Creep versus Self versus the World: androgynous, writing to gender, and the great oatmeal disaster.

As a kid, I wrote a lot about girls and boys, but I kept being told “be a girl”, so I wrote more about girls. Even though it grated me to be called “girl” and I never understood why for the longest time. I mean, they were technically right. I was in fact a girl. I possess the female anatomy. What else could I possibly be?

Yet I’m not a girl, I’m androgynous, or an androgyne, which means I identify as both male and female. I’m not gender fluid–I don’t wake up one day and decide that I’m a woman or another and decided that I’m a man. I am both always. Always, always, always.

But for the longest time, I believed I was a girl, in that way one believes they are stuck in a living situation that doesn’t fit or a job that doesn’t suit them–its obnoxious, but more-or-less comfortable, so you just accept your fate. I wrote a lot of books about women. And I do still write books about women. But now I’m writing a lot of books about men too, and I live everyday in the sheer terror of someone telling me, “You can’t do that, how can you clearly do that well? You know nothing about being a man.”

Well technically, I should then know nothing about being a woman, since I’m not one of those either. But here I am, writing them. And the truth is, I’ve written about men for years. My Archive of Our Own (and my FF!) account will attest to this. And I’m deeply concerned by authors who believe you can’t write outside yourself. It’s like saying an artist can only paint self portraits. Do you have no empathy? Have you no ability to see things from another’s perspective? If not, then how the hell can you call yourself a writer?

My characters are not figments of me, they come out of frustration. I got sick of female based love stories where the woman just prays the man loves her back, so I wrote a book about an ace woman and an immortal demon who falls in love with her. I got sick of the lack of queer leading men in books other than society topics, so I’m wrapping up the first draft of a YA rural fantasy with a pansexual teenage boy, and outlining an adult Cold War era espionage series with queer male spies. I got sick of the lack mentally-ill characters in adult horror whose illnesses weren’t used as plot devices, so I wrote the slightly schizophrenic and very depressed Lily Anne Purga fighting off demons both real and imaginary.

And now its getting to be that time again, where I hit the queries in my Excel list and start drafting plans for conferences and networking events next year. Another long year of questioning looks that I’m too young to be taken seriously, too pretty, and too female. Another long year of waging the war against tropes in publishing and everyday life. That all queer men are effeminate. That all lesbian women are butch. That all bisexuals are promiscuous. That the majority of born women who identify as androgynous are into women, so I must be too.

With every interaction, I have a decision to make: do I be myself, or be a professional? Because I have been taught that I can’t be both. I can’t wear Doc Martens and have blue hair and discuss independent publishing or my creepy-ass writing or my work as a professional editor. I have to wear things the color of oatmeal, keep my hair its natural color, wear lipstick and mascara, shave my legs, and discuss Safe Topics Only. I must nod when I am called a woman, and not cringe when I get called “little lady.” Because I’m young and don’t have a name for myself yet.

Or do I? As I’m writing this, I have an Excel file open, and a mess of a bedroom before me. I’m moving again, and with it comes the Wardrobe Purge. And this year I noticed a disturbing trend: the things the color of oatmeal have multiplied, I have twelve fucking cardigans, and somehow only one pair of combat boots.

What. The Ever Living. Fuck.

Maybe it’s the election, or maybe it’s the move, or maybe it’s my common sense returning to me, but all of a sudden my goth side is biting back with a fucking vengeance. I want to burn all of the oatmeal colored things. I want another pair of Docs (maybe two, the new DM Lite Newton looks lovely) and twelve more flannel shirts and a Critical Role tank top. I want more piercings and tattoos. I want all of this at once like a fucking magical girl transformation. I spin in the air and land with hair that is suddenly navy blue, wearing a flannel shirt and 14 hole docs and low-slung jeans and a tank top that says And I Walk Away with sleeve tattoos poking out the rolled-up sleeves of my flannel.

I think I’ve just been at war with myself over the idea of having a professional career versus my true creepy nature, but I’ve also been at war with the world at large, and I’m not going to do both any longer. It’s exhausting, bone-deep weariness, the kind that makes you question why you’re even getting out of bed. It sucks the life out of you. And it’s sucked the life out of me for so long that people aren’t even sure who I am anymore. There were a few days where I wasn’t even sure, and I’ve prided myself on knowing me best and putting my needs first since I dumped my ex four years ago. But I forced myself to look nice and normal, wear oatmeal sweaters and brown fuzzy boots, because no one will work with a weirdo.

Or will they? I can be smart and strange. Brown fuzzy boots do not dictate IQ. An oatmeal sweater vest does not indicate my ability to work with you. Just as my physical age is no indicator of experience, knowledge, or maturity. My intellect and resourcefulness and dedication to my clients speaks louder than my personal style. Just as my writing is not a direct reflection of me (that would be really, really weird and make for one boring-ass novel.) Just as feminine-curves plus shaved hair doesn’t add up to a lesbian.

We’ve only got about 16 days of 2016 left (sounds like a demonic prophecy and MAYBE IT IS) and I think its time I start choosing my battles. Starting with the mountain of clothes, half oatmeal and half beige, to be donated to the nearest Good Will. Starting with stomping all over the But You Look Like A Girl bullshit. Starting with the end of an era. This country of mine seems to be turning into some flaming garbage pile of a disaster. I can’t fight this world and myself too, so its out with the oatmeal and in with the studded vest covered in cryptid patches.

Its time to lace of up my Docs and go the fuck work.

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