Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

When people think of the Deep South, especially in states like Mississippi, most people don't imagine a diverse and accepting way of life. People always look at me as if I've suddenly sprouted a unicorn horn when I reminisce on my time living in Biloxi and the eclectic people I've met there, many of whom I call friends. I often find myself explaining that there are two distinct Mississippis—the closer you get to the water, the more liberal it gets. If you were to look at an election map, you'd see that the coast is pretty deeply purple while the rest of the state is fire engine red.

It's also important to note that in a way, I remember my time in Biloxi from a place of privilege that some of my friends do not possess. It may be strange to think of privilege when it comes from a Black woman in an interracial marriage, but being cisgendered is a privilege that I am afforded through no doing of my own. I became acutely aware of this privilege when my friend who happens to be a transgender man announced that he was expecting a child with his partner. I immediately felt a duty to protect, which in a perfect world would not have been my first reaction.

It was in that moment that I realized that I was viewing the world through my lens as a cisgendered woman who is outwardly in a heteronormative relationship. I have discovered that through writing, you can change the narrative people perceive, so I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with my friend—not only to check in with his feelings, but to aid in dissolving the "otherness" that people place upon transgender people.

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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