Tag Archives: lgbt

To Celebrate or Wait

Almost every day on Twitter, I see people getting into arguments about LGBT issues. Most of the time, I see these arguments because I follow a lot of LGBT activists who tweet a lot of support and positive messages. These people then get harassed by trolls, and I’m pretty likely to stumble across the argument. It usually ends with me silently blocking the troll and going about my business, because I don’t want to get involved in the argument itself.

Sometimes, however, I read certain trending hashtags, like tonight’s #SCOTUSMarriage tweets. I scrolled through those tweets for awhile, favoriting and retweeting some of the tweets with uplifting and celebratory messages, and blocking anyone who had anything bad to say about marriage equality. Though while I was on my blocking tirade, even though I didn’t engage any of the trolls, I noticed a couple of patterns.

Probably 90% of the people I blocked tonight had either an American flag in their avatar or Twitter banner, or something in their bio that declared them as Christian, Conservative, or a “Patriot.” And it got me thinking about group mindsets, the way they foster negative attitudes under the guise of morals, and how those attitudes are still a source for a lot of very real danger and discrimination against a lot of people.

I’ve written before about how organizations can “normalize” certain immoral behavior, making it seem as if it’s perfectly acceptable. One point I made was that “When a group disguises discrimination behind their “ideals” and their “mission,” it makes it far too easy to convince people that this sort of thing is “normal.”” In other words, if a group, such as a church or political party, claims that they’re following a mission to bring God’s morals to America or to protect the nation from destructive influences, they can end up doing a great deal of harm while hiding behind those missions. People will continue to support these groups because the mission sounds like such a good cause.

Think about it. If someone asked you if you would support a movement to help make the country a better, more moral place, you’d say yes, right? If someone asked you if you would want to protect our nation and its people from harmful influences, you’d also say yes. Words like “protect” and “moral” and “our nation” are meant to stir up all of these unifying, patriotic feelings. They give people a sense that they’re in the right, that they’re pursuing a good, justifiable course of actions.

Except that the alleged “threats” that are supposedly “harming” our nation and its people are really nothing more than different ideas, diverse viewpoints, and much-needed changes to our laws and government. Someone who looks at an issue like the fight for marriage equality, and does so from a neutral standpoint, using critical thinking and careful analysis, should certainly see that the SCOTUS decision is the morally right one. People deserve equal rights to marry whoever they want to, and those rights are protected under the 14th Amendment. The ruling simply confirms this under the law.

And any time I see someone fighting against marriage equality, they always claim to be defending something that isn’t actually being harmed. Some Christians claim the ruling is a violation of their religious rights, even though it has no impact on them or their lives. Some Conservatives claim this will harm the integrity of the nation, though they don’t have any evidence whatsoever to support the idea of this supposed “harm.” But because these people see themselves as defending something that is important to them, they will never listen to reason. They don’t think of themselves as bigots, or homophobes, or people who are attacking the rights of others. They think of themselves as good, moral people who are defending their point of view.

And that’s really sad. Because no one should confuse defending themselves with attacking someone else. It seems like a lot of these people could become the good, moral people they are trying to be, if they just opened their eyes and understood that their actions are harming others.

It’s like a parent who punishes their child for rebellion by enforcing stricter and stricter rules. The parent may think they’re doing what’s right, by trying to protect their child from harm. But as a result, they don’t see the harm they’re doing by taking away a human being’s freedom for self-determination. Even more so if the “harm” is completely imagined, such as if a parent wants their child to go to college, but the child wants the freedom of becoming an artist and traveling the world. In their focus on the things they think of as important–financial stability, a career, and an academic education–the parent isn’t seeing the things that their child finds important–creativity, diverse experiences, and personal growth.

And the thing is, those closed-minded ideas are still out there. The ruling in favor of marriage equality is a great step forward, but there’s a lot of issues that still need to be tackled. Things like more diversity in books, movies, and other media. Violence against racial minorities and people from nonbinary genders and orientations. Discrimination and judgment against people who don’t fit the norm that most of society expects.

