In large part, 2016 was a shit sandwich on garbage bread. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that wonderful things didn’t happen, too. We’ve lost a lot of brilliant weirdos and amazing artists this year. We’ve also lost the United States to an orange demagogue whose administration may well mean the end of many hard-won liberties for several marginalized groups.
But hey, the Cubs won the World Series, amirite? Was all the rest of this the trade-off? #justkidding
As for me personally, looking back on my year, I realize a lot of good happened! I mean, I started off the year newly-engaged, which isn’t a bad way to start. So, let’s look back at what 2016 bestowed upon me.
And this is a long one, so strap in!
The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election was the event that colored everything else this year. After an over a year-long campaign that laughed in the face of unapologetic progressiveness, and then laughed in the face of anyone who thought it possible that a woman could win the White House, Donald Trump became our President-elect in the most devastating election to happen in a long time.
Some have said that this is no different than when other Republicans have won elections and will dismiss opposition to the election’s results as “sour grapes.” Were it any other election, they might be right. But I’ve been on the losing side before. I volunteered for both the Gore campaign and the Kerry campaign. I know what it’s like to work hard and have your candidate lose. This was not that. This was not that, because unlike George W. Bush, whose politics and administration were abhorrent to me, but who nonetheless had been the Governor of a state before and came from a political family, Trump was not only completely inexperienced and ignorant of the duties of the President, but he was, and continues to be, vocally racist, sexist, and xenophobic. He’s appointed an actual white supremacist, and equally inexperienced members to cabinet positions. He ran his campaign with a sexist and anti-LGBTQIA candidate in Mike Pence. He’s out and out talked about the ways in which he plans on chipping away at our civil rights in the press. That is, when he deigns to talk to the press at all, as opposed to shutting them down with an eye on taking away their power, too. Oh, and then there’s the fact that Russia hacked us and manipulated our election, and yet Trump is totes BFFs with Vladimir Putin, who lives to quash freedoms in his own country.
This loss was very different, because it not only had to do with Trump winning the Presidency, but that far too many people in this country turned a blind eye to his hatred, either because they are openly racist, or tacitly allowing racism by prioritizing corporations and the economy, as if issues of social justice and economic advancement aren’t intertwined. As if an economy can thrive if the lives of members of the work force are restricted because of their identities or beliefs.
What was especially infuriating was the idea that people in marginalized groups don’t care about things like jobs, insurance, and “putting food on the table.” As if the very things that cause them to be marginalized aren’t also the things keeping them from jobs, insurance, and “food on the table.” So, what Trump voters are saying, in essence, is that jobs, insurance, and “putting food on the table” only matter if they’re going to the right people. They might not “mean” to say that, but that’s what they’re saying when they say that they voted for Trump “not because they’re racist,” but because the economy and jobs are “more important” than things like civil rights. You might not consider yourself racist, but you just did a racist thing. A homophobic, transphobic thing. A sexist thing. I won’t put a label on a person, but I sure as hell will put a label on an action.
This election cut me to the core, and I wasn’t the only one. I spent most of November depressed, as it felt like much of the country had turned its back on people like me and my wife: women, LGBTQIA people, Latinx, Jews, those riding the poverty line. I sit at the intersection of all those things, and that intersection was obliterated in a single day. People insist that I should “get over it and move on.” It won’t get that bad. And yet, with every passing day, it’s already getting worse, and he hasn’t even officially been sworn in yet.
I can’t understand the mentality of people who could so easily overlook Trump’s abhorrence enough to vote for him, and so yes, this has affected my relationships with people. Even some people in my own family. These are people I don’t want to lose. And at the same time, I can’t look at them without thinking, You cared so little about people like me, and hell like us (Puerto Rico is suffering under the thumb of corporate greed, and yet some of my family members have no problem supporting an opportunist like Trump because he’s managed to convince them that he speaks for “the common man”), that you voted for Trump because you were scared about putting food on your own table. I was fighting for us, and you were fighting for you.
That’s the difference.
And so there are a lot of people I don’t look at the same way. Even if we’re still talking. Even if we’re friendly. Even if we make polite conversation. I don’t look at them the same. How can I, when they’ve made it clear that I don’t matter to them? That my wife doesn’t matter to them? That my life doesn’t matter to them?
