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: Sam, 25
Sam was born in the Bay Area, went to school in New York, has traveled a whole bunch and now lives in Chicago, which she describes as “the love of my life.” She has just started her next big adventure, an ASL-English interpretation bachelor’s program at Columbia College Chicago, and FYI she is interested in meeting more people from the Autostraddle community that know ASL (American Sign Language).
Working toward a career as an interpreter has been a longtime dream for Sam, but she initially put it on hold to study acting in New York. After “falling out of love with theater,” she moved to Chicago and started studying the circus arts. A few serious injuries and a year of traveling later, she’s finally ready to pursue this particular dream.
The Sunday before her new program began, Sam took some time to chat with me about A-camp, traveling, couch surfing and her celebrity crush, amongst other things. She’s also the first Straddler to submit black and white images for this column, and they’re beautiful. Everyone, say hi to Sam!
Tell me why you love Chicago!
The midwest just feels like where I should have always been. My best friends from college were all from the midwest and my entire family is from either Wisconsin or Illinois. Everyone here is so nice and Chicago is just small enough that I run into someone I know every day. I also feel like you can meet people at any time. Your barista becomes your best friend or the woman on the bus tells you her life story. Things are more relaxed here and my quality of life is so high because it is so much cheaper than either California or New York.
Do you miss anything about New York?
Sometimes I miss the purposeful pace. I always knew my schedule for the entire week. People seem to be more spontaneous here which is fun but sometimes stressful when I got used to planning things out.
You are someone who has been to both A-camps so far. What does camp mean to you?
Camp is the world I wish I lived in. I have a lot of queer friends now but I haven’t always. It’s been so fabulous being in a safe space where I can talk about anything and meet lots of new people. It feels like four years of therapy each time I go. Everyone is so positive and I learn so much about myself each time. I come home more positive and confident.
You’ve traveled a lot — can you talk about the places you’ve been?
After I graduated from college in 2009 I spent five months backpacking around South America with my girlfriend (at the time). We spent a month in each of the countries we visited. My favorite parts were the month we spent in the animal reserve in Bolivia. I got to work with pumas and monkeys and gigantic birds. The architecture in Brasilia is so alien-like and modern. I have one of the buildings tattoed on my leg. I’d never seen so much modern architecture in one place and I never realized how much I love architecture. Chicago has a lot of cool buildings too.
I also will always love Valparaiso, Chile. It’s a beautiful town full of murals. My paper plane tattoo comes from a mural there that says “under the asphalt there are flowers that are waiting to be born” in Spanish. I didn’t want text so I just got the planes.
Two summers ago I went to Israel and last winter I spent three months traveling solo in Europe. That trip was so important for me. I was scared to be alone and I relied heavily on couch surfing, which forever changed my life. Do you know about it?
I know about it but I’ve never done it! I was actually going to ask you to tell me about it.
It’s the best thing ever ever ever. It’s a website for travelers. You can find hosts, host people or just hang out with people. It’s almost everywhere now. I have used it for all three purposes. People are always friendly and amazing and sometimes they become your really good friends. I have had the most epic, personal one night conversations with people thanks to couch surfing. I’ve helped plant trees, I’ve been taken on architecture tours, I’ve been to dinner parties. Every interaction is different but it’s always magical. It reminds me of A-camp in some ways — you just get a brief, beautiful moment with people.
Have you always felt safe using it?
No, I was nervous at first but I am really careful about who I meet up with. There is a built-in reference system.
That sounds amazing. I have been hearing about it for years but have always been nervous to try it out.
Just don’t take just anyone. Make sure they really want to meet you and aren’t just looking for a place to crash.
What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned while traveling?
I’ve learned that what I value in life most are the people. When I’m old, I hope I look back on all of the beautiful relationships and friendships. I think that is all that will matter in the end. I also love not having a phone for months and removing myself from technology for a while. I journal a lot and think more.
Ah, “removing myself from technology.” A crazy magic trick I have yet to master. On an entirely different note — you mentioned being in the middle of the butch/femme spectrum. What does that mean for you?
I never realized how much gender issues affected me until the most recent camp. I’ve always felt like I was different than other girls. I definitely don’t feel comfortable presenting as femme — dresses — but I also don’t feel comfortable in really MOC clothes. I’ve been trying to create my own style that has aspects of both. I find it frustrating because I think people view me as more femme than I want to be viewed and some people view me as really boyish occasionally and that seems weird too because I hear “you are femme you are femme” a lot. I’d like to be more dapper because that seems very in the middle to me but I haven’t had the money or time yet to buy clothes that work for that. Maybe if I was really lucky, people would call me a “hipster boy” or something. That’d be hot.
I secretly love when people call me a hipster even though I don’t think it’s supposed to be flattering.
I don’t think it is either, but I love hipster men’s fashion, sometimes anyway.
Do you have any celeb style icons?
Does Carly count as a celeb style icon?
I love her flamboyance and she is so dapper. I don’t really have a celeb style icon but I love everything on tomboyfemme. I love men’s fashion on women.
Do you have any celeb crushes?
I am currently crushing on Anne Hathaway. I think she is really talented and also a total babe. And I will always have a deep love and respect for Ellen. I think her coming out directly paved the way for me to be comfortable and out. Also, when I was an actor I was grateful for her for being visible in a world that doesn’t have loads of visible queer women, especially then.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the AS community that I haven’t asked you about?
Yes! This is sort of personal but I’d be interested in seeing more people talk openly about kink. It’s something I’ve become interested in recently and I know a lot of kinksters but not a lot of queer ones. I was so excited to see Ali’s article about her Christmas flogger because I think talking about [kink] makes it less taboo.
