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The Other Shoe Drops [Oct. 23rd, 2016|02:02 pm]
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On October 18, Janet Rosen, assistant to Sheree Bykofsky, wrote back to me to say that she had completed her reading of my manuscript and that although it was not without merit, this was not a project that Sheree Bykofsky Associates could pursue.

This wasn't entirely surprising (the longer it became since Ellora's Cave folded and informed me that they would not be publishing my book, the less likely it seemed to me that Sheree Bykofsky Associates would continue to act as my literary agency and find me a new publisher). To review, I obtained their services to help me negotiate a favorable contract with the publisher AFTER the publisher had made their offer; they never took me on as a conventional client. Yes, I was hoping that some intellectual proximity, a bit of sympathetic loyalty, and a pleasant experience of me as a person to work with would make them more likely to represent me than if they had merely received my query letter in the large daily slush-pile stack that lit agents get every day. And maybe it did, just not sufficiently to cause them to embrace THE STORY OF Q, who knows?

So I am situationally back to that mythical drawing board, with neither publisher nor lit agent, and again taking up the querying process.

The experience has changed my attitude and approach somewhat, though, as well as having at least netted me a good solid editing job from EC's Susan Edwards as part of the process. Firstly, I now stand at nearly 800 queries to literary agents, culminating in my query to Sheree Bykofsky Associates post-EC, all of which have failed to land me a lit agent. In contrast, I've queried 12 small publishers and received one publication offer. It may be a mildly tainted offer insofar as it came from a publisher on its last legs and in its dying throes, but any way you cut it, the math speaks for itself. I will continue to query lit agents, mainly because publishers tend to want exclusive consideration while they look at one's manuscript, so I can query lit agents as a way of twiddling my thumbs. But my main effort will go towards querying publishers.

Meanwhile, since I have a publicist — John Sherman & Co, hired to promote my book — I'm diverting his focus towards getting me exposure, speaking gigs, media coverage. I've given some well-received presentations to the kink community, which has been wonderfully supportive of me so far, and I do not wish to denigrate that in any way, but it's a somewhat self-limiting audience: people are relatively unlikely to talk to folks outside the BDSM world about this interesting presentation they heard in a BDSM venue. It is still a world in which privacy is highly valued by most, where people know each other by their FetLife nicknames and may not know a participant's real name or, if they do, would by default assume it is NOT ok to mention it elsewhere. In short, although I apologize for the ingratitude that may attach to expressing it this way, I need to do some of my presentations outside of the BDSM ghetto in order to get more traction. Kinky folks have been extremely welcoming, not only to me but to other identity-marginalized people whose peculiarities are not really a form of erotic fetish — google up "pony play", "puppy play", and "littles" in conjunction with BDSM for instance — but yeah, genderqueerness isn't really a fetish and the people I really need to reach are only sprinkles in moderate levels at BDSM events.

Speaking of making presentations etc, I read a 10 minute segment adapted for outloud reading and venue purposes, at WORD: THE STORY TELLING SHOW on October 19. It was fun, was well-received and well-applauded, and came at a very good time for my frame of mind. I need to do more of this, and more of the drier more abstract material presentations such as I did at EPIC and Baltimore Playhouse and LIFE in Nassau, and perhaps more personal-anecdote of the non-humourous variety sharing, and so on, in order to build my platform and widen my exposure, and because doing so is communication, which is the end in itself, the entire reason for writing the book in the first place.

I am currently working with John Sherman to blanket the world of academic women's studies and gender studies programs, letting them know of my availability to do presentations. We will soon be expanding that to campus and non-campus LGBTetc organizations including student associations on campuses and non-university-affiliated groups.
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IT'S OFFICIAL — My Book's NOT Going to be Published!! [Oct. 3rd, 2016|05:37 pm]
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...at least not by Ellora's Cave and hence probably NOT out sometime early in 2017 as previously claimed.

I am making this a friends-only post and I am not posting links to it all over Facebook as I usually do, at least not until I have cleared it with my publicist and the person who may or may not continue to be my literary agent. (More on that in a minute). But time to let the cat at least partway out of the bag, I guess.

On September 18, I informed my editor at Ellora's Cave, Susan Edwards, that I had finished my edits and that all that remained on my end was tying up the loose ends with getting authorization to quote the Pink Floyd lyric.

On September 19, I received this in reply:

Allan, I have some very bad news for you. The company is in financial trouble and is cancelling contracts with authors whose work has not yet been published. You will receive official notification from our publisher or CEO soon.

I am so very sorry. I was so excited about publishing your book! I will be laid off at the end of the month, but if I land with another publisher and can offer you a contract there, I will be happy to do that.

Oddly, when I have Googled Ellora's Cave to read breaking news about them, all I find is some happy authors who were in contention with Ellora's Cave who are rejoicing that their rights have finally been reverted back to them. Example.

