I haven’t posted for a while because my life is still pure chaos and I am not moved and yeah…shit is a lot.
Recently a wee Babby Queer asked me how on earth I found information about Queerness and Gender before the Internet.
Some of these will be evil empire affiliate links because your host is a bitch that gotta eat.
Let’s talk about what had happened.
As a baby potato, I realize looking back I did not buy the concept of there only being Boys and Girls. The extent of my understanding was this. Way back in the 80s I remember seeing a man in half man/half woman drag on TV and I thought he was the most perfect human to ever exist. Man? Woman? Both? I thought both and perfect.
That was it. I didn’t feel the need to think about my own gender multiplicity, it just was how I was and it was fine.
What started me questioning the fluctuating nature of my gender was my taste in books. To be real about it, when I was in high school I started reading a lot of very dirty books. If it was even Queer Baity, I was into it. At one point when I was 19 or so, I realized that as a reader, I identified with varying gendered people in those stories. In my fantasies (wank file) sometimes I was the virginal girl, I was the rent boy, I was the big dirty daddy and it felt the most natural to me.
I read a lot of real filthy gay smut. I emulated those writers and I read gay fiction and I remember in particular finding Kate Bornstein’s book Gender Outlaws- y’all. Shit fucked me up. Until the day I found that book in a Gay owned bookstore where I’d been introduced to Dennis Cooper and Carol Queen and Patrick Califa and the amazing porn magazine On Our Backs and sex work and all of these things exploded my understanding of how I perceived not only my own gender but that of others.
My mind was blown.
There were OTHERS.
Gender as I experienced it wasn’t some weird delusion or fetish. It took me a long time to understand that but, the list of books linked below is absolutely a big part of that. Remember I’m old y’all. I had no google, no tumblr or twitter. I had books. Books I skipped eating to buy. Books that were so precious to me I couldn’t share them with others.
Like most things in my life, it started with books. With me realizing that while yeah there’s some weird shit happening in my head, I wasn’t/am not alone.
Now this is why I am so strident about representation. Because I was a lonely baby potato and even through the sheer Whiteness of the stuff I was reading, I saw I wasn’t alone. Those early books gave me the courage to find those people in meatspace. I gravitated towards other queers, transfolks, genderqueer folks who also didn’t know the term genderqueer.
Learning that beyond the canon of the Western everything, there were and are genders beyond a prescribed binary blessed me.
This post is brought to you by me having to navigate the Default and Correctness of Whiteness in my literary life this week.
A few things.
I’m very low on spoons. I will not link to any of the trash I discuss, you’ll have to google first. Also if you don’t know what I mean by default Whiteness, or Whiteness as a concept and destructive construct, do not comment and be mad. Either google or go watch this puppy video cause shit is about to get real.
There are a few articles going around that are anti-sensitivity reader and I’ve been involved with three very distinct (as in zero overlap) conversations about it with White people who have all made the same assertions that sensitivity editors/readers are:
Looking to profiteer off of censorship.
Will change the voice of the original author.
Don’t know what they are doing.
Are “forcing” identity politics into writing.
Are actively trying to as a whole rook poor White people out of money basically.
AGAIN for the cheap seats. Some things are censorship other things are not. Things that are not censorship*:
Being told no.
Being critiqued and dare say I fucking DRAGGED and publicly read for filth due to writing, editing or publishing fuckshit.
Being told that you’ve written, said, produced or published something actively harmful.
Being called an asshole (taken from a real comment to me by someone RE: the Paris Review post/s I made way back).
Not being given primacy in writing about a thing.
These are things that come up constantly in my lit life. Most of the time cries of censorship begin when White authors feel threatened by POC talking to them about their use of their Whiteness when it is a problem.
By that I mean things like, saying hey just because you can write about something, doesn’t automatically make yours the voice. This is what I was talking about in this entry. And in saying it, I spent months being harassed and often the first “criticism” was that I a writer am pro censorship because I said they could have used the opportunity to feature a Black Poet during such a time of historic Black action.
