Roller Derby, Queer Life, & UD’s Anti-Trans Tantrum

Stories from Prism & Pen — February 7, 2021

James Finn
Prism & Pen
10 min readFeb 7, 2021


by James Finn

Artemis Shishir and theoaknotes are both writers and university students who identify as queer on the transgender spectrum — one South Asian, the other American. Each adds a unique voice and critical perspective to Prism & Pen. Don’t miss either of them this week!

And as always, we offer outstanding essays, fiction and poetry from writers of all stripes of the rainbow — as we amplify queer voices around the world through the art of storytelling.

If you don’t subscribe to Medium, you can bypass the paywall by clicking our underlined story links instead of the graphic links.

Editor’s Picks —

James Finn

Anti-Transgender Bully at University of Dallas Incites Hatred

When a distinguished department chair at University of Dallas leveraged ridicule to incite hatred of transgender people, artist/author Bethany Beeler joined forces with other UD alumni to challenge the professor’s public tantrum. The university and conservative press then demonized and ridiculed Bethany … for being transgender. I interviewed her to get her take on the imbroglio.

Bethany told me she and her fellow alums were shocked and saddened to see Upham’s post, but resigned to his uncivil behavior. She told me prevailing sentiment among her alumni friends was, “Oh, no! He’s at it again.” Bethany’s son attended Upham’s classes years ago, so she knows his reputation for openly hating LGBTQ people.

Creative Nonfiction
Chuy G. Gonzalez

I Will Not Settle For One Who Sees Me as Fat or Infected

While all of P&P’s nonfiction this week highlights critical social issues, I love Chuy’s piece because of (not despite) the disturbing beauty of his prose. Anyone struggling to meet artificial beauty standards will relate, perhaps especially gay men who often navigate a cruel milieu of shaming body judgment.

He takes my body. Holds my waist so delicately as to not catch my fatness or the ripples and stretch marks of my skin. He holds my back down and forces himself in, as if to dominate my wholeness and erase my corpulence through beating. My body is no longer mine, in this very moment it belongs to him.

Jeff Harvey

Roller Derby to the Village People

Jeff’s two-parter evokes a time, place, and sensibility with rich sensory detail. Part comedy, part commentary, his story will plunge you into a world where roller derby and Y.M.C.A. meant so much more to some than mere passing fads.

Tommy drives me to practice in his dusty pickup. After trying to grow a mustache for the past three months, he now has what looks like a dirty upper lip. His cowboy boots and hat give him the Randy look, his favorite Village People member. With this heat wave before Christmas, I wear a pair of pedal pushers and a sleeveless shirt. My brown hair is a spongy mess, so I wrapped a scarf around it. I take one look in the mirror. Ugh. It’ll have to do.

GB Rogut


Responding to our Refuge in a Storm prompt, Gaby chose poetry to pose a poignant question.

Is there still hope to find some shelter,
a secret place where it doesn’t matter who you are
or where you come from?

Is there a safe haven to rest and nourish one’s soul?
Would I be welcome there? Would the doors open up for me?
Or am I way too close to the abyss for anyone to care?

Creative Non Fiction Selections —

Fiona Feng
My Tarty Black Relic

About crunch 15 her mind begins to wander; her eye dutifully sails in an arc from the floor to rest on the tips of her knees and back again but her mind drifts to other things.

No gym bunny she; far from it; now her days as a club hound are over, she’s become rather fond of the club sandwich.

Jason Masters
Calling Out Anti-LGBTQ Hate is Ethical and Moral

[Famed Tennis player Magaret] Court has used her platform as an internationally famous tennis player to spread hatred towards the LGBTIQ community in Australia and spread misinformation about LGBTIQ people.

I write this as an active Christian within the Uniting Church in Australia, and a member of the LGBTIQ community and an advocate for the LGBTIQ community.

Emma Holiday
Freak, Fraud, Failure & Fear

Women exist in a culture of beauty. Their world is saturated with it. It can be cruel and filled with self-criticism. Born male, I live in fear of entering that arena with the pre-existing sense of massive insecurity and doubt that being transgender already produces. The demand of beauty pours gasoline on a bonfire of doubt.

Abbie Drake
Puerto Rico’s State of Transgender Emergency

Last Tuesday Governor Pedro Pierluisi declared a state of emergency in the American territory of Puerto Rico. Why? Because of the prevalence of gender-based violence. This includes violence against women and transgender people.