Ellora's Cave's own website would seem to indicate that they are still up and running and "now accepting new genres" but apparently that is not the case.

Where it leaves me is uncertain. I contacted my literary agent *after* receiving the initial offer letter from Ellora's Cave. And I paid her for awhile for direct services, as opposed to payment being acquired as a portion of advances on royalties. I wanted someone to represent me and my interests during contract negotiations with the publisher, both in the sense of doing that negotiating and in the sense of telling me when the publisher was being unreasonable and when it was I, myself, who had unreasonable wishes or expectations.

What that means is that my lit agent, Sheree Bykofsky Associates, did not become my literary agent as a direct consequence of reading my pitch letter or reading my book and deciding it was a good book and that they could place it with an appropriate publisher.

And now that Ellora's Cave has pulled the rug out from under me, they have to decide whether or not they feel they can represent my book in that capacity, that they can retain me as a client and find me a publisher.

If they do, I am in no way kicked back to the starting line with no prospects. That would be wonderful. And I probably have a better chance with them as a consequence of having worked with them and talked with them over the phone and so on. (I think I made a decently good impression). And the book is in good shape, firstly because of work I did on it during the spring and secondly because of the excellent editing work of Ellora's Cave's Susan Edwards. Who is, I guess, no longer Ellora's Cave's Susan Edwards.

Sheree Bykofsky and her team may decide that for one reason or another they don't really feel they can keep me on as a client. That will be rough news if it goes down that way. In many ways that DOES kick me back to the starting line.

Not entirely. I have a publicist. Originally hired and contracted in order to publicize my forthcoming book, John Sherman may instead be helping me draw attention to myself in various ways so as to increase my stature, or "platform", and hence make it more likely that I can find a lit agent (or publisher). I was actually thinking occasionally that I should hire a publicist back in the months before the Ellora's Cave offer.

Whether Sheree Bykofsky Associates does or does not consent to retain me as a client, I will be asking John Sherman to book me as a speaker / presenter as often as possible in as many venues as possible. If any of YOU know of a venue where a presenter or guest speaker doing a talk on "Gender Inversion, Being Genderqueer, and Living in a World of Gender Assumptions" or similar appropriate subject matter would be welcomed, by all means let me know. I've presented to a book club at Boston College, LIFE in Nassau, Baltimore Playhouse, and the EPIC Lifestyle Conference. I want to take my show on the road. Have lecture notes and storyboards, will travel.

Oh, and to state the compellingly obvious, yes, this sucks.
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My Agent, and My Publicist [Sep. 14th, 2016|07:38 pm]
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Hi! Sorry I haven't blogged lately. Things have been simultaneously hectic and non-newsworthy for the most part in the land of STORY OF Q. That's a situation that just changed today, but I'm not quite prepared to write about today's developments (I think the relevant phrase is "waiting for the dust to settle"). Watch this space for more activity in days to come.

I will, however, take this opportunity to introduce my team. Yay, I have a team!!! I do!!!

First off, meet my literary agent, Sheree Bykofsky, of Sheree Bykofsky Associates. She now lists The Story of Q: A GenderQueer Tale, by Allan Hunter, as one of the books her agency represents.

I first interacted with Sheree Bykofsky and her agency in October of 2013. Hers was the first agency to indicate a serious interest in the book, and they asked me to submit a formal book proposal. I did not have one. I was given some examples and general instructions on how to assemble a formal nonfiction book proposal, and that proposal, with occasional minor modifications, was the proposal I sent out a total of 163 times.

Sheree Bykofsky Associates ultimately decided not to represent my book in 2013, probably for legitimate reasons (it was still pretty rough around the edges—something that's easier for me to see in hindsight after it's been revamped and polished a few times).

I did not, in fact, ever succeed in luring any literary agent into representing my book until after I had secured a publishing offer from EC Books through a direct query. That, also, is probably for legitimate reasons. My book is a narrowly tailored book, a niche book for the most part, although there could not be a better time to be coming out with a book about an additional and different gender identity. It's at least momentarily a trendy social topic. Even so, it's not a mainstream book of the sort you'd pick up at the Penn Station bookstore while waiting for your train.

The reason I wanted a literary agent ANYWAY was that I'm a total newbie and I wanted someone who could tell me when I was being reasonable and when I was not, and when my publisher was establishing normal industry-standard contract terms and when they were going pretty far afield of that. And how to express my wishes and concerns in such a way that I'd be most likely to get the concessions I wanted without making the publisher regret having decided to have anything to do with such a prima donna.

Sheree Bykofsky has been wonderfully supportive, available to me as someone I can write back and forth to informally and openly, and who will then don her professional persona and craft business letters, negotiating on my behalf, protecting my interests.