Here’s the thing. I am against censorship. Censorship as enacted by religious concerns and the government.
Publishing is not magic, it doesn’t happen by vote and publishing companies are not the government. Nobody is entitled to publishing. Nobody is entitled to be the primary voice on an issue just because they can talk.
I go on at length about this because over the past, let me be generous and say five years specifically, it is only White people who apparently lose all ability to think critically and if I a Black person, dare to correct or instruct them, or even just talk about Weaponized Whiteness (and by extension using Whiteness as both Correctness and the Default) suddenly, it is censorship. That is not how censorship works.
Now in the context of a sensitivity reader, the conversations I was a part as if the very idea that they, Paragons of Correct Whiteness they were, could ever fuck up writing something.
Okay look. I fully believe that you and everyone else in the world can write what the fuck they want, when the fuck they want.
I also believe that is you say, write a children’s book that portrays a slave child as a happy little worker yeah, you deserve to get dragged.
Now, what amuses and frustrates me in these things is the assurance that oozes from the assertions of how terrible “identity politics” are and how, if only those people could see, Whitey Whitepants writer didn’t mean to write a racist polemic that would give Lovecraft a boner, GOSH.
Of COURSE a White writer or a straight writer etc who is trying to create or delve into the world of marginalized peoples is going to likely not always do a bang up job. No wait let me put it into a different context.
If you are a nerd like me, you probably see stuff in TV or movies are like, WHO THE FUCK GREENLIT THIS SHIT, THAT IS NOT HOW THAT WORKS…
That’s reasonable right? It’s reasonable to expect that something presented as a professional thing, was researched beyond wiki.
So why would it be any different than writers who are writing say Black folks in their stories to check in with real live Black people to see if they are doing things wrong?
If your voice is so fragile as an author, it can’t withstand something like:
Hey Whitey Whitepants writer, here in chapter 4 you have X character seeming to have an “urban” meltdown calling the one Black character homie over and over again and doing their MTV showed me what Negroes be doin schtick and it is not great for these reasons:
That is how it works. This is a professional service, that is not designed to censor or ruin your precious work. It’s to help you uncenter yourself and your experience and have a moment to connect with your readership on a far deeper level.
The other problem I have is this.
Aside from perambulating around for about 40 years in a Black Queer body, I have been studying, writing about, talking about, dealing with racism for about that long. Depending on who I’m talking to, sometimes (as y’all know if you read me regularly) I use very academic language, sometimes I don’t. I code switch like a mother fucker.
That said, for the last two weeks or so here’s how those conversations have gone. Without rancor on my part.
Person posts link to shitty article about the terrors of Sensitivity readers/editors or posts a link to a blog post by a semi famous White lady writer: OMG They are going to censor us and ruin our work! How terrible! We can’t stand for this.
Me: That is not what sensitivity readers/editors are for. They do (insert examples of stuff they do) nobody -has to use them- dude you’re fine.
Random other White people: fall all over each other to “correct” me (not that they use or have acted as sensitivity readers), explain to me how having this option is automatically censorship, how it is an attempt to co-opt or otherwise fool innocent White writers into being SUPER PC.
Me: ………..no it is just like asking an expert in a field you’re writing in.
Them: NO IT IS NOT.
The problem isn’t the arguments. The problem is that even in instances where I am/have shared my work/thoughts on these things, Whiteness is always given the immediate trust that they are correct. Even when they are loudly proclaiming something that is dead ass wrong.
Then, regardless of what I say or how it is said, it takes another White person to come along and occasionally repeat what I’ve said verbatim and then, OH WOW I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THAT WAY.
I’ve spoken with MANY poc about this. 90% of the time, we are thought to be wrong. People say things like: knee jerk, bullying, mean, trying to “turn” someone PC, that we’re silencing, pro-censorship.
