“It keeps you reminded, helps you remember where you come from.”

(TW: transphobia)

Turn the volume up.

This song has been stuck in my head since I read this essay (h/t Devin Singer). It’s not quite my brand of fucked, but I recognize a kinship.

It’s a great song, and then, from the essay, in characteristic all-caps, to contextualize it:

LIKE DIRE STRAITS, THE VOICE SINGING IS NOT THE ONE “TELLING” ALL THESE HORRIBLE THINGS, THE VOICE IS ILLUMINATING THE OPPOSING VIEWPOINT. THE SINGER OF THE SONG IS ONE LAURA JANE GRACE, WHO HAPPENED TO BE BORN THOMAS JANE GABEL. AND AS SHE SINGS, IT’S CLEAR SHE’S NOT ACTUALLY SAYING THOSE THINGS, SHE IS SAYING THE THINGS THAT ARE SAID TO HER. THE “YOU” IS THE “I.” AND THE REASON IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR HER TO DO SO IS BECAUSE IT ALLOWS HER TO SHOW THE IMMEDIACY OF THAT CRUDE VIEWPOINT. SHE IS NOT GOING THROUGH THE FILTER OF HER OWN FEELINGS OR PERSONAL VIEW, SHE IS NOT GOING TO JUST SPEAK FOR HERSELF IN FIRST PERSON; SHE IS SHOWING A HORRIFIC VIEWPOINT AROUND HER IN THE CLEAREST VIEW, IN THEIR WORDS THEMSELVES. AND WHAT’S MORE IS THAT THE MERE ABILITY TO SAY “YOU” ALSO ALLOWS HER TO REACH OUT TO OTHERS, TO AN AUDIENCE, TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER SAW THEMSELVES AS THE KIND OF SUBJECT OF THIS SONG, AND PERSONALIZES IT IN AN IMPORTANT WAY.

IT MAKES THEM COMPLICIT IN THE REALITY SHE FACES.

What I’m Reading, Queer-Friendly Haunted House Fantasy YA Novella Edition

okatsu onsen anu

…or at least that was how Tam described Onsen.

I should back up. Tam is a friend and classmate from Viable Paradise, and maybe a few months ago she tweeted that she had a book out, which was Onsen, and which she described as “a queer-friendly haunted house fantasy YA novella.”  I was intrigued, and the cover was remarkably self-confident, so I picked it up, and enjoyed it.

Once I finished it, I discovered that it was part of a series, which made a couple of the things which had surprised me about it less surprising. I went back and picked up Okatsu, which filled in some gaps.  And I saw going over to grab cover images that Anu is now out (yay!), so that’s on its way to my Kindle.  I am not much one for series, so that alone should be read as high praise.

In terms of technical skill they’re quite well-done.  I can’t speak too much to the veracity of the setting or the characters in the context of historical Japan, but Tam writes both with compassion and a good eye for detail.

The books also fill a great need of mine for smart comfort fiction.  (In fact I read about half of Onsen in the ER waiting room at 4 AM—everyone is fine, but taking a friend to the ER is never any fun—and it was exactly what I wanted.)  I have serious trouble turning my brain off, and here I didn’t have to, but I was also able to relax enough to enjoy the books without needing to dissect them, and that’s a rare thing for me lately.  They are pleasant reading.

Tam does a good job with the central queer relationship.  I’ve been mulling a bit over why I relate to some depictions and not others, and I think part of it might be tied up in that lack of demonstrativeness I was mentioning.  Jao and Masahiro are conscious of how they are performing their relationship in a way that I recognize.

Also Tam is now serializing a novel in the same setting but with different characters (so far) over on her Tumblr. (Here is the first post.)

Very much recommended.

(And the cover design! So excellent! I want to hire her cover artist.)

Okatsu (ebook; paper; Amazon)
Onsen (ebook; paper; Amazon)
Anu (ebook; paper; Amazon)

“They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world”

This apartheid of literature — in which characters of color are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery but are never given a pass card to traverse the lands of adventure, curiosity, imagination or personal growth — has two effects.

One is a gap in the much-written-about sense of self-love that comes from recognizing oneself in a text, from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed and even celebrated. Academics and educators talk about self-esteem and self-worth when they think of books in this way, as mirrors that affirm readers’ own identities. I believe that this is important, but I wonder if this idea is too adult and self-concerned, imagining young readers as legions of wicked queens asking magic mirrors to affirm that they are indeed “the fairest of them all.”

The children I know, the ones I meet in school visits, in juvenile detention facilities like the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Maryland, in ritzy private schools in Connecticut, in cobbled-together learning centers like the Red Rose School in Kibera, Nairobi — these children are much more outward looking. They see books less as mirrors and more as maps. They are indeed searching for their place in the world, but they are also deciding where they want to go. They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world, of their relationships to others, of their possible destinations.

