you. Get excited, because butterflies in your stomach 24/7 is a fantastic way to live.

Header by Rory Midhani

straddler-on-the-street-amended_640web


Straddler On The Street: Ketzel, 16

Ketzel is our very first teenage Straddler On The Street! She emailed me a while ago and said, “I’m asking to be considered for Straddler On The Street because I want to see more teenage queers, and I’m a teenage queer, so I thought maybe I’d ask.” Talk about taking initiative! I honestly wasn’t sure how to proceed (could I legally interview someone under the age of 18?) but once I got her mom’s approval I decided that Ketzel was really bold and awesome and deserved an interview just as much as anybody else.

Hailing from NYC, Ketzel is a 16 year old high school junior and a self-described “feminist, hunter/jumper rider, activist, book lover, and art junkie.” She says she’s “as nerdy as they come” and she’s got a crazy busy schedule but she still finds time to read one or two books a week, do lots of homework and of course read Autostraddle.

At the end of her Straddler submission email Ketzel wrote, “Thanks for being Autostraddle” which obviously made me teary-eyed, but I’d just like to take this moment to thank Ketzel and all the other teens who read this website for being the future. Seriously, if you’re all as smart, funny, sophisticated and caring as this girl is (and if you’re an Autostraddle reader then I know you are!) then I feel pretty good about this world of ours.

Ketzel, 16

Ketzel, 16

Hi! Thanks for submitting to Straddler On The Street — I am really excited, you are our first straddler under the age of 20.

Thanks for choosing me!

Of course! So you are 16 and a junior in high school. Are you maybe kind of thinking about college?

Yeah, I go to this tiny school and I take mostly senior classes so I’m kind of floating in between grades right now. College is kind of the million dollar question, but I have no idea where I want to go. I’m starting to think about schools like Vassar, Wesleyan, Oberlin… but honestly they’re more like random guesses than solidly researched schools.

That is totally valid. Are you factoring queer campus life into your decisions at all?

I’m definitely looking at schools that are either in big cities or that are well known for being LGBT+ friendly. But there are so many other things I’m looking for that I don’t know how big of a factor it’s going to be.

What are some of the other things you’re looking for?

I want somewhere where I can continue riding horses in some capacity, a really cool art department, resources for people with learning disabilities and that has an awesome community, which right now is the most important part for me.

That sounds perfect! I’m a little bit envious — I loved college, and you’re right at the very beginning of that adventure. You mentioned you do a lot of activism — will you tell me a bit about that?

Last year when SlutWalk was a big thing I got really into helping organize SlutWalkNYC which was an amazing experience. I was also one of the planners for the event after the walk and I got to lead one of the meetings, but mostly I just showed up and listened and then spoke when I thought I had something to add. Now I’m doing a lot of work inside my school and with other people my age working on making schools safer spaces.

Do you think you’d like to work on something of that size again, or do you prefer the smaller work you’re doing in your school?

I would LOVE to work with [the SlutWalk organizers]… working with so many activists who were so passionate about what they were doing was one of the best experiences of my life, plus most of the organizers were queer and it was awesome to be in a queer space. I’m still in touch with some of the organizers and some of them have become close friends. But I really like doing things with my school because I get to work with parents, teachers and students and really see what opposition is where, plus its a lot lower risk and there are always people monitoring my self care. At SlutWalk I got really burned out.

Yeah, activist burn out is definitely a real thing. How did you find out about SlutWalk and decide to get involved?

I was super miserable as a freshman and felt totally isolated so right before my sophomore year I took a deep breath and told myself if I was going to be miserable I might as well do things I thought mattered. I went into the SW meeting terrified and didn’t talk until someone talked to me. From there everyone was so nice that I couldn’t not go.

I’m sorry you were so miserable. I hope things have gotten better.

The thing that has really made me happier is learning to schedule myself so I always have something to look forward to and making sure I have the support I need.

I don’t want to sound condescending, but you should know that you are really super on top of your stuff for someone who is 16. You told me you’re a feminist. Do many of your peers identify as feminists?

