Coming out isn’t something you get to do once. It’s something you may have to repeat, many times, always with some anxiety about how people will react to you. It doesn’t help that it’s the people who get close that you will most need to come out to. The people you need to have understand you, and who may be impacted by the way you are and the kinds of relationships you have. It’s high stakes and a lot to lose if they don’t turn out to be ok with who you are. But, how close can you be to someone if you have to hide significant parts of yourself?
I take great comfort in my queer friends, and my kinky friends, and the folk I know will not judge me or think less of me on account of who I am. The people I am close enough to that I can be honest with them about the other people I am close to.
I get off fairly lightly. There are far too many people in this world who are not free or safe to love the people they love. There are too many people who are not free or safe in expressing themselves sexually in consenting ways with other adults. The consequences of coming out, or worse still, being outed, can be dire. Sometimes fatal.
Many human cultures have stories about who is allowed to do what with whom, what is moral, what is evil, what is acceptable to various gods, what’s abhorrent. Those stories are based on value judgements and priorities, and some of those stories are cruel, and toxic. If it seems more appropriate to kill someone than to let them love who they love, something has gone badly wrong.
Love is good. Love is always good. No one should be afraid of loving whoever they are moved to love. Sex is a good, beautiful thing and anyone who wants to do that in any way that works for them should not have to be afraid of how other people will respond. That there are so many people who are more horrified by what consenting adults choose to do together than they are by rape does not say good things about us as a culture.
I’m seeing a lot of discussion online this week about how Pride should be safe and family friendly, and that people who aren’t sexual should feel that they can safely turn up and not see sexual things. This worries me.
Children are actually exposed to sexual imagery all the time – only usually it is heterosexual in nature. Try watching a Disney film… Straight sex is a constant theme in TV adverts. We’re all normalised to this so we don’t always notice the sexual lessons and stereotypes and the sexualisation of women that happens in front of us all the time. Children grow up seeing female bodies dressed for the male gaze – which means highly sexualised women.
I’m not aware of any Pride events where people actually have sex in public. There may be booths handing out information, there may be things you can buy. Pride is about sexual identity. If you take your children to a Pride event, you have to be willing to deal with whatever questions they have. Parenting is an active thing, and around sex it is really important to do clear and active parenting of your child. That includes making decisions about what you think it’s appropriate for them to encounter, and dealing with it when they encounter things that they weren’t ready for.
Because that’s going to happen regardless of whether you take them to Pride events. If your children are online, they’re going to see things. If your children watch television, they are already seeing things, and if you aren’t conscious of that because you think it’s normal, you have much bigger issues around sexual representation, and sexualisation than what might happen at Pride events. If you are happy to have your children soak up sexualised images of women presented for the male gaze but you worry that Pride events will corrupt them, don’t go to Pride events. Also, you have some massive issues to deal with and no idea what kind of sexualised ideas your children have already absorbed.
If you don’t know what a Pride event might involve and you take your kids along because it looks like a fun day out and are then horrified… that’s actually on you for bad parenting. It is not an issue with the event.
If you want the queers to behave nicely so that you can go out and have some innocent fun with your family, that is utter shit. That’s you wanting queer people to perform for your amusement in a way that makes you comfortable. If you want all the pretty rainbow flags and a nice parade, but you want it sanitised for your comfort – you have no business being at a Pride event. This is not a pageant for your amusement, you are not entitled to make it all about you.
And to any fellow queer who wishes those other queers would tone it down and be less controversial and not embarrass you…. or whatever it is… Take a moment to look at how patriarchal, hetranormative and toxic this whole line of thinking is. We live in a culture that has normalised presenting sexualised young female bodies for the male gaze, and we treat anything sexual that isn’t about the male consumption of the female body as offensive. It is vitally important to change this, and we may need to start with looking hard at our own beliefs and feelings.
One of the biggest problems I have with hetronormative approaches, is what the assumption of ‘normal’ does to relationships. If you think relationships have a ‘normal’ shape there’s an awful lot you’re never going to talk about. However, if you are queer, polyamorous, kinky or otherwise complicated, you know you can’t afford to assume anything. You have to talk, and figure things out and negotiate. This makes for better relationships with fewer assumptions.
By ‘relationships’ I’m not just talking about sex, or romance. Part of what hetronormative thinking does is makes people focus too much on that in the first place. It applies just the same to friendships and working relationships. I note that my queer friends are often the ones most willing to talk about how the friendship works, what we might expect from each other and where the edges need to be. By contrast, I’ve had far too many rounds of straight men who want to flirt but are totally resistant to talking about where the edges are. That never goes well.
For the person who thinks that relationships happen along a narrow selection of default lines, there are going to be issues. I’ve dealt with men who were sure that they could not be friends with women – and I’ve seen how badly that impacted on their romantic connections because they had no idea how to be friends with their lovers.
There’s a lot of diversity out there in terms of how people think, what they feel, and what they want. Most of us do not fit neatly into pre-designed relationship shapes. I suspect a lot of the chafing I’ve experienced trying to deal with heterosexual folk has had everything to do with them not fitting into their boxes either, but not being able to talk about it. If you think there’s a normal way of doing things, your own not fitting in that must be highly uncomfortable.
