The Lobbyist

“You disgust me.”
His three piece suit was a little too tan,
His paunch just a little too round.
He was a mercenary sociopath,
Paid to stop moms from Plainfield from speaking their truths.

Moms from Plainfield don’t have the budget
To pay sociopaths
To stop paid Expert Witnesses from speaking their lies,
To stop state senators from voting as they have been instructed by the highest

“You disgust me.”
And he pointed his polished brown shoes in a practiced stance,
Forty-five degrees from one another,
And his nose into the air
So I could see the hairs of his nostrils,
Demonstrating that the stench of me should be obvious to all.

“You disgust me.”
And all the fear in the pit of my stomach,
All the self-loathing,
Rise as bile and it is all I can do not to collapse right there.

The mercenary sociopath stood on the shoulders of every schoolyard taunter
Who called names that I hadn’t understood, though the tone was clear.
I knew I was belittled, lesser, disgusting to them.
He stood on the shoulders of every boy in high school
Who touched me with eyes,
Long before anyone mentioned that “consent” was a thing.
It didn’t used to be a thing.
Not to nice girls half a century ago who would one day
Grow up to be moms from Plainfield.

“You disgust me.”
It wasn’t personal.
He was paid to terrify me,
He was paid to make sure that one more citizen did not speak her mind.
And if the effect could wash over a few people standing beside me,
Then a mom from Cornish
And a retired trucker from Plymouth
Would also be terrified into silence.
If he did his job well, we wouldn’t even be there the next time
With our signs and our truth.

I wasn’t there the next time.
I stayed home, quivering and shaking,
Crumpled on the floor,
Disgusted with myself
And with my tears
And with the fear that I could smell on my own sweat.

And then the fucking rage came
Like Mama Wolf
Like Volcano
Like all the hatred I had tamped down focused into a white-hot broadsword
And the momentum of raising it up in my heart lifted me to my feet
And for damned sure I made phone calls and sent letters
And invited state senators for coffee in Keene, Plymouth, Lebanon.

If I disgust you, then I am going to earn that disgust,
I am going to speak my truth,
And hold my sign,
And protect my family,
And vote. How dare I?

Do my tears disgust you?
Do they look like weakness?
I am not ashamed of them.
I stand with tears like a badge of honor.
I stand with trembling like a badge of honor.
Because I’m standing up,
You son of a bitch.

LFS Alden is co-owner/builder of a straw bale home in the woods and dearly hopes that her children will make it into space. Her concordance of The Hobbit and supporting digital humanities research tools can be found at She has completed the National Novel Writing Month Challenge three times and fallen short enough times more than that to keep her humble. Her angry transwife Twitter identity is @LionessAnnam.

First Person Plural

Editor’s note: Content warning for sexual assault and death.

We grew up in the shadows of boys and men. They were more important because they would grow up to be businessmen, leaders, the sort of people who solved our problems and saved us from ourselves. We grew up hearing that we should be seen and not heard, that boys would be boys and that someday our prince would come. We grew up excusing bullying behavior because if a boy picked on you, it was because he liked you and that was what we were all meant to want—to be liked, to be pretty, courteous, easily palpable and convenient. Our brothers ignored us while their friends goosed us or snapped our bras and teachers blamed or ignored us because it was easier and at the end of the day they just wanted to chain smoke cigarettes while they graded our work in a way compliant with the standards of our state and municipality. The boys in our class offered us dollars to see a flash of snatch or to touch a tit. Our bodies were valuable but only if they were the right size and shape and color and only for the right price.

“Our brothers ignored us while their friends goosed us or snapped our bras and teachers blamed or ignored us because it was easier and at the end of the day they just wanted to chain smoke cigarettes while they graded our work in a way compliant with the standards of our state and municipality.”

We went to church and listened to stories about original sin or Sampson and Deliliah or the Whore of Babylon or Sodom and Gommorah and we tried to ignore the fact that there were a lot of idiot boys and badass women in the Bible. We sit quietly and recite verses and host fundraiser potlucks and teach sunday school and try to catch the eye of Godly young men and avoid the greeter who lingers too long and stands too close. Or we went to museums and social events with our parents and smiled and nodded and tried to have relevant but nonthreatening opinions and to listen to our elders and betters when they were talking. Even if they didn’t realize we overheard them talk to one another about what a sweet piece of jailbait ass we were. What would be the benefit in speaking up? We could embarrass ourselves and our families and goddamnit, these business relationships kept a roof over our heads.

