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On July 29, I received my manuscript back from my editor at Ellora's Cave, Susan Edwards, containing her modifications and comments. As I indicated previously, I had a good feeling from a phone conversation and a handful of email exchanges with her, so I wasn't anticipating anything really horrible. Still, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would she want me to get rid of entire subplots she thought were superfluous, or insert a half-dozen scenes to develop some character more fully?

But no, she has a light but thorough touch, diving in to every single paragraph with superficial edits that make it easier to read, but without leaving me feeling like my "voice" has been altered and definitely not like even the smallest thread of the story-line has been affected.

Have you ever worked with an editor using Microsoft Word? Like many word processors, it has a built-in "track changes" feature. In Word, this takes the form of colored balloons in the margin identifying who made what changes where, and if anything is deleted it diplays the deleted text.


I detest working in Word, generally speaking; I've rarely hated a piece of software as thoroughly as I hate Word, and it's at its worst in a huge document such as my book, roughly 97,000 words and 175 single-spaced pages. You click in a paragraph to place your cursor and nothing happens for anywhere between 20 seconds and 2 minutes, then it puts the damn blinking bar in the wrong place; you type to add two words and nothing happens for 40 seconds, then when it does it omitted the first two characters that you typed, or you find that you made typos which you could not see at the time because it wasn't keeping up with your typing. You'd think a word processor running on an 8-core CPU with 16 gigs of RAM would do better than that, and you'd be right if it were any other word processor, but Word is just awful. (I'm not even going to describe its tendency to think it knows better than you do what you want to do; the performance issue is just the tip of the iceberg)

I composed the original 900,000-word autobiography in a plain text editor (all in one document, with no resultant sluggishness) and only moved it to Word when I had excised the part of my story that I wanted to turn into this book, and even then I often did my edits outside of Word and then pasted them back in after changes.

Anyway, be all that as it may, the change-tracking feature works pretty nicely.
In addition to breaking up my run-on sentences and catching my typos, Susan Edwards inserts comments asking me to clarify and reword, or points out reasons that a passage may be confusing to my readers, and so I have homework. The change-tracking highlights my own changes in blue so she can see what I've modified when I sent it back to her.

The final authority on the changes belongs to me; she emphasized that I am free to accept or reject her changes, and in some cases I look at what she modified and decide to go at it in a different way.

In her email containing the manuscript with her edits, this is what she wrote:

I really enjoyed working on your book. You’ve had a fascinating journey and you capture the pain, pathos, pride, confusion, and triumph of that journey with intelligence, thoughtfulness, an open heart and mind, and a wonderful wry sense of humor. Well done!

You write well and have a distinctive, intelligent and wry voice, but your sentences tend to be overly long and difficult to navigate with lots of run-ons and too many clauses. This makes them hard to read and frustrating for the reader. I’ve broken up a lot of them to show you the best and simplest way to do it. I’ve also indicated other sentences that you need to break up, but I suggest you go through and identify still more and smooth them out.

I’ve also broken up your paragraphs, which also tend to be too long. Large blocks of text are disinviting to the reader. You need to give your reader plenty of spots to rest, jump in and out of the narrative. Also, dialog always needs to start on a new paragraph when the speaker changes.

Speaking of dialog, your dialog is mostly good, if occasionally a bit stiff and formal (for lack of contractions), and it is consistently mispunctuated. I’m attaching a tutorial on how to punctuate dialog. I think I’ve found and fixed most of the errors, and our final line editor will also check, but it’s good for you to know how to do it and to check for errors too.

Other than those niggling details, I think the book needs very little work. So what we’re looking at is really more of a nice polish to make it shine. I like the way you’ve broken it up into sections and chapters, and I like the titles. I added chapter numbers. I also like the flow and the way you tell your story, foreshadowing certain things to come when appropriate. I’ve noted in the manuscript just a couple of times you need to set the scene a bit better and clarify things.



I have a few more passes to make on my end before I sent the document with MY edits back to her, and then we move on to having it scheduled internally for production!

