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"What do you people mean when you say you're 'really women inside', anyway?", she posted, challenging us. "You folks apparently want us to believe that your minds, or hearts or whatever, are like those of us who were born female. But you've never been female, so how do you know whether who you are on the inside is like who we are on the inside? Frankly, it's pretentious and arrogant! You're appropriating women's experiences and women's identity!"

Well, she's got a point. None of us who were not born female know from first-hand experience what it is like, "inside", to be one of the people who were born female, and yet it is to them that we are comparing ourselves, and with whom we are identifying ourselves, when we say our gender is woman despite having been born male.

But although it's not as obvious at first glance, she's in the same situation.

She identifies as a woman. She considers herself to have elements and aspects of herself that are things she has in common with other women. But she's never been any other women, she's only been herself. Her only firsthand experience is of herself, and therefore if she limits herself to firsthand experience, she can't know how much of who she is represents what she has in common with other women, and how much is specific to herself as an individual. The only way she can extrapolate a sense of a shared identity as "woman" is by external observation and recognizing, from the outside, patterns and commonalities.

Which is what we're doing, too.

Notice that, like most everything else involving gender, it is a process of generalization. We observe women and generalize about our observations. We observe our own selves and generalize there, too, in identifying traits and tendencies, whether we do it consciously or unconsciously.

For quite some time now, I have described myself as a male-bodied person who is a girl or woman. That's an identity, it's a conclusion, and it's a political statement. But it's also a generalization when you get right down to it.

Not too long ago on Facebook, in response to a post about whether other genderqueer folks in the group have moments of self-doubt and a sense of being an imposter who doesn't really (always) feel the way they've described themself, I posted that I've been all over the map between "I'm sure all males experience themselves as inaccurately & inadequately described by the sexist reductionistic descriptions, I'm just more vocal about it" through "I am definitely more like a girl than I am like the other boys, so that's one more difference in addition to being left-handed and having eyes of two different colors" all the way to "I am a girl; this is a really fundamental part of my identity and explains my life far better than any other thing, I am Different with a capital D and this is the Difference".

Ever since I posted that, it's been sort of echoing in my head. Hmm, why don't I have a stronger tendency to think of myself as one of the guys who feels very badly defined by the sexist ideas of what it means to be a man?

I certainly have gone through periods in my life when I thought of myself in those terms. In the timeframe from about a year after I came out at UNM in 1980 — let's say 1981 or 1982 — until I finally withdrew as a graduate student from SUNY / Stony Brook in 1996, I put aside my sense of myself as fundamentally different from (other) guys. I wrote about that somewhat in 2015 in a post about repositioning

Essentially, I spent those years not only trying to "join up" with the feminist movement but also expecting to be in the vanguard of males with a serious personal grudge against the whole "being a man" thing in our society, expecting to meet other such people and then I would connect, feel far less alien among male-bodied people. My alienation would be towards the patriarchal sexist idea of what it means to be male, and I would not be alone in that.

And I wrote, and I spoke, and I went to the library and sought out books and magazine articles, and I went online and joined email-based groups. But I didn't find them.

Here's what I found instead:

• Warren Farrel's The Liberated Man, and sensitive new age guys, and articles about how bad it is that we male folks aren't allowed to cry or wear pink ties. Gimme a break.

• Men's rights groups of angry divorced men who want custody of their children or freedom from sexist alimony considerations, but who weren't considering themselves to be at all on the same team as feminist women, just using "sexual equality" as a tool towards making their argument

• "Profeminist" men's groups in which the tone was mostly abject self-abasement, shame and apology for how our male jackboots have been on the throats of women and how our positions of privilege benefit us unfairly. All of which is true but there was a severe lack of any profound emotional connection to wanting things to be different for any personal reason, any personal benefit to things changing. A mild consideration for the situation of gay guys but no sense of having found others like me.

• John Bly and Sam Keen and their drums and male-bonding, reinventing or rediscovering what it might and could mean to be a man. No strong sentiment of being angry about the whole "being a man" thing being imposed on us, or of feeling "that ain't me", though. Kind of reminded me of Boy Scouts.

... and as time went on, I had reason to question my standoffish disinclination to identify with any of these movements or groups of guys: What, do I have a need to be the most radical of anti-patriarchal males and therefore a need to see any and all other males as less so, or something like that?

