Last night I had the intention of writing a piece about bi and trans erasure and its connection to Native erasure. Yesterday was Trans Remembrance Day and November is Native Heritage Month, not that anyone would know, and it seemed a fitting day to write that piece. By the time I arrived home at 8pm after a day of 4 medical appointments, and a week totaling 7 medical appointments that included 2 physical therapy appointments and injections in my traps, I was exhausted and decided to give myself permission to take the night off from writing. I felt a bit guilty, but I’m allowed to be “lazy” on occasion.
I woke up today and was just raring to go due to the writing bug. I had thoughts running around in my head about what Thanksgiving meant to me. So here I am sitting down to write out and the honest truth is that I’m still trying to figure it out.
Thanksgiving was never a big holiday in my family. Granted my family is riddled with divorce *I’m talking great grandparents that were divorced* so holidays were difficult to negotiate. I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas where Thanksgiving just isn’t the big deal that it is in the Northeast. I hypothesize that it is partially because Oklahoma has a rather large Native population. Tulsa County, where I grew up, has the largest Cherokee population in the US, which I happen to be. Of course this isn’t the only reason, but I’m sure it has a large role in the “eh it’s only Thanksgiving” attitude that I saw growing up.
Thanksgiving meant multiple holidays between different households. It meant eating multiple meals of turkey, stuffing (My Degee made the best stuffing you’ll ever eat!), green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie (once again, Degee’s pie kicks your pie’s ass!). It meant uncomfortable familial interactions. It did mean though the kickoff to Christmas which I adored then and still do to this day! Christmas always meant warmth and comfort for me. As a result, Thanksgiving, in its own weird way, meant the beginning of that.
Despite being raised Christian I have identified as agnostic for several years. The religious aspect of Christmas means nothing to me. Although I do enjoy the pagan dimensions of the holiday. I’ll often send out Winter Solstice ecards because I enjoy celebrating the awe of nature, as well as fucking with people’s sense of society’s norms. I don’t get down with the kapitalistic side of Christmas either. I refuse to suck at the tit of consumerism in order to “celebrate” my loved ones and utter glee and delight for the holiday season.
Once I was 18 and out of my own I began the shaping of the holidays into my own design. It took a while to get things how I liked them, but by my early 20s, I at least enjoyed my Thanksgiving tradition. I lived in Los Angeles and was going to USC. My first Thanksgiving in LA was spent with a then co-worker, from the Godiva Chocolatier at the Beverly Center, and his friends. We had wine, dinner, and watched Sex in the City. I remember I was so taken aback by the use of the word “cunt” in one of the early episodes. I can’t help but chuckle now at how innocent I once was. The next day I was back to work slinging chocolate to the celebrities and rich folks.
Upon entering the Disco Wonderland (the Bev Center was decorated with gold disco balls rather than traditional Xmas attire) I headed to the balcony overlooking the courtyard. I looked down to see the West Hollywood Gay Men’s Chorus singing and to find Noah Wyle from the then popular tv show, ER, and his wife sitting on Santa’s lap-Hunky Santa would be coming out later that evening. I stood there in a sort of awe thinking to myself that I was no longer in Oklahoma. I felt this sense of wonder and joy that I had begun to live the life I wanted. I had escaped my “home” and the pain and drudgery that came with it. Thanksgiving had taken a new turn for me.
The following years a new tradition began: The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving I’d go out for drinks, to club, and party. I’d often hit the queer area of West Hollywood to drink and dance until the sweat was pouring down my body. At 2am when the lights came on and security kicked us out, I’d tumble out onto the street to the smell of the vendors cooking sausage and peppers. I can still vividly recall the many sensations. I miss those nights.
If I wanted to go low key then I’d hit my then favorite local bar at the Hotel Figueroa for cocktails. I’d sit in one of the gorgeous Moroccan themed bars and talk into the wee hours over far too many drinks with my friends. The next day I’d inevitably wake up hung over as shit, but I’d fall out of bed and meet the family of my choosing for food, laughs, love, and yes, more drinks. I finally felt like I had a place that I belonged. I had a community and a family that was mine to love and be loved by.
Eventually I made my way to the Northeast where I have accomplished a lot in terms of my education and the building of my resume’. I’ve also traveled and moved to areas of the US along the way that I never thought I’d see. I’ve met some great people, and some that shouldn’t walk the Earth, along the way. I haven’t, however, found my community or family. I’ve felt alone, unwelcome, and unwanted. The holidays have taken this sad turn. Ever year I’ve tried like hell to make them meaningful and fun and have often, not always, come up short. I’ve lost count how many holidays I’ve spent alone. In all fairness, my health problems have made it more and more difficult to spend my holidays as I’d like, as has my increasing poverty, but the lack of family of my own choosing has been the primary cause.
Last year I spent Thanksgiving alone, eating pizza in bed while watching movies, crying off and on throughout the day. I was supposed to spend the day with a “friend” who blew me off at the last minute because she decided that it just wasn’t that important to honor our plans, and to be with a friend that would otherwise be alone,. She also felt that Thanksgiving was nothing more than a day that meant death to turkeys. Yes, she’ was that big of a fucking asshole! Death to turkeys was all that mattered to that bitch. Needless to say I eventually got fed up with her and cut her out of my life. I occasionally see her at local progressive events and I say not word one to her.
Thanksgiving has now simply become a horrid holiday that exemplifies the rape, enslavement, genocide, theft, and continued oppression of my people. Now I’ve always known the story of Thanksgiving that we’re forced fed in Amerika is a lie and it’s a lie that harms my people and it’s always pissed me off, but at least Thanksgiving had some happy connotation. I’m missing that joyous part now. Loosing the joy that I found for myself is nothing more than a continued form of oppression. That simply isn’t ok with me.
I may not be able to snap my fingers and make the Northeast feel like home. I may not be able to make my body magically better so that I don’t need the numerous doctors, treatments, and hospitals so that I can finally leave the Northeast. I may not be able to click my heels together and come up with the money to travel or move away. I can’t wiggle my nose and make Boston a place full of warm, loving, friendly people that feel like a family of my own choosing. BUT there are small things I can do for myself. Today I allowed myself to sleep in until my body decided it was time to get up. I may not be able to have my Degee’s amazing pumpkin pie, but I had pumpkin coffee and pumpkin cream cheese on a mini whole wheat bagel. Later tonight I’m going to make myself a yummy steak with delicious veggies and for a snack I’ll have these amazingly tasty local mixed olive cheese spread on multigrain crackers. Yes, I’m nervous about the fat and carbs and food is scary for me at the moment, but damnit I’m going to eat a good meal today! When I sign off of here I’m going to call my mom, not engage in any sort of argument or stress, and then I’m going to continue with my childhood theme of Thanksgiving as the kickoff of the Christmas season: I’m going to put up my Christmas decorations! I’ll listen to Christmas music and of course I’m having cocktails too!
I’ll call it a day on my writing now that Santa has appeared on the second showing of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I hope that those of you celebrating Thanksgiving enjoy a holiday of your own choosing! To the rest of you, have a wonderful day.
PLEASE remember the real story of Thanksgiving and PLEASE do NOT take part in shopping TONIGHT or TOMORROW!
For the true story of Thanksgiving look here:
This is an interpretation of Thanksgiving based on the beginnings of capitalism in America. It is a rather anglo centric view. For example, King Philip is known by Native people as Metacom and Squanto’s true name is Tisquantum. It is an interesting read though. http://bostonoccupier.com/original-occupation-native-blood-the-myth-of-thanksgiving/
For a more Native interpretation, and one I appreciate more, read these: