Danny Woomer:Okay. So I am Danny Woomer. It is March 7th. I am interviewing
Lydia Shelley, who goes by ...
Lyd Shelley:Lyd is preferred, but Lydia isn't dead. And she, he and they pronouns.
Danny Woomer:Who is, well, who lived in Western North Carolina for ...
Lyd Shelley:So since what? Like fifth grade. So I can't do math. Should have
done this before you started recording. I'm 22 now.
Danny Woomer:What age were you when you moved there?
Lyd Shelley:Nine, maybe.
Danny Woomer:And you're 22 now. So. I think that's 12 years.
Lyd Shelley:Okay. Sure.
Danny Woomer:If that's wrong, it's fine. And you grew up in Asheville. And how
00:01:00would you describe your sexuality?
Lyd Shelley:I'm bisexual, with the view of it as meaning, like the genuine one
where you're attracted to anyone. It doesn't mean like, it doesn't exclude
anything, like not the bi equals two, but like the attracted to your own gender,
which I guess means nothing now and anyone of any other gender.
Danny Woomer:It's easier to explain to older people, I think.
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. Yeah. I haven't had to explain to anyone in a long time
because I feel like the people who know me know what I mean when I say that.
Danny Woomer:That's, yeah. It's what I feel like. It's easier to explain. And
then like most people don't ask. They're like, oh, okay, sure. Great. And so
when did you come out?
Lyd Shelley:I came out probably my freshman or sophomore year of high school.
And it was largely remarkably easy, especially, like maybe not for my family, in
00:02:00that I don't really know that I experienced like homophobia from them, but
especially my dad's side of my family was very much just like, "No, you aren't,"
which I bet has been fun for them as I've spent the last, what, like eight years
going, "Yes, I am." But with my friends and my community and the school that I
was in, it was very much not a big deal for anyone.
Danny Woomer:What sort of pushed to the "No, you're not." Were there any
Lyd Shelley:Oh, yeah. Absolutely. So I, maybe, so I came out maybe either it was
later, or I hadn't talked about it. Either I came out later than I've just said,
or I had to talk to them much about it, but I was in love with this girl named
00:03:00Catherine and I want to go to the prom with Catherine. And wanted to ask
Catherine to the prom. It must've been my junior prom, my junior year prom. And
I told my parents, my dad, my step-mom, that. And they were like, lots of girls
go to the prom with their friends. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no. I ended
up going with a guy and they were very, very relieved about this turn of events.
But I just sort of passively rub it in their faces every moment that I have,
because I don't think they have her right to ignore what makes them
uncomfortable about me.
Danny Woomer:But other than that, in school, you didn't really, I guess like
00:04:00high school to start, you didn't experience any "backlash," which is so a weird
term for that.
Lyd Shelley:No. Asheville is not, a lot of the times what it likes to think of
itself as and present itself as, but I find that the young people that I grew up
with that went to Asheville High were very, very much not homophobic. Like there
was just not, it was not a culture. And I think maybe that's different from a
lot of Western Carolina experiences. If you are perhaps somewhere more rural or
you'd been a little bit older than I am, but it was not strange or uncommon in
my high school experience.
Danny Woomer:Now, you are a WCU alum. How did high school compare to Western?
Lyd Shelley:So I think I shouldn't ... I only speak from my own experience.
Western was much more conservative than my high school experience, which I think
00:05:00is the opposite of what a lot of people have when they leave their hometowns and
go to college.
Danny Woomer:Yeah. It's really interesting.
Lyd Shelley:I had a reverse and it was very hard, especially starting in 2016,
right after the 2016 election, there was a strong wave of people who felt very
empowered to be very conservative and not empathetic to other people's
experiences, let me just say. And so, but I also think that I was very cushioned
by that because at the time I identified as a CIS woman and I still am very like
CIS woman passing, like you would look at me and think like that's a CIS woman
and a CIS white woman. So nobody is going to hurt me or do anything bad to me. I
got mostly some rude, like sexualizing comments, but like it's not ideal, but
it's fairly harmless. I never felt like unsafe and nobody ever like called me a
00:06:00slur or anything.
Danny Woomer:That's preferable.
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. It's preferable. But I also don't think that I can speak to
the experiences of everyone at Western, because I am like a very cushioned
person by that passing, I think.
Danny Woomer:Now, on the flip side of that, what was your experience with the
queer community at Western Carolina University? And just like you could say
university and just Asheville in general.