What I realized, especially after I'd been drummed out of academia, was that I'd suppressed the sense of being personally different in order to emphasize this as a social movement against a social system. But in my original burst of self-understanding, I had specifically seen myself as a person who was like one of the girls instead of being like one of the boys, despite being male.

In other Facebook post, I made an off-the-cuff comment in passing about genderfluid people being the ones who have "girl days" and "boy days", and some genderfluid people replied to correct me: "Hey, I am never a 'boy'... I am fluid between being agender and being on the feminine spectrum"; "I float somewhere between being a demiboy and being a man, I hate it when I get misgendered and people say 'she' or 'maam'.."

"GENDERFLUID", in other words, refers to a wider and more general notion of a gender identity that shifts from time to time or context to context. Not the limited "oscillates between the two conventional genders" model I tend to associate with it.

So as it turns out, I guess I do fall into the description. My description of myself as a "male girl" (et al) is a generalization. And a choice in how to present, how to describe.

So far, I have sent out inquiry letters to women's studies / gender studies / sexuality studies departments and programs at universities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. (Or, more specifically, my publicist sent them out — the emails went out from him and replies to the emails go back to him).

Two programs have made replies asking when I'm available and how much I charge including travel and room and board charges. Nothing definite but it's exciting. One is in Vermont and one is in Virginia.

Meanwhile I've gone back to querying lit agents (even if it's mostly a waste of time), and I have a query in front of a publisher. Today I sent a follow-up letter to a publisher to whom I sent a query back in April, because they'd indicated that I would hear from them within a few weeks. If their policy was "we will only contact you if we're interested", which isn't uncommon, that would be a different thing, but in this situation I decided to nudge them.

Current Stats:

Total queries to lit agents: 822
Rejections: 805
Outstanding: 17

As Nonfiction: 601
Rejections: 584
Outstanding: 17

As Fiction: 221
Rejections: 221
Outstanding: 0

Total queries to publishers: 14
Rejections: 9
Outstanding: 1
No Reply 3+ Months: 3
Pub Contract Signed, Then Publisher Went out of Business: 1


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ahunter3: (Default)
Just sent out the very first queries positioning the book as "young adult" fiction. This batch also included a higher % of queries for the book as a nonfiction memoir, as I decided it was time to do a search on notes I'd made on various agents' pages, "See also So-and-so, same agency", and many of those date back to when I was mostly focused on hawking the book as a memoir. Which is, btw, something I haven't given up on.

I've made some minor modifications to the book based in part on the first little handful of reviews and in part on late personal insights from the process of revamping. Mostly cutting some unnecessarily wordy blabby abstract paragraphs and in some places replacing them with more dialog.

I posted notices on the availability of the book on the GenderQueer Facebook group I'm in, and also on a Facebook group dedidated to folks who grew up in Los Alamos. Interestingly, two of the first three reviews came from the Los Alamos crowd. (I wanted a sense of whether the book would be boring to anyone who wasn't immersed in LGBTQ stuff). So far I've been told that my character development is good and consistent and that the story arc is good entertainment. One person said my own confusion about how I was different from others mirrored her own as reader, and it wasn't until the end that she got a sense of who I am. I don't know if that's a weakness of the writing or an artifact of the fact that I'm writing from a sexual/sexual-orientation identity vantage point for which there isn't any conventional name yet. I'm hoping that reviewer writes back with more comments.

Stats at the moment:

Total Queries = 498
Rejections: 407
Outstanding: 90

As NonFiction, total Queries: 340
Rejections: 329
Outstanding: 10

As Fiction, total Queries: 158
Rejections: 78
Outstanding: 80


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ahunter3: (Default)
Revision project is successfully completed!

This thing was written, originally, as a nonfiction memoir, but since I'm currently hawking it mainly as a work of fiction, and because I've gotten enough feedback over the last couple years that the writing is a little "disappointing", it made sense to me to go back in and translate generic descriptions of how things were into individual representative scenes, complete with dialog and action and so forth.

