This is an email from The Digest, a newsletter by Prism & Pen.
by James Finn
I don’t think I can pick out a theme from Prism & Pen stories this week. As storytellers, artists and thinkers, we’re all over the queer map. But isn’t that how life should be? Dive in for a tapestry woven by lesbians, trans folk, gay guys, bisexual folks, and allies.
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Editor’s Picks —
Answering this week’s writing prompt about police states, I examine how I have experienced police officers all my life as violent, lawless thugs. A few bad apples don’t explain why cops keep murdering Black people. Cops kill because their culture is brutal and corrupt.
Every cop on duty that day, with no exceptions, turned their backs on the [gay] cops in a deliberate show of loathing and exclusion. They were telling the gay cops that they were dead to them. They didn’t recognize them as colleagues and they would not come to their aid if they needed help.
They announced with their bodies that they would do as they pleased. They would not work with gay cops even though the law required them to. They announced to the entire City that they were above the law. When they turned back around, their sneers dared us to do something about it.
NYPD officers turned their backs on gay cops every year, telling the world they were brutal, lawless thugs.
For years in Prism & Pen (since before we were known by that name), Esther has been crafting touching vignettes about fictional couple Ewan and Drew. We’ve watched them fall in love, come out, deal with family who need educating, and generally just live as happy people. In this new episode, Ewan attends his high school reunion and introduces Drew to his former bully.
Bart raised an eyebrow. “Conrad said it was a man. So, you are gay.”
Ewan sighed. “Drew is a man. But I’m not gay. I’m bi.”
Bart’s face twisted into a confused frown. “What?”
“Good God, Bart,” Conrad put in. “It’s 2009.”
“I don’t keep up with all these new labels and shit,” Bart said. “You’re either a homo or not. That’s all I care about.”
Today’s poetry feature is a bit unconventional, not in form but in source. Alex shares a poem written by a man he didn’t love but whose feelings for him were deep and intense. Check out the backstory and the moving verse.
Looking up, falling for a shooting star,
A Marlboro man with a childhood scar.
Is he a dream — Is he real?
Reaching out, aching to feel.
Larry continues his tale of growing up gay without realizing it by inviting us along to an elegant fraternity party where courting a wealthy girl leads to an unsettling discovery. When Larry learns how his mother makes her way in a world where women are paid pittances compared to men, how will he react? And what will his girlfriend’s “respectable” parents say?
I carefully explain to mom that the Wentworths are very conservative people who might not approve of her relationship with Richard, so she should be discreet when she meets them. She says this is no problem.
The day comes and the event goes exactly according to plan, making a great impression on all the parents who are relieved to see their children can behave like adults, at least for one afternoon. We are nonetheless swilling as much brandy and booze as we can manage without being obvious about it.
Creative Non Fiction Selections —
As a straight-leaning, late-discovered bisexual, you could say I’ve been successful. Even I thought I was completely heterosexual until a few years ago. And even now, maintaining that identity is not a problem. I’m married to a woman, have never cheated, and don’t intend to. I love my wife. I’ve gotten along fine as a straight man so far. My same-sex attraction, in practical terms, has mostly just added variety to masturbation. It’s all private, and no one ever need know.
Still, I would like to come out …
Jessica L. walked into my office over ten years ago. She was six feet tall and broad shouldered. She wore what she would later describe as “stripper trans.” Booty shorts with fishnet stockings, high heeled boots, and a crop top. She hadn’t started testosterone blocker or estrogen therapy yet, and she was sixteen years old.
When I started working with her in therapy on her transition journey, she and I learned the process together.
My gender binary world was clearly defined and enforced. I was learning the rules.
I quickly learned what was “wrong” but I was definitely determined, my gender started to hide from sight. I started expressing my feminine interests secretly. I became a double gender agent.
So started my double life living on both sides of the wall.
In order to survive living between two genders in the 1950’s and 60’s, I had to learn my spy craft from the start. I learned through some early mistakes to recognized that I was “different” and that I needed to fit in to survive.
There are three types of transitioning for transgender individuals — social, legal, and medical transitioning. All can include many different aspects of a person’s life. All of the detailed facets in this article will explore social transitioning only.
Regardless of your child’s age, the details below will be elements in their social transition as a transgender or nonbinary individual.
As things begin to open up here in the UK, I am trying to make an effort to shake off my hermit-ism by picking up some hobbies and joining some clubs. The idea is to try and meet some new people and get out into the world a bit more. You know, normal human being stuff.
Unfortunately, for queer people, moving into any new circle of people forces us to make a very important and potentially problematic decision.
When discussing police reform, ideas frequently come up that can sound extreme, unrealistic, even scary. We hear words like “defund” or “disband” and it’s easy to misunderstand the intentions behind them. When discussion turns to defunding or disbanding police forces, some unscrupulous types like to take advantage of that misunderstanding, and frame the debate as a choice between anarchy and the status quo.
Far from it. This is about fixing something that isn’t working the way it should.
OK, guys, let’s talk turkey. I know a lot of you who think of yourselves as allies have the idea that “being reasonable” means looking for two sides to a story, even when there’s only one side from the perspective of the LGBTQ person being denied equality. I know a lot of you don’t actually know about the breadth and depth of discrimination in the U.S., even when you have our flags proudly displayed in your social media profiles.
I’ m not here to hate on you for that. I love your flags. I love your shows of solidarity and your hearts, which I understand are in the right place.
But check this out. You have to stop saying, “people have a right to their beliefs,” as if that makes stigmatizing and excluding LGBTQ people morally acceptable.
The challenges that face queer relationships are important, but they don’t define our romantic stories in the real world. Films so often use the coming out of a queer protagonist as the crescendo of a story. Having discovered their identity, romance finally blossoms and then-
Cut to credits.
In the United States, it seems we have been in a multi-decade, if not multi-century, adolescence, our notions of ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality and age imbued with absolutist values and actions based on those values that create untold suffering.
Thinking Beyond Intersectionality, Focusing on Humanity
Every individual is an intersection.
Poetry Picks —
There is a box in my closet that I may never unpack and for a brief time,
there was a label but it’s since worn off and I’ve never bothered to replace it.
I have had other labels but the dust has prevented anything from sticking.
Give me a red
Give me passion and love
Give me an orange
Give me fire and ice …
Enjoy our stories this week, guys! Readers, could you encourage your favorite writers with some comments under their stories? Sometimes that’s the best “payment” a writer could receive.
Writers, don’t forget we still have a challenge running. Can you contribute to our Police States and Police Brutality prompt?
See everybody next Sunday!
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