I’m cishet and I write queer characters, but not without help.

rainbow bookYeah, so I’m cisgender, which means that a doctor looked at my new-born bits and said, “It’s a girl,” and when I grew up I said, “Good guess, Doc.” I’m also heterosexual, which means I am romantically and sexually attracted to men. Right, so we got those boring details about me out of the way.

What isn’t tedious is that I have a truly amazing circle of friends. *my binary-straight self waves to all my peeps who reside all over the sexual orientation and gender spectrums* For this I am blessed because my perspective of the world is quite vast, and being a lover of diversity, it’s a wee bit o’ heaven for me. I like learning about people and listening to their points of view. It’s fascinating to hear what we have in common and what makes us unique. Unfortunately, it also can be heartbreaking when I witness the prejudice, fear, and hurt my friends go through. That makes me very Hulk-smashy and has led me to my go-to expression: Cishet people suck.

Now, before you go all #NotAllCishetPeople, maybe take a breath and think for a second. Really think. Maybe one’s degree of suckage has not been extreme, but I bet we can find a time in our lives when we’ve said, “That’s so gay,” even if we were talking about a thing and not a person. And we can’t even justify that as “gay meaning lame,” because then we’re insulting people like me who have mobility issues. I often say, “That’s not lame—I am!” We also have used gender as an insult, as in, “You run like a girl,” and decide to misgender people based on their interests, like,  “You like football? You’re one of the guys!” (Yeah, no, I’m not a guy. I just like football.) Worse yet, we justify our solidarity by our genitals, saying, “This group is for everyone with a vagina,” meaning, cisgender women only.

Even when we’re trying to be inclusive of people on other parts of the sexual orientation and gender spectrum, we can muck it up. While it’s okay to politely take someone aside and ask them what pronoun they use, it’s not okay to ask them about genital surgery or any other wholly private and non-of-your-are-you-kidding-me business. That’s super ungood. Bombarding someone with questions doesn’t work. People who identify as queer or with the LGBTQIA2 acronym are not here for the sole purpose of educating us. Sometimes they just want to hang, see a movie, and eat cupcakes with us. You know, just “doing life stuff” as our friends.

I am lucky that my best friend is an educator, though, I won’t lie. She teaches me how not to be so sucky. But still, that’s not what we talk about 24/7. We mostly discuss our lives and act silly. Like BFFs do.

In my circle of friends, I am teased (by my BFF) that I am the token cishet. It’s kinda true! As immersed as I am in my peep’s lives, I still know that there is so much I don’t know about what it’s like to be them on a daily basis. When I hear about how holding a partner’s hand in public can be dangerous, I’m gobsmacked. How does that feel on the inside? Or how other friends cannot walk about peaceably downtown without getting verbally assaulted or having the threat of physical/sexual assault as an immediate possibility. . . all because of their gender. As a cis woman, I know what that feels like for me, so I just multiply that by ten billion and then I imagine that’s what being transgender or non-binary is like. It hurts that this is a reality. Nobody should live in fear like that.

Because there are nuances I probably won’t get no matter how much I try to understand, as a writer I cannot publish even a short story without having it vetted. The beta readers for Life in the ’Cosm were a diverse group of people. Even though I wrote about aliens and not life on Earth, I still wanted to avoid writing something where readers could scream, “BURN IT TO THE GROUND!” Yes, my characters are not perfect, personality-wise, because I have yet to meet a being who is in real life, but as far as queer or gender representation, I knew I needed help. Mind you, I was so panicky about being a douchecanoe, my BFF said over and over, “It’s fine. It’s sci-fi. Just have fun with it!”

Oh yeah, being the anxious cishet person who doesn’t want to insult people can also be oppressive. If you accidentally misgender someone, for example, don’t put on a Shakespearean tragedy-like display about how horrible a person you are. Just use the correct pronoun, maybe pop in a “sorry”, and then slow down your brain to make sure you don’t do that again. Making a scene just creates a really awkward situation. *cough*

Back to writing stuff. I have been told that’s it’s okay for cishet authors to include queer and gender-fabulous characters in their stories. In fact, it’s encouraged! The big thing is just to make the characters part of the story, and maybe just don’t include only one queer person who dies . . . like, in every single story you write. That’s not so great. Having your work read by real-life people who you are trying to represent will improve the quality of your characters. I say this especially about transgender characters, because there is glaring misrepresentation of trans people on TV and in stories. If your work has trans characters in it, then I do recommend hiring my BFF as a sensitivity editor. She’ll read your manuscript and tell you what tropes to avoid and how to write queer and trans characters more realistically. Here’s a link to her website.