That tends to create much longer, wordier blocks of text. One doesn't need to lay down a lot of words in order to say something like "I had tapered off and then quit spending time with the flagpole folks who sang the religious songs. I'd attended some evening sessions in various folks' houses and one day was riding back to White Rock with one of the guys when his VW bus ran out of gas coming down the hill. He cheerfully 'put it in the hands of the Lord' and managed to coast to the traffic light then creep through a left turn and then pick up speed down the next hill and into the service station, and he praised Jesus for making sure we got where we were going without any fuel. I became aware that I simply did not believe what they believed and even though they were not at all confrontational about it I felt less and less comfortable, as if I were faking it just to be singing the songs, so I dropped out of that scene."

But if you were going to do that like a screenplay, well, let's see, let's have me arrive and greet some people, come up with some names, specify 3-4 characters standing around the piano, try to recapture the feel of their friendly but treacly way of interacting, put some private thoughts in my head, a line or two of a song, some more dialog, get into the VW bus, some dialog taking place in the van before it runs out of gas, hmm better describe how we're going down this steep hill, NOW run out of gas, now have the driver comment on putting it in the hands of the lord... OK now describe coasting through the traffic light and slowly making the corner then picking up speed down the hill, and the guys in the van doing the Praise Jesus thing, and more internal dialog, then me getting out of the van, some more contemplation, elaborating on me not feeling comfy with those folks any more, then a wrapup sentence or two indicating that this event among others led to me tapering off and dropping out of the folk-religious singers group.

Guess what, we've sprawled out into several pages to cover a scene that used to be described in a paragraph!

So alongside of that, I streamlined and trimmed and hacked off subplots, condensed some characters into one character, and ended up with a narrative that sticks a lot tighter to the central story line, and that seems like a good thing too.

Overall, the manuscript has gained weight, but not too badly.

Old: 302 pages, 95,900 words
New: 318 pages, 96,800 words

With the revision finished, I've gone back to querying. Another 17 went out via email or are queued up for delivery to the post office for snailmailing.


Total Queries: 470
Rejections: 380
Outstanding: 90

As NonFiction: total queries = 332
Rejections: 320
Outstanding: 12

As Fiction: total queries = 138
Rejections: 60
Outstanding: 78

Since it's a new edition, I'm again interested in beta readers. If you'd like to stick your nose into this tome, email me backchannel: ahunter3@earthlink.net


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ahunter3: (Default)
Not too terribly long ago, on a message board just the usual internet-distance far far away (the Absolute Write Water Cooler, to be precise), I bravely asserted that all this is just the first year, and that I was going to keep plugging away at this for at least 10 years before before calling it quits.

One of the board regulars replied:

> you say '10 years,' as if you're just going to query for 10 years,
> come hell or high water, but won't you run out of agents long before
> then? I mean they do keep making more, but still. How're you not close
> to that already?

As it turns out, that was a rather prescient observation. In the first week of October, I continued my ongoing agentquery.com search for agents who do memoirs, picking up where I left off, and at the bottom of the page, where there's usually a "next page" button, there wasn't one. I'd gone through the entire supply of author's agents who do memoirs.

That's not quite as FINAL as it may sound. I mean, the first search I did, way back when I first got started, was for agents who marketed nonfiction books about gay and lesbian subjects. I ran to the end of that within a couple weeks. But the pool of agents doing memoirs was OCEAN-sized and yes, it was unsettling to hit that wall.

I've been focusing since then on sending out queries positioning the book as fiction, of the "Literary Fiction" ilk. I have to admit, though, it's all been a bit discouraging.

Which made it particularly nice when I opened another in a small daily stack of self-addressed stamped envelopes, recording the rejections in my database, and realized after a moment that what I was staring at wasn't a rejection.

> I'm writing to you about your book FROM A QUEERLY DIFFERENT CLOSET.
> We would like to consider it. Please send the first 50 pages, a
> detailed outline or synopsis no more than 10 pages, double-spaced, and
> mail them to my attention. Please claerly mark "REQUESTED MATERIAL"
> on the front of the envelope and enclose a self-addressed, stamped
> envelope. We'll review your work at the first possible opportunity.
> If it seems like something we can represent, we'll contact you soon.

That still doesn't shift the odds for me with that particular agency to "more likely than not", but it's at least a move in a favorable direction. It's so good when someone's sufficiently interested that they ask to see more instead of just sending a form-letter rejection notice.