If the people speaking up happen to be Black women, the language is carefully not overtly racist but, the impression is always either that Black women are mean and aggressive or liars or otherwise are the perpetrators of violence even when what’s actually happened is that folks have been given some high level major education on anti-Blackness.
Intent and impact are vastly different and White folks, men especially if your first instinct is to “prove” someone wrong, maybe it’s time to examine that. More so if part of your remarks are to say that you don’t actually know about the thing and don’t use it.
Now, I could have posted this in the spaces I was talking about but it is easier for me to leave them. As I’ve said many times in the last year, y’all I have written about this shit so fucking much. And you know what the actual worst thing is?
It’s not the Default and Correct Whiteness.
It is the fact that it doesn’t matter how I talk about these things, because I am Black and use words, I’m put into the ANGRY NEGRO corner and then White folks who don’t like what I have to say can be like, oh well you’re so angry I can’t listen to this/take it in.
Tone policed to fucking death.
And I’m not mad. It’s painful.
It hurts to be dismissed out of hand because White is Right.
It hurts because writing and literature have been my driving passions since I read a book about a pregnant dog when I was 3 years old. It is my blood and my bones. It gets me through bullshit ass days at my dayjob. It has led me to meeting some of the most important and most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life. It has led me to my chosen family and to a place in my actual soul that feels free. It is my passion and my companion and the work of my heart and I love it so much.
And my love of literature and writing is the only reason why I keep talking about these things. I don’t try to change shit I don’t care about.
And yet, all this passion and there have been moments where I’ve literally said hey, person you are causing me harm right now or I’ve said that I’m hurt and you know what?
I’m not a White woman so White folks are relentless. Harm to me doesn’t exist because I’m always perceived as angry, aggressive and scary.
And after so many years of trying so hard to be a good literary citizen and use my knowledge about these issues to help- I’m just kinda done.
This entry wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a migraine and need to keep my brain busy at work and I needed to get out some hurt without yelling at folks.
The take is this.
When used as the only measure of calm, competency Whiteness will fail. Not only will it fail but in the context of the literary community, will drive folks out and if that’s the point hurrah! If that’s not the intended consequence, then think about how you interact with POC before you decide they are wrong about the thing you don’t even know about.
*There are times when these behaviors are rooted in the spirit of censorship and are actual censorship as in done by the government but we’ll talk about that later.
I’ve been sitting on some news for a while now and I am so excited to announce that my first poetry book has been born and will be available for purchase at the solstice.
I’m so pleased to be published by Lark Books. Come see the page here,
I don’t know what kind of fairy poet magic I expected but writing this book was so hard.
Also these poems are different from the work I’ve been producing for the last couple of years. They are actually intensely personal and not the purposefully intimate seeming but about other Femmes and women work I’ve been doing. I’m going to be writing about the work and the process a bit.
I talk about gender, love, my body, my fears. Everything.
There are so many things I don’t know how to do surrounding books I’m probably going to whine a lot.
I’m scared shitless but yanno…imma roll with it.
OH I have officially relaunched my Self Care Like a Boss Blog. You can read here on wordpress or at tumblr.
I’m teaching myself how to write about literature. I’ve got that Jt Leroy related thing going and I’ve got a response piece going about something I saw on Lithub.
I’m not publishing a whole lot but I am working on creating some shit that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
Brand new stuff is up at Patreon and I’ll have a post about what is going to happen in the Daiyuverse.
First up, please enjoy a little video of me reading my story The Beloved of Colel Cab you may need to crank the volume, my new phone isn’t the greatest for video but here you go. Feel free to share it, like it, subscribe to my youtube channel. I will have more lit vids coming.
If you’d like a copy to read or read along (I am working on a good transcript) click here it is available as a free post at my Patreon.
I have some new self-care stuff coming. Emergency stuff.
I have a new piece of work a prose-poem thing on Ink Node.
I am very well and truly out of spoons and this is what I know how to do. This is what I can give to my community. Some things from my heart that might be a bit of a respite.
