You know I love literary news and space news.
This has been a hard month. I am missing my Gram more than usual. My laptop died.
I started going to pride month events when my nephew was around 1 I guess. I told him that Pride month was about love, acceptance, openness, and the vitality of the human spirit. He has never batted an eye at same sex couples or anyone else. To him, love is love (kissing is still gross, but what 10 year old doesn’t think so).
One of the most interesting conversations my mom had with him was about Bert and Ernie (this was maybe a year or 2 ago). He asked how long had they been living together and mom rattled off 20 years or so. Without missing a beat he asked why they didn’t just get married. She smiled and said sometimes people don’t always feel the need to get married. He said in a rather stately fashion that if they loved each other than they should get married.
The other thing is that while I have always looked forward to Pride month, this year has been a little different. I have read a lot of posts and articles outlying who gets to be proud. Articles providing guidelines for festival/parade behavior if you don’t fall into the LBGTQIA+ group, and many many arguments over flags, letters, and inclusion. I have even read quite a few post comparing the LBGTIA+ struggle to that of race/ethnicity. The articles about “ally” where the hardest to read.
For this, I am going to do a little time travel. Some of you may not know, I am 36. I have seen a lot things. I am curious by nature and that curiosity has lead me down wonderful paths, down painful paths, and this provides the foundation on which I run my business.
My first love is research. When I was 15, I wrote a research paper on Tea Rooms in St. Louis. This isn’t what you think. “Tea Rooms” where places in the park gay men would meet to have sex. I found out about this while researching Forest Park. I was completely horrified that men felt that this was their only option for a bit of brief happiness. I told my mom what my topic was and she was 100% supportive. She drove me all over the city to get pictures and interviews. The interviews where the hardest part. Who wants to talk to a 15 year old about their love/sex life? Let alone a love/sex life that was considered “dirty”, “wrong”, and “predatory”. It took a few weeks to get the interviews set up in safe places and with discretion. My mom helped make it happen. She helped without prejudice. She helped me discover that love is love no matter what flavor.
In the paper I championed equal rights for openness and acceptance. To love and to be loved without fear and hate. I provided the blue laws banning interracial marriage as the foundation of my battle. I used my actions to set the tone for what I was prepared to do, support and fight the good fight no matter how hard and how many tears were shed.
One of the men that I interviewed was leery, but I let him look at my notes and he was shocked at what he found. I was writing a paper to expose the unwarranted prejudice and hate. The health risks of not being able to live and love openly. What we could do by affording everyone with equal footing and legal protections.
This brings me back to the word “ally”. Am I? I don’t know anymore. I champion love, acceptance, openness, and the vitality of the human spirit. I try my hardest to provide a platform for those who want to share their messages. I write letters, I support monetarily, I support in the dark when no one knows it is me helping. What is a little behind the scenes assistance if it means a lifetime of happiness for another?
Why do I continue to my support when this year, it seems so unwanted? I worry about those who don’t have support. I worry about those who need someone who will listen without judgement. I worry about those who are lost and can’t find their way.
Why do I continue to support when visible differences are equated with something that is while private, the right to live and love out loud is constantly questioned? I do it for the next generation. I do it with the faith that my nephew and his peers will learn from hundreds of years of mistakes and lost. I do it so that the next generation doesn’t repeat the world we are living in. I do it because in my heart and mind no one deserves to suffer. I do it because of the hurdles I have had to jump professionally and personally.
Do I need anyone’s approval to be a champion? No, I don’t. I don’t seek it. What I want you to know is that while you are wrapped up in arguments about flags, letters, and inclusion I will continue to do what I do whether you approve or not. This isn’t about you. This isn’t about me. This fight is about now, the future, and everyone whether they realize it or not.
In this day and age we can find books on literally anything written by anyone. With the advent of self-publishing and boutique publishers catering to specific tastes; the literary world has become a smorgasbord. That being said, I have seen a lot of articles on “how to read diversely”. With all that is available, are those article really needed? (Pot calling the kettle black here.)
No secret I love to read. I will read practically anything. I recently looked through my Goodreads bookshelves (Not every single thing I have read over the years has made it) and I noticed a little something. In some genres there is less to choose from when talking about diversity and inclusion.
The common breakdown I see:
- The author is a person of color.