The announcement follows the brutal killing of Samuel Edmund Damian Valentin, a young trans man who was found dead by a motorist whose car struck his body, which had been dumped on the highway.

Sarah McManus MSc
Dear Straight Women — Relationship Tips from a Lesbian

As much as we might like to pretend that none of us is all that unique and there’s no need for us to let any part of our identities define us, there are some aspects of ourselves that cannot be overlooked. As a lesbian and a proud member of the LGBT+ community, I could argue that there aren’t all that many differences between myself and a straight woman. Except when it comes to relationships, I’m often reminded that there are some gaping chasms between us.

Sean Bennett
Is There More to Me Than Gay?

My sexuality had once again become a topic about which I was nervous and unsure. I became wary of sharing my identity openly with colleagues and went to great lengths to hide my queerness from my students. I had not been forced to hide by anyone, but the ghosts of legislation like Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 still seemed to haunt the British education system. My identity, as a result, felt fundamentally taboo.

Emma Holiday
My Three Transgender Cs: Courage, Confidence & Conviction

I hate school yard bullies. I love to see them get a bloody nose. You have to be willing to get a few bruises if you want to be the person to punch them in the nose.

Being transgender and transitioning can feel like being attacked by an entire gang of bullies. Anyone who is transgender must find their own courage, conviction and confidence to fight back.

Phoenix Huber
My Teacher’s Trans Fat Slide Made a Trans Woman Joke

When I was in high school, our health class had a recurring guest speaker in the field of nutrition. He was memorable for his fair but no-nonsense lectures on every known vitamin and mineral.

But there was one image from his PowerPoint I would never forget. To introduce a section on trans fat, he showed a photo of a trans woman.

Audience members laughed.

Artemis Shishir
Why I Call Myself Queer

I look into the mirror and grin widely. A small face with sparkling black eyes covered in soapy lather smiles back at me. Dadu, my grandfather, glances at me from his chair. “What are you doing?”

“I’m shaaaaaaving,” I sing back.

He shakes his head at me, amused. He takes the blade out of his razor and lets me fake-shave every day.

“I am going to have a beard like you and shave. Like real shave shave.”

“Okay. We’ll see. Now hurry up!”

Fiona Feng
I Survived the Damage Done

Hell fire, I was always the elephant in the room, then as now, a deficiency tactfully rippling away beneath my bubbly, witty, eyeliner- and-hot-pants-wearing true self.

It simmered away though all occasions; birthdays, Christmases, drag queen dance offs.


The Downside to “Passing” as a Man

I was with Silvia in her dorm room, and we were catching up. At one point in the conversation, she gave me a kiss on the forehead. It was an innocent gesture. Silvia is a cuddly human, and she tends to express her love for others in physical, cuddly gestures. Nothing out of character for her.

But, it gave me pause. Was I still [as a transmasculine person] allowed to kiss her on her forehead?

Fiction finds —

Jeff Harvey
Roller Derby to the Village People

The championship match between the Memphis Belles and the Atlanta Firestorms starts December 26th at seven p.m. at the Memphis Arena. We arrive at five for the practice session. The capacity sign indicates three thousand max. I shudder. That is a lot of folks, more than I’ve ever been in front of at one time, even when I won best skater at Freewill Baptist Church’s Skate-For-Jesus Fundraiser.

Edna stomps up behind me. “Oh hey, Miss Cathie. You ready to rumble?” She laughs and slaps her knee. “Just kidding. Everything’s gonna be fine. Yee haw.”

Poetry Picks —

Esther Spurrill-Jones

Can I claim sanctuary?
Will you take me in and shelter me?
The Name of the Lord is a strong tower;
Will you open the gates for me?

My ship is tossed upon the waves;
My sails are torn to shreds.

Important: for Prism & Pen writers —

James Finn
You Deserve More Eyes on Your Stories: Here’s How

I’m repeating last week’s plea to P&P writers to please read this editor’s tutorial and pay special attention to the section on header images. Want some helpful examples of effective titles and images? Check out theoaknotes’ stories and P&P and elsewhere.

That’s all she wrote for this week, guys. I’m super pleased with the breadth and depth of this week’s storytelling. I hope you all find tales to dig in to.

Writers, don’t forget our Refuge in a Storm prompt is running for one more week.

Happy Sunday, and if you live in North America or the UK, do try to stay warm! See you next week.

— 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



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.