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ahunter3: (Default)
So... I recently replied to a post on one of the gender forums I'm on, a post from someone doing a research project titled "Are You Transgender?" —


> I'm a girl, that's my gender; I'm male, that's my sex; I'm attracted
> to females, that's my orientation.
>
> I don't feel as if I were born in the wrong body.
>
>
> I don't know if you'd like to include me or not, but I will
> definitely participate if you wish to interview me.


She wrote back and asked me several questions and we exchanged emails and so on. Somewhere along the way I mentioned that I'm trying to have a book published, my coming-out story, "narrative / memoir, possibly marketed as fiction. No author's agent yet".

So she wrote back: "Awesome! What are the agents telling you?"

To which I responded:

> The responses I've gotten over the last year and a half of querying
> tend to fall into one of these categories:
>
> a) "Nope, not our thing, not interested in your idea for a book". The
> largest number of replies fall into this category. No huge surprise
> there. The resources for authors looking for literary agents let you
> search for agents who represent memoirs, or literary fiction, or young
> adult. They do not let you perform a search for literary agents who
> represent LGBTQ coming-out stories. Hence I could either do a lot of
> research and narrow down the pool of potential agents and then send my
> queries or I could just send my queries to the next batch of people
> who represent memoirs or whatever. The latter is actually faster and
> easier to do as a sort of repetitive chore, semi-automated, like job
> hunting.
>
> b) "Interesting idea, but you need more of a social platform. Who
> will buy your book? You need to become more well-known as an expert
> on the subject". This is the 2nd most common reply, at least to the
> queries that position my book as nonfiction. (It's a nonfiction
> thing; fiction authors don't have the same strong expectation of
> pre-existing fame)
>
> c) "Interesting idea but your implementation of it based on the first
> 5 pages isn't quite what we hoped for, for some vague unspecified
> reason".
>
> d) "It isn't quite right for our small agency's lineup but it's a
> fantastic idea, the world needs books like this, best of luck with it"
>
> e) "We'd really like to publish a book on this topic and I was so
> excited to read your query letter but frankly we don't like your
> writing, it's a disappointment, sorry" (ouch!)
>
> f) "We have to decline to represent your book because it too closely
> resembles one we're representing"



Well, that was on the 19th. In the following weeks I've replayed my last answer several times and thought back on the agents' replies and I've come to realize I have way too many in category E to not take it seriously. The rest can be tossed into a giant hold-all basket labeled "Keep on Querying" but yeah, there are too many agents who say they would have liked to have represented a book matching my description, but they don't like my book. Don't like my writing.



So. I'm doing a major rewrite, first one since March 2013. In that rewrite I was focused on condensing. I had 500 pages and in March 2013 I stripped out event-dead and dead-end bits that I decided I could dispense with and ended up with a 295 page story. It was my second condensation pass (hey, I started out with a 900,000 word autobiography, which is is around 2400 pages when single-spaced).

This rewrite is about narrative action. I'll give you an example of what I mean. Not from my own book but from Wally Lamb's book She's Come Undone.


Here's a brief section of Wally Lamb's writing:

> In those days after I moved back, I raked and bagged leaves, washed
> storm windows, shampooed rugs, took five-mile afternoon walks. I had
> the remains of Mas' painting framed at a fancy art shop for $45 and
> hung it on the stairway wall where my and Dante's wedding picture had
> been. A nice place: in late afternoon, the sun coming through the
> front door window cast a ray, a kind of spotlight, right on it.
>
> In November, I got a part-time job as Buchbinder's Gift and Novelty
> Shop. Mr. and Mrs. Buchbinder were Holocaust survivors, a scowling,
> gray-haired couple with thick accents that required me to make them
> repeat whatever they'd just asked. All day long, they
> heckled-and-jeckled each other and pointed out nitpicky little places
> I'd missed while dusting. That was my job: dusting and watching out
> for shoplifters and "stupit-heads" that might break something. They'd
> hired me for the holiday season, the day after Ronald Reagan was
> elected president.


