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Episode 2 Transcript

Nomads at the Intersections – Episode 2
“Normalize Unlearning” with Bree Contreras

Original air date: December 18, 2020
Hosts: Noami Grevemberg & Anais Monique


Noami:

Alright. So life on the road can look like so many things, but ultimately it needs to look like home, uniquely your home. We are beyond thrilled to have Gnomad Home sponsoring this episode. Gnomadhome.Com is a free online resource to help you get started or learn more about vanlife and living nomadically. Gnomad Home is jam-packed with free information on how to: choose, build, and live out of your van or camper for any type of budget or nomadic lifestyle. Founders and friends Jayme and John have used their own lived experiences as vanlifers to bring you the tools you need to find and create your very own home on the road. Y’all, head over and check out gnomadhome.com to peruse the wide range of information to help you get started on your build today. That’s G-N-O-M-A-D home dot com.

Noami:

Diversify Vanlife presents Nomads at the Intersections podcast.

Noami:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Nomads at the Intersections podcast. I’m Noami.

Anaïs:

And I’m Anaïs.

Noami:

For the past couple of weeks Anaïs and I have been discussing the effects of burnout. We both experienced some form of it this fall. I mean this year, 2020, we’ve faced a pandemic, natural disasters, a racial reckoning and the longest election year ever. It feels like we’ve all been hanging on by a thread and that inevitably leads to burnout. But even in quote, unquote, normal times, burnout is quite common, with societal pressures to perform and produce high quantity and high quality all the time. Work-Life balance has become more of a pie in the sky idea rather than a goal to strive towards. So, Anais, as a nomad slash road traveler, how would you describe your relationship to work?

Anaïs:

I personally do not like to work, if I’m being perfectly honest. I mean, for what. And to clarify, work to me is anything that I do not feel inspired to do. And maybe that sounds very millennial of me, but so be it. And even though I feel that way, every time I have the opportunity not to work, I still choose to do the opposite. Like, I’ll go so hard for these unseen expectations. Like you said, and eventually burn out and my recovery process, isn’t what it should be. And because of that, I recognize too late that I need to be in recovery. So it ends up taking me longer to recover from being burnt out. And I think that could be tied to a need to please others for acceptance, for approval, probably for approval. Yeah, I would say that’s that’s me. That’s my relationship to work. I used to joke with my mother that I should have been born an Eris and she was probably just like, you know what? You can go somewhere with that comment. I’m probably going to pay for that when I have kids. But yeah, my relationship to work is probably toxic because I just don’t like it. I’d rather be with family being inspired to create something or create memories and do other things. But in the culture that we have, I don’t appreciate work.

Anaïs:

What is your relationship to work?

Noami:

Yeah, I definitely resonated with you’re saying and I feel like I can’t talk about my relationship to work without, as a nomad and road traveler, without talking about my pre-vanlife career. I worked in a corporate environment and my relationship with work was very, very dysfunctional. I enjoyed what I did, but the work environment was definitely extremely toxic. There were always these expectations to produce at all costs. And one of the phrases that was often thrown around the workplace was “don’t bring your personal problems to work.” So I had a tendency to try to separate myself personally from my work and that made it almost impossible to have a healthy relationship with my career. I read an article recently where researchers refer to burnout as an occupational disease. And I really feel that, you know, especially as a woman of color in the workplace. Because there are always these extra expectations placed upon me, the expectations to not only perform, but also assimilate. And don’t dare speak up and use your voice because someone is just waiting around the corner to give you the angry black woman label.

Noami:

And if something bothered me, I had to eat it, stay quiet and be grateful for the opportunity. And I feel like with that added pressure, I experienced burnout like I did my period, regular and monthly. Now I like what I do. I think of myself as fun-employed, you know. I’ve created my own career path and I love it, but there’s also still the process of unlearning these old toxic patterns, like hyper productivity. For me work now is about redefining what it means, redefining what success means and bringing a certain level of awareness to that because I feel like I’m constantly assessing and reassessing what that means to me. But that doesn’t mean that burnout doesn’t happen. I recently experienced burnout and had to take myself back to the drawing board and ask myself some serious questions. Like, what am I doing wrong here? What do I need more of? And what do I need less of in my day to day that can bring me back to a place of harmony and balance? I guess these days I could say that my relationship to work is constantly evolving. And I really like that because I get to choose how I show up.

Anaïs:

Yeah. I appreciate that you took it to what your corporate experience was like, because I think that’s where my patterns definitely started. That whole, not really caring to do this, but I have to do this and then going so hard and then burning out and then not recovering properly. I think this past year has definitely forced me to assess myself. And I think we were all kind of forced to, to step off of that toxic, automatic walkway. That’s very flight attendant of me to make that comparison. But, you know, it was just like, you’re just, you’re on it. And it’s just, it keeps going and it never stops and you can’t get off. And we were able to get off, some people weren’t because they were essential. I’m really curious of what their experience was like. But to have that privilege to finally be outside and looking at what that pattern was, I’m so grateful because I feel like I was actually able to break it for the first time in a real way.