I also offer up the pieces on self-care I wrote a while back and put on Medium. Take them and share them if you know folks who need them. Here and Here.
Okay first read this storify of some tweets from the other day.
A few weeks ago after yet another shitty interaction with some fellow “professional” writers, I was musing to my partner Uniballer that they pretend to be so clean but I see through them. I told him that it was/is easier to deal with fuckin dirty ass hood people, than it is with them.
We got to talking about how for me, dealing with pimps, dealers, gangsters and other criminals is just easier. When I deal with those people, we can establish a boundary and 90% of them I have ever dealt with have respected it.
Dealing with some of these writing world, people feels like they are trying to turn me out in the way that pimps did when I was 16. I remember one in particular who would alternately tell me how smart and beautiful I was and then would tell me how nobody else could do for me what he could do for me.
Cue emails/contact from people who offer me “opportunities” which, when we get down to brass tacks means me doing the heavy lifting and them giving me a chance to do a lot of work, get seen maybe and not get paid.
Then there are the (always men) like the one who approach me with some weird Daddy type issues. They always offer to show me the error of my ways, it has happened a million times. I know it has happened to other writers, some of us it happens in college or for me it started happening the first time i went to a writing class taught by an older dude.
There is always an air that they have the answers to make you a better writer, to help catapult you from kinda good scribbler with nice tits to their Lolita brilliant protege ingenue.
Don’t get it twisted, if you want to do that. Do you boo. For real. Do it.
However, I personally don’t. Even way back when at that first writing class in the moments after the glow of this learned fairly handsomish Daddy/Humbert type told me how much potential I had, I got it.
What makes me so angry I rant on twitter like that (or if you know me, I do it in person as well) is I don’t have time for this fucking bullshit. Like, I’m not stupid. I see you mother fucker and no. And don’t keep trying once I say no.
Inevitably, these people who want to take up my damn time, who want to use me as a resource and a way to say OMG LOOK AT DIS NEGRO WE GOT, and AND who are trying to use me as fap material or fuck me, not one of them wants to pay.
As I have been known to say many times, this ePussy ain’t free.
You want to fulfill some Daddy/Humbert fantasy shit? Pay me 25$ a page and I will write you some self insert smut that will spin your fucking head around. But, the essential bit here is:
Short of that, I ain’t fuckin with you.
Not to mention the level of entitlement and privilege it takes to then be offended when I SEE what you’re doing and call you on your bullshit?
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I used to work graveyard shift. Every morning I’d get downtown about 6:20 AM and I’d head into a restaurant and have breakfast. I got the same thing every time. Four slices of bacon, two biscuits, one fried egg. That’s all I could afford. I usually sat at the counter and read while I ate because the first back to my neighborhood didn’t come until around 8 and I usually took the 8:45 bus because it was less crowded.
I met a prostitute and we would eat together. We talked hair and nails and how tricks were. Eventually she introduced me to her Pimp and when she stopped working mostly, I had breakfast with him. At the beginning he was grooming me to turn me out. I knew it. I allowed it to reel out a little bit before I let him know in no uncertain terms that we weren’t gonna be fuckin, if I was gonna work it would be for myself and naw.
After that, for months we had a decent relationship. Every now and again he’d pitch me on being his newest in his stable, it became a joke. He taught me how to drink bourbon, he gave me a bottle for my birthday and stuff. I went to his birthday party and her birthday party. It was fine.
I knew he was shady. I knew he was up to no good, but he didn’t try to rook me into thinking otherwise.
Unlike these fucking men who bother me.
At one point in my twitter rant, I thought of something I’d seen my homie Kitty Stryker say and you can buy the shirt here.
It says, I want to fuck the privilege, right out of you.
Yes, I want to.
I mean, if dick is a cure all, I have a big dick and I will travel. Like if we presume that these dudes are right and dick is a cureall, I have experience. I will brag and say that once upon a time I very good cocksman. Like I will try to fuck the privilege RIGHT the fuck out of you.
