TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT October 2019

TOP TEN

Cyrus Dunham

Cyrus Dunham is a writer and organizer living in Los Angeles. Their first book, the memoir A Year Without a Name, will be published this month by Little, Brown. Dunham is a member of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

  1. MY BEDROOM

    Sometimes, when people ask me for an author photo, I just send a picture of my bedroom in LA. Friends know that I’m extremely anal about what’s in my room and how it’s organized. I like being able to list everything inside it and know why each object is meaningful to me. It makes me feel grounded and calm to know there’s one space that embodies my intention for how I want to be. It’s kind of like an altar, but bigger. I love when friends come to stay, because I get to invite them into a part of me that’s outside language. The physical objects most precious to me are in my bedroom, such as art by my most-loved ones, clothes I inherited, and poems written by my boyfriend.

  2. JIMMY DE SANA, SUBMISSION (1979)

    Jimmy was my mom’s best friend, but he died in 1990, two years before I was born. So I heard about him a lot and would get to look at his pictures whenever my mom went into the archives she kept in her studio. Every once in a while, I heard about or got a glimpse of images from his book Submission: bodies being penetrated, asphyxiated, tied up, and contorted. Realistically, Jimmy’s work was probably the earliest visual exposure I had to both queerness and kink. Maybe I was drawn to his photographs because of something latent in me, or maybe my tastes, proclivities, and desires were shaped by them.

    *Jimmy De Sana, _Panty Hose,_ 1979,* gelatin silver print, 10 × 8". From _Submission_ (Scat Publications, 1979). Jimmy De Sana, Panty Hose, 1979, gelatin silver print, 10 × 8". From Submission (Scat Publications, 1979).
  3. JANE H. HILL, THE EVERYDAY LANGUAGE OF WHITE RACISM (2008)

    This book was recommended to me by my friend Shay, who studied linguistic anthropology. It’s an analysis of the ways that racism, race ideology, and, more specifically, white supremacy exist and get perpetuated through the most banal speech patterns and conversations. The book was extremely important for me in beginning to register how violence functions within white liberalism, and how systemic violence takes hold even in intimate relations and discrete subjectivities.

  4. SAIDIYA HARTMAN, “VENUS IN TWO ACTS” (2008)

    A very dear friend sent me this essay in 2014. Since then, I’ve read it a few times a year. It makes me comprehend, in an embodied way, the limits of my own understanding of history, knowing, and being. The recognition of un-comprehension actually helps me to desire new ways of relating to the world and shaping myself.

  5. ECONOMIC REDISTRIBUTION

    Redistribution not only requires that wealthy people give up control of their resources, it also demands that they relinquish control over how resources are reorganized. That’s not what “highly resourced” people are taught. An organizational model of redistribution that’s taught me a lot is the Trans Justice Funding Project, which collects and pools money and then tasks a panel of trans activists with apportioning the funds among grassroots, trans-led social-justice groups across the country. I think it’s absolutely essential to actively challenge philanthropic gatekeeping.

    *Logo for the Trans Justice Funding Project.* Logo for the Trans Justice Funding Project.
  6. MUTUAL-AID PROJECTS

    The California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) is the most robust mutual-aid project I’ve been a part of. CCWP is a cross-class, multiracial, and intergenerational coalition of people inside and outside of prison who fight against California’s carceral system, supporting and following the leadership of those most often targeted by incarceration. Whether its networks of care take the form of emotional support or collectively strategized legal defense, sharing the burden of administrative labor or community court support, CCWP has taught me so much about what mutual aid looks like in practice. It is, I believe, spiritual work.

     

  7. GREER LANKTON’S CANDY DARLING DOLLS

    It’s hard to pick a favorite work of Greer’s. But I do feel especially in love with her Candy Darling dolls right now. Paul Monroe, Greer’s husband, recently acquired the Candy Darling Archive, which has given me the opportunity to read Candy’s diary, her letters to friends, and the little notes she wrote to herself. Candy was in so much pain throughout most of her life—but she also seemed to intuit how important her legacy would be. Greer, I think, knew how important Candy was, and recognized both Candy’s cultural significance and her own. She understood how vitally necessary it was to keep Candy alive in her art. In loving Greer and her work about Candy, I like to think I’m keeping the love cycle going.

    *Greer Lankton, _Candy Darling,_ 1986,* fabric, glass, human hair, wire, 28 × 6 × 4". Greer Lankton, Candy Darling, 1986, fabric, glass, human hair, wire, 28 × 6 × 4".
  8. JULIAN GILL-PETERSON, HISTORIES OF THE TRANSGENDER CHILD (2018)

    I read this book at an important point in my own medicalized transition. I’d known for a while that my desire to transition was profoundly shaped by histories of coerced medicalization, which were developed to force nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people into legible, binary gender identities. Of course, knowing this doesn’t make the need any less powerful. This book helped me understand more deeply how the development of trans health care—specifically, hormone therapy and corrective (or what we now call gender-affirming) surgeries—was, and likely always will be, a racial project: In the early twentieth century, children of color were treated as medical test subjects for these procedures, but they were never presumed human enough to be capable of trulyembodying manhood and womanhood.

    *Cover of Julian Gill-Peterson’s _Histories of the Transgender Child_* (University of Minnesota Press, 2018). Cover of Julian Gill-Peterson’s Histories of the Transgender Child (University of Minnesota Press, 2018).
  9. MY 2012 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE SPYDER

    I hold out hope that someday we’ll live in a world where we don’t rely on consumption to construct our identities (or where, perhaps, we’ve obliterated identity entirely). But until then, my convertible is the most important purchase of my life. I don’t even care that it only has one star on motortrend.com. It’s just so cute. And riding in it with the roof down, after top surgery, the wind blowing my shirt against my chest, is one of the most perverse and pleasurable feelings I’ve known.

    *Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible, 2012.* Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible, 2012.
  10. ELYRIA CANYON PARK IN LOS ANGELES

    Walks in the canyon behind my house in LA are where I really started feeling my feet on the earth. There are coyotes, bobcats, and birds everywhere, with trees that bear fruit—even though no one takes care of them. People also do the strangest things in the park: place bags of dog shit on top of rock towers, make geometric patterns out of dried seedpods, smash old TVs. I like city-nature more than nature-nature; that’s why I love coyotes, because they live with and among us, despite us. Anytime I see a coyote in the canyon, it feels like a good omen.

    *Elyria Canyon Park, Los Angeles, 2018.* Photo: Cyrus Dunham. Elyria Canyon Park, Los Angeles, 2018. Photo: Cyrus Dunham.