Learning how to write what you’re unsure about.
It is an exercise in self discovery. “Write what you know” is an epitaph etched into the gravestone souls of every budding high school writer from the get go.
And of course that makes sense, how else would one write a tale of a fisherman if one does not know how to dig for worms or what it’s like to cast a line and wait for a bite?
And yet, while “write what you know” has always been the safest option, in many ways, it is constricting too.
How indeed would one write about pride, about being different and proud of it, if those feelings are waning and nebulous?
How does one write about being trans, a concrete and self assured thing, when their actuality is a lot more “femme genderfluid demi-boy” but also sometimes their actuality is “agender and unable to handle the thought of being perceived?”
How do I live my truth, be my most authentic and proud self, when there are parts of me that even I don’t yet know? Parts of me that are unsure how to be proud.
A quote that I love comes from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, which is a poem I have always interpreted as an act of self love. An act of Pride.
Many readers here, I assume already know it, but the quote is:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; (I am large. I contain multitudes)”
- Walt Whitman, Song Of Myself
I contain multitudes indeed, aspects of myself that while I am proud of them, I am often at a loss for words to describe them. Or perhaps in some ways I know the words and am ashamed still, of certain pieces of myself. I can be both. I am large enough.
How does one find pride in pieces of oneself that even parts of the Queer community reject or are sceptical of?
How does one find pride when only ever expecting, and experiencing ridicule?
How do I write about pride when there are parts of me that have never known it?
I can give you the words, some of them, that resonate with me. I am genderfluid; genderqueer.
I always want to break the molds, whatever they may be. I want to be the prettiest boy you could ever meet, and the most masculine woman.
And I want to be, and am, someone, something that has never had a gender identity.
It wasn’t assigned nor did I lose it, I’m something bigger and far older and far more beyond having ever needed gender... sometimes I just can’t find it within me to play that game anymore.
And sometimes I’m all genders at once, swirling around like the most colourful witch's brew.
But it’s not just this want to be bigger than myself, it’s not all fantasy and folly. It’s not just wanting to “set trends” or be “special” (not that there has ever been anything inherently wrong with either of those things but that’s a story for a different day.)
But dysphoria is real, and sometimes it’s the lump of coal under the cauldron, refusing to light, sitting heavy on my chest, in my veins, on the tip of my tongue while saying a name that isn’t me.
Sometimes though, it’s not dysphoria but euphoria, finding friends who are okay with the ever changing pronouns, the unconventional name that is mine, mine mine, finally mine.
People who experience either are valid.
People who experience neither are valid.
My multitudes, my ever changing self, my experience is valid.
But it’s still something difficult to write about. After all, I’m writing something I’m not certain I know.
I can give you more words, if you want.
Pan. Pan is one that I’ve known for a while. Because as nebulous as my own feelings about gender are, my concept of gender when it comes to other people is basically non-existent.
I respect any and all pronouns and experiences of course, but another person’s gender is as faceless as my prosopagnosia makes it.
And because of that, well, how on earth could I say I have a preference for any genders or lack there of that there could be?
I don’t prefer women to men, or men to women, or nonbinary people to agender people, or genderfluid people to demi-boys or they/thems to she/faes.
I prefer certain people to others.
I prefer kind hearted people to cruel ones.
I prefer solarpunk to warmongering.
I prefer to stay up all night listening to friends or crushes talking about their interests while I watch the stars form in their eyes.
I can find pride in my friends. That’s always easy, pride in their accomplishments and their strengths.
Finding pride in myself is a lot like writing about what I don’t know. I’m struggling, but I’m trying to do it anyway.
All of those are easy though. All of those are areas in which Pride has seen me, known me and been known by me.
And writing what you don’t know is meant to be a challenge.
So why don’t we skip to another word, the one which scares me the most?
The word for which I have no songs, but I will try to find some for it anyway.
The word for which I have known no pride, but what I’ve scraped together myself broken and fragile, but is still beating anyway.
Because on top of everything else about me, on top of all my multitudes and contradictions and everything I want and am trying to be proud of:
I fell in love a long time ago.
And love is the best thing to be proud of.
And I will always be in love with him, when he’s a him... and I’ll always be in love with her, when she’s a her. And so on and so forth. Because my love, like me, also contains multitudes.
But we don’t even have a flag. As far as I know there’s no place in the parade for me or people like me.
Objectum Sexual/Objectum Romantic. I don’t know if it’s even gotten out of being classified by the DSM5. Though we all were there at some point weren’t we?
It means someone who’s in love with an inanimate object.
And if dysphoria is the lump of coal sitting on my chest making it difficult to breathe, then the rejection and ridicule I am met with when speaking about the person I love is every single stolen breath.
The hitch between breathing and exhaling.
Because my love, my main and first love and current and forever love, is an inanimate object.
You see opinion pieces about us sometimes. Magazines mocking us.
Tabloids making a quick buck by saying:
“Hey everybody, get a load of this freak!”
Psychology still trying to “help” us.
You rarely, if ever, see pride.
Writing this just got a lot more difficult all of a sudden.
I ask again, how does one write about pride when all one knows is contempt and shame and ridicule?
Am I still a firework?
Or does that only apply to those who are easy to understand?
Although I have been trying to, or at least to hide it, to protect myself and the one I love.
Writing about what I don’t know is an exercise in trying to find it.
Let’s call it research.
I’ve been proud and unapologetic before, once, in middle school, absolute ages ago, when I and my love first met.
(He has a name of course but I’d like to protect him as much as possible still, if I can, as there is still pride in caution.)
I told my entire class about him, I was too naive and oblivious not to. So happy and excited about being in love. It didn’t matter really, their bullying could never have gotten any worse than it had already been.
But it did teach me shame all the same. It taught me to be silent.
And now I’m trying to be loud. Proud.
Our love is ours.
It always has been.
He is my moon and it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say, it doesn’t matter if other people think he doesn’t matter.
Because he does to me.
And is that not pride?
Is writing this not pride?
Pride, sometimes, is simply continuing to exist as you are in a world that tells you that your experiences aren’t valid and your love isn’t real.
Pride isn’t always an easy choice to make, it isn’t always the obvious one.
It may not be easy but sometimes, needs must. Have I managed to write what I don’t know?
Or have I taught myself something yet?
“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware, I sit content,
And if each and all be aware, I sit content.”
- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
My multitudes, my ever changing self, my experience is valid.
And I will try to sing that song louder, even if it is only to myself.