Moving

The walls are bare

The desk is clear

The boxes are stacked

The memories intact

 

Into the unknown

    And beyond

 

To build something new

    Adding to what is already there    

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Dear Albuquerque and Friends

After three years in a state I had only visited but grew to love, it is time for my journey to take me to a new destination. Leaving Oklahoma for Albuquerque saved my life, and I cannot put into words my thankfulness for this place and everyone I have met along the way. Albuquerque has been the first place I have lived where I felt at home. The feeling was small at first, but it only grew as I made connections with coworkers and friends. Because of Albuquerque and finding joy in my work, when I thought I could no longer go on, I found within me the will to live and to be my true self. When I took my leap into the unknown, I knew that it would likely cost me everything. I was wrong, and as I came into my true self, I found the most incredible friends and have had the most amazing experiences these past three years.

From the early stages of “I like boba” to board gaming at Empire to cosplaying for a Welcome to Night Vale live show to narrating my flight down a mountain with two long thin boards attached to my feet to falling asleep with the sounds of New Mexico winds shaking the aspen and pine canopies above my tent, my heart soars with memories. My heart soars with life well lived because I finally felt free enough to be myself. As I take my next step on my journey, I reflect on how much things have changed, especially with how I see the importance of choosing one’s family. Albuquerque and so many wonderful friends and coworkers have become my chosen family, and you shall always be in my heart. Thank you for accepting me for who I am and allowing me to thrive in this beautiful city that has become my home.

At the end of this school year, I found myself truly torn with what I wanted to do next on my professional journey. And, as I reflected on the experiences that truly meant the most to me, a desire and drive within me grew. I’d had the pleasure of modeling lessons this past year time and time again, and with each lesson I taught, my desire to teach again grew and blossomed. I’ve also been fortunate to work with the Reducing LGBTQ Adolescent Suicide Team and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, as part of the Transgender 101 Presenters Bureau, and I was able to be the advocate I so desperately had needed growing up in small town Oklahoma. That work, in addition to the very real threats to democracy and LGBTQ rights from the current president’s administration, has led me to seek career opportunities in a place where I feel that I can make the most impact, New York City.

And so, my time in Albuquerque will be coming to an end. The words I write here do not even begin to do justice for how I feel about this place and everyone who has been a part of my journey. Thank you.

Love,

N. Bailey

Leap

The wind blows

Shifting what is

Shifting what could be

What might be

To follow either path changes everything

The wind blows

As I leap

Waiting

I sat there,

    waiting

 

Waiting to hear,

    a reason to stay

 

But,

    in the end,

         every reason stated

         told me it was time to go.

 

But still,

I waited.

Alone

Lately,

When I dream,

I am driving.

 

Yet,

My eyes cannot stay open.

The car drifts between trees,

Staying on the road only by chance.

 

Darkness surrounds me,

And I am alone.

 

Every night,

I find myself on a new stretch of road.

Alone.

Memory Isn’t Dead, Chapter 6: Words

The road seems to fade in and out of focus.

I can’t get the article out of my head.

Why was it sent?

I thought they were an ally. Now, I am not so sure.

Is this what I should expect from now on?

To believe that someone has my back only to be disappointed later when uncertainty fills a silent void of communication.

The tires rumble on the highway as the road seems to pull me forward, in and out of focus.

*          *           *          *          *

My first pit stop is in Santa Fe.

I usually fill up the tank before I leave town, but this time, I just wanted to be on the road. I wanted to hear the voices of Night Vale and of Ira Glass. I wanted to focus on something other than looming questions before me.

Above the gas station convenience store, a sign reads: “Blimpie’s Is Now Open Inside.” I assume the name for the shop came from the sandwiches resembling a blimp. I guess it’s no weirder than a sandwich shop being named after anything else.

It just highlights the strangeness of words and names, like pit stop.

I assume that it is a racing term relating to stopping at a “pit” for refueling and tire checks, but my only real knowledge of racing comes from Pixar’s attempt to sell toys via anthropomorphic vehicles.

I don’t remember “pits” in the movies.