Then I sought out and found a publicist. I'd been warned away from doing so by many authors, including the opinionated crew at Absolute Write Water Cooler as well as several bloggers, warning me that they often don't do much that an author could not do on their own to publicize a book, and that some of them aren't very ethical and just run off with the author's money. Yeah yeah, I appreciated the warnings, but I know where my talents lie and where they do not. The publicizing of my book could not possibly be in worse hands than my own. I could go up to a randomly chosen homeless person on the sidewalks of New York and hire them and the project would be better off than with me relying on my own skills.

What I did was research the matter and found a web site of biographers (close enough to memoirists for my purposes) that maintained a list (Boswell's List) of professionals that several of them had had good experiences with.

I went with John Sherman, who was praised for the excellent work he did for the author of a biography about an industrialist that no one had heard of. The author was similarly an unknown person. So I contacted him and we had a good conversation on the phone. He was quick to embrace the project, to see the book as an important book that SHOULD be out there, that SHOULD be read, and he will be helping me to market it, firstly to academics—to women's studies and gender studies professors teaching courses for which it would be relevant text.

I'm already making him a busy person. He has a good sense for what info and other preparations we need for marketing endeavors down the road in ways that I am ignorant of. For example he says we need to target book reviewers who have a policy of not reviewing a book once it is already out, but who will only feature books in their reviews that are forthcoming.

This is all very exciting. I think I've been dreaming about this since, oh, 1980 or thereabouts. It's gonna happen. I get to tell my story at last.
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The Editing Process [Aug. 4th, 2016|12:21 pm]
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On July 29, I received my manuscript back from my editor at Ellora's Cave, Susan Edwards, containing her modifications and comments. As I indicated previously, I had a good feeling from a phone conversation and a handful of email exchanges with her, so I wasn't anticipating anything really horrible. Still, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would she want me to get rid of entire subplots she thought were superfluous, or insert a half-dozen scenes to develop some character more fully?

But no, she has a light but thorough touch, diving in to every single paragraph with superficial edits that make it easier to read, but without leaving me feeling like my "voice" has been altered and definitely not like even the smallest thread of the story-line has been affected.

Have you ever worked with an editor using Microsoft Word? Like many word processors, it has a built-in "track changes" feature. In Word, this takes the form of colored balloons in the margin identifying who made what changes where, and if anything is deleted it diplays the deleted text.

I detest working in Word, generally speaking; I've rarely hated a piece of software as thoroughly as I hate Word, and it's at its worst in a huge document such as my book, roughly 97,000 words and 175 single-spaced pages. You click in a paragraph to place your cursor and nothing happens for anywhere between 20 seconds and 2 minutes, then it puts the damn blinking bar in the wrong place; you type to add two words and nothing happens for 40 seconds, then when it does it omitted the first two characters that you typed, or you find that you made typos which you could not see at the time because it wasn't keeping up with your typing. You'd think a word processor running on an 8-core CPU with 16 gigs of RAM would do better than that, and you'd be right if it were any other word processor, but Word is just awful. (I'm not even going to describe its tendency to think it knows better than you do what you want to do; the performance issue is just the tip of the iceberg)

I composed the original 900,000-word autobiography in a plain text editor (all in one document, with no resultant sluggishness) and only moved it to Word when I had excised the part of my story that I wanted to turn into this book, and even then I often did my edits outside of Word and then pasted them back in after changes.

Anyway, be all that as it may, the change-tracking feature works pretty nicely.
In addition to breaking up my run-on sentences and catching my typos, Susan Edwards inserts comments asking me to clarify and reword, or points out reasons that a passage may be confusing to my readers, and so I have homework. The change-tracking highlights my own changes in blue so she can see what I've modified when I sent it back to her.

The final authority on the changes belongs to me; she emphasized that I am free to accept or reject her changes, and in some cases I look at what she modified and decide to go at it in a different way.

In her email containing the manuscript with her edits, this is what she wrote:

I really enjoyed working on your book. You’ve had a fascinating journey and you capture the pain, pathos, pride, confusion, and triumph of that journey with intelligence, thoughtfulness, an open heart and mind, and a wonderful wry sense of humor. Well done!

You write well and have a distinctive, intelligent and wry voice, but your sentences tend to be overly long and difficult to navigate with lots of run-ons and too many clauses. This makes them hard to read and frustrating for the reader. I’ve broken up a lot of them to show you the best and simplest way to do it. I’ve also indicated other sentences that you need to break up, but I suggest you go through and identify still more and smooth them out.

I’ve also broken up your paragraphs, which also tend to be too long. Large blocks of text are disinviting to the reader. You need to give your reader plenty of spots to rest, jump in and out of the narrative. Also, dialog always needs to start on a new paragraph when the speaker changes.

