Interview With The Editor Of The Upcoming Nonbinary Anthology ‘X Marks The Spot’

‘X Marks The Spot’ is an anthology being put together by fellow enby, India Kiely. The collection will include various works, such as art, personal essays, and poetry, all from Nonbinary content creators. Each creation will be focused on what the individual creator’s experience with gender means to them. The deadline to monetarily support this project is March 3rd.

Though they are busy with this project and more, India was gracious enough to give me the time of day, as well as the interview below.

Question #1. What sparked the initial idea that led to the creation of this upcoming anthology?

I’ve always been very passionate about representation in the media, and through my own coming out as nonbinary it became very apparent that there is almost none for us. I started my YouTube in part because that was the only place I had ever seen anyone like me – but in the mainstream media, it’s almost nonexistent. So I knew I wanted to do something to change that. And then one night at about 3 am I had the sudden realisation that ‘X Marks The Spot’ would make an excellent pun title for a nonbinary anthology. Everything that’s happened since has come from that one random brainwave.

Question #2. So far, what has the process been like for you as you’ve worked to put this title together?

It’s been an incredible process. At times a little overwhelming – like when my tweet asking for essay submissions went semi-viral and I ended up with over 400 pitches in 48 hours. But overwhelming in the best way possible. When I first started, the submission deadline was a month earlier and I only ended up getting two responses. At that point, I thought maybe the project wouldn’t happen after all and I was prepared for disappointment. That tweet was kind of a last-ditch attempt to save it – I could only dream of getting this kind of response and yet it happened. The best part by far is the number of people who have told me how needed this anthology is, how much it means to them. That alone makes all the work going into it more than worth it.

Question #3. As you looked through the submissions, how did you end up narrowing it down to the ones that will be incorporated into ‘X Marks The Spot’?

Narrowing down the submissions was by far the hardest thing. Every story sent to me was so incredibly personal and moving and I would have included so many more if I could have. Ultimately though, it was so important to me that I be able to pay everyone fairly for their work so I knew I had to get it down to around 30. I cut them down in rounds and in the final round, I made a rough plan of the topics I want to include in the anthology and how each of the essays I had left covered those topics. When some of them covered very similar things, I was left with the really tough choice of trying to pick one of them. At times preference was given to more diverse voices – if we had five coming out stories and only one of them was about coming out in a non-Western cultural background, then I would make sure to include that one and one of the other five, rather than two Western narratives for example.

Question #4. For those Nonbinary content creators who did miss the cutoff, given the overwhelmingly positive reaction you’ve received so far, would you consider creating a Volume 2 in the future so that more may be involved?

I would love to be able to do something like that. I think I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, particularly with managing the Kickstarter and it would be great to have the chance to try again and to be able to learn from those mistakes. Or perhaps when I’ve finished my Creative Writing degree, I could pursue traditional publishing and see if I could put together another anthology with the backing of a publisher to get us an even wider audience. That would be the dream!

Question #5. Is there anything you’d like to say for those considering picking up this title?

If you’ve ever been curious about nonbinary people but don’t want to Google it in case you get the wrong info and don’t want to ask in case you say something rude – this is the book for you. You can get all the information right from us, in a way that we are happy to share it. And if you think maybe you or someone you love is somewhere outside the binary – I hope this will help. There’s an amazing community of us and you’re more than welcome to be a part of it.

Question #6. At this point in time, the goal has been exceeded with the help of 326 donors on Kickstarter, as well as the countless number of those who reblogged on social media. For those who already have, or for those still wishing to help this project gain traction and renown, is there anything you’d like to say to them?

I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for helping us to hit that goal. It means so much to me and to all the voices included in the anthology and to all the nonbinary people who have been sitting watching this happen. To have our stories respected and wanted in this way is incredible. I cannot put into words how much it means and I hope it lives up to the expectation.

Question #7. What do you hope readers across the board, no matter who they are, take away from this book?

That it’s okay to be different. That we don’t have to be frightened of something just because we haven’t heard of it before. And that it’s best to listen, to learn and to love with an open heart. Because I promise you we’re not so different. We just have a different experience of gender than you. We still laugh at the same jokes, enjoy the same foods, say aww at a cute dog. We’re your friends and your family and your colleagues. I think this book will show our differences and our similarities, both inside and outside the community. There’s no one way to be human.

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One Day At A Time & Its Non-Binary Representation

Thus far, I have yet to find genderqueer representation in any of the on-screen media that I have consumed. Whether that be because it was so slight as to be unnoticeable, or because there was none to be spoken of, the character of Syd in One Day At A Time is the first time I saw myself on screen. To say that it was a profound moment in my existence, would be accurate.