Anaïs:

What does burnout look like for you and how do you come out of that?

Noami:

Yeah, well, burnout for me is, it’s physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. You know, I don’t know another way to say that. Like I mentioned, I recently experienced burnout and I was just in a place of pure exhaustion and irritability and experiencing that type of burnout while living in a van and sharing a small space with another human and a big dog ain’t no joke. I feel like the van was just getting smaller and smaller and I went into fight or flight mode, you know? Yeah. I mean, I feel like it really did force me to take a step back and press that reset button because along with that came a lot of guilt for not recognizing sooner that I was going down this path. So the first thing I did was rest, I put my phone down, I put it on airplane mode and I slept for days.

Anaïs:

Yes!

Noami:

It was nice. You know, I mean, for me overcoming the burnout requires a lot of rest and being really gentle with myself. Cause I mean, I feel like it’s basically starting over from scratch. So I tend to focus on doing the opposite of what I’ve been doing. So if I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at a screen, I shift that and I spend time in nature or I do something creative, like pick up my camera, sketchbook, this time I even broke out the coloring book. So I kind of see it as a process of rewiring myself and still, it takes a lot of time. Three days in and I feel like I was still trying to figure out how to relax. So, you know, it’s like learning to relax again. You all did hold me accountable and I really appreciate it that. Everyone on the team was like, I’m telling on you. I see you. I see that green light on Slack, you know? So

Anaïs:

I saw you. I was creeping on you. I saw you on line. I was like, what is she doing?

Noami:

I mean, the struggle is real.

Anaïs:

I appreciate that you mentioned the guilt aspect of it. Cause you know, I feel like we had a burnout one after another, the both of us. And I was feeling a lot of guilt for sure. And I don’t know if you remember, but I kept saying, you know, what’s going on? You need anything? I’m like, no, what are you doing here?

Noami:

I remember. I do remember that. I got you.

Anaïs:

Yeah. So I appreciate you mentioning that.

Noami:

What was that like for you?

Anaïs:

Burnout for me is, I can literally feel it. I don’t know if you’ve ever had your heart broken, but you can literally feel the heartbreak of it all. Like you’re literally aching, and burnout was like this vibrating anxiety. Like someone was drumming on the inside of my body and it was just vibrating off of me. I couldn’t feel present. I always felt like I was like shaking. I didn’t feel inside of my body. I felt very outside of my body. I was always low energy. Always exhausted, always trying to force it. Definitely defensive at times when I didn’t really need to be. But just because I couldn’t see anything outside of like this cloud of frustration and exhaustion. So yeah, coming out of that, I would have to agree with you, like at least three days of like, I’m just going to sleep and journal, sleep and sleep some more. I have to go on like a notification detox completely. So like you, I have to force myself not to look at anything, no news, if anything, I want to go like the complete opposite direction and watch something ridiculous. Art therapy helps family time definitely helps.

Noami:

Yeah. I like that. I actually delved into some fiction novels while I took those few days off. And that really did help me, you know, rather than listening to the news and reading really heavy books, I shifted that and I got more into light mood and that, that really did help me relax. After the three days of like feeling my body just release.

Anaïs:

Yes. Yeah. It was the music for me. It was like playlists upon playlist. The act of making a playlist was therapeutic. Actually our guest Bree, they said something very beautiful that I resonated with. They’re like, it’s like writing a love letter and I’m like, yes, you get it. You Get it.

Anaïs:

Speaking of which, the playlist that we made, we really poured our hearts into it. So I hope y’all check it out.

Noami:

I’m really excited about that.

Anaïs:

Okay. So let’s get into a journaling prompt, much of how we treat each other and ourselves in this society is because of an accepted culture and system of existing. It does not allow space for other ways of living or being your authentic self.

Noami:

Yeah. And people from the LGBTQIA2S+ community are often required to out themselves in society, even if it endangers them. In a world so obsessed with labels, describe yourself without yours.

Anaïs:

Yes. And if you’re answering at home, do this without using categorical labels, such as your race, your citizenship, your family relationships, romantic relationships, sexuality, religion, job title, none of it. Focus on what are your values, your ideals and convictions, your needs, and what are your dreams.

Anaïs:

Do you want to share what that might be for you, Noami?

