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

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Tash McAdam

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome my awesome friend Tash McAdam to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about writing queer dragon riders and trans superheroes, their action-driven dystopian YA debut, I Am The Storm, and writing stories that don’t center on queer or marginalized pain.

Welcome, Tash!


Photo by Tash McAdam

Photo by Tash McAdam

Tash is a Computer Science and English teacher in Canada, although they were born and raised in the hilly sheepland of Wales (and have lived in South Korea and Chile before settling down in Vancouver). Tash identifies as trans and queer and uses the neutral pronoun 'they'. As an English teacher they are fully equipped to defend that grammar! They have a degree in computer science so their nerd chat makes sense, and a couple of black belts in karate which are very helpful when it comes to writing fight scenes.

Their novel writing endeavours began at the age of eight, although they will admit that their first attempt was derivative, at best. Since then, Tash has spent time falling in streams, out of trees, juggling, dreaming about zombies, dancing, painting, learning and then teaching Karate, running away with the circus, and of course, writing.

They write fast-paced, plot-centric action adventure with diverse casts. They write the books that they wanted to read as a queer kid and young adult (and still do!)

Find Tash online: WEBSITE TWITTER FACEBOOK INSTAGRAM TUMBLR


1. What is your writing origin story?

Great question! Essentially, I complained so much about the YA novels I was reading (the shoehorned in romances, the pointless love triangles with two white bread nobodies, the romance-is-the-main-point-never-mind-the-plot, the predictable endings etc) that my now-fiancée dared me to write a book. I think her exact words were ‘well if you think you’re so clever why don’t you write your own book? And stop bothering me, I’m reading.’ (I love her).

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

The story idea for my first ever writing project, which was my first ever novel was born when I was in one of those super tiny showers. It wasn’t draining, and I was thinking well... What if it fills up forever and I drown in this tiny weird box? That was the inspiration for the Tank, where they drown telepaths in anti-power goo so they can wipe their memories, and that idea went on to spawn a whole series. I think I’ve never really lacked for ideas and inspiration, it’s more the ... sitting my butt down and doing the work that’s a problem for my ADD self. But I’m always inspired! By everything! Every story, ever sunset, every face on the bus is a story waiting to be born as far as I’m concerned. My gdrive has 42 story universes in it right now (.. it’s the meaning of life. I now force myself to delete and old one if I have a new idea)

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

Representation means everyone should have characters that they share their various traits with. It means that we all deserve to deeply connect to characters and the stories they’re part of. It means that when a kid (young!me) goes to the library and ask for books about girls who want to be boys, they don’t hand out ‘I dressed up as my own twin for plot purposes’ books and think that that cuts it. It means we all get adventures.

As for rep in my writing... well, I’m an action driven kind of guy. I’m in it for the plot and the action, I’m not much for Finding Oneself, or Romance, which makes a lot of the queer fiction out there feel like it’s not for me. I hate having to choose between rep and a good, plotty story. It’s getting better now, for sure, but there’s still not many action-based stories out there with MCs I identify with. Sidekicks are getting more and more diverse, but where are my queer dragon riders and my trans superheroes? Hint: They are in my books.

My stories put marginalised identities front and centre, but are focused on the action-based storyline, which is never to do with The Struggle of being queer/ trans / marginalised in some other way. Unless you count being a telepath as being marginalised, because I guess that’s a whole thing, in the X-Men style of elaborate sexuality metaphors. Ha.

4. What is your favorite thing about writing queer YA?

Writing stories I’m pumped to read. Stories where the queer kids have adventures, and Dumbledore isn’t only gay if you squint.

5. What is your writing process?

Procrastinate for at least two hours... finally realise I’m running out of time and need to get on with it, bribe myself to write for ten minutes, immediately get super into it and forget to stop and pee or drink water etc. My hyperfocus is strong.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Be a shark. This means, keep swimming (or in this case, writing). When you get bogged down in editing as you write, that’s when things fall apart, in my opinion. The more time you waste crafting each sentence to be Perfect, or thinking about cover art, or choosing your perfect TV show cast, the less time you’re putting words on screen/ paper for. Your book won’t write itself. Everything book-related except the writing can come later. Be a shark.

