Dancing Our Butts Off

Dancing Our Butts Off
Written by 3mienblog

And I cried after that comment about body image. These writers were kind, uplifted the art, and found real value in the stories, yet their ideas aren’t really considered. That’s how it goes on the internet.

I wrote Miriam an email. I said that I didn’t really like political writing, but that I had written something, because I knew how much she and James wanted to read juicy spook stories together. But I didn’t actually feel like I could offer them one. My document was full of fears and demons, tension and the nausea of imminent death. I wanted Miriam to know those stories… but I wanted to share the good in it with her. Not the monsters. I knew she’d tell me several horror stories, and I knew James would love the pure horror in it. I realized then how much I *had* to write about those things, about Captain Breda and Edward and Roy, the ending of young people cut down before their time in horrifying ways, although sadly true stories.

I had to draw that line. I would never toy with horror for the entertainment. I wrote horror in tribute. To the survivors.

I clicked through many more comments. I assured my supporters (among them my good old buddy Nathalie) that I wasn’t selling myself by selling books in 50% slash sales, barring any obviously experimental material. And even with experimental material, I had to make sure the story was something that people would want enough to pay actual hard-earned money for.

A commenter pointed out that the salacious, whippy horror element of Dancing Our Butts Off didn’t make it seem like the ideal way to support queer representation and diversity in publishing, since that’s apparently what it’s coming from.

Another commenter replied that this idea that straight/binary protagonists in mainstream books wouldn’t be suitable for support just because some fandoms were interested — that I shouldn’t get censored even though I was publishing a gay male romance with a happy ending, if I wasn’t supporting straight, cis characters.

One person said that, indeed, the characters were gay, but to call them gay was an insult because people in the entire world didn’t get the respect or caring that those characters, in that story, were denied! The harassment! The violence! The insults! Etc.!

I was already choking up, but then I wanted to cry harder because that commenter was right. I could tell that they were right. It both saved my book and tore it down, but it was still right.

And suddenly we’re dealing with something that real-life events and situations don’t give us quite… on this platform. It wasn’t enough to just deal with real events and situations where the predatory force comes from the people who are supposed to be respected, and trusted, and loved.

The fear and discomfort, the experience of being fearful for your safety, of being concerned and terrified about what power does to human nature, or even “nature,” when you use “natural” as a justification for your actions… that’s also part of my story. This is social justice, even if it’s still being resisted and misconstrued, through so many angles and stories, even when the other part of this is that everything can be misconstrued and turned on its head as in-fiction (as a story device) applies to out-of-fiction (as something that we have to apply to ourselves as a way to see, understand, and resolve injustice). Social justice everywhere.

So my friends and fans who were bestowing these kinds of awards — informing their friends, telling me how proud they were… I felt the hurt and shame spread, and I set a boundary like I had around Hilary and the emotional labor. I reported the harrassment. Some of the advice from friends and fans was that I should’ve tried harder not to trigger them, when I *had to* write about the issues and about so many experiences that *tire me out outside of writing a fictional piece and as an artist* — in real time. I am tired. I am tired of feeling tired. Ever since I realized with The Rope and the Rose that I wouldn’t open the borders on humanity and try to reach out to community and equality, I was ready to fight the feeling of this way in, holding my wounded arms and bleeding wrists, bleeding emotion onto the keyboard with every keystroke, with every character I held and killed as a penknife in my hand. The blanks have feelings too — they try — they try to live, to prevent human suffering, by giving life away and being strong, even when they can’t show the scars or the wounds. Even if they’re really tired of it. I told those people I was tired.

But the most important thing, to tuck away for which I’d love a spotlight on: I am graciously revealing this demon of harrasment by gay culture and bigotry for two types of people: (1) people who have a similar experience and see that it does exist; and (2) people who are striving for inclusive diversity and oppose it in any way by spreading misinformation and claiming that there is still such a thing as “too gay” or “too gay for your health” or “too gay to satisfy anyone used to straight people” or this other nonsense.

Someone came in and an the extremely popular comment that I should have handled the umpteen handfuls of people who falsely accused my work of being “too gay” in a better way. I understand what they’re saying, but you have to understand that with The Gray Reich as a small story (with many more stories following soon), and seeing the number of abusive posts before me, I was seriously tired. I was exhausted. The comments were going by at lightning speed and my friends who came in from fandom were coming in fresh to the table and looking forward to the story. I was trying to balance my duty to my audience, the writers I invited, the charity work I was doing, and my friends for *and against* the idea of hateful gay culture and bigotry trying to tear it down or falsely defend it. I didn’t have strength for it. It isn’t to say that I didn’t try or that I wasn’t polite from a distance, or just simple private messaging away from the heart of the defense.