The Supreme Court may have given everyone the right to marry, but there are still a lot of places where transgender individuals don’t have the right to use a public restroom. And there’s still a lot of people who have to hide who they are, for fear of being attacked by “good moral Christians” and “proud patriotic Americans” who see anything outside of their binary, heteronormative world as a threat to their lifestyles.

And I don’t know what to do about that.

And it scares me.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

Gal or Fella

There’s a lot of discussion going on lately about LGBT diversity in books and other forms of media. Even with all the ways we’ve made things better over the last few years, there is still a long way to go. It’s important for people, from children to adults, to have strong role models they can relate to, no matter if they are straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or anything else in between. But there are a lot of barriers to achieving that level of diversity, and those barriers exist even in independent works.

It’s one thing when big companies, such as Disney, fail to include LGBT representation in their works. While it would be a huge victory if a company like Disney were to include a nonbinary protagonist in one of their family-friendly animated movies, the fact is that there are tons of producers, corporate managers, and other “gatekeepers” we need to get past in order to make it happen. These gatekeepers continue to operate under the flawed assumption that non-heternormative characters are too “risky” or not “appropriate.” Whatever excuses they make (potential backlash from conservative audiences, reduced sales, etc), the fact is that they refuse to allow greater diversity into the works their companies produce. This means that even if an individual writer were to create a script that included more diversity, there are far too many people at the corporate level who can either force the writer to change the script to be more “traditional,” or simply refuse to produce the script all together.

Independent works don’t have these types of gatekeepers. Whether it be an independently produced film, a self-published novel, or an online comic strip, independent works can be made however the creator wants to make them. However, that doesn’t mean these independent creators won’t face other obstacles along the way.

An example I’ve seen dealing with this issue over and over again recently is The Order of the Stick, written and drawn by Rich Burlew. Rich has been writing The Order of the Stick for over ten years and has published eight graphic novels based on his online work. Recently, he’s been working towards greater inclusion and diversity in his comic, such as by creating a new character who is a lesbian airship captain. He is on the record stating that he feels it is his personal responsibility as an artist to be more inclusive, and that he regrets not showing greater diversity when his comic first started. For example, when the comic first began, there was only one female main character out of a cast of six, and she was often portrayed in an over-sexualized manner. According to posts he has made on the site’s forums (which are indexed here), he is now doing what he can to correct mistakes from his earlier writings and to use his comic to deliver a positive social message. One of his more noteworthy posts on the matter states:

I have the social privilege that allows me to be heard and now I have the commercial success to weather the consequences thereof, so therefore I have a responsibility to say something. To do otherwise would be self-serving cowardice.

Unfortunately, Rich suffers a great deal of backlash from people who seem more closed-minded and resistant to the idea of diversity in the comic. Many of these people veil their protests as complaints about the “quality of the writing” or what they feel is “hamfistedly shoving a message at us.” Yet either way, these people are saying that they believe Rich should not be including as much diversity in his writing, regardless of the reasons they give for their protests.

The most recent example of these protests came after The Order of the Stick #983, “A Healer’s Reason.” In this comic, one of the main characters, Durkon Thundershield, is going through an internal struggle between his real self and an evil vampiric spirit that has taken over his body (vampires in The Order of the Stick are similar to those in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in that when a vampire is formed, a new spirit takes over the “shell” of the victim’s dead body). The vampiric spirit is searching through Durkon’s memories, and comes across a memory of Durkon talking to his mother before he decided to become a priest. At one point in the dialogue, his mother says, “All I really want is fer ye ta grow up an’ find a nice gal or fella ta settle down with.”

To me, this is a sweet line that shows us that Durkon’s mother is someone who is supportive and loves him no matter what his sexual orientation might be. I think it sets a good example of how parents should be with their children, and that we need to see this kind of message more often. Personally, I applaud Rich for writing it this way.

Protests against this line of dialogue started on the forums, with people saying things like,:

“That felt really kinda forced. I mean is there any mother who would actually say that to their own little-kid son? In casual conversation?”

“. . . it didn’t feel REAL because it was too directly connected to what’s going on in our own world.”

“What sucks about this gal/fella thing is that it feels like Giant was intimidated by the SJW community enough to put an out of character remark, just in case someone takes offence from a sentence that they shouldn’t. “

“This was definitely an awkward word choice that clumsily promoted a social agenda on Rich’s part.”

