It’s a weird time of year. Every Thanksgiving I spend an undefined period of time feeling a vague sense of dread, a sort of mind paralysis. It might be from the inevitable, crazy-busy lead-up to the holiday season. It might just be exhaustion, or the general fatigue of the late autumn that my chronically ill body always experiences in November. But it’s mostly a sort of grimacing feeling as I stare at the overwhelming spectacle of it all. The call for a feast when the world around me seems unworthy of celebration. The parades and the games and the candles and the decorations, all for a holiday that’s commemorating a genocide. It’s so…American.
Last year, on Thanksgiving, thousands of indigenous Americans and allies were camped at Standing Rock, days after over a dozen had been hospitalized after sustaining injuries from rubber bullets, tear gas, sound cannons, and more, all in the fight to keep their water safe. And there I was, at my sister-in-law’s, eating pie and working in the corner because I had a looming deadline, trying not to cry. On the drive home, we were snowed in at Donner Pass (not kidding) and had to be pulled out of the blizzard by a bunch of Confederate-flag-toting locals who chained their 4-wheel-drive vehicles together to get us out of a snow-filled ditch. It was an adventure, but I had to ask myself: Would they have helped us if we hadn’t been white?
This year, I’m staying home and trying to keep my wits about me as I host a few friends; I told myself it would be fun, but now that I’m hopelessly behind schedule to make a meal, I realize I hardly have time for bathroom breaks in between trying to keep my tiny publishing company afloat and making enough money to get by…on an average day. Now I’m supposed to clean my house, do the laundry, set up a meal, and be all fun to hang out with by tomorrow? What the hell was I thinking?
Look. I’m stressed out. And America is a bizarre place.
Yet I do like the spirit of gratitude that, its horrendous origins aside, Thanksgiving asks us to adopt. It’s something I aspire to remember in my life, but often fall short of achieving.
After all, this year, I’ve had my first nonfiction book published, to wide acclaim from places like Playboy and The New York fucking Times. The publishing company I co-founded last year has begun to publish, and I’ve seen the first pages of my graphic novel about pornography, Tracy Queen, and a comic series about a pack of vigilante dogs, PACK, in print. We’ve been able to publish two comics anthologies and an art book because other people have supported our vision at Patreon, and that’s just incredible to me. For the first time in my life, this year, I’ve made my living almost entirely on my writing work. I’ve written for amazing publications like MEL, Glamour, Men’s Health, Playboy. I’ve been able to keep food on the table and an active career going, and even to to the gym. Sometimes. Life, really, is wonderful. I have so much to be thankful for. And I am.
I may be most thankful to have reached a point in my life where my work is able to join a larger conversation about human rights, sex positivity, and the fact that those two things are inextricably linked. I feel that my books reach into the middle space between the deeply divided factions in our society and try to draw people out, present a case for progressive thinking devoid of minimizing rhetoric, name-calling, or hatred. I feel that I have an audience now, one that believes, like I do, that the topics that are so often used to divide us are, in fact, the things that can pull us together. Sex. Passion. Love. Pleasure. These are nearly universal, and they’re divisive specifically because people in power have always recognized them as incredibly potent forces that could unite us. By attaching them to religions, moralities, laws, codes of conduct, and endless shaming, structures of power have managed to make us all so deeply suspicious of each other, so cut off, that we’ve been blundering around in the dark, hurting each other because we literally don’t know how not to, because nobody has ever told us. In my work, I try to shine a light into that murk, to educate about the people that so many of us have been taught to look down on or to think of as fundamentally different. Because they’re not different. They’re people. We all are. And I’m so deeply grateful that some of you like to read what I write, to think about these ideas.
This year, the camp at Standing Rock is vacated. The Dakota Access Pipeline is in the ground. The Keystone 1 pipeline is leaking oil in South Dakota. Environmental protections are being rolled back at a nauseating rate. Neo-Nazis are marching around the world. And millions, maybe billions, of turkeys are being slaughtered for our feasts. But we’re talking about sexual assault, finally, in a real way. California just declared it would recognize people who aren’t gender binary.
Look. America is a deeply confusing place, peopled with a culture that’s literally built on top of an Indian graveyard. Thanksgiving is a spectacle of death and murder and humbleness and love. And here we are. And here we must be, because what else are we to do? I am so very thankful for all I have, and I must also maintain a healthy skepticism of the systems and structures and history that allow me to have it.
Wow. No wonder people drink on holidays.
At any rate, what I’m trying to say here is: Thank you. Every one of you who visits this website, who reads anything I’ve written, who purchases any of my books, who thinks about any of the words I put down. It is my great honor to be here, pondering all of this publicly, and knowing that you might read them.