nevada women

Women’s History Month Highlight: Lang Leav

Our next highlight in celebration of Women’s Month is the poetry collection Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav. Leav’s small but powerful prose cover everything from the simplicity of a bad day, to the uncertainty of love and loss, often is less than 10 lines or so. You can read this interview here to learn more about her writing process during Love & Misadventure and her soon-to-be first novel Sad Girls coming out this May.
You’ll find this book and more in our Women’s Month display on the first floor, and you can keep checking our social media for more highlights each week!

Field Journal: Living Alongside Bears

Rae Wynn-Grant is a conservation science research and teaching postdoctoral fellow jointly appointed with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation and the Museum’s Education department. Her work explores the influence of human activity on large carnivore ecology. Dr. Wynn-Grant is currently studying the impacts of human activity on landscape use, habitat suitability, and habitat connectivity of black bears in Nevada, where she was conducting her research when she wrote this field journal last month.

“We often think of bears as animals of the deep forest, but in many parts of North America, you can see black bear activity near human-dominated areas. My work in the Western Great Basin region of Nevada investigates the ecological and social drivers of human-bear conflict and how those conflicts impact the connectivity between black bear habitats there.

The Sierra Nevada mountain range near Lake Tahoe, where I conduct my research, is unique in that black bears were once entirely extirpated from the region. The last few decades, though, have seen a resurgence of the animals, migrating to the area from the western parts of the mountain range. Now, a population of between 400 and 500 bears is recolonizing this historic habitat.

Although this population increase is considered a conservation success, tremendous challenges to the species remain. Chief among them is the more pervasive human influence now present in the region.”

Read the full post on the Museum blog. 

Lucy Flores was born into an impoverished family of 13 children, abandoned by her mother in grade school, fell into a gang, was sentenced to youth prison and dropped out of high school. Now, she’s a lawyer and legislator, and currently running for lieutenant governor of Nevada. 

“As you know, I don’t have the typical background of most politicians. I think it’s important to keep in mind that no matter your past, it is possible to change your future. I realized that education was the key to my future and I had incredible mentors in my life who encouraged me along the way. I encourage young women to seek out their dreams and find people to support them in their pursuits.”

- Lucy Flores #Women2014

Marshall is the current Nevada treasurer. She was endorsed by EMILY’s List, where President Stephanie Schriock said ”In this competitive election, Kate is the only candidate looking out for women and families in Nevada.” Marshall helped create the Nevada College Kick Start Program – the first ever state-run college savings account program – opening a $50 savings account for public school kindergarten students.

I’ve been the only woman in almost every room I have worked in… remember walking into a conference room and everyone standing up and I wondered why? Then I realized it was because a woman had walked in and they didn’t know what else to do.  - Kate Marshall

Read the full Kate Marshall #Women2014 profile here. 

The sheer arrogance of Donald Trump supporters is that they truly think they’re the only ones who are ANGRY AT THE WORLD~!

No.

No, you aren’t. Not at all.

The rest of us are, too. No one’s life is easy. We’re just more calm, smart and civilised and not blaming every easily available scapegoat for it because a mad, sick, orange billionaire said so.

2000 words on how Nevada broke and saved my brain

Your mind gets so twisted up dealing with all this stuff, you know. I mean, I know my head does. I start thinking in weird ways. Like really examining every fucking action I make and wondering how it is an expression of my being trans—or worse, how it’s confirmation that I’m not a woman. I used to look for that latter part hopefully too. I fucking hated being trans. I’m not exactly happy about it right now. I mean, I acknowledge it. I even wouldn’t give up on it. Because try as I might, I was never a cis dude.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and not just because I finally fucking gave up and started hormones. I feel like ever since reading Nevada by Imogen Binnie I’ve been trying to understand just how it made me feel and coming up short. Only now, like three months later, is it starting to become a little clear, and that’s in part thanks to Casey Plett’s book A Safe Girl to Love. I mean, on one hand, it makes sense. Of course the first thing that I read that is really by and for trans women is going to stick in my brain in some deep fucking ways. And being trans is just like this weird long fucked up thing because really it just fucking finds you and then you deal with it. It’s not like there’s some primer course or your parents sat you down and told you that, you know, some people are trans and you may be some people. Hell, I feel lucky I even knew what being trans was.

The first images I got of trans women were beauty queens who everyone called men. Paraded on television for audiences to gawk at. I used to scour the daytime talk shows in hopes of finding them too. Every paternity test was a disappointment for me. I couldn’t really imagine myself looking like them, but they were real.

And then there were the hidden freaks. The laughingstocks. The men hiding dresses in their closets or being forced to endure some challenge or bet and everyone acting like they looked like women when it was just a guy in a wig. I loved these too. Right until they pulled the wig off and proclaimed their maleness. The ending was never what I wanted.