We sat on the bus in groups trying to avoid the bus driver’s quick hands as he tucked a transfer into the pocket of our jeans. Or we walked home in packs so that the guy parked at the 7-11 wouldn’t whip out his dick at us. We told each other which teachers to avoid because they’d let their junk linger a little too long on our desks or would pat your ass on the way out of class. We wondered if the cute boy in our homeroom class liked us and what it meant to be liked. If being some boy’s girlfriend made us safer. We wondered if it was better to be ignored or desired. We practiced kissing with our friends and some of us preferred that but didn’t know how to say it or if that was even an option so we played it cool and let someone else bring it up.

Disney told us that no fairy tale princess was complete without a prince and later fashion magazines told us in bold print that for only $5.95 we could learn how to be best friends with our crushes. They promised to teach us to drive him wild in bed and to keep him faithful. Anything to sell copies, right?

Men had so much to teach us. How not to be a tease. How not to friend-zone their bros. How not to be a fake geek girl, but to take an interest in sports and science fiction because we’d need to take an interest in something they loved to capture the finite resource of their romantic and sexual interest.

It happened in all sorts of ways. A babysitter when we were too young and too scared to tell. And anyway, he threatened to kill our little sister if anyone found out. It was a teacher who kept us after class or a coach who caught us alone in the locker room. It didn’t matter if we screamed or shouted or begged. There are a million ways to silence a body. It was the cute boy in seventh period who offered to help you with homework. It happened on our first date. It was our prom escort or fiancé or husband or boss. It was the hiring manager when we applied for an internal transfer. It was the lacrosse team. It was the father of the kids we babysat or a boy who let us get too drunk at a party and plastered videos of us all over the internet.

“It didn’t matter if we screamed or shouted or begged. There are a million ways to silence a body.”

It was violent and left us broken or it wasn’t and we weren’t sure what happened, but knew that we didn’t want it and had never been asked or we weren’t consciousness or we were told that this was what we wanted, what we were good for. Didn’t we still want to be liked? To be valued? To use our commodities in a generous way? Wasn’t he entitled?

We were never so glad of birth control or we couldn’t remember if he used a condom. Or the condom broke and we had to buy Plan B right away, or we just tried not to think about it until there was a missed period and a bouquet of pregnancy tests or a rash or a burning pee stream. We did our best to keep our bodies healthy even when everything else felt irreparable.

They called us a slut or a whore, said we were asking for it and why were we drinking or why were we alone with him or why would you put yourself in that situation? Don’t you have any sense God gave a housefly? We stayed silent because we knew no one would believe us. Because he was popular and we were ugly or because he was powerful and we were no one. Or we spoke up and were shut down for the good of the team or the family or his future. Or we followed all the rules and went to the hospital. We blinked painfully at the fluorescent lights while blank faced nurses swabbed our most vulnerable, painful places for evidence and men in uniforms asked us questions that hurt just as badly. We abided by procedure and suffered through all the nightmares and the anonymous messages and threats and when we were finally put up to testify, we realized that he wasn’t on trial, we were. What were we wearing? Why were we alone at night? Where were our friends and boyfriends?

We moved on. Life changed. Sometimes things are better, sometimes not. We recognize one another in our reactions. It is the most painful radar, but it helps us loan strength to one another when one of us is flush with the courage someone else needs.

Some of us didn’t make it. We died at home or in alleys. We died at the hands of the men who did this. We died at our own hands when we couldn’t forget. We self-medicated with prescription meds in lovely homes or with heroin in shooting galleries. We could not score enough, could not get high enough to forget. To outrun fear like a wolf breathing over our shoulder. We died from diseases they gave us that we were too ashamed to have looked at or from cancer that ate away at us until we were hollow. Some of us got strong. Some of us became nurses and doctors and attorneys to tip back the scales of justice. Some of us joined almost exclusive societies of women. Some of us became men and learned to rewrite what that might mean.

