becoming: part two

From one of my walks through in the Castro District in San Francisco, California. © 2018 Clara Neupert

Note: This is a blog I wrote for my work at Eau Queer Film Festival in the summer of 2018. I traveled to and attended Frameline42 in San Francisco, California as part of my duties.

There’s a tired, definitive question adults ask each other when they want a glimpse into their companion’s past: When did you realize your childhood was complete?

Answers are often a singular defining moment, tragic or cherished, that swings closed the door of childhood. I’ve understood it to be framed with solemn independence and acceptance.

And, because I’ve been privileged with a near-perfect childhood, I’ve dreaded the day I might come-of-age. I believed that losing my childhood would include losing the best parts of me.

In retrospect, I should have seen adulthood coming. All the ingredients were there: I was recently out, persuing my dream career and in San Francisco.

As I walked down Castro Street and into the Haight, I let the magic of cities heal me with each passing block. It was the first time I’ve ever been alone in a big city. I let myself take up space and felt fully and confidently queer. Blossoming felt beautiful and I inhaled power, exhaled strength.

No exterior force beckoned my becoming, mind you, adulthood was all my doing, my self-acceptance. Here, once again, I thank my privilege, for some are forced.

I am not a static being — there are parts of me that will never finish drying, even in the winds of the bay. Internalized homophobia cannot be erased in one two-hour trot. When I reach the top of Randall Square, I knew I had built a bridge connecting one journey to another.

As I reflect, I recognize that I’ve not lost my inner child, as I previously believed I would. She’s still there, in locket of my heart. But she’s grown: crinkles rest on the corner of her eyes, she’s not afraid to cry and she can yell louder than ever before.

The future is not something to fear. Nor is change. In fact, encourage it. Push your boundaries and walk alone.

Rather than wilting, I’m becoming.


becoming: part one


Flags outside Moby Dick in San Francisco, California.
Flags outside Moby Dick in San Francisco, California. © 2018 Clara Neupert

Note: This is a blog I wrote for my work at Eau Queer Film Festival in the summer of 2018. I traveled to and attended Frameline42 in San Francisco, California as part of my duties. 

This year’s Eau Queer Film Festival theme, becoming, resonates with me deeply. For future blogs, I feel context about where I’m at with my identity is necessary. Welcome to the most honest piece of autobiographical writing I’ve authored.

I spent 20 years of my life believing I “have to be” straight. (Read: internalized homophobia) I pushed away whispers and combated them with stern scolding. As I walked through my small suburban high school, I felt myself fall rigidly into an identity: a straight-A student with a clear future.

It wasn’t until my second year at UW-Eau Claire that queerness found me. I became friends with supportive, uplifting queer people. I developed a crush and couldn’t “convince” myself the feelings were false.

And then, queer cinema inspired a turning point inside of me. I spent weekends watching the mediocre queer films offered on Netflix. The emotions and colors on screen illuminated something in me I had suppressed for years. Film is a powerful medium, and I found myself intoxicated.

On runs, in the shower, walking to class: the whispers came more frequently, bubbling up inside until I knew I had to burst with self-acceptance.

For a little over a month, I’ve been freshly queer/questioning. Beautiful souls deserve my beautiful love. I feel refreshingly reborn and liberated, but at the same time scared out of my wits.

For the next few days, I’m based in the so-called heart of queerness: San Francisco. I plan to use my time at Frameline42 to absorb the honest essence of queer culture(s) at home in the Castro District.

Personally, I want to ensure the films brought from Frameline42 to Eau Queer portray queerness in as many forms as possible. I want an audience member to find pieces of themselves in the films — pieces that lead to self-discovery, no matter where they are in their life’s journey.

Becoming is about so much more than gender and sexuality, and I believe queer cinema portrays this complexity … I am becoming an activist. I am becoming an adult. I am becoming a storyteller. I am becoming accepting. I am becoming me.

