something like a break

Just a little one. Just for right now. Just to feel like a person again.

Just to listen to “Stairway to Heaven” and drink my iced coffee. To remember that what I do is WORDS and that everything else: the job and the job and the other job… these are to afford the iced coffee and the Spotify Premium account.

I’m really, really tired lately. I’m working a lot. I get home from the coffee shop most days and immediately dive into admin work for one of my other two jobs and then I usually fall asleep. I devote one of my mornings off to volunteering at the aquarium again, because SHARKS. I haven’t written much fic lately, haven’t been blogging the way I used to, haven’t looked at a first draft of a new script in ages…

And I have to believe this is just an adjustment period. This, like fucking everything else, is another transition and I will make it to the other side intact. My body will adjust to the early mornings and the constant perky coffee enthusiasm. I will keep learning how to negotiate my hours, to get everything done. I will find time again for words and creating and being the person I want to be.

I will. I must.

I will find the time to take you to the aquarium and tell you neat things about neat creatures. I think I am ready to do that now. Forgive me for taking so long.

I am learning and I am growing and sometimes that’s exhausting. I am becoming Daniel and learning what he values and enjoys. And it’s going to be okay. Sometimes it feels like enough that there is a bit of honeysuckle I pass on my way to the coffeeshop. And at 5:45 in the morning, I am the only one around the smell it and it’s like the honeysuckle and I have this little secret.

And that’s pretty cool.

And you’re pretty cool.

striking back

“Come with me. It is the only way.”

We don’t always know, do we? Sometimes it takes someone else– even a near stranger– to implore us to search our own feelings.

My personal queer origin story began, because of course it did, at Dragon Con in 2019. If you attended that year, you might recall a little speaker fire in a ballroom at the Sheraton? I was totally there! Just hanging out waiting to run sound for the burlesque show when we were all escorted out of the building. And there, standing on a nerdy Atlanta sidewalk, someone just started talking to me! We’d never met and, in fact, she had just moved to Georgia. She expressed having a hard time connecting with people down here and how encouraging therefore Dragon Con had been.

And then she paused and looked right at me and said, “Well, you know, you’re queer, right?”

“There is no escape.”

“Well, you know, you’re queer, right?”

And I said…

Yeah.

A little bit because I didn’t want her to feel bad for asking, but also, as I searched my feelings… I knew it to be true.

Re-watching Empire this morning, especially as I get older… my love for Luke Skywalker grows by the day. When he is told by Darth Vader, by his own father, that there is no escape, that he is beaten, that there is no other way… you know what, Luke Skywalker fucking finds one. 

There is always an escape. And it may feel at the time like you are falling down a bottomless chasm, but you’re not.

You are never truly beaten.

May the Force Be With You.

love letter to my 10-year-old self

Dear Daniel of May 1999,

Hello, soft boy who does not know to call himself a boy.

(you will come back here.)

You are about to be 10 years old and there is going to be Star Wars in the world again and there are toys for it at Taco Bell and hey, real quick, but Mountain Dew Code Red is the best drink in the whole world. And the scariest thing in your soft heart is graduating from the fifth grade.

There’s a way they do it at Harbins Elementary. You’ve been there. You’ve seen it. You’ve cried every year, but none harder than today.

Soft boy who does not know he is a boy.

They will have you little 5th grade muffins line up like the big kids you finally are. (You know how to make lines now. You make lines and you can multiply by 8 and you have practiced walking like Jar Jar Binks who you think is pretty hilarious.)

They line you up and parade you through Harbins Elementary as the little kids watch on. It is two years after Titanic, but they still play “My Heart Will Go On” and hey, thank you so much for that collective musical trauma, Celine. Jesus fucking Christ.

(Daniel, you would never say that. You are a good boy who does not know he is a boy.)

Every saga has a beginning, says the poster for The Phantom Menace. And like George Lucas, we can go back and decide when that beginning is. We can retcon our CGI, galactic pasts, if we need.

Daniel Elton did not walk the halls of Harbins Elementary except I say he did. 

Every saga has a beginning. 

Love you, soft boy.

the blues ARE still blue

(thanks, belle & sebastian.)

It feels like my words have dried up lately. On vacation last week, I was so excited by the prospect of HOTEL WRITING. Of jaunting off to the next door fancier resort, procuring an iced coffee, and scribbling out 1000 words before Hollywood Studios even OPENED.