Maybe, there were.

*          *          *          *          *

Traveling means bathroom awkwardness.

It is the only part of traveling that I hate.

Which bathroom will I receive the least amount of stares and whispers?

Since my latest session of laser has made shaving difficult, I head to the men’s bathroom as I button up my shirt to try and hide what’s underneath.

Above the urinal, a “health center” vending machine hangs covered in graffiti. Through the black sharpie scrawls, I see the promise of “barely there bikini” and “exotic” condoms. Each description is more ridiculous than the last.

I dart out of the bathroom, hoping to not be seen.

There’s still many hours ahead.

*          *          *          *          *

I pass another billboard proclaiming the premiere shooting location.

In bold letters, it’s advertised as if this is a good thing.

What kind of a country continues to allow mass shootings again and again and again? Columbine wasn’t enough. Pulse wasn’t enough. (Insert name here) wasn’t enough.

What will be enough?

*          *          *          *          *

The tires rumble on the road, jostling memories loose.

I spent my whole childhood worried I was not manly enough, I was too effeminate, I was too nerdy, I was too weak, I would never fit in . . .

The last one still fits, but it’s funny how things change.

*          *          *          *          *

I see the text message flash before my eyes.

Love.

It feels like the last thing that I need.

I need an ally.

An advocate.

*          *          *          *          *

When the sign warns that the Focus on the Family headquarters is up ahead, I cannot help but know that they use the term in a very specific way.

Family to this conservative group means Christian, and it does not mean LGBTQ+.

I’ve begun to notice a trend.

Whenever an organization has “family” in its title, it almost always refers to a very specific type of family.

A family that excludes me.

“Political Exploitation”

Dear Senator James Lankford,

First off, I want to sincerely thank you for your openness and frankness when it comes to expressing your views. While there is very little that I agree with you on, I appreciate your candor with your beliefs, and that you are unapologetic about what you stand for. Also, I hope that we can both agree that dishonesty and secrecy pose grave threats to American democracy, and I appreciate knowing that when I review your voting record, I see that it aligns to your outspoken views.

Recently, you responded to INTO, an online LGBTQ+ media outlet. In your comments you accused me of “political exploitation” and that conversations that I had with my father should remain private. I would like to know why you view me speaking out in this manner.

Your public statements and voting record shows that you are adamantly opposed to LGBTQ+ rights, having earned a 0% on the Human Rights Campaign “Congressional Scorecard.” This is in addition to your history of derisive comments about the LGBTQ+ community. Your obsessive history of championing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and policies tells me that I won’t be changing your mind about the queer community, nor is that my purpose for writing to you.

I write to you because I wish for clarity on your “political exploitation” comment. Why is me speaking about my father’s reaction towards my coming out and his overall LGBTQ+ views “political exploitation?” While I no longer live in Oklahoma, I have family, friends, and former students that do, and I have sincere concerns.

Isn’t democracy about all voices being heard and accounted for?

Is my voice less valid because of who I am?

 

Thank you for your time,

Bailey Coffman

 

“Republican Congressmen Refuse to Condemn Trump Appointee Who Called Trans Daughter ‘Demonic’”

https://www.intomore.com/impact/Republican-Congressmen-Refuse-to-Condemn-Trump-Appointee-Who-Called-Trans-Daughter-Demonic/34628102676944c1

“Resources: Your Elected Official – James Lankford”

http://www.hrc.org/your-elected-officials/profile?id=533

“What the Oklahoma Congressman Who Just Announced a Senate Campaign Thinks About LGBT Americans”

https://thinkprogress.org/what-the-oklahoma-congressman-who-just-announced-a-senate-campaign-thinks-about-lgbt-americans-fcf71ea38f20/

My Ideal Bookshelf – The Imperium Game

The Imperium Game, K.D. Wentworth

Much to the disappointment of my 4th grade teacher, I eagerly leafed through the newest scholastic book ordering form, searching for the newest releases of my favorite series, Animorphs.

