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: Minerva, 23
I met Minerva at A-Camp in May 2013 and was obsessed slash envious of every single outfit she wore for the entirety of our time on the mountain – you guys, she had floral print denim shorts!
Minerva is from Thousand Oaks, California and is currently at school in Santa Cruz. She describes herself as a “soon-to-be post-university queer lady and professional trans feminist,” and she spoke with me about a bunch of stuff including what she’s studying at university, what she plans to do once she graduates, and the awesomeness of A-Camp. Meet Minerva!
How would you describe yourself to someone you were meeting for the first time?
Straight into the tough stuff! Let’s see, I’m a queer trans lady in her early twenties, aspiring college graduate, I read feminist theory for fun and profit, I’m an amateur poet and a closet nerd. Aquarius sun, Libra rising, if you’re into that.
On your Straddler submission form you wrote that university rules your life – I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing at school.
[This is a] two part answer. First, my family is divorced and working class. So I fund school entirely through loans and whatever grants I can find. That’s led to some complications with my trans identity, since I began, for lack of a better term, “medical transition” while I was in school. That in and of itself is a full time job [and] I would have loved to been able to take a quarter or two off – and my grades would have been much better for it – but that was midway through a lease that I would not have been able to afford to finish out if I wasn’t enrolled full time and receiving financial aid.
Second part, I’m one year away from graduating. It’s crunch time. I live in a college town, I do barista work on the side, I take part in my local queer communities and go to school. School has been where the bulk of my time and energy goes.
Got it. Has your school been supportive of your transition? I mean both in terms of administrative things and in terms of the community and student population.
Administratively, I haven’t had any trouble. They have an easy way to provide a preferred name for class rosters and system files. So even though I haven’t legally changed anything, on the roll sheet I’m Minerva Magdalene. For some reason, they also include the students legal sex on roll sheets, but they include the option to change it to “Undefined” which is represented by a U instead of an M or an F. Which still outs you, in a way.
Student population wise, I mean, it could be much worse. Transphobia is something that I have to negotiate whenever I am in any public space. But I’ve been lucky enough to have not had a verbal or physical confrontation on the campus. Which fits for the campus climate. Santa Cruz is easygoing, but not always friendly. It’s rare to see total strangers striking up conversations.
Hm, well that sounds like a mixture of good and okay, sort of. It’s shitty that the comparison has to be that it could be much worse, but I certainly understand that. Can you speak a little bit about what you are studying at school?
Certainly. I am majoring in Feminist Studies, concentration in Law Politics and Power.
Do you enjoy the stuff you’re studying?
Very much so. It’s not without its problems, but the interdisciplinary nature, the theoretical framework, and the practices fascinate me. And the problems I’ve encountered have just provided further motivation to pursue the subject.
That is so wonderful to hear! You told me that you want to become an ambulance driver once you’ve graduated. Can you talk about how you decided that was a thing you wanted to do?
It was a intersection of many things. First was a lifelong urge to aid and [a fascination with] the process of healing. When I was six years old I saw my father recover from a broken back over the course of roughly two years. He’s still a little stiff but he’s completely mobile. Biology was my strongest subject throughout high school and community college. When I was younger I wanted to become a doctor. (I grew up in the suburbs, that may have had something to do with it.) I was a declared biology major when I got to university.
Now I’m a feminist studies undergrad, and being an EMT is decidedly still within my reach. It’d be far more satisfying work than being a barista. Disaster response is a profession I’ve always had the highest esteem for, and I don’t really have the build to be a firefighter.
Wow, that’s a really cool trajectory. Not what I expected at all.
And it’s valuable skills. The first response care is one of the most crucial things in a medical emergency. Most of my friends, loved ones, family, the important people in my life, are queer or trans. Unfortunately, there’s a high chance that they will need those skills at some point.
That definitely makes sense. Do you have any set plans on pursuing that after school?
It’s a pretty set plan. It’s a single semester program at the local community college to get certified. If I can scrape together the funds to do it this fall – I’m taking a leave of absence this fall from university and returning to finish up winter or spring, I did the same thing this year to save money – if not, the fall after I graduate. The plan from there is to move somewhere else and do that as my primary job. Everywhere needs EMTs and I need to get out of California.
That is really cool! Can you tell me more about what the job of EMT entails? I feel sort of silly but I don’t actually know much about the job description.
