Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Lovers, and the forthcoming Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the multi-genre disability fiction anthologies Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too.
No, that’s not a typo. I’m speaking about Canadian author Madona Skaff, not the recording artist. This post is way overdue, too. I just have to tell the world how this amazing human has impacted my life since late 2015.
She told me to enjoy the journey.
When I met Madona, it was at the now defunct Ottawa Pop Expo. I was dressed as a fashionista dalek, which caught the attention of publishing director Nathan Fréchette at the Press Renaissance Press table. Madona spoke to me about her experiences with the publisher, and her sincere manner really made an impression on me. At that time, Life in the ’Cosm had received a few rejections, and I didn’t know where to submit next. After she told me about her positive relationship with Renaissance, I felt I wanted to take Nathan on his offer to “ping him in January 2016.”
When you’ve never been published and a published author treats you like a peer, it does wonders for the morale. Because of how she made me feel, I felt encouraged to take the next steps.
Today, I’m a writer who by the end of 2019 will have a “pride shelf” that contains two novels, three anthologies that include short stories of mine, and one anthology I co-edited.
She got me rolling!
People who follow me know I love my rollator (walker with wheels). I even named her Noola, after the feisty disabled soul in Life in the ’Cosm. Since I got that mobility device, I’ve encouraged several of my friends to get one, and they love theirs as well!
Before Noola, I could not walk to the end of my street without a lot of pain and the need to sit down. After Noola, and in fact that same summer, I walked 4K in one go! I still suffer from debilitating leg neuropathy, but my muscles are stronger, and I say yes to way more activities because I always have a seat with me!
But you know what? I resisted getting one for many years because I internalized ableist narratives that told me I didn’t need one. Guess who pushed me to try hers? Madona.
We were at a geeky craft con together, and I needed a bathroom break. Madona was at a table beside mine and insisted I try her walker (because I kept refusing). The moment I did, I was like: This is the best thing ever!
I bought my own and am a happy little human who zooms all over the place.
She told me to budget my frustrations.
This is only hit me this year. (Sorry, Madona, I guess I needed to grow up a little.) It wasn’t that long after I started using my rollator that I got fed up of how many spaces in Ottawa were still not accessible. I sort of had a meltdown when I had to figure out how to get to a second floor of a pub. It’s normally connected to a government building, but the building shuts down elevator access on Sundays. After some discussion, I managed to find someone at the pub to help me use the service elevator. Once upstairs, I need to go to the bathroom and noticed there was no large stall there. And I left my rollator outside, used the bathroom, and came back out and vented to friends. Man, was I pissed.
Madona tried to calm me by explaining that I cannot let this incident tax me so much. She looked at me and said, “Trust me. You can’t get angry like this every single time.”
I didn’t understand what she meant and felt invalidated.
I’m a disability advocate these days, and in the last few months, I had a revelation about the type of advocate I want to be. I don’t want to be angry all the time. I want to call things out but also to use my humour in a satirical or snarky way, to makes us laugh while exposing the truth. That fits my character, and it keeps my energy up while standing up for what’s right. I want to promote disabled artists and writers. I’m co-editing Nothing Without Us, which is an anthology where all the protagonists identify as disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or manage mental health. I’m boosting own-voice stories. And it feels great. So great.
I don’t want to be angry all the time.
I get it now.
I need my strength for the long haul.
In conclusion . . .
When someone has travelled a road ahead of you, even if you are a character with an independent nature, there’s so much benefit in taking the time to listen to their experiences. Mull them over. Decide how they can apply to your life.
I didn’t always react right away, but when I did, I discovered more about myself. Then I thrived.
My wish for you all is that you find yourself blessed by having a Madona in your life.
Because holy stars, we need community. We really do.
This week on Twitter, my timeline has been full of posts with the #WhyIDidntReportIt hashtag, in response to all the ignorant people who really don’t get how difficult it is for survivors of sexual assault to report these crimes. Some have gone to the police, their parents, school administrations, and the like, but were met with disbelief or questions that put blame on them instead of their attackers. Many haven’t said anything to anyone because they knew it would amount to a billion questions that again, would put the blame on them—Were you drinking? Were you walking alone? What were you wearing? And so on.
Say it with me now: The single cause of rape? Rapists.
So many people (and not only cisgender women) are affected by what’s going on with the Kavanaugh hearings and all of the news related to sexual assault since the #MeToo movement rose to the next level. One one hand, it’s really powerful when we do speak up and support each other and strive to affect change. On the other, it’s draining, triggering, forces people relive their worst nightmare, incurs comments from the worst people, and makes me want to hide in a couch fort.
But you know what? It’s okay to hide in a couch fort for awhile. Self-care and mental breaks are enormously vital for those of us who are triggered by these events and the horrible trolls who don’t believe us. (I also feel that women who trash other women are particularly revolting.)
If you need to step away from social media or turn off the TV and read a book you love, then do that. The other day I posted a photo of a happy bouncy llama. I needed that visual break. A friend of mine also stopped to take photos of the sky because it moved her, and she posted them for a break from the dumpster fire.
Derailing the focus to something positive is often a grounding tool for people who manage PTSD. Let them post their sparkly unicorn GIFs, happy baby photos, or a review of a film they love.
You’re not less of an activist or a human if you need a break or to excuse yourself from the discussion. You live in you. You know yourself better than any of us. You have the perfect right to take care of yourself.
I must say, though, I’m dead proud of all the people offering support to each other at this time. There has been such a sharing of empathy and love, even between total strangers. In the midst of such horror, something in the human condition still shines through as kindness. That gives me hope for humanity.
Take care of yourselves, my lovelies. We need a world with you in it.
