Been writing and rewriting this damn thing all day. Also going back and forth about actually posting it. And I’ll ask that you bear with me on this post. It’s relatively long (forgot how much is involved in discussing some of these things) and I’m reasonably certain that it’s coherent at this point. But I don’t think I have it in me to reread this another time right now before posting it.
So, without further ado:
Happy fucking new year, friends and strangers! It is now 2014! We are not yet dead in horribly apocalyptic fashion! This seems eminently like a win thus far.
Now, on to business:
Start a Revolution is currently open to submissions! And will be so through March 31st. I already have a few submissions in the inbox, which is very gratifying. It’s always nice when a project starts to feel more real. Which is something receiving subs for a book ably accomplishes.
I’m looking forward to all the subs, and to the expected variety of content. Going to be a fun time.
There will be posts talking about things in relation to both books. Posts covering different subjects, and relating to each book specifically. But those are for down the road. For now: Start a Revolution is open. Write me something for it. Then send that. If you use Duotrope and/or The (Submission) Grinder, please report your subs to them. Responses will roll out throughout the reading period.
And I’ve been thinking about a great many things in the runup to booting 2013 out the fucking door. Some of that has to do with the anthologies. Some of it has to do with other things. But thinking about the QUILTBAG anthologies led, rather directly, to other things.
See, the QUILTBAG anthologies are, in a very strange way, wrapped up with my own life. Which is absolutely hilarious from where I sit, since I didn’t pitch the books. Well, I did decide to split one book into two based on wanting to cover opposing, but complementary themes. But, originally, Michael Callaghan at Exile wanted to do an LGBT anthology through the press, Silvia Moreno-Garcia was generous enough to point Callaghan in my direction, and I leapt at the chance, because I thought it was an excellent idea. I love editing. And I wasn’t about to turn down a chance to put an anthology together.
I had not, at that point, considered all that that would entail, on a personal front.
And to give you some prep for the continuation of that point, I take you back, momentarily, to Michael Rowe’s 2013 Toronto launch for his most excellent novel, Wild Fell. (I’m a little biased as I work as an editorial assistant with ChiZine and so got to help work on Wild Fell late in its production cycle, but it’s an exquisite book nonetheless.) At said launch, Michael, in the midst of some wonderful acknowledgements and remarks, took the time to say some very generous things about me (probably overgenerous, actually, but lovely nonetheless and deeply appreciated). Part of which involved pointing out that I work very hard at being a ghost.
Now, that’s a common interpretation of my public persona, and in some ways inaccurate. So I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the assessment. I’m very uncomfortable in large groups, and I’m intensely private, so people tend to read my reactions to them in a milieu, or even just sometimes on first meeting, as passive, sometimes aloof, sometimes disinterested. I’ve had some very interesting and far-ranging readings and misreadings of my character. There are specific reasons behind why those misreadings occur, but we’ll not go into the bulk of that as it’s far more personal information than I want to cover here. And we’re already about to get very personal on a different front momentarily.
I’ve been lumping Michael’s comment in with the usual assortment of “seeks out detachment; uncomfortable with being better known” (conversely: I’m a writer and editor; of course I want people to acknowledge the things I’m involved in, and in turn, me) assessments that I tend to accrue. And, really, one doesn’t have to work at being a ghost at all. All one has to do is refrain from speaking, and the world won’t notice you’re there. I’ve been proving that for almost thirty years.
But, of course, Michael’s point, taken in the context of my editing the QUILTBAG anthologies, is absolutely right. I have worked very hard at perhaps not so much ghosting as being a chameleon regarding a specific facet of my life.
I’ve spent my almost thirty years contorting myself to fit under–to hide behind, really–the labels “het” and “cis.” Which meant letting people take me at face value; not questioning nor correcting assumptions; nor doing anything to convince them otherwise. But I’m very tired of doing that. And given that I am neither “het” nor “cis” it seems somewhat disingenuous to continue claiming those identities (to shield myself behind those conveniences and contrivances) given that I’m editing two books intended to promote inclusion of diverse identities.
I am, in point of fact, what is best described as pansexual, and genderqueer/genderfluid.
