Defiance, Empowerment, Stereotypes, and Other Queer Tropes

Prism & Pen Queer Stories — February 21, 2021

James Finn
Prism & Pen
Published in
8 min readFeb 21, 2021


by James Finn

Browse Prism & Pen this week for wildly creative prose from Fiona J. Feng, thoughtful musings on gender presentation from Emma Holiday, Liam Heitmann-Ryce’s interview with Hornet CEO Christof Wittig, and fiction by Jeff Harvey we hope makes you think as much as it might set your teeth on edge.

Scroll down to see which P&P story is also running in the Los Angeles Blade this week. If you’re reading this newsletter on Medium, could you clap 50 times to help get it front of more eyes?

If you don’t subscribe to Medium, bypass the paywall by clicking our underlined story links. But if you can swing the USD 5.00 a month, we sure would appreciate it.

Editor’s Picks —

Creative Nonfiction
Kyla Sawyer
My Date in Mexico

Dating while trans has its challenges, as many P&P writers have attested. But few have painted the feelings as powerfully as Kyla Sawyer, whose night in Mexico I urge you to explore.

His hand floating closer to mine as the minutes passed. His eyes kept looking into mine, as I darted mine away.

Each suggestion of his physical body reaching mine was also a declaration of the inevitable “talk”… I had to ask him if he knew. But I was afraid of ending something before it even began.

Friends and family always ask me, “why do you have to tell guys in the first place, you’re a woman!”

Jeff Harvey
The Boy, Mr. Jasper’s Ten Dollars, and a Closet

Jeff flirts with toxic stereotypes in this powerful story that illustrates dangers of homophobic stigmatization very few stop to consider.

Jimmy had heard talk of men like this from his football coach, who’d told all the boys to steer clear of anyone like this, cause it was just plain wrong. Without waiting for an answer, Mr. Jasper started to massage Jimmy’s chest. Jimmy closed his eyes and thought about that girl Caroline from Sunday school.

Mrs. Capricious

If Abbie’s rhythm and rhyme don’t set your fist pumping in defiance, I don’t know what will.

So sick of this trite shite masquerading as right
Throwing round your might,
You’ve strayed so far from the light you’ve lost your sight.
You belong to the night.
As for us we burn bright,
Never forsake the fight,
Won’t ever take fright,
Cos your bark’s worse than your bite.
Tripping high as a kite,

Laurence Best

Larry is a retired gay trial lawyer with fascinating stories to tell. This week he treats us with two more chapters of his memoir as he explores the sometimes alienating challenges of growing up different and internalizing toxic labels like sissy.

I do not remember ever again playing with paper dolls after that day. My plastic dishes were gone too. As the years went by my mother took up a near crusade against all sissified things, and when I got older, against boys and men whom she derisively referred as “that way” or “queers.” She even went so far as to refuse to allow me to learn to play the recorder with the rest of my fourth-grade classmates.

Liam Heitmann-Ryce
Hornet CEO Harnesses Purchasing Power of LGBTQ+ Community

Liam sat down with Christof Wittig, CEO and founder of the LGBT Foundation and gay networking app Hornet, to talk about crypto currency and Wittig’s thoughts on purchasing power in marginalized communities.

Wittig asserts “cryptocurrencies are a perfect fit for the LGBTQ+ community, as both are equally founded in a decentralized model, based on each individual’s participation and contribution. An LGBTQ+ person’s identity is based on who they choose to be,” a sentiment echoing what Wittig identifies as the “pseudonymity principle inherent to cryptocurrencies.”

Creative Non Fiction Selections —

Fiona J. Feng
My Ginger Lucifer

There I was, strutting with purpose around that damn campus; doing the little bureaucratic things you have to do when you’re about to leave your job.

I am about to leave Beijing for good.

I had my reasons though I lacked reason.

The Kindergarten building kept a shrewd eye on me as I weaved through the buildings, the main hall, the refectory and the little corner shop.

James Finn
Teen Kicked Off School Bus for Saying She’s a Lesbian

I need to tell you a story about a 13-year-old girl who got punished for saying she’s a lesbian. I need to tell you about her school bus driver who lied about her and got caught lying. I need to tell you about her school principal who discovered the lie and punished her anyway. But first, we need to talk about Kansas.

Sometimes Kansas is all too literal

Never Intended

We walked toward the terminal, saying our goodbyes outside the door. The honeymooners opened the door and I was chilled by the air-conditioning.

I walked a few feet back on the tarmac to escape the assaulting cold from the building. I basked in the heat and looked up at the nearby coconut palms. The palm fronds were swaying in a breeze. I could see a lovely bunch of coconuts hanging like large, brown Christmas bulbs.

