2018 Roundup: The Inside-Out Shit-Sandwich

If I had to sum up 2018 in one GIF, this would probably be it:

Ryan Reynolds Holy Fucking Shit! GIF by tenor

Ryan Reynolds Holy Fucking Shit! GIF by tenor

And yes, that covers pretty much both the good and the bad. Still, you’re still here, and so am I, and that’s definitely something to celebrate, given how this year went. I was thinking about what the best way to do a roundup of the wild rollercoaster that 2018 has been would be, and after much deliberation settled on the Shit Sandwich. You know, the idea that when giving feedback, you layer the bad between slices of good, so that you don’t come across as a totally pretentious asshole who is out to ruin nice things for everybody (seriously, don’t be that person.)

Anyway, 2018 was a bit more like an Inside-Out Shit-Sandwich, or, as one of my best friends likes to call it…kind of yummy-yucky. Here’s your rundown:

This is me pre-morphine, which MAY have been my first ever experience with strong pain killers. I could SMELL the color red. And yes, I did text the whole experience to my CPs, because RESEARCH!

This is me pre-morphine, which MAY have been my first ever experience with strong pain killers. I could SMELL the color red. And yes, I did text the whole experience to my CPs, because RESEARCH!

Health-wise, 2018 tried to kill me. Unfortunately, it did take that one a little too literally, because what started out with my first-ever stint at a U.S. emergency room (thank the gods for health insurance, I could actually afford it) with suspected chronic gallbladder malfunction. This—surprise!—actually turned out to be the most massive of massive blood clots in my lower right abdomen, stretching from my major abdominal vein into my leg, and into my renal vein, where it most likely killed off my right kidney (which we named Aqualad, the Shitty Kidney as a result). Bonus shitty points for not figuring this out until 7 MONTHS LATER after my back was killing me and I thought I’d literally broken myself chasing editing deadlines. Spoiler: if you have intense lower back pain AND THEN your right leg swells up and feels like a balloon about to pop, you MIGHT just have a massive blood clot at your hands. And no, Alex, you won’t be able to drive yourself to the doctor’s office, because you’re not fine. Not even a little bit. Thanks to my lovely wife, Tori, my good friend and critique partner extraordinaire, Kendra, who did the driving that day, and everyone else who’s stuck with me through this ordeal, which resulted in my doctor making this face O_O, then rushing me to the ER, followed by an overnight hospital stay where surgery was a very definite option that we fortunately didn’t have to resort to (it would have been major and super scary). It took me the next three months to be able to move and walk without pain again, and I have to say, this shit definitely changed my perspective (and served as accidental research for my MC in Empire of Light, who becomes a cane-user, so I guess there’s always that.)

Anyway, I made it through that, will definitely be on medication for the rest of my life, and am rocking some super stylish compression socks (I want them to make some with unicorns, but in the meantime, I’m partial to argyle and rainbow stripes).

Of course, while I was recuperating physically, my mental health decided to have its “Hold my Beer!” moment and send me into one of the worst depressive spirals I’ve had since 2012. Fortunately we figured out a way to get things back on track with meds and self-care. Oh, and then there was the bit where I got SHINGLES. Yeah…2018 was A Year in terms of health. Let’s not keep going with this, shall we? Anyway, let this be your reminder to hydrate, take your meds, and move as much as you can, lovelies, because this shit is scary.


Okay, time for some GOOD, yeah?

Well, actually, it started with some bad, since 2018 also was the year I parted ways with my now former agent, due to her health making her unable to continue agenting. I’m not going to go super into detail here, but let it be said that one of the things all those blog posts and Twitter threads about agenting often don’t cover is what to do when you have to take that painful step of leaving your agent because things aren’t working out. It’s hard. And definitely took me some time to adjust. And yes, I’m going to query again in 2019. It’s cool, I have a battle plan and am super grateful for all of my publishing and author friends who continuously cheer me on and didn’t let me wallow too much, because onward!

These lovely rainbow roses were sent to me by my lovely Speculator CPs!

These lovely rainbow roses were sent to me by my lovely Speculator CPs!

Speaking of onward, I signed not one, but TWO publishing contracts in 2018, and I couldn’t be happier. In April, I signed my publishing contract for my debut queer science fiction novel, Empire of Light, with NineStar Press. It’s been one hell of a journey to get there. Definitely a rollercoaster worth of ups and downs, and tight twists, but 2019 will be my debut year as a queer SFF author and I couldn’t be more grateful to Rae, Sam, and the rest of the NineStar Team, who have since introduced me to so many fantastic authors I am happy to call friends.