Speaking of dialog, your dialog is mostly good, if occasionally a bit stiff and formal (for lack of contractions), and it is consistently mispunctuated. I’m attaching a tutorial on how to punctuate dialog. I think I’ve found and fixed most of the errors, and our final line editor will also check, but it’s good for you to know how to do it and to check for errors too.

Other than those niggling details, I think the book needs very little work. So what we’re looking at is really more of a nice polish to make it shine. I like the way you’ve broken it up into sections and chapters, and I like the titles. I added chapter numbers. I also like the flow and the way you tell your story, foreshadowing certain things to come when appropriate. I’ve noted in the manuscript just a couple of times you need to set the scene a bit better and clarify things.

I have a few more passes to make on my end before I sent the document with MY edits back to her, and then we move on to having it scheduled internally for production!
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IT'S OFFICIAL — MY BOOK'S GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!! [Jul. 13th, 2016|01:57 pm]
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[Current Mood |guess!!]

It's been a nerve-wracking 7 weeks since the offer letter but the proverbial ink (mostly digital ink) is now on the contract. The Story of Q: A GenderQueer Tale, a 97,000 word genderqueer coming-out and coming-of-age memoir, shall be published by Ellora's Cave.

It will be available in digital format first, on Ellora's Cave's own website, on Amazon, theoretically on ARe*, and on Kobo Books, and Barnes & Noble, and Apple.


* ARe is a web site devoted to erotica titles, which makes sense for Ellora's Cave's traditional oeuvre, but less so for THE STORY OF Q. But if they want to carry it who am I to quarrel?

The book will also be available in physical form as a paperback book, something fundamentally important and viscerally appealing to my 20th-century experiences.

Ellora's Cave is a publisher focused until recently on steamy erotic romances. However, as their front page explicitly states, they are "now accepting new genres". I'm not 100% certain but I *think* my book will be printed under their new imprint "EC For Real", insofar as that is the one designated for memoirs, although it might also come out under "EC for LGBTQ", depending I suppose on whether that imprint is intended to incorporate LGBTQ nonfiction or will be focused on LGBTQ erotica and romance.

So they're doing new things, and I, as a newbie author, am definitely going to be doing new things, and I'm quite looking forward to the experience.

I have already had a leisurely chatty conversation with the editor, Susan Edwards, who will be working hands-on with me to refine and polish the manuscript; she began our conversation by asking what my preferred pronouns are, and expressed warmth and enthusiasm for the project, stating that this is a wonderful time for a genderqueer memoir to be hitting the market.

Due to the economic challenges of the publishing market, Ellora's Cave isn't directly able to engage the services of a publicity engine to promote their authors' books, so that will be up to me. I have no skills but I have my own personal publicity budget and an inclination to hire a professional publicist with it -- perhaps more than one. (If you have experience with a publicist you think would be a good match for this project, please get in touch with me!).

What I do have is a talk, which I have already been taking on the road, and I will be attempting to get myself booked more often now that I have a book coming out.

At home I have a bottle of 2007 Clovis Point Archeology awaiting decanting :)
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Book Review— LIFE SONGS: A GENDERQUEER MEMOIR by Audrey MC [Jul. 1st, 2016|12:57 pm]
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Well, here's a genuine rarity— a genderqueer memoir and coming-out story! Audrey MC, which appears to be the nom de plume of Audrey Michelle Culver, has written about what it means to be genderqueer, what it is like, and how she came to that understanding of herself. And, in doing so, has beaten me to the punch.

Life Songs: A Genderqueer Memoir, Audrey MC (Chicago: Miniminor Media 2014)

Mixed feelings, to be sure. My proposals and pitch letters have often highlighted the utter absence of any such resource:

I'm a girl, that's my gender; I'm male, that's my sex; I'm attracted to females, that's my orientation.

I don't feel as if I were born in the wrong body.

In 1980 there was no book I could find by anyone like that. Still isn't.

On the other hand, to hold in my hands the story of someone else like me... even now, I experience joy and surprise to find I'm not the only one, and it feels powerful to consider our story, OUT THERE, for people to read.

Like me, the author is malebodied and raised as a boy, identifies from early on as one of the girls instead, and at puberty finds sexual attraction to the (other, female) girls. And is very driven throughout the tale by a hunger for passionate being-in-love "movie moments", romantic intensity and give-your-heart relationships.

In a world where "genderqueer" is a multi-hued grab-bag of alternative gender identities, finding so much similarity made the first chapters so compelling that I had to keep reading. There are so many other forms that genderqueer may take. The author could, of course, have been born female and less than comfortable being cast as a girl or woman; or could identify as a demiboy or demigirl, a genderfluid person, or agender -- http://genderqueeries.tumblr.com/identities

Alas, the experience of strong identification was not destined to last. The author is subject to dysphoria, feeling (as many transgender individuals describe) that the strong sense of being a girl implies or necessitates that this male body is wrong; and following up on this, the author chooses sex reassignment surgery in order to live as a female person, a lesbian.

