Queer Voices, Open Letters, Endless Love, and a Dash of Fantasy

Prism & Pen Weekly Digest — May 12, 2024

James Finn
Prism & Pen
16 min readMay 12, 2024

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by James Finn

This week in Prism & Pen, we write more heartfelt letters to community leaders and family. We take another hard look at the transphobic Cass Review, we examine straight people’s notions of implied consent in light of queer-dating scarcity mentality — as we (most of all!) amplify real queer voices telling real queer stories. From a gay Chinese man visiting Europe and meeting a guy he can’t be sure he loves, to a 12-year-old’s confusion over peer pressure, these stories are first-hand accounts you won’t read elsewhere.

But don’t think our stories are all dark or serious!

Some are joyful, others are light and funny, and a few are fictional, including a YA gay fantasy by Evan Purcell that captures the humor and pathos of queer-dating scarcity in high school, with an ending that won’t fail to warm hearts.

Ready? Let’s read! 👇

Read stories for free by clicking underlined links. Want more daily stories from across the rainbow? Follow us on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Mastodon, or Bluesky! Want to help support P&P? Click here to join Medium.

— Editor’s Picks —

How Right-Leaning U.S. Press Weaponizes the Anti-Trans ‘Cass Review’

Alex Mell-Taylor

From the outset, it should be noted that the Cass Review is flawed. The report applied a highly rigorous standard that did not fit the context of transgender pediatrics. One hundred of the studies it reviewed were labeled as having “low-quality evidence,” which is not a moral judgment, despite how the report may frame it, and means something different in science. The “gold standard” for a study has always been randomized controlled trials, but because of the nature of puberty, doing RCTs for blockers would be entirely unethical and, in some cases, pointless …

One would think that pediatrician Hilary Cass, the head of the infamous Cass Review, would be aware of this, but it’s clear that her bias is shining through …

The Cass Review is willfully disregarding the science at play, and many trans people are angry about that because they understand how it will be used to take away their rights. If a journalist ignores the truth because it doesn’t always come at them nicely, well, that’s just bad journalism and indicates a profoundly reactionary bias.

Read in P&P

No, Gay Men Do Not Have It Easier

James Patrick Nelson

Queer people have a dramatically smaller dating pool than straight people. Even in New York City — believe it or not, even in the theatre community — most men I meet are straight, even if they don’t initially seem to be.

I have spent years of my life swooning over guys I thought were gay, wished were gay, prayed were gay, but were not. Part of that is an aesthetic that we are taught to favor, and the lack of authentic queerness depicted on screen. I still catch myself looking for a boyfriend played by a heterosexual actor.

The other night, I met a very lovely fella at Stonewall, who blessedly was not straight, though he had two friends with him who were. At one point in the night, they asked me if I minded them being at a gay bar …

Read in P&P

Somebody Once Told Me I Was Trans. You Probably Shouldn’t Do That.

Piddling Piddles

I was probably around twelve or so when I first heard the word transgender. And it came courtesy of a group of girls I had made friends with through the online game Roblox.

At first, they decided I was gay. I must be, they reasoned, or I wouldn’t spend so much time with them or mesh so easily into the group. “You’re about as straight as a bendy ruler,” or some variation, was a phrase I heard often. Their light teasing left me wondering at what exactly I was doing that screamed gay.

Whatever behaviour caught their eyes eluded mine entirely.

I just didn’t think it weird to prefer the friendships of girls over boys, already feeling like I had to act out a role to maintain my male friendships …

Read in P&P

The Illusion of an Everlasting Summer (a gay memoir)

Eki

While tidying up our luggage, I found a manual from the Beijing Queer Film Festival and gave it to him. He flipped through it, glanced at the preface, and asked if I had written it. I nodded. He looked at it earnestly for a while, hunched over, and suddenly tears welled up in his eyes. Startled by his reaction, I hugged his shoulders and asked if he wanted to shower together. He agreed.

The bathtub was small, so we couldn’t stretch our arms and legs. We stumbled as we tried to stand up. As soon as the hot water flowed out, steam filled the bathroom. I reached out to touch his damp forehead. His skin was hot, and my hair pressed against his chest. I could hear his heartbeat, steady and strong. Before I could bend down, he firmly grasped my wrist, forcing me to turn around. The bathtub was slippery, and I almost lost my balance.