Noami:

Sure. For values. I mean, I feel like I definitely consider myself to be loyal and a reliable person. And these are values that are really important to me. And it’s what I expect from the people that I surround myself with. Being inclusive and always speaking my truth are ideals and convictions that I live by every day. Being inclusive because I’ve been left out a lot and it doesn’t feel good. When you’ve spent your life being left out I feel like you automatically strive to do the opposite. And I feel like that goes hand in hand with speaking truth to power. For me, needs, I feel would be a sense of belonging. Everybody needs to feel like they’re a part of something, a family, a community. When I left Trinidad at a young age, it was something that I missed deeply. I was traveling around a foreign country and it got pretty lonely. And then again, living on the road, I also feel like lacking a sense of belonging has affected my wellbeing. And it’s something that I know that I need and something that’s important to me. For dreams I feel like I’m definitely a dreamer. Some of my dreams are spiritual and some are more tangible, but something that they all have in common is that they keep me motivated and focused on the things that are important to me. And one of those things are that the people that I surround myself with. People who continue to challenge me to always bring my best self, to prioritize my joy and wellbeing.

Anaïs:

I love that. You know, if you weren’t there and someone needed me to describe you, it would be what you said about speaking truth to power and that inclusiveness. That is something that radiates off you, for sure.

Noami:

Thank you. How about you?

Anaïs:

For me? I’m learning more about myself all the time. I know that I have a very strong intuition, but I have not fully learned how to trust that intuition. I always gaslight myself. So therefore I’m also learning how to trust other people. But trust worthiness is something that I value very deeply. Ideals, I have to align with you on that. You know, that sense of belonging, that togetherness vibe, but I’m here for it all the time. I definitely like need time alone, but I love people. I love the energy of people. I’m convicted that we need each other. And that solidarity is crucial. I need to feel safe. That is very important to me. I need to feel safe in spaces. Otherwise I just can’t show up as my authentic self. I will probably be sitting there quiet.

Anaïs:

And like you, I am a dreamer as well. I can be a space cadet. I’m a night owl that will be up at three, four o’clock in the morning in the summertime, for sure. Literally just dreaming and dancing and writing those things down in my journal and vibing out. But yeah, these things that we named, these are the things that actually unite us. It isn’t being black because what is that, what do you actually mean by that? How can I align with you on that? Yes. There’s culture to it, but there’s so much vagueness there. Being a woman that doesn’t actually unite us. We saw that with the election. So these values, these ideals convictions, dreams, our needs. These are what actually unite us.

Noami:

So beautifully said. I mean, I have nothing to add to that. You, you nailed it. Thank you for, for sharing that.

Anaïs:

Thank you.

Noami:

So, we’ve got another exciting episode for you today. We are so honored to speak with Bree. They challenge the cis-normative views of identity, the discomfort of unlearning, and what it means to be intentional when creating inclusive spaces.

Anaïs:

Bree also poured their heart into collaborating with Noami and I on our official playlist for this episode. Check that out in our show notes as well as our journaling prompts and other exclusive extras. And listen all the way to the end of the episode because Bree shares a revolutionary, but simplistic piece of advice on how to navigate pronouns like a real human being.

Noami:

We are so, so excited that this episode of Nomads at the Intersections is sponsored by our friends at Gnomad Home. So I’ve been living in my van for nearly five years now. And I get a lot of questions from folks who are interested in vanlife or just starting out. From “where do you go to the bathroom?” To, “how do I install electrical and ventilation?” Look, look, I know it can be overwhelming when you’re thinking of how to live nomadically. But it’s totally possible to make your dreams become a reality, especially with free online resources you can access to help with decision-making and planning your next steps. So whether you’ve already picked out your rig or are checking listings daily, Gnomad Home is ready to help you narrow down what will work best for you and your budget. Their Build Your Van page lists van types for consideration, including pros and cons so that you can weigh all your options. It also offers detailed build options with how to’s. So you’re never completely on your own when making these big decisions. You can trust Gnomad Home to ensure you consider all the details in your build, from layout types to storage and toilets. Considering solar? They’ve got you covered. Their solar and electrical guide will walk you through how to wire up your solar setup with no prior experience. Wow, seriously y’all, you gotta visit gnomadhome.com to get started on putting your dreams in to a rig of choice. That’s G-N-O-M-A-D home dot com.

Anaïs:

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Noami:

You are listening to Nomads at the Intersections podcast.

Noami:

All right y’all. Today I’m chatting with my good friend, Bree of Does This Count as Vanlife. I’m really, really stoked for this conversation today. Bree, thank you for coming on the show. Would you take a moment to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your nomadic journey?

