Dwyn Asher- Not Your Typical Femme
Dwyn, is this down to earth babe who simply seems so sure of herself which is honestly something that way too many of us out there struggle with. Dwyn is a creative living in the San Fran Bay Area with a penchant for leather and books. Dwyn, you are a breath of fresh air. Thank you for reminding us to try new things and dive into community, whatever that looks like. Happy reading loves.
Name: Dwyn Asher
Hometown: San Francisco Bay Area
How do you identify?
Fat femme cis queer lady
What do you do?
I’m a program associate at an early literacy nonprofit (Tandem, Partners in Early Learning). This basically means I work with preschools, head starts and family child cares who have our school to home book sharing program. I also run all our social media!
What are your favorite queer resources?
I loooooove Autostraddle, though at least 50% because I love the community around, both online and offline!
What are you reading these days?
Today I’m reading ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing,’ but I have a HUGE stack of books on my desk right now, which includes ‘Djinn City,’ ‘The Three-Body Problem,’ ‘House of Stone,’ and ‘What It Means When a Man Falls From The Sky.’ Most recently I finished ‘The Golem and The Jinni.’
Out of all the crayon colors, which one would you be?
Hard question! I’m gonna say cerulean (is that a crayon color??)
Outside of your family, who was the first person to inspire you?
My first memory of being super deeply inspired by someone is Frida Kahlo
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Neurotic, creative, mom-friend (if given 4 words, currently Pearl, aspirationally Garnet)
The Heart Of It:
Tell me about your coming out journey. When did you start to realize?
My first memories of realizing I wasn’t straight are right around 6th and 7th grade. A new girl, Aleta, had started at my elementary school in 4th or 5th grade and we became friends. By the time we were in middle school, I had this ridiculous crush on her but I didn’t totally understand it right away. She was, to middle school me, just so cool and charismatic. When she told me during a sleepover that she was bisexual, I remember thinking “Oh, maybe that’s what I am.”
There were definitely adults in my life who were gay but I think it really took hearing someone else my age identifying that way to realize that it was a thing that I could be. Anyway, I initially came out as bisexual after Aleta did, probably a few months later, to a few close friends. I came out again to almost everyone in my life when I was a freshman in high school. To put it briefly, it was a mess. My all girls, Catholic school was not a safe space to be queer and there were definitely some really painful social consequences for me.
I’m so sorry to hear that. How did other people outside of your life respond?
I came out to my mom around this time by leaving a note for her taped to the wall so she’d see it when she came downstairs in the morning. I’m lucky, my mom is pretty amazing and took the news super well. She was the kind of mom who took me to all kinds of events for queer teens and came to watch me march in SF Pride once or twice.
I came out again when I was 16, this time as gay. I finally had my first date with a boy during the summer. To be honest, I was pretty fucking gay at this point but thought maybe I could still be into guys. I remember that I was reading the book Gay Power at the time and my mom, very gently, suggested that I might confuse my date if I brought this book with me to our date but I insisted. I told my mom that if my date didn’t understand that LGBT stuff was important to me, then we couldn’t date anyway. He met me at the movie theater halfway through the movie I suddenly was in a panic. All I could think about was, what if this guy wanted to kiss me and how much I absolutely did NOT want to kiss him or any guy. At the end of the date, I was really uncomfortable and awkward; so I shook his hand to try and make sure he knew I didn’t want to kiss him. When I got home, I announced to my mom that I was gay and that was the end of that!
And now you identify as a queer cis femme fat lady. Break that down for me.
My identity is honestly a constantly ongoing journey! It’s changed SO much since I first came out. At present, I identify strongly as queer. I use gay sometimes as an identifier as well but it just doesn’t fit me as well. After all, while I’ve mostly dated women, there’s definitely non binary people I’ve been interested in. I think this part of my identity really shifted while I was talking to someone who transitioned while we were somewhat involved. It didn’t feel right to call myself a lesbian while dating a man, but bisexual or pansexual also felt weird for me. Queer really fits my definition of myself as a person who mostly feels gay, but is aware of how fluid my own sexuality can be.
It’s also really important to me to include fat as part of my identity. SO much of queer culture in media is super skinny. It’s sometimes made me feel like I don’t have a place in queer community as a fat person. But that’s simply not the case. All body shapes and sizes belong in queer community. It’s taken me a lot of time and effort to get to a place of comfort and happiness with my body size and shape but it’s been SO healing. Talking about being fat and also having a right to be myself as a queer person is important to me because it’s been through hearing other fat queers talking about this that I’ve come to this place with myself and my body.