There were the saints. The saints were murdered before you met them. They hardly existed.

There were also the monsters. They were the killers, though not of the saints. The monsters killed the people who didn’t want to dress up. The monsters could only ever glimpse being female from ending a woman’s life. I never liked these.

Growing up, that’s all I ever saw. There was never any attempt to make them human. Even the real actual fucking people, they only ever talked to give some innuendo about how they might have a dick. They were people, but not on TV.

Over the last several years there’s been a new story starting to be told. These trans women are the innocents. Their story is solely of transition and it is in pursuit of a single goal. If they have something to deal with it is not from being female or even really from being trans, but from having been male. A family fathered, a past reconciled, an appendage to be rid of. They weren’t humans, not really, but they were sympathetic at least. They were definitely pathetic too. To be pitied. How sad, how awful, how unfortunate.

And these new stories, some were told with the trans character at the center, but many were not. They were about how people had to suffer through knowing a trans woman. How they had to bravely come to terms with another person’s existence. How fucking noble.

I never liked these, but I did seek them out.

These were the stories. At least, they’re the ones I could find. Sure, occasionally you’d get some whacko John Waters stuff or something, but those felt like they were from Mars and were never meant to be humans at all.

I ordered hormones at the start of June. About a week later I bought Imogen Binnie’s Nevada. I almost wish I’d waited a week so that I could’ve credited her book with the push. I might as well. This book is so far from all those stories and though I could see that and knew it was because it’s a trans woman writing from experience and of course she can capture that voice in a way that no other writer could, I still couldn’t pin just why it hit so fucking hard with me.

I mean, the book is great. It’s great even if you’re not trans. Even if you’re not punk, which I’m not really. Even if you gag a little every time you drink whiskey and couldn’t hack it in New York when you tried. It’s just fucking great. It’s a voice, an actual goddamn literary voice. Something too rare even in books that critics praise. It’s funny, it’s moving, and another ten clichés to add.

But it’s sort of weird that it made me so certain that living as trans is a necessary choice. I mean, as much as Maria is confident in anything, it’s that she’s made the right choice. And as much as James is confused about anything, it’s that he’s not sure of what he is. So the like sense that, well, fuck it you are trans, is in the book, that makes sense. But Maria as a life model is a really shitty choice. I mean, she steals a car and ends up broke and alone in a shitty Reno casino. I was reading Casey Plett’s thoughts on the book, and she nailed it that the ending is fucking bleak. And yet, even with tears and knowing that shit was fucked up, it was a happy experience reading the book.

It’s not enough to say I recognized myself in Nevada. It’s true, and certainly was the first time that was true, but it’s not enough. It doesn’t explain what I saw of myself. I couldn’t understand it still. I mean, definitely hearing the inner-monologue of a trans woman and a closeted kid ringed really fucking true and felt far too familiar. But what really set it apart from all those other stories.

There was another source of stories for about a decade. Shitty trans erotica full of fucked up misogyny that I tried to read around or just pushed through when that didn’t work and all of these stories were so bad but it was that or nothing. And of course I was trying to push it all away and only ever let things out as if it were some secret fetish, never mind that I’d spend hours reading these dumb stories. A decade. Ten years. All the way up to spring, when it finally just broke me. If any stories sent me to buy hormones, it was those stories. I went so consistently and so persistently even after I told myself to just stop and jerk off to normal porn like everyone else I went back and read from the perspective of these boys unwittingly circling some feminine fate. I fucking hated every last one of them and hated myself and still I went back. I went back until I just fucking broke down and sobbed one night and couldn’t handle it anymore. I knew what was real and what wasn’t and finally I gave in and quit on it all and bought hormones.

I wish I could credit someone I respect and a book I’m proud to have read and will never deny. I wish this were some choice made from a place of bravery and not cowardice. I wish it were an affirmative process and not just me failing, finally, after all these years. I held out for so long and at times it seemed like that fucking suburban life would’ve been for me and I wanted that so bad. I wanted that more than anything. I wanted to not be trans. I wanted to control what I wanted. But I didn’t.

I’m glad now, but it’s still a weird thought. I mean, it’s not like I’m looking forward to my whole life up to this point basically being tossed aside because even the things I keep won’t be the same. But I just ordered my second round of hormones and I am never going to stop taking them. I’ve never felt this good about a decision in my life.

While reading the Topside Tour Zine Nevada’s effect on my thinking started to sort of spin around my head. I tried once to write them down but totally failed. The book was too much. Reading the work of other trans women, and another piece by Imogen Binnie that had nothing really to do with being trans, definitely proved how important having trans voices was for me. Even if they’re far from my experience, there is just a positive experience reading their words. Their words are a declaration of existence. And they were writing to and for trans folks. People like us matter, you matter. Just reading their words that message becomes clear—even if it’s about Robocop and Riddick fucking.