If you follow me on Twitter, then it is no secret that I am a massive fan of the Netflix television show One Day At A Time. I have been counting down the days since I binged the previous two seasons until I could watch another one. As the third season premiere is one day away, I felt it more than appropriate to discuss my thoughts and feelings on a non-binary character being added to the diverse group of previously established characters. That is why I love ODAAT; the show, which in and of itself is a work of art, also includes non-binary representation within it.

Syd, the aforementioned character, is brought onto the show and introduced in a way that allows for the education of those, who are not familiar with others who utilize “they” and “them” pronouns. As it is a sitcom, there are jokes made, but the heart of it all lies with the respectful execution of this plotline. The fact that the effort was made for someone to accurately portray my existence made this show even better than it had been before Syd existed.

As with all aspects of life, there are some who have raised concerns about Syd being identified as Elena’s girlfriend. Although I can understand why there has been criticism, I also am aware that in my own life, I still have family refer to me as “girl” or “mija”, rather than other words that would describe who I am. I think that this decision is another layer, which adds reality to a show made to represent so many groups of people, whether that be age ranges, ethnicities, or LGBT+ individuals.

While I cannot speak for the other ground-breaking portions of the show that do deserve all of the praise, I do have opinions about Syd. In short, I adore them and acknowledge that their mere presence in the show itself is a sign of the times and a beacon of hope that others notice those of us who are non-binary too. I am grateful to live in an age where One Day At A Time exists. I only hope that other forms of media will take note, and include us for the right reasons too.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own, and I receive no endorsement or monetary gain from this post.

Also, despite the surname I carry, which I adopted upon marriage to my spouse, I am not Latinx, but merely a caucasian LGBT+ person. I lay no claim to the culture, but I still enjoy learning about it, all the same.

Greener Pastures Still Have Crap In Them

I remember the anxiety of the day I had selected to out my gender identity to the majority of those I knew. The act of doing so was an event that I had anticipated for some time, once I realized my own truth. That was a silent war of its own, but I had conquered that vast terrain of self discovery, so I was ready for everyone else to know. It was supposed to be the last major step, right? Spoiler alert: it was not.

In July of 2018, I wrote a lengthy Facebook post for those that had not been made aware that I preferred to be called by a different name, and my reasons behind that choice. While some might scoff at that, I am a shy person by nature, and discussing it was a huge milestone in itself. That I chose the medium of Facebook did not diminish the anxiety or fear that I experienced over this time regarding the next phase of my life. On the post itself, I received only positive reactions and supportive comments. However, I knew that would not be the end of it.

Since then, I have come out to various people, such as those who I had not known in July of 2018, people who don’t pay attention to Facebook, or others who chose to ignore what I had written. Some of them were easy, while a handful of interactions left much to be desired. Overall, it has gone better than I expected so far, to say the least. However, that, was only the first hill to conquer in my newly found journey of transparency, even if I did not know it then.

From my time on certain sites, such as Tumblr or other LGBT+ spaces across various platforms, misgendering, utilizing the wrong pronouns for someone, or dead naming, are held up as prime examples of being a terrible ally, etc. In my experience, it is not always so, no matter how frustrating or soul crushing it can be when it happens. In truth, I had not anticipated encountering these sort of situations when I began coming out, because I assumed that given the amount of positivity around me, it would have been like a light switch to flip, right?

Wrong, again.

For people who have known an individual for any length of time in various capacities, especially in closer platonic or romantic relationships, it can be difficult to shift away from years of ingrained habits. I am aware that this opinion contradicts expectations that I have found in other LGBT+ people I’ve known, but it’s realistic in some circumstances. In the beginning, I fell prey to the assumption that if the switch was not automatic, then that meant they cared less about my feelings, and more for their own complacency. However, in some cases, it is not an indication of whether or not your friend or family member cares. The slower reaction to requested change is merely a product of having known someone else by one way for so long.

This is not to say that people should get passes for inaction, because anyone who elects to feign ignorance should be afforded no lee way. However, for those being proactive for the sake of respecting you and how you wish to be identified, but occasionally slip up? They’re the ones worth the time and effort. Despite popular belief amongst some, it is not quite as simple as each of us wish it could be, as past events in my own life have shown.

So, where does that leave me in all of this, and how do I feel now?

Well, I can say that who I am has not changed, but how I present myself has, especially around people who know me. I feel more confident in who I am, because I can be real with the people in my life that matter. For so long, I was unable to do that, and it made me into someone I could not stand seeing in the mirror every single day. Now, whether that be for my actions throughout the previous day due to residual anger, or the depression and anxiety that wreaked havoc on my existence throughout those times of suppression, it all played a part in the loathing of my physical and self images. Since I have been allowed to let everyone in on my secret, that has abated, for the most part. The times it hasn’t, well, that’s a topic for another day. Overall though, coming out to the vast majority of those I interact with on a social level has largely changed my life for the better

With that being said, as I mentioned before, and Jackson Bird did in a video he made a while back, “No matter how it went, I bet you’re relieved it’s finally out there and done with. A big weight lifted off of your shoulders. Well, get ready to do it all over again. And again. And again. And again. For the rest of your damn life.” This, as I have learned over time, could not be more accurate.