Bree:

Absolutely. Hi. So I’m super stoked. I’m so excited to be here. This is cool. Yeah, so I’m Bree. I live in an RV that I renovated. I bought her on Craigslist for like two grand and that was my sole driving force for a very long time. Before I got her, I was working at this really big insurance firm that shall remain nameless in their travel insurance department doing security and operations. Eventually I became responsible for gathering intelligence on about 35 to 40 different countries in South America and the Caribbean and maintaining knowledge of like ongoing political developments and security developments. And in the event that any clients or people that were insured were in a situation where they needed an emergency evacuation or anything due to like natural disaster political uprising or like individual emergencies. I had to coordinate the logistics for those evacuations and things.

Bree:

I don’t even know how I really got there. I have a degree in political science. That is my educational background. And after graduation, I moved to Houston and kind of ended up in that job after bartending and serving and things like that for a while. I ended up at that insurance company and then I realized very quickly that I hated it. And so I was like, Oh hell no, I’m done. I was paying so much in rent. And I was always, it felt like living on someone else’s time and I was just not for it. And I got to a point where I was like, why am I doing this? This doesn’t even make sense. I’m not happy. Like, I can’t do anything that I want to do. I never have the money. And when I do have the money, I don’t have the time. So I was just like, fuck. I’m going to do something else. And I ended up with Hottie. Yeah. And now we’re here.

Noami:

How long have you been on the road?

Bree:

Oh, wow. Okay. I think we left at the end of July. So not very long, but we’ve been like camping out in Hottie since about December. I think. So it’s been coming up on a year that we have quote, unquote vanlifed, but being on the road and mobile. Yeah. About four months.

Noami:

How did you decide this life?

Bree:

I really am a person who values time over money. I learned very quickly in my time in corporate America because I was making really good money and I was miserable because I didn’t have the time to do the things that I wanted to do. And for me, being able to spend my time however I want to, or being able to have freedom with my time, it kinda ties deeply into my sense of autonomy as a human being. You know, like I just, I hate feeling like I have to be places and I have to do things that I have to do more than that. I hate that it feels like they’re for other people. Like that wasn’t advancing anything I wanted to do. I wasn’t even doing anything good for the world. Like I just was wasting my time it felt like, and I knew that I wanted to be more connected to nature and to be autonomy that having my time back would give me. Like, I knew that I wanted to spend my time in different ways and I wasn’t sure how, but I knew that I needed to be able to do it. And I needed an opportunity. I needed a way to live that, let me explore that need.

Noami:

I could really relate to that. I mean, I’ve been on the road for five years now and looking back and connecting the dots I could really see that deep desire for that autonomy and that freedom to choose and decide how I want to create my life, kind of built itself. So I can really relate to that sense of urgency to live the life that you want to live and create it your way, being really intentional about just how we move through the world. Yeah, so thank you for that.

Noami:

So Bree, in this season, we’re introducing and diving into the concept of intentional inclusivity and how it shapes our communities, how it shapes our relationships, as well as our sense of belonging. I feel like, over the past few years, diversity and inclusion have become like really big buzzword.

Bree:

Yeah. It’s so trendy right now to be diverse.

Noami:

Right? And it’s become like really easy for us to get lost in the sauce and kind of focus on terms and trying to appear diverse and inclusive rather than the intentional act of being inclusive and really learning what that means. The last time we spoke, you mentioned intentional inclusivity as a radical act, and I’m really curious to know what that means to you and how that has shaped your journey. Especially as you have transitioned into being a nomad.

Bree:

I did say that, didn’t I? I think that you’re right. I think that diversity and inclusion and equity have become buzzwords and they, like a lot of other things, have been stripped of the weight that they carry and the weight that they should hold and the impact and the actions that should follow with them to be inclusive, like that should be a verb. That is a thing that you are actively doing. It is not like a stamp that you are given whenever you’ve collected, you know, a member of X, Y, and Z groups and formed community, so to speak. I think that there’s an assumption that people are included in different communities or different spaces. And I think the example that I gave when we talked about it last time was like LGBTQ spaces like Queer spaces and Black spaces. So like there are organizations that center, Black people and Black voices and Black experiences, and there are groups that do the same for Queer voices and Queer experiences.

Bree:

But sometimes it is the case that when you go to a Queer space, it is a predominantly white space. And there’s the assumption that, you know, oh, we’re all here on the basis of our identities. And so that is the primary issue that we’re going to speak to. And when you try to bring up something even slightly intersectional, like, okay, well as a black person, I experienced this in a little different way. It becomes like, Oh no, that’s not really what we’re talking about. We’re really here for this. I think it was a couple of years back. They tried to add the black and Brown stripes to the pride flag and people lost their minds. It was absolutely like, no, how dare you. That’s not what this is about. You’re detracting from the issue, but how? How is inclusion ever detracting from the issue and the same with black spaces sometimes like we see a lot of Queer phobia or transphobia in those spaces and it gets violent.