Current Stats:

The Story of Q--total queries = 420
Rejections: 310
Outstanding: 109
Under Consideration: 1

As NonFiction--total queries = 331
Rejections: 286
Outstanding: 45

As Fiction--total queries = 89
Rejections: 24
Outstanding: 64
Under Consideration: 1

That Guy in Our Women's Studies Classroom--total queries = 22
Rejections: 21
Outstanding: 1


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ahunter3: (Default)
Continuing from More Repositioning Part One...

As I said, I started off positioning the things I wanted to say about myself and gender and sexual orientation as contributions to feminist theory. It was a good fit and except for some nuances of what to emphasize and how to formulate my descriptions, I didn't have to tuck away much of what I was inclined to say in order to position it in that way.

One potential concern with that positioning was that I — a male — was intending to participate in formulating feminist theory.

Remember that this was in 1980. My impression of feminists was that they were sick and tired of the unfairnesses that women had to tolerate in our society, and in their anger they were being quite blunt and honest in speaking out about it and about what they wanted to see changed. They wanted men to listen: as the Helen Reddy song "I am Woman" put it, "I am still an embryo with a long, long way to go until I make my brother understand". I didn't expect them to take any male's word for it that what he had to say was something they should heed; I expected a cautious and perhaps cynical wariness, but I thought my material itself would not only ring true with them but fit into their overall theory like a missing puzzle piece.

Feminists in 1980 were only just putting behind them a phase in which they'd often been hostile and condescending to women immersed in traditional roles. Like the marxist left caricaturing the wealthy, some early feminists (including, by her own later admission, Robin Morgan) had said things about wives and mothers and girlfriends and obedient subservient secretaries and cheerleaders and whatnot that they, by this point, in 1980, regretted, for being divisive instead of seeing and SAYING that all women were in this situation together. At the same time, though, they were also saying similar things about MEN not being the enemy either! The movement that had begun as a movement for women's equality now saw itself as being good for men as well because the social system based on women's oppression made for an unpleasant and oppressive and disempowering world for individual males too — even if most men couldn't seem to see that. So with that understanding already out there and on the table, I felt that I should not have to establish as a principle that feminism was something that I personally could have a stake in, and could proceed to show that I had been listening to them, understood what they'd been saying, and had something to add, a contribution not an argument against or an excuse for what they were complaining about.

But feminism never distinguished between defining itself as the movement against patriarchy and sexism and defining itself as the movement for the concerns of women. It's one thing (in my opinion) to say as an activist against patriarchy that all women are oppressed and are therefore allies and not enemies even if they don't see matters that way themselves, and another thing to decline to establish that trying to dismantle patriarchy is what you're up to, first and foremost. Feminism produced real tangible social change for women, establishing something considerably closer to parity with men, and in doing so gave more women more of a stake in the system. That (again, in my opinion) gave rise to an "identity politics" form of feminism in which the goals of feminism were loosely defined as the promotion of women's interests. One place this manifested itself was in the university environment, which is the venue I'd gone to to pursue my attempts to contribute my views to feminist theory. And by 1992 it had been made apparent to me that I could not actually contribute more than a marginal and ancillary bit of new material: at best, my role as a male "doing feminist theory" would be limited to choosing which views already espoused by feminists to chime in in agreement with. And even THEN, I would need to be careful of disagreeing with all feminists in my immediate vicinity and siding with the views of feminists whose theories I had only read in books. That may seem unduly mean-spirited of me to say it that way, as if I'm accusing feminist women of being unreasonable and unlistening, but the alternative would require THAT THE MAN IN THE ROOM TELL FEMINIST WOMEN THAT THEY'RE DOING FEMINISM WRONG. Think about it. Think about the ramifications to feminism if feminists are being asked to consider a male to be speaking with authority equal to their own on the topic of feminism itself. I never cared for "identity politics" but I had to admit that women need to be the authority within their own movement.

So this positioning wasnt going to work. I didn't know what to do INSTEAD, so it kind of derailed me for awhile.

Now I'm drawing from the theories and understandings coming out of the gay and lesbian liberation movement and that of transgendered people — queer theory, gender theory. It is a repositioning, a reframing of what I was saying before, although under the hood the ideas are still basically the same ideas.

• These are theories that say that it is not fair if different people are not treated with the equivalent or corresponding interpretation of their behavior instead of being castigated for being different; it is again a fairness issue but rather than condemning the viewing of people differently depending on their identity, it condemns an insufficiently diverse array of different responses; it starts with an identification of categorical differences officially recognized, for which different responses exist (men; women) and then demands that people in other categories (gay; lesbian; transgendered; bisexual; intersex; genderqueer; asexual; etc) be freed from the confinement to that small array and extended their own separate and equal understandings.