OK, and now here's a different section from the same Wally Lamb book:


> The clock from downtown struck once. Kippy began to whimper. I
> counted my hearbeats past two hundred, daring myself to speak. "Are
> you in pain?", I finally said.
>
> She kept me waiting. Then a bedside lamp snapped on and Kippy was
> squinting at her clock. "My first day at college", she said. "Shit!"
>
> I grabbed for my Salems before the light went out. "Does it hurt?", I
> asked again. "If there's anything I can do—"
>
> She put the light on again. "I fractured my collarbone," she said.



You see how the first section is telling you what happened by making some generalization and the second excerpt is showing you by narrating it as specific events and specific dialog and not generalizing?

My book has a way higher percentage of the first type of paragraph to the second than Wally Lamb's book does. I've decided that I need more of the second variety if I want to keep my potential agents, and potential readers, engrossed in the story.

I've just finished modifying one of the most important chapters, the one titled JUNIOR HIGH TO HIGH SCHOOL, and then I redid the first chapter from scratch, the one titled CHILDHOOD, as a brief little 4-page recap. I have two more major chapters to do.


Current Query Stats:


The Story of Q (main book) — total queries = 455
Rejections: 361
Outstanding: 93

.. As NonFiction— total queries = 333
.. Rejections: 313
.. Outstanding: 20

.. As Fiction— total queries = 122
.. Rejections: 48
.. Outstanding: 73

Guy in Women's Studies (second book) — total queries = 22
Rejections: 21
Outstanding: 1

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ahunter3: (Default)
In February, I excerpted a second book from my massive autobiographical tome. This one begins with me figuring out that I could discuss all these gender issues, and my interest in feminist theory, in a women's studies class. My folks (not too surprisingly, but to my dismay) aren't interested in financing a 3rd attempt at college so I head off in a huff, hitch to New York to seek whatever job I can get with the aim of eventually getting in anyway. A year of homelessness there is a blessing in disguise: it makes me economically independent of my parents and so I quality for financial aid and I do indeed get into college.

The balance of the story, THAT GUY IN OUR WOMEN'S STUDIES CLASS, is about me in college trying to do feminist theory and pursue my gender activism in the 80s and 90s.


This second book has been sitting on the back burner for several months; I didn't like the query letter I was using for it and I was focusing on the first book. But recently (for reasons I'm about to go into) I decided I wanted to go back to sending queries on that one again, and I spent some time revamping the query letter.

I'll post the new query letter I'm using for it in a moment.

Anyway, my current thinking is that either of these books MIGHT be more easily published at an academic press instead of a mainstream popular press. Authors query academic presses directly rather than trying to get an agent, and I haven't gotten many nibbles from agents yet.

I have not, as of yet, tried to market the first book (THE STORY OF Q) to academic presses because many agents don't want to have anything to do with a book that has been seen by publishers yet. Quite possibly they aren't thinking about academic presses when they make that stipulation, but I haven't wanted to do anything that would limit my options with them.

I'm thinking that by hawking the second book to academic presses, I retain the honest freedom of saying, with regards to the first book, that no, it has not been seen by any publishers, and at the same time, if the second book generates any interest among academic presses (or even gets picked up for publication!), I can let them know at that time that I have a different book they might also want to take a look at. Plus, if it gets printed, I'm then a published author instead of an unpublished author looking for an agent for the first book.



-----

Stats so far on the two books:


THE STORY OF Q

Total queries so far: 316
Rejections or no answer after 3 months: 161
Outstanding (sent, no reply yet): 112

THAT GUY IN OUR WOMEN'S STUDIES CLASS

Total queries so far (including old query letter): 25
Rejections or no answer: 17
Outstanding: 4


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ahunter3: (Default)
In my previous entry, I mostly just quoted the review in its entirety and then sat there basking in the praise. You can't blame me! ** sits here rereading the review again while drinking my coffee **

I will however note that there were two comments that pointed to possible changes or worrisome considerations, which I'll address here.

