Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota

Who Am I? Who Are My People?

I was asked to answer these two questions over the summer. I’d applied and made it to the second round of applicants for the Change Network Minnesota leadership program. This second round equaled a morning with a beautiful multi racial and multi generational collection of folx mostly from the Twin Cities plus a few who traveled from greater Minnesota. Twelve of us sat in a circle and we each had five minutes to speak to the above questions during the group interview.

While I was crushed to not be chosen to participate in the year long cohort, these two questions have been one of the best gifts of 2018. To use them both as a frame in varied situations lends perspective and growth. I’ve decided to answer them again here. I recognize neither is a static inquiry, I’ve changed immensely even since August when I sat in the Humphrey School of Public Policy for the process.

Who Am I? I’m a queer, gender variant, radical feminist pleasure activist and writer committed to racial and reproductive justice who resides in northern Minnesota. I also consider North Carolina and Texas home. I have intimate relationships with New York and Vermont as well. I was born in Miami Florida and spent the five years between kindergarten and fifth grade in Cleveland. I call this north south dialectic I’ve lived and still live my Queer Intimacy with Place. I’m committed to my writing and meditation practices. My first and everlasting loves are with books, friendship, and wild space- hence my home in Duluth Minnesota on the bigLake, Lake Superior. In addition, building community is a core value. I believe systems change starts close to home- so I give myself daily to creating beloved community where I live and with my art. I am a white, cis, gender expansive womxn who challenges white dominance and is exploring hir own white fragility.

 Who Are My People? In Duluth, I’m surrounded by folx committed to doing their work and giving back to their community. Northeast MN is a liberal bubble- that maintains a pervasive silence about things that feel uncomfortable. Earnest, well-intentioned and big hearted, it seems most of my people here are focused on one issue or another and curious about intersectionality. Most of my community is white. And most of these white folx are committed to spiritual learning and fun in the outdoors. Both of these qualities and passions I respect- and I hope together we can grow a deeper commitment to systems change work and collective liberation. I do have a handful of people here, again mostly white, who passionately engage in reproductive, racial, gender and environmental  justice while questioning class, ability, and our deepest desires.

My people are those glittering fiery sexy radical witchy folx Queering UP the country. My people use cunt love and spells and potions to heal the pain. Mostly living in cities to get what they want and need in community and design, performance and safe spaces. Poets, artists, racial justice trainers and diversity/sex educators. Podcasters and musicians. Trans+queer+womxn of color adventurers especially bike riders who I toured across the country with ten years ago. Yes, my people are my Spoke N Heart bike collective sisters. My people are the queer and trans folx everywhere that are creating art to expand the conversation around justice and pleasure, kink and freedom. My people are the POC, queers and trans folx who are writing writing writing. My people are the HOTDISH Militia.

 My people are the families I’ve chosen- sports teams of womxn athletes, meditation group of eight years and my creative kind southerners in NC and TX. My people are the family I was born into- Irish and Swedish, dad sister mom aunts and uncles cousins. The Scandinavian love and ritual make these connections very valuable and healing (lend beauty and steadiness) to me.

My people are creatives and queers committed to social justice instead of taking home big paychecks. We buy second hand items to decorate our homes and organic food as often as it fits into our budgets. We’re well informed, literate, passionate about art and learning, adventure and dreams. My people are working for policy change and better public health models on small salaries.

My people in Duluth and my other smallish cities are committed to a slower pace of life. We’re often not as goal oriented as our metro kin/friends. We’re connected to rural communities- can share first hand stories about lack of access, resources, wealth. We may not be the first to know or own the newest technology- in fact we may opt out of the swanky and shiny to feel more connected to each other and this land. We unplug to plunge into solitude.

 My people are my ancestors. North and south. White yes. Also wild. The trees, mountains, birds, beasts and most importantly big water. Born on an ocean and raised in the eastern Great Lake Region. My “people” is this my bigLake- a body of water, freezing and warming, so often waves and wind with a short moment in summer of calm swimmability- always always always a connection to my eternal being. My “people” are the beings that grace my life in the same way. My beloved dogs and the bald eagles and fox, crows, otters, great blue herons, beavers who are with me always and appear on long walks. My people are humans who chose to live here while sacrificing other goodness, success, sexual satisfaction and physical comfort for most of the year. We are a bad ass, ridiculous bunch.

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