- The (main) character(s) are person(s) of color.
- The author is falls under LBTQIA.
- The (main) characters fall under LBTQIA.
I find this interesting for a few reasons. These can be mutually exclusive or they can be rolled together. So what is a reader to do?
The first part is how do I spread my reading interest. Well, I like to read for a variety of reasons. For relaxation, I primarily read science fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy (sometimes I will through an alternate historical book in there).
Let’s stick with relaxation reading.
How do I go about looking for something to read. Like most people I am attracted to the cover, then the synopsis. Usually, I look for the things that are most appealing when I am relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. (Fluff, sweetness, kink, and a splash of drama is perfect). Most of the time I don’t take the author into account. Honestly, I don’t worry about the preferences or the ethnicity of characters either.
The conversation of reading diversely fails at inclusion. This boils down to the writers. I will read what is available in the genre(s) I read. If it is there and looks good, you get my money. So where does that leave the reader?
It leaves the reader at the mercy of publishers. Do some publishers try to be inclusionary? Sure. Do others? Not so much. In the end it is a revenue game. Who are they selling to? According to Pew the people primarily buying books for pleasure in the US are white. There you have it. So what does that say about the market? Of course there is a margin for error. Blacks come in at an okay second when it comes to buying books for pleasure.
Who is in charge of the industry? Well, it is isn’t people in marginalized populations. Where does that leaves us? Self/Independently published authors. While Amazon has become a haven for self-publishing, where does one go if you prefer not to shop there (the horror, I know)? There are boutique and independent publishers. But, based on the numbers, that doesn’t seem to be a haven of diversity and inclusion.
In certain genres do I go out of my way to read a black woman’ work? HELL YES. The comic book/graphic novel industry is rampant with prejudice and sexism. I will patron a black woman if she writes what I like to read. Black women are stepping up their manga game like never before. So yeah, I will buy it if it fits into my Sunday reading genre habit.
(If it fits into what I like to read is the key here.)
Hey, we like what we like. I am not telling you to go read anything. I recommend books to people because I enjoyed (or disliked) it enough to talk about it. What I will say is that, broaden who you are reading. Give someone new a chance. Give a new character a chance to win your heart. Or at the very least, piss you off.
You never know, that dark skin lovely may be just what you need on a Sunday afternoon mental escape. You know, saving the world, rescuing the damsel (or handsome gentleman) in distress, all before bedtime.
Do I Really Belong In the MM Genre? is a great article. If you haven’t read it, do read it. If you loves books, read it.
Now for my thoughts. What Jeff Erno has so eloquently written is why I know longer participate in the Goodreads group, or any other group that is specifically M/M. The dissension, bigotry, and prejudice are rampant. This sub-genre’s community has become so toxic over the last few years. It was making me unhappy to participate.
The prime reason my business is set up the way it is, is because I believe in INCLUSION. Not just diversity. I listen to people wax poetic about diversity. They are never inclusionary. The M/M community may be diverse, but it continuously fails at inclusion.
I have seen comments such similar to, “EEEEWWWW the author had m/f sex. Vaginas are so gross.” This coming from a woman. WTAF. I got sick and fucking tired of calling people on the carpet. Nothing like reading comments about how “the blacks” are (fill in the blank), or how “the gays” should be (fill in the blank). Nine times out of ten some of these people couldn’t make out the door in a LBTQIA shoes, let alone mine.
I figured, I could do better. Create a place where all are welcomed. That is what I am striving to do.
So, here I am on Terra. Me, a little energy orb. I have been exploring the galaxy for eons. Every now and then (love this language the Terrans call English. It is so inefficient and paradoxical), and an orb needs a break. The really cool thing is that I can become what ever creature I want. Terrans are so limited in their body choices. I will get back to that.
I was doing my data collection and I found this computer. Well, I think it is a computer. Anyway, it is called Voyager. I decided to take a look. I found a map and a container of stuff. I analyzed the map and then I remembered there was a young species in the vicinity. My word Voyager is so primitive. Turns out the Europans have been watching Terra for over a millennia. I did go through the container and I found this thing with numbers on it. I think it’s called Nasa. Anyway, I decided to head straight to Terra. How primitive could it be if they got their computer all the way out past the planet they call Pluto.