* The indistinct time frame: it struck me as a valid point that despite an occasional mention of the year in later chapters, all through the childhood section the reader is left to guess when all this is taking place. Combined with the comment from Alicean Brick, the previous reviewer, in which it was pointed out that I need to punch up more awareness of when this was taking place and remind (or educate) the reader about what-all was taking place w/regards to gender politics and etc and hence the cutting-edge nature of what I was trying to write about and say to people (i.e., the writings and other behaviors that got me locked up), this is an additional opinion that I need to do a better job of grounding my story in time. I've done some of that now, entering some additional mentions throughout the book of what year it is and in some cases snippets of what else was going on in the world. I want to do more of this, especially snippets of information about what might have been taking place with regards to gender politics alongside of what was going on with me in these various chapters and sections.

* Taking a long time growing up: although the reviewer said it wasn't necessarily a problem -- "Everything you included seems interesting and relevant, so I couldn't tell you what (if anything) to cut" -- it was at least surprising enough to generate comment that so much of my book was focused on the years before I had grown up. I've actually given myself several days to contemplate that and mull it over. I wanted to write about the years in which these gender issues became intrusive and problematic for me. At each stage I wanted the reader to be able to see how the situation had developed, based on a combination of understanding from the previous bits how I was as a person going into the situation and then reading what happened and how I'd felt, how I'd reacted, and how people around me had reacted in turn. Of a 300 page book,
the first 18 pages are childhood, the next 112 are junior high and high school (hence adolescence), for total of 130 so far, and the rest of 300 pg book are early adulthood, culminating in my attempted coming-out at 21 as a university student. I suppose the bottom line is that if the book loses entertainment value (or impact) in some fashion for dwelling too much on my early life, it's a problem, but for the moment I'm inclined to think (and hope) along with my reviewer that "everything seems interesting and relevant" and not worry about it unless other folks identify it as a worrisome concern.


In other news: on a gender-related forum it was mentioned that the GenderBread diagram (mentioned also by alicean brick, my first reviewer) has been pointed to and its author accused of plagiarism.

That's an item of some controversy (a counter-argument has been made that the original diagram had been made available for adaptive public use by anyone who thought it would be helpful) and for the moment at least I'm going to skip making any further comment on the plagiarism angle. I'll say this much about the diagram itself: I think it makes a useful introduction of the complexity and multi-faceted nature of the topic, especially if one were addressing a group of students or other people where a decently large percentage of the audience would have most likely thought in more simplistic terms: either "you are male or you are female, what else is there?" or perhaps "you are male or female and you are straight or you're gay, what else is there?". I do NOT regard the diagram as comprehensive (not that comprehensive is even necessarily a possibility). For example, on the "Attracted To" pole, the GenderBread 2.0 diagram offers two arrows, both of them starting with "Nobody" and stretching towards, respectively, "Men/Males/Masculinity" and "Women/Females/Femininity". Then below that, "5 (of infinite) possible plot and label combos" reading "straight", "gay", "pansexual", "asexual", and "bisexual". The author is obviously aware of that the graph isn't comprehensive there, but I'll take this opportunity to point out that there's a problem with a single arrow that treats attraction to "Men" as conterminous with an attraction to "Males" or even "Masculinity", and likewise concatenating an attraction to "Women" with attraction to "Females" and to "Femininity". Just as one's own gender expression may diverge from one's biological sex and gender identity, one's attaction to another may have multiple dimensions which don't overlap in the most conventional / expected ways. Joanna Russ, author of The Female Man, had her main character, a self-identified Lesbian, pondering these issues:

Once I felt the pressure of her hip-bone along my belly, and being
very muddled and high, thought: She's got an erection.
Dreadful. Dreadful embarrassment. One of us had to be male and it
certainly wasn't me...Does it count if it's your best friend? Does it
count if it's her mind you love through her body? Does it count if
you love men's bodies but hate men's minds? ...Later we got better

If one can BE (for example) a female-bodied person who thinks of himself as a man, one can be attracted to female-bodied men. Or one's attraction could mostly have to do with the biological sex (female people) and could include such people regardless of gender identity and expression. Or, as is the case for many younger folks I've spoken with, attraction is mostly around one or more genders that the person has a sexual affinity for, regardless of the biological sex of that person's body.