There’ve been times I’ve defaulted to the term “bisexual” in place of “pansexual,” because it’s just easier to talk about. But it’s not accurate. And in the end applying the term bisexual to myself ends up being just as much about trying to fit into a narrower spectrum than I actually occupy as continuing to claim heterosexual identity would be.
Now, I recognize that a number of people are going “Okay, but … I have no idea what either of those things you just said mean.” So let us cover briefly what in the holy hell I’m talking about (it’ll probably also help people writing something for the QUILTBAG anthos, so there’s that, too):
Pansexual means the capacity to be attracted to all people, regardless of sexual identity, gender (or non-gendered) identity, or gender (or non-gendered) expression.
Sexual orientation is an incredibly complicated landscape. As is the means and measure of describing attraction to sexual identity or characteristics. Being pansexual means being drawn, potentially, to any of the manifold sexual and gender (or non-gendered) identity variations.
The other terms mentioned above, genderqueer and genderfluid, are not static or fixed terms. They’re ways of saying “I do not identify with these binary gender identifications you are referring to me with.” And as statements or functions of self-identification genderqueer and genderfluid cover a lot of ground. Can, in fact, cover everything from “I don’t identify strictly as any gender” to “I identify as all binary and mixed genders,” and range everywhere in between.
Gender is a combined function of both internal and external definition. Some forms of gendered understanding of self require a translation from one gender to another to feel like one is in the right body. Others are about adopting characteristics of another gender. Still others are about ignoring gender altogether, or acknowledging a binary state. And, again, everything and anything in between. Gender, as a function of identity, is a deeply personal aspect of how we define “self.” Given how your particular society or culture views gender, adopting individual, non-standard, or non-binary gender identities may be much more difficult. Especially doing so publicly. But that doesn’t make your choice of lifestyle any less right for you. And absolutely no one but you gets to decide how you self-define.
Speaking to personal choices, my own use of the terms genderqueer/genderfluid is probably closer to the general use of “genderfluid,” relating to an understanding that I identify as multi-gender, being comfortable with aspects of male and female identity, but code strictly to neither.
Now, by birth I appear binary male, and I’ll ask you to bear in mind that even as I talk about this here I am well aware of the enormous privilege I partake of by being visibly, for all purposes of base appearance, not just male, but a white male–I’m mixed Scandinavian/Middle Eastern, actually, but my skin colour mirrors the Scandinavian heritage, being extremely pale–and that’s what people use as a base judgement.
I figured out I was genderqueer somewhere in my early teens. Possibly earlier. I don’t recall exactly when. It was more gradual realization than sudden revelation. And at that time I didn’t really have the language to dig terribly deep into the basis of solely male identification and alternatives as far as my own body and gender identity were concerned. Not back then. But I know I was entirely comfortable with the idea of living in either a male or female body from an early age. Spent a lot of time, on and off, thinking I’d much rather be in a female body. And also what the boundaries and definitions of both base gender choices actually mean, and mean to me specifically.
Still having that conversation. Always do. Always will. That’s the nature of gender identity–it’s an ongoing conversation, between you and you. And in my case it’s part and parcel of being genderfluid.
Incidentally, for those of you thinking “Wait, this means different pronoun use now, doesn’t it?” I will point out that I’m not particularly troubled by the application of which gender or non-gendered pronouns people use to talk to/interact with me.
If you’re not clear on alternate pronouns though, here’s a picture with several options (“sie,” “se,” and the set “zay/zir/zirs” among others, also fall under this rubric):
And re my statement and the above photo, please note that my choice as to pronoun indifference is specific to me. Please, please, respect whatever pronoun choices everyone makes. Do not hold me up as an example of “But this person doesn’t care if I still address them as default male” in order to invalidate how others choose to approach their identity. Case by case applications of pronouns, people.
Why don’t I care overmuch how you address me, despite my identification as genderfluid? I’m visibly male. And since I identify as multi-gendered, male is a part of that. I’m not offended if you refer to me as “Mr.” though it has always felt decidedly odd (and overly formal), and likely always will. Hell, the whole experience of talking about this still feels very weird to me, even now. That’s what I get for spending so long hiding behind other identities.