“I disapprove of the [author] teaching things to my face, if he really wanna do it he’d better do it subtly. The subject doesn’t matter. “

You’ll notice a lot of lines on the posts I linked that have been {scrubbed}. This means that the person in question said something particularly offensive or in some way violating the forum’s code of conduct, such as bringing real-world politics into the debate about the fictional comic world. I also picked out what I felt were some of the more directly offensive and/or argumentative lines from the discussion, so it’s worth noting that a lot of the forumgoers had much more supportive, open-minded, or neutral viewpoints than those expressed above. But enough people were against the idea of a mother suggesting her son find “a nice gal or fella” that it led to a debate which spanned approximately 1000 posts before the comic’s author locked it down and put a stop to it.

What’s interesting, if you take the time to read through the entire discussion, is how the people protesting the inclusive line go a long way to say they’re (supposedly) not protesting inclusiveness itself. Instead, they claim they’re defending art and story and good writing, and claiming that when the author “forces” his message on them, he’s hurting his work. But after reading through all of these arguments, I’ve come to a conclusion: the people protesting the inclusive lines are trying to normalize their prejudiced behavior. In other words, they don’t want to admit that they have biases, so they hide behind arguments that “the wording felt awkward” or that “a good story is more important than a moral lesson” and so on.

Which means that an indie creator faces two different obstacles: One, dealing with the backlash they’ll get from people who don’t approve of their attempts to show greater diversity; and Two, the way some people will try to separate the art itself from the politics, moral messages, and values that the art portrays. Quite a few people in that message thread stated that they feel a “good story” should be one that is entertaining and appealing to the audience and that anything that detracts from that is a bad thing. Yet these people, aside from any biases and bigotry they might show, fail to realize that art has always existed as a form of social commentary and a way to spread important political and moral messages.

Painters like Pablo Picasso have used their art to protest against wars and violence. Singers and musicians have done the same thing with their music. And even comic books have been used to spread political messages. I think that many people would agree that the most memorable and significant works of art, books, songs, movies, and so on have always been those that have some deeper meaning and teach us something about the world around us. And yes, you can show that deeper meaning even if you’re telling a story about magic and wizards and dragons and vampires.

And if people try to tell you it seems forced . . . well, maybe they’re the ones who need to rethink the meaning of the stories they read.

Review of Grasshopper Jungle

The Style and Strangeness of Kurt Vonnegut. With grasshoppers.

grasshopper jungleThis book was weird. But in a good way.

The narrator had a very blunt, direct way of saying things. He goes into every little detail, from his dog taking a shit, to his polish ancestor’s homosexual love affair, to the vice president of the United States getting oral pleasure from his wife. He uses certain styles of repetition in a poetic style, similar to what I saw Vonnegut do in Breakfast of Champions.

The story is half LGBT YA coming-of-age story, half apocalyptic sci-fi. I loved the way those pieces fit together, and I love that the main character is bisexual, a rare thing to see in novels.

As long as you aren’t thrown off by a story that takes very weird and unexpected shifts into sci-fi territory without much warning, you should love this book.

Labels and Corn

I don’t have a lot to say in this post, mostly because I’m physically unable to type most of it without being overwhelmed by anxiety. You see, I live in a constant state of being afraid to tell people who I really am. Being closeted like this isn’t fun. But since I constantly see people making horrible hurtful attacks against anyone who doesn’t conform to the binary heteronormative standard, I end up having to keep silent.

So here’s the short version.

I suffer from serious depression, and its roots are directly tied to the issues I won’t be getting into. My depression has led to suicidal thoughts in the past, and one actual suicide attempt. I am forced to suppress certain aspects of my identity in order to avoid conflict, and that is a daily struggle. It becomes a bigger struggle when certain individuals who claim to be defending marginalized groups do so by excluded other marginalized groups.

Don’t make assumptions about who someone is. You have no right to label another individual. Maybe they’re not who or what you think they are. And maybe if you actually understood who they are, you’d realize that all of the assumptions you’ve made about them are completely wrong. Making assumptions about anyone in any situation is bad, but it’s even worse when those assumptions don’t apply by default because the person in question isn’t even a part of the group you’ve lumped them in with.

