This is an email from The Digest, a newsletter by Prism & Pen.
by James Finn
Let’s shake up Prism & Pen’s weekly format! We’re running a writing challenge on the joys of queer parenting, and since response has been strong, I’m going to highlight parenting stories in a section just below our usual Editor’s Picks, which I’m reserving for stories NOT about parenting. Make sense? Who knows, but let’s go!
Readers: Stories in the P&P Digest are always free if you click the underlined links, but if you subscribe to Medium, you can help support your favorite writers.
Editor’s Picks —
UK Cited for Anti-Trans Human Rights Abuses. Is US Next?
Just a few years ago, the U.K. was seen as a leader in transgender equality. Last week, Europe’s leading human rights watchdog cited the U.K. (alongside infamously repressive/authoritarian regimes) as a center of transphobic hate speech and violence. The UK’s lightening swerve toward anti-trans hate must serve as a cautionary tale for LGBTQ people and allies on the political left.
A few months ago, the LGB Alliance opened up for business in the U.S. You can watch them on Twitter stirring the same kind of irrational hatred the U.K. branch is known for. They falsely call transgender “ideology” homophobic, push evidence-free claims that lesbians are under assault, oppose conversion therapy bans, wring their hands over “sexual mutilation,” and label trans supporters “misogynists.” And they do it all from a leftist, not religious-right playbook.
When the ability and will to speak left, author Takoda Patterson found themselves in a depression that left them with the desire to only sleep and write. What came out of this was a body of work that challenges what it means to be a person. Here, thoughts on trans identity.
I am what some will call a transgender woman and in a sense, that is what I am but no longer is how I identify. I felt the need to attach the word Trans to myself when I first began to transition because at the time, I considered it necessary…
What was once considered a necessity for me, quickly became a sense of other-ism. When I decided to legally change my information, it was not only because I wanted to legally be recognized for who I was. It was also to gain the liberation that I desperately needed in order to grow.
Flash fiction is hella hard to write, but this little gem sparkles. Has a former lover ever left part of themselves behind in a tangible way that makes you hurt? Have you ever wished for a do-over? This story’s for you.
We needed to stretch our legs and eat something, and while walking up and down the strip, you saw it in the window of a ski shop. It was red plaid, the inside of the collar and cuffs lined with denim, a little leather tag sewed under the seam of the breast pocket. We made fun of it, initially. It was on sale for being from last season’s line — how scandalous. How dare you be seen wearing it this season? I don’t think you took it off for the whole trip.
Larry’s chapter this week happens to be about gay parenting, though that’s a timing coincidence. When he finally came out as gay after years of denial, people inevitably got hurt. Here, he and his daughter share perspectives.
The first few weeks Dad came home religiously every night. It was comfortable. Then, gradually, his visits tapered off. Those three weeks, I didn’t tell anyone about Dad. One noon, sitting in the cafeteria with Liz, I suddenly felt, “I can’t keep this a secret any longer. If I can’t tell my best friend, who can I talk about it to?”
The harsh reality was that I had to develop new ways to relate to my family. I missed living together, which is where all the special things happen. I was no longer part of the family and had become just a frequent visitor. I may have gained authenticity and integrity, but I had lost my family …
Coming Out as Gay Hurt my Family, Especially the Children
Chapter 54: The Other Side Of The Closet
Parenting Stories —
Then one day when Jason was out of the country on immigration business, I heard a squeal of brakes, shouted voices and feet pounding up our steps. Brent stumbled into the apartment with blood streaming out of a huge lump on his forehead.
A car had hit him as he was skateboarding in front of our house! The driver was with him, shouting, “But you must come down and wait for the ambulance! Please!”
Lacy asked whether I have children. I wanted to say, “No. I’m gay, dear.” Instead, I said, “No, I never married.”
This being the rural, intensely religious Deep South, and not knowing their religious views, I avoided what might have been something discomforting to them, despite requiring that I kept my sexual orientation secret when it was directly responsive to her question.
