January 26, 2022

The start of something new

When I think of my inbox—an abundant wasteland of algorithm-generated ads I didn’t sign up for and celebrity gossip alerts I definitely did—it stresses me out. This is, apparently, a feeling endemic to email at this point—there are studies—and if you imagine your inbox in Second Life terms, it’s like inviting your best friends, your boss, maybe your landlord, advertisers, rando spam dudes, and utility companies (I already paid my gas bill, National Grid!), all to the same 24-7 party, which happens to be inside your brain. I don’t know about you but I’m not really trying to do that!

So with The Meteor newsletter, we are hoping to edify and surprise you and your inbox with engaging, urgent writing that illuminates something about the state of the world and all its dreadful and delightful vagaries.

You can read more about that in our debut essay below, in which Jennifer Finney Boylan writes beautifully about transformation, birth, and rebirth. And after that, Shannon Melero‘s interview with the activist and Columbia student Deja Foxx, who helped organize a dance protest on the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Also, a few of the things we’re thinking about and need to share with the group chat. Settle in, we brought snacks. —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Editor at Large


Something New Is Waiting to Be Born


Wake up, I said to my wife.  You have to see this.

It was the middle of the night, but she hauled her giant, nine-months pregnant self out of bed and followed me to the front porch.

There in the skies was Comet Hyakutake, with a tail as big as a kite.

It was a frozen night in Maine.  Icicles hung down from the gutters; our breath came out in clouds.

Nine years earlier, I had courted Deedie in Washington D.C., where she worked for the Studio Theatre.  I was passing my days then as the dumbest professor ever on the faculty of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and that, my friends, is saying a lot.  During the drive down the Gladys Noon Spellman parkway,  from my city to hers, I sometimes listened to a then-popular song called “Crazy Fingers.” It contained the line, “Something new is waiting to be born.”

She had been orphaned two years earlier and my own dad had died the year after that.  There we were, in our mid-twenties, bearing all this grief.  I had an additional and private sorrow, too, the burden of being trans and having no language to describe the thing I felt.  It was a hard time.

There are times, even, when I cannot wait for my generation to die off so the young people can finally take over.

But during the year that we found each other, and (eventually) married, our lives were transformed. In a very short span of time, we had gone from two broken souls to what we were now: a couple standing on a porch on a cold, silent night, watching a comet illuminate the skies.

When our son was born—just a few days later—we heard the cries fill the operating room. Deedie, light radiating from her face, tears streaming down her cheeks, looked at me and said, That’s amazing!

Later that night, home again, I walked alone beneath that starry sky and looked up at the comet. From the woods came the clear sound of water rushing over rocks beneath snow.

You hold in your hands (or, more likely, behold in pixels) the debut issue of The Meteor’s newsletter, spearheaded by editors Julianne Escobedo Shepherd and Shannon Melero and sustained by The Meteor, a group of feminist-minded writers, artists, and activists. For the last year, we have been gathering together in hopes of creating something new.

We believe in something as impossible as the power of love to heal grieving souls, or—who knows?—as glorious as the sight of a wild comet in a cold sky. We believe, in short, in the power of words, images, and stories to advance gender and racial justice and equity to transform the world.

We are inspired by the idea of the meteor, of its force and impact. And by Audre Lorde, who wrote, “I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my nose holes—everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!”

It was a meteor, of course, that killed the dinosaurs. We know that the writers and artists we admire are killing a few dinosaurs, too: the dinosaur of racism. The dinosaur of homophobia. The dinosaur of injustice. The dinosaur of transphobia.

There are times I think of myself as a dinosaur, too: since I came out as trans 20 years ago, the discourse around trans lives has become more nuanced and complex and inclusive, just as the discourse around feminism itself has changed and matured since I first started calling myself one in the 1970s. All of that change is good. Transforming what has come before is exactly what each new generation is supposed to do. There are times, even, when I cannot wait for my generation to die off so the young people can finally take over.

In the meantime, something new is waiting to be born.

