The Stories Begun











Since I wrote Stars in Their Houses (my version of “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces” or, as it’s better known, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”), a lot of things have changed in my public life. I’m now out publicly as pansexual and non-binary, I’m married to a wonderful man, and I’ve been part of a beautiful essay series about diversity in fiction (which had a second “season” this year that is far more expansive than the first and pretty phenomenal). A LOT of the last few years have been about recognizing the complexity and diversity in my own life and where I might be erasing/ignoring it in other places in my life. This was already something really important to me when I was writing Stars, but I have about three more years of experience, research, and education. It’s appallingly apparent where I didn’t just fail, but actively refused to see the reality of my characters because of comfort zones and fear.

So, in the editing process, a lot of things are changing. And I know that, should this manuscript ever see public light, it’s going to get some serious throwback about things like “diversity for diversity’s sake,” “forced diversity,” or “self-insertion.” I know this is going to happen. And it’s going to hurt. But it will be so worth it because diversity fits my narratives. This is no more self-insertion than the reality that three of the characters in the narrative have bi-polar disorder. Sure, I wrote that because it’s something I know, but I wrote the girls as they presented themselves (in this case).

Where I didn’t write the girls as they presented themselves was in the matters of sexualities and genders. Since the beginning of the writing process, I knew one of those twelve sisters was transgender. However, I stifled that response because a) fear of reactions and b) fear that I might mess it up. Now, this was before I had come to terms with being trans myself, so I have a bit more confidence in that second area and I care a lot less about the first fear. I still know, for sure, that I want to make it clear that the transgender sister wasn’t socialized to be a girl by being around eleven other girls and she wasn’t forced into being a female by parental expectation, but that she was, is, and always shall be a girl. Also, that she’s a LOT more interesting as a person than this one part of her. At the same time, I don’t want to erase this part of her identity, which would be easy to do because she is post-transition. That was one of the reasons I justified not explicitly writing her reality into the text initially and that is NOT OKAY. This balance of visibility and complex characterization is a challenge I don’t know exactly how to meet, and I know I’ll meet it imperfectly, but I also know that I’ll do my best to meet it as well as I can.

When it comes to sexuality . . . welp, that was a background static in my writing: “not all these girls are straight and by the way, you aren’t either.” But I so thoroughly quashed this authorial instinct (and personal truth) that I have NO IDEA which girls are what. None. In this aspect, I am going to have to approach the editing process as a truly new narrative I’m writing. I know the narrative is going to be WAY better in the long run for this entirely new story being told. I know this isn’t diversity for diversity’s sake but a true reflection of who these women are. I know I will be a happier artist and person when this is over. But it’s going to be rough and I know – again – that I will meet this challenge imperfectly. I commit to listening and changing when someone tells me I’ve screwed up in the portrayals (Don’t worry, I also commit to fully ignoring someone who tells me I’ve screwed up by including LGBTQIA individuals in my writing). Worth it. All the way.

The only time diversity would be forced in my writing would be if I forced it out the door, the way I did in my initial draft. That’s not my narrative; it’s a false narrative. I’m really tired of being lonely for the sake of a false narrative. Diversity is my narrative and therefore it fits within my fictional narratives.

I really hope you fit in there with me.

~RJL

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