And that, in turns, makes it unusual that the author is self-described as genderqueer. Most people whose lives follow that trajectory self-identify as transgender or transsexual. What makes Audrey genderqueer is her eventual awareness, post-transition, that she was increasingly uncomfortable with excessive femininity; as female hormones did their work, she found herself choosing increasingly androgynous or masculine modes of hair-styling and dress, presenting as a rather boyish person, eventually embracing an identity "beyond the binary" of being either male or female, woman or man.

Oh, well... the perils of overidentification and the complexities of competition betweenst male girlish folks makes for some strange reactions on my part: how is it possible to feel simultaneously disappointed and relieved to find that Audrey's experience and story isn't so closely parallel to mine?

LIFE SONGS begins with a very good first section, the portion of the story taking up roughly the first third of the book, covering childhood adolescence and early adulthood. There are good hooks, a suspenseful setup: where will this go, what's going to happen to this person in this unusual situation?

The remainder of the book is a sometimes-giddy and sometimes-painful account of romantic obsessions and joyous beginnings as Audrey chases love and finds it and loses it and chases it yet again.

The main weaknesses of the book lie with what it omits. Several sequences of long passionate buildups and the sparking of relationships are followed by short choppy detached summaries of the breakups. This is a book with far more hearts and flowers (and love songs) than storm clouds and soul-baring confrontations. Audrey's relationships with Annie, Renee, daughter Penelope, and Becca come to a close with scarcely any dialog and no more than a modicum of internal monologue. Admittedly, the author is somewhat aware of this tendency to avoid the sturm und drang of the darker side of drama, as evidenced by her description of how she broke up with Annie — deliberately leaving a note from next lover Renee where Annie would find it. Audrey describes Annie's irate arrival and confrontational accusations and crying scenes when she does so, along with Audrey's own avoidance and discomfort.

But that avoidance permeates the book itself, not merely confessing to being afraid of such scenes but glossing over losses and pains. For example, the portion of the book that describes Audrey's relationship with Renee starts on page 92; the first hint that not all is well in that particular paradise occurs on page 119, followed by a superbrief summary of the breakup on page 120, then elaborated on briefly on pages 122-123 —

By late 1995, Renee and I have been together for over five years and married for two, but our union began to crumble. We had nightly talks, navigating the potholes that had developed along our previously smooth road... From the conversations, we knew that we were no longer the team we once were...

As 1997 approached, Renee and I continued to have issues. We moved into our own apartment , trying to start fresh on our own, but we had just as many bad days as we had good.

It's not the only area of omission: I would have appreciated far more about being genderqueer specifically. One does not begin to be genderqueer only at the moment that one first realizes it and embraces the term, of course, but the discussion of gender identity above and beyond being a girl or woman originally born male starts on page 232 of a 246 page book, and again suffers from a detached kind of summary and glossing-over:

Prior to meeting Alice and before my queer enlightenment, I thought of myself simply as a lesbian with a birth defect who had it fixed. But after she entered my life and I became more involved in the queer community, I realized how absurd it was for me to identify as a lesbian, for it was a term that was so limiting in its binary construct. My identification as queer became an expression of my recognition that I completely rejected our society's imposed binary system. Nothing is that black and white. We live in greyscale, ebbing and flowing along an infinite number of points on a spectrum.

There's a likelihood here that I am being unfair to an author I overidentified with and for whom I also feel a sense of rivalry. Yet another aspect of the contradictory feelings elicited in me by that was on display when I checked up on the stature of the publisher and found that Miniminor Media does not appear to have any other titles. I looked for reviews of LIFE SONGS and found four short single-paragraph ones on Amazon, where the book is sold.

I realized I was paying far more attention to reception and reviews and whatnot for this book than I've tended to do when I've reviewed transgender and other LGBTQ books and plays and movies — another byproduct of identifying with Audrey and her book. And what I carry away with me is a somewhat ominous self-warning: I must do whatever I need to do to fend off the possibility that my book will be published but quickly sink out of sight, largely unread and unreviewed and unnoticed.
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Orlando was about Gay People Being Massacred [Jun. 14th, 2016|11:41 pm]
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I'm a little uncertain about the propriety of saying "we".

I mean, I identify as part of the LGBTIQ rainbow, and it would not be horribly unreasonable or unlikely that I would be giving talks or participating in panel discussions hosted at venues like the club in Orlando. And I've been on the receiving end of the hostility and violence a few times over the years.

But whether you or the survivors from the club or the activists organizing vigils and marches would regard me as part of the population directly targeted by this act of violence or not is not really the point anyway.