When the next set of books arrived, she hand delivered them to me by calling me back to her desk. While I don’t recall how the conversation started, she informed me that her dismissal of the series stemmed from the books being ghost written with no credit given to the actual author.

I did not really understand the concern, likely because I was in 4th grade and did not really connect why this would be so impactful to an author.

I took the books from Mrs. Wentworth and quietly went back to read about transformations and the saving of the human race.

In the last few years, K.D. Wentworth, author and 4th grade teacher, passed away. She left behind eight imaginative and fun novels: The Imperium Game, Moonspeaker, House of Moons, Black on Black, Stars over Stars, The Fair Land, The Course of Empire, and The Crucible of Empire. The latter three were published in hardback and the last two co-authored with Eric Flint.

A few years ago, I began to reread her novels, and I recompleted Stars over Stars, then my life transitioned into something new. I have not gone back to them since, but upon preparing this post, I discovered that Eric Flint had written a third Jao Empire entry, The Span of Empire, which has prompted me to want to finish my reread of her novels.

While each novel was creative and unique, my favorite was her first.

There is something monumental about a first published novel, and I found it inspiring that a full-time teacher wrote and had her words published.

It made me want to be a writer.

Yet aside from that, The Imperium Game was a perfect blend of video gaming mechanics, mythology, and a futuristic setting.

Think Westworld but with gods and goddesses.

My Ideal Bookshelf – The Hobbit

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

One of the first epic fantasy novels I ever read, and I have since lost track of how many times I’ve read it.

I loved the world that Tolkien built and devoured The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. After traveling the lands of Middle Earth, I would eventually trek through the Two Rivers during the Third Age. I would flee to safety with the Mother Confessor through the lands of D’Hara. I would man the Wall with the Night’s Watch in Westeros.

And most recently, I donned Shardplate to protect the lands of Roshar from the Voidbringers.

Yet, Middle Earth is where my love for epic fantasy began.

A journey that began with a hobbit.

Perhaps, part of my love for The Hobbit stems from the release of The Lord of the Rings films while I was in high school. Starting my freshman year, every winter break, Peter Jackson took his audience to the cinematic worlds of Middle Earth. Aside from Star Wars, there’d never been a set of films that had transported me to such an imaginative and well-developed world.

I would feel similarly about the Marvel Cinematic Universe upon its interconnected releases.

With new series of novels and films to be released in the future, who can say what world I shall travel to next . . .

My Ideal Bookshelf – The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

During my junior year of high school, my AP English class was assigned to read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

I was not looking forward to it.

Two years prior, the same teacher, in my opinion, sapped any love I might have for John Steinbeck from me with a unit over The Pearl. Although one of his shorter novels, I could not stand it. I did not see the point of the grand story it was trying to tell. But, perhaps, I was still upset by the teacher’s ode-to-love unit with Romeo and Juliet. After both the teaching of Romeo and Juliet and The Pearl, I knew I would find myself loathing both Shakespeare and Steinbeck, not respectively. The musical, Something Rotten, had the lyric correct when it said, “God, I hate Shakespeare,” although for me, the lyric should have included, “and Steinbeck.”

Yet, with time, my opinion on both authors would change.

Shakespeare would not be until college when I studied in Oxford.

Steinbeck would be just two years later.

I remember having a conversation with my mother about The Grapes of Wrath, where she warned me not to tell my grandpa that I was reading it. As a former farmer in Oklahoma, it he had found the portrayal of the Oklahoma family offensive and condescending. I also remember talking to my grandfather about the book. I don’t remember what he said, but I do know that he was not upset or distraught by our conversation. The takeaway here is that I clearly was not heeding the advice of my parents even then.

. . . But, I also remember that coming back from the Route 66 Museum field trip, after finishing the novel in class, I was flashed by a school bus full of girls . . . So, perhaps my memories of The Grapes of Wrath are completely skewed.

Yet, I do remember how much I loved the structure the novel.

A pattern of every other chapter being either about the Oklahoma family or expanding out to say something profound about the way of life during the Dust Bowl.

The odd chapters were poetically beautiful, portraying the time period in complexity, ugliness, and beauty.