Joshua Jennifer Espinoza (@sadqueer4life) on Tweets, Poems, and “Me: / Also Me:”

joshua_jennifer_espinozaJoshua Jennifer Espinoza, AKA @sadqueer4life, is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been featured in The Offing, The Feminist Wire, PEN America, Lambda Literary, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of i’m alive / it hurts / i love it (boost house 2014), and THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS (Civil Coping Mechanisms 2016). This week, Jen spoke to me about three of her favorite tweets, plus womanhood, feeling alienated, and the “me: / also me:” format.

I was just trying to think of a funny way to portray how queer people’s idea of ourselves and our queerness is often at odds with normative cultural narratives—that is, queer and gay people are often forced to play along with safe and easily digestible notions like the idea that we’re all “born this way,” when the reality of queerness can often be more complex and nuanced.

Are there any other feelings or points of view you especially try to convey in your tweets?

Not with any great intentionality. I tend to tweet whatever comes to mind, so any feeling I’m conveying is a feeling I’m experiencing—similarly, any point of view I express is one I felt strongly about right before tweeting it. In my life I spend most of my time living in the past or in some imagined future, so Twitter is a space where I am able to practice existing in the moment and being present with myself.

What are your favorite formats to tweet in? Are there any formats you’ve let go of after using them for a while?

I think formats are fun, though my relationship with them is complex. On the one hand, they’re a humorous way for me to express messy emotions without being too vulnerable. On the other hand, they can lead to an atrophy of my creative spirit and become an excuse to eschew vulnerability completely, which is not good for my mental health. That said, I’m kind of in love with the “me: / also me:” format because it’s such a funny form of self-callout. If I can make people laugh while interrogating my deepest psychological hypocrisies and celebrating the multitudes I contain within, it’s been a good day.

I was again trying to humorously condense a sociopolitical struggle into 140 characters, this time addressing how women who face oppression within womanhood can have complicated feelings about what it means to be a woman. As a trans woman it can be difficult to reconcile promises of community and solidarity with that fact that there are so many women who don’t see me as one of them, but there are also small moments where I’m able to feel connected to other women in a really beautiful and transcendent way.

How is writing for Twitter similar and different from writing poems?

With both tweets and poems I am using a combination of intuition and craft to try and get at something I am having trouble explaining in a coherent and logical manner. In my poems I tend to write freely, so there is a great deal of room for feelings to exist, breathe, hold space for themselves. Twitter forces you to say everything in 140 characters and, as someone who doesn’t normally do “threads,” this restriction becomes a way for me to challenge myself to be funny, relatable, and insightful in what would basically amount to one-to-three lines of a poem. Every now and then I’ll use a tweet in a poem, and likewise I’ll use a line from a poem as a tweet, though ultimately I see poetry and Twitter as separate spaces. At times they may inform one another, but I am much more concerned with creating great poetry than writing great tweets.

What are the subcultures or communities on Twitter, if any, that you’ve felt most at home in? Do you write tweets with any of them in mind?

I don’t know where I fit in. I don’t think I’m above being part of a subculture or community, but I have spent most of my life feeling alienated from everyone and everything. This is why I write poems and tweets—to form some kind of hint of a connection with others, to communicate and be heard, to be felt, to feel human. When it comes to internet subcultures, I’ve always had a kind of “one foot in the door” experience with multiple communities simultaneously. I fear allowing myself to become completely subsumed by any one group because once people see me for who I am they might reject me. Still, I try. I push myself to talk to people who I like, and I tease being vulnerable and open. Maybe one day I’ll get there.

I was thinking about how my attempts to be more positive and appreciative of life are often thwarted by my mental and emotional issues, namely my panic disorder and hypochondria.

Are there things too private for you to share on Twitter? If so, is this distinction any different from determining what you share in poems?

I generally don’t share too many details about the people in my life, and if I do it’s with their permission. Other than that I don’t often hold back when it comes to tweeting personal stuff, though this changes depending on my mood. Sometimes I’ll regret tweeting something that seems too personal and then I’ll feel like shit about it for a day or so, but I usually won’t delete it because that would be like publicly admitting what I said was too personal, thus reinforcing my initial discomfort with it. My brain is kind of fucked up like that. This is contrasted with poems, which are great because so few people read them and I don’t have to worry about thousands of people knowing the details of whatever trauma I’m digging through. They are also more satisfying to write, so the catharsis outweighs the shame.

Jenny Nelson lives, writes, and performs in Brooklyn.

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