Lyd Shelley:And Asheville? So, I didn't really have like a queer community. I
have found that a lot of people have that queer affinity group thing is really
what defines their social group. And that has never been the case for me because
I am bad at friends. I don't like to spend time in big groups of people. I don't
00:07:00like to do events. I was never a club person in high school. So there was a Gay
Straight Alliance whatever organization at my high school, but I'm not going to
go spend time with people. So I was never a part of that.
I mean, I find that that gay people tend to make friends with other gay people
just by chance, by happenstance. So, I've found my people wherever I have gone,
but I am not ... I was never part of like a queer community specifically.
In retrospect, I've found that a lot of the people even that weren't out when I
was in high school, looking back, those same people that made up those friend
groups are now all some variety of queer, but that is after the fact. Does that
Danny Woomer:Of course. Definitely. And I guess that's high school. Would the
00:08:00same apply to Western?
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I also wasn't very aware of, and this again,
could be a problem with me and maybe not even a problem, but not a fact about
Western. I wasn't really aware of any queer affinity groups and student groups
at the time. Like that wasn't a big thing that at Western, to my awareness and I
also just never sought one out that head. So.
Danny Woomer:You also worked all the time.
Lyd Shelley:That's very true. I did work all the time.
Danny Woomer:That's the same reason I wasn't really in any groups or clubs
because of two jobs all the time.
Lyd Shelley:And in class and etcetera. So yeah, it wasn't something that was
important. Whereas I found like now in law school, student affinity groups are
really important for a variety of reasons.
Danny Woomer:And you attend where for law school?
Lyd Shelley:I go to University of North Carolina School of Law. Every time, I
want to say Chapel Hill, School of Law, and that's just not a fucking thing.
Danny Woomer:Is it not?
Lyd Shelley:No. It's University of North Carolina School of Law. They get really
00:09:00mad at you if you like ...
Lyd Shelley:Yes. I mean, like obviously, I guess it'd be writing like Carolina
Western University on your resume. Like you can't just make up the name.
Danny Woomer:It's like a slur.
Lyd Shelley:I don't know about that.
Danny Woomer:It's not.
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. So, but every time I'm like, I'm going to say it wrong.
Danny Woomer:I'm going to say it, yeah. And so, that's another interesting
point, is you moved considerably far away from Western North Carolina. What's
your experience been, I would say, as a queer person, being out? What's the
experience been like compared to Jackson County?
Lyd Shelley:So, well, out is a strong word.
Danny Woomer:It is. My apologies.
Lyd Shelley:No, no fine. No, worries. No fine.
Danny Woomer:No fine.
Lyd Shelley:No fine. So, it's interesting because I think as much as I have just
said that Western was conservative, I was very insulated from perhaps what
people from Jackson County would think about me by being a part of that campus
00:10:00university or that campus community and deciding who I would interact with.
Whereas here in Chapel Hill, the campus community and the town are very much
more one in the same. And so I feel very safe in that and don't feel like that
kind of sense of homophobia maybe, but I am part of a professional school
community and a law school community, which I think tends to be more conservative.
Like not ... Don't go up there. That is a terrible idea. What are you doing?
Lord, Jesus, oh God. The way we almost just had a car accident.
Danny Woomer:We didn't though.
Lyd Shelley:You did this for what?
Danny Woomer:I wanted to take a turn.
Lyd Shelley:I fully lost my train of thought because that was so stressful. Ooh,
okay. Like I don't, but like I feel like, and like that's probably an
00:11:00exaggeration, but essentially what it results in is I am not out to the law
school as a whole, like I've been very slowly, so I'm in my second semester and
then very slowly like releasing it and deciding the people that are comfortable
with, especially since I have like this fresh new gender identity, which is like
very precious to me and which I really want respected. And I'm not maybe strong
and secure enough in it yet that I'm comfortable to like release it to the whole
world, knowing inevitably that someone will disrespect me.
So, yeah, it's different. Oh my God. A literal raspberry beret. Can we steal
Danny Woomer:Yeah, let me turn around.
Lyd Shelley:I don't, maybe some will come back for it. We shouldn't steal things.
Danny Woomer:That's true. Would you be comfortable with talking about this fresh
gender identity further?
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. Absolutely. So I think looking back and this is me maybe
falsely predicting scholarship trends, but I think there will be a big pool of
00:12:00scholarship on the way that quarantine has caused people to self examine and
discover new facets of themselves.
