This is an email from The Digest, a newsletter by Prism & Pen.
by James Finn
Prism & Pen is fiction-rich this week! Your can check out two outstanding short stories in our editor’s picks, while down in fiction finds, Emma Holiday gives us a beautiful allegory. Plus, KP_the_writer starts a promising (chilling!) queer paranormal fantasy serial.
Fiction aside, don’t miss Eilís O’Keeffe’s provocative take on colonialism and queer Irish history. Mike Rosebush, PhD explains how he (theologically) maintains his strong Christian faith as a gay man, and late-transitioning trans woman Kitty Whitemore offers a painfully honest, sometimes amusing account of how she stayed married to her wife after transition.
P.S. For writers who have been asking, my recent medical diagnosis will not change how P&P operates. Keep those stories coming!
Readers: P&P stories in the 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 —
Joseph explores the weight of grief he feels as a queer man denied authenticity. “Say a little prayer,” he urges as he confronts grief and looks ahead to a brighter future.
There are no safe spaces, you’re on a battlefield fighting a war. This was the case at my Catholic high school in southern Louisiana. While I was able to sometimes be myself and find happiness with my peers, there was an air of suppression that remained present throughout those four years.
For the kids like me, we were at best tolerated and at worst maligned. This social death is something I’ve processed years later …
If the world were ending, what would top YOUR to-do list? Spencer’s answer may differ from yours, but I bet you have fun trying to figure it out.
Flicking back to the first page, he looked at the all-important thing that held the number one position. That one most important thing that he wanted to achieve before humanity was destroyed — or before he was. He sighed as he ran his thumb over the long dry ink.
Esther’s Ewan and Drew stories might become a novel one day, but for now they’re a sweet but always insightful short-story collection about being young, queer, and in love. This chapter gives us a longer-than-usual read while taking a sharp look at biphobia.
Of course Amber followed him outside, and ugh, Mason and Gabby were right on her heels. And there was Grace: so beautiful on her chestnut mare that Ewan wanted to write tons of really bad poetry about her.
“Ewan!” Grace smiled at him and he felt ten feet tall. “Wanna go for a ride?”
“Sure!” His voice squeaked and he wanted to disappear into the ground at his feet. Behind him, someone — probably Amber or Gabby, or both — was giggling.
How do you come out as gay to your wife after years of happy marriage with several children? How do you come out to your law partner when the news might just mean the destruction of your practice? And what happens when your excited 9-year-old shares the news with the whole neighborhood? Larry’s memoir is getting intense!
The judge sustained the objection and tore sarcastically into Peter. “I expect…I expect! What kind of question is that, Mr. Koeppel? Sounds like some question a woman would ask. Are you expecting, Mr. Koeppel? If not, move on.”
Peter blushed and did as instructed, but I could read deep humiliation written all over his face.
That night over drinks he said, “I just couldn’t believe the way the judge humiliated and embarrassed me right in front of the jury. I mean questioning my masculinity! And today of all days, when you’re the one who’s gay, not me.”
Essays and Creative Non Fiction —
When I came out as queer last year, I actively sought to diversify my reading life a step further, actively seeking trans and queer authors of romance, contemporary fiction, and SFF (science fiction/fantasy/speculative) books. This year amidst work, health, and world stressors, I have found the escapism I sorely needed in these 3 books: When Katie Met Cassidy, In The Deep End and One Last Stop.
A 16-year-old transgender boy hurries through a crowded school corridor. He has to go, bad. You can see his urgency as he jiggles the handle of a single-stall faculty restroom he’s had permission to use ever since Tennessee passed a law forbidding him to use the boy’s room. You can see his agitation as he realizes the restroom is unoccupied but locked. He hurries to another faculty restroom, but it’s also unoccupied and locked. He eyes a girl’s restroom, but doesn’t dare enter for fear of being harassed. Then he darts into a boy’s room and rushes into the first stall he sees, hoping nobody notices.
We know these details thanks to school security-camera footage, which Tobi’s mother insisted be preserved, because of what happened next:
Last month, I scratched the surface in terms of the rich social history of Third Gender people on the Indian subcontinent, which British colonialists sought to eradicate. That history, combined with increased attempts to stir up transphobia here in Ireland (see the Trans Writers’ Union boycott of the Irish Times), provoked an idea.
What of a land far smaller than India where British colonialists had significantly more time to influence social norms? What potential damage had 800 years of colonial occupation done to gender identities on the island of Ireland?
Because not knowing doesn’t mean disrespecting, and knowing certainly doesn’t mean respecting. And respect is the end goal, with every label.
Some people might not have the slightest idea what a pansexual is, yet absolutely respect someone who tells them, “I’m not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.”
They might even try to use a label on you that is completely wrong. But as long as they do it with kindness, don’t ever take it badly.
How do you get over someone when your time with them has forged neural pathways that remain long after they have gone? When at every turn, some small, inconsequential thing triggers a chain of associations that begin and end with them?
Long after it should have been tossed into the charity bin, the misshapen and holy green sweater sat in my drawer. It wasn’t a sweater as much as a portal into a time when things were at their sweetest between us.
