I found out a few weeks ago that the anthology I contributed to, Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, is a finalist in the “LGBTQ Anthology” category! Although there won’t be a “Lammy Awards Ceremony” because of COVID-19, the winners will still be announced in early June, for 24 categories, through a format TBD. The finalists were selected by a panel of over 60 literary professionals from roughly 1,000 book submissions from over 300 publishers. I didn’t even know this anthology had been submitted / it didn’t occur to me, so finding that out through social media from one of the editors was a fun surprise.
I’ve read a few of the other books from other categories this year; here are some mini book reviews:
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (LGBTQ Nonfiction) – The author captures a year (more or less) of her life in which she was consumed by an emotionally abusive relationship. She also weaves in myths, legends, and historic examples of lesbian abuse through the ages. It ended up being much harder to get through than I anticipated, but it was highly rewarding. I was particularly impressed by the way she kept her ex-girlfriend at an extreme distance from the readers and simultaneously submerged us in the chaos.
A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham (LGBTQ Nonfiction) – This also was the story of one year, but presented in a much different way. They do a particularly good job of examining the mental health struggles that can result from the uncertainty of gender dysphoria and what to either do or not do about it. From what I can gather, they come from affluence, and they don’t mention how this plays into their experience at all (it is HUGE), which bothered me, but that might not be quite a fair assessment.
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (Gay Memoir / Biography) – One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. In his blurb on the book jacket, his background is in poetry, and that makes perfect sense (although his language is not overly poetic). I was absorbed fully in his experiences, specifically the ways sexuality and sexual acts became dangerously subverted for him, over time. And why the culture at large contributed to that. He also handles family dynamics deftly, painting portraits of each family member fully, so we can see and understand why they are doing the things they do and being the way they be.
Death Threat by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Ness Lee (LGBTQ Comics) – I gotta admit I can’t remember much from reading this, and that was only 3 months ago. So I just now went to go find more about it, and here’s a quick synopsis from goodreads.com: “In the fall of 2017, the acclaimed writer and musician Vivek Shraya began receiving vivid and disturbing transphobic hate mail from a stranger. Using satire and surrealism, Death Threat is an unflinching portrayal of violent harassment from the perspective of both the perpetrator and the target, illustrating the dangers of online accessibility, and the ease with which vitriolic hatred can be spread digitally.” From what I remember, the story was disjointed and difficult to follow, but the alarming nature of the situation definitely did shine through.
Looking forward to June to find out the winners!
A few days ago, I found out about an upcoming project called We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology, edited by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton. It is slated to be released in January, pending enough funding through their kickstarter campaign. When I first checked it out, it had been “live” for one day, and had already reached $15,000 of it’s $17,000 goal. Today, a mere 5 days later?!!! It’s at $35,126 – more than double of that goal!!!
That means, I’m assuming, that the artists are going to get paid even more $$. They were going to be getting paid $25 per page – I wonder if that’ll get raised to $50 / page. Hopefully!
I pre-ordered my copy and cannot wait to get to read it in its entirety!
In the meantime, I asked one of the authors, whom I met online through a Facebook group, how they got started / how they found out about contributing.
Me: How did you get into graphic arts? Do you have formal training or are you mostly self-taught?
Kyri:I have been drawing since I was old enough to have motor control to move a crayon around, and telling stories for almost as long as that. My early focus was on animals, but I branched out to people, stories, and comics in late elementary school when I discovered manga. That’s held on for the long haul. I went to a liberal arts school instead of a traditional art school, which turned out better for comics anyway because I could minor in creative writing. I focused mostly on printmaking in college, which translates really well to comics – a lot of thinking in sharp black and whites and the graphic quality of lines, and how a reproduced image reaches large audiences.
Me: How did you first hear about this project?
Kyri: I’m part of a comic creator’s group in Boston, the Boston Comics Roundtable, and someone there signal boosted the open call for submissions – I can’t for the life of me remember who. I almost didn’t send in a submission packet, and actually ended up submitting something a week late, because I was a little intimidated by the people in charge and the people who were already part of the project. I’m so glad I pushed past my fears, though, and I’m really excited to be published alongside all these fantastic trans artists
Me:How did you narrow down the story that you wanted to tell? Is it your “quintessential” coming-out story, of sorts, or something more tangential?
Kyri:I knew when I first saw the open call and the concept for the anthology that I wanted to do something about my bodily experience with both gender dysphoria and chronic illness. I have fibromyalgia and hypermobile joints, and it really affects how I’m able to present on any given day. Binding can really hurt my ribcage if I’m not careful, and sometimes the compression just ends up hurting my muscles because of the constant contact, even if I’m binding correctly. Being chronically ill also means I’m not as fit as I once was, and the extra weight means I get misgendered constantly, even when I am attempting to present androgynous/masculine. I think that most people tend to think of the thin attractive model of androgyny when they think of what it means to be agender or demigender, and there’s just not enough discussion around diversity of trans bodies outside of our community. There’s also this pervasive and weird idea that you can only be “one thing” so convincing people I’m both trans AND have an invisible disability is an ordeal sometimes. I wanted to do something to touch on all of that, and ended up with an autobio comic in which my body is compared to a house.
Kyri Lorenz: Hailing from the mountains of Northern Colorado, Kyri Lorenz is an agender jack-of-all-trades creator with a long history of meddling with concepts of nature and identity. If it involves creation and inspiration, Kyri is there, getting their mitts all over it and learning how best to make it serve their whims. Most of the time, this is easy and the technique or medium is more than happy to comply. Sometimes, it takes a little more finagling, but there’s always something to show for it at the end.