• It is, therefore, very much an embodiment of identity politics. Hence, I am defining myself first and foremost as a categorically DIFFERENT person, and demanding consideration for my CATEGORY. I'm a male, that's my sex; I'm a girl, that's my gender; I'm attracted to female people, that's my sexual orientation; hence I am not a man nor a woman as conventionally defined, nor am I straight or gay as conventionally defined, nor am I even transgendered as opposed to cisgendered, as THAT is traditionally defined.

• The existing body of social-political understandings towards the groups thus far identified includes most of what I want extended to my situation: that we not be regarded as pathological departures from a healthy norm, but are just as valid as healthy identities; that there are attitudes affirming and celebrating our characteristics that previously applied only to certain other groups, and we want in on that way of being thought of and viewed; and, by extension, since there's no end in sight for the length of the list, there should be a moratorium on hostile rejection of any manifestion of personality and behavior pertaining to sex and gender, NOT because we are all the same and NOT because social forces have (necessarily) created our differences, but because unless the behavior can be argued to be undesirable behavior for ANYONE to engage in, it may be a valid, sexy, pleasant, etc, configuration for someone and your own personal distaste for it as manifested in a person of this or that sex or gender or whatever is just your own personal taste.

• Just as in positioning it as feminist theory, there are things that I am basically de-emphasizing in positioning it as gender / queer theory. Feminist theory considers that there is a social force or institution in place that is embodied by the sex role socialization forces, and considers itself to be a direct and frontal challenge to that. The identity politics of gender and queer theory, at least on the superficial level, would have it that the world could continue ticking along basically intact except more fairly and pleasantly if we cease to stigmatize and ostracize and view as pathological those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, asexual, genderqueer, and so forth. I don't think that's true; I think there are indeed societal institutions and social structures that depend for their ongoing existence on the conventional categories and the shaping and stigmatizing forces that maintain them. I think, in other words, that it's a radical and fundamental change and not just a plea that people who are harmlessly different shouldn't be treated bad just because they're different.

• That should not be taken as a claim that queer and gender theorists do NOT consider themselves and their issues to involve radical change; they DO! It's more that feminism as an actual movement has been inclined to pay real attention to feminist theory, to the extent that people involved in the movement have had their own thinking informed by feminist theory; but gay lesbian bisexual trans and etc people, in my experience and in my impression, do not study queer and gender theory and integrate it into their thinking to the same degree. And perhaps because of that there is a higher percent of folks who consider themselves to be a part of what folks call the LGBTQ community or even "movement" but whose understanding or vision of social change in that sphere mostly involves more tolerance, equality, anti-discrimination laws and policies, and other aspects of inclusive fairness.


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ahunter3: (Default)
On Sept 3, I penned a short piece about repositioning my nonfiction memoir as a work of fiction:


In today's blog, I'm going to reminisce about a different repositioning, one that is part of my own backstory behind this book: from feminist issue to gender-identity issue.

The story starts in 1980, when I first had in my head a clear sense of wanting to confront the world and explain a thing or two about myself and gender and sexuality and all that.

Just as I currently need to "bundle" the book I've written, in order that authors' agents and publishers will perceive it as falling into a category they know about and having other similar titles they can mentally compare it to, in 1980 I recognized the need to "bundle" what I wanted to say so that it would fit in with a set of ideas that folks had some familiarity with. If you want to communicate with people, you don't want to be TOO original; people need a point of entry, a starting point they're already familiar with, and THEN, once you've established that, you can depart from there, contrasting what you're trying to say with material that your audience already comprehends.

Starting in 1980, most of my attempts to explain my material started off with feminist theory.

• Feminist theory in its most widely understood assertions says that it is not fair if the same behavior is viewed differently depending on the sex of the person; that was dead-on center to what I wanted to say about sexual behavior and associated personality, and it let me position what I was saying as a fairness issue, a POLITICAL issue, not some kind of needy emotional or mental state such as a mental pathology. That was important to me.