Maybe the way you make those assumptions is part of why they wish they could stop pretending to conform. Maybe the exact way that you label them is part of what they hate about themselves, because they hate being seen by that false label, and want to show their true inner self. Maybe you make it harder for them to ever come to terms with their true self because of your irresponsible behavior. Maybe you’re silencing them and making them even more afraid of ever speaking up.

And maybe, once you learned the truth about this person, you’d realize how wrong everything you said to them was, because it was all based on your perceptions of the person; perceptions which aren’t true. And just maybe, that’s all the more reason not to make broad generalizations about any one group, because the person you’re talking to might not actually be a part of that group after all.

Maybe they’ve actually had to fear for their life just by being out in public. Maybe they’ve had panic attacks. Maybe they sometimes regret ever trying to be themselves, because being who they are means being a target. Maybe they’ve broken down crying in a parking lot because they were too afraid of the people inside the building. Maybe they’ve heard stories about people just like them being assaulted, murdered, or worse just because of who they are.

Labels are bad. Corn is good. I found my corn today, and it’s the only reason I’m able to write this right now. If you don’t know what I mean by “corn,” you should read this article on depression, which pretty much sums up my life.

Next time you think about accusing someone of not understanding your perspective, stop and think about theirs. It may not be what you assumed. They may have gone through things you could never understand.

And maybe they see brave people who share their true selves and fight for equality, they build up their courage, they’re almost ready to speak up, and then you destroy that by attacking and silencing them based on your flawed perspectives and false labels.

And that’s just sad.

Trans Day of Visibility

I don’t often post about topics related to equal rights, social justice, or related topics. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know where I stand. I fully support equality for everyone, and I can’t understand the minds of some hyper-conservative or fundamental Christian people who try to force their “moral” views on other people. As far as I’m concerned, the way someone else lives their life, the way they identify themselves, and the type of relationships they have is no one else’s business but their own.

Sometimes, however, I’m prompted to open up and say a bit more. Sometimes a tweet about treating other people with respect isn’t enough. Sometimes blocking a homophobic or transphobic troll isn’t enough. Sometimes, I need to step up and challenge the negativity and flawed ideas that are out there.

Today, I’d like to talk about where some people get their morals, and how that applies to their ideas about sexuality, gender, and related issues.

Some time ago, I read an article by David Morgan-Mar, writer of Irregular Webcomic and the more recent comic Darths and Droids. (Side note: Darths and Droids recently posted a comic where, in their Star Wars parody universe, Darth Vader turns out to actually be Padme, not Anakin Skywalker. That’s right, they made Darth Vader transgender, and it was brilliant.)

In the article linked above, David Morgan-Mar discusses morality and religion, and he makes some pretty interesting points. I suggest reading it for the full story, but to summarize: He proposes the idea that certain highly religious individuals believe that all morals come directly from God, and that some people even say “If you don’t believe in God, you can’t be a moral person.” He goes on to discuss how one such individual he knew went on to say that if there were no God, there would be nothing preventing an otherwise normal, moral person from becoming a murderer for no reason.

Basically it leads to the question, “How do you know the difference between right and wrong?” The way I see it, there’s two primary sides to this (accepting, of course, that there could be infinite shades of gray in between these two views).

Side 1: Individual who gets their morals from God. This person would say, “God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Therefore, killing is wrong.”

Side 2: Individual who develops their own internal moral compass. This person would say, “Killing someone would violate their right to life and existence. Therefore, killing is wrong.”

This entire concept has been on my mind a lot lately when it comes to LGBT rights and how certain hyper-conservative Christian groups will so easily discriminate against others. I wrote about this awhile back in my article, “The Normalization of Discrimination.” To expand further on the points I made in that article, I’d like to suggest that if you never question your moral views on a subject, then you don’t truly understand the difference between right and wrong. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you to get your morals from the bible. It means that you need to critically analyze your moral views, wherever you get them from.