Why I Refuse to be “Cute”

Cute : (adjective) \ˈkyüt\

2 : attractive or pretty in a childish, youthful, or delicate way • a cute puppy • a cute smile

3 : obviously straining for effect • The movie’s too cute to be taken seriously.

I am cute. Or at least that’s what people tell me and have told me throughout my life. My mother, the guys who message me on Facebook, my friends, my coaches, my dentist. “Thank you!” I say and have said. Over and over and over. Somewhere along the way, my subconscious registered the word “cute” as less of a compliment. Instead, “cute” became synonymous with “juvenile” and “naïve” and “air-headed.” The older I grew, the less I appreciated the “compliment,” which more often referred to my character than physical appearance. I often felt the need to appear both mentally and physically stronger than others, (wrongfully) deciding that rejecting feminine stereotypes would help me shed my cute characteristics.

I finally lost my cute patience my first year of college. I had moved three and a half hours  north of where I grew up, leaving behind my friends and my reputation that I had spent years perfecting in my small high school. Of course, in my hometown people had called me cute. But they also knew that I was smart, witty, and a force to be reckoned with– I embodied a dynamic and layered character that went so far beyond cute. However, at my university, I had to start fresh, which was perfectly fine with me. I started gathering friends by being more agreeable and amiable and smiley than is expected of a person. Thus, I overwhelmingly earned myself the cute badge in several different social circles.

At first, I was flattered. My new friends liked me! But as every action I took was repeated labeled cute, my self-confidence decreased. I began to understand that being cute means being stuck at the kid’s table at family gatherings. Cute means that you’re not really serious, ever. Cute means that your credibility has to be questioned. Cute means that the knowledge you hold is juvenile. Cute means that you have to lower the pitch of your voice when you speak, cute means you have to ask for respect, cute means you need help lifting those boxes.

And hear me when I say this: cute has no favorite on the gender spectrum…women aren’t the only people being called cute and anyone can feel belittled when you repeatedly label them with what you believe is a compliment. When you call any person cute, you immediately diminish their strength, maturity, individuality. You suggest that they’re too naÏve to have earned a place at the table. You reduce and almost objectify them. A pair of shoes are cute.

I am opinionated. I am awkward. I am a dreamer. I am effervescent. I am so much more than cute.

Words hold power. We know this. So when you’re using words to describe a person, think deeply about their meaning, consider context, and be aware of undertones. Consult a thesaurus or a dictionary. We are all deserving of more than just a shallow label buried within a compliment.



I first composed this blog post in my head walking back from class so gosh darn angry at myself. Why did I have to be so ignorant? 

The reason for my anger came from a comment I had made in class: “Wow, I didn’t know ‘white privilege’ existed in the 1980s!” (Regarding a Peggy McIntosh’s White Privledge: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, copyright 1988) What I really meant to say was that I hadn’t known the term “white privilege” had existed almost twenty years before I had been born. Of course, it is evident that white privilege itself has existed for centuries– I know this. But what I had said made me sound like a completely uneducated airhead who hailed from a town population 900. More and more, I am starting to think that the words “uneducated airhead” really do describe who I am.

Still, I am further frustrated by the fact that there are so many ideas out there that I do not know. I don’t mean factual concepts like how to derive something, I mean negative experiences that people face day-to-day in the society in which I belong that I am barred from seeing because of my race or economic status or gender or sexual orientation or nationality…experiences that I have no way of knowing that I don’t know until roughly shoved right in my face. It took the tragedy of Trayvon Martin for me to see that America still bleeds racist. What else is hidden from me?

My anger and guilt is reflected in Jennifer Self’s Framework for Developing Consciousness to End Oppression. As I move past’s Self’s stages of unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence, I am caught in the “choice point” of the model. Here, I am feeling all the emotions that Self suggests I might in my existential crisis: overwhelming guilt, sadness, and anger. So I must emerge myself in university classes, which provide such a healthy outlet for my feelings, and continue opening my ears, mind, and heart. How lucky I am for the opportunity to learn what I do not know.

