is the one-word mantra of Blood Baby. The idea that rises to the top as I try to illuminate the constellation of concepts, so interrelated and also sometimes seemingly disparate.
Geological - cellular - material lineage
Our individual lineage - this self to that self to this self to that self
Housed in a moment of conception
Which in family-building, in self-building, happens over and over and over, moment to moment to moment.
Two cells divide and from there on out we keep forming, deforming, re-forming in collaboration with others and our environments.
Improvisation + choreography.
I have begun to think of Blood Baby as a universe. The project is a collection of performance and body-based explorations around and within the idea of queer and trans parenting, with the idea that these experiences are distinctly embodied by the parent or caregiver in question and that that experience is situated in a larger timeline of creation, specifically the earth’s creation and geological progress. <3
And lineage here is both blood lineage: body to body, but also body to body in cultural lineage (raising a child into queerness and gender expansiveness and all the queer elders before me) and material lineage (we are made of the same material as rocks) and in dance lineage (I am raising my child into this way of thinking through making, through playing, and all the teachers who came before me and taught me.) So it's not about my mom or my genetic line singularly. It’s about how we come together, how we come to be and centering queer and trans perspectives in that exploration.
There are six distinct iterations of Blood Baby:
In the universe analogy, each iteration is a constellation full of its own moving parts, formal elements, and aesthetic logic, but they are all connected by their approach to the central question exploring how we shape our queer and trans families and self in tandem. And they share conceptual and physical materials, atmospheres, vibes…. I imagine them as distinct facets on the complicated prism of bodily experience (gender, gestation, sexuality, and parenting), that here are pulled apart into relief so that each can be explored in depth. For the presenters or programmers reading, they can be presented together or separately -- with some partners it will be local Queer Parent Convenings, Touch Library, and Primordial. With other partners, it’s all the parts.
It’s all Blood Baby. There is no singular access point to these questions. To this experience.
And so I want to talk about rocks. About the Earth. Our predecessors and who will remain when we are gone, to whom we return. Our kin. Subject to its own system of formation and transformation, but ongoing movement towards transformation just the same.
Recently, while on residency at Kinsey Institute, we met with Dr. Andrea L Stevens Goddard, faculty at IU Bloomington in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Dr. Stevens Goddard researches “the timing and rates of Earth processes over geologic time. As a sedimentologist, she investigates these questions from a sedimentary basin’s perspective, using information preserved in eroded material to interpret the geologic evolution of source areas.” So she studies what materials move from one place to another, how they got there, when they got there, and from where to where. It is the story of Earth’s simultaneous dissolution and accumulation = material lineage…. Over millennia.
Accretion, n. -
We talked to Dr. Stevens Goddard about how placing gestation next to geological processes and rock evolution makes so much dang intuitive sense to me - about how ALIVE rocks seem to be to me, how alive the Earth is and that we are Earth matter (I just happen to be queer Earth matter) - and about gender, one shaping of our selves, in relation to how rocks are formed. We asked about nonconformity in rocks, and she mentioned MISSING TIME. Missing time in geology is an “unconformity.” And “unconformities are gaps in time in the rock record,” where perhaps the uppermost layer of rock was sensitive or subject to the layer that cooled on top of it and so that once uppermost layer of rock, now covered, is no longer there. Its evidence of being is gone, except for the GAP - the absence of it.
The stories we have been sharing in the Queer Parent Convenings are often mundane ones, silly and sad and about the daily realities of parenting, and also about the moments of rupture where your reality is invisible to someone else’s. And they are absent from the record. The records at Kinsey brought little to the fore in terms of archive - rock records? - of gender expansive family experiences. We will keep looking.
You were here, doing the thing, even if it’s not recorded.
I’d like to roll out the red carpet for you and send you flowers.
Why the Queer Parent Convenings? I call them “network sparkle” in shorthand. There is glory and luster in building a family for me. It was romantic to get pregnant at a fertility clinic - it was not some violation of my bodily function but an expression of the world I am a part of, the world I want more of. Creation is kink perhaps. As queers, we are duping the system of what we’ve been told is how you build a family, how a family comes together. I love being knocked up by my trans nonbinary partner. How'd you get here? Let’s talk about where we encounter the system and if and where there is or isn’t space for us in it… this coming together is its own creation story.
And this group, this group... this group of queer gestational parents that recently gathered to explore questions of our genders, our sexualities, our gestational experiences. We covered ourselves in fabric, pressed our faces in pillows to feel the texture, the pressure, the fabric giving back, holding us. We had shared exuberant dance parties, on and off camera, with each other and our children. We drew in order to feel our bodies and stay close while listening. We improvised together and expanded the space of what could be held together. There are so many ways to be, so many ways to show up. Hearts abound.
Through this I’m learning what is particular about Blood Baby’s Queer Parent Convenings:
-Its exploratory nature - approaching something grounded in daily experience from a place of unpacking resonance
-Focusing on creativity and our bodies and questions at the center
-Fellowship as a creative and improvisational practice - yes, we are resource sharing, and we are practicing being together
But that is not even half of it….
give credit where credit is due:
The work of the Queer Parent Convenings is supported by facilitators Darcelle Lewis, Paloma N. Irizarry, and Michèle Steinwald and by manager Linnea deRoche, and in its inception by shared thinking and scheming with midwife, sex educator, and dear friend Pati Garcia and by Logan Cryer. And the incredibly giving, inspiring, and hilarious parents of the first Queer Parent Convenings group, thank you!!
-Our time at IU was supported by Kinsey Institute, a Bloomington IU Arts & Humanities Council grant, and the thoughtful care and charge of Kinsey Institute's Art & Artifacts Collection curator Rebecca Fasman.
above L-R: Cadence and I adventuring into McCormick's Creek Canyon to perform Primordial, on IU's campus heading into research at Kinsey!