Take, for example, the recent issues of bakeries refusing to bake cakes for a gay wedding. I recently read an article on a highly religious website arguing that people should have the “right” to refuse service because, as they put it, baking that cake would mean they were supporting a “sinful” act and risking eternal damnation for going against God’s word. Clearly, this is the case of an individual who gets their morals entirely from the bible (setting aside how such people pick and choose which portions of the bible to listen to and which ones to ignore; that’s a discussion for another blog post).

Looking at this argument as a person who rationalizes their morality internally, there is no logical argument against baking the cake. The gay couple getting married is not hurting anyone else, the cake will not infringe upon anyone’s rights or privacy, and no one will suffer in any way by having this cake made (except maybe if they eat too much and get a tummy ache). Therefore, baking the cake is not morally wrong.

If someone were to attempt a rebuttal by saying, “It’s infringing on the baker’s religious freedom,” I would counter by arguing that the baker is not being harmed in any way. Baking the cake doesn’t hurt the baker (unless they forget to use an oven mitt because they’re so mad over baking the cake). Baking the cake doesn’t infringe upon the baker’s ability to practice their religion. Baking the cake doesn’t prevent the baker from believing that the gay couple is living in sin. Baking the cake, in fact, does nothing to the baker except for making them angry, and making someone angry is not morally wrong. They’ll get over it, and if they need a way to calm down, they can have some cake.

Similar arguments can, and should, be made for transgender rights. Take, for example, the argument about transgender individuals being able to use the bathroom for the gender they identify with. Some people argue against this, by claiming that the other people in the bathroom will in some way feel threatened, violated, or uncomfortable. However, there is no logic behind this argument. When I go to the bathroom in a public restroom, I sit behind a closed door. My rights are not in any way violated if the person in the stall next to me uses different body parts to pee than I use. I will not in any way suffer harm if I have a penis and the person in the next stall has a vagina, or has a combination of male and female parts. My safety will not be threatened while this individual is peeing. Therefore, them using the bathroom cannot in any way be considered morally wrong, and it should not be outlawed. The only way you can say otherwise is if you think that anyone who has a penis is automatically a threat to anyone who has a vagina, just by being in the same bathroom as them while behind separate stall doors. However, having a penis does not, in itself, make you a rapist, regardless of whether you are a man with a penis in the men’s room, or a woman with a penis in the women’s room, or a gender-neutral person with a penis in either room..

I have never understood how any rational, intelligent human being cannot understand the need for equal rights in these situations. My only conclusion is that the people who protest against LGBT rights are not using their own intelligence (this doesn’t necessarily mean they are stupid, just that they aren’t applying their intelligence to the question at hand). They are, instead, accepting the words written in a book thousands of years ago and accepting them as infallible without question. I fully support people who look to the bible to better understand morality, so long as they do so in an intelligent, critical fashion, instead of through blind acceptance. I know a number of Christians who are members of the LGBT community, or who support their LGBT friends, because these Christians gave serious thought to what is morally right or wrong, and they came to the conclusion that discrimination is wrong.

If you disagree with these views, I urge you to look inside yourself and give serious, logical consideration to where that viewpoint is coming from. If you aren’t willing to critically examine your own existence, then you’ll never become a truly moral person.

I am not a Christian, though I do believe in God. I identify as a member of the LGBT community. And I support equal rights for everyone because it is the moral thing to do.

One Black Wall

I recently read a book called Nothing But Blue, by Lisa Jahn-Clough (one of my professors at Rowan University). It’s about a lost girl taking a journey where she meets a number of people who live “unorthodox” lives. Train hoppers, hippies, artists, and others who don’t conform to society’s norms. The main character, Blue, is a bit unorthodox herself. One of the book’s memorable scenes tells how she painted forest scenes on her bedroom walls, then imagined little gnomes living among the trees, so she added mushroom houses for them.

I was never allowed to paint my walls. My mom had the final say in everything that went on in the house. When we were teenagers, my sister wanted to paint her bedroom black (because, teenagers). My mom refused. She said it would make the room too dark and dreary. They argued about it for awhile, and eventually my mom agreed to let my sister paint one wall black. The other three had to stay nice, bland, conformist white.

