Monday, September 19, 2016

That Reading Over the Weekend Moved Me to Tears

This weekend, I was in New York City at Bluestockings reading from Me and My Boi: Queer Erotic Stories, as I know I said ahead of time. I have to talk about the event in retrospect, though, because it was really impressive, hit me with more raw sexual energy and emotion than I would ever have expected, and made me feel like Me and My Boi is one of those important books that deserves every effort I can make to highlight it.

I was reading with Aimee Herman, Gigi Frost, Dena Hankins, Anna Watson, and Sacchi Green. I found myself near tears at times, squirming with arousal at others, and sometimes both at once. It feels like I should have known that a book about the erotic power of female masculinity would stir up so much, but still it blindsided me.

Moments I remember:

Aimee Herman, who read like your favorite adventurous, hard-drinking friend taking you out to bend your ear, creating this mess of feverish, omnidirectional queer desire more powerful than the strongest whiskey. Coyly, just like that friend would do, Aimee pretended to skip the good part, namely the details of the rough bathroom fuck with a packing stranger known only as Q that the story had been building up to, then grinned at the audience as we all reeled from the tease. (Those details did not, in the end, get skipped.)

Tearing up as Gigi Frost described the almost unbearable intimacy of a masculine woman revealing her chest to her lover.

Having it dawn on me, as Dena Hankins read from her story set on a boat, that I’ve never really recognized my own clothing (often sporty, these days) described so accurately, made so sexy in the process. The lines a sports bra leaves, the struggle with wrestling it away from an ample chest—it felt so real, and it stunned me that I’d never thought to write it, couldn’t recall having ever read it written that way before.

Anna Watson, whose work always floors me with its sheer emotional power, embodying the voice of her story’s stern femme top, whose orders bring about a transformation—from “funny little woman” to newly minted, sexual, being-herself-at-last boi.

Sacchi Green, relishing as always the role of the crone who can make a room full of youngsters get more turned on than we’d like to admit, reading from a story that plays with ideas of beauty and ugliness until both turn into need.

And for my own story, I hope people got something out of the moments I was up at the front of the room. The biggest moment for me was earlier, when I was practicing, and I heard it all as a letter from pieces of myself I’d been suppressing. My story, “Not Just Hair,” which I wrote some years ago now, set off an eruption in my life. I’m divided by the weekend I wrote it—before, when I could still lie myself about some things, and afterward, when I didn’t know the truth but had no choice but to look for it.

All this to say, this book is really special. So many of us seemed to have changed ourselves in the course of writing for it, or to have exposed something deep and buried.

I have one quarrel with the way the evening was presented. Sacchi seemed to want to apologize for us a bit, feeling that the readers for the night didn’t present as masculine as she might have wished. It would have been cool to read alongside an unabashed butch, certainly, but I object to any implications that the perspectives presented were all femme. I think we know enough now in the world to see that so many things take place on a spectrum, and so much can be going on beneath the surface of how a person dresses at the moment.

While some stories seemed to have been written and read from the perspective of a femme appreciating a butch, mine wasn’t. Mine was written from a place of confusion and change, yearning for the courage to be things I wasn’t raised to be. Reading the story now, I’m humbled by how frightened I still am of the parts of myself that appear in it. I don’t know where I’m going, but there’s something going on for me with gender. It’s clear from what I write, but it’s hard for me to say anything about it out loud, or to say it in relation to me instead of in relation to characters.

So I wish Sacchi hadn’t assumed things about presentation. I don’t want to speak for anyone besides myself, so I won’t say anything about what I think the other writers might have meant. As a listener, though, I heard that ambiguity, that complexity, that confusion about what gender even is and what it means to enact it with each other as queers who get to/have to find our own way.

And I’m so convinced this book is important. And I can promise you it’s sexy. I hope lots of people check it out.

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