on writing, john locke, & queer biznass

i appear to have lost the thread of my novel. i fear i am overthinking it, which is exactly why i wanted to challenge myself to write a novel in a month–the speed required to meet the deadline conditions a person not to give in to overthinking. but i’m me, so of course i found a way. please read previous posts i have written on my obsessive-compulsive personality tics (ie, disorders). (not saying that to be flippant. it’s a big problem.)

so! i am re-conceptualizing. i think i need to go back & sketch in some more biographical information on my protagonist & some of the key people in her life. the main character was veering a little too far into the land of neuroses & her two best friends were providing all the comic relief. i want all the characters to be more well-developed than that. i also realized that i started the story too deep inside the plot. i need to go back to the beginning & explain more thoroughly what my protagonist’s actual goals & conflicts are, because right now, she just seems overly emotional & kind of uptight. my new goal: a longer, better story that is actually plotted to a certain degree, around 80,000 words (i was aiming for 50,000, which is more a novella length), done on or by may 26. i am stating it baldly in the hopes that whoever reads this thing will help keep me honest. feel free to pester me, y’all!

oh, & also, if you are reading this & you write fiction (especially punk-y feminist-y lady fiction)–would you have any interest in forming some kind of online writing group? i think that would be really useful for me, & fun as well!

i got off course yesterday when jared came home from school a little earlier than usual & announced that he had to buy his plane ticket for our east coast summer RIGHT NOW! this was apparently because the people from his fellowship thing were making him hammer out his plans. & because the idea of both of us flying to the east coast on the same day, but not flying together, made me sad, i had to get my ticket too. i will be in philadelphia as of 2:30pm on may 27. challenges for the summer include: eat a KFC double down sandwich (the whole thing!), survive the summer with no A/C without chopping all my hair off, don’t start revisions on the novel until i get back to kansas, enjoy the temporary experience of being in a long-distance relationship, learn how to make mozzarella with amanda, try not to let the philly earnestness turn my soul any blacker than it already is, & pick up my custom reload courier bag, featuring this mega-sweet image:

yes, i commissioned a custom bag with a picture of my cat on it. i'm THAT lady.

the bag itself will be a frothy mix of neon pink, purple, & kelly green. i think it makes a statement.

anyway, after jared & i bought our plane tickets, we went out for a really early dinner. i ate a meatball sub, a plate of french fries, & a slice of chocolate cheesecake. i’m like the joey tribbiani of lawrence, kansas. we both fell into food comas & languished for the rest of the evening in front of the TV (ie, internet TV on my laptop), watching the first five episodes of season six of “lost”. i’d already seen them, so i just enjoyed the refresher course & spent the time coloring zine covers. by the time i finished a batch of 25, my hands were curled into gnarled claws that bore scarcely any resemblence to human hands anymore. i went to bed & dreamed that i was hanging out at john locke’s house & he was all pissy that the place was full of sweet doodads that might be nice for paralyzed people, like a full-body paraffin bath & a heated massaging floor lounger so you can lay down & watch TV without getting bedsores. (i don’t know if either of those things is real, but they’d both be kind of cool.) john locke was all, “i hate living with all this stuff! it reminds me of how i used to be paralyzed before craphole island mysteriously healed me! goddamnit!” & i was like, “dude, let me move in! this shit is AWESOME!”