They got their BA in Visual Arts from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and are currently living and working in Cambridge, MA. See more of their work at kyrianne.com.
There is still roughly one month left to pre-order your copy, and to get additional perks if you’re into that. Just click on this donate link! DONATE NOW.
I’ve checked in on things here and there, post-college. But, for the most part, I dropped out. Gender identity became too overwhelming to unravel, and I more-or-less gave up for a number of years. Tried not to think about it. Tried not to dwell on whether or not I should take testosterone, get top surgery, come out yet again, any of that. I continued to use the internet for emailing, connecting with the local anarchist community, and promoting events I was involved in. Maybe to do some online shopping once in a while. Oh, and to download music. I was alternately only kinda happy, and not happy at all.
I finally, fortunately, hit a breaking point and started sorting my way through. I got back into therapy and decided on some steps that would help me become the person I see myself as. I’m fully embracing my non-binary trans identity and finding ways to express that. I’ve been on a low-dose of testosterone for over 2 years now. I’m considering top surgery. And a legal name change. I find that I want to talk all about every aspect of this, and more, in depth, long-term.
A turning point for me was meeting Micah (http://neutrois.me) at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference in 2013. I had been on testosterone for two months at that point, and I was soaking up everything he had to say, as the facilitator of a workshop called, “Non-Binary Transition: Exploring the Options.” I went to speak to him briefly after his presentation; he handed me a “business card” for his blog.
A month later, I started my own blog. I’ve had locked and “friends only” online journals before (on the aforementioned Diaryland and LiveJournal, as well as Blurty), but this feels very different. I am engaging with people I have never met before. I am being quite public about my life experiences, vulnerabilities, hopes, and desires. I am reading masses of other blogs about gender identity, daily. I feel very much a part of a community and an ongoing dialogue. Recently, I wrote about how it feels to be given a diagnosis, and I also asked for recommendations for resources to give to my therapist. I got a bunch of feedback – links to articles, recommendations for books, people making sure I’m aware of the WPATH-SOC. One person even offered to forward me a copy of the letter they just wrote (on their therapist’s behalf) in order to move forward with top surgery as a transmasculine (but not FTM) person. I took them up on it and felt this overwhelming rush of support and happiness at this free flow of information.
The following year, I went back to the Philly Trans-Health Conference, and this time, I was able to connect with a handful of people, people I’d met through online channels. It would be essentially impossible for me to approach a stranger and connect. With a lot of the groundwork already established, it was much easier to find the people I was looking for. A couple of people even approached me; they knew of me through my blog.
I don’t think we tend to seek things out we cannot yet handle. Throughout my gender identity explorations, I was pretty closed off because I just was not there yet. I didn’t meet people online or seek out tips for binding or masculine hair styles. I needed to be fairly isolated within myself and see where that led me. I now feel like I want to share as much as possible, and connect with others going through things I might have gone through, or am currently going through.
We are not living in a queer/trans utopia, but through online channels, it is possible to create that illusion, even if just for brief moments of our day. The Internet allows for these fringe groups to flourish, for people to find each other and change the world, one blog post, YouTube video, web comic, and/or tweet at a time.
I usually try to post about once a week. But this week, I got nothin’… because I’m working on finishing up a submission for a new anthology! (So I’m posting anyway, about that!) I’ve been working on a piece of writing. You could too – there’s still time! I’ll be updating about how it turns out, in a few weeks.
Here are the details:
Letters for My Siblings: Call for Submissions
Deadline: February 1, 2014
Word Limit: 2500
Publisher: Transgress Press
The Lambda Literary Finalist Letters for My Brothers asked transsexual men to pass on to their pre-transition selves any important advice that they had as post-transition men. In Letters for My Siblings, we wish to capture short pieces of a similar spirit from people who are genderqueer, gender non-conforming, bigender, agender, or who simply don’t fit nicely into the boxes of “man” and “woman”.
Your submission should be between 500 and 2500 words and address one or more of the prompts below.
Not all prompts will apply to all writers. Your submission should be about your own lived experience — please avoid delving too far into the theoretical, or making broad generalizations about any group (even one that you belong to).
Send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 1, 2014. Authors will be notified of acceptance within six weeks of the submission deadline.
• What does it mean to transition as a non-binary identified person? How have you transitioned medically, legally, socially, or otherwise, and why? Has your transition been an important part of your identity and/or experience? How and why?
• Where do you fit in the larger trans* community? Have you found friendship and connection among other trans* people, binary or non-binary? Have you encountered discrimination or resistance to your identity within the trans* community?
• Have you been able to find or create language to describe your gender/experience? Are you intentional about using (or NOT using) particular words for your gender / experience? Why do you use (or not use) these?
• How has your non-binary identity intersected with other parts of your identity, such as your race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability/disability, or age? Are there times when these other parts of your identity come in conflict with your gender? If so, how do you manage these conflicts?
• What do you like about being non-binary? What is your biggest frustration? How do you navigate a world set up only for men and women?
• Who are your mentors? Who has guided you on your journey / transition? Who do you look up to?
• What advice would you give to genderqueer/gender non-conforming/non-binary people who are at the beginning of their journey?
As compensation for their contribution, all authors will receive a free copy of the anthology upon its publication. Transgress Press will donate all proceeds to organizations benefiting trans communities (www.transgresspress.com/our-donations).
We look forward to hearing from you!