Ask Cody: What made you stay in Lawrence, after everything?

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Note: Ask Cody is a regular opinion feature that Cody Keith Charles writes for The Lawrence Times. Community Voices pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

Read previous editions of Ask Cody here.

Q: Dear Cody, what made you stay in Lawrence? After everything with your former employer and the current state of this community, why stay?

A: I’m not sure I made a conscious decision to stay in Lawrence after being reorganized out of the diversity and equity unit at the University of Kansas. I was let go the week before Christmas. I was immobilized by the news. I had plans to visit my mother during the holiday season, but I wasn’t sure if I could perform a healthy human. I stayed home and chose isolation. 

Frankly, I could barely get out of bed. I often found myself attempting the wiggle your toe routine from Kill Bill, demanding my body to cooperate in the most simple ways. Control and autonomy of my body felt completely out of my reach. Moreover, anxiety and depression told me that this entire mess was of my doing. 

I was resigned to a place of “well, if it’s meant to be, it will be.” 

I had never felt so depleted of energy and motivation in my life. Talking on the phone and responding to text became impossible, and continues to be a source of anxiety. Even if the messages were positive and meant to be uplifting and affirming; even if the messages included an opportunity or a lead on another position; even if the messages came from the people who I knew, without a doubt, loved me. 

My energy source was strategically and overtly siphoned from my body — that’s what institutions do. 

So much was unknown to me:

How will I continue to take care of my Black mother and siblings falling deeper into poverty? 

How will I continue to be the listening ear to struggling family members (and friends) if I don’t have energy to take care of myself? (mentally, emotionally and financially)

What about health insurance? 

Who will hire me? (a fat, radical, Black trans human who’s been fired) 

Who will fight for me? 

How will I navigate this pending and overwhelming depressive episode? 

Who will call out the sickening ways whiteness, queerness and ablesim continue to eat me alive? 

Will I ever feel good again? 

All of this uncertainty in a global pandemic while being hunted by police and Karens. This is a reminder that whiteness (and the people who buy into it) will grieve your death while you’re standing in their faces laboring for them. 

What/who continues to save me

The healing power of music thrives in tired and worned bodies. I was searching for something to snap me back to normal, only to find out that healing never returns you to something as mundane as normal. Healing requires you to go through the storm (preferably not alone), make sense of trauma and eventually put trauma in its place. Artists (still) in rotation include Fantasia, Brandy, Fiona Apple, Ledisi, Todrick Hall, Cuee, Big Freedia and Jazmine Sullivan. 

A good marathon provides me the perfect escape — I mean consuming television, not running 26.2 miles. However, I suppose running miles speaks to some of you, and can provide a similar escape — minus the joy and laughter. When it comes to marathons, typically, I’m a sucka for “Atlanta Housewives” reruns and random seasons of “Survivor.”

Taking my beautiful pup (Monét) out for walks and to run errands. I got Monét a few months before we entered the global pandemic — a decision that feels blessed and ordained. And this amazing pup continues to be incredibly patient with me. Now, there are times when I find it important to open up our relationship and take Monét to daycare to burn off some energy, but at the end of the day, they’re my pup and I’m their human. 

Journeying with the most iconic family a queer human could ever ask for remains a tremendous relief. I spend most of my days with Black queer people who are committed to healing and accountability … and having a lil naughty fun. Our game nights are legend. We’re loud and unbothered, and it doesn’t matter the game. Be it Pictionary, Charades, Jeopardy or bingo, we’re going to have the Blackest and queerest time.

– Cody Keith Charles (all pronouns) is the Founder and Executive Director of Haus of McCoy, a queer and trans community center in Lawrence, Kansas. Moreover, Cody is a writer, facilitator, cultural critic and dreamer who critiques pop culture at the intersection of liberation. Cody enjoys trash TV, spending time with beautiful queer people and loving on their dog, Monét.

Find Cody on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Read more of Cody’s writing on Medium. Read more of Cody’s writing for the Times here.

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