That was the dream.

It seems, however, the reality is this:

I’m tired.

I am tired and all of my words are gone (for now, I hope). I do not have the spoons for plays, for fanfiction, barely for this blog post.

And- though it scrapes my bones and makes me want to scream- maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s okay to consider this a period of rest. Of refilling my gay little creator satchel and deciding where to go next.

I have three part-time jobs right now and, as someone close to me suggested, no career. I disagree. I am a writer. I am a theatre artist. I will get there again.

Here’s the new plan (have you noticed how much I love plans?):

I’ve just gotta make it to Dragon Con, whether we have it or not.

Just gotta make it to Labor Day weekend with my guts and heart intact and then, maybe, it’ll be time to check back in and re-evaluate.

Maybe I won’t write another word of fiction until then, which, truthfully, makes me want to fucking WAIL. Maybe I will have to work against the ugly voices in my own brain and consider what it would be like to… I don’t fucking know, enjoy things again?

Maybe I’ll read a book. Maybe I’ll finally watch The Witcher. Maybe I’ll draw you a picture.

Maybe maybe maybe.

What I have to most forcefully remind myself is that I am not letting anyone down by needing rest. It is a hard thing to absorb, to believe. But I have been treading these shame-fighting waters for so long and I need to lay my head down on the beach and sleep and make friends with hermit crabs.

I hope you will forgive me.

the screen door slams

The last time I fell in love, I couldn’t stop listening to “Thunder Road.”

(Is that a thing that happens when you realize you’re into girls? You get really into Bruce Springsteen? Experiences may vary.)

I listened to a lot of songs the last time I fell in love. For the first time since adolescence, I spent time just lying on my bed alone, listening to songs that made me think of the object of my affection.

And I am un-angry about that love today, even though it did not go where I wanted it to go. I am working on remembering that love is non-transactional and that mine mattered even if it was not requited.

It’s okay.

It’s okay.

(“thunder road, i guess” is the title of the Google doc letter I wrote you that morning and never shared.)

As I drink my coffee today and hear the birds outside my window, I am trying to be proud of myself for being brave enough to be in love at all, ever, even once. I am trying to dream of a love one day that will not hurt or sting. Of a weird geek love that will compliment my weird geek heart.

I start a new job today and so I am forced to remember it is never to late to “start.”

It is not too late for me.

an ode to day jobs

It was suggested to me a while back that all I’ve had are “jobs.” That what I need is a “CAREER.”

And my immediate angry need to defend myself snarls, “Well, how dare you? I am a THEATRE ARTIST. I act and teach and direct and write and even arts administrate when occasion calls for it. I have worked in theatre for over a decade, how dare you not RECOGNIZE ME?”

And is that the only real difference? That, in a CAREER, you get recognized? 

Because damn. I’m sort of tired of chasing that.

Also, I have had a truly marvelous collection of “day jobs” in my CAREER, THANK YOU VERY MUCH as a theatre artist/writer/whatever I am. I have served beer and hot wings, I have supervised your children on the outdoor playground, I have sold SO MANY TICKETS, I have asked for your money on behalf of plants, I have taught you how to tell the whale sharks apart.

Once I was a polar bear.

Tomorrow I learn how to make coffee. I look forward to waking up early and smiling at you and asking you what kind of milk you would like. 

Not to be That Guy, but “Not all those who wander are lost.”

I am grateful this morning, as I sip my own coffee (just whole milk, I’m not cool), for this vast array of bizarre experiences. I think the person who wants me to have a CAREER just wants me to be comfortable. And I wish I was brave enough to say, “But… I’m getting there.” I’m comfortable like this: being friendly to people so that I can afford to pursue my dreams.  

So, come and visit me tomorrow! I’ll be so happy to see you.

(And I’ll still teach you how to tell the whale sharks apart.)

easy like wednesday morning

It was easy this morning.

It was easy to wake up, to feed Clementine, to make my bed, to lace up my shoes, and go.

It was easy to appreciate the morning sunshine and to anticipate the iced vanilla latte. It was easy to smile as I listed in my head all my planned Disney World outfits:

Animal Kingdom: Gay safari look.

Magic Kingdom: Gay floral shirt.

