WANTED Project Podcast: Episode 103 – Gunner
Welcome to the WANTED Project Podcast. It is my JOY to introduce you to my friend Gunner.
Hi there, uh, hm, uh, my nickname is Gunner, and whether you believe it or not I’m a little shy, um, but Nedra’s been super patient, and asked me to make a little video about the WANTED project and my involvement in that, and uh, you know, I know-I know that Nedra already talked a little bit about the initial conversations um uh um ahh it’s kind of weird to talk about the whole experience-but the group of us that were talking when this whole project came about was a group of women that understood and supported the need for the female only space at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and I’d been talking about an incident that happened in–at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, at Fest, and it happened Friday night, August 13, 1999.
And it was a pretty, uh–I can’t even begin to go into what actually all went down that night, but for me that was the shift from-it’s sort of pre- and post- that night, for me, my experience at Michigan.
And pre-that-night, uh, I felt like I could be myself there and that I was seen as female there and that uh, anytime anyone questioned any-whether or not anyone was a girl or a woman or whatever, you know, the answer prior to that in my experience on the Land as a Festie was that the answer was always that everyone here is a woman.
Mmm. You know, and for the most part we continue to have that answer, but it wasn’t the truth anymore after ’99, you know, there was a big protest that night and it wasn’t the first protest and it wasn’t -certainly not the last either but it was, it was a big one and you know the pretty much the demands of the individuals that showed up were that the intention needed to include transwomen and transmen and pretty much anyone that felt that they belonged and wanted to be there.
And so the shift on the land after that night was, from my experience, was that, you know, even though the space and the place was still magical and healing and you know better than-better than the rest of the world, it had become similar to the rest of the world in that I was consistently questioned, um, I’ll just leave it at that, sometimes literally, sometimes just with a look, sometimes with –you know but it was the same thing, it was the same thing as you know when I walk into a public restroom and uh, the look of fear on a woman’s face when she sees me, or the–or anger, or whatever her emotional response is to assuming that you know, that a man has walked into the-into the restroom.
I had that same feeling there, at–at Michigan where women would slide away from me if I sat next to them, or especially at night-you know night time was just tricky, tricky business. But that for me I decided to keep going and then I kept going because it was still better than the rest of the world, it was still–I still got questioned less, ha, and I still got treated better, but that the…”trans movement?” I mean, I–you know, whatever, it was Camp Trans, it was Trans Menace, it was Trans Women Belong Here, it’s like…group after group comin’ in and whittling away at the safety in the space that I had going.
Um. [Deep breath] Well, a lot, from that night forward. So anyway when this group was talking about that and you know Nedra talked about her memories of that conversation and you know I don’t even remember how it came up but what I do remember is sort of recognizing and understanding that I uh, I-I am a poster girl for Fest, I mean it saved my life. I mean I was a baby dyke that was still trying to like pass and look as normal as possible for you know until I didn’t care anymore-haha until I went to Fest and saw other bearded women and saw, you know, ahh, I’m not gonna name names but you know who you are-and saw these fierce badass lesbians and knew that I could survive in the world and live in the world, if they could do it I could do it.
And then I had become somewhat of a recognizable face and that if we were gonna do this, this project and this WANTED poster that, um, you know, I knew I needed to be in on it. So I literally walked out into the back yard and um took a selfie up against my house and sent it to Nedra and of course she did her magic and came up with uh came up with the fantastic-looking poster and you know the group hive mind you know changed the words and edited and you know did what we did before we actually put it out that year.
But you know it was funny because we even in that group we even questioned things like, like, like..how do I say-like, we’re in the group, and I’m part of the group and we’re talking about this poster and there’s comments made about how maybe I need a different picture-because clearly it wasn’t a professional picture but you know, somebody made the comment that I looked tired and sad. And I’m thinking, fuck yeah, I’m tired and sad. It’s not an easy fuckin world to live in when you don’t play by the rules the way you’re supposed to play by the rules. So I voted to go ahead and stick with the original picture, again, the selfie, and I was tired and sad. I still am. I’m super grateful now though too, so.
Anyway that’s, that that was the, the first picture. And it was wild to have the posters up around the Land and it’s been-you know, it’s just been, I don’t even know how to really describe it, that y’know, every once in awhile when Nedra you know, posts something else, or you know, the trading cards that came out and um…[cries] pffft, you know I wasn’t gonna get through this without being emotional, haha-anyway, little girls or baby dykes or whatever like coming up and asking for my autograph and you know, what’s amazing and um, heartbreaking at the same time is that that place saved so many of us, you know.