this dream was undoubtedly a sub-conscious response to a) mainlining near-lethal amount of “lost” in the last few (read: ten) weeks, b) the fact that my back just keeps getting worse & worse–i can’t move it all now from my waist to my neck!, & c) being not so impressed by the way “lost” handles the subject of disability. SPOILERS (of the really minor variety) FOR THOSE OF WHO WHO HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO SEASON SIX YET! turn away until the end of this paragraph! okay, so john locke in the sideways reality (or flash-forward post-island-forgetting cataclysmic event or whatever it is) is apparently way into his independence. he wants to work as a construction site foreman, he flips out on hugo & insist that he doesn’t HAVE to park his van in handicap spaces, etc. that’s cool. but if that were true, would he really have a van with a lift? it’s not like wheelchair-bound people can only get in & out of cars using lifts. & also, would he really have that crappy bargain basement hospital wheelchair? clearly he has the funds to outfit a van with a lift (which is not cheap), so why not a better wheelchair that could help him be more maneuverable? but even those are really minor quibbles to the way his character is portrayed in general–there’s all that shit about him being “broken,” “scared,” “sad,” “angry,” etc. now, some of that might be the product of having had some pretty challenging emotional obstacles to deal with in life. it can’t have been a picnic growing up in foster homes, as evidenced by his powerful desire to connect with a family unit as an adult, or to feel special, needed, & “chosen” by someone. i would certainly be wicked angry if my dad stole my kidney & pushed me out a window. losing helen because of his own bad judgment calls would also be tough to handle. & possibly feeling responsible for the murder of a young, promising kid (the son of the lady his dad was going to marry)? okay, that’s tough.

but i think the viewer is supposed to believe that mostly what makes john so angry & sad & especially “broken” is the fact that he is in a wheelchair. that was the thing the island changed, & he responded as a victor, throwing all of his loyalty into the island & living out the warrior dream that has apparently eluded him while he was in a wheelchair. what the fuck is the subtext here? every disabled person would gladly give up everything in their sad, fractured little lives if only there was a way to not be disabled? (because john is not cured until he crashes on the island, & he dies soon after leaving the island.) that there is no way for disabled person to ever really fulfill their dreams? the show portrays confinement to a wheelchair as literally a fate worse than death. not cool, show.

in other news, i guess i am going to the portland zine symposium this year for sure. ericka booked our hotel room (king bed, y’all!) & i paid her my share, so i have made a financial commitment. the next question: can i finish a new zine in time to trade/sell it out there? & also, who else is going & do you want to hang?

one last thing i was thinking about today…it seems like the topic of queer invisibility experienced by queer/bi ladies in committed monogamous relationships with dudes is kind of enjoying a bit of a zeitgeist revival right now. as in, the last couple of days, according to my limited internet reading habits. i am not sure how i identify–i don’t want to say “formerly queer” because i don’t really think there’s any “formerly” about it, but i also have dated male-bodied dudes pretty much exclusively for the last (more than) ten years, & i don’t really see that changing any time soon. so i feel like i am masquerading & pretending to an oppressed identity that does not describe my currently lived reality if i say that i am “queer”. generally, i don’t describe myself in any way. i am open about being a lady who has a boyfriend, & i have a gazllionty million queer friends, & most of them know i have dated ladies in the past. they also know that i respect their own choices as far as identifying go, & that i am not one of those people who thinks that your sexuality is defined by the gender of the person(s) you are currently banging.

that said. all this “bi lady with a nice stable hetero romance willing to die on the hill of her own invisibilized sexuality” shit feels…really, really selfish. bi ladies in nice stable hetero romances can be kick-ass activists for queer issues. they can know in their hearts that they are into the ladies, & they can be open about that fact with whoever they choose to tell in their lives. but if they’re not getting the “queer nod” from a queer couple of the street who is reading them as straight because they’re holding the hand of a dude…i have a really hard time mustering up too much sympathy. it really feels more like the kind of thing that you should be writing about in your journal & then feeling vaguely embarrassed that you even care. in conversation, it may be useful to remind people not to make assumptions about other people’s sexualities, & acknowledge that a sexual identity doesn’t hinge on the gender of current sexual partners, but if these bi ladies with dude boyfriends are holding out for some kind of ticker tape parade from the larger queer community that is actually being actively prevented from marrying their partners, or visiting their partners in the hospital, or adopting children with their partners, or holding their hands on the street without getting heckled or perhaps physically attacked…it’s like, get some perspective, okay? your invisibility sucks for you, but you can change it by saying, “i’m queer.” it’s not really in the same category as a lot of other people’s problems…i am really trying not to minimize, but it’s almost impossible not to minimize this shit.