No, they don’t. I end up tiptoeing around the word “feminist” because they all really care about the topics I bring up but feminism gets such a bad rep. So instead of saying, “Here’s this thing about feminism,” I’m just like, “Here’s this problem, how do we fix it, or do we even think it’s a problem?” Then I get a much better reception.

Sigh, okay, so the times are not a-changing just yet. I have super similar situations with my friends — they are totally feminists! But they don’t all like the word.

I know! But at the same time I totally understand where the stigma comes from. There are so many problems in the feminist community that even when you find people who are feminists they all think different things and are fighting totally different battles a lot of times in really damaging ways.

That’s true, “feminist” can be a slippery word. Is there any sort of queer community at your school or in your life?

I’m a member of my school’s GSA but I get kind of frustrated with it sometimes. The people from SlutWalk used to be in my life all the time and I still hang out with them sometimes. Other than that I tend to attract queer people. Plus I have these two amazing mentors who are family friends who helped me through coming out and now are just my go-to people, but they live in San Francisco. And I have a girlfriend right now… so yeah, basically my life is a whole lot of queer.

That’s so great. Well I think it’s great… my mom teases me that I live in a queer bubble, but I really like it!

It is really nice, especially because in my other life I ride horses which is this totally conservative atmosphere where I just haven’t brought up my queerness, so it’s nice to come back to the city and be surrounded by a bubble.

Ketzel, horseback riding

Ketzel started horseback riding seriously at age 12 but has been riding casually since age 8

Let’s talk about horseback riding! What is it like? I want all the details, please!

I started riding when was 12 or so. It’s really weird for me to transition between BarnKetzel and CityKetzel because I just have to bite my tongue on a lot of things at the barn. It’s one of those things that I couldn’t live without — my horse, Noah, is literally my life and I would be a totally different and much less happy person without him, and the my barn family means so much to me — but it’s also really hard to live with it because it puts so much pressure on me and takes away all my free time and it’s a totally different mindset from how I usually think. [You can't] break the rules or change them and being different [is not seen] as being good. Almost all my friends from riding have totally different life experiences from me and if it weren’t for horses I wouldn’t be able to understand anything about them. But I love it more than anything in the world so all the early mornings and the lack of parties and things like that are worth it.

What do you and your friends do for fun on the weekends?

I don’t really “get” weekends because I spend all my time either at the barn, tutoring or doing my homework so my weekends aren’t all that exciting. Usually I go on a date with my girlfriend or make dinner with some friends or else I’ll ride Friday night to prep for a show, then my best friend comes over for dinner and a movie on Saturday night and sometimes if we’re feeling ~wild~ we’ll go to a local coffee shop or concert hall and listen to some music. I’m sorry my weekends are kind of boring!

That doesn’t sound boring, that sounds like my typical weekend! When and how did you discover Autostraddle?

When I was a freshman my school had the most awesome librarian who was super nerdy, like me, and she became one of my best role models ever. She told me about Autostraddle and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Oh my god best librarian ever! I love her! What are some misconceptions about younger humans that you’d like to clear up?

I feel like everyone is terrified to talk to teenagers because we seems awful and loud and a little dull. But if you give teenagers role models we turn out more like awesome older folks and stop being insecure and unfortunate seeming.

I’m gonna go ahead and say on record that you definitely qualify as an awesome NOT unfortunate seeming human, FYI. Finally, do you have anything else to say to the AS community?

Reach out to people you feel like you can’t or don’t want to understand because its more likely that they’re really interesting than not.

I love that advice! It sounds like you’ve had incredible role models in your life thus far.

Yeah, I’m really really lucky that I was able to find people who make me a better person!

Ketzel looking completely adorable

Ketzel looking completely adorable


If you would like to be featured as a future Straddler on the Street, please email vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com. Include a few photos, 3-5 sentences about yourself and put “Straddler Submission” in your subject line. Approximately a million people have submitted so far, so please be patient as Vanessa goes through her inbox — you’re all sexy with really smart brains, and don’t you forget it!