The youthful ignorance of the Terrans is amazing. According to the Europans, every time they get something good, they destroy it. As the Terrans say, what the fuck!! They have no idea how many others are laughing at them.
The incident with their vehicles on Mars was unexpected. Who knew they were making those kinds of strides. I discovered the best place to learn about Terra is a “library”. No one uses paper anymore, but they are just babies.
So picking a form. There are, from what I can tell, two reproductive variants. A bit remedial, but I am no one to point out faults. I have been countless species. I have had wings, been a giant, I have even been nothing but light. Here, I am limited. I decided to become what the Terrans would call a “female” on the outside. Oh, did you know they have reproductive organs on the outside. It has been hundreds of years since I have seen that. I decided to add a “penis” as well as the “female” breasts and vagina. I really, don’t see what the issue is, but as I catch up on their current events, that is a problem. Such small minds.
You won’t believe this. I don’t believe this. I ran into a Xac. I have always been found of Xac. I suppose, I would define him as a “male” by Terran standards. He is not any specific reproductive gender on Europa. He floats in between, suiting the best needs of his partner. On the outside he looks like a very pretty Terran “male”. Oh, and he has 3 heads. Well, what the Terrans call three heads. He has 2 peni and then his face. Funny thing is, I don’t really care about that. I do enjoy his company. Xac is here causing nothing but trouble.
I have got to run! Xac and I are joining in the Terra tradition of “date night”. My goodness the lengths they will go through for a mate.
I blame Jeff Baker for this.
She moved to Tucson for the job. It came with great pay, benefits and a plush three bedroom apartment. What more could a girl really want? Waters, Sublette and Blair is a prominent law firm in the city so it was a bonus to get the job. She had been in town 2 weeks before officially starting. She had made a few appearances at the office to have her workspace set up correctly and orientation. She also met the Mr. Waters’ wife. Sweet It’s a three story building with a lovely courtyard in the center.
It was only her third day on the job when she saw him in the courtyard. He was dressed in a black suit with a dark red tie. He had to have been at least six foot two and a build to match. As I approached the courtyard he looked up and smiled. He must be from the third floor she thought. Jason told her there was a construction firm there and the firm handled legal matters for them. She hadn’t time to review the entire client list. She was planning on doing that Friday afternoon.
She stopped to admire some of the new blooms in the garden nearest to the garage when he approached. He smiled almost too excitedly. She smiled back and began to make her way to the door. She decided to say hello.
You must be new here. I work upstairs from you. W
Hi, I started here a few weeks ago. I work for Jason Waters. I’m his new assistant. L
Really? He told me he was interviewing. I hadn’t realized he needed someone right away. W
That is what he told me when he offered the job. Well, I have to get going. Perhaps I will see you around sometime. L
From then on she saw him every morning. He walked her to the building every day. They talked about the weather, books, local news and even sports. She didn’t know a lot of people outside of work and it was nice to talk to someone besides Jason’s wife. She decided not to ask Jason about him. Cynthia, Jason’s wife would be a better person to ask. She would just wait for their lunch date Friday to talk to her about it. It would seem that she had an admirer. The thought made her smile as she went home for the day. She pondered on whether he had a girlfriend or wife and was he just being friendly because she was new to the building. She walked into the silence of her small apartment and continued to think about him every evening. He was well built, she could see that when he reached for the door for her. There was something about him that she had to find out. A little flicker of a flame, she was sure of it.
The subtleness of his daily flirting as they both approached the office building each morning was something that she often looked forward to. He would complement her choice in clothing, shoes or the care in which took to select the perfect accessories to complete her look. The she started seeing him in the cafeteria at lunch. She was quite surprised to see him there. Rumor had it that he never came to the cafeteria for lunch.
He often chose to eat out or no not eat all. He found out by treating his assistant to a very elegant lunch that Layali often ate in the cafeteria. She frequently brought her lunch and a book choosing solace during her lunch break. His assistant offered the latest gossip in the building but he was only interested in her. She was a curiosity for him. The fact that she did not pay much attention to the other companies in the building was a bonus. She mentioned that she was the executive assistant to a partner in the law firm below his office suites. Wyatt rarely paid attention to new hires, but when he spotted her strolling across the plaza admiring the gardens on her way to the building he had to see her closely.