honestly, it kind of reminds me of, say, bridezillas that want the whole world to know they are getting married because they can’t let a second go by without someone acknowledging that they are worthy human beings because they got someone to agree to marry them. these bi ladies & their dude boyfriends are getting all the perks of a socially-sanctioned happy shiny relationship, but they still want the queer world to acknowledge–nay, celebrate!–their queer sexualities as well. maybe this is just a product of the fact that i hardly know anyone who ISN’T queer, whether they are in a queer relationship right now or not (or ever), but i’m like, yay, you’re queer, what’s for dinner? i mean, i went through that whole, “i have something to say! I’M A BIG HOMO!” phase too…when i was sixteen. & eventually i wised up to the fact that the people who were going to accept me didn’t give an eff, & the people who were going to be assholes didn’t deserve to be up in my personal business anyway.


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

7 thoughts on “on writing, john locke, & queer biznass

  1. I’ve had similar feelings about the ladies in monogamous heterosexual relationships writing about feeling “invisible” as queer/feeling “excluded” from the queer community.

    Not to quote yourself back at you, because, uh, you know what you said, but when you write: “bi ladies in nice stable hetero romances can be kick-ass activists for queer issues. they can know in their hearts that they are into the ladies, & they can be open about that fact with whoever they choose to tell in their lives. but if they’re not getting the “queer nod” from a queer couple of the street who is reading them as straight because they’re holding the hand of a dude…i have a really hard time mustering up too much sympathy. it really feels more like the kind of thing that you should be writing about in your journal & then feeling vaguely embarrassed that you even care,” I’m reading it & nodding in total agreement.

    When asked how I identify, I tend to say that I’m straight. In theory, I’m totally open to being in a queer relationship, but outside of one ill-fated high school era queer romance, I’ve never been in one. 99.9% of the people who know me know me as someone who has been in a monogamous heterosexual relationship for the past few years & that’s how I identify. If I were to end up in a relationship that would warrant a reconsideration of that label, then fine. But right now, I think that identifying as queer would, for me, be more about exercising my privilege to exist in generally accepted relationship while claiming an oppressed identity, which is fucked up on a lot of different levels.

    I remember in high school feeling embarrassed to identify as straight, especially because so many of my friends were queer. I felt uncomfortable with the idea of being straight because I worried it lumped me in with a clueless group of oppressors (also, it just didn’t seem as exciting! as being queer.)

    Then I grew up and did some learning and had some life experiences and realized how fucked up it was for me to feel this way and how being able to shuck my straight identity in favor of a queer one was really just a product of my hetero privilege. (Not to mention my total exotification of queer identities as being more “exciting” or “intentional” or “interesting” than straight ones. I mean, jesus, really teenage self?)

    I know that not all bi/queer ladies in hetero relationships are in the same place that I was when I was, uh, 15, but sometimes when I see people writing about how hurt they are about not feeling like they’re a member of Club Queer, I sort of feel like they might be. (And then, of course, I feel like a jerk for judging people I don’t really know, but I guess that’s how it goes.)

    I know we don’t know each other very well (or, I guess, at all?) but I would be interested in an online writing group if that were to eventually come to fruition. I was accepted into an MFA program for fiction, but don’t think I’m going to be in the financial position to enroll, so I’ve been trying to engage myself in more opportunities to write/critique with other people “outside the academy” or whatever.