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ahunter3: (Default)
Another Advance Reader's Critique! A Really NICE one!



First, for the sake of juxtaposition, this comment from someone on a message board that I frequent, where I've mentioned my book:


> Can anyone make heads or tails of AHunter3's um, "memoirs"? So he's
> basically transgendered, except he's not, he's not gay, straight, bi,
> asexual, or anything. But he's like, a girl in gender, a man in sex,
> and attracted to women. But he's not trans, or straight. But he's not
> gay or bi, or cis. But uh, he's genderqueer. Because when he was
> growing up, he liked hanging out with girls. Ummm...
>
> Anyone else confused? I mean, whatever floats your boat dude, but uh,
> okay.


And now, without further ado, this message from a fellow writer who identifies as genderqueer and who responded to my request for beta readers:


------


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I'm chronically late, but I've finished your memoir at last, and I'm ready to share my thoughts. I didn't get pulled into the story immediately, but I was hooked after the first few pages. After that, I only stopped reading when I absolutely had to, and mostly finished it in two sittings. If I'd had a paperback or Kindle copy, I probably would have carried it around with me and finished much earlier.


I'm going to start at the beginning of the book and share my overall impressions later. While I didn't relate very well to most of your childhood (maybe because I grew up in a different time, maybe because I wasn't raised as a boy), I still found your experiences readable and more compelling than most novels or memoirs that cover the main character's childhood. I don't think you specifically mentioned the year until later on, but it was easy to figure out a general time period from the context and evocative descriptions. What I did relate to from the beginning was your relationship with your family. I think you pinned down how it feels to have family members who want to support you, but don't really know how.


I noticed that you included and named lots and lots of characters early on, and I expected to have trouble remembering who was who, but I never actually ended up confused. Your writing is particularly clear and easy to read in the first half of the book. To be honest, I especially enjoyed the way your writing style changes a bit while describing romantic or sexual experiences. Something about it managed to bring back the exact feeling of being a confused, curious adolescent. The one potential flaw I can identify is that you spent a very long time talking about growing up. Everything you included seems interesting and relevant, so I couldn't tell you what (if anything) to cut, but the early sections go on for quite a while compared to what comes later.



Whenever you included detailed descriptions of the scenery, I found myself really enjoying them, and I think you might benefit from adding a few more lines describing the setting to help ground readers during sections that are mostly focused on your thoughts and ideas. That brings me to the one real flaw in the second half of the story -- while the parts of your life that came after you first enrolled in college had me nodding, agreeing, and remembering having the same thought processes, the writing sometimes seems abstract and unfocused. If you can pin down a few more tangible details and add them in, I think it would help the whole story flow together more smoothly.



I truly did relate to so much of what you experienced after you first started trying to figure out what exactly was different about you. I loved one particular quote: "I had some colored construction paper and I'd made little homemade signs and taped them to the walls of my bedroom. One of them — taped to my ceiling instead of to one of the walls — captured a kind of court jester feeling, declaring that my role in life was to "freak you out" to never be what you defined me as, because the moment you think you know, you cease to look and see."


Those few lines made me feel understood in a way no work of literature ever has before. They summarized many of my favorite parts of your story, from the horrible, paranoid acid trip to the way others never really stopped trying to neatly identify you with labels they could understand, to the way people who did understand you suddenly started appearing in your life almost as soon as you began to get comfortable with yourself. My experience has not been the same as yours, but I think you did manage to capture the aspects of it that we all have in common. I'd be very surprised if anyone else who identifies as genderqueer were to disagree. There aren't enough genderqueer voices out there in memoir or fiction, and I think yours is well worth hearing. If I were a little younger, or had a little less time to devote to figuring myself out, I think I'd have learned a lot.


