Column: Necessary Magic

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Necessary Magic is a semi-regular column in the Santa Fe Reporter wherein writer and artist Jacks McNamara explores queer issues, liberatory politics, magical creatures and other relevant topics.

"The Santa Fe Reporter is the city’s source for award-winning alternative news and culture since 1974. Each Wednesday, we distribute 15,000 free copies of the weekly newspaper. Our free website sees 1.7 million page views each year."

I'll tell you what this column is not going to be: It's not going to be an inspiring video of people singing out their windows in Italy to connect while they're quarantined, or another uplifting poem about how coronavirus is here to teach us all to slow down and recognize our interdependence... None of us are actually holed up in a cozy corner writing that novel we've been meaning to finish for three years. We're obsessively trolling the news and trying not to lose our shit.... Read more here.
Though I planned to be one of those parents who didn't show my toddler any screens, parenting has turned out to be more relentless than I expected, and my daughter gets a fairly regular dose of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. It's been kind of fascinating to watch the terrible third-generation copies of ancient episodes on YouTube, because I watched a lot of Mister Rogers when I was little and I can't help wondering how it shaped me. ... Read more here.

I got a great piece of advice when my infant daughter's "four month sleep regression" felt like it was ruining my life. I had written one of those desperate 3 am parenting posts you find in family Facebook groups, the kind where parents ask total strangers how high a fever needs to be to schlep your baby into the emergency room, or whether this rash looks like bed bugs, or how to win a nasty custody battle. My post was a plea for advice about how to get my kid sleeping and stop the daily hemorrhaging of my sanity. ... Read more here.

The day my last column came out I was diagnosed with pneumonia—and my daughter's stomach flu. After two weeks of caring for my sick child, I succumbed. It was kind of ironic: The last column was about the isolation of nuclear families and the stresses of parenting under late stage capitalism. Among other things, I wrote about wondering if I would lose my job, which offered no paid sick leave, if I had to take any more time off work to care for my daughter, my wife, or myself. ... Read more here.

In my 20s, I always imagined that if I had kids, I would raise them in a collective. Over the years these dreams took on various forms: an intentional community with yurts and goats and one central kitchen; an anarchist collective house in Oakland; a communal farm in New York. I never planned to raise kids in a nuclear family. I grew up in a nuclear family, and it was an isolating, frequently toxic place. Given, our family had some extra challenges, like severe alcoholism, Reaganite Republicans and chronic illness, but still—the basic structure seemed insufficient. ... Read more here.

Allusions to magic and witches are everywhere these days. The number of rainbow unicorns and clothing with slogans about being magical I saw at Target last weekend was astounding (or nauseating, depending on your point of view). Netflix, meanwhile, has reissued Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a prequel to The Dark Crystal. Our politicians endlessly frame people they don't like as witches and various campaigns they don't like as witchhunts. ... Read more here.

My name is Jacks. Yes, it's my real name, and no, it's not the name my parents gave me.

My birth name was a super feminine one that's popular in the American South, where I grew up. It's a name for the kind of nice straight girl my parents hoped I would become, not the genderqueer misfit I turned out to be. In the queer and trans world, it would be called my "deadname," and like most gender non-conforming folks, I don't like it when people use or request my deadname. ... Read more here.

I identify as genderqueer or non-binary. That means not exactly fitting on either end of the gender spectrum. I don't particularly identify with the word "woman," and I definitely don't identify with "man." I identify as something more creative and fluid, with aspects of both and aspects of neither.

Third gender? Unicorn? Sparkly thing?

I prefer that people use the gender pronouns "they" and "them" when talking about me. As in, "I saw them walking down the street and they looked fabulous!" or the way you refer to a person whose gender you don't know: "Someone left their tiara behind."

... Read more here.

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