Aspen & Hurst- A Queer Zoo
Aspen, wearing the darker gray, (they/them/theirs or it) & Hurst, the gent with the arm tattoos, (he/him/his) met at a Wussy Queer Prom in Atlanta. From that night on they both just knew that they liked one another. It wasn't too longer after that they moved in together and started a zoo of sorts! Their story captures a taste of the queer life and dating in ATL.
How do you identify?
A- I identify as a-gender (ed: without gender).
H- I kind of identify as queer right now.
A- And as a couple, we're queer and we have a zoo together, so we’re also partners.
When did you each realize about your identity?
A- It took me forever. Up until this past November, I thought I was cis. I was disassociated so I didn’t realize for a while. But when I did, it was like, “Yeah. This makes sense.” There was one night I was kissing my friends and didn’t feel anything, and then I realized, “Oh. I’m kind of gay.” And him, he always knew he was queer basically
H- Pretty much. Everyone just kind of assumed and it worked for me. And then I came out as trans in high school. And the reason I didn’t come out as trans earlier is that I didn’t know it was a thing until one of my friends introduced me to a trans guy. And I was like, “You can do that?” Then the next day I was like, “Yeah. I’m trans.” And everything made sense.
How did you meet?
A- We met at a WUSSY’s event, Queer Prom (ed: WUSSY is a southern queer magazine based out of Atlanta.) I was really drunk and we kept making eye contact.
H- Yeah. And then you come over and said “Hey.”
A- And then you kept talking to me because I was the only one that introduced myself with my pronouns.
Hurst wasn’t living in Atlanta then. But then because the commute wasn’t really working, he moved in after we knew each other for a few months.
H- So we essentially u-hauled and then opened a zoo together. It’s fine!
What stood out to you about each other?
A- As cliché and gross as it is, I just felt like I knew him. I have this thing where I see people's auras. Like they have colors. His was like a maple leaf in fall. Fall is my favorite season. So, I felt like I needed to talk to him.
H- They were really smooth. They asked me to come home with them. I had never done anything like that before, but something stood it. And they were so smooth! How could I say no to that?
Tell me about your zoo.
A- So the rats are actually mine and my roommates. We saw them and thought they were really cute and I wanted one and then somehow out of that I ended up with seven. Now, there are 21 in total.
H- And I already had a dog and a cat.
A- So then we got a cat together and another dog, then two more cats.
Where do you find your safe spaces?
A- In a way, the animals are our safe place. I think that’s why we surround ourselves with so many. Animals can’t get your pronouns wrong and they don’t care if you’re not cis. Plus, if you’re talking about your animals, you don't have to talk about yourself as much.
H- I agree. That’s what I was going to say. I also volunteer at a place called Girls Rock Camp. It’s a music camp that’s a week long in the Summer. It’s for girls ages 9-16. Throughout the camp, they have band practices, and at the end of the week, they’ve written an original song and perform it. Most of them have never played an instrument beforehand.
A- Yeah. I wish I had that, my Girls Rock Camp. Sometimes I do carve worshipping communities. I worked at Montreat and really loved it and places like it. But it’s not really a space that I feel comfortable in now. I feel like it's a space where I have to educate others when I’m there. Like I have a church that I occasionally go to, that is trans-inclusive and is responsive when I correct their pronoun assumptions.
Do you find yourself educating people a lot about queer culture?
A- Yes! A lot of the time this information can be googled. There are so many trans and nonbinary voices out there. I’ve told people that I don’t use my old name and I prefer they/them pronouns, but the kids I babysit are the only ones who get it right all the time. And it’s exhausting. When I do have the energy I'm like, “Nope. You are all wrong.”
H- Same. I was the first trans kid in my high school. I had to fight really hard to change policies like, “Why can’t you call me a different name? Why can’t you change my pronouns? What bathroom am I supposed to use?"
How do you support one another?
A- By prioritizing one another. If he wants something done, it’s top priority. Like his top surgery.
H- Yeah. I still can’t believe it happened! I haven’t really processed it honestly.
Talk to me about the top surgery.
A- For Christmas, I asked all my family to help him get his top surgery. It’s really expensive. $8,000 actually. It was something that he was really stressing out about. He wanted to ask his dad but they didn’t have a good relationship. So I asked his dad, my family, and kind of everyone that I knew. I realized that I hadn’t asked his permission yet but I was scared he would say no.
H- Yeah. I just got home from work one day and they face planted in a pillow and kept slowly murmuring at me in between long gaps. They said. “Ok……what if…..completely hypothetically……would it be ok if…..I started a GofundMe page for your surgery…..”
A- My family wasn’t as supportive as I hoped. So I used a lot of my money and we got a loan from his father and grandfather. We also started a Gofundme and got almost 3,000 dollars from that.
H- I had found this doctor in Florida that I really liked. He had worked with patients that had my body type and the results I wanted myself. So we went there and I got it done.
Do you have any coming out advice?
A- Change your community. Literally run away and try to get adopted by someone who identifies as queer or trans or preferably both.
H- That’s what I was going to say! A big part of me coming out was having someone who was queer take me in. They invited me to hang out and form the community I needed.