A few final notes -- I was impressed at how fair and unbiased your writing is in respect to all lifestyles and genders, and how accessible it is to people who don't necessarily share your experiences or opinions. I also liked your dry sense of humor, and I suspect you used it just enough to give the reader a sense of what it might be like to have a face-to-face conversation with you. While I can picture you being asked to play up the more dramatic aspects of your story, or clarify and define your gender identity earlier on (especially if you're aiming more to educate people rather than to support those who've had experiences like yours), I personally think that your memoir is ready to be sent off to an agent right now.


Let me know if you have any questions or requests, or if anything I've written is unclear, and thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be a beta reader. I can't wait to see The Story of Q in print someday, which you and your story wholeheartedly deserve.



------------


I think that review is the kind of thing I'd dearly love to see printed about my book some day. It came in several days ago (although I just got permission to share it in public), and I still can't stop smiling about it!

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ahunter3: (Default)
I have several readers holding a copy of my book, having promised me feedback, and I have material back from some of them now.


Alicean Brick, an editorial assistant who describes herself as genderfluid, volunteered to be an advance reader, and gave me these comments , and gave me permission to share them:




(Alicean Brick comments in italics, with my own comments interspersed)


(She writes): Are you familiar with the genderbread person diagram?




I would suggest that YOUR diagrams and theories be illustrated in the printed version.





The genderbread diagram (in my opinion) is a much better diagram for introducing a wider gender theory than those I've seen used elsewhere.


Most of the expanatory diagrams I'd seen as of 1979-80 were far simpler, far more reductionistic things: the one-dimensional Kinsey 1-6 scale (gay to straight), for example.


As far as my own diagrams...in the "Humans and Sexuality" class I was enrolled in Spring of 1980, there was a diagram that looked sort of like this:
HSbook

Although it wasn't overtly stated that way in the book, what I got from the diagram that the same personality or behavioral characteristics (left hand side characteristics) that would make a male person straight would make a female person gay and the characteristics (right hand side characteristics) that would make a female person straight would make a male person gay. So in my own paper later, I drew two diagrams of my own: first this one, which ALSO made some non-explicit assertions (that opposites would attract, all across the spectrum);
allan01
then THIS one which illustrated a social force that I felt was in effect, that defined heterosexuality in terms of one narrow band and tried to extinguish those who did not fall on it:
allan02

Anyway, yeah, I've been thinking I do want to incorporate more of what it was that I was trying to say back in 1980. Ideally, I'd like the reader to finish the BACK TO UNIVERSITY chapter (the climactic chapter) thinking that A, yes, I had upset people at the time because they did not understand what I was trying to say, but B, not because what I was trying to say was nonsense-babble; that it was actually cutting-edge gender theory considering the timeframe, even if it wasn't expressed very clearly; and that part of why people reacted as they did was that the content was disturbing to them, which ALSO played a role in their failure to understand: many of them were backing away from it, squirming.



Continuing with Alicean Brick's comments.






Some readers may have a difficult time grasping what a contrarian or anarchist you would have been considered at the time by our prevalent views and cultural norms in that era. It was good that you mentioned examples of other people who had been locked up for seemingly no good reason. your references to what politics and current events were going on at that time help put things into perspective. I would give further examples throughout the book of cultural clashes between gender variant folk and government or society as a backdrop that would illustrate what a deviant you would have been considered at the time and to illustrate what a precarious tight rope you walked on.


your older readers will get this if they remember that time period but it will be missed by your younger readers who will have no recollection of those times. you should amplify the fact that by choosing to be true to yourself and by being who you wanted to be , you were risking your life as well as the image and reputation of family and friends.


you were no doubt a person of great conviction and very brave or daring to be open at that time about who you were. I would like your readers to fully understand this as I think that your story hinges on it.


I'm sure that you could easily pull up some news stories from that period of gender variant people being beaten, abused, slandered and mishandled by the authorities. sprinkled throughout the book this would illustrate the cultural minefield that you bravely crossed.