And so in 2017, I’ll be a woman on a mission, fighting the only way I know how. Through my writing, my ability to communicate. And I will do my best to act from a place of love.
From “The Fiancee” to “The Wife”
Speaking of love, 2016 began with me being proposed to…and ended with me getting married! That’s right, The Fiancee became The Wife this month, and I’m so, so grateful. Now, this wasn’t the original plan. We were planning on having a long engagement with a wedding ceremony in 2018, but when the Cheeto-elect got elected in November, and the possibility of an administration like his having four years to chip away at freedoms for women and LGBTQIA folks, we decided to fast-track our nuptials to ensure that we were legally wed before the inauguration.
This caused a lot of freaking out! Both over wedding plans (we pulled together a small ceremony in about 2 weeks) and over the fact that I didn’t have the two years I thought I was going to have to process the idea of becoming someone’s wife. However, as the day got closer, I realized this was my only choice. No matter how scared I was, I didn’t want to risk not being able to marry this woman. She’s my heart. And sure, the ceremony was rushed, but that just meant I got to marry this wonderful person faster! 🙂
We had a truncated Jewish ceremony at Beth Chayim Chadashim and were married by the lovely Rabbi Heather Miller, who was just amazing and gracious (and proceeded to marry us even though her wife had just gone into labor!), and we were lucky enough to have some very special people there even with short notice. The Wife’s mom, brother, and sister-in-law were there, as well as some dear friends of ours. Heather, Adam, Caroline, and Hal: thank you so much for being there for us! And a special thanks to our friend Lexx, a supremely talented make-up artist who made us look amazing for our special day!
The rest of our loved ones on the East Coast (and anywhere else, really) were able to watch our ceremony via live stream! The Wedding of the Future! 🙂 It meant a lot to us that we were able to share our wedding with family and friends across the country, especially since we know that they were heartbroken that our impromptu plans prevented them from coming to celebrate something they otherwise would’ve made arrangements for. HOWEVER, we still plan on having our larger ceremony (complete with ketubah signing, glass breaking and reception) in 2018, and we plan on having EVERYONE there. In the meantime, if you missed it, Douglass-Jusino Vol. 1 (as I’ve been calling this first, legal ceremony) has been archived at the BCC website, and you can WATCH IT HERE. If you don’t see it on the homepage, you can do a search for “Marriage of Ada Douglas and Teresa Teresa Jusino, Beth Chayim Chadashim.” Yes, Teresa Teresa. Because apparently I have a name that’s so nice, they had to type it twice! 😉 And yes, they spelled The Wife’s last name wrong. Just go with it, okay?
So, there was a lot of turbulence this year…but 2016 started and ended by my love and I confirming and reconfirming our commitment to each other. Bring it, 2017. We can take whatever you can throw at us.
My Family Grew This Year
Ours wasn’t the only big wedding this year! The Wife’s brother married the love of his life in a gorgeous ceremony, one at which I cried like a baby (and I never cry at weddings!). This was an event I want to mark not only because it was a beautiful (and way fun!) wedding, but because they are amazing people. I’ve gotten to know these two over the course of my relationship with The Wife, and I’m so grateful now that I get to call them family. They’re wonderful, generous, hilarious, and kind people that I love spending time with.
2016 meant that my family expanded in a beautiful way. Not only do I get to call these two crazy kids siblings now, but I have amazing parents in law in The Wife’s parents. From the very beginning, they have always treated me with nothing but kindness and warmth, and I feel so lucky that they’ve been so welcoming. With my own parents no longer around, it feels really good to know that I’ve got parents in my corner, even if they’re not mine by birth. Thank you Judi, Joe, and Bonnie! I love you all!
Speaking of my parents, I observed the tenth anniversary of my mom’s passing on April 5th, and the 2-year anniversary of my dad’s passing on April 19th. There’s so much that’s happened to me this year that I wish I could share with them. I hope that, wherever they are, they’re proud of me for being the outspoken, independent, compassionate and tolerant person they raised me to be. I’m trying.
