On this day of October 11, 2015, on National Coming Out Day, I join with those who have been marginalized, misunderstood, feared and even hated for no other reason than being different.
I am an ally.
But I am more…
I am an author who explores the commonality of the human condition. My template is a world I am intimately familiar with: a world of men. My personal identity has always been and ever will be a male perspective, tempered within a female, but not feminine, self wrought by socialization and circumstance. My work identity was forged in the fires of a career dominated almost exclusively by men. My friends and confidants have been men throughout my long life.
It’s not easy living with a steel-toed boot rooted solidly in each camp. It’s that particular fracture line that insinuates all my stories. I cannot write an inauthentic experience, nor can I put myself in shoes shaped to a different last, but I can tap into emotion, perception and the universality of the human spirit.
It is a hit and miss thing, writing to this gay literary tradition when tackled by someone who is already marginalized twice over, hampered by gender in a male-dominated society, bound by conventions not my own, burdened with expectations from my sisters and brothers alike.
I don’t write romance. I write emotion as a contact sport, rough and often raw. It need not be pleasant, heart-warming or forever after. What I seek is what lies beneath—a dance of extremes, the intersect of need and desire, and the compromises we make when pain and pleasure become indistinguishable.
I forever seek authenticity and legitimacy. Every day is coming out day, because…
I am a mother.
A couple years ago, the son I knew became the daughter I didn’t know I had. Was I surprised? You betcha. Was I embarrassed at being surprised? Hmm, sorta, since the signs were there aplenty, and I missed every single one. I mean, d’oh, an author writing gay literary fiction maybe should take the blinkers off now and then.
So… am I a bad mom, or just blind to gender? Before you poo-poo that, I’m here to assure you it is a thing. There are many of us who refuse to define the people around us by the superficial and the insignificant. For me, gender is a big one. Maybe that’s because I’ve lived a life within the confines of a male milieu, structured around performance objectives and pretty is as pretty does mentalities.
Being gender-neutral in my world view doesn’t mean I ignore the gender-specific, nor am I immune to its incipient charms and behavioral particulars, but I tend to universalize and key in on more deep-seated characteristics—the harmonies and tonal variations of a unique soul sans religious contextualization.
I had forty-six years to think of Kevin as my son. I’m two years into thinking of her as Rowena, of adjusting to shopping as a shared adventure (reluctantly, very reluctantly), of watching the slow but inexorable transformation into a woman of merit.
But it’s not all unicorns farting glitter and rainbows. Rowena is choosing a painful path, medically and socially. I see that path moving forward with trepidation because as a female I lived the inequality, the second-class citizenship, the domination by men over my reproductive system and I know… know… too intimately what is in store for her.
That she waited this long is both a blessing and a curse. She is established in her career. She has friends, close, wonderful, incredible friends who share a passion for living and loving a sport not for the faint of heart. They accept her for who she is: a horsewoman of merit and skill, a mentor for beginners, and a trusted companion on trail.
Some… oh hells bells, most of them knew long before I did. And that is wonderful. She did it on her own, on her terms. She never needed my approval. It’s always been there, but now it wears killer heels with a dynamite fashion sense.
The down side is that not everyone will understand or accept the physical changes despite her being exactly the same person she’s always been. Perhaps, more troubling than anything, is that I’ve learned to my dismay that not everyone is a trusted fellow-traveler in the LGBT community. Prejudice and soul-sucking discrimination pepper a landscape that I thought a level playing field.
It just goes to show that I’m never too old to learn, but instead of despairing over the inevitability of more glass ceilings in an endless parade of denial and marginalization, I’ll do what I’ve done all my seventy years… stand against, stand for, stand with.
I am an ally.
When it came time to adopt her new identity, Rowena did me the ultimate honor of choosing my family’s surname.
As Nya Rawlyns, I will continue to pour my heart and soul onto the blank page, hoping to break down barriers and reveal the truth that we are, all of us, deserving of respect and understanding.
As Diane Nelson I will be the mother, the friend and the advocate for what’s right in a world too filled with wrong.
Be an ally, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.