Riders on the Ghost Ship

I'm sure you have heard about the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland by now.

Thirty-six people dead. At least three of the victims were transgender.

Cash Askew, 22, of Oakland, was part of the band Them Are Us Too. Askew recently told journalist Beth Winegarner, "As a young teenager, I was definitely attracted to goth and new wave in part because of the androgyny, and that aesthetic gave me a way to explore my gender expression before I could even come to terms with being transgender." 





People don't think I'm a freak for looking the way I do, but they still see me as a man most of the time and it's really frustrating. Maybe because there is historically that precedent for men dressing femme, it's even easier than usual for people to dismiss my trans-ness.


Recalling Em Bohlka also known as Em B, 33, of Oakland, the East Bay Times reported that Jack Bohlka, Em Bohlka's father, "said on Facebook that his daughter was transitioning from a man to 'becoming a beautiful, happy woman. 

She at last was living as she was meant to live. I only wish she had more time to fully enjoy her life.

I really want to express my support to Em and to all the transgender community. I know that's what Em wanted.

--Jack Bohlka

Besides being a poet, Em worked as a Barista and a baker. She grew up in Claremont, CA, earned a bachelor's degree from UC-Riverside and a master's in Literature from Cal Poly Pomona. Her former partner, Natalie Jahanbani, said Em began presenting as female earlier this year.

So many trans people are left out and made invisible. Our goal is that Em won’t be misrepresented, and that every trans person who reads this story feels included and knows that allies are out there.


[Bohlka] encompassed the best part of a humanities department: that self-searching, fully realized, considerate, concerned, humanitarian perspective.

--John Dodson, friend

Em also took photographs, played upright bass and guitar.

Longtime friend Kassidy Heal said Em was active in the punk scene, playing in bands and attending shows.

Here is a fragment of one of her poems:

There's a sparseness of the tongue.
A not-quite-what-I-mean all of the time, I mean ...
the word is not the thing — but why?
I'd ask the sky but it's only S-K-Y. ...
I ask you, how can the universe fit between A and Z?

Feral Pines, 29, lived in Berkeley. Scout Wolfcave was her friend.

For many of her trans community, Feral was a guide and sister in a world of small joys and terrible precarity for trans women. Feral was truly committed to empowering those that the world deems powerless.


Feral grew up in Westport, CT.

She was a gentle soul, the kind of person who never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was someone you wanted to put your arms around and not let go.

--Bruce Fritz, her father

Fritz says Feral recently moved to the area, seeking a community that was more artistic, more in line with her interests.

Music was her passion, as it had been for decades. Fritz brightened as he reminisced about the band practices held in his garage in Westport, Pines plucking away at her bass guitar.

She was kind and beautiful. She didn't have a bad bone in her body. I wish I could've been more like her.

--Amanda Parry, sister

As distressing and painful to the transgender community as the deaths have been, the pain has been compounded by the media deadnaming and misgendering these three victims.

NBC News just called me and I was able to explain the importance of using the right names and pronouns for trans folks, especially in death. The woman on the phone was very understanding when I said that Feral hadn't gone by J. in YEARS and she said that she would get it changed across all affiliate platforms. I was also able to confirm another trans woman's name and pronouns.

That felt so weird to like explain that to a national news org.





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