I didn’t tell my wife about my secret before we wed. I did, however, feel pretty good one night when she “forced me” to wear her Navy uniform. New love’s euphoria kept my gender dysphoria at bay. I would slip from time to time and feel ashamed and weak. I would cherish time alone to paint my fingernails or shave something no one would see.
About 25 years before my transition, I showed my wife my collection of stuff I had accumulated over time and between purges. She had already a clue, but my collection shocked her.
For me, I prefer the “Solus Jesus” position espoused in Emily Swan’s and Ken Wilson’s fantastic book by the same name.
To these authors (and me), truth is only found in the person of Jesus. And since Jesus is alive today, His messages are continually being customized within each Follower’s spirit. And the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ advocate who serves as Jesus’ representative in this present era. Thus, the Holy Spirit guides the Follower’s truth from the person’s own: providence, experiences, common sense logic, scientific findings, and (of course) teachings from the sacred text.
I got unsettling medical news Tuesday from my primary care physician. He presumed I already knew the worst, so his words lacked sensitivity to cushion what I received as a hammer blow.
“I’m afraid we’re already doing pretty much everything we can. I will try adjusting your meds again, but I cannot offer you the realistic expectation of living without significant pain or of resuming former levels of physical activity.”
The PDA prompted the straight couple at the table next to us to peek over. I noticed them through my periphery, but didn’t pay it any mind, until they peered over a second time and stared for more than a few seconds.
Are they really going to stay staring obnoxiously? I thought. So shameless.
I stepped away to the bathroom. When I came back, I passed by partner from behind and leaned in for a kiss. We grabbed the attention of many surrounding tables at that point.
“Camp” and “The Black Flamingo” exemplify resistance to many of the by-products of patriarchy: toxic masculinity, racism, and femme shaming.
Although [both novels] are about gay teenage boys, they deal with toxic masculinity and femme shaming — something which is endemic not only in the mainstream world but within the lesbian subculture too.
My fingers gripped the tall glass filled with too much cheap Roscato wine, fingertips turning white. Should I finally say it?
The truth sits in the cavernous space of my mouth. The vaulted ceiling and 32 guards being the perfect defense for a secret to guard. While it has served me well in the past, this is a secret I want to let out, so that I could live in its truth. I’ve tried many times, but this one in particular has always been petrified of the light where it could be seen, and judged. So every time the doors opened, it fled, with lies to take its place.
Fortunately for my sanity, my observance of public morals and decorum as well as to eliminate the possibility of fainting from the sudden surge of blood to concentrated areas of my body, they all don’t become erect at the same time. If they did, my clothes would never be able to handle the additional stresses and would suddenly explode under the strain leaving me uncomfortably naked and with dangerous bodily projections threatening the safety of the general public.
Most Americans, like me, believe the State should not have the power to deprive people of individual liberty without a truly compelling State interest. We believe that rights don’t have to be enumerated in the Constitution to be protected. We believe individual liberty is presumed, not granted. We believe that without privacy, true liberty withers on the vine.
We believe the State has no business interfering in anyone’s private sex life. These are all principles that have at various times been held up by conservatives as virtues.
It was the closest I had ever got to being annihilated. I shuddered on the lip of the cliff staring in the mirror, beholding the ruins.
She was a dash of hope like raspberry cordial in a glass of gutter water.
And I went for her.
Blessed Loins of Jesus, I ran toward her though the air-raid sirens were piercing my sky like the trumpets of Avenging Angels on Judgement Day.
Recently, I’ve been experiencing something brand-new to me: solitude. I had longed for it for a while. The opportunity to have a space that was truly mine and mine alone. To listen to the music I want to listen to. Decorate the way I want to decorate. To walk around the house in my underwear, or even naked, with no one having anything negative to say about it. To cook the food I want to cook without having to worry about someone else’s likes and dislikes.
You see, I’d never had my own place before. Never. I went from living with my parents, to military barracks life, to married life, then to divorce and moving in with an elderly parent to care for, to selling my parents’ house and moving in and living with my boyfriend for the last three years.
Fiction Finds —
Beautiful pink albino eyes stare at me. “You have to,” he says with a delicately soothing voice. I think maybe he wants to help end my pain but the pain is the only thing real; it is all I know. Something twists inside my chest. I feel light-headed and dizzy. A strange wave of something flows through me and I lean towards the boy. I am pulled to him. I feel the twisting pain again — it is in my heart and it hurts, yet I like it; it feels right. I want, no, need, to touch him. It feels natural and I cannot control it… but it is just a boy.
Wait, I was angry, wasn’t I? Where is the anger?
She heard the voice again but this time instead of looking up she looked down. There on the leaf of one of the milkweed plants sat a little caterpillar smiling at her.
Rebecca was young enough to accept the magical reality of the moment as a perfect part of her life. She smiled back.
“Did you say something to me?” she asked.
“Why yes I did. I said you are doing a wonderful job coloring,” the caterpillar responded. “May I come close to look?”
The Caterpillar and the Lonely Child Revisited
I wrote this a while ago and it is my favorite. I felt this from my heart and it seemed to write itself. I hope you…
That’s Prism & Pen this week, folks! We hope you join us for some reads, whether fiction, essays, or memoir. Writers! Time for a new prompt tomorrow morning. Any requests? Leave them in the comments.
See y’all next week!
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