Let me start with a geology story. I promise, there’s a point to this.
When I was a geologist at the research company, I had a core come in. There was a ten foot section of it that I didn’t know how to describe. It was fine-grained, filled with burrows. So far so good. But the mineralogy was… puzzling. Not enough dolomite to be described as a dolostone, not enough clay to be described as a mudrock, not enough quartz sand and silt to be described as some kind of sandstone or siltstone. It sat basically at the nexus of all possible rock types for that environment and was definitively none of them. In absolute frustration, I dubbed it “shit rock” and wrote all my reports and captions accordingly.
Of course, this is a business. I couldn’t actually turn in reports to the client with the term “shit rock” used. So I had a long talk with my boss. The problem with geology, he explained, is that everything we work on is a continuum. So there will always be something that falls in that liminal state where you’re not quite sure what it is, and even if you wanted to do battle with the rest of the community to coin a new term, you’d just be replacing one borderland with two. You can write definitions all day that will define 99.999% of all the rocks out there, but then some son of a bitch is going to come in with the 0.001% case because there are a lot of rocks on Earth, and one in a million things happen more often then any of us can grasp.
There will always be rocks that defy easy classification. You eventually just have to dip your toe into the art rather than science and describe it how you feel fits best – and then be ready to defend your decision.
Which comes to me. A little while ago on Twitter, I said:
I’m gonna be as visibly, loudly queer as possible. Because I *can* be. Because we exist. Stay safe.
— Rachael Acks (@katsudonburi) November 11, 2016
And then while I was taking a shower, because all my most important thinking happens in the shower or when I’m supposed to be trying to fall asleep, I realized that it was an empty thing to say without the rest of this post.
I’ve been nibbling at the edges of this for a while, trying to figure things out. But maybe it’s the scientist in me, I don’t like committing to anything unless I’m absolutely certain – and the thing about life is that absolute certainty is in shorter supply than most people would like to believe. Because what if I’m wrong? How do I defend something that I’m still figuring out? But I don’t feel like I have the luxury of wibbling quietly into the night any more.
Because you see, in this way, gender’s got something in common with geology. Everything works on a continuum. You will always find cases that defy classification, and no matter how frustrating that is, they don’t go away. And that is part of the beauty of the world, trust me.
So how do I define myself? Queer, for certain. Sometimes it’s easier to tell people what a rock – or yourself – isn’t than what it is. I’m not female. I don’t quite think I’m male either, but I’d have to give it a good few years try out before I could say for certain. Fuck knows, it’s taken me something like 34 years to figure out the “not female” bit, but GOD it has been a relief since I reached that conclusion. So my big request here is to please use a gender-neutral pronoun (they) if possible. Or if you just can’t make that work in your brain, because I know the verb conjugation gives people mental cramp at times, masculine (he).
And please, call me Alex. It started out as… not a joke, precisely, when I came up with my pen name. But it’s grown on me, like a much more comfortable skin.
But there’s a point to this, and it’s not just me sitting at my keyboard and crying. I’ve been doing that too often in the last forty-eight hours.
When I was a baby queer growing up surrounded by kids and adults who thought “smear the queer” was a perfectly acceptable name for a game that involved throwing balls at other people so hard it gave them bruises (and I was one of those kids, because at the time I didn’t know better), it was invaluable to me when I started seeing LGBT people openly be themselves. It told me that there were more options that I knew, that maybe I didn’t have to keep trying to jam myself into a mold I didn’t fit, and I could be happy.
Since the election yesterday, there’s already been countless stories of racism, sexism, and homophobia being flung at people with renewed abandon. I live in a place where it’s relatively safe – swing state turned pretty reliably blue state Colorado, in the Denver-Boulder area – to be out. So I think that I need to be as out as possible even if I’m not entirely happy with my R-squared values, because now more than ever it’s important to make it known that we exist. That we will not go away. That people who are like me, who live in environments where they are not safe, are not alone even if they can only hold that truth silently in their heart.
Sometimes, merely living, existing, is an act of defiance, denying the narrative that we are fictional, or merely confused, or unhappy, or intrinsically broken.
Let this be my act of defiance. Let this be the first of many.