Epcot: Gay jumpsuit.

Hollywood Studios: Gay Star Wars shirt.

(I have a brand.)

It was easy to pull on my outfit today and not immediately hate all the supposed imperfections of my body. It was easy to just be happy that the weather’s good for shorts right now. It was easy to choose the Jurassic Park soundtrack from my Spotify lists. It was easy to daydream about dinosaurs.

It was easy this morning.

Last night it was hard.

It was hard not to lie in bed and endlessly recount all the awful things I have ever done, every selfish decision I have ever made. It was hard to resist the urge- and so I did not- to just put on Space Jam again and let Bugs Bunny lull me to sleep.

Again.

It was hard not to shout into my own brain YOU ARE A FAILURE YOU HAVE ALREADY FAILED WHY EVEN TRY YOU JUST LET EVERYONE DOWN YOU RUIN EVERYTHING WHY AREN’T YOU MORE SUCCESSFUL ALREADY I FUCKING HATE YOU.

It was hard last night.

But… it’s easy this morning? And I don’t know what that means beyond: wherever you are in the rollercoaster, just keep hanging on to your lap bar, okay? If you’re not ready to stick your arms in the air, it’s okay. I’ll buy you your picture at the end of the ride anyway, because it’s wonderful that you even got on.

Okay?

I will offer you almost anything, I think. Your rollercoaster picture, a churro, the souvenir soda cup that I would only buy for you.

I love you. There is always sunshine and a churro somewhere. We just have to hang on until then.

you are already cute

So, it’s Two Weeks Until Disney World.

(I’M COMING HOME, DOLE WHIP.)

Two Weeks Until Disney World and I have decided to cease my internal bargaining:

Okay, Dani, the trip is in two months, so it’s time to GET CUTE.

Okay, Daniel, you’ve still got three weeks, time to DO SOME CRUNCHES.

YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME YOU DISASTER.

And I am feeling defiant and tired this week, so FUCK YOU VOICE.

Because what I mean, in my internalized bullshit way, when I try to excite myself about Getting Cute is, “Hey, lose weight.”

AND FUCK.

We talk about “beach bodies” and “getting cute for summertime,” and, like, I respect your personal journey, but also… you already deserve the beach? In this larger, softer body I am currently inhabiting, I am allowed to spend money on shorts that actually fit me and I am allowed to eat while I am wandering around Epcot. It is the fucking Flower & Garden Festival and I have MANY BOOTHS TO VISIT.

It’s Two Weeks until I get to drive to Orlando with one of my best friends and share a hotel room with them and order too many Mai Tais from the pool bar. I already have the perfect body for that. I already have a body equipped to scream too loudly on Dinosaur, for starters.

I feel a shift within me this week and I hope it is no fleeting thing. I hope this is a sign that I have been doing the work I need to be doing and that it is paying off. That I am headed, not to the end, maybe not even to a new beginning… but towards what my therapist calls a Life Worth Living. I think I am finally strolling towards coffee and friendliness and sharks and art and friendship and Mai Tais from the pool bar.

And it sounds good. It sounds enough. And so I must challenge myself to be enough to exist within that daydream.

The new size of my gay little shorts does not dictate how much happiness I am allowed to experience. The swell of my stomach should not stop me from licking churro dust from my fingertips at Animal Kingdom.

I am building, I am growing. My body is for beaches and for mountains and for swamps and tundras and, yes, for pounding across hot Florida asphalt in pursuit of the queue for Rock n’ Rollercoaster.

Two weeks. I do not have to do anything else.

a life worth living

And so a new dream emerges.

It is quieter and (arguably) smaller and I will not give full voice to it just yet, lest the fairies be listening. The dream is still unspoken, but The Dream, always, has been the same:

(or: my disney hero i want song)

I want to show up in the mornings. I want to smile and help and earn my means to drink too much iced coffee, feed my cat, and visit Disney World twice a year.

Then I want to go Home. Home to my blue room, home to my sweet orange kitty, home to my queer body. Home to where I write and publish and scheme and eat sloppily constructed 10 pm quesadillas atop my pillows.

I want to be a playwright and so I shall be. I am a playwright because I write plays and not because someone older has deigned me worthy of doing so.

