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The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2021

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MAY 2021 Issue
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Something as Ordinary as a Smile

Vanessa Clark. Courtesy the author.
Vanessa Clark. Courtesy the author.

I look forward to a summer in 2021 where we will look out for each other as we did from the start of March 2020 when the pandemic first began. While across the year people cared less and less about following CDC protocols, I still believe in the power of caring. I hope that I won’t be the exception in saying that. While I long for the day when we don’t have to wear masks, I still want them in times when we’re sick with a common cold, or have a harmless, lingering cough, to show respect to our fellow humans.

I hope that people will still stock up on their zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and elderberry gummies, not because it’s trending for immunity, but because it should be a lifelong path to bodily self-care. I hope for people to still be aware of ableist language that has unnecessarily demonized the disability community, and be much better than that, as I hope that people will still not just listen but show up for disabled people long after the pandemic is over, if it ever is.

“The New Normal” already is no longer new, it is The Normal. As women and femmes of trans experience, we already know what struggle is, but what we know more than anyone else is how to survive and endure. Living is not easy, but being alive, I hope, will come more naturally once we realize that we have the ultimate power to learn and grow from all this.

With the sun, come summer, we will know what freedom is again by just the sheer joy of being outside more, no longer inside and cooped up, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Even so, I would not want us to go back to the way things were. Nobody is the center of the universe; we are all in this world together. I hope that we will never forget that above all, people died.

Not that little and petty complaints and inconveniences are not valid on their own, we are after all, still human, and venting is part of the experience, but still: we need to think more often about the lives we’ve lost. The sacrifices that were taken not only by everyone in the medical field, but the restaurant workers and cashiers—people who society looks down upon and yet depends on—were greater than we could imagine. They deserve more than our thanks. It’s not enough to honor them with platitudes that sound and feel good; we need to pay them more, tip them often, without thinking twice about it.

Aside from grieving, we should also be haunted: even during a pandemic, Black trans women were murdered. If Black trans women couldn’t be safe during these times, it’s a more frightening reminder that even then, Black trans women are not alone and yet are very much alone in this reality, and we as Black trans women shouldn’t be the only ones looking out for each other. We should not be the only ones reporting on the deaths of our sisters on social media, only for the world to indeed see us, and yet still, the news is not carried onward.

I look forward to a summer in 2021 where we will never forget that we will always need help. All of us will always need somebody. Being nice should not be revolutionary, but for now it is and probably will be for an awfully long time, because there will always be people who will believe more in hoaxes and anti-masking and COVID-conspiracy theories than in science. I do not believe that this will be a thing of the past, it will forever be the future, even as it is happening now.

I don’t believe that in the summer of 2021 we will have live music again, or that museums, record stores, and bookstores will return to regular hours, or that we will even be allowed to be in groups. But imagine if we did, and how something as ordinary as a smile that we can actually see again would do more than brighten up the moment, but have us realize how much we really took a smiling face for granted. As we are singing, dancing, drinking, eating, laughing, daydreaming, and stargazing, we can breathe again, and even then, never forget the losses, the deaths, the sacrifices, and the horror, but most of all, never forget to care, to give back, to act up, and to love, for each other.

Contributor

Vanessa Clark

Vanessa Clark is an intersex trans femme author that has been featured in Harper?s BazaarPOPSUGARVice, and Them, and has written articles for Vox. Pronouns: she/they. Even though she lives in New Jersey, she is more than likely spending her free time at some of the best indie bookstores, parks, museums, and record shops in New York City. On social media, you can find her on Facebook (@vcerotica) and Twitter (@FoxxyGlamKitty). 

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The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2021

All Issues