Also, for what it’s worth, I believe you. ❤
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s on a quest to save half the person he loves. Cait has recently submitted the prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a military space opera about legendary warriors Xaxall Knightly and Vivoxx Tirowen. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake
If you don’t know me, then you might not grasp how shocking the title of this post is. Anyone who’s encountered me on social media or in real life knows that I love cupcakes. My erotic fantasy is Ewan McGregor giving me a come hither look while holding up a tray of assorted gluten-free, vegan fairy cakes. (He can even walk away and leave the tray of cakes, really.)
But as much as I love icing, there’s more to me and my writing than that.
Life in the ’Cosm: not just cake in space
When you write a book you’re also tasked with some self-promotion. I normally would add this tagline: Life in the ’Cosm, a story about love, adventure, and dessert. Or, I’d call it a comedy sci-fi with an unusual amount of cake.
While my book is funny (I know this because people have told me), and my protagonist Virj Ofreesin loves eating sweets, the story goes beyond the cupcake. Even though every character is made up, a lot of different feelings I had went into the book.
Because I hadn’t planned to get published originally, I wrote without limits or expecting anyone to read it. So, I went down a few roads that I wanted to explore:
Discrimination against LGBTQIA people by para-religious organisations.
Truly gracious spirituality versus religiosity.
Gender fluidity and changing preconceived gender roles.
Diversity in sexuality.
Dealing with disability.
Chasing fantasy to the exclusion of those who truly love you.
If you haven’t read the book, you’re probably thinking, This is a comedy? If life has taught me anything, it’s that even during the heaviest and deepest moments, something happens that makes me laugh. My darkest moments also have included some of the funniest memories. I think seeing the humorous side of things has kept me alive.
Warning: an expressive extrovert lives here
Writer Amy M. Young called me an extroverted tornado, but she admits that I am extremely introvert-friendly. So, I have that going for me. Whoot!
While I like to talk about cake and can do it forever and ever and ever, I will get passionate about issues that matter to me. One of the reasons my writing includes characters who are gender-amazing and/or are more than cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) is because the majority of my close friends can claim one or several letters in the LGBTQIA acronym. What they endure matters to me, and even though I’m cishet myself, I really want to include gender and sexual diversity in my books. To me, it’s a reflection of real life.
Because I also manage a disability, it was important to me to include a character in Life in the ’Cosm who deals with one, too. She is also feisty to a fault, and robustly sexually active. You know what? We who live with disabilities like sex. Yet, it’s often thought that it’s taboo to think of us that way. (See my post in the Spoonie Authors Network blog called, Sexy and disabled: yes, you can be both!).
So, I often use my creative writing, non-fiction blogs, and social media statuses to discuss my viewpoints in these areas.
(Btw, if you’re wondering why I didn’t include people of colour as part of my creative writing, it’s only because almost every single character is a different colour from each other. In real life, I am very pro ethnic and racial diversity. Heck, I grew up in Montreal, Quebec. It was like having the whole world in one city!)
So, yeah, and stuff like that.
Anyway, just wanted to share a wee bit o’ insight into my own character. But please do not interpret this as my putting cupcakes as a lower priority in my life. I can love people and be an activist and an author while eating dessert, too. I can multitask, you know.
Hm. This post’s made me hungry. I think I need to merge some ingredients now.
Yesterday was the day after the US Election. Many of us, even in Canada, were shocked by the results. My social media timelines were filled with people feeling sad, afraid, angry, and stunned. I was gobsmacked, and the weight of it fell heavily on me.
I’m normally almost annoyingly upbeat, even in dire circumstances, but yesterday the humour and cheerfulness and optimism fled me. I was not okay:
Many of my American friends reside under the LGBTQ rainbow or have loved ones who do, and it broke my heart into a billion shards to read that the Trans Suicide Hotline was backed up over the news. (Apparently their team did a stellar job, last I heard). Other American friends were outraged beyond words and couldn’t help but rant all day. Some of my Canadian friends who were survivors of sexual assault were triggered by the results. I was triggered in several ways, too, and changed my profile pic to black with a bold white slogan that read: I just can’t even.
One thing struck me, though, and it quite frankly pissed me off almost as much as the election results. Some people were trying to talk other people out of their emotions. “Now’s the time to fight,” or, “Don’t waste your holiday in the US. Enjoy yourself,” or “Let’s unite and work together!”
Um, can’t you just let people be not okay when they’re not okay? Yeah, thanks.
This not only applies to the US election but to every freaking thing, like ever. When someone is not okay, let them not be okay! It’s okay not to be okay. OKAY?
Sometimes we need to process through and unpack tons of feelings, memories, and regain our strength before we can move onto the next step. And for people of faith, this applies to you, too! Don’t let other people in your places of worship or in your religious circles condemn you for not bouncing back. You are also entitled time to heal. Never let anyone steal that from you.
As you know, I write comedic content in my books, comic strip, and even in this blog. I like being funny and witty. Yesterday I couldn’t be those things. Today, I felt inspired to draw this:
In Life in the ‘Cosm, Virj (middle) tends to be broody, Splot (right) is apathetic and sarcastic, and Sonny (left) is relentlessly cheery. I felt it was important to show them all in the same boat today, being together, being quiet, feeling the different feels, and seeking comfort in their company and furry blankies. Because sometimes that’s all you can do as a support system. I’ve already seen this concept resonate with people this morning.
If you find yourself unable to lift your spirit after something painful or shocking happens in your life, even after you’ve tried friends and fuzzy blankies, please seek further help. Many of us, myself included, have benefited by a professional ear that has our interests at heart. There’s so shame in it, and frankly, we want a world with you in it.
Here are a few hotline links that might help, but please also contact medical professionals (I’m no expert):