Just saying. I know where the prostate is and I’m a fair but firm Daddy. You want to play Daddy, I know how to be your Daddy.
But as always, fuck you pay me. I am legit too fucking poor to even be thinking about all this.
For our purposes here today I’m gonna use this definition of spec fic from wikipedia:
Speculativefiction is a broad umbrella category of narrative fiction referring to any fiction story that includes elements, settings and characters whose features are created out of human imagination and speculation rather than based on attested reality and everyday life. That encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism.
If you’ve read me for a while, you know this is an area I love to live and play in. Also, please read this.
My own experiences mirror a lot of those N.K. Jemison talks about. When I was a wee baby writer, I did not allow my Blackness in my work in a lot of ways. From the writing perspective my earliest lessons both overt and not were like so:
Anything involving Black characters would likely not be “believable” if they weren’t hood caricatures or portraits of racial uplift. That cut across all the genres I like to work in.
Blackness regardless of subject matter, genre, etc is often treated as a wee tiny box where ALL the Black stories must go.
I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find all the links. There is a problem when as a writer, you do your due diligence and study the places you are submitting. For me personally if I go back more than 5 or so issues and see no POC or if the masthead headshots are all White men, if the stories are all in one vein under the guise of aesthetics and “goodness” those are not places I’m going to feel welcome.
A problem I (and I’ll venture to guess a lot of POC and especially Black authors) run into every now and then is when White editors are very obviously uncomfortable with Blackness or anything not White centric. Often this isn’t anything blatant, it can be felt in email exchanges where an editor doesn’t understand a phrase that isn’t “proper English”, or suggestions to do certain things (in my case it was an Orisha) more “mainstream”. The suggestion was to change the goddess/Orisha in this story to Aphrodite or, you know, a White one. Being questioned about not italicizing my Spanish. Being questioned about how “unlikely” (in a firmly spec fic story) it would be to have the protagonist be a little Black girl.
The first story I referenced, was published at Expanded Horizons and was my first publication in a spec fic magazine. That story (I just went a looked) was rejected 15 times. There was one nibble of interest, but the editor backed off when I said I would not rewrite to make it a Euro/White story.
The next story isn’t really spec fic (though my inspiration was) but the tiniest bit of unitalicized Spanish made it “difficult for most readers”. (I can’t get to youtube but go there and search Daniel Jose Older and Italicized Spanish, it’s worth it)
The last story (it was Pushcart nominated) was rejected 16 times. The first nibble of interest, I spent about two weeks going back and forth with an editor who couldn’t see or understand how a little Black girl who is a shapeshifter would ever exist in a world where there are shapeshifters. This person also mentioned how my names for my creatures, Children of Apep, Daughter of Sekhmet etc would be too “esoteric” for “most” readers. I actually went back to read the exchange. Yes, references to Egyptian gods/esses as the names of shapeshifters is too “esoteric”. My references to Hyena and Crow were “not really relatable”.
For a lot of years, this is what I had to wade through when submitting so as I’ve mentioned before I just stopped.
This isn’t exclusive to spec-fic. The problem of overwhelming whiteness is one of literature in general. For me, the constancy of the racism in lit has just been exhausting. When I decided to start writing genre fiction again, I again found myself being unable to bear interacting with the community, reading fan stuff etc because shit always gets real racist real quick.
These are many of the reasons why I started self pubbbing my genre fiction. These are many of the reasons I stopped reading genre fiction too.
For the cheap seats. As a White person in a position of power in the lit world, you can’t just say you’re all for inclusion and diversity if you can’t demonstrate it. Words in this matter are useless. You have to act. As I’ve said many times before, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that using Whiteness as the measure for what is “good” is a problem. Even if you don’t mean it.
Understand that there will be things and elements of work that don’t resonate with you and that is okay.
You have to do the work or you’re part of the problem here.