It starts so often when we are children. Who is allowed to be friends with whom? What games are you allowed to play? What sports are you taught? Schools can be a hotbed of reinforcing gender difference and encouraging people to divide up along gender lines. Many people will also grow up with clear messages at home about what their gender means for their interactions with other people. The rules about gender, normality and relationships tend to be absorbed unconsciously. Those of us who really don’t fit are more likely to notice that we don’t fit, and that’s greatly to our advantage.
Those of you who know me well may be wondering what happened and why this is on my mind. The way in which we negotiate relationships is on my mind because I recently had an involved conversation about a creative relationship. How committed is it? How faithful are we going to be to each other? We’re both people who thrive on certain kinds of interaction so being too focused on each other would be stifling, but we do also both need the commitment, and that shape is going to require care and attention.
There are relationships you can’t have and can’t develop if it isn’t possible to talk about who you are, who they are, and how that might work out.
Today’s post is an interview with Pagan author Michael Daoust. I think right now we could all use more cute, warm-hearted and uplifting stuff in our lives, and this is very much what Michael is about – especially creating that kind of warm content for people who may be especially short of it…
Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Hi! First of all, thanks so much for doing this! I really appreciate your time and effort.
About me-> I’m a pagan trans man, happily married to the love of my life. I live with chronic anxiety and PTSD, and am lucky enough to live in the countryside as of two years now! I am an avid gardener, though that doesn’t mean I’m good at it! I’ve always loved fairy tales, and they were my favorite childhood books. All that comes into play with my writing. When I started approaching my writing more as a profession and less as a hobby, I really wanted to represent LGBT+ communities in a positive and happy way. When I started this, I was at an extremely low point, mental health wise. I couldn’t handle reading many books, as I would get too anxious about what would happen next in the story. So, I decided to write fairytale-esque books that would be easy to read when in a bad spot mentally. At the same time I started drawing the TwoLoveBirds, as a way to bring more cheer into my life and to cope with my crippling depression.
How does your Pagan path inform your creative life?
My pagan path comes into play with the importance of the world in my writings. I bring in magic, symbolism, and even more magic in a playful way, which I find echoes the playfulness of nature, and the way that certain areas have certain ‘vibes’ to them. In my fantasy Farfadel writings, the world is what makes the story, as much as the characters. In my TwoLoveBirds writings, nature and setting is equally important.
What is it about fairy tales that attracts you to working with them?
Great question! I never wondered about that, I always thought everyone liked fairy tales! I guess it’s the way that fairy tales seem to say something ‘more’ about life and the world they were constructed in. They tell you how to interact with deities, land spirits, and other people properly. They aren’t just stories, but often lessons as well.
Can you tell us a bit about your two novels? Who are they written for?
So, the first book to be written was ‘A Tale of Two Queens’, then, ‘The Tale of Adelaide and Shadow’, but chronologically, Adelaide’s tale comes first! The Tale of Two Queens was inspired by my wife, and very much guided by her. She often wanted to read more queer romance novels, and they were hard to find! So I imagined these two epic, badass Queens, and threw them into a Sleeping Beauty-esque storyline, and let the chaos unfold. It’s a cute and romantic tale, with no real evil in the story, just miscomprehension and different goals. It’s very playful, and I’ve been told it’s laugh out loud funny and very cheerful to read. I’ve also been told it’s like Terry Pratchett meets Lord of the Rings (what a compliment!).
As for the tale of Adelaide and Shadow, I don’t quite remember how it began, actually. I drew heavily on my experiences as a trans person, and what I would want to see in a novel, as the prince Shadow is trans. I wrote this one mainly for myself, and so it’s a more playful novel, full of silly events and frogs. I drew on the ‘princess and the frog’ stereotype here, and decided to make it even a bit more silly!
I had originally intended these books for adults, and that’s mainly what my audience has been so far, but I’ve been told that they read like middle-grade children’s books. Considering that those are also my favorite genres to read, it makes sense!
How did you get into colouring books?
I had originally started coloring books for my TwoLoveBirds, but kept making sketches and doodles and art for my Farfadel world. I’ve always imagined Farfadel having coloring books, art books, and all sorts of extra fun stuff to go along with the books. So a few months ago I decided to actually sit down and make one!
What’s the relationship between the novels and the colouring books?
The colouring book is based on the world of Farfadel, and not any novel in particular. The fairies play a very important role in both novels, as troublemakers and trouble fixers, and they were so cute and fun to draw that I decided to make the whole colouring book about them! There are no particular characters in the colouring book, it’s more of a glimpse into the ‘feel’ of the fairies of Farfadel, their daily life, and what they are like in the novels. I did try and bring some queerness into the colouring book with two female bodied fairies proposing to each other with a flower, as well as mixing the body shapes with their gendered clothing. It’s subtle, maybe more so with my style of drawing, but I really wanted to make it so that a queer child could see themselves in this book.