    1. yes, i like this comment a lot. you pretty much summed up a lot of my feelings on things i didn’t think to put in the original post (like the stuff about exotification of queerness, treating queerness like it’s more “exciting” or even “authentic” somehow than straightness, etc).

      when i asked how i identify, i usually say, “straight…i guess.” for the same reasons i put in my post. i did struggle with this a bit when i was younger. for example, when i lived in boston, there was a period of time when i attended queer dance nights on a pretty regular basis–like once or twice a week. not to pick anyone up, but because i liked the music & i could count on my friends being there. a queer lady friend of mine moved to town & i took her to the dance nights & introduced her to people, because she was specifically moving to boston in order to live in a city with a bigger queer population. one night, we were dancing, & a lady i didn’t know kind of started dancing up on me. i wasn’t seeing anyone at the time & i wasn’t there to actively meet anyone, but it was definitely fun & flattering to be dancing with this girl, & i was thinking that maybe i couldn’t be totally against something happening. but then my friend got between us & was all, “you’re wasting your time with ciara, she dates dudes,” & then started flirting with the girl.

      i was pretty upset that my friend had just defined my sexuality without my permission, & defined it in a way that a) wasn’t reflective of my reality, & b) shut down what was happening with this girl. i went outside & smoked & thought about & came to the kind of philosophical realization that: well, i do date dudes now, for the most part. & even though i wasn’t cool for my friend to announce my sexuality without my permission (this is true of any sexuality, i think), i could understand her perspective. she’s new in town, she wants to meet people, & maybe to her, i was a straight girl wrecking her game with all the eligible ladies. i felt like she needed that queer identity more than i did right then, & for whatever reason, she needed me to be the straight foil. i wasn’t psyched about it, but i could recognize that this is part of what goes along with having hetero privilege. sometimes it’s not about you, you know?

      another element of this is: why put the onus of responsibility for recognizing, validating, & celebrating your sexuality on other queers, like they’re just supposed to magically see the truth even when you are in a hetero relationship? why not put the onus of responsibility on EVERYONE to not make assumptions about other people’s sexualities, & not distill people’s sexualities to whatever sexuality is being manifested in a current relationship? that’s my beef with a lot of the “i’m not in the queer club” writing–it seems to take the queer community to task for shutting the doors, rather than asking about the marginalization that queers experience that force them to have doors in the first place. you know?

      i am also just very, very opposed to pretty much any & all forms of people seeking emotional validation without building that up within themselves first. if YOU are comfortable with who you are, who you’re attracted to, how your sexuality manifests…who cares what anyone else says? the world is not there to treat you like a special snowflake & make sure you are happy & comfortable at all times. you have to do that for yourself, & everything else is gravy.

      anyway, fiction: yes! what kind of fiction do you write? i am not sure how this would work…i was thinking of maybe a private listserv, where we can write privately, send each other samples of writing, offer critique, etc? any ideas?

      1. I tend to write non-genre short stories, mostly about young adults — sad rustbelt teens sort of stuff (which is, in a way, very self indulgent since I was a sad rustbelt teen myself.) I think a private listserv would be a fine way to start. I tried to run an online writing group once a few years ago and the hardest part was getting people to actually participate — everyone seemed to love the idea, but no one wanted to share anything of their own (maybe this was because we didn’t work to establish rules or guidelines for critiquing? I think everyone was secretly scared of having their work torn up by people they didn’t know or, worse, people they knew and liked.)

  2. I agree with you about the “bi oppression” stuff, although I have to wonder if male bisexuals (especially those who don’t pass too well) are also supposed to fall back on their hetero privilege when they’re out with a female partner. Nearly every time I hear about “invisible bisexuals” it is in reference to femmey bi women. I don’t think it’s as easy for femmey bi men to revel in their hetero privilege, even if they are in a stable monogamous heterosexual relationship. (Of course, there’s also the cultural meme that all bi men are deluded gay men–thanks, Dan Savage!–just like all bi women are experimental straight women.)

    I would be interested in an email writing group, but I don’t know if you’d be interested in what I write, since it’s more along the lines of science fiction/magical realism/whatever. Although if you are, send me an email!