Again. This is part of it. I’m not through talking about it. I’m not through writing about the horribleness that gay culture has to deal with sometimes. What I did do was give my detractors what they wanted and gave their pages good publicity. But that’s the only reason — talk to the right people and have them say the right thing. They didn’t have to be sincere, because they literally weren’t. They never were.

An this is where I find myself lost again, slipping, sliding into the cliff’s edge. If I have an obligation and right as a writer, artist, and entertainer, that of course follows along with the pain, I cannot for a moment, even in the midst of it, not realize how much writing this has to do with the fighting those in my very face, those telling me to cut out the butchered words, those telling me it’s too gay. Because of the fact that I literally do feel the harrassment and the want of equality and the terror, the disbelief, and… even if this criticism weren’t about me as a person, it’s a criticism of my livelihood as an artist (as a queer writer and speaker of hte LGBTQA+ community) and an honest voice, with a community that needs good representation and real understanding, not just a little passion, in this world.

And more and more I hear the word “loudmouth” and again, I know that these words are great indicators, but I’m not bent on beating backs, really — if only we could all be a little kinder, kind, honest, and clear-eyed, that might solve some of the issues! But the words “loudmouth” and things like those, are anti-patriarchal, or anti-misinformation.

And things are touchy! The crowd is room is filled with gays and straights and agendered people, and trans folks amidst the expected and the… extraordinary folks (look at the talent in fashion!), who also just want to see book sales in general. There are rabid fandoms who don’t want to settle for less… but they don’t hear that they should settle for anything they don’t want. And “loudmouth” applied to a woman in those time, those eras, the story… bitch and harpy, right? And these men think the right of it is better than being heard than not… And you can’t compromise or reason just to avoid… being accused or accused in return or aching from your interactions. You can’t always heal and get back up to tend to your heart, but also be a loudmouth!

Again… call it what you will. You give me words for everything.








Why are you hurting? Why are you crying? Why do you need to know everything that’ Click here.

Mrs. Edible Art 3 by Sojourner Emmanuel

The soap my mom gave me was reddish brown, with white swirls and weird marbly bits. They were supposed to smell the same as the fabric softener my mom used in the laundry, clean, fresh and shiny. I held the soap in my wet hands and rubbed it between each finger, as if it would leave a combination of the past weeks out of my memory. As if I was ever clean.

My skirt fell off of me when I stood up from the bathing pool. I picked it up and laid it over a clump of grass. I was skinny, really skinny, naked and disgusting. I lay back and looked at the clouds unblinkingly, thinking about nothing. There were vapors that looked like our house, vapors I so wanted to go back to.

I lived in a town called He-Tar-Rozut that was just like every other place. I had a family, love, happy times, but none of it made a difference. Everything was the same, everywhere I went. There wasn’t anywhere in the world different from anywhere else.

Aku sat down in front of me and put the skirt on my shivering legs, sitting very close in front of me. “Here’s a fresh one. Now you won’t have to wear his little thing.” His claw parted my legs and the skirt pressed against my groin.

I laughed hard, even though I didn’t have any breath left in my lungs. Aku gathered me in his arms and held me until I stopped shaking. He twisted his face around mine and whispered in my ear, “That wasn’t real, it was shadow, that was all.”

And I held myself while the helplessness spread through my blood and made the very marrow in my bones feel rusty. My mother had the steaming hot water but the grassy blades were caressing each part of me, making me feel something I could never describe or feel again. It was so minute, a source of something that couldn’t last, a tiny miracle tucked away into forlorn corners.

Greenish-gray feet stepped on to my belly, as Aku climbed on top of me. Everything in the world was normal; my arms became long tentacles with him writhing in the center. It was impossible to think of the things he said, because they had no memory.

His face scrunched up, making holes on each side of his face. I shivered, feeling it while my eyes didn’t close. I saw flower petals when I looked around, oddly enough knowing that the petals weren’t real.

I heard Ini laughing when I closed my eyes. The grass tickled my face, like I had wrestled with the wrong blanket, three mornings too many and Ini teased me at school every day, telling me that I peed my bed first time as a baby.

Ini always said things he knew wouldn’t sound stupidity if his fists weren’t ready to cram the mess back into his fat, bulbous mouth. And he got all kinds of greedy when you asked a stupid question, because the question opened up a whole new unexpected ways of feeding his head.

