On Spite and other Things that Empower Me

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

I’ve spent a lot of my life doing things out of spite.

Spite is what made four-year-old me very much complicit in my then twelve-year-old aunt’s ploy to steal our neighbor’s rabbit, determined to save him from becoming stew. (Our neighbor totally caught on, but apparently our rabbit-stealing caper impressed him enough to let us keep the rabbit--we named him Peter. And no, Peter wasn’t the first, nor was he the last animal Tiny Me would steal--or bring to Kindergarten show and tell. My Kindergarten teachers were NOT impressed.)

Spite is what motivated fourteen-year-old me to become highly politicized and march against Neo Nazis in my German hometown. Spite also prompted an at the time probably questionably impulsive move to the U.S. but spite also helped me push through the mess that is immigration, paired with probably some of the hardest and most toxic times of my life.

It makes sense then, that spite is what prompted me to keep writing sweary queer science fiction, even after all the uncomfortable looks I got whenever people asked me what I wrote when I first started on this journey more than ten years ago. Spite kept my spine straight and my head high when I walked out of the intro session of an advanced fiction writing class in college when my professor told me to “consider what will offend your audience and don’t write that.” My professor followed that up with how she specifically didn’t want to see any “homosexuality, violence, or other vulgarity like that.” I still remember what it like to stand up after that and leave a crowded classroom, fully aware that everyone’s eyes where on me, when I stood up and said, “In that case, I suppose my very existence isn’t something you want to see in this class, so I hereby withdraw.”

I don’t remember what my professor said in response, because I was too busy getting the hell out of that room so I could fall apart and have a panic attack in the privacy of my car instead of in front of a packed classroom. At this point I very much like my sexuality, my identity, my writing, were an affront to everyone around me. Frankly, it was a shitty feeling and a personal low point that to this day motivates me as a writer, a teacher, and a person to do better.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Fortunately things changed. I kept going. I kept writing. I found supportive professors, friends, and a writing community who all get just how important representation of all kinds is not just to marginalized folk, but to everyone whose perspectives are expanded by unapologetic representation that transcends the pages it is printed on. Spite is what kept me moving forward when it was all I had to lean on.

But finding myself represented on the pages of queer books, finding people who not only felt similarly about representation and inclusion as I did, but also challenged and expanded my perspectives was a game changer. It truly made me realize how important being unapologetic about what we write, what we are, is. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us, because this shit has a ripple effect and you never know who might be having an existential panic attack in their car and needs your voice, your words, right the hell now.

So, whenever someone asks me why representation and inclusivity is important in writing, as well as all areas of being alive, my answer is simple: because no one should ever tell you you don’t belong. Because everyone does. And everyone can do better if they’re just willing to push on. If spite is what it takes, fine.

But it’s when spite turns into empowerment and community that magic happens. So, let’s all be a little magically spiteful today, whether it’s by saving rabbits from the stew pot, standing up to bigoted professors, or simply writing your resistance. Do the thing. And tell us all about it.

Oh, and yes, after what my professor told me, I resolved to write one hella gay, vulgar, and violent book. That book is Empire of Light and it comes out one week from now.

I think I win.