The first moment I knew I didn’t fit was when I fell in hopeless love with my best friend from middle school. We were lost teens in the early aughts, obsessed with each other and all things nerdy. Until she told me that I didn’t count because of what we both supposedly were. Without the language to know myself—and very much in love—I accepted what we both thought was law, even though it hurt like nothing else.
Thankfully, we're on good terms nearly two decades later. We've both grown up a lot and I don’t regret loving her. Not one bit. I regret living in a world that told us our wonderful/awkward feelings didn't count and couldn't fit.
Most of all, I regret that we both believed it.
The second moment is more recent, but harder to describe. It comes after years of struggling with gender dysphoria, injecting it into writing and pretending I did no such thing. Perhaps this new alienation is worse than the old one ever was, because this time I wanted to fit in.
Desperate for creative community, I found institutional walls covered in flames.
Entering online writing spaces as a recently-out transmasc author felt like being burned alive. It still does. I watch in horror as transfem peers get their books torn apart in ways no cis writer ever would. Gritting my teeth, the chaser is worse: Powerful cis authors routinely set trans people on fire while publishing does nothing to qualm the flames. As we burn for the comfort of bigots, all I can do is write while my skin begins to bubble.
Is this how it always is?
Every day in writing spaces, some hellfire rains. It could be something as reasonable as a queer Black masc asking why the M/M romance genre is run by white cishet women. A reasonable question, but because the feelings of white cishet people always matter more, a volcano erupts. Queer peers catch ire like fire, I stare at magma, nothing changes and I can't fix it. Worst of all, nobody with the power to fix it actually wants to.
Publishing's problems benefit the very bigots who want me boiled alive.
In all this destruction, I’m relegated to trans indie-pulp dumped into a thin rainbow baggy. Expected to fit corporate homo-dynamics, I pour out the sides and dribble onto pavement. Permanently affected, I'm required to act like I'm not melting through the cracks. It's worse for transfems and that does nothing but make me radioactively angry.
As my neon flesh mutates in plastic, it might be the lying that scalds like nothing else. Maybe it's me seeing readers talk of championing trans writers, when I'm aware seas upon seas of readers eviscerated a transfem author for the crime of writing while closeted.
I think about Isabel Fall every other week.
Maybe it's me seeing that allies would rather give J.K. Rowling clout by yelling at her than warm any trans author alive. Maybe it's me knowing transphobic manifestos on Amazon go viral while our work sits ignored. Erased.
Allies love to talk, but the second a match needs lighting, they fizzle out.
I step on coals as my life experiences become cannon fodder, then flood out the side of a corporate baggy. All this psychic damage compounds and burns a hole in my guts. I couldn't ignore this if I tried.
Trans people are casual kindling for easy ignition, our enemies rise above the flames and nothing changes for everyone who cisn’t.
A pattern catches fire: No institution wants anything from people like me. Not unless we fit the rainbow shopping bag, and even then, it’s more likely we’ll be written about, talked over, our lives boiled down and repackaged for profit. We're a topic, unless we fight. We're always fighting.
Trans people are forced to burn as beautiful/horrible spectacle for cis entertainment. Is this all there is for writers like me? It sure feels like it.
Until publishing—and the world, for that matter—grapples with cissexism, that’s where I live. Pulverized pastel gunk stuffed into a baggy. Maybe people like me get set on fire every now and then for fun. Maybe we get set on fire to warm mediocre cis authors.
Maybe we just get set on fire.
I think it's about time we set the rainbow bag ablaze for good. If trans folx are the spectacle that blisters, let it be our bold neon stories that burn as an untamable sea of flames.
Fit nothing, create everything, let no one smother your light and keep no regrets save one: that anyone would dare waste your glow to fuel their nothingness. Art is a weapon. Use it.