Last week I wrote about how I Stayed Married After My Transgender Transition. I mentioned I loved parenting, so I figured I’d better write more about that, starting from when I was an 18-year-old sailor in love with a beautiful girl.
My girlfriend was a pregnant single woman in the Navy in the early 80’s. She said, “I don’t want to wear a maternity uniform until we are married.” So, off we went to the realtor around the corner. A realtor? Their Yellow Pages ad offered weddings too! Were weddings good for business?
I didn’t start out parenting as a gay dad. (Well, okay, maybe I did, but I didn’t really let anyone know at that point. There may have been some suspicions, but I digress…) The point is, at the time I became a father, I was stuffed way back in the “far right” corner of the closet. My wife and I were the Ozzie and Harriet of our white, evangelical, conservative little world…
[Today] I have a special bond with our youngest, as they are nonbinary and part of the LGBTQ family, in addition to our biological family.
The rejection I imagined never happened. My daughter grew up with us being treated no differently than her peers who had a mom and dad instead of two moms, then eventually three moms. Her friends came in all shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities and backgrounds.
And when my high school graduation came around, I had three moms there to support me and take a dizzying number of celebratory pictures . Now as a college senior, I have an unbeatable party trick. Not many people can say they have lesbian parents, so I attract small crowds when I talk about it.
Drew and Ewan are fictional characters, a loving young queer couple Esther writes about often. Here, a conversation about gay parenting with in-laws who tiptoe around tough topics:
“I’m a lesbian.”
The words, in a childish scrawl on the whiteboard on the wall in April’s room, surrounded by rainbows, had stopped Shirley cold. She’d stood for several seconds just staring at them, her mind racing.
Essays and Creative Non Fiction —
Once when I was at a Target, I wasn’t paying attention to the cashier, and I hadn’t picked up on the fact that she was a trans woman. When she corrected me, I made a quick apology. I felt bad for not noticing, but that was my problem, not hers.
Recently, a good friend of mine has started his transition and I mess up with him all the time. He will admit that he doesn’t make it easy because sometimes he still presents feminine and will probably always gender bend, to some degree. He’s very forgiving when I mess up, but I still apologize.
Frequently, we read stories about how awful gender dysphoria can be. It can be emotionally crippling and affect every aspect of your life negatively. Also, many of us face prejudice and harassment and all too often face homelessness and death. Today, though, I would like to talk about some of the things about being trans that don’t suck.
Last Monday, I was trying to remember the correct title of a book written by John Shelby Spong, for 20 some years an Episcopal Bishop. Entering his name into Google search, the first thing that hit my eye was the headline Former Newark Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong is Dead.
This hit me pretty hard.
The Google headline that delivered the news to me was from a blog produced by a man who rejoiced in the name of David Virtue, D.D., who turned out to be a Christian Troll of the first order.
The worst place on earth to explore your vulnerabilities is on the Internet. There seems to be an endless supply of fodder to make your every weakness into a black hole of despair. If you are transgender, you are like chum in a shark tank.
Welcome to feeding time on the Internet.
There is a MasterClass for everything. Gordon Ramsay, cooking. Anna Wintour, creativity and leadership. R.L Stine, how to write for a younger audience. I’m going to give you a MasterClass on how not to be an ally, and it won’t cost you a thing.
The very word has become a participation trophy, a form of rainbow capitalism instead of a social construct. You can tell me you support the LGBTQ+, but what are you doing to show that support?
I joined Medium just this past June, after several disappointing months trying to garner a following using Google Blogger. The community aspect was what attracted me — the site makes it so easy to connect with other writers, to find publications, and to build an audience. Then in August, I published my first piece here in Prism & Pen, in response to a writing prompt. It is titled “Religion and Queerness as an LGBTQ+ Catholic,” and its content can be inferred from the title.
Ask any elderly gay man about Sydney’s gay scene today and they’ll tell you it’s not as big as it used to be. You’d hear about grand drag shows at Capriccios and the fabulousness of Patchs. If you walk down Oxford Street today, you will find only a few longstanding legends like Stonewall Hotel and The Shift (formerly Midnight Shift), with many clubs remaining a distant memory.