Later that week was when Wyatt was spotted in the cafeteria. There was a hushed excitement in the air since this was his second visit to the space since it had been completed. He saw here sitting quietly in the back nibbling away at her fruit with a book planted firmly in front of her. He went through the line absently choosing food as he hoped she would still be there when he paid. Taking his food past the other executives he made his way to her little quiet place. As he sat his tray down she looked up and offered a shy smile and moved her things so he could join her.
“I hear your name is “Wyatt”, it was more of a statement then a question. “And you are Layali”. “That is my name”, she said with a smile that was for him. “It means night”. “And you are named for the great gunslinger”, once again not a question.
He was taken aback by her directness. A shy smile followed by knowing statements. He was thrown by her in less time than it took to walk over. He adjusted in his seat sitting up straighter and leveling his gaze. Her face was unreadable and it unnerved him. He was so used to being in control of every situation. People were often wary that they would make him unhappy. He worked his way up in construction, starting as a gopher and ending with his own construction firm. He was so use to getting most of what he wanted. The things he was missing were only obvious to him and he began to wonder if there were rumors to that. He shook that off.
I find a lot of different things funny. I have laughed at rape jokes, race jokes, profession, jokes, etc. I do draw the line at making fun of the those who suffer from mental disease or defect. This doesn’t mean I don’t poke fun at my own PTSD. I do. I poke fun at the fact that I was raped. If I didn’t find humor, I would not have survived. I am a survivor. I know this.
I was called out today, not by name (I wish it was by name) for sharing a bawdy joke about an unnamed prostitute. I thought it was funny. It’s an old joke, crass in nature. Being lectured on the travesty that is sex trafficking and sex work is something I don’t need. I am well aware of the evils of this world. I have experienced a few first hand. I have to wonder with all of this talk of social justice for women, do we forget that men can be victims as well?
I volunteered many moons ago at a men’s domestic abuse shelter. In a word it was ugly. The women’s shelter I volunteered at received lots of funding. The men’s shelter? Not so much.
I believe in equality. Those who know me well, know I do. The interesting thing is when people state that I should “know better”, they don’t walk in my skin or on my path. The way I see the world varies. I know there are injustices in the world. I have suffered from a few.
I try to make it better by doing what I can, and providing skills to others so they can get ahead. I believe in the right for women to choose their own destinies. To me, that is what feminism is about. The right to choose. I do believe in equal pay and equal rights for all.
As a black woman, I spend a lot of time being viewed as the bottom of the barrell. Not pretty, not educated, not smart. People are surprised that I have a career. Surprised that I adore books, surprised that I am educated, surprised that I don’t have children.
I look at the world as a place of beauty and wonder. Despite the negatives, I do see the beauty. Even with that, I love a good dirty joke. Making light of a situation can draw attention to the plight of another. It can lessen the weight and make a dire situation relatable.
I have been thinking a lot lately about them. What they mean, and why we feel that everything about ourselves must be defined. A while ago I wrote about who I am. I still haven’t found the “who” of my existence, but the “what” is clearly defined.
Labels are a fascinating thing. We define gender, that is a given. We then move on to define every little quirk and behavior we have. I often find myself wanting to talk with others about the labels that are placed. The ones we give ourselves and the ones others give us. I find that in this thinking, I come back to sexual labels. This has been running around in my mind for weeks. (No, I am not questioning my orientation as defined by societal standards or my own standards.)
I have learned in my sexual life that no one is 100% anything. I have known this for a long time about myself. There are a few women that I have had serious crushes on (not all famous either). I can freely admit that. I am comfortable saying it. It doesn’t make me anything more than what I am.
Here comes the labels. Here comes the rush to define what I am. I refused to label my feelings for this. I can’t. Inexplicably in the course of becoming comfortable with who I am as a person, it was bound to happen that I could recognize these feelings. Shun them? No. Hide them? No. Label them? Fuck no! It may be easier for a woman to voice those feelings, but do these feelings need a label? I don’t feel that they do.
