This is an email from The Digest, a newsletter by Prism & Pen.
by James Finn
Tomorrow, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. Prism and Pen writers are exploring the topic with powerful personal stories and one powerful tale of cautionary history. Remember when coming out was THE big conflict in LGBTQ books, films and TV? Actor/filmmaker James Patrick Nelson laments that much queer entertainment still relies on on “queer as conflict.” Read his thoughts in our highlighted story and check what Jamie is doing personally to improve media representation.
Readers: Stories in the P&P Digest are always free if you click the underlined links. But if you enjoy P&P and can afford 5 dollars US per month, could you think about subscribing to Medium to help support your favorite writers?
WRITERS: Scroll down and check out the current prompt? Still plenty of time to get stories in.
Editor’s Picks —
Tired of poor LGBTQ representation in film and TV? So is Jamie! He says entertainment often lets queer consumers (and equality) down. He spells out his concerns here, but he’s not just complaining. He’s a professional actor turned filmmaker working on solutions. What kind? Read on to find out!
Straight people get how painful it is to live in a culture that tells us we have to look a certain way to be loved. Imagine that compounded with the idea that you have to pass as straight to be worthy of love in the first place.
After all, “Be Will instead of Jack” could also be interpreted as “Be more like the one who’s played by a straight actor.”
This pervasive heterosexism means the rest of us never see a healthy or affirming reflection of ourselves. So what’s to be done?
Still Queer After Finding the Opposite-Sex Love of My Life
With a subtitle like Roller derby, mental health, and the patriarchy, you gotta figure Dunollie’s story is a wild ride. I laughed out loud a couple times, not in amusement but in delighted appreciation of her writing chops. She might have needed Roller Derby to understand she loves women, but I bet you won’t have any trouble understanding her thoughts on queer inclusion and community.
First of all, the fact that I didn’t know I was queer until my thirties was in large part because of a patriarchal misogynist culture that presented overt female sexuality as something that not only didn’t turn me on but as something I didn’t want to even be associated with. I was never attracted to skinny women with enormous breasts squeezed into too-small bikinis doing a really bad job of washing fancy cars. So I couldn’t be attracted to women, right?
Remembering a Troubled Gay Hero on National Coming Out Day
Billy Sipple was an accidental hero who saved President Gerald Ford from an assassin’s bullet. If you’re old enough, you might have heard of him, but I doubt you know the tragic rest of the story:
America’s newest hero broke the gay stereotype, which, [Harvey] Milk figured, might just give his come-out-come-out-wherever-you-are crusade additional ammunition.
So, without seeking Sipple’s permission, Milk placed a call to Herb Caen at The San Francisco Chronicle…
After coming out, finding his own apartment after a lifetime of marriage and raising kids, Larry raised a little hell sexually speaking. But now he’s getting serious about finding a partner he can commit to, and the process is as insightful as it is funny and frustrating.
More importunately, it completely turned me off. This beautiful young man I had been flirting with at parties lost his allure in that instant. I reacted so adversely that it spoiled the entire evening for me and likely for him. Afterward, I drove him to his art-filled apartment and could not even bring myself to make a pass. I offered a chaste peck on the cheek and left.
My sexual interest had evaporated as if extinguished by a sudden New Orleans deluge.
Creative Nonfiction and Essays —
Can there be a more perfect example of the way we celebrate a woman with a full head of hair? This is not just one woman’s opinion, this is an unyielding, unchanging cultural dynamic that has existed and will continue to exist. A woman with a full head of hair is sexy and complete.
Every storybook princess has gorgeous locks. Snow White has raven tresses. Cinderella has a blonde bob. The ultimate example of this is Rapunzel …
In order to justify their narrow-minded views on LGBTQ identity and sexuality, Evangelical Christians would have us believe that the Bible is utterly clear on the matter of Gay Liberation, as we used to call it. I’m not just talking about gay marriage here. Most Evangelical Christians say that God himself clearly and unconditionally condemned all homosexual acts and ideas of gender fluidity as an ‘abomination’.
And yet, not everyone who reads the Bible thinks that Jesus condemned homosexuality. For example, the … former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, told the opposite story:
My child has always known they were a girl, but they have questions for me about why I didn’t know. I am after all their mom; how could I not know? It’s a good question. The truth is nobody knows a baby’s gender at birth. We just guess it based on genitalia. Sometimes, we mess that up. I told Teddy this.
“Maybe that’s not such a good idea, Mommy.”
“Guessing before we know?”
“Yeah. Cause you got it wrong with me.”
Something like going on T is a long thought process. It is not something you wake up one morning and think, you know what, I feel like doing something crazy, let’s be a man. Like really, is that what people think happens — because sometimes it seems like it.
This Sunday was a horror. Since then, I’ve been constantly thinking about what others think of me. The men who see something in me, perhaps mock me. The women who might think about what exactly is wrong with me and feel sorry for me. And my own wife, who I thank her from the bottom of my heart …
But what if anger is necessary sometimes? What if the alternative to anger is stagnation, cruelty, and despair? We all have different roles to play, of course, and bridge builders are as important as protestors. Want to hear about one queer man who played both roles and may have saved your life?
Let tell you about a great hero you probably never heard of! His name is Peter Staley, and he should have died a long time ago.
I’m a transgender woman who loves tennis. Recently, I found myself too far along in my transition to keep up physically with the men my age I used to play with. My record plunged to an abysmal 0–16. I still have the competitive drive and willingness to learn, but after years of HRT, hormone replacement therapy, my physical strength is no longer any match for cis men. It got to a point where I was wasting my opponent’s time. Sets of 6–0, 6–1 are no fun for anyone.