Bree:

The most recent thing that comes to my mind is very recently during the George Floyd protests, there was an incident a few black trans women were beaten and assaulted by CIS black men for being in that space and existing as their authentic selves. And so when we do these movements and we’re not intentionally inclusive, it’s actively harmful. And it creates an environment where people don’t necessarily feel safe to be their entire selves. And we’re now leaving people out. I think that to reject that and to acknowledge that and to actively go against that is radical in and of itself because we are expanding. We are pushing beyond the bounds of what feels comfortable and what we have been conditioned to think is sort of the norm. There’s this idea of separation and these issues, and there really shouldn’t be. And that’s kind of the point of intersectionality is acknowledging that these things impact everyone differently, depending on the intersections at which they lie, their identities and the ways that they intersect have a great impact on the way that people experience different things. And to acknowledge that and do something about it feels radical.

Noami:

Yeah. I agree. I feel like JEDI has definitely been stripped of its meaning, but it needs to be an active process. I feel like inclusivity, it’s definitely not a one size fits all concept. And what works for one person may not be a comfortable solution for another, especially when it comes to individuals living at multiple intersections. Yeah. Yeah. We’re conditioned to like see the world in these binary terms. Like things are black and white, they’re good or bad male or female. But I feel like when we are intentional with our inclusivity, we really open ourselves up to learning and unlearning, which is like, for me, it’s a cyclical thing you learn and you unlearn simultaneously. And that’s how we break those stigmas of what it means to be normal. And we learn to be more considerate to each other. Absolutely.

Noami:

And speaking of breaking stigmas, I think one of the biggest barriers to that is the fact that people who don’t experience a certain type of inequity tend to dismiss it more easily, like you were saying earlier. And I know that I’ve been guilty of this because there’s a lot of discomfort when it comes to talking about things that challenge our preconditioned world views. And that’s been a really big part of my journey, unlearning, accepting discomfort, and being okay with making mistakes along the way. And most importantly, correcting them. I feel like the more I learn about gender, the more I realize that the things I’ve always assumed to be true are likely wrong.

Bree:

Yeah, Yeah. No, absolutely. I think that, like this word comes up so much in these conversations but there’s so much stigma around the idea of being wrong or not knowing everything that we are so societally conditioned that you can’t be wrong. You have to always have an answer, even if it’s not the right one, like you have to have one and you have to commit to it. And we tie these things in so deeply, I think to our identities and our sense of self that it’s like really hard to divest. And unfortunately that’s a really big part of growing. Like you have to be able to let go of what you thought you knew and accept that possibly that’s not maybe the only way. And even if you don’t necessarily change your mind or your stance, like you have to be able to in good faith, engage and understand the other perspective And I think that’s something else we were talking about when it came to like asking questions and talking about things is just like part of an intentionally inclusive community in a space that feels safe. I think at least for me, I guess, as a place where like, you know, that, like when you talk about these things or like you have conversations with members of that community that your perspective, your experience, your version of whatever’s happening, like your take, isn’t going to get you excommunicated, you know, like it’s only going to make people kind of like, hold you tighter. And I think that’s so beautiful. And it’s so against what we’re taught to do. We are very much taught to push against the other and that which we don’t know. And I just think that like unlearning that big one is so life-changing

Noami:

Yeah. I really feel you on that. I feel like it’s important for us to allow ourselves to be wrong. Having that openness within our communities reinforces our culture of like respect and inclusion and intentionality around that in the little things, these intentional acts of communication and small interactions every day creates a more inclusive culture.

Noami:

So let’s dig a little bit deeper into those interactions you brought up. How has your experience of inclusivity as an Afro LatinX person been different from your experience as a gender non-conforming person and maybe where you have seen tensions between those two communities?

Bree:

So my grandparents, bless them, love them. My grandmother is Guatemalan. She’s delightful. My little abuela. I love her so much, but she and my grandfather don’t really like, know that I’m non-binary and that’s just like a thing that I’m not even going to broach with them. One, because they’re old at two, because it is a very strong, NO. They’re not even have a deep Catholic variety that is sometimes the case. But yeah, it’s a big, no. Yeah, no. I mean, it’s funny because my grandpa, like during the riots that followed the George Floyd murder, you know, he was like watching people, burn police stations and stuff. And he was like, that serves them right, that’s what they get, you know? And so he’s very like on board, but there are just some things that don’t work. And that’s true of a lot of my family. My mom, bless her. She wants to be supportive, but she gives me the old, you know, Oh, you got to give me time. And it’s like, girl, Jackie, you got 10 minutes. Like, I don’t know, figure it out. They. It’s not hard. And the thing is, my mom knows, like I’ve told her, like, we’ve talked about it. And she was like, yeah, that makes sense. Absolutely. I get you. I support that. And like, she’s trying like, she’ll comment on my Facebook stuff. And she’ll like, make sure that she calls me her child. And I’m like, thanks, babe. Like, I love you A for effort, mom. But like, if I see her IRL, I think it’s the, like she sees me. She’s like, Nope, that’s, that’s a girl. That’s my daughter. There are titties there, obviously, duh. And I’m like, Jackie, that’s not really like, you have to, you have to know, you have to go further.