There we were, my loved one and me, on a cold night, watching Comet Hyakutake. I stood behind her, my arms resting on her giant belly. Something—someone, in fact—stirred within. I felt that. A few days later, I looked into his eyes for the first time. I said, Hello, Sean.

I hope you’ll enjoy The Meteor Newsletter, and that you’ll find in these pages signs of hope, signs that the hard days we are all living through are not without their joys. I am hoping we can all write fire together and find a way of living in this new world with love.

Wake up. You have to see this.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Barnard College.  She is a Trustee of PEN America and a Contributing Opinion Writer for the New York Times.


Ain’t No Party Like an Act for Abortion Party


On January 22, a group of activists, dancers, and abortion providers convened on the steps of the Supreme Court to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. What might have been a mournful gathering over the current state of abortion access was actually… a great, if very cold, party. “There are doom headlines almost every day, so the energy that we brought was singing, dancing, prayer, and sermon,” says organizer Deja Foxx, a 21-year-old activist, content creator, Columbia student, and founder of  Gen Z Girl Gang.

This week, I spoke with Foxx about The Act for Abortion protest and her dedication to the abortion movement. I also tried my best not to say “back in my day,” but as a geriatric millennial, it was almost impossible to avoid.


SM: Something I’ve seen with the current movement is that there is an urgency to use the word abortion versus “pro-choice,” whereas–and not to date myself, but I’m a little older than you–when I was first getting involved, we called it “shmashmortion” because “abortion” was just one of those words you didn’t use so freely. Why do you think it matters so much to call it what it is?

DF: Some of that progress has come because of bold storytelling. People have found and built community around their experiences and used that to create change. I think we’ve come to a point where there is no sidestepping the issue because the other side isn’t sidestepping; they’re going directly at it. So some of this is a direct response to the pressure being put on this movement and on abortion in particular.

SM: The next evolution of the abortion movement will be dictated by young people like yourself. What’s the next step?

DF: We are at an inflection point. As we sit here today, it seems likely that Roe will be overturned, and I think in this moment, a lot of young people have come to be, rightfully so, distrustful of institutions—whether that be the government or news—and we’re striving to find alternatives. When our government, our elected officials, let us down, when they don’t show up for us, when they target us, when they restrict us, it is on us to be there for one another. Some of the action steps that we can take today are donating to abortion funds, supporting indie clinics, sharing information about the abortion pill, or calling our elected officials and holding them to account, especially around the Women’s Health Protection Act.

SM: How do you think people can overcome the fear that comes with discussing the topic? Because I know some fully grown adults who will not even think the word abortion in front of their family members.

DF: My advice to any storyteller is to do what is uncomfortable but not what is unsafe. There is a difference. But share what is uncomfortable. See what you can excavate from yourself because having those uncomfortable conversations is important. I think if you’re having it with the right person, someone who cares about you, or someone powerful who can create change, that’s really the one-to-one work that makes a difference. Know that abortion is normal, birth control is normal, sex is normal—and if you bring your personal story, you are an expert in it. You are an expert in your experience and you don’t need to do a ton of research or have a fancy degree—your experience is enough.

SM: I would imagine that in the years you’ve been doing this, people have told you that you’re too young to speak with authority on these issues. How do you respond to that?

DF: I have gotten that many times. I question then if I’m too young, what makes someone else not too male or too white or too rich or too privileged or too distant, right? I refuse to be told that I’m not qualified when I’ve lived my experiences. A lot of the work that I do is about shifting the culture around what we mean when we say people are “qualified” or “experienced.” That means inviting young people.




  • Xintian Wang on the culture war in China being waged against so-called “sissy” men and boys
  • Remember that time, girl, at the baaahr in Belgium?” If you missed it: Gabrielle Union and Kaavia James are simply delightful
  • Over in our corner, The Meteor has released a series of videos in which seven people share their abortion stories, making the ever-relevant point that abortion is a) NOT a scary ritual performed by ogres in the dead of night as antis would have you believe, but instead b) a routine medical procedure that betters the lives of those who choose it—patients *and* their families—in ways not commonly reported. As Sriya Sarkar says in her video, “I’m really grateful for that boring-as-hell abortion I got.” Watch them all here.