EMT stands for emergency medical technician. Basically they respond to 911 medical calls. They get there as quick as they can, provide whatever medical care is needed, and if necessary, provide transport to a hospital.
Gotcha. And why you want to get out of California?
I want to get out of California simply because I have lived in California all my life. There’s nowhere I can think of that I want to live immediately out of school. Santa Cruz is close enough to the Bay Area that I get a sense for life in the Bay. I’d love to possibly settle there in my thirties and launch a career, but I don’t want to live there right now.
Do you have any places you’d particularly like to explore post-grad?
I’ve heard good things about Austin and the Northern part of the East Coast. I won’t know until I’ve seen it first hand.
I hear ya! Other than an EMT, you mentioned an interest in becoming a paid writer, professional domme, and political dissident. All really interesting paths. Can you speak a bit about each of them?
Well, paid writer is the dream career path. Ties back in to the problems I’ve encountered in academic feminism that I alluded to earlier. The two major ones are that we have important, sometimes potentially revolutionary discussions but it is so wrapped up in jargon and dense academic text that you need university training to decipher it. So all of that potential stays locked up in the university.
And also, trans women are still like goddamn unicorns. That is to say, rarely found in the classes, and then only one or two at a time. We are getting to be pretty popular as subjects of study, but nine times of of ten, if you see trans women in theory or studies, it’s us being talked about by someone who isn’t a trans woman.
I’m well accustomed by now to being quite possibly the only out trans girl in my classes. And having to be the one to bring trans women into class discussions that are directly relevant to our experience. It’s not direct hostility. But it is erasure. And that erasure is hard to endure.
But, both of those problems have a solution I can put my time and energy into. Do outside research. Be prepared to defend your existence. Write theory. So while I’ll be paying the rent and electric bill post-grad by driving ambulances – and pro domming? – I’ll be writing that whole time.
That sounds amazing and so worthwhile and fulfilling. Do you have experience with domming?
Yes. But it’s all strictly amateur. I’ve never been paid to do it.
I mean that all sounds really awesome to me. I hope it all works out! I also wanted to talk about A-Camp. Could you tell me a bit about your experience there?
This May 2013 was the second time I’ve gone, September 2012 [was the first]. Short answer, [it was] life changing. Slightly longer answer, this was the first “queer/women” space – I fully acknowledge that that term doesn’t encompass the full population of camp – where I felt safe and welcome as a male-assigned trans person.
I’ve been in queer spaces that get a lot of things right. I’ve been in a women’s space where trans women were allowed to be. Allowed. Tolerated. Those are the words I’d use to describe most of the spaces I’ve been in and their views towards male-assigned trans people. At camp, not only was I accepted, but it was unconditional. Like, if someone had questioned my right to be there, I would have back up. I’d have the whole damn camp.
Absolutely! It makes me so happy to hear you felt that way, because that’s what we strive for at camp. That feeling of acceptance.
Autostraddle is the first space I’ve encountered that’s been like that. I’m still looking for a second.
Well it sucks that so far we are all you have found. But I’m really glad you found us. On a way lighter note, do you have any celeb crushes?
Dessa, a writer, poet, singer, and emcee from Minneapolis. She’s a member of the Doomtree collective, who are all pretty rad in their own way, but Dessa. She does the things with the words that make me feel the bittersweet burn of inhabiting a body in space and time. Also, Tobi Hill-Meyer. She makes her own porn. Also, she’s on Crash Pad. You won’t be disappointed.
Well okay then! What are your favorite books?
Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. Part memoir, part examination of the specific interplay between sexism and transphobia. It manages to talk theory in a manner that doesn’t need require knowledge of university-level jargon to decipher. I first read this book while I was coming out to myself. It helped.
Issue zero of Fucking Trans Women by Mira Bellwether. It’s a good mix of theory, personal anecdotes, safer sex info, practical anatomy, and instruction. It’s available as a pdf distro in various places on the internet. Google it.
For the theory buffs and the academics, Second Skins by Jay Prosser.
How did you discover Autostraddle?
I don’t actually recall what originally brought me to the site. But it was late in my high school career – six years ago – shortly after I started dating queer women, long before I had come out to anyone. I became a regular reader after Annika posted her first article. Those came along right when I had just begun puzzling out my own gender. The timing was perfect.
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!