BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
June Gehringer is someone you need to know. Her writing explores identity, love, loneliness, race, and gender. Her latest book, I Don’t Write About Race (2018, CCM), explores being transgender and the complexities of sexuality - and how technology affects us. Mitski said she recommends the book if you are, “an absolute idealist and an absolute cynic in the same body, if you’re everything at once, and it exhausts you.”
In the title poem of the book, Gehringer writes:
My brown mother and
I already knew this. I wonder
what my father knows.
I don’t write about race,
I write about erasure.
I go to a bar with my white
sister and my brown brother. Someone
tells us that we all look
the same, and I wonder
what that means
for me, a white-brown
girl with an uncut
dick. But then I
that I’ve heard this before, that
we all look the same.
I don’t write about race,
I write about gender,
I once killed a cis white man,
and his first name
The idea of erasure is not only crucial to our understanding of ourselves but how we interact with the world around us, and the people in it. I am thrilled I was about to speak with Gehringer on her favorites, fears and more.
Describe your favorite meal.
If I could have any meal in the world right now I’d want a cup of egg drop soup and an order of Szechuan tofu from Three Happiness Express in Omaha. God. It’s so good.
In general I like simple foods. My runner up might be like, a really good traditional sourdough with fresh homemade ricotta and September tomatoes from my mom’s backyard. With a lot of salt and pepper.
What have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to Katie Dey a lot recently. Her album with Devi McCallion from earlier this year is so so so good. Devi is also in a band called Black Dresses that put out one of my favorite albums of the year. I recently discovered lushloss and I love her music so much. Lots of other stuff. Always Frank Ocean, Phoebe Bridgers. Sometimes Alison Krauss. Mitski. Young Thug.
Choose three books that you've always identified with?
What About the Rest of Your Life? by Sung Yim is the best book I read this year. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang was a book that articulated a lot of experiences for me. anting-anting by Daphne Calhoun is the book of poetry whose lines most often return to me. The poems in that book end up playing on a loop in my head for days at a time.
Choose one painting that describes who you are. What is it?
This one, definitely: http://www.bu.edu/sequitur/files/2016/04/ecce-homo-after-342x454.jpg
Choose a gif that encompasses mornings for you.
What do you imagine the apocalypse is like? How would you want to die?
I think we tend to think of the apocalypse as something that happens all at once, when the reality, at least to me, seems to be that the apocalypse is a very big slow moving thing that takes decades, maybe centuries to occur. One possible definition of “apocalypse” might be “an irreversible collapse of the systems and structures which comprise a society.” What does the apocalypse mean for groups, such as trans people, for whom the current state of things is already catastrophic? I don’t know, lol. I think the apocalypse is like things just slowly get worse and less livable over the course of hundreds of years until very few people survive or are able to live comfortably/safely/etc. I want to die surrounded by my friends.
If you could only watch three films for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Spirited Away would probably be one. That movie has so much to say about life in the world. It’s endlessly comforting, endlessly challenging. And the music is so good, I’d put it on just to listen to the music.
What’s your favorite animal?
I don’t know if they’re my favorite, but I’ve been obsessed with house centipedes lately. They’re so beautiful when they move, and when they’re still. And so scary. Little mundane aliens living in our basements.
What's something that surprised you recently?
I’ve been talking to my mom a lot recently and I think we’ve gotten a lot closer. Our relationship was never exceptionally rough or anything, but I’ve been surprised to find myself texting her every day and just wanting to share more stuff with her. It’s been nice.
What do you carry with you at all times?
In addition to the normal phone/keys/wallet sitch, I always have two doses of my HRT (enough for a full day) in a stealthy little thing on my keychain, a pocket knife/multitool, and usually one or two books, just in case.
What are you afraid of?
Oh gosh. I’m afraid of writing. I’m really afraid of writing. A lot of other fears stem from that. The fear that being afraid of writing will become so immobilizing that I’ll lose my job and let people down and run out of money and die. I’m also afraid of my friends dying or getting killed. I’m afraid of becoming a bad person.
What are some of your daily rituals or routines?
I’m an erratic Aquarius w/ Gemini rising and my life doesn’t really fall into a lot of routines. Generally when I wake up I check all my email accounts, slack, and twitter. My phone is broken right now, but when I have a phone I’m constantly checking my email on it, though I don’t really know why. I don’t get that many emails. Aside from that, the only thing I do at the same time every day is taking my pills in the morning and at night.
What are your proudest accomplishments?
Getting Mitski to blurb my book felt like the pinnacle of my artistic life. Like, I have no idea where my life and work will take me, but I can’t imagine anything will ever be as exciting to me as that was.
I’m really proud that I’ve made it this far. I haven’t died and I haven’t given up. I’m proud of the relationships I have tended and the love I have fostered and the life I have made.
I’m six months sober now and every day I’m proud to still be a big-hearted idiot who fucks things up and says embarrassing things even in sobriety.
Define happiness for you.
Knowing my loved ones are safe and have access to everything they need to be healthy and to thrive. Getting kissed sometimes.
What’s something you want to do in 2019?
I want to release music and also learn to draw! I want to get back into making art just for the fun of it. I wanna let loose. I wanna get paid.
Born and raised in Omaha, NE, JUNE GEHRINGER is a mixed Chinese trans woman who is somehow still alive. She is the author of I Don’t Write About Race (2018, CCM), I love you it looks like rain (Be About It 2017), and EVERYONE IS A BIG BUG TO SOMEONE (self-published) 2017. She is the co-founder of tenderness yea, and tweets @unlovablehottie. She holds a B.A. in English from Loyola University New Orleans and has worked as a cook since she was 16.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams, The Gods Are Dead, Marys of the Sea, Sexting Ghosts, Xenos, No(body) (forthcoming, Madhouse Press, 2019), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault. They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes Poetry and the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Them, Brooklyn Magazine, BUST, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente / FB: joannacvalente