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. That’s hard for me because I’m a people pleaser. I’ve had people slam me because they ‘don’t like Young Adult Fiction’ (thanks for reading!), because my story had ‘too many Asians’ (actual quote, please show yourself out), and because I didn’t adequately explain on the back cover why young people are fighting in a war (read the book). Opinions are subjective. I don’t like everything I read, so why would I think everyone would like what I write? I mean, I wish people would keep their unhelpful criticisms to themselves, and stick to the stuff that might actually, I don’t know, help me improve as a writer, but that is not the world. Write what you want to read, find your crew, they will love it, and it will Feel Great. Ignore the people who don’t get your stuff, it’s okay. Don’t take it personally.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question. I think at the heart of all my stories is the message that we aren’t able to reach our potential (and save the world) without a team. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. We all have different skills and abilities and it is in our communities that we are powerful. Also, possibly, destroy the status quo because the status is not quo. (credit: Dr Horrible).

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

I recently finished ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ by Jandy Nelson and it blew me away. I really enjoyed the artistic and poetic, metaphorical writing style (which is super unusual for me, I mostly enjoy very fast-paced and driven stories that aren’t bogged down with much waxing poetic). Highly recommend checking it out. It tells the story of twins who lose their mother in their teens, and it’s a dual timeline (one twin tells the past, one tells the present) mystery that’s also a coming of age story, and a coming out story all at once. Masterfully told.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on a new novel, the first in a new series, although I definitely should be working on the sequel to Warp Weavers (Magic, mystery, interdimensional warfare, Buffy meets Dr Who, out Dec 2019). My new story is a post AI apocalypse, where children have been bred for the express purpose of passing unnoticed in a robot controlled society so they can destroy the evil AI overlord. I entirely blame Person of Interest for this brainchild.


Cover by Natasha Snow

Cover by Natasha Snow

Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They'll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them.

Sam's a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves.

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that's enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics and mind readers, all gunning just for him.

Newly qualified rebel soldier, Serena, doesn't even know she's chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But, tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and the Watch on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the resistance with an incredible advantage, but not if they can't get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom.

Buy your copy here:

NINESTAR PRESS AMAZON GOODREADS

More Happy Book News!

Quick update, but not only am I happy to announce that Empire of Light has an official release date on February 25, 2019 (and you can add it on Goodreads here!) but I also have shiny new bookish news because today the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement for Behind the Sun, Above the Moon, dropped.

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon Publishers Marketplace Announcement, December 18, 2018

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon Publishers Marketplace Announcement, December 18, 2018

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon is an anthology featuring all #ownvoices transgender, non-binary, and genderfluid stories inspired by celestial magic and without any queer pain, edited by Brooklyn Ray and published with NineStar Press. I couldn’t be happier to be included in this and cannot wait for you all to read all of these stories. More updates as we continue working on this, but here is the PM announcement, along with the fantastic author line-up, and yes, you can already add Behind the Sun, Above the Moon on Goodreads as well!

I’m thrilled that this is happening and personally cannot wait to write more trans and nonbinary protagonists and for you all to read these stories and to support these fab authors. Mark your calendars for early 2020!

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Jeffrey Marsh

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

I'm super stoked to kick off Queering Up Your Bookshelf, an interview series in which I'll chat with LGBTQ+ authors about the queer stories they write. Follow this for new posts every Wednesday.

To start us off, I'm excited to welcome Jeffrey Marsh on this blog to chat about their book How To Be You, inspiration, and finding yourself. Welcome, Jeffrey!

Jeffrey Marsh

Jeffrey Marsh

Jeffrey Marsh has over 350 million views on social media. Jeffrey is the first nonbinary author with a "Big 5" publisher, Penguin Random House. Jeffrey created the best-selling self-esteem classic ‘How To Be You,’ which topped O Magazine's Gratitude Meter and was named an Excellent Book of 2017 by TED-Ed. ‘How to Be You’ revolutionized publishing categorization as the first book to seamlessly combine three genres: memoir, workbook, and spiritual self-help. Jeffrey is a precepted facilitator in the Soto Zen tradition of Buddhism.

