Welcome to GenreQueering.
Ever since I was a little kid who rewrote “The Wizard of Oz” as “The Lizard of Schnoz,” I’ve always been attracted to subverting and undermining the art I encountered in life. It felt impossible to tell a straightforward story. When I tried, the result sounded to me like a thin echo of whatever had inspired it, empty of life or meaning. When I let myself poke and pick and deconstruct, the results were often just as empty, full of the self-denial that permeated my entire childhood. But at least I could see myself in the writing, look and point and say “There. Right there. I changed that.”
In college, I started to try and write more sincere stories. Quiet character studies of lonely, broken people. Stories about the hollowness inside my early writing. I wrote about people for whom the world has no space, people who inevitably give in to their demons and allow themselves to vanish.
I tried not to think too hard about why I identified so much with these people. I found all kinds of costumes for this loneliness, some more convincing than others, but all united in their true purpose—providing a way for me to feel myself without exploring myself. I looked down on writers who wrote about writing. I considered them myopic, unimaginative. I couldn’t imagine wanting to put myself into my work. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read that.
But you always live in your work. Your art is inevitably an extension of yourself. Even when you’re trying desperately to keep the two worlds separate.
When my friend Jacob killed himself, I couldn’t ignore the suicidal themes running through my writing and my head any longer. Feelings I once took for granted as an inevitable part of my personality now seemed like real threats to my very existence. I started to ask myself hard questions about where exactly those feelings came from. And in doing so, I unraveled a layer of fiction around my sense of self that I had no idea even existed.
The story went like this: I have wished for death since I was in elementary school, but I’m not really suicidal. I’m attracted to multiple genders and stare in the mirror dreaming of having been born a girl, but I’m not really queer or transgender. My parents were emotionally reckless with me as a child and terrified of taking accountability, but my childhood wasn’t really abusive or traumatic.
The lie I was fed, and that I learned to feed myself, was not that my struggle was fake. The lie was that my pain was acceptable. That it was inevitable. That I was just a late bloomer. That my suffering was healthy. That it built character.
Once I accepted myself for who I am--a queer, mentally-ill, transgender abuse survivor--I suddenly understood my creative impulses as not purely aesthetic, not just the empty flourish of a creatively bankrupt mind, but as a reflection of my struggle to exist within a story hostile to my very existence. Parody, satire, postmodernism—all of these were unconscious attempts to carve out some space for myself within the creative language that had been passed down to me, but which had no room for me. Without a clear sense of myself, all I could do was thrash away at the old structures with no compass to guide me except some vague sense of doomed, unquenchable sorrow.
I see myself now. I know where that emptiness came from and how it works. The things we accept as normal don’t have to be that way. There are better ways to live than the way we live now, breathing in the racism and misogyny and ableism and queerphobia and abuse culture and everything else, just biding our time until climate change kills everyone except the one percent. And our conceptual framework for addressing these issues often shares the same structural blind spots as the culture we’re trying to fix. We need to begin to scrutinize the things we accept axiomatically and see whether they really hold. We need different ways to imagine ourselves and the world around us.
We need a new story.
I picked GenreQueering as the name for this site because it reflects what I want to accomplish with my art. For me, queering something means challenging its givens, discovering the ways those givens feed into the toxic norms of our culture, and finding a new approach that is inclusive, just, and helpful in all the ways the original was not. Deconstruction alone is not enough. We need to reconstruct as well.
Let’s take a step back. Lofty theory aside, GenreQueering is a personal portfolio site like any other right now. Some of the content you’ll see here will be big postmodern, genre-busting work that lives up to all the big talk I just did. A lot of it will be mundane, personal—blogs, poems, whatever I feel like putting out into the world. My own little creative fiefdom.
I don’t mind it. But I don’t want it to stay that way.
My dream is to build this site, to monetize it, and to turn it into a collectively owned and operated platform by and for queer and gender-nonconforming artists. I want it to be a safe, productive space for us to find our voices, to build our shared audience and make our lives a little more stable and sane. I’m hoping that when it’s time to renew the domain in January, this site will be big enough to bring on at least one or two full collaborators.
If you’d like to support the site and help make that future real, please click through to my Patreon and throw me a couple bucks a month. Anything will do. Even a dollar a month gets you access to some Patrons-only content I’ll be posting there soon. The more money the site brings in, the more energy I can put into building it into something viable for the long term.
If you’re a queer and/or GNC artist who would like a platform to showcase your work, please drop me a line on social media! We’re stronger together than we are apart, and I cannot wait to be one voice among many instead of the only face on this site.
I believe we can imagine a better world where there is no “normal,” one where there’s only what is and what could be. I believe we can bring that world into existence with our sweat and hard work.
I believe in GenreQueering. I hope you will too.