From the New York Times (also).

You can see me here engaged in the same thing.

I’ve found very few maps where my part of the world is marked with any legend more sage than “Here There Be Dragons.”

Best Bi Short Stories

Best Bisexual Short Stories

Just a quick bit of signal boosting: Circlet Press is running a Kickstarter to finance Best Bi Short Stories, an anthology of bisexual literary fiction edited by Sheela Lambert. It’s coming out from Circlet’s Gressive Press imprint, who published the Scheherezade’s Facade anthology I blogged about last year, and are dedicated to “sex-positive fiction that celebrates life outside the big ‘binary’ categories of gay/straight, male/female.”

I’m a bit selfishly unhappy that they’re not taking open submissions — because I think I’ve written some pretty good bisexual fiction, dangit — but I’ve backed the anthology anyway. In general anything which proves or grows the market is a win for all of us, and past evidence from Circlet and Gressive suggests it will be a very good book.

Go back it! That way we all can read it.

(For open submissions, I’ll have to wait for the promised 2015 Queers Destroy Science Fiction, set to be guest-edited by Seanan McGuire.)

“What’s a gay guy doing editing a bisexual anthology, anyway?”

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I ran into this on Kickstarter and it really struck a chord with me. From the Anything That Loves: Comics Beyond Gay and Straight Kickstarter page:

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER

While I was on the phone with Matt, talking about the gay and straight people that had such a problem believing he was a bisexual man, I had something of an epiphany.

Some of the people in this study I read about in the Times, it occurred to me, could well be gay, but wasn’t it more likely that most were bisexual? Think about it; why would someone cling to the myth of “it’s a choice” unless they really felt, deep down, that they had to make one?

Could the refusal to accept the existence of bisexuality be the major obstacle to ending homophobia altogether?

I’d always felt really removed from the concept of bisexuality; I’d been supportive of them and their challenges, but they felt like another letter in the list, another smaller category, banding together with us in the battle, out of necessity.

Now I was faced with the prospect that our failures as a gay community and as a broader culture to more fully embrace bisexual people could be actively hurting all of us.

With that realization, I knew I had to change my thinking about the binary nature of sexuality, and rethink the oppositional nature of my gay identity. I had to find a way to welcome everyone who would embrace queer people as sisters and brothers, and tear down the divisions that hurt us and the people we care about.

Why does it say “I’m just this queer guy who occasionally writes science fiction, y’know?” instead of “I’m just this bisexual guy who occasionally writes science fiction, y’know?” in the “About Me” section in the sidebar on the right? Because I feel like there’s a queer identity where there’s not really a bisexual identity, and if I’m trying to explain myself to people it’s a hell of a lot easier if I frame it the first way. There are yet more complicated ways to say it — “I’m a bisexual guy who’s in a monogamous relationship with a guy,” “I’m a bisexual guy who’s been in a monogamous relationship with another guy for about a year, but dated girls before that,” etc. I don’t know which of those identities is the “true” me, so I smash it all up and stick the label “queer” on it and that mostly works. I really wish that there were something more like a bisexual identity — it was something I went in search of which I still haven’t found. In the mean time, eh, “queer” works, but I’m excited to see other people exploring the same space.

The comics look awesome, and I’ve backed at the level to get the T-shirt too, because that’s pretty much how I feel about it.

“Cassandra Clare, how do you deal with your religious values and more specifically expressing LGBT in your writing?”

This post by Cassandra Clare is one of the best — most honest, personal, and insightful — things I’ve read about queerness and religion in a long time. Addressing a (young, perhaps) correspondent who asks the above question, Ms. Clare talks a bit about the negative reactions people who write to her have to the fact that her works include LGBT characters, and how they rationalize that inclusion to themselves with her apparent religiousness. Then she says…

There is more, but these strange, involved explanations for why I do what I do come, I believe, from people not able to understand that to me, there is no conflict between my morals and values and including gay and lesbian relationships (not just characters — a gay character who has no on-page relationship is a character whose romantic life is a shadow life: not normative, but hidden) in my fiction. Including gay and lesbian characters and relationships is part of my values. I would feel I was abandoning my morals if I didn’t do it even though it may mean damaging my sales.

To return to addressing the original letter: I think it sounds like you are finding yourself in a place where you are beginning to question aspects of what you have been taught. That is a good thing, and does not make you a bad Christian or person of faith. There are many Christians who have examined their faith and found that it does not in fact conflict with believing that being gay is not a sin, and that gay rights are a value. Befriend those folks, and find out where they are coming from.

There’s more. It’s all good.