There are SO many easy ways to find authors of color to approach to feature their work, editors you can talk to. It’s not that fucking hard. It is 20 mother fucking 16. You probably have a computer in your pocket.
Listen to what POC have to say.
Read work by POC.
If you are totally into inclusion, be that shit. Don’t just say it. Do it. Do the work.
If you’re a reader. Find the stories and books. Buy them, read them, check them out at the library, talk about them.
As a creator of things, I’d also like to say this.
Stop pretending that the statistics are shocking. Stop it. We all know racism is a real thing and permeates everything. Including literature. Including speculative fiction. Including SF and horror and everything else. Stop. White folks, you are not helpless here. There are tons and tons of articles, stories, etc. written by and about POC so maybe start reading them.
Behold first a list of places I’ve been rejected from in the last few years. These culled from my Submittable (OH sidebar: if you ever need help with your Submittable account their CS is FUCKING STELLAR. Like really great.) account.
So if you get through that, you’ll see some repeats. Places that are in my mind big swing and miss type submissions.
I’ve been reflecting about the process lately since I don’t submit on such a rigorous schedule anymore.
I was reading something about rejections and I frankly refute the idea that it is always the writer.
The thing is that if you are writing from a perspective or about marginalized people in a way that is not the accepted (generally when it decenters Whiteness, heteronormativity, etc etc) there is an uphill battle, whether people who are closer to acceptable want to recognize it as part of the process or not.
After doing the submission thing and research things and reading thousands upon thousands of pages of what journals/mags publish, the struggle is real. I look over this little rejection list and this one from my race to 100, there are some I can point to as having probably been based on how I was telling stories about Black folks or Queer folks, rather than just my shitty writing.
Of course, there are times when I look back and cringe because things can always be better, tighter, more perfect, etc.
However, after going back through a lot of that work (and many of those pieces found homes eventually) and looking at the language in a lot of rejections (not just from this list but over a ten year period) I can say that I’ve seen some patterns and the patterns have fit in with my research.
Here is where I invite editors to pay some full attention, marginalized writers too:
If I go through say five back issues of your thing and I see no POC, no stories about anyone other than White people in whatever form, I’m 99% sure if I submit a story about POC/other marginalized people you won’t take it. I often envision the, we love your work, but no fit yadda yada. For me, over the years, this has been a thing a lot.
If you have words like diversity, inclusion or anything related and you haven’t done the work in your previous however many issues, see #1.
If I’ve been reading and following your thing and you have a few POC or other marginalized folks and tend to only publish certain types of narratives, whether fictional or not, or the only POC you interview fall into a few distinct categories, see #1.
One of the habits that has been ingrained in me since I was a wee baby writer age 19 in 1996 carefully copying addresses out of the back of Poets&Writers, I read where I want to be. At one point after I had my own computer (I think I got my first one in like 2001?) I had dozens of pages of individual notes on publications. I transcribed them from PW, from websites, from notebooks. I had a system. I spent two months writing like a motherfucker as much as humanly possible, I spent a month editing everything and then a month submitting.
This habit has remained with me, though I have learned to use trackers (GODS damn I wish someone had told me to do that back then) and figured myself out in terms of the truth of what I do, I’ve learned to read more closely and that is how I’ve figured out my system for parsing rejections and figuring out where to submit.
There have been times where I’ve spoken with editors, I can think of a few who really went to bat for me because I did not fit their standard narratives. That is gratifying.
Experience informs how I deal with my rejections.
In this phase of my writing life, I’m not as interested in trying to blaze trails.
I’ve got a big fucking mouth and I do indeed talk a lot of shit and occasionally name names. I’ve decided that rather than hold that in, I’m letting it out. I’m sure that will cause me rejections over time. It’s fine.
I realized during AWP and some subsequent interactions with lit world folks that I just don’t have the energy or mental health reserves to be one of the brick wall busting types.
I’ve hit fuck it.
I’ve figured out that I feel okay being a terrible self-published author.