I take great effort to surround myself with certain types of people. I’m not going to explain my politics or queerness or strange personality or litany of mental illness to people who don’t already get me. We can discuss nuance, but there are certain facts you’ll need to accept if we’re going to be friends. And like, yes, this is an issue when I’m outside the sphere I’ve created and suddenly remember that racism or transphobia or Republicans are closer than I let myself believe. But listen. I’m fine with straight people. A bunch of my friends are straight. Honest. They are well versed in queer issues and are generally angry feminists, but they are straight. Look at me branching out.
I’ve been planning for ClexaCon and GCLS the last few weeks. Being married is great for travel. Typing two last names was hard, but only typing one really makes it so much easier to reserve hotels and plane tickets and research airport transportation. I don’t particularly like traveling because of all the people who insist on, you know, existing, but I know it will be worth it to be surrounded by my people. Not just queers. I’m talking geeks. Weirdos. People who read all the time. People who read the same books I read. People who not only watch the television I watch, but have spirited discussions about those television shows. People who recognize the soundtrack to The L Word: Generation Q because they are listening to the same playlist as me.
If I’m being real honest, I’m also pretty stoked that at some point someone will ask me to sign their copy of my book and I’ll feel kinda famous.
See, my straight friends don’t get it. My book was included in “Autostraddle’s 55 of the Best Queer Books of 2019” and I. Lost. My. Shit. All my queer friends lost their shit on my behalf. It was swell. When I told my straight friends, I had to explain what Autostraddle was. I HAD TO EXPLAIN WHAT AUTOSTRADDLE WAS.
When ClexaCon accepted the panel I’m on (“Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Writing Queer Communities”), I was real excited. When ClexaCon accepted the panel I pitched (“Queer Books are Lit: A Millennial Perspective on Media”), hoo boy. Again, the gays were pumped for me. The straights? I had to explain what ClexaCon was. And then I explained what Clexa was. What The 100 was. What “bury your gays” meant. I’ll forgive my forty-something suburban mom friends for not knowing a CW show aimed at teenagers and queers. But not knowing what “bury your gays” means? This is not a new trope. People always roll their eyes when I make straight jokes. There goes Ashley again. Acting like straight people are an inconvenience. But you know what? They are. I know their culture. It’s impossible not to. It’s pervasive. And yet they act like I’m a goddamn genius for pointing out that it’s a media trope to introduce a queer character and kill them off. As if the Hays Code didn’t spend half of the twentieth century offing queers.
After my last GCLS, my favorite story to tell was Dorothy Allison acknowledging my existence. I was waiting to go into the award show, wearing my adorable little seersucker suit. I had my pants cuffed just so. My pocket square was jaunty and messy. So was my hair. And Dorothy fucking Allison looked me up and down and said, “look at this.” Then she walked away chanting, “butch boy, butch boy, butch boy…”
And my straight friends said, “Who is Dorothy Allison?”