Art that imitates life

10/02/2012

I’m always looking for it. Art that feels like holding up a mirror. Sometimes I seek and find. What I want most lately is art that reflects people of similar genders to mine. Maybe not the same gender, but close enough to home. But sometimes when you can’t find it you have to make it yourself, and thus begins the challenge.

I feel a little bit closer to found in Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues and Lynnee Breedlove’s Godspeed–but even then, I don’t feel like I’m reading quite what I want. These novels center on CAFAB people whose primary sexual and romantic relationships are with women (cis- and trans), and the main characters identify themselves as lesbians or dykes. In SBB there are a couple of characters who are also “he-shes” (Feinberg’s term for masculine CAFAB folks) who love men, but they are peripheral at best, and the object of some level of scorn for some of the supporting characters.

It’s hard to explain the draw that lesbian fiction has for me, despite not actually identifying as a lesbian. My primary romantic and sexual relationships are with masculine-identified folks, and ‘fag’ is a word I use to describe myself, but I have yet to find fiction that delves into non-binary gender identities and presentations the way that lesbian fiction does, and so it feels almost like being next door to home.

My favorite book of short stories is Patrick Califia’s Melting Point, which in essence is a book of pansexual/queer BDSM erotica, but also manages to be compelling from socio-political and literary standpoints, as well. The characters in this book have a variety of binary and non-binary genders, and couple in various kinky and queer ways. I also appreciate that the book actually confronts race and class dynamics in relationships, and I’ve thumbed its pages many times and owned at least 2 or 3 copies by now (maybe more!), and hope it will come back into print some day, or that I’ll find another book of short stories that my thoughtful heart and topsy-turvy libido can enjoy so fully, even with repeated visitation.

But I’m still looking for the art that imitates my life, so I guess I’ll have to make it myself. I read a good interview in the NYT magazine with Junot Díaz (author of the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) recently, and he talked about what feels like a familiar phenomenon, as a writer, needing to read in order to fuel one’s writing:

I’m old enough and experienced enough to know when I’m reading to avoid. And then you gotta get back to work. And I also know — you get old enough, you know when you’re forcing the writing, so you need to go hit the books.

Right now the problem feels like I need more of the literature I am attempting to create!

Well, time to go hit the books. Any reading about non-binary gendered or transgender characters you’d recommend?

-RD

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