That struck me as being a very good suggestion. First off, yeah, it helps position the book's timeframe in general, and lest there be some readers who around this point wonder why I didn't just hie myself off the local Albuquerque LGBTQ center and explain my situation, it could be really useful to bring to mind what the awareness-level of the culture was in 1980, both the general population and that of the gay-lesbian-etc subculture that would have been available to me at the time.


Some notes I made, insufficient for me to begin a revamp of that chapter, but with that intent in mind:


* Dan White had shot and killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone in 1978; in 1979, Dan White was found guilty not of murder but merely of manslaughter. His trial gave rise the phrase "twinkie defense"; his defense attorney said he wasn't in his right mind at the time.


* Renee Richards, the M2F transgender tennis player, had recently won the right to compete in tennis tournaments. Her book SECOND SERVE was not out yet, though, and would not make its debut until 1983. Some opponents warned us that if she were allowed to compete in women's events there would be a mad rush by male tennis players to get sex change operations so they could compete against women for women's tournament prize money.


* The term "trangender" itself made ITS debut in 1979. For me and most other people, the term in use was "transsexual" and it was definitely hard-wired to the expectation that you wanted to change your body.


* The 1979 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights was one of the first major event-occasions where the "umbrella" was explicitly extended to include trans people. In the years leading up to it, the issue was very much up in the air, with some gay and lesbian activists opposing the inclusion. Some felt it made the movement too much of a circus and would delay general-public acceptance, and some lesbian feminist activists in particular did not want to extend the umbrella of FEMINISM's definition of "woman" to include male-to-female transfolk. Jan Raymond's book THE TRANSSEXUAL EMPIRE was publishes in 1979, in fact.


If you readers happen to think of some highly relevant events that happened in 1979 or very early 1980, add some to the list!





And then finally some feedback about the emotional content of the early section:



I'm rereading the childhood section and it really seems very lifeless and flat. Im not seeing much on your reactions to being teased Or how you were treated. Did you cry or if not I think you need more on how those situations made you feel. How each one was another piece of your confidence or self esteem getting chipped away. What were you thinking in the morning before going to school? Did you dread the thought of walking into class? What did those feelings feel like? Did it make you nervous? Did other kids or adults see fear in your face? Did your pulse race or your speech stammer? What was the reaction of the other kids when they teased you? How could they tell they were getting through to you. Did you cower or run. I seem to be missing the whole fabric of emotions from the adults to you and the other kids.


While you were being teased what were your thoughts and feelings? While being teased did you reflect on or have flashbacks to previous times that you have been singled out? While being teased what did you fear happening in the moment, that you would be kicked out of school? Would your parents be ashamed of you? That kids would beat you on the playground or attack you after school on the way home?


I know we have all been in that situation before but as the reader I need to be shown how it made you feel.







Three things, quickly:

a) In my childhool, a good portion of the time my reaction was basically a nonplussed WTF?? sort of thing. I've tried to conjure up a solid sense of me and my head at the time, and the out-of-nowhere nature of some of the behaviors that I encountered.


b) I actually do have sections in the CHILDHOOD chapter that aren't exactly lacking in both emotional and cognitive content, once these events had sort of built up to a critical mass and gotten me worried as well as scraped raw.


c) If my manuscript comes across as lifeless and flat (or the first chapter of it does, which is 98% as bad), that's a problem, but I want to see further feedback to see if that turns out to be a general assessment. I think it may be a matter of style. I hope to post more review material from other readers.

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I had just tried coming out to people on campus and that had gotten me locked up in the nuthouse. My expectation had been that once they were satisfied that I wasn't insane, the conversation would go on from there: after all, these notions had relevance and applicability to mental health! That's not what went down, though. They transferred me to the "moderately deranged" ward, gave me a day pass, and while I was out of the building they dumped all my clothes and books and stuff in a pile and told me upon my return "We've decided you aren't crazy and you can't stay here. Take your stuff and leave".


