When I am Too Much

Recently, I had an essay published in one of my bucketlist magazines. See it here at The Offing. I have a story to tell y’all about publishing and what happens when you are in fact too much.

That essay came about because I was contacted by an editor I am familiar with and they asked if I could do a piece about race and gender. The first version of this essay was more dry. It lacked flavor to me and I felt like I was trying to engage too many things when this story was very enclosed to me. The original version had lukewarm feedback and the editor wanted more.

I did this version and to me this is it. I’ve been experimenting with trying to place more literary styled essays in not lit mags specifically. A successful example of that is here at Wear Your Voice.

Editor #1 had reservations. Some of their feedback:

  • I lead with fear of death as a Black Man
  • I refer to my masculine gender expression with a personified phrase “the boy”.

However, the most tap danced around feedback came down to the fact that this work doesn’t engage with gender in the way that they wanted. They wanted Sassy Black Queen and got Terrified Black Femme. The suggested edits stripped specific mention of Blackness to turn it into a #metoo piece without the connective tissue.

A story that is not mine.

I decided not to go further with that editor because the story they wanted was a pastel version of my story with a rainbow on it and not a memory and meditation on a real fear in my life.

I shopped the piece as it appears at The Offing around for a while. Most responses were lukewarm and boiled down to, yes this but not like this.

Much of the feedback was tentative and trying very hard not to say, this is way too Black while saying, this is way too Black. One editor said that they didn’t think it was broad enough. For a memoir based issue of a magazine. I read broad as relatable to White folks and I noped out. The feedback was never about the quality of the piece. Every editor said the work was solid, it was always related to my expression of Gender, Blackness and fear.

The problem here is this. If you are not a marginalized person and you are seeking work from marginalized people, insisting on “broader relatability” backfires. You won’t get authentic work. You won’t get the best work. If you can’t engage with things that aren’t strictly uplift, either mention it up front or don’t seek the work.

This is the same problem I talked about in this entry,  When in the Wear Your Voice piece I talk about being denied humanity, this is what I am talking about. I am talking about the idea that work from marginalized people must be palatable to whiteness is to deny us our humanity. When folks insist that, my story about gender expression and sexual harassment end on a more chipper note, that is a denial of what actually happened.

To demand this shiny version of someone, the happy ending, the creator is turned into a 2d version of themselves and that is erasure and it feels shitty. You can’t ask for the realness of talking about identity, and then say, no not like that. It just don’t work.

Back to the piece at the Offing. Chanda specifically told me they loved it and it made me cry. I’d put it on Etsy for a minute because y’all know that’s how I do. If I can’t sell a piece to a magazine I’ll do that. Or put it on Medium etc. Or tuck it away for later. Here’s the thing.

My experience with gender expression isn’t theirs and yet, they still enjoyed the work. I’ve heard from readers who are White cis folks who felt something and enjoyed the work. Some folks who read the piece thinking it would just be a nice read because they are not Black Femmes and found some part of themselves in the work.

And it is, what it is.

A note for editors.

If you want to feature or highlight marginalized folks, take what they give you. Don’t try and plasticize it or tone it down or make it nice for non marginalized folks to read. Be uncomfortable. Be willing to let your readership be uncomfortable because, isn’t that what art is.

That’s it for now.

 

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True Story time! Gender, Queer AND OMG BOOKS.

Hello friendos.

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.

Oh Boo.

Okay.

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.

Now how about some things?

I wrote some stuff about gender.

Find my amazon list (I will add more) of stuff I was reading/have read since.