I have a suspicion that confusion and anger I experience is a feeling commonly held in many white Americans as we move around Self’s model. The rising availability and popularity of media like Netflix documentaries (example: 13th) and publications like Dear White America by Time Wise has doubtlessly had an effect on America…now it is not necessary to be a scholar to understand the rhetoric that proves our country needs some serious change.

I think that the only barrier that stands in the way of media text like Dear White America is the deeply dichotic rhetoric used. Wise demonstrates what some call a “liberal superiority complex,” using a sarcastic tone that does not open a dialogue between those who are liberal and those who are not. This hinders Wise’s persuasive power, and could further alienate those who are in the stage of conscious incompetence.

While I am in the process of learning what I do not know, I can combat my unconscious incompetence by acting with love towards those around me. It is my hope that white America leads with their hearts as well.

A Timeline

The following is a timeline charting my awareness, as a white Midwesterner, with racism. It is honest. I recognize my privilege in that racism is a thing I’ve had to uncover and not endure. I recognize that there are elements and aspects of racism that I will never understand, and do not intend to speak over or for the oppressed. I invite you to call me out on the mistakes I make in this post.

Here, I am giving a white person’s perspective of racism that will help me evaluate myself.

1997– On November 17, I am born to a white, middle-class Midwestern family.

2006– Several years ago, I remember being snuggled close to my white mom in our white house that is in a white neighborhood reading a children’s novel about slavery. In the novel, the protagonist, a girl around my age, worked in the cotton fields every day. Often, she was hungry and verbally abused. Sometimes, she was beaten. The book seemed so in the past to me that the pages I turned with my white little hands appeared to have a fictional haze hung over them. Slavery and racism, to me, were a concept of the distant past. America had since won herself over these evils.

“Are people still racist today?” I asked my mom.

2006 through 2011– I don’t think I can pinpoint the moment when I realized for myself that racism was an evil still alive and well. Perhaps it came when I visited my grandfather in Georgia and he used antiquated and offensive terms to talk about Black people. Or maybe it came when I heard my history teacher ask one of my Black friends what he thought about slavery. But I blindly brushed (privileged!) off these racist occurrences as viewpoints only held by “old people,” figuring that once the oldest generations had left that America would be racism-free.

2008– Barrack Obama was elected president. I remember being very excited. I was witnessing history! And Obama is left-handed, like me! I do not remember if I believed that America was “cured” of racism. I do remember thinking that the election of a Black president was a landmark of progress for America.

2012– Four years ago today, February 26, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. I remember this moment because, as a white person, this is when a second revelation hit me. Racism isn’t just held in the minds of the elderly. Unfortunately, I see that it’s kept alive in younger generations, in schools, in the law enforcement, in the business world, in our government, and areas that, as a white person, I am unaware.

2016, July– Considering myself a Good Democrat, I held myself to be free of prejudice. And maybe I am free of conscious prejudice. But after conversations with my (very educated and liberal) manager during breaks at my summer lifeguarding job, I came to understand that everyone holds a bias in some way or another– including me. My hesitance is further exemplified in Jay Smooth’s TED talk when he highlights that sometimes people are afraid of admitting their racial bias in fear being labeled racist. If we can change the way we think about race communications, perhaps white people will not avoid the”touchy race topics” and actually learn how to improve race relations in America.

2016, November– Enrolled in a public college, my eyes are opened to social issues that I never considered in high school. I continually question the very beliefs and characteristics I held close to my heart back in my formative, early teenage years. I am so grateful to be able to learn to see the world from different perspectives. When Donald Trump’s campaign brought him to my college, I was amazed to see the the floods of folks who supported a man I thought hateful and ridiculous. I stood in awe of the aura at the peaceful protest that occurred, standing and just absorbing for a half hour. Then, I ran up to my dorm and grabbed my roommate. Together, we stood against hate.

