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.

In Memoriam: A lifetime or two within a short story

Some people can write a tome and not really tell a decent story, but then authors like ’Nathan Bourgoine can create an entire lifetime—or two—in a short work of fiction that cuts right to the soul.

In Memoriam book coverIn Memoriam follows the story of James, an editor who has just been given a diagnosis that will debilitate and soon eradicate his brain function. He knows his remaining existence can be measured in days or weeks, maybe months, and he races against time to find the one person he regretted letting go of, and who he never stopped loving.

As serious as this theme is, I actually laughed in parts. James has a good sense of humour. Then my heart ached as he tried to remember his early days with Andy, and how his mind would rewrite history, even as James tried to recall the facts by reading his own journals. By the end of the story, I was gutted, but in that way that also leaves you uplifted.

Then I just wanted to cling to the people I love for dear life.

This piece is so masterfully crafted, I don’t think the words have been invented to describe how brilliant it is. I highly encourage you to grab it, and support this fantastic author.

In Memoriam was the first work I read from ’Nathan Burgoine, but it won’t be my last. That’s for sure!

/cg

CGAuthorCait Gordon is an Irish-Canadian warrior princess and author of Life in the ’Cosm, a space opera about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague (Renaissance). Cait’s also the editor of the Spoonie Authors Networka blog that solely features writers who manage disabilities and/or chronic illness. She might make pasta for lunch.

 

A Love Note to My Friends

GenderOrientationThankYou

Because June triggers off Pride month in many places, I’m feeling sentimental and huggy towards my friends today.  I even dedicated my spiritual blog entry, Love like Jesus in Got Grace, yet?to my friends who identify as L, G, B, and/or T.

My upcoming book, Life in the ‘Cosm, is a complete work of fantasy fiction, with a stark silliness to it, but therein lies some truths as well. Like the protagonist, I’m straight, but my circle of friends has people from all walks of life, made in different ways, who are invaluable to me. Lifesavers, really, because they made me feel loved and welcomed at a time when I felt alone and rejected.

Only after I was quite into my first draft did I realize that this book is sort of a love note to those friends. My gratitude and appreciation for their kindness and kinship just poured out of my subconscious. They have been my wise owls, my partners in ludicrous behaviour, spiritual guides, virtual siblings and cousins, and fellow cupcake eaters. I cannot even imagine them not being in my life.

Several of them will also be my beta-readers. If they give me a good review, I’ll still love them. If not, they are all dead to me.

Look, I never said my love was unconditional.

Yes, I am kidding.

Thanks to all of you. You know who you are. Pride month means something to me, too, because I’m right proud to know all of you. ❤

/cg


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

My novel is no longer in its teens!

Yup, just took Life in the ‘Cosm out of its teens and into its 20s. I’ve just drafted Chapter 20 and am headed for Chapter 21. Over 88 000 words now, and counting. I am amazed that a project that started out as a distraction from the symptoms of Fibromyalgia has turned into a story for which I care very deeply.21! Har-har hardy-har-har...

I didn’t realize that this quirky tale would end up turning into a sort of love note for the LGBT people who have been my support system these past 2.5 years. Sure, it’s a fantasy tale of beings from another galaxy, but there are some very real feelings in there that I relay. My characters that are wibbly-wobbly gendery-wendery or gay show a dignity, care, and loyalty to my protagonist that I suppose reflects how I regard my friends in real life. Of course none of the characters are exactly like someone I know, because it is truly a work of fiction, but it’s amazing how I can read something I wrote and trigger off a positive emotion I have for someone I know. Is it a metaphor? Nooo, Cait, it’s a book… (said in a dippy voice).

I am a Christian, so my spiritual life is a big part of me. It’s interesting to see how I express what I love about people of faith and what I detest about religious bullies. That’s something I have to deal with in real life all the time. I fully expect that I’ll be bombarded by Christians who’ll say I’m not a real Christian (if they bother to read this book), but I don’t care about that. I love my Jesus, and I’m doing my best to try and love people the way He does. I cannot deny that there are people from all races, backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations who have been gracious and kind to me. And I pray I can return to them the grace they’ve shown me.

In the meantime, I’m all SQUEEE about heading into chapter 21. This has been an amazing ride, like I keep saying. Onwards I go!

/cg


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.