For men, I think it is a different mindset altogether. Could they crush on a man (not famous) and be at home in that feeling? No definition? I don’t know? This is something I am going to have to ask around to find out. I know a few men that are comfortable enough to actively acknowledge the feeling. They don’t label it. They roll with it. On the other hand, I know a few men that would go kicking and screaming before they acknowledged that feeling. They would work mentally trying to define what it is that they have become. They discuss it with me, and for that I am grateful, but to tell the world at large, no. They look for a label to neatly put those feelings into.
Here is where I come to something I detest. There is a trope called “gay for you”. I despise this trope with every fiber of my reading being. It forces a label onto to something that really doesn’t have one. Sometimes there is a person, and the attraction goes beyond gender. It is something that is felt on a cellular level so to speak. The soul speaks to this person.
We keep defining things. Love, attraction, sex. To me, these are things that are uniquely undefinable. What are all of these labels for? I have plenty of things about myself that fit into neat little boxes.Maybe I am being self indulgent. I have served at the feet of Dominants of both genders (even a few that were in between). I have subs of both genders (a few in between as well) serve me. Though my personal preference is men, there have been a few women that I have entertained. And what does this make me? You figure it out. I sure as hell won’t waste time doing so.
I am an early riser. I rolled over about 0500CST to check my facebook page. I wanted to know what was going on in the world. I start scrolling through. A lovely picture of my sister, a funny cat video, and one of the most horrific mass shooting I have seen. I was almost sorry I wanted to know what was going on in the world.
I don’t know any of the victims or the survivors. My heart aches for them none the less. I don’t cry often, and I rarely cry about the news. I teared up. I wondered how can someone harbor this much malice and hatred. Then I thought about it. It is easy. We see it everyday. Whether we acknowledge it or not, it is there. I have witnessed at work, I have seen it in the military, I have seen it just out and about shopping.
The festering of this level of hate and fear is just breathtaking. Spending so much time thinking about it.
When I was little, I told my mom I hated someone. She said then I must have loved them at some point. “Hate, like love takes a lot of energy. They are opposites of the same coin.” That changed my view on the word “hate”. I must have been a pre-teen around the time of this conversation. The news today brought that back.
I don’t know anything about the shooter. I listened to the interview his parents gave. I was mystified at the callousness of their response. “He must have seen two men kissing.” Really!!?!?!?! That is the best you got? That inspired this. Seeing something he didn’t like, understand, feared, and didn’t agree with. I see things I don’t like daily. Not once did or have I ever felt the need to harm someone.
Two men kissing. That is all it took? At some point he saw this and decided he hated it. Why? That is a question we will never have the answer to. Then I think, do I want to hear his answer? I don’t think I do. You can’t explain that level of malice towards life. There will be people singing his praises, he is doing “God’s work”. He will hailed a hero in circles as he is infamous in others. He will be reviled by most and damned by many.
As for me, love is love. Seek your happiness and love. Whether you show it with romantic words or cuffs and leather. I want you to love. I have hope that you will. I have seen plenty of hate in the world. Even in the most unexpected places. There is nothing I can say here that won’t be said thousands of times in the coming days, weeks, and months. I support love. Love of men, love of women, love of those who are fluid and ever changing. Whomever you choose.
Hate is powerful.
Love is powerful.
I was talking with my nephew. He is a fountain of humor, light, and love. He asked for an ice cream and I asked him why he deserved one. He said, “For being an unspecified person, known or unknown”. I raised an eyebrow and got him and ice cream. From time to time that line comes to mind. Later on I asked him what he meant. He said that in the universe the are specified people we know. There are unspecified people we know. I think at nine he is a little young for a universally based existential crisis. But hey, what do I know?
From time to time, I get wrapped up in what does it all mean!? (It’d be nice to have an interobang charecter.) I think of a quote from Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. “I move therefore I am.” Is it all that simple? It can’t be can it? I move everyday, even if not physically, I move mentally. Whether I have control or it is just a biological response, I move. “I am”, two simple words that start the definition of who and what we are.
Who am I? I know what I am. I am human. I am a woman. I am a citizen of the United States. I am a citizen of the world. I am a writer. I am an artist.
Who am I? I know the whats of my existence. The whos of my existence get harder and harder to define.
To you I am Ophelia and to others I am someone else. That is the outside of who I am. Some will use adjectives to describe me others may turn nouns into verbs to describe what I am doing. With those adjectives, they are still only describing what I am.
Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, ‘She has a lovely face;
God in His mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.’