There’s a two-story house with a teal-colored front door and finished basement located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Its occupants are a quirky bunch of Queer folks who enjoy each other and living life to its fullest. One of those people is a creative artist and librarian named Smote Mote [they/them]. 

In 2017 Smote’s partner found a job in Raleigh, prompting them both to relocate from Kent, Ohio to Raleigh, a place that Mote always thought of as a second home. During Mote’s youth, almost every summer was spent on a fun-filled family vacation to Raleigh. 

With pleasant childhood memories in toe and warmer weather to look forward to, the decision to buy a home in Raleigh wasn’t a difficult one to make. Recently, from their home office that doubles as an arts studio, Mote shared with  Qnotes a little bit about what it means to be them.

Smote is an interesting name. Is it your given name?

It is not my birth name, but it is my name. I want to discuss it, but every time it comes up, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I always hate when I’m asked for my name. I love my name, but it comes with the complication of having to explain it every single time and I don’t like having to justify my name being chosen versus being given. Additionally, I don’t think people think about the fact that asking someone those questions can bring up trauma, because now someone’s thinking about their family [issues connected to a previous name] and those feeling might be negative. It’s one of those things that Queer people have to navigate. I don’t think it happens as much with cis people.

You mentioned the naming issue not being something cis people have to deal with? How do you identify?

I usually say Queer. When I’m asked to be more specific, I am non-binary, asexual and polyamorous. For me, my [three] partners are people I enjoy spending time with and want to be around. We live together and spend time together. We’re basically no different than any other relationship. Not all relationships have to be built on sexual intimacy. There are five types of attraction: Sexual, Romantic, Physical, Emotional and Aesthetic. I view people very much in the same way I view beautiful art. I don’t want to sleep with the art, I just want to experience it.

What kind of art do you create?

I don’t have a definitive style. I’m a multi-disciplinary artist. I do traditional printmaking, digital art and photography. I make merch (stickers and bookmarks, etc…), sculptures, art books and I love painting in acrylic and watercolor. I also just produced my first enamel pin. I love exploring and experimenting.

But you’re a librarian? Did you go to school for art or library sciences?

Both. I have a B.A. in Digital Communications Design, a B.F.A in Fine Art Print Making and a Master’s in Library and Info Science. Currently, I’m working for Wake Tech Community College’s Perry Health Sciences Library as a Library Technical Assistance.

Tell us about your association with the LGBTQ Center of Raleigh.

I have been working there since 2017 when we arrived in Raleigh. I started as an intern. When the librarian left, I took over for her. My co-librarian Brittany and I worked very hard to bring the library more up to date with what represented our community. A lot of the library’s foundation was based on people donating books. Many of the books fit into the category of cis gay or cis lesbian romance. It was very outdated. It took us about a year to figure out what we would keep and what we would donate. During our “Out! Raleigh Pride” fundraising event that happens in June, the library always has a booth where we talk about the library and sign people up for cards. At that event we re-home books from our collection.

What do you enjoy most about working for an LGBTQ library?

Honestly, my favorite thing to do is introduce books to people that represent them. Books where they could see themselves in the characters, in the story and not just fiction but in non-fiction as well. The ability to help someone and find them a piece of media that they connect with is just the best feeling.

When you’re working for one of the libraries or making art, what are you most likely doing?

Once I wind down, I love cooking. And I have a bunch of plants, they’re my babies. I also take care of my Axolotls.

What’s an axolotl?

They are a type of fully aquatic salamander that never leaves its larval stage. They never come up on land, they keep their gills and stay in water their whole life. North Carolina actually has a native salamander that exhibits the same traits.

Sounds like a full and happy life. Is there anything that unnerves or infuriates you?

[without hesitation] Raleigh Drivers! [chuckles]. Every single person in this area needs to go back to driving school. I don’t think anyone here knows what a turn signal is or what to do when they see an emergency vehicle. It’s my daily complaint.

Do you have a favorite book?

You can’t ask a librarian that! That’s just rude [bursts into laugher].

Ok, so how about a book recommendation for parents of Trans or non-binary children?

Absolutely. There are a few but I’d start with “Beyond The Gender Binary” by Alok Vaid-Menon, “A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns” by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson and “The Reflective Workbook for Parents and Families of Transgender and Non-Binary Children” by D.M. Maynard.

Speaking of binary issues. What are your thoughts on the recent news of a possible overturning of the landmark Roe vs Wade decision?

Not a fan of that. I don’t understand why this is a thing. We have scientifically proven time and time again that denying access to reproductive care only causes harm – more death, more injury, more pain. The fact that the people most impacted by this are the people who basically can’t afford or aren’t in positions to get somewhere safe to have an abortion is infuriating.

In light of that frustration many of us share, what makes you smile?

Without fail, my cat. He does this little chirp when I call his name. My partner thinks he’s calling my name and every time he does it, it is the most precious thing. He also has 24 toes and I absolutely love him. Most cats have 18 toes. He has seven [each] on the front and five on each back paw. His name is Nimbus.

Anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I want people to understand that I am not just my identity. While my identity makes me who I am, I very much want to share with people my hobbies and my interest. I want to support my community, but at the same time I think that restricting ourselves to only defining ourselves by our identities is harmful. We’re so much more than that. So, when people interact with me, I want them to see the things that I love first.

Any final words for Qnotes readers?

Drink tea and be Queer.