Hand-lettered sign on my bedroom door three years later: IF I THOUGHT IT WOULD RESULT IN YOU UNDERSTANDING THE THOUGHTS IN MY HEAD I WOULD GLADLY PLUCK IT FROM MY SHOULDERS AND DASH IT OPEN AT YOUR FEET; I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO ATTAIN A MEANINGFUL COMMUNICATION WITH YOU


Between 1980 and 1998, this is what I did with my life. I worked on expressing it in words and finding a venue in which to express it. I cornered friends and strangers and bade them listen to me talk about my cause. It was frustrating. People actually don't spend much time sharing thoughts and ideas they consider momentously important, and aren't expecting others to start doing so. If one presents it to them more as the sharing of ideas that are interesting and innovative or entertaining, they listen more readily but with a lessened awareness that you're speaking of things you consider really important, and they think you're just making conversation.


I had to get people's attention long enough to speak. Then I had to come out, although they would not understand right away what the fuck it was I was coming out as. It was different from what they were familiar with so I had to explain it. The predictable result was that the people willing to listen thought I was whining about my insufficiencies, my sad failure to be a man, or that I was whining that other people were mean to me.


I suppose in a sense that is what I was doing, but I saw it as political. I didn't want personal sympathy, I wanted social change. Wanted to raise folks' consciousness, not just prompt them to say Aww poor baby you had a rough time.


Between 1998 and 2010 I put it down, set it aside. I didn't stop understanding myself in these terms but I stopped trying to tell the world about it. It's exhausting trying to dig in and make something happen and feeling like you aren't getting any traction whatsoever, and all that anger is hard to carry around. Maybe I convinced myself that it was healthier, and me happier, to just live my life and let the world be the world, you know? Besides, I'd at least gotten my article into print.





Now that I'm picking it back up, my partners and friends have seen some frustration on my part and I suspect they worry about me a little bit.


Yeah, there is some, indeed:


In 2010 I began writing my autobiography, to reassess myself and get my bearings, and as I put my experiences into words I realized this was a new tool in my hand. But having a publication-worthy book doesn't get you published. These days one doesn't directly query a publisher, one gets an agent and the agent contacts publishers on your behalf. So first you have to get an agent interested. Being able to write a clever snappy query letter isn't really the same skill as writing the book, so for months I cranked away at it, editing my pitch, being told by other authors in blunt terms that it was no damn good. Then I'm told that my original website (where I have many of my academic theory papers up for folks to read) is so "unprofessional" and antiquated-looking that it will drive away any potential agents who see it. Then I'm told that it's not very likely that a memoir will get published unless I have a platform, I need a social presence, a premade audience of potential readers of my book, fans-in-advance. Where have I been doing public speaking?


Well, OK, yeah, I could do presentations, I've been a teacher... but when I go forth to volunteer myself as a speaker, people may say "Yeah, who are you? What's your audience, who will come to hear you speak?" You need a blog, I'm told, so I have a blog (and hey, this is fun!)... but now how are you going to direct sufficient traffic to it? Who is tweeting about you?


I am by nature reserved and shy, even if also self-confident; so now I gotta be some kind of effusive gregarious extroverted salesman? Not just that but an effusive gregarious extroverted salesman explaining really personal things about myself. Thrills.


But I'm in a different space now than I was when I was 23 or 30. I am now in the relationships that were only theoretical when I was first trying to come out. I have the good life and the personal joy and happiness that my ideas told me I could have. I have the confidence that comes from all that.


And frustration is not a bad thing. Not at all. Consider: I am trying to tell the world, "Hey, world, hey society, look at what you're doing here. This shit's got to stop". It is an angry sentiment. To express it, I am going to have to do a lot of things that will not come easy to me: putting myself out there, being pushy about having a message to convey, shoving myself forward into networks of people, grabbing them by shoulder and hand and introducing myself. Networking and self-promotion. To do that, I will need to have the energy to do it. The determination to do it. The stubbornness. I will need the anger.


I embrace my frustration. It will be my engine. I will temper it with confidence and patience and I will harness it.


This is what I intend on doing, if necessary for the rest of my life. Watch me.

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