Memorial for Samantha Dorsett
Shut up here, news travels slowly. When the message finally came to me that my friend Samantha has passed on, I was very sad but not altogether surprised. Samantha and I had spoken several times while I was here on house-arrest last year and she was deeply troubled by long-standing family dysfunction and all the many issues surrounding transitioning gender. She was depressed and struggling with so much anger.
I met Samantha as Sam in 2000 in Bloomington, Indiana. At the time, we were trying to create an organizing space for both anti-authoritarian and environmental projects. In the central square, where so many community and University people gathered to talk and eat and shop – rents were extremely high. So high in fact, that even a supported infoshop could not afford to make rent every month. In an act of extreme generosity, Sam became the benefactor of the Secret Sailor by using an inheritance to pay a year’s rent for the infoshop. It was everything Sam had in the world, but Sam believed in what the project could do in a town like Bloomington.
Secret Sailor (the mysterious name Samantha chose referring to the safety escorts of the Toronto Anarchist gathering, but the subject of constant speculation) became a space where punk shows, speakers on current local events, mini-conferences and workshops, meetings of Earth First!ers, Wobblies, anti-globalization activists and writer’s groups could share ideas and location. And through it all, Samantha was the soft-spoken, kind-hearted volunteer who worked everyday to person the register, answer questions and direct interested and curious visitors to the groups they wanted to meet or subjects they wanted to know more about. A firm believer and practitioner of polyamory, Samantha and others held polyamory support groups at Secret Sailor to discuss discrimination and misinformation about alternative lifestyles that occurred even amongst people who considered themselves to be “radicals”. In a constant quest for personal liberation and social change, Samantha was a tireless and living member of a community of resistance.
I am sorry that Samantha is lost to us now. She had been working as part of the Slingshot collective and although struggling with family drama, had seemed positive and upbeat. But gender issues, and trans issues in particular, are still challenging even now for many self-perceived radicals, and Samantha had trouble engaging some friends and family during the process of reassignment.
Samantha was one of the sweetest human beings I’ve known while working in the “movement”. Probably the best way to celebrate and honor her life would be to continue working for justice, equality, respect and kindness in our human communities, and to keep striving to preserve and protect the natural world that Samantha loved so much.