I want to revel in my queerness. I want to make of myself a garden: colors and explosions and friendly amphibians lurking in the pond. Maybe this is the second puberty talking, but I want to keep dying my hair and get tattoos and dress like 70’s Elton John and be loud and laugh too hard and squeeze your hand too tight.

I want to want without forgetting what I already have, without diminishing the sparkle of where I have already been. I am Dani Fucking Herd, I write plays and I feed turtles. I speak Shakespeare and I write Good Omens fanfiction. I quote Walt Whitman and I cry at just the thought of whales. If you don’t keep an eye on me, I will eat all the popcorn before the movie has started.

Being trans does not mean I am lonely. Being bipolar does not mean I am broken.

“luminous beings are we.”

And so I am. And so are you.

september bi, bi, non-bi: and i think it’s gonna be a long, long time OR: fuck you, j.k. rowling

For Trans Day of Visibility 2021: the first time I said I was trans out loud. ❤

hope is the thing with lightsabers

Originally performed for The Come Up Show ATL’s birthday show on Friday September 25, 2020.

CW: internalized transphobia and mention of She Who Must Not Be Named. Guard your beautiful heart.

Non-bi, and only non-bi this month: 

Related to absolutely nothing: it’s Mark Hamill’s birthday today and I want to raise a glass for a hero who has never let me down. I am 31 and I still want to grow up to be Luke Skywalker.

A year ago, my wonderful friend Jake invited me to perform for a show in his living room. He asked me what my pronouns were and, for the first time in my life, I tiptoed into telling the truth. I remember answering him in a Facebook message and then thundering downstairs to the Shakespeare Tavern green room to hug him, to thank him.

Sometimes it just helps to be asked, you know? Because sometimes…

View original post 890 more words

a story of rejection and updates, also all lemon cookies are inherently gay

(i don’t know why. i just feel it in my bones.)

(anyway…)

I definitely didn’t get into grad school. A panel of important people read my play about monsters working at a doughnut shop and they kindly said, “Oh, no, thank you.”

And I didn’t get that job that would have paid so much more money.

And I wasn’t even invited to audition for the “all-female” Shakespeare play, because I guess the patriarchy doesn’t hurt non-binary actors too?

And, while we’re at it, I didn’t get to be on the 8th grade basketball team way back when.

And… it all has to be okay, doesn’t it? Everyone says to save your rejection letters and I think I get where that comes from, but I do not seek to be a collection of wounds. 

The point, I think, is this: All those things told me “no” and I bought the gay lemon cookie this morning anyway. I’m down, but I’m not so out that I can deny myself the springtime joy of an iced lemon treat. 

(My personal Renaissance will be both slutty and citrusy. Prepare thyself accordingly.)

updates:

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Thanks for being here. For reading and engaging. I don’t always know where we’re headed, but I’m glad we’re going there together.

of home (again, i think)

first of all, it only started raining on my walk HOME from picking up my bagel and my iced coffee.

Home.

i have struggled with this concept my entire life. my alien body has choked on sobs in the dead of nights and i have begged to the moon, “i just want to go home.” i have spoken this on full voice from my own bed, because no physical space has ever sat just right on my skin.

“home,” today, in the most conventional sense is this room where i write and drink iced coffee and try to hold it together enough to do my jobs and where i sleep and where my cat sleeps.

Home is also this body I am learning to name and to feed and to please and to take on walks and to offer tithings of purple hair and the idea of tattoos and the promise of dragon con costumes.

because i think that’s where the sobbing and the pleading and the near-praying came from, right? i never believed my own body could be home. for years and years, it was just a trap. a puzzle box i couldn’t solve, couldn’t get out of.

the glory of my transness is that i do not have to solve the puzzle box. i am a puzzle and i do not have to beat myself in order to survive. i do not care if you especially understand. i do not live to be understood. i do not take up space to make you comfortable.

(like, sure, i hope you are, of course. can i make you some tea? can i pour steaming water from my shaking boy-fingers over your leaves and will you drink and trust me?)

i have spoken before of monstrousness and i will say it again: the monster of my brain is not to be slain, not to be conquered. they are to be soothed. they will always take up space here, in the home that is my body. they are my forever roommate and they fucking suck at doing the dishes, but hell, i’ll still go in together on a pizza order with them from time to time.

“it’s enough that you want it.”

what i want is simply, only this.

to be gentle with myself.