Bree:

But then like we go to Queer spaces and sometimes, you know, we have like white Queer friends who will invite us to places, Gilly and I, and we’ll go. And it’s just like, these maybe don’t feel like the most safe places for me to be right now. Or it’s like, they’re organizing matching outfits to go to a Black Lives Matter protest. And you’re like, honey, I can’t, I can’t do it. I’m sorry. It’s just not serious enough. And that, of course isn’t indicative of like of everybody, but it’s common enough that like multiple people have talked about it and we see it. And even like, non-profits at a bigger organizational level, there are so many instances. I think Gilly had an experience with a trans health legal nonprofit over the summer. And eventually it came out that they were incredibly racist and like, he was like, yeah, I know. I knew cause I was there and it’s just, it sucks that there’s that division, but it is. And it is a thing. And so again, I come back to intentional inclusivity as a radical act because clearly the opposite is so rampant. We need to be doing something else. And I think that if the thing that we do is the direct opposite, then what’s the harm, you know, like we already see where it’s getting us where this assumed inclusion is going for us. It’s not really doing too much.

Noami:

Yeah. It can be really difficult living at these intersections where you might not necessarily feel safe to confide in a community you belong to because of other parts of your identity.

Noami:

Can you expand on that situation where you just have to know where your full identity can be expressed and the difficulties that brings? Have you felt that in other circumstances outside of with your family?

Bree:

Yeah, I think that it’s so weird to say. And I saw a meme about it the other day, and I cackled before I cried because it was too uncomfortably real. But it was like, I don’t have like a real or fake persona. I just have like assumed gendered mannerisms that I take on around other people to make them feel comfortable and like, that’s it. That’s exactly it. And so I feel like in spaces like Instagram actually really, truly, and like with the people that I’ve met there, you all, and you know, the Matney’s and like the friends that I have made through vanlife and through the vanlife community are definitely, I feel like the people that I am most myself with. And it’s so strange to say, because some of these people I’ve literally never met. Like I’ve never met you in person Noami, but I literally would die for you. You know? And like, I just feel like, you know so much about who I am and like, I don’t want to assume anything, but I feel like I know so much about who you are without even like knowing, you know, like we’re just, there’s just people that I have been brought to through this community that I connect with and that I feel like, get it. And it’s like, not even something that’s really said or expressed verbally all the time, but there’s this sense that it’s okay. Like, whatever it is that you’re into, whatever it is that you are feeling, like whoever it is that you are, it’s okay to be that here. And that’s definitely been something that’s been getting me through, especially lately like this community and the way that it’s been built and the way that it’s come together for me. And I think for so many other people that I’ve seen kind of a lot of that from the brown among us, the vanlife community lately on that, I really love that.

Noami:

Yeah. I can definitely relate to your experience of code switching depending on the scenario or the setting. I feel that way even amongst the nomadic community. For me it’s been really a beautiful experience to find the Diversify Vanlife community, like what we’re creating as a community and working on being so intentional about our inclusivity. And even though the nomadic community is generally so accepting, it certainly falls into the category of needing to be more active in its inclusion. And yeah, and that’s what we’re setting out to do.

Bree:

You can get away with a lot in the nomadic community if you are white. And I love that we are like actively kicking that back. Like this space is, this is awesome. You’re right. It’s exactly what we’re doing here. And it’s beautiful. It’s coming, it’s working.

Noami:

I do have hope. So how do we move past discomfort and normalize these conversations in order to push our community forward? Like how do you feel the Black Queer community is supported within the road travel and outdoor community compared to the rest of the world? Like, have you felt safe on the road thus far? What voids do you feel need to be filled for Queer people to experience road travel safely?

Bree:

So I will say that I’m probably not like, you know, the authority on this because I’m CIS-assumed. Like people look at me and assume that I’m a woman. And so that has its own baggage. And for that, I get it. So I will say that, but with that being said, I think that it is a matter of like just being okay with being uncomfortable with the process of questioning your beliefs and learning things about other people that challenge the ideas that you’ve probably held for a very long time. And I think like as far as like being black and Queer in the nomad community, I will say like when I first started renovating Hottie, I didn’t really see many Black and Queer people. Like I saw Black people and I saw Queer people, but they were normally white lesbians. And that was that on that.