Read in P&P

I’m Sorry, Mother… A Letter of Transgender Regret

Saoirse

Dear Mother,

I’m so sorry that I am hurting you now, all these years after you passed. I have tried so hard to be the son you taught me to be. I have embraced the man you groomed me to be. It was not hollow, but it wasn’t true.

Being a man brought me many joys. Still, I could not fully touch, experience, love, or remember any. Each remaining memory is focused on those rare moments, when (despite being a loving father, successful businessman, and devoted husband) I felt at least remotely like a woman.

I still remember the lessons you reinforced in me day by day. You groomed me to suppress those feelings, those outward behaviors that gave away my inner self. Even so, their presence has plagued me all my life.

Read in P&P

Why Are Republicans Trying to Eradicate Transgender and LGBTQ Americans?

Jaimie Hileman

A recent writing prompt asked LGBTQ voices to consider writing letters to our Congress critters asking them nicely to consider NOT persecuting trans and LGBTQ children and to consider WHY the majority party in a majority of US statehouses insists on the necessity of such persecution. This, as we witness a literally unprecedented wave of stochastic terrorism and discriminatory legislation targeting trans, LGBTQ, and female Americans politically for marginalization and erasure.

It’s a damned good question…after all, WHY is it such a political necessity for the US Right?

Why also is it necessary at this level of intensity and frequency?

What makes it so different from previous waves of transphobia, homophobia, and institutionalized misogyny?

Read in P&P

— Essays & Creative Nonfiction —

On Family, In-Laws, and Becoming the “Trans Uncle”

CJ Baker

“Can I come in so we can play?” he asked.

“You can come in, but I’m reading my uncle a book. We can play after,” she replied with finality. She returned to her spot on the couch and resumed reading. Her friend joined in, trying to guess at some of the lines, which Nora corrected and reiterated that she was reading.

These moments are special to me both as an uncle and as a trans man. I fully expected my 4-year-old niece to abandon our book in favor of playing with her best friend, and my heart was full that she chose to continue reading to me. There is also an unmatched joy as a trans person in knowing that you are seen and accepted by someone without question.

Read in P&P

On Being Queer and Collective Trauma

Sebastian Rocca

As a queer social entrepreneur and activist, I have devoted the better part of two decades to championing equality for LGBTQI individuals across the globe…

Most recently, I am the proud founder of the social enterprise Micro Rainbow and the charity Micro Rainbow International Foundation.

These organisations are at the forefront of transforming the landscape for LGBTQI rights worldwide, embodying missions that seek to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Micro Rainbow is a not for profit social enterprise that provides safe housing to LGBTQI people who flee persecution and come to the UK to seek safety.

Read in P&P

A Letter To My Deceased Father from His Bisexual, Feminist Daughter …

Fay Wylde

I’m sorry, Dad. I’m sorry for a lot of things, but mostly, I’m sorry you were homophobic and I’m sorry I never told you I am bisexual.

Do you remember, Dad, the big debate we once had about “the gays”?

Oh, how I loved all the debates you and I would get into on all sorts of subjects when I was a teenager. Outside observers would have thought we were having a bitter fight, but you and I knew that it was just for fun, fencing with words as swords.

It was a test of debating skills, a contest of intellectual capacity to take a position and defend that position, usually on politics, but sometimes on philosophy, religion, any topic under the sun.

Read in P&P

Men Hug Each Other in Many Ways: As a Trans Woman, Let Me Show You!

Emma Holiday

The other night I was in a gay bar with some friends after a night of drinking. As a transgender woman, I am constantly searching for where I fit in. It was the first time I was in a gay bar with friends who were gay.

On the way back from the men’s room, I stopped at the table of a group of very effeminate black gay men. I asked if any of them were transgender and they responded “No.” I told them I was transgender and was lost trying to find where I fit in. They asked me to sit and join them.

After a few brief moments of conversation, I shared with them the loneliness I felt being transgender…and then I started to cry.

Read in P&P

Looking Back on the Joy of Our Gay Marriage on Our 19th Anniversary

Dan Hanley

As someone who never thought I would be married, or want to get married, I’m still surprised when I write in my husband’s anniversary card, surprised that we have been married this long.