I’m so glad you liked that post! Everyone talk about kink in the comments, please. One of Autostraddle’s goal for 2013 is more sex all the time, so let’s get this party started ASAP.
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!
So, Chicago is my heart and soul and I am going to be going to Columbia next year so hey girl! Also, I feel that same way about my gender, I’m like in the middle and people try to put labels on it but I don’t think there’s really a label to put on it.
What will you be studying? I love my department but I don’t know the rest of the school very well yet. If you end up having any classes in the 33 E Congress building, you should go to Cafecito across the street after your first day. It’s an amazing little sandwich shop.
I’m going to be studying Playwriting. I’m really excited to be coming home to Chicago.
hey y’all, I go to Columbia too. And yes, Cafecito is amazing.
I’m so excited to start classes and be back in Chicago. Its been a long year.
I also love talking about kink! There’s a pretty active community where I live and while many of my queer friends will discuss kink and come to some of the larger fundraising events they don’t seem to be overly involved in the community as a whole. I don’t know much about flogging but I’m currently being mentored in shibari and it’s awesome!
Sounds fun. There is a queer party here on the 3rd I think. I want to go but I have class the next day. Bad life decisions? I dated a pro domme in the past and have wanted to meet more like minded people ever since.
Kink communities make me nervous. Not because there’s anything scary about kinks per se – YKINMKBYKIOK – but because of the drama, horrifying statistics about consent violations (http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/one-in-three-kinksters-reports-a-consent-violations/), and general creepy unsafe feeling I’ve always gotten around fetlife. I’d love to find a safe, low drama and pressure-free kink community, but until I do I’ll just keep finding fellow kinksters on an individual basis.
Do not give up – safe and pressure-free are totally doable! Drama, ehhhh, I’ve concluded that all human groups have too much drama where the members have a tendency to date each other. Do not, as I spent far too many years doing, conclude that because many online kink communities can be creepy that all RL groups are!
So I was reading this and got excited because I love couchsurfing and I live in Israel where you traveled, so I felt connected. and then my girlfriend Inbar told me you were on gay birthright together! love the small lesbian world we live in!
Gay birthright?! Tell me more please!!
Look up “Israel experience” (I think). Registration ends today I think but they will probably do another one.
For me, it was the only way I felt comfortable going on a birthright and it was so fun to go to gay clubs/community centers and to meet other queer Jews. A lot more fun too…
That sounds so amazing, I can’t believe I didn’t know it was a thing. I’ve been really hesitant about going on birthright, but this totally changes things.
OMG BECCA! So nice to meet you. The Queer world issssssss sooo small. Tell her I say hello! I want to come back someday to see her and Jenny.
You too! They both say hiiiii! come back and hang out! life is great and here!
SAM!!!!!! you babe.
I have always wanted to couch surf! But I’m worried once I leave for university I won’t find anyone to travel with for long periods of time. I wish I could go with you! Also, you totally look like a Hipster boy.
Oh hai Sam.
I’m so happy to see Straddlers using Couch Surfing!
If you ever find yourself in Columbus OH, I will totally accept your couch request!
Sell me on Columbus? I want to go somewhere close for Spring break. It will be my first day off in 3 months. Working and school..
Couchsurfing literally changed my life. I can’t host people anymore because my roommate is nervous about it but I hope to get back into it soon.
1) Super cheap to eat/go out
2) Great local food and even better local beer/mead
3) Lots of live music everywhere for no cover/barley there cover
4) If you like dance clubs there’s Wall St which is basically lesbian mecca
5) Vegan Bar with Vegan Bar Food (deepfried avocado)
6) Short North – great arts/ going out scene
7) Itern Grace
8) Huge local craft/arts scene
9) Decent bus system, pretty walkable
Too bad you no longer host, I’m planning on taking a trip to Chicago this summer!
I can host people I “Know” or could make an exception. How can I find you on there? I think I am still listed under my birth name :-/
You can find me here:
“I find it frustrating because I think people view me as more femme than I want to be viewed”
you’re my soul twin. carly is even my style icon! and tomboy/femme is one of the only style blogs i actually follow. i’m now going to be madly in love with you forever. k?
AND WE BOTH LOVE POST CARDS
sam & i went to college together, so i feel like i’m basically famous now
Chicago Straddlers woot!
I love the photos you have, the black and whites are gorgeous. The kink community I have bounced up against here in Chicago has been a depressingly hetero heavy group, although that’s more due to the people I found it through.
There is a queer party the first weekend of March at Galleria Domain. I want to check it out!
You look soooo familiar. I think I saw you on the Clark bus one Saturday night…..? Next time I’ll make sure to say hi :)
Probably! I live and work off of Clark although I mostly bike now.
You should join the Chicago Straddler group on Facebook.
That whole butch/femme spectrum paragraph landed really close to home for me. Every time I read AS, I’m thinking, “I’d like to be more dapper because…”
will be visiting chicago next month & would love to meet a fellow queer sam. if only to compliment your hair & style in person.
I love Sam!
My ovaries just exploded.
Oh, Chicago. I’m going to be up there at the beginning of August for Clitfest and will be using Couchsurfing again, probably. I hope to hang out with more queer people I don’t already know this time.
Sam, I definitely understand that space in the middle of the butch/femme spectrum. I’m right in the middle too and keep trying to figure out what that means and how I want to present myself.
Also, I’ve been trying to figure out where I’d like to live after grad school and you have totally put Chicago on my radar!
Awesome to see you featured here Sam! Hey, are we totally going to watch Packers games this fall? Pleaseplease!
I really want to see your Brasilia tattoo! .. or just know what building you chose
Ahh, and this is why I regret not getting to know you at A-Camp. I’ve always wondered about the significance for your paper airplane tattoos =)
Now you know! I have to miss May camp but hopefully I’ll see you in the fall!