One Day At A Time and What It Means To Me

One Day At A Time and What It Means To Me

Disclaimer: First and foremost, because there has been some confusion, I just want to set the record straight and mention that I am not Latinx. I married someone who is, and that is where my last name comes from. It does not bother me that I am confused as someone who is, except that I refuse to falsely portray the narrative of someone I am not. To me doing that is the same thing as stolen valor, which is not okay either. So with that being said, I will continue this ramble.

As a good portion of the universe knows at this point, Netflix announced on Thursday, March 13th, 2019, that it cancelled One Day At A Time. To say that I am heartbroken is probably an understatement, to be honest. This show means so much to my family of three, who have two Latinx individuals in it, excluding myself, as I am Caucasian. However, in a show that was made primarily for Latinx people, I still see myself in the character of Syd, who is the only Enby I have ever encountered in on screen media. Being able to see myself, but also the fact that others found representation for their own lives, is why I am distraught at this decision.

In a world where there seems to be so much geared toward those who are not only straight, but also cisgender persons, finding someone who is transgender on television, much less almost exactly like me, was a profound moment. Likewise, to see someone with not only the same gender as me, but the same pronouns, was life altering. I cried over it, to be honest, because I never thought I would see the day when that would happen. So much of my viewing experience has surrounded seeking myself out in people who are only similar to me in certain aspects. At least that was the case, until Syd. Now that I have experienced this, I am only more insistent that it not be the last time I, or other enbies alike, do.

Whether Lin-Manuel Miranda and every other person who has pitched in pulls off saving this beloved show or not, I will be forever grateful that it allowed me to see myself in a positive light, through the inclusion of Syd. The script could have easily been written differently, as has been done many times before. I can only hope that the networks who may be considering picking up the show understand that beyond Syd, there is so much more to love about One Day At A Time, and that it deserves to dance its way into the hearts of more people for years to come. For now though, all we can do is take life as it comes – one day at a time.

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The Weight of Years

The Weight of Years

Nearly two months ago, I sheared off over two feet of my hair. Relief was instant – I felt lighter than I had since I last did that over four years before. The first occasion that my hair was shorn, I equated it to the fact that in my life, I have always had bulky, and at times, disagreeable hair, which necessitates cutting off portions of it to varying degrees every so often. Now, as I’m older, I realize it was much more than that.

With locks that were over half the length of my body, it was difficult to believe that someone would not equate my appearance to a certain binary gender, rather than the way I wish to be seen – otherwise neutral, or non-binary. Dysphoria became the norm, as vulnerability encompassed a part of my mental state, which made each day or social outing that much harder. As each strand descended to the floor, I felt an extra breath of life fill my lungs.

Free from the burden of the weight of years, I have found a peace that only exists within me as I allow myself the room to be who I am, rather than what the world wishes me to be. However, I am far from where I want to be as a whole, but each change helps.

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.

Little & Lion: A Book Review

Siblinghood and social stigmas are at the core of this novel, which was woven together with a deft hand by Brandy Colbert. From the synopsis alone, I was drawn in. The entire book itself, however, kept me hooked from start to finish.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert is the story of Suzette, or Little, who has returned home from boarding school for the summer. There, she reconnects with her friends, as well as the rest of her family. However, her brother Lionel, or Lion, is less than receptive upon her arrival, as well as struggling with his mental health. Through a series of events, she is hurtled back into the world of watching over her older brother, as well as spending time with others that she had been made to leave behind. Along the way, she begins to question her identity, as she finds herself feeling romantic intentions for not just a boy, but also a girl. A girl who Lionel just happens to be falling for too.

While this happened to be a last minute addition to my February TBR, I am thrilled that I chose to delve into it sooner rather than later. This book is not what I expected but in all of the right ways. Suzette is a wonderful MC, who is smart as well as compassionate. Her relationship with her brother is a foundational part of the book, which I found to be a well laid one. Along with the parents that these step-siblings share, this was a realistic depiction of family, and what it means to be a familial unit.

As for the story itself, I thought it ebbed and flowed well. Each scene added something to the story, including the flashbacks that are peppered throughout the book. Coupled with the concise writing, and well-portrayed discussions regarding various topics such as racism, mental health, and being bisexual, all made this a joy to read.

With regard to the pansexual representation displayed in this book, despite what I have read in other reviews to the contrary, I as a pansexual individual enjoyed it. Art truly does imitate life. Therefore, not every LGBT+ person in a book has to be a decent human being. Does that represent every single person of that group? Hell no. So, with that being said, it stands to reason that there will be characters who are LGBT+ that are not the greatest as well. That does not necessarily mean a writer is villainizing that subset of sexual preference, but more so just being accurate to the world as a whole.

On a different note, as far as the mental health representation goes, I cannot wholly speak for it, because I do not have any form of bipolar. However, as I have anxiety, certain points really stuck with me, and I felt that they were conversations that need to be heard.

