I’m finished my polyphonic piece, now all that’s left to do is run my lines for the reading on Wednesday. And I’m nervous. Not about the presentation—but about my topic. So what’s my response to fear? Why, research, of course! How do you present queer writing to a straight audience? And an unsuspecting one, at that? So I typed in “presenting queer writing to an unsuspecting straight audience”. Nothing.

I told my girlfriend I wasn’t going to present, that I was planning to skip the last couple of days of class. But I changed my mind. I’ve got a lot more confidence in my piece now. But it still means speaking about something deeply personal, not to mention coming out explicitly to my whole class, in which I don’t think there is another queer person. Not that many of them don’t probably know all ready. I look queer. But still, there’s a big difference between the surface of my looks and what I’ve written about.

But I’ve decided to go for it whole hog, and I’ve included the most explicit parts.

This is in part because of something Ivan E Coyote wrote.

 “Rico…” I whispered, “I think we’re gonna have to change up our set a little. I think maybe we need to drop the Francis story and do the fishing story instead.”

The Francis story is a tale about a little boy who liked to wear dresses. I thought maybe a less faggy, more fishing-oriented piece might go over a little better with this crowd.

Richard took a breath and gave me his I-am-about-to-tell-you-something-for-your-own-good look.

“First of all,” he began, “the truck is parked right backstage. Second, artists are always allowed to talk about shit that other people would get punched out for bringing up, remember? It’s part of the deal.”

I nodded, because this was true. Richard inhaled again, obviously not finished yet.

“But most important of all is, don’t be a chickenshit, Coyote. Have some balls. What, you only going to tell that story to people who don’t need to hear it?”

Part of what has changed in me is my willingness to go for new experiences. I’m going to do it because otherwise I’d be missing out. The experiences that I’ve written about and explored in this piece have been central in finding the voice that comes out in my poetry. It has also become one of the stronger prose pieces I’ve written, so why wouldn’t I want to share my success?

I said in my journal for the piece I’ll be presenting from that, if I had the choice, I wouldn’t have written about becoming butch. For one, it’s a very personal thing, and it’s still occurring. There are some bits in the piece that I don’t really identify with any more, and I only wrote them about a month ago. But I took the risk, I shared. I also didn’t want to write it because I’ve been reading so much queer writing—blogs, articles, books, papers, clips on YouTube—and mine just seems so… ordinary. Like my type of story has been told before, even if no one’s story is quite like mine. But I didn’t have a choice. This thing has been eating me alive. It’s all I can write about at any length. I must have thirty single-spaced pages written on it. And that’s a conservative estimate. But also, I’m glad I did it. Like I said, there’s stuff that I don’t identify with anymore. It’s like a record of my experience at this moment in time. I think I’ll be glad to have this when I’m 40 and I’ve been out for half my life and it’s all old hat and I’m settled and comfortable. When I don’t remember crawling in my skin or how scared I was to come out.

I’ve also been inspired by the spirit of National Coming Out Day, and the value of making yourself visible so that it becomes harder to discriminate. Not to mention, I feel there’s a ghettoization of queer writing, and it’s certainly something I’ve internalized. I mean, I didn’t want to present. Because it’s something queer, and, honestly, I think it’s something that will make my classmates uncomfortable, that it’s something they won’t want to hear about. I will be completely shocked, utterly agog, if anyone presents anything similar to mine.

I’m starting to get excited now. I want that shock effect, but I want them to see quality in my writing too, and to hear a story that’s maybe a little different from the queer narratives that they’ve been exposed to before. But I’m making a lot of assumptions about my audience, I suppose, because they won’t be self-selecting like other potential straight audiences who might attend queer readings. I have no idea if they’ll understand.

I gotta wonder how someone like Ivan feels about being consistently categorized as a “queer” writer. I wonder, does that bother Ivan? Getting invited mostly to gay pride events, or queer lit festivals? Because they’re a serious talent, both as a writer and a storyteller. I mean, I know this, but I found Ivan because they’re queer. How many people are listening to this amazing author for their talent rather than their gender or sexual orientation?

I’m waiting for the time, which may or may not come, where people can talk about a unique experience to them, like being gay, or genderqueer or whatever, when , if someone writes about a queer character, realistically or not, it doesn’t become the focus of straight reviewers and queer arguments, when writing does not get ghettoized into the “queer lit” section, or when queer literature is no longer in the ghetto; straight people will be checking that shelf out for the best, smartest, most challenging writing being produced.

But until that happens, I have the responsibility of speaking out. So, my plan is to go in looking as queer as a three dollar bill, and handsome as hell. I’m gonna present with confidence and pizzaz, and everyone is going to think it’s fantastic. I’m gonna knock ‘em dead.

Don’t be a chickenshit. I’m going to tell my story to people who need to hear it.


~ by yondergen on November 28, 2009.

2 Responses to “Bound”

  1. Hell yes. Good on you for doing the brave, hard, right thing.

    Thanks for linking to DD. I’m always thrilled to find new butch blogs, and this one is no exception. Looking forward to your next post. 🙂

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