Profile photo of Vanessa

Vanessa is a queer feminist writer, NYU grad, crush monster, and Jewish Grandma In Training. She has a radical brain, a mushy heart, and a million floral print dresses. She's currently on a big adventure but she'll be back one day, pinky swear. In the meantime, she can sometimes be found on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 198 articles for us.

44 Comments

  1. Thumb up 7

    Please log in to vote

    i’m going to tell you what i tell every college-searching queerio: i think you would be a fantastic fit for a women’s college and would loooooooove your experience! anassa kata from my alma mater bryn mawr, but shoutout to the seven sisters and all the sisters in the mix. they are SUPER queer-friendly, SUPER feminist, and SUPER full of BABES that will change your life (and i don’t even mean in a making out way, i mean in the sense that the people you meet who choose these kinds of educations tend to be mind-blowing crazy awesome people you’ll want in your life corner).

    wherever you decide, you’re going to do super awesome things! but i thought i would give my obvious self-plug because choosing a women’s college was one of the best decisions i have ever made for my big gay life and i love passing on the torch to similar-minded folk.

    • Thumb up 4

      Please log in to vote

      Seconding the women’s college thing x1000. Shameless plug – Mount Holyoke. We’re in the #1 most lesbianish region of the country, strong queer community, and we have a solid horse thing going.

      But in terms of the women’s college model on the whole, we have a similar political atmosphere or whatever to the other liberal arts schools you mentioned.

      Additionally, Ketzel is the COOLEST NAME EVER.

        • Thumb up 3

          Please log in to vote

          SMITH COLLEGE.
          I was a theater/sociology double major there, and there are a kazillion ways to get involved in activism, athletics & art at Smith… and to combine them all. DO IT.

  2. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    As a 17 year old queer girl who lives in NYC, I was super happy to read this article! Also, like another commenter said, Ketzel is a very cool name! I finished all of my college applications (thank god! that process was so annoying, especially the financial aid stuff, I suggest you start early. definetly start writing your college essay the summer before senior year and go on college visits too) Now I’m just waiting to hear back.

    Anyway, I definetly agree with the sentiments of previous commenters. I applied to Vassar and three women’s colleges, as well as visited them and researched them extensively, and I definetly think they’re great choices, not just for queer girls, but for any smart, ambitious person who cares about social issues. I would also recommend Skidmore, American University, Sarah Lawrence and Hampshire, although I’m not sure if they offer horseback riding. Skidmore probably does since it’s in Saratoga Springs, which is known for its horse races and tracks.

    It was really cool to hear about your work on SlutWalk. I really wanted to get involved but I worried that I was too young and that people wouldn’t take me seriously. It’s really inspiring to see someone a year younger than me so involved in these sorts of things.

    Good luck to you Ketzel!

  3. Thumb up 13

    Please log in to vote

    What you said about wanting to see more teenage queers totally stands for me too. As a 15 year old in very conservative South Carolina, I soak up any kind of information on how an out life could be. It makes it so much more easier to imagine, when you know that there are people out there who are living in the same time and basic situations as you. Usually reading this web sight makes me feel like a little kid trying to be grownup and playing where I have no right to be playing but this interview made me feel a lot less out of place. Thank ya bunches for that.

  4. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    Holla for teen queers! Young ‘uns but good ‘uns. I’m the year above you but in the UK we don’t apply for universities until the final year of school, so I’m presently freaking out wondering when my last two choices will get back to me.

    Anyhoo, well done on being fantastic.

  5. Thumb up 4

    Please log in to vote

    I’m so glad to see someone my own age around here!
    Got super thrilled when I’ve read “Ketzel, 16″, which is actually kind of silly.
    Your school’s librarian sounds really awesome! I don’t know anyone who know’s Autostraddle, all queer people I know are not that involved in the “online community”. Anyway, you sound like the kind of person I wish I knew in real life.
    Nice interview!