And speaking of family (both blood and chosen), I did get home to New York this summer and got to see all the usual suspects. It was both a fun trip, and an emotionally draining trip. But I got to see my oldest niece before she headed off to her freshman year of college, had a really great conversation with my brother, and got to spend quality time with my dearest friends.
I Came Out as Bisexual, So That’s a Thing
Aubrey Plaza, Stephanie Beatriz, Evan Rachel Wood, Rebecca Sugar, me. What do we all have in common? I mean, other than being sexy and talented AF? We’re all bisexual women.
It all started when I saw Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. No, seriously. It was during a scene in which Chris Hemsworth as Kevin and Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann were interacting. I found my eyes darting from one, to the other, and back again really pointedly, like it was a Hot People tennis match. A couple of minutes in, I literally grabbed my armrest with the realization. Holy crap. I’m bi! I told The Wife, and she was like Well, duh. I told my close friends, and they were mostly like Well, duh. I told my brother, and reminded him that he basically tried to tell me this when I first told him about The Wife being trans, and he said some version of Well, duh before wanting to claim credit for my realization.
Sorry, man. But credit for that goes to Kate McKinnon. Seriously, how is every woman not bi after this?
You’d think that me being totally down with dating a woman would have tipped me off to this fact, but…well…it wasn’t. Because it’s really, really easy to make excuses or rationalize exceptions when you’re afraid to face something. Especially when it’s something that, even in 2016, people don’t quite know how to handle. A part of me feels like if I would’ve come out as a lesbian it would’ve been easier. People are certain of that box. You like women. Done. But there have been a couple of people in my life who, at first, weren’t really able to wrap their heads around what bisexuality is or means. My coming out wasn’t entirely pleasant, but I’m happy that now, my support system continues to be behind me. My friends are still my friends, my family is still my family, and all is well as far as that goes.
Plenty of people talk about “liking men” OR “liking women,” but people really talk about this OTHER thing you can be without dismissing it as being “on the road to gay,” or (usually if you’re a woman) doing it “for attention.” Even within the LGBTQIA community. It’s a big umbrella that often gives the “B” and the “T” of that acronym short shrift. And yeah, I identify very definitely as bisexual and not pansexual for reasons that I might write about at another time, but not in my Year in Review. 🙂
Growing up, I knew that I liked boys. So, whenever I found myself drawn strongly to a girl, wanting to be her friend really badly but not knowing why, I thought, Well, I know I’m not a lesbian, because I like boys, so…this must just be something that happens to girls. Girls just get really close, right? It’s different for girls. Girls are just more open about finding women attractive, right? I wish more kids knew what their options are. That there aren’t just two choices. And I wish it hadn’t taken me quite so long to figure it out for myself. But I did. And I feel freer this year than I’ve ever felt.
Building a Relationship With Judaism
This year, I’ve started doing more Jewish learning and, well, living a little more Jewishly. I’ve been going to shabbat services at IKAR fairly regularly. I’ve been lighting candles every week with The Wife. And a couple of months ago, I started an Intro to Judaism class at American Jewish University.
That class has really made a difference. First, we have a wonderful teacher in Rabbi Adam Greenwald who makes every class super-fun and interesting. But secondly, the more I learn about Judaism, the more I realize that my thoughts about religion as a Catholic were really very Jewish. Recently, I opened up my confirmation Bible, and saw a bunch of handwritten notes in the margins from when I tried to read it cover to cover years ago in my twenties. A lot of those notes are frustrated ones. Acknowledging contradictions, but wondering why those contradictions weren’t ever taught to me as the entire point, rather than something to be explained away, or ignored entirely. This isn’t to say that Catholics don’t ever question things, or experience doubt, but questioning and challenging, studying and reassessing seems to be inherent to the DNA of Judaism in a way that it isn’t in Catholicism, and I love that.
The more I learn about Judaism, the more I realize that I’ve always kinda thought like a Jew. I didn’t take the Intro to Judaism class to convert, necessarily, but it’s looking increasingly likely, as I’m feeling more and more at home in this space.
That doesn’t mean this has been easy. On the contrary, as someone who was not only raised Catholic, but wholeheartedly believed in Catholicism – so much so, that I went to church by myself from the time I was in high school, sang in the children’s choir, then as a leader of song, and eventually became a lector – I’ve been hugely conflicted. It’s not an easy thing to leave behind a system of belief and traditions that are a part of your foundation.