So I have always not really fucked with gender. There have been times when I was
younger, like really young, like early elementary school where I would just like
randomly be like, I'm going to start wearing dude clothes all the time. And
demand that my parents and grandparents use a different name and he, him
pronouns for me. And that kind of became something that I suppressed as I got
older because there is a social value in fitting in. And I don't know entirely
that that is something that would have been part of the general consciousness
and accepted when I was in high school.
But I just don't feel as strongly connected to she, her anymore. I don't feel
like it's gone. So I consider myself sort of like gender fluid and enby. I'm
00:13:00comfortable with all pronouns and kind of want that. I just, I contain
multitudes. Right? So I want that recognized as a part of myself.
And it's really wonderful to me and precious to me. So it's like, I don't keep
it from people because I'm ashamed of it. Obviously, I keep it to people from
people because I love that part of myself and for someone to misunderstand it or
mischaracterize it or make fun of it, it would be very painful to me.
So, yeah. So these are some nice houses.
Danny Woomer:It is. Interesting turn of events. Would you, I mean, I guess it's
obvious that quarantine kind of helped you explore this part of yourself much
further in a positive way. Do you think that you would have had the chance
otherwise, like no pandemic, normal, non zoom school experience, do you think it
00:14:00would just happened later on?
Lyd Shelley:Yeah, I don't think anything that is truly a part of you stays
buried forever. There's no saying in what way those things become realized. But
oh my God. Little tiny puffer jackets. Yeah. Oh. The parking situation. Is this
a one way street, baby? Are you going the wrong way on a one-way street?
Danny Woomer:I might be. So here's what I'm going to do.
Lyd Shelley:Okay. Oh, look, look. Pride flags. We found it.
Danny Woomer:Topic. Yes.
Lyd Shelley:Sorry. Yeah. I don't think anything that is yours that you're meant
to have stays buried forever.
Danny Woomer:It's not a one-way.
Lyd Shelley:That's good. You can keep going now and just, it looked weird.
Danny Woomer:It did.
Lyd Shelley:It looks weirdly parked. Can we go towards the Target and look for Squishmellows?
Lyd Shelley:Okay. I know. I don't think anything that you're meant to have will
stay away from you forever. And I think I have become more fulfilled by
experiencing this part of myself. So no, I think it would have come up. It's
become kind of like that trope where it's like a lot of people who are gay now
remember having that experience of Googling am I gay when you're little and it's
like you wouldn't be Googling am I gay if you were straight. Right?
So the same thing as like, am I trans, am I non binary? You wouldn't think about
your gender all the time if that was something that you were happy with it the
way it is. Sorry, I'm not expressing that well. But if you have a consciousness
of it, if you think about your gender and I don't mean like explore it, that's
healthy for everyone. Even people who end up deciding that they are CIS. But
like if you think about your gender and you're dissatisfied with it, like
00:16:00there's a pretty good chance that you're not CIS. So I think it was inevitable.
Danny Woomer:With identifying is he, she, they, how do you kind of, like I guess
you could just say like, you just know on like a daily basis, but what do you
want to talk about just [crosstalk]?
Lyd Shelley:Just how I use them?
Danny Woomer:Yeah. Not even that. Just kind of like what the experience is like.
Lyd Shelley:Clarifying question. Make it make sense to me. I don't know. I don't
know what the experience is like.
Danny Woomer:On like a day to day, it's a he day. How does that compare to a
Lyd Shelley:Gotcha. Well, so I have not been doing it like that of late. So when
I first started, I was like, I'll just pick on the daily. And I think that leans
more towards the gender fluid side where there's like a more linear expression
of how I'm expressing like feminine and masculine. But I found that that was
00:17:00really hard for me because I'm a 22 year old person who's only bought women's
clothing for like the entirety of their lives. And I was also like curvy. Like I
And so, to a certain extent, I would love to really have an opportunity to dress
more masculinely. But I found it painful to be failing at that by dressing and
looking a certain way and not being able to achieve that way of being masculine
that I saw in my head. And so I've been leaning away from having she, he, or
they days and trying to use them all intermittently as I'm working on myself and
in my brain accepting that I contain all of those multitudes, as I said, even
when I'm not expressing in a way that would traditionally be he or she.