My surprise is joined with delight and gratitude.

I refer to him in the card as “my good and perfect gift from God,” something he began saying to me when we decided to start dating. I think of him in the same way.

Also, my husband is my best friend, my lover (which is also the word I use most when speaking to him), and my soulmate.

Read in P&P

My Love-Filled, Gay San Francisco Wedding

Cory Allen

I underestimated the warmth and feelings associated with marrying my best friend in front of my family and close friends. As a gay couple, it is a privilege to be able to do so. It’s not something to be taken for granted.

After eighteen months of being engaged and upon receiving confirmation that we were finally pregnant by surrogate, we knew we were now on a timeline to wed. We weighed the options: a small destination wedding vs. San Francisco doing the whole kit and caboodle. We weighed the costs, unsure if it would be a good use of our money and if many of our families would even attend.

Read in P&P

We All Have Our Stories to Tell, LGBTQIA+ or Otherwise

Michael Horvich (he, him)

Lately most of my writing has been for Prism & Pen with an LGBTQIA+ emphasis. It has been fun, through words, remembering and reliving my many youthful (and some older) experiences.

We all have stories to tell. Telling stories is a way of communicating, but telling our stories can be more than just communication. To tell you that I went to the grocery store today is to communicate.

To tell you about something interesting that happened at the grocery store, to share one of my philosophies of life, to inform about an experience that changed my life, to demonstrate what I feel about something or someone, to illustrate what is important to me in my daily life, to document a series of events I went through with a difficult illness is to tell a story!

Read in P&P

I Passed The “Frankie” Test: Gender Guard Posts on My Trans Journey

Emma Holiday

When you are transgender, you find happiness in the strangest places.

As I have progressed in my transition from male to female, my sense of “passing” has gone through multiple moments of fear and success. Each effort to pass is like walking onto an acting stage still not sure of your lines.

I have been “clocked” multiple times…

Some transgender people don’t care, but I feel that most do. When I feel like I have been clocked, I feel like a social spotlight has been pointed specifically at me. I feel exposed and embarrassed at the same time.

Read in P&P

Life in the 90s Through My Queer Eyes

J.J Ems

One of my favorite movies to watch when I was a kid that just made me laugh was Clueless…

The movie brought a gay character to the silver screen who was badass, carefree, and still loved for who he was. This gave me the aspiration that one day, I would be able to walk in my authenticity and not give a damn what others think.

There are so many movies and TV shows I could mention that really stood out to me and gave me hope, and not only movies featuring queer characters.

Read in P&P

My Quest for Queer Community: Solitude? In Moderation. But Isolation?

Rand Bishop

So, as I’ve shared in recent essays ‘round these parts, here I am, aging, queer, and living alone in a rural area with little or no visible LGBTQ+ community. Stir an all-too-frequent pinch of isolation into a tincture of chronic clinical depression and the result is a potentially lethal compound.

Fortunately, in spite of the wear and tear, I’m still self-sufficient and active.

However, for the sake of my own mental health and my future physical well-being, I need to make a change. ASAP. And, while this belated realization terrifies me, leaving me daunted — overwhelmed, in fact — by the amount of logistical and physical effort such a move will demand, I’m about to set the process in motion.

Read in P&P

Argument with a Childhood Friend: Gender Blindness & Trans Repression

Piddling Piddles

“I don’t see gender. Man, woman, I don’t think about it, I imagine most don’t either. Everybody’s the same, just people to me.”

These were the words delivered to me by a friend I had decided to, yet again, approach about his thoughts on my transitioning. It was a conversation I deemed necessary, courtesy of a single eventful night that weighed and bothered.

I was worried he lacked perspective on my decision to transition. And to be clear, I wasn’t exactly asking for a level eye-to-eye here.

Read in P&P

The Elusive Bliss of Unrequited Gay Love

Richard Zeikowitz (Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika)

… He informs Hawk that he has no regrets and, like his unrequited love for God, he has come to understand that merely having been able to love Hawk is love’s ultimate reward. Receiving love in return is irrelevant.

