Congratulations to Kat V! She’s our winner for this giveaway!
Happy Sunday! Today we’re joined by Rae Theodore (Middle Age Butch). She’s talking about the need for political speech, especially for writers, an important message that we should all give some thought to, now more than ever.
And, as an extra bit of awesome, Rae is giving away a copy of her book, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. Winner’s choice of ebook or paperback. Drop a comment in the space below and we’ll draw the winner on Friday, February 3rd.
I’m an active member of a community of writers in the Philadelphia suburbs.
A few times a year, I organize story jams on behalf of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. Everyone who participates writes to a selected prompt and reads in front of an audience. In 2016, we played with a post-Valentine’s Day prompt of “You Give Love a Bad Name,” a 4th of July prompt of “Love and Rockets” and a Halloween “Scary Story” prompt.
As I started planning our first story jam for 2017, I was talking to a fellow writer.
“I was thinking about a post-election prompt that people could really sink their teeth into,” I said. “But I don’t want to get too political and offend anyone,” I added.
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently,” she said. “If now isn’t the time to be political, when is the time?” she asked.
For most of my life, I’ve worked hard at not offending. At being nice and polite. At not making waves. At being a good girl, a good daughter, a good student, a good citizen, a good wife.
It’s one of the reasons I didn’t come out until I was in my late thirties. I had tried to blend in with my peers and quietly follow in their footsteps by marrying a man and then having a child. I had tried to play by society’s rules.
Until I couldn’t any longer.
These days, I consider my very existence a political statement. With my short hair (a number four on the sides), my cargo shorts and neckties for special occasions, of course. Every time I pull my small brown leather wallet out of my right, back pocket to make a purchase or venture into the ladies’ room, I am making a political statement.
When I wrote my take-a-walk-in-my-sturdy-shoes memoir, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender, I was putting it all out there for everyone to see. This is what it feels like when you are a woman but are called “sir” when you walk into a store. This is what it feels like to be confronted as an interloper when you’re using a public bathroom that corresponds with your gender. This is what it feels like when people can’t quite decide whether you are a boy or a girl.
How can I get more political than penning a memoir about living life in the gender margins?
The results of the election and the events of the past week have given me reason to reevaluate my political expression.
A week ago, my wife and I attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. For more than a decade, I’ve attended various pride events but have never attended a march or political protest. A month shy of my 50th birthday, and there I was standing in the middle of a crowd of more than a half million women tearing up as I listened to Gloria Steinem speak.
These are extraordinary times.
As a memoir writer, I pride myself on being honest and vulnerable in my writing. However, I would be lying if I said I never took the edge off a story. Never smoothed the teeth of certain words, made them easier for the reader, or even me, to swallow.
I’ve made a pledge to stop worrying about hurting someone’s feelings or offending with my thoughts, my words. I will write unapologetically. I will write my truth with the hope of opening minds with the sharp point of my pen.
Now more than ever, the world needs honest art. It needs women’s words and stories, especially when those words and stories come from women in the margins.
Here’s to being political, to political speech.
So, back to that story jam.
Our prompt will be:
Because a writer’s place is in the resistance.
My place is in the resistance.
Rae Theodore is the author of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender (Regal Crest, 2nd edition, 2017), a big butch memoir that takes a hard, humorous and sometimes heartbreaking look at living outside the gender margins without a rulebook. Leaving Normal was shortlisted for an award for creative nonfiction by the Golden Crown Literary Society. You can read about Rae’s musings on that middle space where boy/girl collide at middleagebutch.wordpress.com. Currently, she is working on a book titled Love Is Like Tiny Cheeseburgers: Musings from a Butch Romantic. She lives in Royersford, Pennsylvania, with her wife, kids and cats.