So, yeah, I don’t want to be a cishet person who sucks. I think there are others like me, too. Many folks my age just didn’t grow up with enough exposure, so we’re sorta ignorant. However, there is a cure for ignorance. Just learn a thing! Then learn another thing! Keep going like that, and you’ll be a better, more understanding person. Even still, don’t fly that ship alone. When you write something, get yourself a sensitivity editor or at least sensitivity beta readers. Writing takes a lot of time and effort, and if you cover all bases with having your manuscript vetted, the more people will enjoy your stories.

I will continue to include diversity in my stories because if it exists on Earth, it would be silly not to include it in other galaxies. Just like cake. It would be silly not to include cake in other galaxies. All sorts of people and all sorts of cake make a galaxy a cool place to live.

What?

/cg


cgauthorCait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a comedic space opera where boy meets girl, but girl doesn’t notice boy because she’s sharing a body with another boy. She is also the creator and editor of the Spoonie Authors Network. You can read more about Cait on her Website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The judgy Ovum known as Splot.

He’s oozy and slimy, resembles a fried egg, and is probably judging you right now. He’s the Ovum known as Splot.

In Life in the ‘Cosm, we learn that several years before the story begins, Virj Ofreesin finds an alien known as an Ovum on his breakfast plate at a cheap diner. Instead of eating him, or reporting the restaurant to Planet Cinneh’s food inspection authorities, Virj takes the little guy home as a pet and gives him the name Splot.

The two beings form an interesting pair-bond, and Splot begins to communicate with Virj telepathically. While the Ova use telepathy to talk to each other all the time, an Ovum can only choose one person outside their species to speak to in this fashion. Splot chose Virj. Sounds sweet until you discover the types of things Splot actually says.

“Seriously, what are you, some kind of numpty?”

“Not now, Splot.”

Poor Virj can also pick up Splot thinking aloud or speaking to another Ovum, just like one’s overhears someone talking.

“Don’t look at me! It’s not my fault he’s useless with women!”

“I heard that!” shouted Virj from the hallway.

And it’s extremely difficult for Virj to have a bit of erm, um, self-caring private time, because the Ovum crawls all over the flat and can appear out of nowhere.

[Virj’s] breath burst out of his lungs. That didn’t take long.

“What the blazes are you doing with that thing?” asked Splot.

I had a lot of fun writing Splot’s dialogue, because it was often one line here and one line there. (Personally, I think Splot says the things that many of us are thinking. ) And because he only has these huge eyes to gesture with, I needed to face the challenge of making that work, too.

One time I was fooling with my stylus and I came up with this sketch:

His expression made me laugh so hard. I felt it relayed the essence of his character, and used it as an emoji of sorts when communicating to my friends in private messages. Often, I prefaced the image with the line, “I’m making the Splot face.” It’s such a perfect catch-all for when you want to be a little judgmental, but still funny.

Whenever I hear a reader tell me they also love Splot, it makes me happy. I love him, too. He’s on my screen looking at me right now, just like that sketch, wondering why I’m not writing my second book. An odd sort of motivational poster, but it works for me.

You can read more about Splot in my book, Life in the ‘CosmAvailable on Amazon and Renaissance Press!

/cg

 

 

 

The boingy-haired nuisance who’s Noola Quirk.

She likes thrift stores, glitter, bold colours (mostly pink), and her hair looks like a giant follicular umbrella. She’s annoyingly cheerful, probably the worst roller blader in galactic history, but her tenacity is unbreakable. She’s an expressive extrovert. She’s fighting a mobility disability. She’s Virj’s sidekick. She’s Noola Quirk.

I had no idea I’d invent Noola. Mind you, I had no idea what was going to happen in Life in the ‘Cosm as I was writing it. That was half the fun.

At the time I began ‘Cosm, my mobility had become severely impaired by the chronic pain and complications of fibromyalgia and arthritis. A few years before all of this, I was running. But in 2014, I couldn’t walk without a cane, and getting upstairs had been so challenging, I thought we might have to move. My spirits were low.