Similar stories are heard not just in Sydney, but in many other gay scenes across the world.
My saving grace was Sam, a blond-haired blue-eyed boy, the son of one of the engineers who worked in my father’s offices next door to the warehouse. Sam had just graduated from high school on the West or WASP-y side of town and was saving money for college by working for the company. We developed a jokey camaraderie, as he teased me about my (lack of) stature. I was only 5’2” and still waiting for puberty, long after my friends had arrived, and was self-conscious about my body. But I welcomed any attention I could get from Sam, and his joshing was never mean-spirited like my brother’s.
I met with my client. It was quick; they left the room to meet with someone else. As I’m picking up my things about to leave, a staff member walks in. To my confused surprise — she asked if I wanted communion.
It took me a second to form a coherent answer. I couldn’t believe it.
Wasn’t I just thinking about this on my way in here?
I’ve never been asked this here before.
How often do they do this?
What were the damn chances?
“Yes,” I breathed.
Two stories about institutional Catholic anti-LGBTQ hatred make headlines this week. The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte vow to keep fighting for the “religious freedom” to fire LGBTQ employees. In a story that made bigger headlines, Cameron Esposito, LGBTQ actor and best-selling author, led a protest against the elite Chicago-area Benet Academy, which recently broke off onboarding a new lacrosse coach after administrators learned she is married to a woman.
Benet resumed hiring Amanda Kammes, a two-time state-title winning coach and Benet alum, after sustained pressure from thousands of current students, parents, and alumni, who delivered a petition stating, “We are ashamed of your narrow interpretation of Christian morality.”
Sadly, the meek will not inherit the earth and the pen is not more powerful than the sword, not if we let the bigots, the hatemongers and evil of this earth dictate how we live our lives. Their aggressive attacks should not be acceptable. They always want more.
Neville Chamberlain proved that appeasement doesn’t work.
I was reading in the British press today how feminists feel angry and even physically threatened by “transgender zealots” in England.
I and many like me … have stuff to lose. Frankly, that is what has kept us in the closet for decades.
My industry is MIS O GYN ISTIC. The construction industry is crazy misogynistic. I also work for lots of MAGA folks. I am not hiding anything from anyone. If you figure out I’m trans trans based on my “On Fleek” eyebrows, my boobs, or any other of the zillion context clues I give off, and if you are willing to ask me, I will be selectively honest. Folks see what they want to see, anyway.
Fiction Finds —
Dave was stunned and bewildered. It was as if Dr. Vikram was breaking up with him. About a month ago, Dave had run into him at lunchtime in a burrito joint. They had exchanged a friendly hello. The encounter hadn’t seemed weird. Dave kept thinking, why? There had to be a reason? Why wouldn’t Dr. Vikram see him anymore? Had he been too flirty? Did his finding Dr. Vikrim handsome cause him to grin and smile too much? What was the reason for being canceled? Dave couldn’t figure it out.
KP gave us the intriguing prologue last week. Don’t miss chapter 1!
He held his hands firmly around a new bag offering me only the straw that protruded between his middle and index fingers. I let it sit in my mouth for a moment, savoring the taste, before letting the warm liquid slowly drift down my throat. Without request, there was another bag ready for me.
As I reached for it, he pulled it back towards himself ever so slightly, teasing me and inducing a sudden unexplainable hunger for his death. If only I could be bothered. The wine was his distracting savior.
Pause for Poetry —
White walls, pieces of you on display
carve yourself out
and offer everything
drip, drip …
I shall not proclaim to love thee for only
What remains of thy life, but of mine will vow.
My fidelity, devotion, so strongly
With these will I thee and thee alone endow
That the bond survive thy soul by Death purloined…
This one breath
That’s Prism & Pen for this week! Time for me to make an early dinner and get started with Sunday pleasure reading. Join me with some P&P selections?
Writers, our parenting prompt is still running, if you’re interested. Anybody else want to tag team like Larry and Elaine did writing with their kids?
See everybody next week!
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