What’s more, just before my wedding, I had a mini-panic attack about having a Jewish wedding, because I suddenly felt like I was being a traitor to my parents, throwing away everything they’d ever believed and taught me.
Then I remembered some things:
- The Catholic Church wouldn’t marry me and my wife, whether I wanted to be married in the church or not, so…there’s that.
- I hadn’t been to church in years, not because of any big rift, but because it simply wasn’t calling me anymore. It had stopped being home a long time ago.
- Related to #3: I realized that what kept me coming to church week after week had less to do with religion than it had to do with community. God, to me (and I guess, to Richard Linklater via Before Sunrise), has always existed in the space between people. I had a home at St. Boniface Church, where I spent the majority of my Catholic life, where I had a church family. When I moved too far away to attend, finding a replacement seemed pointless. I found community elsewhere, and my relationship with God remained personal.
- Also, as I told The Wife the other day, my parents raised me to find God where I found God, and not to do things because of what they’d think or say, but because I thought it was right. I remember my mom giving me an out as I prepared for my confirmation when I was twelve, saying that if I didn’t truly believe that I didn’t have to be confirmed. That I should only make this commitment if I meant it, and that she wouldn’t think less of me if I decided not to go through with it. At the time, I was confirmed, because I meant it. Because it mattered to me. If she were to tell me that with me knowing myself the way I do now? I might have given her a different answer.
I’ve changed, and so has my relationship to God. Or rather, I’ve changed enough that I feel confident enough articulating the fact that my relationship to God has always been closer to this. It’s funny, I feel about Judaism much the same way as I do about my bisexuality. It’s something that’s always been there under the surface, and I’m only now mature enough to recognize it and brave enough to assert it as my identity, rather than keep it buried, or rationalizing it away.
TL;dr – My parents raised me to think for myself. I think that, if they were still around, they may or may not have been disappointed if I convert to Judaism, but I know they would respect my choice and love me regardless. That’s who they were, and I’m being as independent and thoroughly myself as they raised me to be.
And I will always be grateful to Catholicism for giving me a strong foundation in this world.
The End of My Podcasting Career (For Now), and Letting Go
After co-hosting Supergirl Radio with Rebecca Johnson for a year, I decided to move on in February of 2016. While I had so much fun doing the podcast (and developed what I think will be a lifelong love of Supergirl/Kara Danvers as a character), regular podcasting was taking its toll on my personal bandwidth.
A lot of this year was about prioritizing and streamlining. 2016 was a big year for me when it comes to articulating what I want, and also articulating what I don’t want. Career-wise, what I want is to be a screenwriter, specifically for television. So, I started eliminating things that don’t serve that goal. That might be fun, but take time away from the work I really want to be doing. Not that I don’t do things OTHER than write scripts, but if I’m going to be taking on a certain level of workload, it should be in service of the life I want.
In addition to letting Supergirl Radio go, I also let go of something else that I’d been holding onto for years. Being a novelist.
There’s a story that’s been living in my head and in my heart since I was 15 years old, a world that has only gotten bigger and more elaborate in the subsequent 22 years. I’ve been trying to write it as a novel for years, even as my writing desires turned toward scripts and away from prose. Yet, just as giving up the “actor” label to more fully focus on writing was difficult, since I’d spent years identifying as an actor, so too was giving up on the idea of “finishing my novel one day.” But this year, I finally admit to myself that, while I still need to tell this story, I don’t have to tell it in a book. At least, not right now. It might even serve the world better as a film – a female-led sci-fi/dystopia with the potential to be a Star Wars-level game-changer. Hey, you never know. Point is, the world needs more women doing big things in film. Not that we couldn’t use a more diverse cross section of women in contemporary literature, but the film industry is a harder thing to crack, and I want to go at it with a sledgehammer. So, this year I said goodbye to being a novelist. I may write a short story or two, because some stories are just meant to be prose, but I won’t be publishing a book of fiction any time soon.