Except, even though my mom might have the “right” to make this decision since she owned the house, in reality, she had no reason to do it. She never went into that room. It was my sister’s room, where my sister should have had privacy and the ability to make her own decisions. And while the color of your walls might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, this is just one small example of the things parents try to control. I’ve known people whose parents forced them to go to the college the parents wanted, take the jobs the parents wanted, or plan the wedding the parents wanted. Even though they aren’t the ones going to that school, working that job, or getting married in that wedding.

Our society, oftentimes, supports this behavior. We seem to think that people in authority have some right to tell others how to live their lives. And that’s wrong.

Because it leads to churches trying to tell gay and lesbian couples that they can’t marry who they want, even when it’s none of their business.

Because it leads to senators trying to pass laws banning transgender individuals from using the bathroom for their identified gender, even when it’s none of their business.

Because it leads to people trying to tell others how they can live their lives, and that’s just wrong. You don’t have any right to tell someone else what color to paint their bedroom unless you’re the one sleeping in that bedroom with them. And you don’t have any right to tell someone about anything else they can or can’t do in that bedroom, because you’re not the one in there with them.

So next time you think about trying to tell someone else how to live their lives, just remember: they don’t have to have one black wall just because you said so.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

Unidentified Me

Image Source: http://www.cinemablend.com/images/news_img/41140/Despicable_Me_3_41140.jpg
Image Source: http://www.cinemablend.com/images/news_img/41140/Despicable_Me_3_41140.jpg

How do you identify yourself? There’s a lot of ways to approach that question. I could approach it in terms of my name, Jason Cantrell. Or by considering nicknames, like Jay to some friends, JDizzle to others, Hey You to strangers in the Walmart parking lot, or Baby to my ex. I could consider my race, which is white, or my national background, a third generation Irish/Lithuanian immigrant descendant. I could call myself a writer, a poet, a publisher, a procrastinator, a space cowboy, or Maurice. Then there’s things I, personally, consider more complicated, like gender, sexuality, and orientation. For some people, myself included, those things are harder to put a name to.

I read a lot about gender-related subjects. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve taken classes on it, I follow a number of gender- and sexuality-related news accounts such as the No Shame Movement, various feminist and transgender or queer bloggers, and anyone else who talks about open, progressive, and inclusive ideas and philosophies. I try to read up as much as I can because I like to learn and I want to improve myself. But I rarely write about these subjects because I don’t feel like what I have to say adds something valuable that can’t be expressed better by someone else. In other words, I leave it to the experts, and just read and learn from them.

So why am I writing about it today? Well, several things popped up on my social media feeds that related to my personal experiences, and they got my mind going. First there was an article posted on Fox News about parents protesting the type of sex education being taught in certain schools, which led to me reading an infographic titled “The Genderbread person” (as well as a related analysis of it). Then, I stumbled across a separate subject on Twitter, asking people about their thoughts on cisgender authors writing transgender characters in their novels.

That led to me asking a lot of questions of my own, because I have a transgender character in my novels, but I don’t identify as a cisgender author. But I don’t know how to express what that means.

Gender, sexuality, and so forth can’t be expressed in terms of certain key points. Instead, there’s a spectrum. For example, many times I see people writing or tweeting about orientation using only gay, straight, or bisexual. But when you consider the number of possible genders someone could be, and the number someone could be attracted to, the definitions quickly spiral out of control. Just to name a few, you could be male and be attracted to cisgender women,  cisgender men, transgender women, transgender men, or combinations of the above (cisgender women and cisgender men, cisgender women and transgender women, cisgender women and transgender men, etc). Even without expanding this to include androgynous, asexual, or any other options, there’s easily dozens of possible orientations that can be created on that list, and that’s before considering what gender you personally identify as.

One article I found listed 63 different identity/orientation combinations, and I don’t even think that’s inclusive. I don’t think any list can be completely inclusive, because you can always break categories down into deeper subcategories. For example, some people just think bisexual means “attracted to both men and women.” But I’ve seen lots of people discuss how it’s not simply a 50/50 ratio. You might be more attracted to men, more attracted to women, or anywhere in between, but the various possibilities all get caught under the umbrella term “bisexual.”