An incredibly ugly act of mass murder took place and it was directed at gay people.

It was an act of violence directed BY a person who was inspired by ISIS, yes, and it was an act of violence deployed WITH a lethal firearm, yes indeed. And if what affronts you about the event is that ISIS-style fundamentalist extremists are bringing violence to us in our communities and homes, you aren't wrong, nor are you wrong if what offends you is the easy access to assault weapons designed to kill large numbers of people in a short period of time.

But hey: if ISIS style fundamentalist violence bothers you, kindly note that what this guy targeted with this reactionary and hateful violence was a roomful of gay guys, and that it's in keeping with the hateful homophobic ideology that he apparently embraces. And if issues of gun control are your primary political interests that are evoked by this event, be aware that spates of murderous violence are not random but tend quite often to be reactionary acts of hate against previously disempowered outgroups who have dared to start behaving as if they were people.

It could have happened to some other group of people. It might have been women. It might have been black people. It might have been American suburbanites gathering for a picnic. I think it's important to see and understand that it could have been. And therefore that it could have been any of us.

But it wasn't. Don't erase the victims and the identity in common for which they were targeted.
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Julia Serano's WHIPPING GIRL ...and Not so Obviously the Lesser Sex [Jun. 5th, 2016|03:06 pm]
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I am reading and thoroughly enjoying Whipping Girl by Julia Serano.

I have a bookshelf on which my feminist theory books reside (Robin Morgan's The Anatomy of Freedom; Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology, Marilyn French's Beyond Power, Sonia Johnson's Going Out of Our Minds, Elizabeth Janeway's Man's World Woman's Place, Naomi Wolf's Promiscuities, Myriam Miedzian's Boys Will Be Boys, and so on); and I have a different bookshelf I've been populating with books pertaining to transgender experiences (Jan Morris's Conundrum, Mario Martino's Emergence, Chaz Bono's Transition, Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There, Dhillon Khosla's Both Sides Now, etc).

Serano's book kicks the transgender issue into the larger context; she's written a book that is clearly a feminist theory book; not merely about being transgender and transsexual, it is a book about what gender means, and what it means to be a feminist in relationship to gender and vice versa, exploring that from the vantage point of a person who is a lesbian, a woman, and a transsexual person. She's given me some pushback on some of my own attitudes towards people's claims to feeling specifically that their bodies, their physical morphology, is wrong, making me realize that because that specific experience is foreign to me, I've been resistant to it, inclined superficially to accept it as a possibility but inwardly pretty damn dismissive of it, believing (I confess) that most dysphoria is really about having a personality and behavior pattern that doesn't fit the expectations attached to one's biological sex. Because that's my experience, I'm feminine, girlish, womanly, yet have a male body. But no, I don't have a schematic diagram in my mind insisting that I'm supposed to have female parts. And since I don't, well, gee, the people that say they DO probably don't realize they're just mentally associating the morphology with the personality and behavior constellation that our culture attaches to it. So, Serano's right when she says that people who are queer on one possible axis can be just as opaque about another possible axis as any cisgender heterosexual conventional person. She's right that I've been that way, at least in the more private parts of my head, and she's given me a righteous shove away from that attitude.

It's a privileged attitude. I don't know what you would call it, terminology-wise: "cisgender" isn't right since I was born (and remain) male but identify as a woman or girl. Non-transsexual. Serano refers to "subconscious sex" (that schematic-diagram-in-the-head thing) and says everyone has one, but only those who have one that is a mismatch for their physiology become aware of it as something separate from their sex and their (social-behavioral) gender. Here, at last, at least, is a place in which I am a part of the sexual-gender mainstream, whatever you choose to call it, because I certainly don't have that experience. And as with many people in the privileged situation of being part of the mainstream, I've been oblivious and condescending to folks who have been describing their own, different, non-mainstream experience. Guilty as charged.

What finally prompted me to open my text editor and make a blog entry about it today, though, was this little passage on pgs 274-275:

...I was born transgender—my brain preprogrammed to see myself as
female despite the male body I was given at birth—but like every child,
I turned to the rest of the world to figure out who I was and what I
was worth... I picked up on all the not-so-subliminal messages that
surrounded me...[which] all taught me to see "feminine" as a synonym
for "weakness". And nobody needed to tell me that I should hate myself
for wanting to be what was so obviously the lesser sex.

I had been nodding along with Serano, chapter after chapter, page after page. (Even the section where she upbraided genderqueer folks like me who don't have that bodily dysphoria and try to condense Gender down to social roles and behaviors and personality characteristics). But I read this and realized I was shaking my head. This didn't match my experience at all.