At some point I may end up deciding that I prefer a specific pronoun set. I don’t know. It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, really.
Though my indifference to my own pronouns at this moment does not translate to the anthologies:
I will ask that people be very careful and aware of how they ascribe structured pronoun usages in stories sent in for the QUILTBAG anthologies. Use the proper pronoun set for the proper situation. It’s an act of respect, and your stories are going to need to speak to and show respect for the characters you’re talking about or your story won’t get terribly far with me. This is especially important if you are writing about characters with gender or sexual orientations that are not your own, as it takes inordinately more work to write from outside your own experience and do it well.
I intend to create anthologies that allow people experiencing gender and/or sexual identity outside “heteronormative” boundaries (the kind the bulk of fiction, mainstream and otherwise, generally presents them with) to read about themselves; to see themselves represented in fiction. And to see other variations on “non-heteronormative” gender and sexual identity roles. To widen the lens, as it were.
Anthologies should do that. All fiction should, really. (And the best does.) It should allow space for discussion. Hell, the act of editing these has already created a space for me to talk about my own orientation. Something I still probably wouldn’t be doing without these books. Maybe the fact that they’re in the world will do that for other people, too. Give people space to talk about who they really are, and confidence to do so, by virtue of representation. That would be a hell of a win.
Because the wider conversation, be it about gender, orientation, class, race, and any other divide or variable background, needs to exist. Too much of the (Western certainly, others too) conversation right now is still taken up with white, straight, middle-class experience. With the great White North American, White European experience. The best books I have read in recent years shy away from these narratives; they approach other cultures, other racial identities, other gender and sexual bases for storytelling.
But that damn “old white male” bias, that ongoing colonialization, still seeps into global narratives. There are projects, anthology and otherwise, looking to redress that imbalance; that narrow, toxic focus. And my own will continue to mix things up. To give other voices room, and time, to talk. To add to an already vibrant, ongoing, multi-cultural, multi-racial, and open and inclusive, in terms of identity (be it gender and/or sexual), discourse.
We’ll see how well I can manage it with these anthologies. I’ll be relying as much on content as on the makeup of the contributors to do it, though I hope to make both work directly to giving voice to the wider narrative. And to marginalized voices, of all natures and origins.
It’s funny the kind of conversations you can start (or, really, contribute to) from a small seed; the kind of things that happen when you take on a personal project that speaks to the things you feel you, personally, can’t talk about. The things you haven’t been saying for the better part of three decades.
For me, labels like “het” and “cis” have been too convenient to hide behind. Too effective a way to deny myself. It’s been too easy to apply them to myself and in so doing stave off more difficult conversations. “Default” narratives, and assumptions about them, have a way of doing that; of obfuscating other conversations so completely you can stop even seeing the other narratives needing to be spoken.
But you know what? It’s a New Year. So fuck it. I’m so tired of hiding behind barriers of convenient and false nomenclature.
I’m pansexual and genderqueer/genderfluid.
May as well start 2014 by actually being myself, right?
In the end this post does not cover things as well as I would like. I am capable of being more erudite on these subjects, or at least evincing greater concision. And I feel I’ve failed a little bit at getting across the larger points I wanted to raise, or properly address. I suppose we’ll see what the reaction to this post is.
I’m also still a little punch-drunk with the act of putting this information in public. Intensely private, remember? But one of the functions of being an editor is giving people a place where they feel safe sending their work.
So, QUILTBAG authors, I give you a safe space by showing you who I am. By showing you that you are all welcome here. As is everyone else. Let these anthologies, this website, whatever forum there is to be had here, be an inclusive and welcoming place. A meeting place.
Let us see what we can, all of us together, make.
A final note for this post: When I sat down to write this post I was also planning on doing a 2013 roundup and some other things as well. But I think this post is long enough as is. And I’m really not interested in splitting the content at this point. So discussions of my writing and other publishing related things in 2013 will come in the next post. And I may at some point actually get around to a recommendation/highlight post of fiction from 2013. We’ll see.
In the meantime, enjoy the new year. And keep sending your stories and queries for Start a Revolution.