Here’s another way of looking at it. I read a study once on perception and categorization that asked people to divide colored tiles (like the paint swatches you get at Sherwin Williams) and sort them according to color. But what groupings people use depend on their culture and their perceptions. For example, depending on the common words in your native language, you might create a different number of categories. The Russian language includes the words sinij for “dark blue” and goluboj for “light blue.” English doesn’t have individual “common” words for these variations (words like “cyan” or “navy” not being the first words people think of for a color, but rather being words people think of for various “shades” of blue). This could lead to a difference where the English speaker would put all the “blue” tiles in one pile together while the Russian speaker would divide them up into one sinij pile and one goluboj pile. Other languages might blur the distinction even more by counting blue and green as different shades of the same color.

By comparison, the “common” terms we have for gender and sexuality might lead to people sorting each other into certain “categories,” but those categories aren’t nearly as well-defined as people might think. Most people I know don’t use a common word for something like “a cisgender man who is attracted to both cisgender and transgender women” or “a transgender woman who is attracted to cisgender men and cisgender women” or “a cisgender woman who is attracted to cisgender men and transgender women.” If you were “sorting” people according to those definitions, would you put the above examples under the category “gay,” “straight,” or “bisexual”? Or would you use a broader selection of terms that don’t fit neatly into those three common categories? Do you consider “straight” to only include cismale/cisfemale, “gay” to only include cismale/cismale or cisfemale/cisfemale, and “bisexual” to include everything in between? Or do you consider “straight” to mean any trans or straight male attracted to any trans or straight female (and vice versa)? And this is before adding more definitions to include gender expressions of masculinity vs femininity, or any of the other areas of the different spectrums.

In the long run, the only respectful thing to do is accept whatever terms or definitions people use to identify their own selves. But even defining your own self can be more complicated than picking a label from the list and slapping it on.

So how do I identify myself? I really don’t know. I could only describe it by going into a detailed explanation of where I fall on every one of the different spectrums: identity, expression, sex, and attraction. And that personal of an explanation is something I’m not comfortable sharing, but I can tell you I don’t fall into any easy categories. Though if anyone ever asks me why I decided to write a transgender character in my novels, the answer is simple. Because it’s something I can relate to.

Rudolph and Steve

The elves all knew that Santa had very “traditional” values.

Rudolph the Elf, named after the famous reindeer (who his mother had a dozen posters of in the drawer she thought he didn’t know about), frowned as he read the new posting on the North Pole Employee Bulletin Board. It listed the new Company Policies that the Claus had implemented, one of which was just getting Rudolph all riled up.

NEW NORTH POLE COMPANY POLICIES

As the Administration believes strongly in “Traditional Views” of Christmas

And as the Administration believes in encouraging appropriate

Morals and Views within Employees

All Elves are hereby banned from engaging in “Nontraditional” Christmas Activities

Including but not limited to:

Giving Free Dental Checkups to the Uninsured

Saying “Happy Holidays” Instead of “Merry Christmas”

Same-sex Kisses under the Mistletoe

Ho ho ho,

Santa Claus

Rudolph grit his teeth and stamped his foot. “It’s not fair!” he said. “What right does the Old Man have to impose his moral views on us?

Rudolph’s boyfriend, Steve, patted him on the back. “Maybe we can talk to him,” Steve said. “Make him listen to reason.”

Rudolph tore down the notice and ripped it into shreds. “Yes,” he said. “Let’s.”

Rudolph and Steve marched up to Santa. The Old Man was prepping for the Big Night, and didn’t like to be interrupted. But Rudolph stood tall and cleared his throat to get Santa’s attention.

“Ahem,” he said.

Claus turned towards him and arched a snowy eyebrow. “Yes?” he asked. “Can’t you see I’m busy? It’s almost CHRISTMAS!”

Rudolph and Steve exchanged a look, then broke out into song:

Santa, you red-suited fat man
We have had enough of this!
Just because those are YOUR views
Doesn’t mean that is Christmas!
All of us are individuals
Each with our own beliefs!
You’ll never get these elves
To follow all your stupid rules!

So on this foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa, we’re here to say,
Either join the Twenty-First Century,
Or else, Old Man, we quit!

Then Rudolph and Steve stepped under the mistletoe and kissed. Whether Santa liked it or not.