I don't know when I first became aware that The World in the large authoritative sense considered girls and women to be inferior, but for me it was preceded by many years in which I thought the only people who thought so were people who belonged to an obviously inferior and suspect class — boys. They obviously thought so, but who cared what THEY thought about anything, if you even wanted to dignify anything they did by calling it "thinking"? If anything, their opinions of girls just added to the evidence that they themselves were inferior, because anyone could clearly see the real facts of the matter. Girls were mature, self-monitoring and self-controlling of their own behavior. Girls could be mean, but if they were mean it wasn't because they were like untamed dog-creatures frothing and lunging at the ends of their leashes, as the boys were. And most of the girls weren't mean, most girls were kind people, thoughtful people, trying to be good to other people as part of being good citizens.

By the time I was realizing that many (maybe most) adult men believed themselves superior to adult women, I was also hearing the voices of the women's liberation movement; it was the era I grew up in. And I was older yet when it began to dawn on me that so many adult men considered BOYS superior to GIRLS. Seriously??! Are you fucking KIDDING me?!? At first when I encountered this I interpreted it as meaning "the boys are more important in the long run because they will grow up to be men" (and by then I'd realized they thought men were superior to women), but I still assumed it was like someone putting a higher value on a sack of seeds than they would put on a bag of ripe yummy blueberries because the seeds would eventually yield a whole crop that would be worth more, but you still don't want a mouthful of seeds instead of a mouthful of blueberries if you see what I mean. I was already nearly an adult before I fully realized that many adult men viewed the actual characteristics exhibited by boys in general as superior to the characteristics exhibited by girls in general. Meaning that they were proud of exhibiting those same characteristics even as adult men and had never changed course and started trying to emulate girls and women in order to be socially interactive and cooperative humans and stuff.
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It Looks LIke I May Have a Publisher [May. 11th, 2016|08:16 pm]
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I see another email in my inbox with subject "re: QUERY--From a Differently Gendered Closet: The Story of Q".

I double-click it to see who the rejection is from so I can dutifully record it in my database of queries.

It starts off:

I really like what I've read so far of your manuscript and would like to offer you a publishing contract if it's still available. We are a digital-first publisher, so first publication would be in ebook form. Our terms are quite generous.

Let me know if you're interested.

Pretty much everything in our contract is negotiable...

I blink a lot.

I have a weary and wary and cynical outlook at this point. I was querying publishers back in 1982 and got an offer to publish and only after reading the fine print realized it was what is called a "vanity press".

This publisher is not a vanity press, I know that much at least. But that doesn't mean this is a done deal and that there aren't any dealbreaker-type "gotchas". But I'm sipping tequila at the moment, oh yes I am.

If it should turn out that this really and truly is IT and I'm going to be published (in a way that counts, etc) then for the record I just crossed the 800-query mark:

Current Stats:

The Story of Q--Total Queries = 800
Rejections: 735
Outstanding: 65

As NonFiction--total queries = 579
Rejections: 516
Outstanding: 63

As Fiction--total queries = 221
Rejections: 219
Outstanding: 2

The query that landed this response was sent directly to publisher and billed it as fiction (LGBTQ-Feminist), specifically as a coming-out story, "a 97,000-word coming-of-age (and coming-out) story - set in the 1970s but aimed at today's gender-questioning world."

Further info will be forthcoming. I'll keep you informed.

In other news, I will be presenting my talk again at the EPIC lifestyle conference this weekend! I'll post about that too.
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Always Love Lucy Theatre Presents PYGMALION [May. 6th, 2016|07:15 am]
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Always Love Lucy Theatre

I had enthusiastic anticipations for this show--the advance press on it said it had been rewritten to spotlight issues pertaining to transgender people, and, more specifically, that the character of Eliza Dolittle was being recast as a female to male transgender person. Female to male experience is far less often depicted, so I was really looking forward to the show.

The advance press also noted that this had been accomplished "with almost no changes to the original script".

The performance I saw did indeed match my recollection of Shaw's original dialogue for the most part. Indeed, this version of Pygmalion was pretty close to what you would get if you simply did a cut and paste job on Shaw's classic text, substituting pronouns (replacing "her" with "him") and shoehorning in a couple extra lines of Eliza's dialogue to explain that she wanted to become a gentleman in order to be accorded full dignity and respect and not be beneath Higgins and his friend Pickering, as she perceived his housekeeper to be.

My overall reaction was disappointment: it doesn't work. The original dialogs between Eliza Dolittle and Henry Higgins sheds no meaningful light on gender issues, nor, without far more substantial additional elaborations and modifications, do they provide any kind of situational platform for producer Saima Huq, director Anthony Pound, or the cast to do so. And, reciprocally, modifying Eliza Dolittle's transformative journey so that she is becoming a gentleman rather than becoming a lady fails to show us many new aspects of Shaw's play, either.