Danny Woomer:Yeah, no, absolutely. Kind of to fall back to Jackson County, with
quarantine kind of expediting the exploration process. If you had kind of
explored this part of yourself way earlier and sort of kind of, I guess, I don't
want to say found yourself, but figured it out while you were either in high
school or college, what do you think your experience? Very much hypothetical?
What do you think your experience would have been like compared to grad school?
Lyd Shelley:Hopefully, I'd have a way more varied closet by now. I don't know.
It's hard to say. But as I think that the place in which I'm closeted and I
think this makes sense is in the classroom, in my school experiences, because by
their very nature, you're in a classroom with a bunch of people who have various
00:19:00backgrounds and opinions and will feel their own unique ways about unique gender expression.
So, I had a student and I never spoke to them about it because I don't think I
was, I was there sort of in like, not to be gay about it, but like in my
journey. But we had a student in our graduating class who was either non binary
or trans mask and changed. I think they used they, them pronouns and I won't
drop their name in case that's not even what they're using anymore.
Lyd Shelley:And then obviously, like this isn't my story to share, but it was
very much difficult for people to get their fucking heads around it. And I saw
that that was difficult for them. And there was a lot of dead naming, there was
a lot of issues with getting the pronouns right. And I think that very much
validates where I still am at, where I still am, where it's like, I'm not
00:20:00sharing this with people who are just going to hurt my feelings.
Danny Woomer:Yeah. That's not fun.
Lyd Shelley:So, it is correct and it is right, but the he, she, they thing sort
of allows me to, like you can't dead name me. You can't use the wrong pronouns
for me because there are no, but to some extent, people who don't understand you
will never be equipped to respect you. So.
Danny Woomer:And that's weird because like COVID classrooms, I guess, with
hybrid, at least, you just sort of, unless you ask or you know this person, you
kind of go by clothing, which sucks.
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. Well, so I have a part of this absolutely wonderful. I got
added to, so obviously I'm like very femme passing. I'm sure like no one who
ever sees this will like listen to the recording. They'll just have like the transcript.
Danny Woomer:No. They can listen to it.
Lyd Shelley:Oh. Okay. Well, like super femme passing, if you can hear my voice,
like, hi, hi. So I was added through the law school to a group chat that was
called Gals of Section D, which is like my law school section. And I was in
there for a while and felt like it was a safe space. And I was like, I just want
to let you guys know, that I actually use, he, she, and they pronouns
intermittently, that I'm very happy and I hope I can stay and hang out with the
gals. And they immediately switched it to Pals of Section D, which first of all,
like, absolutely, tear-jerking.
Danny Woomer:I love Pals.
Lyd Shelley:Like just very, very genuine. Like it was not performative. It was
not with commentary. They were just like, well, it's not true anymore. And that
was just a wonderful experience for me.
But members of that group have been including, like on their little zoom
squares, first name, last name, and then pronouns, even though many, like the
vast majority of them to my knowledge are CIS women, just so that it becomes
00:22:00more normal to have like your pronouns in your thing. And so that it's not just
me and the one other non binary person I know in the law school who have their
pronouns in their chat.
So, yeah. We should be doing what we can for each other, but it's a hard habit.
And it's also hard if you ... It's one thing to put those pronouns in and they
are exactly what people expect. And it's another to drop a surprise in there and
know that someone is going to have something to say about it.
Danny Woomer:Yeah. Yeah. Some people, what are they, it's like zoom filters
where this ... I've seen articles on it where people will just say what, they'll
share more over zoom classes. Because obviously, when you're online, you feel,
the confidence really comes in, which can be a really bad thing and
00:23:00uncomfortable thing because people will just say whatever the hell they want.
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. I don't think anybody would say anything to my face, but I
just, I don't know. It's painful to me to imagine being the butt of someone's
joke, even if I can't hear it, which I know is not ... If someone else asked me,
I would say, well, that has nothing to do with you. And you have to be yourself
and true to yourself. Well, you don't have to be, but you have right to be. I'm
not quite there myself. And there's no rush. I've got a lot of years left. So.
Danny Woomer:Yeah. I think that's really important because there's really no rush.
Lyd Shelley:Yeah. It's just, like when I said earlier, closeted. Or sorry. Out
is a strong word. It depends who and what and what environments I'm in.
Danny Woomer:Absolutely. Is there anything else you'd like to talk about overall?
Danny Woomer:No. Okay.
Lyd Shelley:No. Not really.
Danny Woomer:Okay. Sounds good.