• Feminist theory by that point had accumulated a huge body of observations about sex role socialization that polarizes boys and girls, treating them differently in ways that CREATE differences even if they didn't already exist in that particular way, that REINFORCE them and emphasize and exaggerate them whether they did or didn't originally exist, and that also SHAPE how we interpret them so that even identical behaviors end up having different connotations to the observer. All this was also very much the territory of my ideas, so by referencing feminism I would not have to reinvent those wheels, explain all that from scratch.

• I saw myself as a male person whose personality and behavior was more akin to what was expected of female people, for which I'd gotten a lot of grief and flack over the years. My response, as a kid and as a young adult, to that grief and flack had been to stubbornly retain those characteristics and to disdain the model of masculine boyhood that I was being directed to as what I ought to be emulating instead. In choosing to position my concepts within the framework of feminism and feminist theory, I was choosing in part to DE-EMPHASIZE any personal claims to being inherently different from other boys and men, and instead placed the focus on these social forces and used my experience as a vantage point: "Behold, sex role socialization in action, trying to turn males into boys and men. Look at my experience, I'm one of the rare resisters and as such I have been the example to other males of the bad things that would happen to them, also, if they did not conform". I was trying to indict the social process.

• Right from the start, I was not only ambivalent about whether I was, in fact, different in general from other malefolk, but also aware of that ambivalence. The truth was, and still is, that I did not (and do not) know. I live in a world with other males who certainly appear to be alien and different from me, but I'm vividly aware of those social forces and processes and I can easily believe that those, all by themselves, can shape and mold male people into the configuration that I see around me, WITHOUT postulating any built-in differences between me and the majority of the rest of my sex. And indeed, sometimes I see it that way. But I also can readily believe that maybe the sexes are statistically different in ways that roughly and loosely correspond with the expectations, but that the sex role socialization forces take that situation and emphasize the polarization and shape and modify what they're going to end up meaning, both at the individual level and the broad social level. And sometimes I see it that way instead: that the factor that made ME, specifically, rebellious and stubbornly resistant to masculinization is that personality-wise I'm a statistical outlier so the expectations were a really really bad fit for me.

• My general attitude was "It doesn't matter". If I could wave a magic wand and make it so that sissy boys and butch girls were socially accepted and understood, if we could essentially have a widespread belief that there are male girls as well as male boys (just fewer of them), and female boys as well as female girls (likewise), the ugly nastiness of those social pressures would be ameliorated. And if that could happen, then that change would be wonderful whether I (and the hypothetical class of other boys like me) were intrinsically different from normative typical males or if there were no such fundamental difference.

• Similarly, and parallel to that, was the sexual orientation question. What I was seeing was a social expectation verging on coercive in its intensity that said that not ONLY were male people supposed to be a certain way in personality and behavior ("masculine") but that furthermore heterosexual eligibility was dependent on it. If, in other words, you insisted or persisted in being and behaving more like the expected female pattern, you would be THOUGHT to be gay, you would be TREATED as if you were gay, and you would not have any other real options since heterosexuality itself was so hardwired to a model of behavior in which masculine male people DID certain things (behaviors) to feminine female people that, in the absence of that personality and the behaviors associated with it, sex with female people simply wasn't gonna happen. I saw this as the ultimate and final weapon in the arsenal of sex role socialization forces. Of course, I saw it that way because I was attracted to female-bodied people.

• Gay and lesbian people, in 1980, were definitely positioning their discussion of sexual preference in terms of built-in differences. That they were oppressed AS gay and lesbian people, that it needed to be OK with the world that some folks were indeed gay and lesbian and that that wasn't pathological or undesirable or inferior. I recognized early on that I needed to NOT be saying that the only reason anyone was in fact gay or lesbian was that that was how sex role socialization disposed of the personality-and-behavior nonconforming misfits like me who didn't get sex-role socialized properly. First off, I needed to NOT be saying that for pragmatic reasons: I was trying to liberate myself and people like me from sex role socialization forces, not attack other people and tell them they were doing things all wrong, and gay and lesbian people very obviously weren't perceiving their sexual orientation as "something society did to us". Secondly, and more importantly once it sank in good, was that I sure as hell didn't KNOW that to be the case. All I knew from first-hand experience was that social forces felt to me like they were trying to cast ME as gay for failing to fit the masculine mold; I realized that gay and lesbian people were saying they were ATTRACTED to the same sex, not that they'd been driven in that direction, and quite commonly said that they'd known it even as children, had always been that way. I had no business, therefore, proceeding as if I knew their situation better than they did. AGAIN, my attitude quickly reconciled as "it doesn't matter". If there are indeed built-in differences in sexual orientation between hetero and gay folk, it absolutely cannot hurt any of us if the world ceases to assume you are hetero if your personality and behavior fits the expected norms for your sex and that you are gay/lesbian if you have a disproportionate amount of those expected in the other sex instead.