Pygmalion in its classic form is about class and the question of presentation— to what extent is our identity merely a matter of how we present ourselves? That's practically a hand-calligraphied invitation to explore that same question as it applies to gender identity, but the personnel who crafted this variant did not RSVP to that invitation; they didn't go there. A playwright considering such issues might choose to assert the absence of any real differences between gendered experiences aside from projected expectations, or might instead choose to use the play to outline the large differences in gendered behavior that were solidly in place during the timeframe depicted, but in this case opted to do neither.

The original Pygmalion is also at its core a tale of developing sexual tension: a lady is an appropriate object of interest for a gentleman of Professor Higgins' class, and the immediate consequence of transforming Eliza Dolittle into a lady is that he finds himself attracted to her, possessive of her, in ways he had not anticipated. The modified Pygmalion had the opportunity here, once again, to play with sexual orientation as well as gender, but in failing to tease out some interesting new tensions or observations it instead left us with a dissonant confusing patch of dialog and interaction in which Higgins is neither fascinated with the man that Eliza has become nor with the woman who underlies the performance as man, and instead utters the original unmodified Shaw lines in a context where they illuminate no new truths and in fact make no sense.

We do at least see Shaw's gendered assumptions exposed, if not neatly skewered, in Higgins' protective behavior and in Dolittle's insistences that Higgins should take responsibility for Dolittle's situation. He has transformed her, but if he has no personal interest in her, what will become of her/him? In this, we see the fingerprints of Shaw's projection onto women of his assumptions about women's vulnerability and need of care. Indeed, the play comes across as willfully blind to the social currency of being (perceived as) male and the opportunities for employment and independent social success that would derive from those, especially with the added benefit of gentlemanly manners and diction. We're treated to Dolittle's tearful complaints that she has nowhere to go and fewer options than she'd had as a woman selling flowers in the streets of London.

Several things are extremely noisy by their absence: Eliza Dolittle at no point expresses any desire to be a man aside from the additional socioeconomic gains she'd get by going above and beyong merely becoming a lady to become a gentleman instead. Higgins teaches Dolittle how to modify her speech but at no point is she given any instruction in the gendered attributes of gentlemanly behavior. Placed in a social setting to try her wings and test her progress, she is criticized for her choices of topics but not spoken to about appropriate conversation for a male in mixed company or, for that matter, for a male among other men.

By default, the play fails to address any issues particularly pertinent to transgender people in part because it fails, on the surface, to contain any transgender people. Eliza Dolittle is a woman in drag, no more a transgender individual than Dustin Hoffman was in Tootsie.

Gender is not class. Grafting gender into an otherwise unmodified play about class and expecting anything meaningful to be revealed is quaint, but Marx and Engels did that 120 years ago and we've had both feminism and gender theory to draw upon since then.

My opinions on the failure of the this version of Pygmalion to deliver on its stated promise notwithstanding, I saw a well-acted performance of Shaw's Pygmalion (nearly intact despite the inserted gender oddity):

Christopher Romero Wilson does Henry Higgins as a willfully clueless social maladroit with a genius for phonics, a geek of the first order with the social awkwardnesses that often plague the single-minded. He's irate, temperamental, and uninclined to be considerate of others. If Wilson tends to sing Higgins all on a single note, it is fair to point out that Shaw wrote him that way.

Pickering is performed with warmth and quiet dignity by David Burfoot. He exudes calmness and kindness that helps anchor an otherwise frictitious bunch of characters. Burfoot conjures up a solid Pickering with nuances and small gestures and tone of voice.

Eliza Dolittle, aka Elijah Dolittle, is rendered for us by producer Saima Huq, whose convincing versatility in speech diction and rhythm as well as her adept gender fluidity onstage were unable to quite compensate for the problems inherent in the insufficiently changed dialog.

Eliza's dad Alfred Dolittle is a character written to steal the show out from under the other performers if the actor is so inclined, and without stepping far beyond an understated confident portrayal, Tony White obliges in this regard. His Alfred is a quite believable rogue and social egalitarian with aplomb and deadpan humor.

Henry's long-suffering mom Mrs Higgins is acted by Bette Shifman, who pivots from exasperation with Henry to a friendlier interaction with Pickering and, later, with Eliza and Alfred. Shifman lets her character grow in the role, warming up to the people she becomes involved with.

The Eynsford-Hill trio—the matriarch (Nikki Chawla), termagant daughter Clara (Sabrina Zara) and situationally maladroit son Freddy (Harsh Lochan) are delivered as cameo or caricature characters, the onstage time being limited to that, and are delivered effectively by these actors.

Also in small roles in the play were Vincent Bivona multicast as Neppomuck and Bystander and Kristi Cini doing Mrs Pearce, the Parlormaid, and the Hostess.
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