Near the end of Casey Plett’s A Safe Girl To Love, I felt like my thoughts and feelings about Nevada were becoming clearer. Definitely part of what affected me so strongly in both books was the sense that the trans narrative ending with surgery is not only bullshit, which I didn’t need help understanding, but gave me a sense of what it feels like to live as trans. Not transition, but being trans. Existing. None of those other stories showed how it feels to exist. They might have focused on this one experience or whatever, but none ever dealt with like the full weight of the fucked up world waiting for every trans woman. These stories were like messages and maps for how to navigate all the hidden traps and deal with the inevitable monsters, especially those from within. That alone is very fucking valuable. I will have those thoughts. I have had those thoughts. I feel like no cis person could have conveyed that or even known that, but instantly I could recognize the truth even if it hasn’t happened yet. There’s great value in that. The sense of how life just keeps going and of course this isn’t something in the past that you don’t think about all that much. It’s something that informs your life in a very real way. The cis writers who present our stories as some goal and like we can reach the other side where we’re “just normal” won’t ever know this.

That’s just the practical thing. And maybe other readers, other trans folks, don’t want that. Maybe for them the world is that mission and on the other side all is good. But even from this far away I know that’s not me. Still, there was something else that I began to realize while reading Plett’s stories: I love fuck-ups.

In fact, I am a fuck up. My whole life is like a series of failures. I have a hard time even imagining how things sometimes go right. And I’m not talking about being a loveable loser and then getting your shit together and eventually finding that girl, like every romcom. No, I’m talking about how sometimes you say something mean to someone nice just because you’re bored, and you hate yourself so much for it even in the moment, but fuck it. Whatever. Shit. And yeah, you do good things, but they’re just as likely to go bad as the bad things you do.

I used to look online at the random catalogue of successful trans women, and all the shit they’ve done. Like, computer programmers, and actresses who are beautiful, and some random motocross girl, and all sorts of random women. And that’s cool and all, but I’m not really good at anything but maybe writing—and as you can see, that’s probably a stretch. These women weren’t only unimaginable in their lives because they had transitioned and were living life honestly, but because they were fucking successful. I mean, maybe at least like a musician or whatever who just has like a random skill, I get. But who fucking starts a company? Or like runs a lab? Who writes a program? Those things are so weird.

But some fuck-up who works retail and both hates it and maybe is okay with it. Someone who is probably the root of all their own problems. Like, that’s the weird thing about all those stories like fucking transamerica and stuff, that literally her problems are only being trans. I have so many other problems aside from being trans. Being trans is huge and feels infinitely unfair because life is shitty and hard already, and then that too.

And that is what Nevada felt like. That’s why it felt real as much as anything. Maria’s problems are because Maria is a fuck-up, like so many of us. Maria fucks up in human ways too, not like silly plot conventions. She’s stuck in her head and misses signs from Piranha that she’s being a shitty friend. She tries to push James out of the closet and feel good by leading someone else when she’s driving around in a stolen car with a bunch of heroin in the glovebox. Her life starts going to shit and she decides to go see a movie.

I think just seeing this again and again and in different forms in Casey Plett’s book kind of unlocked this for me. Every story revolves around a trans woman with maybe two exceptions (I think the driver girl is trans, and the boy in the final story is trans but doesn’t even realize it yet—the mirror scene seems to be the nail on that one). They are all fuck-ups in the very real, lived sense. And their shit falls out as often from their own actions, informed by their being trans, as anything external. And yes, they’re not in the midst of the whole lame transition narrative. They’re just trans. It’s part of their life. Not to say they really have like a handle on exactly the full extent of what that means, but it’s not like they’re struggling to come to terms and come out and get “the surgery” (just puked in my mouth a little). These stories laugh at that story—sometimes the characters really do mock that little tale too and it’s great.

There will be a time not too long from now when the biggest thing in my life is my life and not transition. My life will be all wrapped up and conflated with being trans but so will the fact that I can act without thinking or think too much before acting and sometimes I fall in love and get hurt and sometimes I hurt people who love me. That shit doesn’t stop and won’t stop. I’ve been dealing with being trans for, well, forever, and that won’t stop either. Binnie’s novel and Plett’s stories are about that. That’s why they connect. Plus they’re just really fucking good.

–Emma

The fact that Donald Trump is polling as high as he is: It’s a sad, depressing commentary on the mental state of many American citizens and the country’s abysmal, failing education system.

Offended people: Yes, you can call me a snob (guys, I probably grew up poorer than you did. And, holy fuck, would I never get into Yale or Harvard.)

Yes, you can call me a crazy feminist liberal (I plead: guilty)

But, you know, deep down, that shit is the truth. You’re just fools falling for the next Hitler because YOUR ANGER IS COOL NOW~! and refuse to give a shit about anyone else