2016 in Review 

It’s been a while since my last post–and a lot has happened in the past year!

As it was for many, 2016 was a heartbreaking year for me on a personal and political level. I experienced the end of a long-term relationship, and was devastated by the Orlando shootings, a summer filled with incidents of police brutality and the November election. There are many things I do not want to remember from 2016, but there were also some highlights that I want to share.

In February, I spoke at the Rural Freaks conference, presenting an essay on my own experiences being a rural queer.

In March I was privileged enough to spend almost a month with my grandparents at their house in Mexico and finished a draft of Chapter Three of my dissertation and transcribed many, many interviews! My granddad is a retired anthropologist (which is one reason why they have ended up in Mexico–as they have many colleagues and friends there), and it was wonderful to have his perspective on the writing process.

In May my department offered me a post-doc position for the academic year 2016-2017, if I could finish my dissertation three months ahead of schedule. And I did! I cleared my schedule for the summer, including, sadly my plans to be a counselor for Camp Aranu’tiq, and dedicated all my time to writing. It is one of the hardest things I have done, and I am very grateful for all of the support from friends and family that I received, especially as I approached the finish line. My dissertation was successfully defended in August!

Three weeks before my defense Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police and their deaths were recorded and share internationally. I have participated in Black Lives Matter protests in DC, but the aftermath of these shootings galvanized me to focus even more locally, and I reached out to my community list-serve to find like-minded folks who were anti-racist activists. As there was no existing group to join I founded the University Park Racial Justice group, although we were not able to meet till I was done the dissertation. We have now been meeting for the last six months, and are trying to have the town declare itself a sanctuary town, are working to educate residents on implicit bias (especially around calling the police on innocent POC walking through our predominantly white neighborhood), and teach folks bystander intervention techniques. With the current administration, our work is more important than ever.

In late August, I hit the ground running with my new position at UMD in late August, teaching Intro to LGBT Studies (2 sections) and an upper-level based on my research entitled “The Queer Child,” with 120 students across the three classes. It was a lot of work, but it was also fantastic to be back in the classroom, a place I love with all my heart. It was a particularly busy fall, with lots of traveling on top of teaching. I went to the Trans Studies Conference in Arizona, was a counselor for Camp Aranutiq’s family camp,  attended three weddings in a row (and was a bridesmaid for the first time in my life), applied to several tenure-track positions, and presented to teachers at a student diversity conference in Baltimore.

In December, I was very grateful for the beginning of Winter Break, having not stopped moving, writing, teaching since the previous January! My family spent Christmas in Mexico with my grandparents, which was lovely. Sun, warm weather, and the beach were just what I needed to recharge. We were in a remote location with no internet or cell-reception–which was fantastic for all of us!

And now, it is 2017! I am always surprised to find that a new year is here, but such is time, moving steadily on. I am looking forward to teaching LGBT 200 again, as well as a new upper-level class “From Birth to Death: LGBTQ Life Trajectories.” It is hard not to despair with the current political climate, but I am doing my best to stay involved, stay active, practice self-care and take it one day at a time.

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Image: “Calendar” Aleah Phlls.

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