And that’s not all! I also signed a contract to contribute to BEHIND THE SUN, ABOVE THE MOON, a queer anthology full of stories featuring trans and nonbinary characters written by trans and nonbinary creators, which will release with NineStar Press in 2020. I am beyond thrilled to be included in this and so happy this is happening. Watch this space, and subscribe to my newsletter for updates on all the shiny queer story-shaped things!


Hi! Same name, new pronouns! Thanks to everyone who uses them and corrects others when they don’t. I couldn’t do this without you all!

Hi! Same name, new pronouns! Thanks to everyone who uses them and corrects others when they don’t. I couldn’t do this without you all!

The biggest personal change in 2018 was definitely coming out as nonbinary in March of this year. Frankly, it was probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever done, especially as someone who constantly questions their own value and validity. But it’s also been incredibly empowering and just so liberating to finally get this off my chest and no longer keep my gender identity to myself like it’s something to hide and pretend doesn’t exist.

I cannot thank everyone enough for their support along my journey, especially those of you who remind others that yes, my pronouns are they/them, and to use them, especially when I’m too tired to constantly remind others. My enby journey and figuring out what exactly all of this meant to me, definitely shaped a large part of this year and still continues doing so, because guess what? I might be in my 30s, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t figured it all out yet. Far from it, really.

Coming out to my principal was absolutely terrifying, because I generally kept my queerness very much under wraps when I first started teaching. Only in recent years, I’ve started to feel comfortable enough to be “me” more and more in the classroom. Being a queer teacher, never mind a nonbinary one in a super conservative state where still so many honestly don’t even know what to do with you, is…a lot. It’s still a lot, and probably will continue being a lot, because things change glacially, but they are changing. Also, yes, my students adapted to my “new” title of Mx. without much issue. They are still working on the they/them, along with many others, but its the ones who do get it—and correct others when they overhear them misgendering me—that make my heart so incredibly full and make doing this over and over again easier. Thank you.


Yay for Goodreads keeping track of all of my reading! Over 47k pages across 158 books! Not bad!

Yay for Goodreads keeping track of all of my reading! Over 47k pages across 158 books! Not bad!

Finally, my year in books. Honestly, it’s been a GOOD year for reading, and I’m beyond thrilled with how many queer books I read in 2018. Honestly, a majority of the 158 books I read were queer, many by queer authors of color. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many talented and hard-working authors who tell the kinds of queer stories I’ve always wanted to read. Thank you. All of you. Especially on the hard days. They’re worth it. Your stories are worth it.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention some of my favorite books of 2018, so here you go:

Favorite Science Fiction: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

I adored this book so much. Lady astronauts. Alternate history that asks so many questions that make this such a fantastic genre. Also, the audiobooks are narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal herself and are outstanding.

Favorite Graphic Novel: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I’ve talked about this one before, but seriously, if you need a happy read that subtly explores queerness for kids of all ages, READ THIS BOOK. You won’t regret it. Thank you to Ren, who sent this to me when I was really struggling with depression. This book meant a lot to me.

Favorite Romance: His Cocky Cellist by Cole McCade

This was originally recommended to me because I wanted to learn more about well-written content warnings, but Cole McCade’s work quickly hooked me (also, he’s a generally awesome human to boot). I loved how this book explored D/s dynamics in conjunction with sex work, and definitely want to read more like this.

Favorite Series: Port Lewis Witches by Brooklyn Ray

This series focuses on a coven of queer witches in the Pacific Northwest and I simply adore the characters. The first in the series, Darkling, hooked me with a trans main character, who wants to kiss his best friend, incredibly well-written sex scenes, and all the dark magic. I’m so excited that there will be more of this!

Favorite Fantasy: The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

I got to JY Yang’s Tensorate series kind of late, but ever since I dove into their intricately-built universe full of nonbinary characters, political intrigue, and self-discovery, I couldn’t get enough of it. Another recommendation for the audio format since it includes the first three novellas in the series and is so very well done.

Favorite YA: Dreadnought by April Daniels

Two words: Trans Superheroes. This book hooked me from page one and I found it both incredibly relatable and it also kicked me right in the feels (CWs for transphobia though since there is a LOT of heavy content in this book that is much more than a superhero story).


Anyway, that’s it for the bookish and health-related updates of 2018. It’s definitely been a messy, but also incredibly important year for me. I’ve learned a lot, last but not least, to listen to my body a little more and be kinder to myself (it’s harder than it should be), but most of all I’m just really, really grateful for everyone who’s been along for this wild ride.

