Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

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Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore 280606.jpg
BornWashington, D.C.
Genrenon-fiction, novel, memoir
Notable awardsLambda Literary Award

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is an American author and activist. She is the author of a memoir and three novels, and the editor of five nonfiction anthologies.

Early life and education[edit]

Sycamore was born in Washington, D.C. to a Jewish family[1] and was raised in the Potomac Highlands neighborhood of Rockville, Maryland.[2] After spending a year in college at Brown University, in 1992 she moved to San Francisco where she became involved in activism with ACT UP.

Activism and literary career[edit]

Sycamore was involved in ACT UP in the early 1990s and Fed Up Queers in the late 1990s. She was the host of the first Gay Shame event in New York, appearing with performer Penny Arcade, writer Eileen Myles, cabaret artists Kiki and Herb, and queercore band Three Dollar Bill held in Brooklyn, NY in 1998, which was captured in the documentary film entitled Gay Shame 98, by Scott Berry. She was one of the instigators of Gay Shame in San Francisco, which started in 2000 and became "a year-round direct action extravaganza dedicated to exposing all hypocrites".[3] Sycamore was involved in the cultural center Dumba, and is a leading critic of assimilationist trends in gay culture.[4][5][6]

In January, 2009, Sycamore initiated a public postering project called Lostmissing, which she describes as:

You know when you have a friend who you think will always be there—no matter what, at least you'll have that friendship, right? Lostmissing is a public art project about the loss of that relationship, a specific relationship for me—right now it's missing.[7]

Sycamore opposed the push among the LGBT movement for same-sex marriage, arguing that it distracts from more pressing issues like the securing of universal health care and housing security for all.[8][9] Sycamore also opposed the LGBT movement's focus on inclusion in the US military, arguing instead that the movement should be focused on opposing the harmful impacts of the military at home and abroad. In 2010, she appeared on Democracy Now! in the segment Does Opposing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Bolster US Militarism? A Debate with Lt. Dan Choi and Queer Activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and later penned op-eds against trans inclusion in the military in Truthout[10] and The Baffler.[11] In 2018, in collaboration with Dean Spade, Sycamore co-organized a Queer Anti-Militarism Townhall: Trans Liberation Not U.S. Invasion at the Seattle Public Library, alongside other queer and trans anti-military voices, including Micha Cárdenas, Soya Jung, Nikkita Oliver and Matt Remle. Sycamore contributed to Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage,[12] and wrote the introduction to Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion,[13] anthologies printed by the Against Equality collective in 2010 and 2014. In 2008, Sycamore was named as a "visionary" as part of Utne Reader magazine's "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World."[14]

Awards and honors[edit]

Sycamore was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Non-Fiction on June 2, 2014, for her 2013 book The End of San Francisco.[15] NPR's Book Concierge included Sketchtasy on its list of the Best Books of 2018.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Regarding gender identity, Sycamore identifies as genderqueer and uses the pronouns 'she' and 'her'.[17] She has described herself as, "A genderqueer, faggot, and a queen, on the trans continuum, in a gender bending, gender blur kind of place. But the words I relate to the most are probably 'faggot' and 'queen.' 'Queer' would be more of a broader political identity."[18]



  • Sketchtasy Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018. ISBN 9781551527291, OCLC 1028209630[19]
  • So Many Ways to Sleep Badly San Francisco : City Lights Books, 2008. ISBN 9780872864689, OCLC 768530865[20]
  • Pulling Taffy San Francisco, Calif. : Suspect Thoughts, 2004. ISBN 9780971084636, OCLC 56658648[21]


Nonfiction Anthologies[edit]


  • All That Sheltering Emptiness (2010), 16mm, 7 mins[28]


  1. ^ "Q&A with Queer activist and author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore – Emerald Media". 4 April 2013.
  2. ^ "Maybe You Remember This". Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  3. ^ Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein (6 October 2008). "NOBODY PASSES, darling: Pulling it together".
  4. ^ Nakao, Annie (2004-09-19), "Rejecting 'normal' in favor of a distinct gay identity", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved 2007-10-05
  5. ^ Sycamore, Matt Bernstein (2004), That's Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, Soft Skull Press, p. 238, ISBN 1-932360-56-5
  6. ^ "What if Gay Marriage is the Wrong Fight?", LiP Magazine
  7. ^ Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein (31 January 2009). "NOBODY PASSES, darling: Lostmissing: a public art project".
  8. ^ UTNE Reader, November–December 2008.
  9. ^ A 'Queer' Argument Against Marriage, NPR
  10. ^ ""Transgender Troops" Should Be an Oxymoron". Truthout. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  11. ^ "Swords into Marketshare | Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore". The Baffler. 2017-09-21. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  12. ^ Against equality : queer critiques of gay marriage. Conrad, Ryan, 1983-, Nair, Yasmin. Lewiston, Me.: Against Equality Pub. Collective. 2010. ISBN 9780615392684. OCLC 686772854.CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ Against equality : queer revolution, not mere inclusion. Conrad, Ryan, 1983-. Oakland, CA, USA. ISBN 1849351848. OCLC 858603259.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ "Visionaries Who Are Changing the World", Utne Reader
  15. ^ Johnson, William (2014-03-07). "26th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists and Winners". Lambda Literary. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  16. ^ "NPR's Book Concierge". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  17. ^ "A 'Queer' Argument Against Marriage". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  18. ^ "We Who Feel Differently – Interviews".
  19. ^ Schaub, Michael. "Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on the difficult queer '90s Boston of her novel 'Sketchtasy' - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2018-10-27.
  20. ^ Bernstein., Sycamore, Mattilda (2008). So many ways to sleep badly. San Francisco: City Lights Books. ISBN 9780872864689. OCLC 216936694.
  21. ^ Bernstein., Sycamore, Matt (2003). Pulling taffy. San Francisco: Suspect Thoughts Press. ISBN 0971084637. OCLC 51323127.
  22. ^ Bernstein., Sycamore, Mattilda. The end of San Francisco. San Francisco. ISBN 9780872865723. OCLC 812258393.
  23. ^ Why are faggots so afraid of faggots? : flaming challenges to masculinity, objectification, and the desire to conform. Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein. Oakland, CA: AK Press. 2012. ISBN 9781849350884. OCLC 709680948.CS1 maint: others (link)
  24. ^ Nobody passes : rejecting the rules of gender and conformity. Sycamore, Matt Bernstein. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press. 2006. ISBN 9781580051842. OCLC 71285289.CS1 maint: others (link)
  25. ^ That's revolting! : queer strategies for resisting assimilation. Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press. 2004. ISBN 1932360565. OCLC 56367271.CS1 maint: others (link)
  26. ^ Dangerous families : queer writing on surviving. Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein. New York: Harrington Park Press. 2004. ISBN 1560234210. OCLC 51969191.CS1 maint: others (link)
  27. ^ Tricks and treats : sex workers write about their clients. Sycamore, Matt Bernstein. New York: Harrington Park Press. 2000. ISBN 0789007037. OCLC 42786270.CS1 maint: others (link)
  28. ^ "Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre". Retrieved 2018-10-18.

External links[edit]