Bree:

And then, you know, now as I’ve gotten more into the community, and I’m not saying that to say that they did not exist, I think that I just, they were hidden, you know, and now I’ve found them and I adore them all and I love them all. But I think that for the more visibly Queer among us, that’s not a consideration that is taken into when we do things like discuss, you know, interactions with police at meetups or things like that. I think that there’s very much like just a little bit more like a little, a half a step further would be a whole lot better because when we talk about those things, there’s some things that you just can’t avoid. You know, if you’re trans and your physical presentation doesn’t match the gender on your license, like that’s a thing that you have to consider. And that’s not a thing that says people have to consider. And Gilly and I have been talking about moving to a state or I can get my gender taken off of my license and get an X. He always asks me if I’m ready to move and get my X. But it’s like doing that outs me immediately. And so that’s a whole other set of risks that I have to consider. And it’s a lot. And I don’t think that we think about that so much, especially as nomads, because like I said, we are a minority amongst a minority. And even if we weren’t like requiring people to out themselves in order to get steps to inclusion to be made, you know, kind of sucks. To be like, Oh, you know, we would talk about interacting with the police as a trans individual if we knew there were more trans people. Trans people, why didn’t you tell us you were trans in here?

Bree:

And it’s like, but why should we have to, why would you not just think, if the white people have Queer folks as well, we probably do too. I’ma tell you now we do. So like as a step to being inclusive and as part of being proactively inclusive and intentionally so, I mean, why not? So it’s definitely like, things like that, just like the ways that we give out our messaging and the ways that we approach some of the problems faced by the nomadic community specifically, like just, just that little bit of adjustment. And it’s again, I guess the thing that comes from when we intentionally include people, we get to hear their perspectives.

Noami:

I agree. You’re definitely breaking down exactly why, if we’re not intentional, it’s far too easy to not be inclusive. So if you’re not intentionally inclusive, you’re excluding people. At the New Orleans vanlife gathering. I hosted last year, we intentionally created this space where underrepresented people could bring their perspectives and their experiences to the larger conversation. Where at these events, it’s not usually that way. You know, I’ve been to many vanlife events and gatherings and meetups where none of the stories reflected my own or anyone else, you know, within the BIPOC, LGBTQIA, disabled communities stories were heard. So it was a priority for me to create that safe space where we could share and, you know, have our opinions and our experiences heard. And I feel like sharing our stories and diverse experience really helps us to see past our assumptions and create opportunities to make connections based on similarities or interests and even extending beyond our perceptions. So I really resonate with what you’re saying about not being afraid of being wrong and being proactive about learning.

Noami:

I quickly wanted to mention a post you shared recently on international pronouns day, where you talked about mis-gendering and the dangers that come along with it. I feel like this ties so deeply into creating a culture of intentional inclusivity, because beyond inclusivity is feeling a sense of safety and belonging in the spaces we navigate: our families, our friend circles, our communities. So, for someone like me who is working to unlearn harmful practices, is there anything specific that I should learn about mis-gendering and how it affects people in order to be a better ally?

Bree:

So when we talked about this last and I fully was aware and I still am, I get it mis-gendering happens, you know, whatever, right? We’re all un-learning, we’re all growing, but it sucks. It sucks a lot. It sucks! And but deeper than that, I think I said this last time, I’ve really been struggling to find something, to compare it to. And I’m really big on like analogies and things. I, for the life of me could not figure it out. And I think I said it last time, you know, mis-gendering feels a lot like a form of colonization. You are going in and you are projecting your beliefs. And normally it happens because of your preconceived notions of that person based on what they look like, how they dress, the way they wear their hair, their voice, like all these different factors. You know, these boxes that we have lined up subconsciously that, you know, if you check A or B on each column and tally them up, like that decides what your gender is. You’ve got titties, you wear a dress, you have long hair, you’re a girl like, but that’s maybe not true. You know? And that’s where the projection comes in. Like you are putting that on someone else based on what you believe to be true of them. And it strips them of their autonomy also in that moment to tell you their agency as an individual to tell you no, this is who I am, this is how I like to be addressed. This is how I am to be addressed. Not even how I like, right? Because my pronouns are not preferred.

Bree:

Unless of course, some people are pronoun flexible, learned the term not too long ago. And I’m very excited. My friend, Manuel taught me about it and people that are pronoun flexible, and that might mean that they have multiple sets. And in that case, sure, there are probably, there, there might be preferred pronouns, but otherwise like people’s pronouns are mandatory and you should ask them and not make those assumptions because that act of assuming is so violent to a person who is already fighting their conditioning and their upbringing and probably their family and all these other battles just to be in existence as who they are for you to in that moment decide, no, I don’t care. I think that you are X, Y, Z. So I’m going to refer to you the way I’d like to. It’s violent. It’s incredibly violent.