  6. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    i HIGHLY suggest you check out skidmore college. they have a great equestrian program and a super fantastic art department. it’s becoming steadily more well known so a lot of exciting things are happening on campus (like great new faculty members, brand new sophomore/junior housing, etc). saratoga springs is a fun college town and close enough to boston, montreal, and nyc that you can easily get away for a weekend when the “skidmore bubble” starts to get to you. lots of the student body are super passionate about many different issues, and i personally found it really easy to find my own community within the larger skidmore community. i absolutely, positively LOVED my four years there and would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about it or put you in touch with some people who are still there! (i graduated in 2011). let me know and good luck with your college search!

  7. Thumb up 4

    Please log in to vote

    I’m gonna keep this short and simple, she’s great, I can see her being a fantastic role model, heck, she seems like she has it in her now. It’s also great to see this site take young people seriously, when it’s so easy take the line that young people don’t know who they are.

  8. Thumb up 4

    Please log in to vote

    I WANT TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND. I’m a year older than you and I go to a super conservative Catholic high school. I feel so isolated most of the time because I don’t have anyone like you who I can relate to. I’m a huge activist and feminist too, and I have done tons of volunteering for slutwalk and takebackthenight which were really amazing experiences. I tend to get really annoyed when people who are older lump all teens together and assume we aren’t taking an active interest in making the world a better place. Have any of you guys heard of Tavi Gevinson? She’s 16, and has done more things than most people have done in a lifetime. Also, where do you get your confidence from? Because I honestly wouldn’t have the guts to be interviewed by Autostraddle at such a young age.

    • Thumb up 1

      Please log in to vote

      LETS BE FRIENDS then :)
      Tavi is awesome, even though some of rookie sometimes misses the mark I totally look up to her.
      As for confidence, I’m the youngest of three so my siblings picked on me a lot and my sister had a teenagehood that followed me everywhere so I just kind of had to learn how to take a deep breath, smile and prove people wrong about ‘the type of person I was’ but also I’m totally banking on the fact that people spend more time thinking about themselves then they do thinking about me so if I f*ck up really badly no one will really notice… I hope.

    • Thumb up 1

      Please log in to vote

      Living in Singapore, with only two other queer acquaintances that it’s getting awkward to talk to(for personal reasons), I totally get the crappy feeling of isolation. Hang on, man, we’ve only got a while more to live through. Like Tray said above, we’ll find our place.

  9. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    LOVE THIS. There’s been a lot of talk lately about getting older contributors/content for Autostraddle and while I agree with that it made me think there could be younger content up in here. As a not-yet-20 person myself, I think the odd perspective from someone at school or living with their parents would definitely be appreciated!

    So, well done Autostraddle for interviewing Ketzel and well done Ketzel for being awesome (and making me feel like a lazy bum). The end.

  10. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    Ketzel, I’m gonna echo the sentiments of so many others here and say that you seem like your head is squarely on your shoulders and you’re clearly on top of your game. Young folks like you give me hope for the future. Keep it up, darlin.

  11. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    Hey Ketzel! you’re an awesome 16 year old. As for the college search, definitely check out Skidmore, it’s in Saratoga Springs. It has fantastic riding – Division 1 and their team isn’t conservative. From my sources there I know that at least one of the captains is a lesbian. It has fantastic artsy stuff, and is very queer friendly with what seems like strong feminist vibes.
    That or just keep an eye out to the women’s colleges (they’re awesome) or Sarah Lawrence, which has the biggest queer population of any coed school, just in case you want that environment.

  12. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    To go along with the you-should-go-to-my-alma-mater-because-it-was-awesome-and-you-sound-awesome-too theme, check out SUNY New Paltz. Definitely LGBT friendly (and lots of ‘em for that matter!) a great school community AND village community, the fine/arts department is incredible and there’s definitely lots of horseback riding.

    Now that that’s out of the way – thanks for being brave and stepping up in this community at such a young age – because I know I couldn’t do it. I used to stumble upon Autostraddle in my teens and get scared away because of ‘what it all means.’ Now, being who I am at 25, that version of me seems so far away. But if you have that confidence at 16? Damn.

