A few weeks ago I attended an art gallery opening for queer artists. I started chatting with a lovely, quirky woman about upcoming events for our local Pride Week. As we then talked about where we were from and the kinds of things I taught, she awkwardly fished for something else, but I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. Finally, she got flustered and said, “I’m trying to ask if you’re queer, but you’re obviously not, because you’re not picking up on any of the language.”
“I don’t know the secret handshake either,” I deadpanned.
She laughed and offered to demonstrate.
She had caught me off guard. The thing was, neither “yes” nor “no” felt like the right answer. Neither would have been sufficient in expressing my personal journey nor revealing the truth of who I am.
I answered her question:
I’ve always been just me. And I’ve always believed everyone else is just who they are. I’ve loved all kinds of people, but I don’t label myself anything. I’ve tried; it’s never felt comfortable. And I can’t speak for anyone but myself.
As soon as I am categorized, people will assume things about me. I’ll even assume things about myself. Or I’ll try to shape myself into what others think people “like me” are supposed to be.
I don’t think humans exist in binary systems. Each of us lives on multitudes of continuums. Humans are complex and individualized and we assume so much about each other. I’d much rather meet each person as an individual, listen to their stories, and let them surprise me with who they are.
By the expression on her face, I thought I had pissed her off. Then she shook her head into a laugh and said, “If everyone thought that way, the world would be a better place.”
She handed me a flyer for the Pride Picnic.
I like watching birds and the sky, playing the drums, art galleries, dragons and jellyfish, clever rhymed couplets, and Doctor Who. That doesn’t tell you anything about my sexual orientation, my race, gender or religion. It just tells you that if you like watching the birds and the sky, playing the drums, art galleries, dragons and jellyfish, clever rhymed couples, and Doctor Who we probably have something to talk about.
And even if you don’t like any of those things, isn’t it our differences that keep life interesting?
~ ~ ~
YOUR WRITING WORKOUT*
Who does your character assume things about and why? What does that character assume about zir? How does this create conflict between them?
TIMED WRITING GUIDELINES
Set your timer for 7 -15 minutes per start line (I sometimes increase the time with each start line: 7 min, 10 min, 12 min …). When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.
PICK FROM ANY OF THE BELOW START LINES
When Character A meets Character B ze assumes . . .
When Character B meets Character A ze assumes . . .
Character A is afraid Character B will . . .
Character B is afraid Character A will . . .
Their assumptions create problems when . . .
Character A surprises Character B by . . .
Character B surprises Character A by . . .
*I decided to use gender neutral pronouns in my workouts from now on. I was tired of writing “he or she” and “him or her” or alternating… plus I was leaving out my gender queer friends or anyone who has a gender neutral character. My preference is “ze/zir.”