And I also said goodbye to podcasting for now. Meanwhile, Supergirl will always have a special place in my heart, and Supergirl Radio has been kicking tons of ass without me. Keep it up, ladies! I’ll be listening! 🙂
Hanging on Through a Burn-Out, and Other Work Stuff
I’m still an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, and I still love the people with whom I work, and I’m grateful that I work at a place where, for the most part, I have autonomy over what I choose to write about.
That said, online pop culture writing has gotten increasingly frustrating this year, not because of my workplace, but because the environment of the internet has changed so much in the past few years.
People rail against click-bait (basically calling everything click bait, including interesting headlines and/or headlines with which they disagree), and yet don’t click on the more meaningful articles we try to publish about issues of importance.
People expect a certain level of quality, but don’t expect to have to pay for what they consume. Especially when it’s online.
People claim to be on the side of inclusion and tolerance and nuanced discussion, but they have no trouble “eating their own” at the merest whiff of “not SJW-ing correctly.” There’s no room in which to make mistakes and learn and grow, because too many people are in it for the “gotcha moment,” and not enough people are in it for the “teaching/learning/sharing moment.”
An advertiser/click-focused shift on our writing at work, coupled with the general internet environment that was already deteriorating, but was stoked by this year’s election really burned me out toward the end of the year and had me questioning whether or not I even want to do this anymore. I felt a lot of pressure, and basically wanted to throw in all work-related towels for most of the past couple of months.
I won’t be leaving The Mary Sue anytime soon, if I can help it, but my feelings of burnout have started to reinvigorate my desire to get to the writing I really want to get to. As I said above, this year has been a lot about reevaluating my priorities and putting more energy into the things I want, rather than letting that energy get sucked dry by the things I don’t.
What’s encouraging, is that this year I’ve gotten to a place where I’m actively being recommended for opportunities in a writers’ room, and I’ve had several leads sent my way that I’ve applied for. While I didn’t land any of them, the fact is that I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve nurtured relationships and accomplished enough that stuff like that is possible. I’m doing all the right things, and if this incremental progress is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before I get where I want to be, so long as I stay focused and keep doing what I’ve been doing.
And in that vein, Incredible Girl had a big year this year! We had a crowdfunding campaign, and while we didn’t reach our $50,000 goal, we did raise close to $10,000 on IndieGoGo and in doing so, built a relationship with a wonderful production company that’s been invaluable in providing us with professional expertise and advice. While they are currently not working with us directly (they were only hired through the crowdfund), they remain great friends of the project, and remain there for us in a way we truly appreciate.
Incredible Girl also represented at GeekGirlCon 2016 in Seattle, where we brought back the panel we did at Emerald City Comic Con last year, “Incredible Girl Presents: Geeks and Kink,” about the correlation between the geek community and the kink community. We were joined by popular sex educator, IG cast member, and all-around awesome chick, Sandra Daugherty, A.K.A. Sex Nerd Sandra.
We had an awesome panel, even after some people in the audience responded negatively to our screening of the original IG short film, which many of them saw as a glorification of no consent. The reaction prompted a really great discussion during the panel – one we hope will inform the show as we continue to produce it.
This reminded me of exactly why I want Incredible Girl in the world. Indeed, it reminded me of why I want to write for television at all. I want to start conversations, not just between myself and my viewers, or viewers and my work, but among the viewers themselves. I want to help people engage with and understand the world a little better. Hopefully, in my small way, I can make the world a more tolerant, open, and loving place to be through my work.
Which is why I’ve made my mantra, “Create Like An Activist.” I want everything I do, from caring for the people I love, to the way I interact with my community, to the way I approach my work to all dovetail into my desire to make the world better through my participation.
It amazes me how much 2016 has changed me and everyone I love. Deep, internal changes. Not just the usual changes that happen over time…but there’s been a fundamental shift in all of us. It’s something I feel in the air and in every conversation I have with anyone these days. Ultimately, I think this shift is necessary.
But there’s a reason why they call them “growing pains.” They’re gonna hurt.
Still, we can help each other heal and get through it, and I’m very lucky that I’ve managed to surround myself with some pretty spectacular people. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that as long as we each think a little less about “I” and a little more about “we,” that we can get through the turbulence and find some kind of peace.
I look forward to loving you all a little better this year. Happy New Year.