“Some of us didn’t make it. We died at home or in alleys. We died at the hands of the men who did this. We died at our own hands when we couldn’t forget.”

The word survivor displaces the ones of us who stopped living. We aren’t more important, just more present. And the ones of us still here are fighting for the ones of us who aren’t. We have the rage of a thousand ghosts inside of us. We are still pissed off and we are demanding justice and we are naming names. We are still here, even the ones of us who aren’t. We are coming for you.

Sawyer Lovett is a writer who lives in Philadelphia with his wife, a dog, and a hedgehog. He’s a part-time bookseller and a full time MFA student who occasionally reviews books for Kirkus and Lambda Lit. He is the author of two books and his work has appeared in Apiary, Hoax, and Cleaver.

Dear Heather, (Or, A Mental Healthcare Manifesto In Response to Ignorance)

Dear Heather,

We the people with mental illnesses are all natural variations of humankind1, whom some have chosen to deem abnormal/unstable and in need of care. Historically, the mental healthcare system – the very system that claims to care for us – has caused us significant harm.

The field of psychology is an inexact science with a flawed, even sadistic, past and present. So inexact and sadistic in fact, that gays and lesbians were (and quite frankly still are) subjected to “conversion therapy,” and being transgender and the ordinary experiences of transgender folk was (and still are) considered mental illnesses, among many misguided treatments and diagnoses.

I’m sure you are aware of these inexplicable transgressions within your field.

We the people with mental illnesses are simultaneously told that our mental illnesses do not define us, yet here we are, with these diagnostic labels receiving treatment. For many of us, these diagnoses and experiences of hospitalizations become facets of our continuously transforming identities. These identities related to mental illness intersect with our preexisting notions of self and those aspects of our being that have yet to be uncovered, formed, or accepted.

My intersectional identities (at this moment) are as follows: gay, bigender/nonbinary, Jew(ish) and sexual assault survivor.

So why, you may ask, am I linking history and identity? Well, if you’ve truly acknowledged history and done the research, then it is apparent that the forces of white supremacy and the various forms of prejudice (including but not limited to racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia) mainly and historically produced and/or upheld by white people are at the root of the struggles marginalized communities face. In fact, these forces are responsible for constructing the identities that non-white, non-cishet people are forced to function and navigate the world within.

I believe it is your responsibility to create a safe environment for those who are unsafe in this world, a world that has prioritized and valued the experiences and feelings of white, cishet men and women over any and all other experiences. For those who fit into this category like yourself2, it is pertinent that you recognize your own privilege when providing much needed mental healthcare to the various and intersecting marginalized communities, who (because of racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) are more likely to be mentally ill. It might seem like an impossible task to undo and undermine the dangerously constricting falsities imposed by those who came before us, but it may just be the most necessary and worthwhile of pursuits.

As a queer, trans person who just so happens to be mentally ill, I believe that you and every other mental healthcare professional ought to correct the wrongs of those before you and make a diligent effort to prioritize the mental health of marginalized communities. Unfortunately, when it comes to some of our interactions and discussions, you have not only perpetuated these wrongs, but have defended and made excuses for your decision to do so.

Therefore, I find it crucial to reinforce the following:

  • People with PTSD shouldn’t be called paranoid.
  • Transgender and nonbinary people should not be questioned or compared to cisgender people.
  • LGBTQAI people should not be stereotyped as being predatorial.

I know nothing of your upbringing or life experiences but I do know this – you have chosen a profession that falls in line with a grand and endless humanistic pursuit.

Never stop reminding yourself of that.

All the best,

Annette Covrigaru

  1. As are all people, of course.
  2. Please do feel free to confront me and correct me on your identities if I’m mistaken, as one regretful mistake I made when discussing the topic of privilege with Scott was assuming he was heterosexual.

Annette Covrigaru is a gay/bigender American-Israeli writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. They were a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices nonfiction fellow and writer-in-residence in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kaaterskill Basin Review, TQ Review, Stitch, Emerge and Cosmonauts Avenue. Annette is currently completing a master’s degree in Holocaust Studies through the University of Haifa. See more on Annette’s website.