Feral Pines, 29, moved to Oakland in Sept. 2016 to join the Bay Area’s welcoming artistic and transgender communities. “I had never seen her so happy, so full of life and love,” says friend Scout Wolfcave of Pines after the move. “She was so ready to take people in, and to give parts of herself out.”
Wolfcave met Pines and her then-partner Eliza (Winter) Wicks-Frank in Bloomington, Indiana. The three lived together for about a year and a half. “She was multi-disciplinary,” Wolfcave says, listing off Pines’ talents: collecting and playing synths, drawing, playing bass in a hardcore band, and writing lists that read like poetry.
Pines made lists of bands she liked in a wide variety of genres, as well as “lists of colors to wear for certain occasions, lists of things she liked on certain days,” Wolfcave says. “She would sometimes leave me joke shopping lists that were completely absurd.”
Pines grew up in Westport, Conn. and moved to New York City to study printmaking at the School of Visual Arts. She lived in Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana before moving to Oakland. “Life was getting rough for her in Indiana and I kept telling her to move to the West Coast,” says Wolfcave, who is the executive director of the Trans Assistance Project (TAP), a nonprofit she recently established in Portland to provide nationwide financial assistance and resources for transgender people for anything from gender confirmation surgery to legal name changes.
In addition to its ongoing fundraising, TAP has created a separate fund for the trans women who were victims of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire: Cash Askew, Em Bohlka and Feral Pines. Money raised will go towards funeral services and end-of-life costs for Askew, Bohlka and Pines, along with medical care for another trans woman who sustained injuries in the fire. According to the project’s website, Pines had applied for TAP’s services before her death.
"As is true of all trans people, life was hard for her,” Ben Fritz, Pines’ stepbrother, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But she was very brave in following a path that is true to herself."
“She had an impeccable sense of style,” Wolfcave says. “Her primary outfit was usually black leather short shorts and a tank top, a Mercedez-Benz hood ornament necklace, sometimes a bullet belt and almost always boots.”
Pines’ tough styling belied nerdier interests. “She really loved D&D,” Wolfcave says, referring to the fantasy tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. “She was probably one of the better dungeonmasters I've ever played with.”
In Oakland, Pines was just beginning to connect with the Bay Area’s supportive transgender community and the electronic music scene. After encouraging her friend to move to a state where she would find trans-inclusive healthcare and anti-discrimination laws, Wolfcave says Pines blossomed. “It was beautiful, she was beautiful," Wolfcave says. "It was so good to see her in that emotional state."
When musician Aja Archuleta appeared on KQED’s Forum shortly after the fire, she relayed a story about Pines’ burgeoning network. “I heard that Feral had just been spending time in Oakland and had this vision of starting an all trans woman kind of techno electronic music crew, bringing together myself and someone like Cash and a crew of people to create a family that doesn’t exist here,” Archuleta said on the program. “And I think that speaks to the dreams that were also lost that night.”
For the Trans Assistance Project's Oakland fund, see here.