The results were only pages and pages of results titled: “Crimes against transgender women.” Not one entry documented any facts about abuse in public restrooms against children anywhere in the world by transgender women. I could not even find any pattern anywhere in the world where transgender women as a group committed crimes because they were transgender.
The claim about predatory transgender women is a myth and a lie.
In the evenings, my dad and I would watch old movies. One of my favorites was Dark Passage, in which someone as smart and beautiful as Lauren Bacall could turn to Humphrey Bogart and say, “I was born lonely, I guess.”
If you’d asked me at the time, I doubt I’d have said I felt lonely. I might have said I felt different, but I couldn’t have said why. For a long time, I couldn’t put a finger on what I later saw Quentin Crisp refer to as “the trouble with [me].”
I used to daydream about girls when I was small. As I grew up, the dreams got more intimate. The only thing that didn’t change was that I still dreamt of girls. Soon I learned what being gay means. But something else was different now. I had now started to force myself to like boys. I would stand in front of the mirror for hours and practice behaving like a quintessential feminine girl who liked boys. I was, knowingly or unknowingly, trying to change an immutable part of my identity.
It’s Friday. Waiting for the zoom session to start is always a mix of anxiety, anticipation, and sheer terror. Today, the scales are heavily tipped towards the latter for today, I have to tell my gender therapist (aka, GT) that I got my Testogel and freaked out. Like, FREAKED OUT. Full boss-level assault existential crisis with a double serving of imposter syndrome. This:
I grew up thinking John Wayne, Neil Armstrong and Daniel Boone were courageous. I lived with that child’s definition of courage for a good chunk of my life. Then as an adult, unfortunately, I was force to re-define “courage” as I watched too many loved ones struggle and die from cancer. Their battles were heroic even as they knew what the final result would be.
Not one of them asked me: “Why me?” They defined “courage” for me.
An anti-gay bully at Malani Hohlbaugh’s school coldcocked her and broke her nose. According to the LA Blade, a group of bullies physically attacked her while she was verbally defending her openly gay friend Danny Lillis. Danny himself ended up with bruises, cuts, and scratches. If you want all the details, click the link. My story is not a news report. It’s an indictment of systemic anti-LGBTQ bullying in U.S. schools, an observation that school administrators often tolerate it, and a call for schools to do a much better job protecting queer kids.
I came out at 38 after being a suburban Mormon housewife for 17 years. I lost my church, my business, and my entire social network. I gained an entirely new community of friends who cheered on my coming-out process.
Looking back, I realize that how people reacted to my Coming Out was a massive tell in how our relationship would progress.
Dear Moisés Kaufman,
Matthew Shepard was born in 1976, the same year as me.
When he died, I was on a leave of absence from a creative writing degree, taking a break from writing love poems that wouldn’t admit they were love poems for someone who insisted that 1) she was straight and 2) I was going through a phase.
Mason wants you to ask yourself what’s messed up about the following text:
My gay friend is a recent grad from a good New York university. She is about as musical as a Cole Porter revue on Broadway, having played in bands around the city for years, even before coming out. She came out to her family a little while ago, showing even more that she is a brave, hard-working, determined person, and she proves these qualities every day despite her personal struggles by being a rainbow carrying member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
I’m proud of my gay friend, and wish her well.
Fiction Finds —
Watching Asher wolf down some almond mamoul and a cupcake made me sigh with relief. After the doctor gave me the go-ahead, I just knew I had to give him some sweets for Cara’s birthday. I had been so wrapped up in researching all this weird bureaucratic stuff and writing more rehashings of explaining inspirational Bible verses that I forgot to plan for a proper party.
“I saw videos of the Lord Protectorate’s speech and it’s not good,” Asher said as he showed me the clips. “We need to go somewhere safe.”
I heard the snarling animal again, though it was a little more guttural now, like the puppy was learning. It still had work to do, but it was definitely not so cute anymore.
The puppy sounded as if it was in pain and aggravated as if its wounds were frustrating it to the point of anger. It had a distinct message: it was hungry. There was a tugging in my stomach, an ache.
I was hungry too.
Would you kiss me if I were a man? Would you hold my hand in the sun on the street where all could see? Would you run your fingers through my hair as we sit on a bench in the park? Would you let me carry your books and open your door? Would you wear my ring if I were a man?
The sun on your hair quickens my heart, and I want to write poetry praising your eyes. Roses are red and your eyes are blue, and you are more beautiful than anyone I’ve known. And I will love thee still, my dear, when all the seas are dry.
Pause for Poetry —
You’ll grow up, and someone
might tell you, “It takes a village,”
and you might remember the night
you first came to us, and Mr. Cat refused
to leave you on your own.
there are no ways of explaining
I want the bigots of the world
to feel something other than stacks
of money lining their pockets or
fantasies of distasteful uprisings
at their command
I want them to feel . . .
Pretty, painted and polished,
I dared to be a woman,
wearing that plumage.
Leaving the barred safety …
Pretty, painted and polished, I dared to be a woman, wearing that plumage. Leaving the barred safety, of my little…
That’s it, that’s all, y’all! Time for me to take an afternoon off. Join me in some leisure reading? But hey, writers, don’t forget our LGBTQ anger prompt is still running. Plenty of time to get those stories in.
See everybody next week!
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