Fest saved me and I know it saved a lot of other women and just recently I-you know, a friend of a friend is uh talkin’ about uh –haha, do I wanna go here? Do I wanna go here? Yeah. She’s talkin about wantin to like you know have, have her breasts removed and you know the beginning conversations about transitioning, and you know what breaks my fuckin heart is that she is one of many that I know who either have or are considering such drastic measures. And they’re not fuckin considering it ’cause they’re “trapped in the wrong body” or cause of you know, whatever, they’re considering it because of how this fuckin world treats us girls, you know? It’s not right and what is infuriating to me is that I may or may not be able to have a discussion with her and help her just see my face and know that there are other options.
And you know, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you know, in every case it’s not a-you know, whatever transitioning, especially ftm, I mean, you know, that shit’s gotta be right for somebody sometimes and I’m not saying anything about that. What I’m saying is that too much right now it’s like handed to them on a platter and it’s given as the only option.
I mean the group of detransitioners that came to Fest, the 39th Fest for the first time-they’d never fuckin’ seen an old dyke. They’d never seen a bearded woman like me walkin around. They didn’t know that we could exist in the world like this. They thought their only choice was to transition. They thought that was their only choice. And so, Michigan gave us other choices, it gave us a place and a space to show up and see each other a safe place to talk about this shit, and…
I was gonna try not to swear I was gonna try not to get emotional I was gonna try not to get off into all kinda tangents. And there I go with all of ’em, haha, whatever. Um. I’m feeling like the WANTED project, uh, you know, came out–I don’t even know what-all our mission was from the beginning, but I think now that we don’t have Fest anymore that this is our next best bet for somehow reachin, reachin all the, you know I’m gonna say lesbians-I suppose there should be straight women too that that can maybe wanna transition I suppose-but all the youngsters and all the women who-how many women hate their bodies? I mean shit. Do you know a female on the planet -do you know your other or your sisters or your cousins or your friends or your anybody who like, love their body and think that they are hot shit? How many women do you know easily come by self-confidence and self-esteem and self-love and appreciate and love and accept their body? I-I-I don’t know any.
Michigan allowed me to accept my body on way more levels than just whether or not I dressed like a boy or dressed like a girl or any other kinda stereotypical fuckin bullshit gender shit. Michigan helped me feel safe in my own skin and we don’t have that anymore. And so the WANTED project in my opinion is the next best thing.
If we can get enough um enough of these videos out and maybe even I know Nedra’s talked about wanting to make a feature-length documentary and stuff, I feel like I should have a fuckin go pro on my hat all the time. Like, just even goin into regular stores, I mean all-you know-I’m fortunate enough that-well, whatever. I’m fortunate, I’m fortunate. I’m fortunate enough that the shit people say to me and the questions that people ask and the opinions that people feel entitled to share with me, and the physical contact-like, people feel entitled to touch me in so many places, so many spaces and um, what I’m fortunate about is that that stuff used to like throw me into a, a, um…well, shame spiral, frankly, and I don’t go there anymore. I’m able to shake it off and stand tall and you know, I’m convinced that my best superpower is resiliency. I know how to Rise every day, motherfucker, I know how to Rise and continue to suit up and show up and do what I need to do. So I’m real grateful about that. But I don’t know where all these younger sisters go.
And you know it’s not even just-you know, whatever, whatever, it’s so much stuff, it’s so many layers. So anyway if you got it in ya to, um, spread the word about this project or if you know a special, special little somebody that’s struggling with accepting their body and feeling like they got any, any space in this world and you think that this project can help em out, spread the word. Maybe I’ll go through and answer the other questions sometimes but for I think now that’s all I can do.
I can’t even believe I did this with like-Nedra, this better be a draft, you know what I’m sayin? It’s like bedhead and hat head and I been cryin’ all day today because I just found out about a friend dyin’, and you know what I mean, I mean it’s real. Haha, It’s real.
So. Um. It’s real. Nedra, thanks for doin’ this project, thanks to everyone that was involved in it from the start, thanks to everyone who’s, um, supporting the project in any way so far and here’s to everyone–boy or girl–everyone being able to figure out how to be okay in their skin and okay in their bodies and um, that we figure out how to change the world and how the world treats us. We don’t have to change ourselves. All this fuckin bathroom shit right now. Seriously? We gotta keep spreadin the light, y’all. Keep spreadin the good and the love and the light. And all the woo. Haha. Hm. All the woo. Mmhm. All four directions.
I want to thank Gunner for participating this in WANTED Project Podcast. Please know that she did get over the idea that THAT was a draft and approve that this get posted. I appreciate her participation. I think I can safely say for the both of us, you are WANTED you are LOVED and WE want you to KNOW it.
~Mothers and Daughters
Womyn born Womyn
and we gather in the light of the August Moon
Amazon Womyn and we’re out in the woods
And we heal by the light of the August Moon
Deaf womyn, hearing womyn
dancing in the light of the August Moon
girls and womyn in the Michigan woods
and we love by the light of the August Moon
First time I came to festival
I learned I’d always been afraid
To finally lay that burden down
I could not believe the weight…~