Photo of Juhnay Arabesque (aka Paul Renolis) at the California College of the Arts, filming the school’s 114th Commencement Ceremony [2021]

This past spring, I did something really cool and I may have been the world’s first to create such an experience for myself and a global academic community.

My drag persona, Juhnay Arabesque (phonetically pronounced “JUH-NAY”), was the Emcee of the 114th Commencement Ceremony at San Francisco’s California College of the Arts, honoring the Class of 2021! As the Mistress of Ceremonies, it was my duty to , , , , and give the Class of 2021 — our now and future artists, designers, craft makers, writers, business owners, and the like — a gift they know oh so well…


Illustration: LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland

Mother’s Day: [silence]

Father’s Day: [more silence]

[annual cycle repeats]

Each year, as I get older, wiser, and more liberated, these holidays become easier to deconstruct, reconstruct, and digest — to make sense of such a layered holiday that’s trapped in outdated American ideals, gender binaries, and antiquated feminist values.

I live my life alone — not lonely, but alone. Solo. Before I further explain, let’s turn to the infinite pages of Merriam-Webster for some calibration:

Alone :

Lonely :


Movie still illustration of Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”

It’s roughly 2:30 pm on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. I had just got out of the shower — my first productive event of the day. This is a huge victory for me, especially after sleeping in most of the day following my birthday. My birthday is my favorite holiday of the year and yesterday, I unwrapped gift boxes of pain, loneliness, and a few birthday texts and calls from friends.

My current depression cycle, albeit longer than usual, is not as bad as it used to be when I first became aware of my pain four years ago. I’ve learned…


Illustration by Jarien Skywall

I’m an introvert by default. I restore my energy in solitude. Quarantine for the foreseeable future? Sure. Work from home? Easy! Or so I thought. As someone who has mastered the art of being alone, from only child to international solo traveler, I’ve never felt so lonely in my life.

The pandemic forced me to downsize my social network. Although I’m an introvert, I’m quite social. I’m a performing artist, dahling! I live for the applause! I miss going to concerts, dancing, and losing myself in a sea of eclectic care-free San Franciscans. I miss my people, particularly acquaintances: a…


Illustration by Joelle Avelino

FLASHBACK:

February 23, 2020: Ahmaud Arbery
March 13, 2020: Breonna Taylor
May 25, 2020: George Floyd

FLASHBACK:

January 1, 2009: Oscar Grant
February 26, 2012: Trayvon Martin
August 9, 2014: Michael Brown
July 13, 2015: Sandra Bland

FLASHBACK:

July 5, 2016: Alton Sterling
July 6, 2016: Philando Castile
July 2016: Black Lives Matter protests erupt around the U.S.


Image by Alona Miller, Visual Managing Editor at The Shakerite

During my first year at Boston University, I completed an introductory writing research course titled, “African American Voices,” and learned a distinction that edified my racial identity and affirmed a sentiment on which I’ve been ruminating since childhood: There is a distinct application between using the terms, “African American” and “Black American.” The term, African American, describes an group of peoples that share a common ancestry, distinguished by the forced uprooting of native Africans to American soil via the Atlantic Slave Trade from the 16th to 19th centuries. This label also describes a culture, created by said peoples, that…

Paul Renolis

San Francisco-based queer performing artist, creative, and writer that explores black joy. prenolis.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store