In stark contrast to that statement, I feel it is worth acknowledging that regardless of political climate or your confidence in yourself, there will be places or people that are not safe to out yourself around. As hard as that is to face, no matter how open you are in specific portions of your life, there may be others where you cannot be. This may depend upon, but is not limited to, where you live, who you live around, who you are employed to, or how such a revelation could affect you or those around you. It’s heart wrenching, and unfair, but necessary in some cases. However, each person and how they choose to reveal who they are in each setting is up to their discretion, because safety is priority.

In that same vein, I too feel the pressure to conceal who I am at times, for my sake or my family’s. I hail from the Southern portion of the United States where identifying yourself as someone outside of the expected is met with harsh criticism from a good portion of people. In some cases, it is mere hostile words or glances, but in others, hate fueled ignorant rage has led to torture and death for some LGBT+ individuals. I am also a military spouse. These two factors have contributed to my reluctance of who I out myself to, because it does not just affect me, but our entire family. The military in recent times has become more accepting overall, and I am just a spouse. However, given that there is still the possibility of travelling to states that are not as friendly to LGBT+ people as the one we live in now, as well as the fact we interact with people from everywhere across the U.S. and political spectrum, I choose to withhold my identity past my social circles, for the time being. In the future, should it be available, I will change my driver’s license and possibly even my birth certificate. Until then, this is what we have chosen, and I am more than happy to comply.

In conclusion, my experience with coming out is mine. Each person who discovers that it is inevitable for themselves may have similarities, but we are all as unique as each color of the rainbow, and our experiences will reflect that. My expectations leading up to the actual event, and the subsequent time after, were different in contrast to what occurred, but that does not make them wrong. I am grateful for the support network I do have in my life, and even if it’s not exactly how I imagined it, coming out was the right thing to do, because looking back from this side of the fence, I could not imagine going back.

Uncovering My Truth

I was 14 when it became quite apparent to myself that I was different. Different, in the sense that I lived in a small town, where heteronormativity was abound, and I knew from an early age that I did not fall into that category. It was social suicide to be seen as “other” though, and when I realized I might have been part of that gray area, it didn’t take long for me to become depressed and suicidal. Still, I suppressed my urges, as if they didn’t matter, because lying to myself was what Jesus wanted, right?

I was 16 when I partially admitted aloud to others that I found people with female reproductive parts attractive. It was a new school, and a safer time for the most part; Obama was in office and I was no longer surrounded by so many small town minds. Still, I was anything but sure footed, and I had only scratched the surface of who I had always been. But, hey, progress is progress, right?

I was 19 when I married my spouse, and subsequently became pregnant. I was scared, and ashamed, but for reasons that my brain still refused to consider. It was yet again a time of depression and denial.

I was 21 when I miscarried what would have been my second child. Although a majority of my time after was fraught with depression, I also felt guilt. There was guilt, because what I secretly experienced in the initial aftermath was relief.

I was 23 when I admitted to myself, and then later a few close people, that my gender identity does not match what my genitals have supposedly relayed to society that I am. The dysphoria I felt had reached an all time high, and I could no longer pretend that I am not who I have always been. It took over a year of research and education after this initial admission to become aware that I am non-binary.

I was 24 when I publicly came out to everyone I knew. Well, almost everyone. But, that’s another discussion, for another time. The point is that 99.9% of people I interact with now know that I am gender fluid.

I bet you’re reading this, and wondering why on earth is this important. Who cares? Well, even though you in particular may not, there might be others who will. Mainly those who are looking for themselves in the writings of others like them, because representation matters, and when someone is still searching and speculating, it can be helpful to know that they are not alone.

Now, more than ever, when bigots are determined to squelch our channels of exposure, pretending as if we do not exist, the importance of visibility has mounted even higher. To be able to post this blog and write a glossed over version of the years of struggle that I went through is monumental. I can only hope that for those questioning, and wondering if they’re normal, that it might help one person. Every beacon of light, in the murky storm that is uncertainty, helps. This much, I know from experience. So if I can shed some light for another, then I will gladly take up that torch.

With that being said, going forward, I will be writing not only about writing and the craft itself, but about LGBT+ issues as well. It is something close to my heart, and as previously stated, now more than ever, it is important that #OwnVoices authors have a voice. We must speak up, when we are able. Now, that I am in a place to do so, I shall.