    1. i know quite a few “invisible bisexual males” that are currently or have predominately been in relationships with women. i do think it’s kind of different for dudes–like dudes are somehow “giving up more” when they are queer. like queer dude sexuality is set in stone, but ladies have more freedom to play & dabble (perhaps in part because lesbianism has become so fetishized among straight men). i’m sure queer authors more articulate than myself have written extensively about this phenomenon.

      i think a big aspect of what makes it tougher for femmey bi men to fall back into hetero privilege when they are dating a lady has less to do with the fact that they may be into dudes than it does with constructions of masculinity & the fact that there is arguably less room for deviation from gender roles for men. jared is a good example of this. he is not a manly man in any way. he’s pretty slim, he likes to cook, he likes to watch sports more than he likes to play sports, his anger response manifests itself as sarcasm & bitchiness (for lack of a better term), & he has huge blue eyes with eyelashes so dark, he looks like he’s wearing mascara all the time. & there have definitely been times in dudely dude spaces when he has had to deal with an extra heaping of crap because he just wasn’t dudely enough, regardless of his sexuality.

      i guess the point is that for men, sexuality seems to be more fundamentally tied up in gender expression. that is an area where women seem to have more wiggle room, which also means that women have more blind spots in which their sexualities may be invisibilized. just a theory.

      as far as a writing group goes–i personally am not into sci-fi, but i don’t know who all would be in this group & i wouldn’t want to speak for them. while they may not write sci-fi, they may be into reading & critiquing it. but would you want to be in a group where you are the only genre writer? or would that be too weird & alienating for you? i know when i was in college, a lot of my classmates did genre fiction, & they were sometimes frustrated by workshops that gave them critique that was counter to the conventions of the genres they were working in. what do you think?

      1. I actually prefer being in groups with non-genre writers. My stuff is not really scientific, especially what I’m (trying to) write now… maybe “non-reality-based fiction” is a better term? I find most SF writers to be pedantic about science and have a poor concept of character development. Like, I’d rather write “a good fiction story” than a “good science fiction story,” KWIM? I guess if you put me on the list, I can try it and see if it works. 🙂

        that is an area where women seem to have more wiggle room, which also means that women have more blind spots in which their sexualities may be invisibilized.

        I think you hit the nail on the head there. My husband used to talk about how the guys at his work would be constantly scanning him for signs of weakness (e.g. femininity) and something like not drinking a beer, or being too interested in literature, or even just looking presentable, would be cause for a slur. It was pretty common even among guys who are not queer. I don’t think people put up those kind of scans for women to the same degree, and even then, masculinity is something to be aspired to (as long as you’re not so butch a man can’t be attracted to you, natch).

        I finally did get around to reading the Feministing article. All her “problems” (har har) would likely be solved if she wore a T-shirt saying “I’m queer” or wore the rainbow buttons despite the fact that they “clash with her outfit.” It’s like she wants everyone to be psychic. Also, smiling at ANY couple — what? That’s so patronizing. The comments are extremely ridiculous too. I hate the “some people have real problems” line, but… some people have REAL problems, lady.

  3. sometimes i feel a little guilty about
    passing for straight… specifically,
    listening to queer-bashing without
    gettting all “wait a minute; *i’m* queer”.
    i’ve been in faithful relationships with
    a (small!) series of women over almost
    that whole time so passing is easy…
    but it nags at me. it seems so obvious:
    everybody’s bi. that so-called
    homosexuals resist this common
    knowledge (publicly; get ’em in bed
    and it’s generally another story)
    is something i’ve always found
    very annoying. fascinating topic.

    scott mc cloud sez (in effect;
    not a direct quote) that
    “too much backstory”
    is one of the commonest
    beginner mistakes.
    and he should know even if i don’t;
    never got past the short-story length
    myself and precious little of that.

    life is lived forward and understood backward
    somebody said. probably character develop-
    ment shares in this quality at least in part.

    on the other hand, tolkien is said to have
    written the whole _rings_ trilogy essentially
    as an excuse to show off the cool *language*
    he’d made up (“elvish”)…

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