In that same vein, I am neither Jewish, as Suzette and her family are, nor African American, as the main character is. However, it was interesting to see this intersection. I loved reading about this character’s experience with it, as it was enlightening.

Concerning the “emotional” love triangle that develops, though I am not usually a fan of these, I felt this one was well placed. Suzette is at a point where she is figuring out who she is, and in life, these types of situations can happen as a result. As someone who is attracted to “everyone”, I understood her misgivings as she wonders whether or not it is even possible, and if so, how does one choose between one or another? The end result of this plotline of the book as a whole, in my humble opinion, was also a feasible possibility that was not meant to denigrate any single sexual orientation, but rather emulate one life path choice.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think the author did an excellent job with this one, and I do plan to pick up more titles written by her.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

The Intersection of Diversity and Willful Ignorance

Though not the only instance where something of this nature has occurred, recently on Twitter there was an author, a woman who identifies as queer, who chose to explain to people why she felt that as a writer she could take creative liberty with facts about a transgender person’s life. As is expected, I and other people reacted with shock, anger, and dismay. I cannot speak for anyone else outside of myself, however, the chain of events that led up to this cannot be placed solely on the author, though it would be easy to scapegoat that one individual. Since the incident, I’ve taken some time to reflect and cool off a bit, rather than approach the topic with my natural reaction, which is a burning fury that anyone could believe that they have the right to erase our identities.

Dr. James Barry, the aforementioned man in question, whose life will be portrayed in the upcoming title mentioned above, presented as a man, acted as one, chose to be called one, and therefore was one. To suggest that the use of female pronouns after there is evidence of him forgoing that identity, is not only distasteful but downright disrespectful to do so. It appalls me that a publishing company or author felt that this was the right course of action to take when it has been made wholly clear that were he alive today, James Barry would be downright indignant at the slight of being misgendered, regardless of the reason for it.

As for what this means for the transgender community at large, I believe it bespeaks a willingness from a publishing giant to underutilize resources to accurately portray an individual who was, in fact, the opposite of what the author they have contracted claims. That others defend her flagrant disregard in the wake of scrutiny from transgender people is also troublesome at best, and terrifying at worst, because people who would know better than someone who is not trans should be listened to, right? One would think so at least.

This whole event is only one case of many though where a writer portraying a person unlike them has taken the story into their own hands and believed that they know better than the people they write about, despite an innumerable amount of protestations to the contrary. It is disheartening that this book was deemed worthy to be published, given that it grossly misrepresents one person to benefit another group of people, while dismissing the real fears of the group that it should actually be about.

As a writer, it is the duty of each one of us who wields the powers to craft words, however good or bad they are, to do so with a respect for those who we portray. Whether our works be about people like us or those who have a life dissimilar from ours that it would take hours, months, or years, to research to become knowledgeable about, regardless, we should do so with the care that we would wish others who write about us to take, and nothing less.

With that being said, there is a petition/open letter to get Little Brown’s attention, which I will leave linked here. Please, if you have a moment to, consider signing it. Thank you!

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets: A Book Review

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle Pitman is a necessary book, in that it compiles information that may be lesser known, or otherwise not as often discussed past the actual Stonewall Riots that occurred from June 28th, 1969 to July 1st, 1969. However, LGBTQ+ history is so much more than that, and this book exemplifies that through the additional information it presents which set the stage for the when, what, how and why for one of the major riots that ignited the LGBTQ+ movement into action.

I found this book to be informative in all aspects, including the snippets of interviews from first-hand witnesses and pictures that were incorporated to enhance the reader’s experience. From what images that did load on my personal reading device, I felt that these strengthened the narrative overall. With each of these elements combined, they both made this a book worth reading. For those who enjoy history, particularly LGBTQ+ history, I would recommend this title.

With that being said, while I value this book for what it contains and the data that it doles out, I also found it to be lacking in other areas. For one, the book as a whole felt like a patchwork quilt sewn together; each piece did fit with the other, but it was never in the place it should have been. The whole time I read, I felt mental whiplash at the way the narrative went from speaking of events within the 1960s to ones within the earlier 1970s, and then back to the those in the 60s. The information was scattered in such a way that following along took more effort than it should have for a middle-grade novel. Secondly, certain portions are quite repetitive. I understand that when information is recounted, there will be a modicum of reiteration. However, at multiple points throughout the book, I felt that it was present more often than not.

Overall, though I have my own qualms about the novel, I still believe that this is an important one to read. History must be studied, lest we should forget, and therefore enable it to be replicated. To permit visions of the future to cloud our knowledge of the past is to disregard what those before us have endured so that we may enjoy our present and future. That is why I believe everyone should read through this title at least once, as it allows for a window into the past, which is necessary so that we may all proceed into the future, armed with the knowledge that if those before us can handle what life threw their way, then we can too.

I gave this book 3.5 – 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.