About columnist, Madyson Crawford, visits Nourishing Our Queer Bodies, an event hosted monthly at the Montrose Center, presented by LHI Houston in partnership with Legacy Community Health.
“What medicine do you bring? What medicine do you seek?”
Nourishing Our Queer Bodies is hosted every third Tuesday of the month in room 111 at the Montrose Center, located at 401 Branard St. in Montrose. In a small room, chairs were set up in a semi-circle and attendees were offered both chairs and yoga mats on which to sit and get comfortable. Food is served — this week it was pizza and Pepsi — and as folks trickled in, they were able to grab a plate and seat. In the front, Yucca stands behind a table filled with body and sex-ed coloring pages, crayons, zines on gender and sexuality, and swag from the Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI) of Houston that folks could take with them.
Like at most facilitations, Yucca asked us to introduce ourselves: name, pronouns, what brought us there, and what we hoped to talk about in the future.
My name is Madyson. My pronouns are she/her. I came because I needed to be in a space with queer folks. I am building a new community in my hometown, and spaces such as these provide access to said community. I’m open to anything. I kinda came in blind so I’m not sure what we are gonna discuss. Just excited to be here.
Our first activity asked us to define what ‘nourish’ meant to us. In small groups we brainstormed words and phrases. We then put together a puzzle definition. Every group came to similar conclusions: to nourish meant something along the lines of feeding/caring/meeting the needs for the self. My group in particular related to a phrase that was common on social media: We are like plants. We all need sunlight and water. Nourishing was the radical act of not just surviving, but setting ourselves up to thrive. And for queer and trans bodies/people, this can be/is difficult to do. In fact, we all expressed that systems of oppression, self doubt/fear, and violence stood in the way of us nourishing ourselves.
Yucca facilitated the event with a series of questions that forced us to reflect on whether or not we nourished ourselves and what we considered to be our acts of nourishment. For me, nourishment was reading books — even if it took me months — and sharing space with my little sisters. For others, it was physical intimacy, writing, talking to plants, talking to the self, and so forth. Nourishment varied for all.
Talks of nourishment, however, would be incomplete without a real discussion about healthcare and access. Folks critiqued the treatment of “fat” bodies by doctors and physicians, creating a culture of poor care and neglect. Those who identified as gender nonbinary, genderqueer, and trans shared feelings of poor care because the healthcare system is not designed to care for those not in cisgender bodies. In addition, heteronormativity within healthcare and from physicians created a culture of discomfort for queer folks. Many of us not only wanted access to affordable/free healthcare, we also wanted access to respectful and responsible health. Healthcare that recognized and respected our personhood. Without that, nourishment for self would always fall short.
As we closed the event, Yucca did something I found to be the most beautiful part of the event. She played a podcast (insert title here) in which folks and (insert lyrics here). At the end of the event, we closed with the questions: What medicine do you bring? What medicine do you seek? I am reminded of the home remedies my grandmother created when I was sick. Rubbing my back and spoon-feeding me homemade chicken soup and garlic tea. Asking me to recite Christian incantations with her “Jesus by your stripes/strikes (I was never quite sure which it was) I’m healed”. This medicine is one that I, as an adult, have adopted and use to nourish and care for my sick body. What we need to nourish ourselves, I learned, is already within us. For those of us with close relationships with our ancestors and elders, it has been passed down for generations. Some attendees shared their understandings of that.
Medicine, in this context, was not rooted in a reactionary concoction meant to cure disease and illness. Rather, this medicine spoke to the holistic care we were seeking and were able to share with others. We began to share things such as laughter, open ears, open hearts, and vulnerability as medicine we could bring to the table. Medicine we could provide for our communities and ourselves. Afterwards we shared the desire to be wrong and loud, desires to be cared for, desires to be vulnerable with others as the medicine we were seeking.
I left the facilitation feeling new and light. I had been in a room with eight other people who were interested in caring for ourselves and our bodies in radical ways. What did nourishment mean? How did we nourish ourselves? What stopped us from being able to nourish ourselves? Although so much of this was rooted in the self, Yucca managed to create a space where community was central. It was not just us who needed nourishment and it was not just us who provided nourishment. For many of us in the facilitation, we found nourishment in the people and spaces around us.
Nourishing Our Queer Bodies is a space that offers a radical reflection on the movement of health and self care, something folks have criticized as being capitalized on by companies and organizations. Specifically this speaks about those companies that only offers care for certain bodies that exist within the bounds of desirability and “normality” as well as rooted in an exchange and monetary values. Those looking for honest and open conversations of health and care may find this space comforting and challenging. I recommend queer folks looking for a community of care and support to attend these events when able. I left lighter and excited and full of reflections. I returned home to journal and light my incense and nourish myself, affirmed in decisions I had made that felt right for me. Like my group said before, we are just plants in need of sunlight and water.
For more information on the September meet-up of Nourishing Our Queer Bodies, you can visit the event page on Facebook here.