Bree:

Like you would hate it if someone came up to you and you know, after you told them your name, and this is nowhere near as humiliating or degrading as being mis-gendered, but like, they refused to use that name and called you something else. You’d be upset. You’d be like, damn, what the fuck? I just told you my name, bro, what is your deal? Like, do you not trust me that I know my name? Like, what is that, what is this, what are you doing? Is this a kind of weird power play? But like, somehow it’s so much harder to understand that when it comes to pronouns and I get that that’s because the gender ideas and norms that we hold to are subconsciously embedded. They’ve been programmed in us for a while, you know, through things like magazines and media and movies and books and all of that. But the step and the act of un-learning is crucial so as to not enact that type of violence on other people, and then, I mean, as an ally, you only can go up from there. That is just like, the basics. It is really get rid of what you think you know about gender, because it’s probably wrong. And if it’s not wrong, it’s racist.

Noami:

That’s a really helpful analogy. And I think that the more aware we make ourselves of our actions and how it affects other people, I mean, it can only help us treat people with greater respect. I feel like people are often uncomfortable if they don’t know someone’s pronoun, like what we said, they can be so afraid of getting things wrong that maybe they don’t engage or ask questions they should be asking. And, like, should I ask, should I not ask?

Bree:

It’s free 99 to just, you know, introduce yourself. And I think that’s a really good way to get around it too. A lot of people don’t think about this. I don’t know why I just, but every person I’ve ever told this has been like mind blown when I’m done. But I’m like, yo, if you don’t want to approach the, like a conversation with someone and just outright ask their pronouns, because yes, that is weird. Like if you just walk up to someone that you don’t know, hi, what’s your pronouns. Like, no, introduce yourself and give your pronouns cis people. Like let’s normalize that. Huh? Why do I have to give mine to you? So you don’t mis-gender me when you could just be like, hi, I’m Noami and my pronouns. Are she/hers? How are you like and yours. And then it’s like, Oh, hi, I’m Bree. My pronouns. Are they/them? What’s up? It’s nice to meet you. Bam! Normal human interaction.

Bree:

Yeah. Now everybody’s informed. You all know how to pronounce each other’s names, even. It’s beautiful. I know we’re in a pandemic, but y’all. Like, it’s alien. It’s that simple. And that’s also where like putting pronouns in your bio’s comes in handy. Like if everybody did that, it would be so much easier and would be so much less sus when like trans people or gender non-conforming people do it, which also helps us not be outed, which opens us up to all kinds of things that aren’t good. So intentional, proactivity, you know, these words keep coming up, but like, it’s so small and they’re such small things that can be done by literally anybody and everybody that it’s like, bro, why not?

Noami:

That was so well said. And I feel like those recommendations were so great that we can all follow.

Bree:

Yeah. That’s just the beginning.

Noami:

Just the beginning. Right?

Noami:

So Bree I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today. It’s been so refreshing and wonderful and exciting having you on the show. Before we wrap up, I just had a couple final questions for you.

Noami:

What strengths have you felt yourself tap into in 2020?

Bree:

Definitely my creativity and like interrogation, I guess. I don’t know. I’ve become, world’s more curious. And I was always a very curious person. My curiosity kind of led me here, but it just feels like I have more burning questions and they are bigger and better. And I am able to express them in ways that I never thought possible. And I think that I owe almost all of that to being able to live in this van. That sounds so dramatic and cliche, but it’s true. I get to explore new avenues to express myself and I have only gotten better at it, I think. And that is by far the most incredible thing.

Noami:

Beautiful. I’d like to ask you to finish this statement. In a truly inclusive world…

Bree:

Oh, that’s very open-ended okay. Golly. In a truly inclusive world, there is no other, there’s only us.

Anaïs:

Thank you for tuning in to Nomads at the Intersections podcast. We are so happy you joined us. We’ll return with the full episode in your podcast feed in one month. But we got you covered until then. Connect with us on Instagram @nomadsattheintersectionspod and @diversify.vanlife for exclusive extras you won’t see anywhere else. Also check out the show notes for our favorite quotes from this episode, as well as a few journal writing prompts. We even created a playlist for our nomads out there. Y’all it’s a whole vibe. If you haven’t already hit that subscribe button and follow our hosts and socials @irietoaurora and @anaismoniq.

Noami:

Nomads at the Intersections is a Ravel Media production with special thanks to Busted Slate Media. Music by Smart Monkey Music. If you enjoyed this episode, leave us a five star rating on Apple podcasts or Google play, and mention Nomads at the Intersections or Diversify Vanlife in your review.

Bree:

Did I rant too hard about gender and pronouns? My B.

Noami:

Oh baby! You are, I love you.


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