Queer lit: a most binary pandemonium

I wrote an annoyed short post on my Tumblr after reading several comments in a cis m/m romance novel that left my skin crawling. There’s nothing like biphobia or bisexual erasure to drag me out of a story, these days. Well, save for transphobia and non-binary erasure, of course. Or misogyny and slut shaming. Or … well, there’s an awful lot of things that drag me out of a story, but of late it feels as though biphobia lurks everywhere I turn, and one post on Tumblr isn’t enough for me to feel I’ve done my frustration justice – not when bi and pan representation means as much to me as a non-binary reader as it does to me as a pansexual one.

That’s right. I, as a non-binary reader, need bi and pan heroes.

What, you think I exist in gay and lesbian literature?

(I’m going to need a minute to stop laughing. Maybe two. Or ten. How about you come back in half an hour?)

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The many skins of writing escapism

I’m writing another post about depression, self-hate and the expression of self-hate via the tyranny of list-making. It’s a post that is just about killing me to write; yesterday it took me until 2 AM (so, technically, today) to wind down from the crying jags provoked by a mere nine hundred words. I will finish it. I have to finish it, because there needs must be a dialogue about the lack of love inherent in the concept of the list of things left undone, especially if our (my) nature is such to tick off the last item accomplished without so much as a breath of celebration, but writing this has much the same effect of an emotional backhand to the face. I don’t want to touch it. I’m cringing and tearing up just thinking about adding another sentence or paragraph. My stomach knots, my feet cramp, my head spins. No, my body tells me. No. Not yet. I’ve been doing therapy for too long to miss the significance of this pain or the way it touches me with such physicality, but I think this post will be written in short doses interspersed with words that don’t hurt: I need those spaces to survive a pain for which any possible anesthesia is worse than the agony itself.

There’s a reason therapy is a process that happens over a period of time as opposed to ten sessions in a fortnight. I can’t survive all that pain all at once. Nobody can survive all that pain all at once. No living being is hero enough for that, no matter the lies books and films and video games tell us about heroes. I will survive this hurt, because I am a hero, but with time, patience and time, and I’m allowed to listen when my body and heart tell me that, today, that pain just might break me.

Tomorrow, though? I can’t speak for tomorrow, but a tomorrow will come when I can pick up those words and survive them.

(Warning: long post ahead!)

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Queering words: a field guide (part 2)

Hello. Last time I discussed the two basic rules for approaching the language used by the queer people in your life, which can be boiled down to don’t be a douche, but sometimes we say things that seem reasonable to us without understanding that they’re not-so-reasonable to the audience. After all, empathy, sensitivity and respect aren’t exactly qualities prized in Western society, and privilege makes it hard to develop these traits with regard to minorities. How does one be a genuinely empathic person if one doesn’t have some experience of pain and suffering? How does one relate to that pain if it is only an abstract concept?

I think this is why so many allies complain about misandry, reverse racism, heterophobia, cisphobia and other such reverse/anti isms coming from minorities. Think about it. If you haven’t been hurt, if you live in a society where you are privileged and prioritised, having somebody call you a cracker or a fucking cishet is probably going to feel like a hit to the face. Of course, there’s no systematic oppression behind those words, nothing but a tired, frustrated and hurting minority voicing their pain, but when one has no or little experience of pain, when society is set up to tell you that you are amazing, special and deserving of having every fucking book written about you, it probably feels like oppression. Imagine a spoiled rich kid getting a shock because his parents tell him he can’t have a new iPad after he threw the old one on the kitchen table and cracked the screen. We, who are not rich, just roll our eyes. Allies who don’t share the minority status in question are that rich kid. We minorities know it’s nothing like the knowledge of waking up in the morning knowing that people loathe you so much they deny you basic human rights, a scratch compared to a broken nose, but allies don’t. In my experience, the best queer allies are those who have hard-earned knowledge of oppression in other ways (my friends who understand chronic health problems, mental illness and misogyny, for example). They are the most able to put themselves into my shoes and do what they can to make life as easy as possible for me.

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Queering words: a field guide (part 1)

Nothing in these posts is in any way new.

However, I’ve had a few interactions with well-intended cishet allies who have missed the finer details on queer, trans and non-binary language terms and their use, so these words aren’t being said loudly enough to penetrate even those who are open to hearing us. Also, as a queer, non-binary person with editing experience, there may be something I can bring to the dialogue, I hope, that explains why we use our words the way we do.

For once, I’m speaking directly to allies on this post. Most of the time you’re incidental to the dialogue, or I’m talking about you, not to you: I’m talking ‘to you’ in the same kind of rhetorical, laden-with-frustration way I go about much of my dialogue about my experiences. However, I seem to have amassed a collection of cishet ally readers, so this one is for you, because my words matter and because I believe – or hope – my words matter to you.

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Do explain, my allies, but not to me

I’m going to tell a story every minority has experienced at some point, an example of one thing that sours what could have otherwise been a good conversation in a fairly safe environment. Now, those who know me in real life, don’t get me wrong: the environments I am currently in are about the safest I’ve ever been in as an out queer who doesn’t do binary gender. I’m incredibly grateful to be in rooms full of outspoken left-wing small-L liberals where I can say what I think and feel with very little negative consequence, and as someone who is both anxious and outspoken (believe me, that combination is insane-making at times) it goes a long way to making me feel comfortable in a world where I think twice about just sending people my new email address or linking people to my blog.

I explained to a group of people why I have problems with ‘same-sex marriage’ as a phrase and the use of said phrase in mainstream publications.

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The oppression of matching

I have a nine-letter legal first name.

It’s the kind of name that was once masculine but is now considered feminine in Western society. Even the abbreviated form, my use or preferred name (I don’t consider it an nickname because it is my name) is more feminine-leaning than masculine (‘Kim’ is technically gender-neutral but in practice a shade feminine-leaning). I have, in fact, been told by people (more than one) that I should change my name to something less feminine. While I’m all for people choosing whichever name makes them comfortable and happy, I’m morally opposed to the notion that a trans man must have a masculine name, a trans woman a feminine one, or a non-binary person a gender-neutral one. Names don’t have to match gender. We shouldn’t have to change our birth names to conform to some notion of what is and isn’t appropriately gendered if we’re happy with or have some connection to the name given us at birth. I don’t like my full name, but I do like its shortened form, and I don’t see why I should have to change it because it’s not gender-neutral enough.

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The ghost of a girl

I say it a lot, I think, but I am not the person I used to be.

I live in fear, in fact, of becoming the person I was: that I am still not enough different, that the miserable person I was is still who I am despite my efforts otherwise, that this newness is a fragile shell, thin candy coating over weaker chocolate that melts in the sun. My thoughts and feelings are a trifle suspect at the moment – I am in fact writing this because my new med dose has made me so groggy I can’t think my way to anything else – but this might be a fear I have to learn to live with. I am so much less anxious about many things of late – travelling after dark, meeting strangers, trying new things – which is amazing and something I don’t take for granted, but this anxiety might be forever with me. It’s scar-tissue, a burn healed: the skin is never quite the same as the unburnt skin that surrounds it and never will be. The scar will always be white and hairless, and I will always live with the ghost of who I was. I will always, I think, be a little afraid of that girl. That’s a sad and horrible thing to articulate in words, but it feels like my truth.

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