• For myself, with regards to my OWN sexual orientation as built-in or otherwise, I again tended to look at it two different ways and shifted between the two depending on how I thought about the gender difference: when I tended to think of myself as not intrinsically different from other males, I also thought of my sexual orientation as not being different intrinsically: nope, "heterosexuality" is a socially constructed and socially maintained set of rules, all part & parcel of the sex role socialization phenomenon; lift that out of the way and yeah, I'm attracted to female-bodied people, as are most males, and were it not for the social forces and etc I'd have no issues or problems here. But at the other times, when I'd find myself thinking of myself as truly different from other males in general, I'd also think of my sexual orientation as a different thing: heterosexuality is where MASCULINE males are sexually involved with FEMININE females, and I'm in the inverse situation and should perhaps be seeking out females who are as much a misfit as I am, not merely because they'd have more sympathy for the complexities of my situation but because our inverse behavioral patterns would link up in a reversal-of-expectations pattern. Straightbackwards instead of straightforwards. Not hetersexual, something else, something as different as my gender identity. But once again, as far as positioning of what I was trying to say to people, I chose to de-emphasize the latter. If I could wave that magic wand and make a world where folks didn't associate sexual orientation with conformity versus nonconformity to expected sexrole-specific personality and behavior in general, people like me would find partners. So it didn't matter.

Next Up: More Repositioning Part II, the shift to Gender and Queer Theory


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ahunter3: (Default)
On August 25, I got yet another one of those "your platform isn't good enough" responses to a query letter:

> Thank you for the opportunity to review your project. While I
> appreciate that you thought of me for your work of nonfiction, I'm not
> sure that your author platform is quite at the level necessary to
> launch a book. I suggest that you continue to establish and grow your
> platform so that you will be in a stronger position to pursue a book
> deal.
> Thank you again, and best of luck with your work.

So after a few melodramatic fantasies of creating a platform by kidnapping an array of author's agents and thus getting myself covered in the news cycle, I decided it was time to question one of the earliest decisions that I faced when it came to trying to get this book into print: fiction or nonfiction?

The first batch of query letters actually didn't specifically position the work one way or the other: "The names have been changed and it could be treated and marketed as either fiction or nonfiction". But that's not how the agent-querying business works. And when I decided last year to attend the NY Writer's Pitch Conference, I had to pick nonfiction or fiction; autobiographies and memoirs are definitely listed as nonfiction (whereas no subcategory of fiction sounded quite right) and at the conference itself I was told "Yes, definitely you should market it as nonfiction, you've got a memoir, that's powerful, authentic, comes from real experience" and so on, so that's what I've been doing.

But in the back of my mind, I kept remembering that Rita Mae Brown's RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE was technically marketed as fiction (fooling no one), as was Marilyn French's THE WOMEN'S ROOM (I think most of us figured that Mira was either entirely or mostly Marilyn French), and so was the far more blatant WHO WAS THAT MASKED WOMAN? by Noretta Koertge, in which the supposedly fictional Tretona Getroek's adventures are told.

So I sat down and wrote a new query letter, describing my book as a work of fiction. (Oh yeah, the same issue of no obvious subcategory of fiction again presented itself. It turns out that it would apparently be "literary fiction", which is everything that isn't "genre fiction", the latter of which comprising your basic mysteries, romances, sci fi, thriller action-adventure stories, vampire gothics, and so on).

And, because fiction queries are sent off with a synopsis, not a proposal as nonfiction is, I wrote up a synopsis.

Early end result: in the first week of querying it as a fiction book, I got a request to see a 30 page sample of the manuscript. For comparision, I have exactly two agents who have requested additional material after receiving the nonfiction query and that's after a year of querying.

I'm going to continue querying it as nonfiction but will definitely send at least 50 % of each week's queries as fiction queries.

I will post my fiction query letter and synopsis in subsequent blogposts.


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