Then chapter three happened. That’s where Virj is trying to buy a birthday present for his crush, the unattainable and elegant Frayda, who is permanently attached to Jobie, because they share the same body. In the mall at the Delta Mews Business Park, Virj takes one moment to stop feeling sorry for himself and as he gets up off a bench, WHAM! A streak of colour and glitter literally runs him over. Noola Quirk rammed her way into his life on her rollerboots, on an overly waxed mall floor. And pretty much from that moment on, Virj cannot get rid of her.

virjnnoolaShe’s sanguine. He’s melancholic. She loves people. Him, not so much. She is so friendly, she says hi to hundreds of sentient daisies growing in a field. He’d prefer to be left alone in a fuzzy white robe, in his hotel room, writing. They have nothing in common. Except maybe a whacky adventure to find the mystical Slawncha leaves that will save Frayda’s life, when Frayda and Jobie become gravely ill.

I love her spirit and her optimism. I even love her lapses in judgment. A lot of myself as a once twentysomething went into her. (My husband unit says I am still Noola. I’m not sure. I do say, “Whatcha doin?” a lot, though.) Her lust for life amid the uncertainty of living with a disability helped keep me going. I need Noola. I think a lot of us with disabilities need to strive to tap into our inner Noola. She’s not a giver upper.

It was a riot to show their differences at times. Poor introverted Virj. He just wanted to go solo on this mission. Noola wouldn’t have it. I know from my friends that the worse thing for an introvert who needs to re-energize is an extrovert who never leaves their side.

“I’m sorry, Virj.”
 
“I’m not talking to you.”
 
“You sorta did right there.”
 
“Only because I need you to know I’m not talking to you.”
 
“How’s your bum?”
 
“I’m not talking to you, Noola.”
 
“Can I see?”
 
“Leave me alone.”
 
~ Life in the ‘Cosm, Chapter 26

Want to read more about Noola and Virj? You can buy Life in the ‘Cosm on Amazon and from Renaissance Press. Make a great giftie, for yourself or someone who likes books with words!  😀

/cg

The ‘everyman’ who’s Virj Ofreesin.

He’s short, pudgy, and has a snout like a green megaphone, or so his cousin Trance says. Virj Ofreesin (yes, it is pronounced like verge of reason) is the protagonist of my first book of the Life in the ‘Cosm series.

Virj and I have known each other since he started out as a doodle for me in the 90s. For some reason, he rarely smiled in my cartoons, and often found himself in awkward situations. I offset his broodiness with an über-cheerful houseplant named Sonny, and decided Virj should have a laid-back and maybe apathetic pet named Splot. (I thought of the cliche of My dog, Spot, and that’s how Splot got his name).

everymanvirj

I admit, I was a bit cheeky while writing ‘Cosm. The story is set in another galaxy, but instead of my lead character standing as the dashing and tall genius who’s masterful at warring, technology, or science, we have Virj. Why? Frankly, my belief is that if life exists on other planets, there’s got to be some person who perhaps isn’t so attractive, is terrible at romance, hates their job, and self-medicates with cupcakes. Why should space fantasy be so beyond our reach? Maybe other galaxies are full of poor slobs like us.

Virj stayed where he was, with his face pressed against the glass, whimpering softly. The sweet treats continued to sail past, taunting him with their nearness, yet remaining so far out of reach. Pathetic, isn’t it? Yeah, there’s nothing worse than being cake-blocked.

Life in the ‘Cosm, Chapter 11

However, just because Virj isn’t an Adonis, it doesn’t mean he cannot have his own adventures. Even an everyman can be transformed by taking a risk and exiting his comfort zone. Virj’s imperfect self needs to learn a mountain (or a cliff) of life lessons in ‘Cosm—and he does.

“Don’t say another word! I’m fed up of being treated like a lovesick adolescent. I’m a man, I’m in love, I’m going to Zodra and no one will talk me out of it! You hear me? No one!”

A laser blast narrowly missed his head.

Life in the ‘Cosm, chapter 20

He’s not suave. He can’t fly a ship. Heck, he’s not even a really good dancer. And he can’t tell the different between drinks served in mason jars and a bottle of furniture polish. But I like Virj. He’s real. Especially the dessert-belly part. I’m with you there, bro!

Interested in discovering more about Virj’s microcosm? Life in the ‘Cosm is available in paperback and e-book (shameless plug). I’m told people can really relate to the characters and apparently it’s funny, too. One reader said she might have damaged some internal organs laughing. Maybe check with your doctor before reading this book.  😉

Cheers!

/cg