Had I realized this when in my 20s and 30s, I would have saved myself a lot of grief. For I am a wounded veteran of numerous internal battles fought in my heart regarding unrequited same-sex love.

I will present three prominent ones.

Read in P&P

My Sepia-toned Gay Childhood

Henry Lee Butler

I have a long-held habit of self isolating for self protection. As a child, when my world became unstable or contentious, I would find reasons to be outside, wandering around the property we rented, distancing myself from a world that always seemed intent on hurting people. I learned to raise shields and keep people out. I also kept myself in.

West Texas wasn’t the greatest place for a gay kid to grow up. The span from 1968 to 1982 was particularly challenging. It wasn’t much better in the rest of the world. Political murder walked the streets of America, the serial assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. followed two months and one day by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, student protests, …

Read in P&P

Cis is a Slur, but Groomer, Retard and Burning Rainbow Flags Are OK

Sarah Thompson-Cook

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that my posts on X (formerly Twitter) were flagged as hate speech and hidden. I’d reported lots of incidents of hate speech towards myself and my community on the platform — slurs and even burning rainbow flags and veiled threats of violence. The responses are inconsistent at best — in most cases, these were found not to violate their policy on hate speech. Some policy, huh?

What offence was I guilty of? Using the word “cis” to describe a person who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth — cis woman or cis man. A while ago, Elon Musk tweeted, “Cis is a slur.”

Read in P&P

— Short Fiction —

Undying Love: A Gay Fantasy Story

Evan Purcell

The entire student body and all of our teacher chaperones screamed and ran for the exits. With a nod of his head, David used his ghost magic to slam the exits closed and lock them into place. Yup, definitely a Carrie moment.

I screamed for him to listen, but he refused to hear me. There was only one thing left to do. I ran onto the stage and grabbed the microphone.

“STOP!” I shouted into the microphone. All of the students froze.

But I wasn’t talking to them; I was talking to my dead ex-boyfriend.

David floated across the dance floor, right toward me. The swirling wind followed him in a trail.

Read in P&P

The Gay Detective: Poison Pen Pals

Elle Fredine

Our friend Del was a great guy. Everyone thought so. A genuinely nice man with a beautiful wife. Rising star in a Fortune 500 company. Everybody loved Del. Until he made the front page of the gossip rags for assaulting his intern. And legging it for the Caribbean with his company’s funds.

Except he hadn’t gone anywhere. A frantic phone call from his wife brought us to their luxurious penthouse spa — a lush oasis of marble tile, miniature date palms, electric towel warmers. And a great view across the bay.

Ian and I found our friend face-down in his mineral pool. Clutching a half-empty bottle of Stoli with enough sedatives in it to kill him three times over.

Read in P&P

Editor’s note: Elle’s gay detective appears in other stand-alone stories. If you enjoy the characters, you’ll find links inside. And check P&P for new stories!

— Fiction Series —

The Medellan Conspiracy

Click here for an intro and chapter links

By Grayson Bell

The closer Ardyn and Jevan come to discovering the truth about their planet’s settlement, the more desperate certain people are to stop them. But will the Society of Sevens really stoop to targeting innocent children?

Ardyn was flooded with relief to sense Jevan in his mind again. He picked himself up from the ground and began walking back toward the hospital as he filled Jevan in on what happened. That was when Cylaen came running up the path toward him.

“Ardyn! Myria and Ailis, they’ve disappeared!” Cylaen cried out. “I was hoping they were with you.”

“No, I was just returning home from the hospital when I was attacked,” Ardyn replied, turning around to show Cylaen whatever was lodged below his shoulder. “Can you help me get to the hospital? I’ll call Aerys to have his security techs begin a search for them.”

“There’s a knife lodged in your back!” Cylaen cried out in alarm, tears streaming down her face. “What is going on?!”

Read Episode 63: Assaulted
Read Episode 64: Confession

That’s all for Prism & Pen this week, folks, so happy reading!

Writers, here’s another shot at our running prompt: Let’s Write Very Queer Letters to Politicians and Community Leaders!

We’ll soon have a new one coming out, thanks to prompt editor Jonny Masters. A Little birdie tells me it’ll quite “virtuous.” Curious? Stay tuned!

And we’ll see y’all next Sunday for another Digest. ❤️

— Jim

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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.