Thursday, January 8, 2015

We're all people first

From: Kelly

I enjoyed the reading you did in DC. I loved reading Hild and was happy to hear you talk about it.

What I'd also hoped to say in some way was just how much your books mean to me. But I'm dysfunctionally shy on a good day, so I'm generally incapable of normal conversation with, well, anybody. So I'll write it instead -- your books were the first I ever read with strong lesbian characters who were portrayed as unashamed and (is this the right word?) normal. Not victims or sad freaks. I came out a few years ago in my late 20s and struggled with it. Reading your books was life-changing because they offered an alternative to the way I thought I was confined to be. They helped me through the process in a way. If that makes any sense. So for what it's worth, thank you. Thank you for not writing gloomy women who sit around sewing all day, hating themselves, and getting the shit kicked out of them by men.

I look forward to the sequels to Hild. And I love Kelley's writing as well. Can't wait to see the movie version of Solitaire. I feel like I hit the jackpot when I discovered your writing and Kelley's.
Women loving whoever they want is a huge part of my work. Actually, women being who they are—in whatever way—is part of my fundamental approach to the world. We are people. It's that simple. 

Long ago, today, and in the future people, groups and individuals, have been, are, and will be constrained by the rules of society. Rich or poor, male or female, person of colour or white, young or old, differently abled or not, we're all constrained. Constrained differently, and to different degrees. And it's the degree that matters. A slave is going to be subject to an utterly different level of constraint than a member of the elite of any sex, race, ability, and so on. In this case it's the slavery that has the most profound impact, not the sex or sexual orientation or gender presentation. But slaves—and to be clear here I'm talking about the institution from a long historical perspective, not just the iteration of it that made millions of lives in the US so terrible for so long—were and are people. And people will always find a way around some constraints because that what we do. It's what we've always done. We find a way. If you squint, you could say that's what Hild is about.

I got tired a very long time ago of women, and lesbians, being seen as Other. Not fully human. Not human first. Have we always been regarded this way? I doubt it. Will it always be this way? No. As I've said before, I think it's changing. And that's what I write towards.

In our house we have a saying: Act as if. In other words, behave as though the world is treating you with the respect you deserve. I can't speak to the experience of others but from my perspective as a white woman of a certain age*, it almost always works. This means assuming good intent, and not feeling and so behaving as though you're on the defensive. I've always behaved this way, always assumed I'm a human first and deserve treatment as such, and often those around me respond to that. Obviously, there are times when it would be ridiculous, even dangerous, to assume good intent, and situations where it's impossible. Generally speaking, though, it works surprisingly well.

As I say, I write from that position. I write towards a day when we are only seen as other because of something we choose: team colours, if you like. Team colours we can change anytime we want. Today you're Red and I'm Blue; tomorrow we swap shirts. If my writing has a purpose beyond the fact that I love telling stories, love earning my living by making shit up, it's that I write towards people being people first. In that sense, as I've said before**, I write to change the world.

And regarding Solitaire as a film, well, stay tuned...

* But I have, of course, been other ages. My gender presentation is...eccentric. I've been very physically fit and now am a cripple. I've been—to some degree am—both a foreigner with a funny accent and a native. I'm a dyke. A woman. I've been all over the map economically—from years of grinding poverty to a few years of delicious bounty—but grew up lower middle-class in a family that could (almost) always afford rent and clothes and food but not going out to eat and not great clothes.
** I couldn't find the post I was looking for but I found my response to the question, "Can queer authors write straight characters?" I'd completely forgotten about this. It says everything I've said here, but from a slightly different perspective.
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