Also, because it’s in there, being femme is great! I love the community I have with other femmes and the magical spaces of care we can create for each other. Fat femme spaces are particularly wonderful and I feel endlessly blessed in the spaces, mostly online, that I have found community.
On the note of community, you’re kind of living the queer dream living in San Fran.
In a lot of ways, being queer in the Bay Area is great. There’s a ton of queer culture here and people tend to be more familiar with the terminology around queerness. I’m lucky to have the level of access to queer community that I do! But as in all places, there are issues. Transphobia is still a big issue. Just last year, TERFs showed up to Dyke March to protest the inclusion of trans women in queer women spaces. A lot of the other social issues that plague the Bay Area, gentrification and police violence for example, cause problems in our community too.
Let’s talk about your career.
To be honest, it’s HARD! I work both with programs where I work directly with a bunch of schools, and more than 50 schools at that, I run our social media and blog. It’s hard work and, like most jobs, there are days my job is beyond frustrating. But working with little kids is always fun.
I’m also on our book selection committee, which selects the books for our school to home book sharing program. This basically means that I spend lots of time looking for, thinking about, and reading kids books. As both a lifelong book worm and an artist, picture books have a special place in my heart. Knowing that all the time and energy we put into picking truly fantastic books means that kids all over the Bay Area will have access to books that are high quality and reflect their worlds makes it all the better.
Has your identity affected your professional life?
As with all parts of my life, my identity comes with me. Being a queer person isn’t something I can separate out from any part of my life, including work. For this job, this manifests in a few different ways. When we are looking for books for our collection, I’m often looking for books that feature LGBTQ+ characters and families. Every time I find a story that I would have loved as a child, it’s so exciting to know I’ll be able to make sure that other kids will have access to that book. I also seek out LGBTQ+ authors to feature on our ongoing author interview series. In January of this past year, for example, I interviewed Lourdes Rivas, a non-binary author who wrote ‘They Call Me Mix.’ As a queer person in a small organization, it’s important to me to be a vocal advocate for including diverse queer voices and stories in our organization and being thoughtful and careful to make space for queer people to be a part of our work and our community.
You’re also a crazy talented multimedia artist. Tell me about the things you create?
Art is a HUGE part of my life. I actually went to School of Visual Arts in NYC and have a degree in photography. While I don’t work as a photographer these days, it’s a big part of both my job and my life outside of work. Thinking visually is a big part of how I process the world around me and responding to what I see by creating art is a key part of my life. It’s also how I’ve made a lot of connections in my life! A lot of my work is all about community, something I started exploring in college and still think is a center of my work today.
Probably the biggest highlight of my photographic year is IMsBBL, a women’s leather event in the Bay Area. This year will be my fifth year on the photo team and it’s truly one of my favorite things I’ll photograph all year long. Every year, I spend one deeply intense, absolutely exhausting weekend following around a group of contestants, all trying to be either International Ms Bootblack or International Ms Leather. It’s an emotionally intense weekend for contestants and for me, an incredible opportunity to examine a unique community and the very particular set of connections that gets built in each class of contestants and their extended teams. Watching as this group of people work and worry and struggle and celebrate together is just beyond special. I’m lucky to be doing this work. I’m now looking to branch out into more leather events. While I’m not particularly a part of the community, lots of people I love are and I’ve found it a largely welcoming and community driven space, which speaks a lot to the themes I’m most curious about!
I’m also really invested in fiber arts, honestly all kinds of crafts. At my job, so much of what I do doesn’t have a tangible result. It can be really discouraging to spend all day working and at the end of the day, not feel like you have anything to show for it. So doing things like knitting and cross stitching, my favorite forms of craft, is a really satisfying way to spend time where I have an actual physical object to show after I’ve finished working. And sharing crafts is also just very fun! I’m working on starting my own blog right now all about this stuff, called Queer it Yourself just because I have so many feelings about the value of crafts and creative expression as it relates to my queerness and queer community!
What hope do you have for your future & for young queers following in your footsteps?
For me, I’m not entirely sure. I know that I want to find more ways to give back to my community. Being queer and being part of this community is such a blessing and I want to find ways to support more people who I share this community with. Beyond that, I don’t know! There is so much I want from my future and so much change in my life.
For young queers following in my footsteps…
My main hope is that young queers have more and more opportunities to see themselves reflected in the media around them. I was so hungry to see queers and queer life represented when I was young. Now as an adult seeing the power of representation in kids literature, I hope queers growing up now continue to see themselves and their experiences represented. Not just as painful coming out stories but diverse depictions of of queer people living their lives in a way that feels authentic. I needed that as a kid and didn’t see enough of it. Queer kids (and cishet kids!) need it too.