Later that month, when Trump was elected president, the feeling I felt was comparable to heart break. I called my mom and we barely formed sentences, too shocked to speak. I desperately wondered what kind of person had voted for Trump. Coming from a liberal college, it was hard for me to believe that our nation contained enough people who would support a racist, xenophobic, transphobic, sexist man.

The 2016 election delivered an emotional blow to me. I cannot even fathom the fear and feelings of members of the marginalized folks of America.

Singularly, I believe the election of Donald Trump is glaring evidence that racism pulses through American rivers and roads, ebbing its way into towns and cities.

2017– Today, like many other millennials, I feel the importance of activism. While I find my identity, I’ve started small. Recently, I’ve recommended that both my parents read Dear White America by Tim Wise. Over spring break, I’ll have my entire family watch Tim Wise’s documentary, White Like Me. Change, like my activism, has to start small.


The term “intersectionality” became part of my vocabulary less than a year ago. I probably discovered the term buried amongst the hashtags and rants of my twitter feed. As a small-town Midwestern girl who considered herself a feminist, I agreed with the discussions about intersectionality I read. However, the definitions I encountered never really helped me grasp the term.

After watching Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk, The Urgency of Intersectionality, I gained a much better understanding of intersectionality and its importance, and am left searching for how I can incorporate intersectionality into my life.

In her TED Talk, Crenshaw provided a clear visualization to help me better picture the concept of intersectionality. After sharing the story of Emma DeGraffenreid, a Black woman that took a workplace discrimination lawsuit to court on the groups that she hadn’t been hired because of her race and gender at the car plant where she worked. The judge dismissed her case because the car plant employed Black men and employed women. What the judge failed to see was the intersecting issues of race and gender discrimination that prevented DeGraffenreid from being hired. Crenshaw tells the audience to picture DeGraffenreid at a crossing between two roads:  one road of race and another of gender. Because DeGraffenreid is both identities, she faces a discrimination that is both harsh and typically unrecognized.

Intersectionality is important. I realize now that so many matters are intersectional: gender identity and socioeconomic class, sexual orientation and race, and so many more identities. Crenshaw explains that because of our society’s blindness to issues concerning intersectionality, something as dire as the loss of lives is looked over. She states, “Black girls as young as seven, great grandmothers as old as 95 have been killed by the police.” If we do not recognize this intersectional problem, then serious problems like police brutality will continue to haunt the lives of racial minority women.

After listening to Crenshaw’s powerful Talk, I was left wondering how I could help open other people eyes to the unspoken stories that concern intersectionality. Of course, as it often does, the answer came to me in relation with my life’s dream: writing. When I become a journalist, I want to work hard to ensure that intersecting issues are represented in the media. And because I am clearly not an expert on intersectionality yet, to reach my goal I will have to devour the words and ideas of those who are intersectional experts to correctly amplify the voices of those who are unfortunately kept silent. When Crenshaw mentions the media, I feel as though she is speaking specifically to me: “Why is it that their lost lives don’t generate the same amount of media attention and communal outcry as the lost lives of their fallen brothers? It’s time for a change.”

So, I am adding “intersectional” to my long laundry list of characteristics I need to fulfill to be an outstanding, ethical journalist/feminist/activist that properly serves the world. And this does, admittedly, overwhelm me. There is still so much I must learn and must become that being the journalist/feminist/activist I want to be almost seems comparable to the impossible, naïve childhood dreams I once thought possible. To combat my self-doubt, I continue to study and open my mind to new ideas, absorbing as much of the world as possible.


Revisiting my Ego

This post is in regards to my previous post published on February 6.

Today, I question whether it is selfish of me to search for myself–save myself from despair– through the medium of activism.

The sole fact that I have to search for something to care deeply about exposes my privilege. I am not obligated to stand up for a social movement because my rights are not largely threatened on a day-to-day basis. Everyday day, I survive. I am without hunger, without fear, and without prejudice.

Today, I realize that even my new dreams of finding myself in a movement are romanticized, privileged, and selfish. And the longer I am stagnate about an issue as small as my identity, the less time I have to devote to issues that benefit humanity.