  13. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    Aaaah yay for other teen queers! Also New York woop! I think Autostraddle should have some sort of teen queer column or something. I think we need more teen queer representation. This entire comment could probably be a paragraph of me gushing about teen queers and how awesome it is that Ketzel is the first teen straddler on the street.

  14. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    I TOTALLY SECOND KATE about the womens colleges, and as a Mount Holyoke student i am a little biased, but i think you’re meant to be here!!! we have a kickass riding program with a beautiful equestrian center where you can board your horse AND have your queerness be extremely accepted and embraced at the same time! pretty much everyone is a feminist, our accessability department is INCREDIBLE, and studio art is a really popular major… ya gotta come visit, ketzel. kate really hit the nail on the head, though — consider the women’s colleges, you won’t regret it :)

  15. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    GO TO AMERICAN UNIVERSITY AND RUN WOMEN’S INITIATIVE OKAY?!

    ketzel you’re amaze. stay amaze. also i wanna fist bump you but i was a slutwalk organizer too so we’re gonna call it a #slutbump and just wait to see how others interpret that.

  16. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    It’s always cool to ready about different kinds and ages of ‘Straddlers, but I wish the No. 1 question for teens wasn’t always college college college. I mean, college can be awesome, but it shouldn’t be a defining thing about anyone until they’re in college (and maybe not even then). Why not start with the present and what inspiring things a person is currently doing (which you did get into later on, to be fair)? I did go to college, after homeschooling through high school, but my girlfriend unschooled all the way through and got mightily tired of all the adults constantly asking about college, as if that was the most important thing in a teen/early-twenty-something’s life…
    So anyway, go Ketzel, but remember that college isn’t everything!
    Also, I think you should consider asking people not just about what they do but about how they work and how they like to set up their lives on a more internal level — I’m always fascinated by that.
    Thanks for listening! I love this feature.

    • Thumb up 1

      Please log in to vote

      hi! thank you for all the feedback. i’m always looking to evolve this column and make it the most interesting, inclusive, diverse thing is can be!

      i completely agree with you about the college question. as i asked it i sort of kicked myself, especially because i remembered how annoying it was to have adults ask me that 24/7 my junior year of high school (and i was planning to go, it was still just super annoying and stressful to keep being asked about it!) i mostly asked it because i was curious how important it was for ketzel that she attend a queer-friendly campus, as when i was 16 i thought i was straight so none of my college choices had anything to do with the identity that became so important to me when i was actually at school (i mean i went to nyu so it’s not like i was lacking a queer scene, but i wish i’d been encouraged to pursue smith or mount holyoke or bryn mawr, for example). anywho! that’s my own personal baggage, but hopefully gives insight into why i felt the question was important to ask (especially because ketzel is our very first teen).

      i am also VERY interested in how people set up their lives on an internal level — i agree, it’s completely fascinating. these interviews are usually via gchat and last about an hour, so they definitely only scratch the surface — i also like to focus on what the straddler wants to talk about so if they’re anxious to tell me about their work or their jobs etc. i’m gonna let them talk about it. but there’s an interview coming up where i spoke with a writer and we discussed process and structure and how she works, not just what she does, so look out for that and hopefully you’ll enjoy it!

      ALSO. i am SUPER FASCINATED with the entire idea of unschooling, so if your girlfriend has even the TINIEST desire to be featured in this column, PLEASE have her email me — vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com — for real, i would LOVE to do a straddler interview with her (or with anyone who has had unorthodox experiences with education).

      sincerely, thank you for the feedback. this column exists because i love you guys so much, and i want it to keep growing and changing and evolving. thank you for giving me some things to think about.

        • Thumb up 0

          Please log in to vote

          no worries! i totally understand work craziness…i’m experiencing some of it myself right at this very moment! i’ll look forward to getting an email from you/her/both of you whenever things settle down for you guys. i’ll be here…forever ;)

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.