Thank you to each and every one of you. You made this shit-sandwich of a year actually really fucking awesome in the end. <3

Hi, my name is Alex, I'm genderqueer and prefer they/them pronouns.

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I'm 30 years old. You'd think I'd be done coming out by now, right? Hahahahahaha. Er. Yeah. No.

So, I wrote a thing on Twitter last night:

*big breath* Hi, everyone, it's kind of late here, I'm fueled by ridiculous amounts of caffeine and anxiety (as usual), but I want you all to know that I'd prefer they/them pronouns and identify as genderqueer.

— Alex Harrow (@AlexHarrowSFF) February 19, 2018

If that Tweet sounded nervous, that's because I was. Still am, really, though the sheer outpour of support this post generated is helping a ton with that. Because here's the thing about coming out: it never really stops. You kind of come out to every person you meet, often along with a more or less substantial list of questions and definitions. It's a very vulnerable, and in my case often really anxious, situation. I personally stress as much about how the other person will see me, especially if it's someone I love and respect as I do about somehow hurting their feelings, somehow diminishing their experience as I'm talking about my experience and identity. So yeah, it's stressful, and complicated, and ultimately a huge rush of relief to put things in words.

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0645fd1b8YBWP

That's why I decided to write this post to go a little more in depth as to what being genderqueer means to me (here's a handy definition, if you need one) and why this label, along with they/them pronouns, just feel "right" because I figure everyone has questions, hell, I have questions that I'm still trying to sort out.

So, first off, let's talk about labels. Frankly, I have a complicated relationship with labels personally, finding them at once liberating and an opener to conversation, to community, but I also understand that they can be exclusionary. Prior to last night's post, one of the main source of stress and anxiety for me was feeling that I'm somehow not genderqueer, not nonbinary enough. It's like I was right back at my early twenties and not feeling not gay enough (well, duh, because I wasn't gay, I was bi, or rather, pan, and later figured out I was demisexual, so that was another aspect of my identity I explored, both with excitement and trepidation, because what does it mean? Am I intruding into spaces that aren't mine to fill? Ahh, someone hold my hand and give me coffee.)

Anyway, here's my personal take on labels: they're different for everyone. To me, as to many, they mean community. They mean not being alone, which often is an experience that occurs in repression and isolation, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to see these mechanisms getting more and more broken down as we open up and talk about things. So, yes, obviously, visibility, and saying something, not just thinking silently "that's me, too" whenever conversations between friends, family, and colleagues veered to gender and pronouns is incredibly important to me.

To me, gender has always been a tricky issue. Like, yeah, I like dresses, lipstick, things that are stereotypically coded as "feminine", but at the same time I like to dress, think, and identify in ways that are often coded as "masculine". I get kind of a thrill out of being "misgendered," out of responses like, "Oh, from your emails, I thought Alex was a man." Yeah, that's cool, because I'm a little bit of both and I'm a little bit neither. I don't subscribe to binary and gendered thinking, so that's not how I define myself. I'm part of the chorus of glee at dictionaries finally recognizing they/them as valid gender pronouns, because y'all, that's how I see me. They/them pronouns fit me and sure, she/her is okay. Those are pronouns I've carried with me for the past thirty years and I don't begrudge them that, just as I don't harbor dysphoria towards my breasts or vagina, because newsflash, not all of us genderqueer or nonbinary folk do and that's okay.

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That nagging anxiety whether I "get" to call myself genderqueer or nonbinary (both are okay, though genderqueer, the idea of being rather than not being, just personally fits me a little more in my opinion) also held me back. I've since talked to a lot of my enby and genderqueer friends and have to admit to a huge relief to realize that no, it's not just me. Which totally makes sense, because hey, gender is a spectrum, obvi, but knowing that doesn't mean being able to fully articulate it and figure it all out. It's a process. It's confusing. It's stressful. It's okay. (Seriously, thank you to everyone who's validated these feelings and talked me off the ledge. I owe you a drink or three.)

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Anyway, this probably won't be the last post I'm writing about being genderqueer, what it all means, and how I navigate it all, but I wanted to leave you all with some details on what's been going on, especially since there's been quite a bit of radio silence from me as I've been sorting through things. I'll leave you all with the request to please refer to my identity as genderqueer (or nonbinary) and use they/them pronouns wen addressing me. Thank you!

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Also, if you have questions or want to share your own story or resources, feel free to leave them in the comments. Always happy to hear from you.

Cheers,

Alex