Find Jeffrey Marsh online: WEBSITE TWITTER INSTAGRAM


1. What is your writing origin story?

I wanted to write a book for fun. I wanted to write for expression and to help myself heal. I know it sounds selfish! But it was honestly the least selfish thing, because it seems to have helped other people. ‘How To Be You’ is a love letter to me — to my eleven-year-old self. I have wished many times to be able to reach back in time and tell little Jeffrey that they are worthy and that they are valued. It’s lucky because it turns out that a lot of readers were waiting for a love letter like that and people have really enjoyed reading it for themselves. Because, after all, it is a love letter to everyone in the world. My friend was writing a book a couple years ago, and we did a tv spot together and then HER literary agent said “do you think Jeffrey has a book in them?” And there was no other book I wanted to write.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

As I said in the answer to question one, I’m really inspired by myself. Just kidding! I’m actually inspired by the LGBTQ youth who don’t have the same hang-ups I was taught to carry around. I just gave a speech at an LGBTQ youth event in Utah, and the kids (they don’t like to be called kids but I’m doing it anyway) are so far ahead. They get being nonbinary; they understand trans identity. But more than that, the youngest among us understand how hate works. I grew up thinking that because people couldn’t handle who I am it was my fault somehow, and it is very inspiring to see younger folks not taking haters so seriously. I pour all of that inspiration into my writing.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

Honestly, I’ve always kind of thought of “representation” as something that happens in fiction — and this question has opened my mind! Obviously memoir is a kind of representation, and ‘How To Be You’ is partly memoir. I would hope that I represent how to be human and how similar we all are. I was asked in a TV interview about whether readers would “find out about people like you” from the book, meaning find out about nonbinary people. I answered that readers will find out about themselves from reading my book, and I designed it to be that way. Representation is so much about how we have the same feelings and desires and we all deserve the same respect. One more thing to note I guess is that I never really intended to “represent nonbinary people” but I was the first out nonbinary author with a major publisher, so it all just happened. I remember what we might call “internal representation” too: Penguin Random House didn’t really know what nonbinary was or what to do with me. The copy editor returned my manuscript with the “they’s” changed to “he’s” for example, so there was a lot of representing I was doing behind the scenes and not just in public.

4. How are writing and activism linked for you?

I feel that they are the same thing! Just me being me is activism at this pint in history, so in a weird way I don’t actually have to give it much thought. Me doing normal career stuff and writing and being interviewed and all that happens to be my activism. I intended ‘How To Be You’ to be universal, and I hope I succeeded, and it just might open hearts and minds toward nonbinary folks too — fingers crossed!

5. What is your best piece of writing advice?

I’m very predictable and I give the same advice for everything: there is nothing wrong with you. I’ve seen too many people come up with an idea of what writing is and how it’s supposed to look and then use that idea to feel bad because they can’t do it. In other words, admit that you don’t know what writing is “supposed to look like.” Give yourself some space. Do you start with an outline? Or a phrase? Or a color? Do you write in the morning? Only on Tuesdays? Do you want it to be fun? Cathartic? What do you want? To me, writing is a wide open space, and let’s not fill that space up with judgement and self-hate. Stay open to weird ideas.

6. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

My hardest lesson was that writing is an imperfect medium. With written words there is no inflection, no verbal context clues, so your words can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Usually people get what I’m trying to say, but I’m a very expressive (and entertaining?) speaker and something is a little lost in the written word. Clearly there are brilliant-er writers than me. The only thing I can hope for is that a bit of my spirit and the thrust of my self-love attitude come through in the printed/digitized words.

7. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

A deep knowledge that there is nothing wrong with them.

8. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Book number two! I’m currently writing sample chapters for a second book and working on getting the proposal together. It is early days, but it’s nice to have a focus point on the horizon of writing — it keeps me on track.

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Too short. Too weird. Too quiet. Not true. Let Internet superstar Jeffrey Marsh help you end those negative thoughts and discover how wonderful you are. 

An interactive experience, How to Be You invites you to make the book your own through activities such as coloring in charts, answering questions about how you do the things you do, and discovering patterns in your lives that may be holding you back. Through Jeffrey’s own story of “growing up fabulous in a small farming town”–along with the stories of hero/ines who have transcended the stereotypes of race, age, and gender–you will discover that you are not alone.

Buy your copy here:

INDIEBOUND BARNES & NOBLE AMAZON

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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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