Sean Bennett
Discourse Is the Only Way the LGBTQ+ Community Will Survive

The LGBTQ+ community is nothing if not diverse. We contain within our ranks multitudes of humanity that span a shockingly broad set of identities and presentations. The only thing that truly binds us together is the fact that we exist outside cis/het norms. Almost by definition, this means that members of our acronym will have wildly varied experiences of and opinions on many issues. This, I would argue, is not a bad thing.

A Gay Friend Story

I didn’t know she was gay — at first. I was almost 40 and hadn’t known any openly gay people since attending college up North. In the deep South in the 90s, gay people were as well-hidden as atheists and socialists.

What I didn’t know was that the woman who previously held my new job was a Southern Baptist homophobe.

Emma Holiday
My Female Learners Permit

I regularly talk about my gender ignorance. Accepting that I am female by gender, I have been forced to live as a male for decades. There is a lot I don’t know about being a woman.

Make believe I just escaped from North Korea.

James Finn
School District Axes Entire Diversity Program Over Trans Kids

This story is original to P&P but is also running this week in the print and online editions of the Los Angeles Blade.

The Murray School District in Utah just ended the “equity book bundles” program they launched to give children access to authors of color, LGBTQ authors, and more inclusive literature in general ... in response to complaints that a third grader brought in a copy of Call Me Max, a picture book for young readers that features a transgender boy.

I’ve read Call Me Max and highly endorse its message of love, acceptance, and empathy. Max shows kids we don’t have to BE a person to work to understand how that person feels. The story stays entirely age appropriate as it teaches kids that acceptance and love don’t cost anything.

Poetry Picks —

Enne Baker

My button-down lied,
I am about to be

I let myself out,

Don Stouder

I think I was about 12
trying to figure out my life
in confusing pre-adolescent reflections

a phone call while playing
at a friend’s house
and you were gone

Our Love is Rare

My hand continues to write for you
I still can’t believe you chose me
when my heart was already choosing you–behind the scenes
secretly while you clapped for me

I have no regrets
doesn’t matter how we met,

That’s all for this week. I’m pretty sure we have something for everyone. Dig in, guys! And if you can, please remember to support your favorite P&P writers with claps and comments.

And writers? Don’t forget we have a prompt running. I can’t wait to see what some of you do with A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.

— Jim

Esther Spurrill-Jones, BFoundAPen, Zayn Singh, Ainsley L, Kathy Lee Tolleth, Brian Pelletier, Fred Shirley, Ikedi Oghenetega, neil chapman, David Wade Chambers, Artemis Shishir, alto, Sean Stephane Martin, Gabriela Penelope Carolus, Lois Shearing, b.henriques, Carl Rebeiro 🏳️‍🌈, Rodney Frazier, Simon, Carl Rebeiro, Brian Fehler, Deneishia Jacobpito, Chris Hedges, Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle, Kathy Lee Tolleth, Brian Pelletier, Alex David Bevan, Ikedi Oghenetega, David Wade Chambers, Sean Stephane Martin, Gabriela Penelope Carolus, Lois Shearing, Valentine Wiggin, b.henriques, Carl Rebeiro, Rodney Frazier, Simon Z. Brian Fehler, Cassie Brighter, Deneishia Jacobpito, Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle, James Patrick Nelson, Brigid Maloney, Gabriela, Presley Thomas, Evan McCoy, Loren Olson, Ken Wilson, Chandler Myer, NaNa’sworld, Arabelle J., Liam Heitmann-Ryce, Edis Rune, Prickly Pam, Dawn McGrath, Jonathan | sex & theology, Tabitha Lowndes, Emma Nwosisi, Melissa Speed, Dr. Thomas J. West, Till Kaeslin, Dave Smurthwaite, Ellie Rebecca, Zoey Milford, Edris Quinn C., Dennett, Michael Constable, Jim Martens, Stephen Foster, Kravitz M. Kristen Nadel, William Kuhn, Denisa Bogdan, MSci, Rafaela Mempin, Tre L. Loadholt, theoaknotes, Rachel Brindell, Elle Fredine, Jess Darnell, Emma Holiday, Gabe Evaristo, Joshua Mackey, Steve Alexander, Stevie Wilkinson, Andy Killoran, Nick Bundarin, ElMehdi El Azhary, Bradley Wester, Stella Luna (they/she?), Chuy G. Gonzalez, MS, Aaron W. Marrs, Zada Kent, Tima Loku, Cam, The Transgender Therapist, Sean Bennett, Ty Bo Yule, Abbie Drake, Alessia Autumn, Allen R. Marquez, Spencer James, Mary-Ellen Maynard, Gaby Spadaro, Elena Joy Thurston, Mina Krane, Jason Masters, Jeff Harvey, Laurence Best, Don Stouder, J. S. Richards, Fiona Feng, Yvonne Borgquist, Sarah McManus MSc, Annabelle Rose, Laura Silverstein, LCSW, Kyla Sawyer,



James Finn
Prism & Pen

James Finn is an LGBTQ columnist, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Act Up NY, and an agented but unpublished novelist.