And so out came the insults like some annoying bug always fleshed against the underside of my ears, making me want to clap them, until Ini sounded like he was eating his words back, spitting them on the ground.

I laughed as soundly as I could, trying to ignore how raw my legs were getting from the grass. I kept pulling steps of it off and arranging the blades into a beautiful design.

I bent my head down to see that Aku was trying to teach me something. I couldn’t concentrate; my mind wandered over memory stains that wanted my active attention. I wanted to stop the world and hold it in my arms until the end of time.

I ran up the top of a distant hill, hearing Ini laugh as he climbed after me. I looked around the grounds on top of the hill for the last thing that would save me or destroy me. I looked back and Ini ran the rest of the way to the top of the hill, pulling out a fake flower.

Ini said with a hint of anger in his growing smile, “See? I told you already, this is the most powerful thing in the world.”

I just frowned and snatched the plastic flower away from him before he could start again. He snatched the pink flower back and said, “The history of the flowers goes way back. Beings have been living their whole lives wrapped up in it all.

The dates on shh-inception are the earliest of recordings, and the flowers all have like seven million soldiers waiting to protect it.”

Then I understood. He meant the war for the silk that would last for him a lifetime, hiding his big old daddy. “I know, it’s a simple weapon. Someone who is looking for easy kills, low and slow.”

Ini said seriously, “Spoken like a lifetime nobody.”

I pushed his shoulders, as he ran a few steps away from me, laughing out of breath. I jumped after him, grabbing his arm and shaking the weapon out of his hand. He laughed harder, until I rolled on top of him.

My weight pushed at his thighs, trying to make him feel something new, not the touch of old. He stopped crying, feeling something he was sure he should remember. It got so that I wanted more, as I released all my wild shivers on him.

Ini’s pride deflated, letting everything go except the desperate grip on the silk flower that had already fallen. He cried out in his face, almost looking like he had someone in the world besides me.

I hit the ground hard enough that my belly hurt and the world went black. The water in the pool went grey. I wanted to get up, but I knew there was another world below the surface, a world of sweat and dead skin, blood and survival. My tummy whimpered to let something out, making me feel like a greedy pig.

I looked into the pool of water for real. There were too many fingers, two or three. I heard Ma soar through the air a long time ago. She landed on top of me, smiling while grasping my backpack in her white hands. We walked into the shuttle and flew to a tiny island. The shores of the island were sandy and surrounded with sand dunes filled with footprints. The glass-sided houses of the sand dunes were smooth, but with rounded edges. There was nobody else around yet, so the glass walls kept people away.

I woke up unpleasantly warm. Ma was sweating, keeping the air warm for us. I didn’t want to talk to her, even though I always talked to Ma. She held up one hand and said, “Listen to me.”

I didn’t really want to listen to her though. I waited for Ma to speak, knowing breath always jerked from her mouth whenever her face showed signs of life. She had streaks of grey hairs which stuck out from her face. Her face was too skinny and many big splotches were forever fixed to it.

Ma had many splotches of everything across her face. Her arms were so torn with wrinkles that she looked like one of the glass houses. Ini heard her moaning in her sleep. I wanted her to say the promise, to make good whatever was going to get worse before the electric muck drain-cocked and made everyone happy. Ma stretched out with her arms. There was a bulge under her stomach and it got bigger each day.

And she was shouting: “I’m never going to get that job, no matter what I do!”

That wasn’t me who did it! I wanted to say, but didn’t give a shot. Ma said, “She was dying because of something you did, there are a lot of things you wouldn’t believe even if I could show you.”

Ma kept crying all over the floor beside my bed, like we lived in one big glass house. She said she couldn’t take it anymore. She kept crying a little longer, moaning about the job and about the daughter, being so wrong and slow, somehow. She said, “I made every choice that I could, every one and I want to end it all, but I can’t drop out because that makes it even harder.”

And then she went on and on, her own body grinning while screaming. She wanted everything to go away. She said this fading little runaway won’t make it, even if she stayed single forever. And I wanted to tell her that everything was going to get worse, even if it was already at the source.

I had to scream instead and she moaned slow and deeper. Her face got smaller and smaller. Ini opened up my bedroom door, hell-bent on getting the accusations out. Ma was the one exception to all the crazy things going on around here, things we were in and out of those glass houses all the time and didn’t need anybody else to prove things. But that should have been a clue and wishing Ma was something else.

And Ma then worked in a high glass office that shook with every shout. Angry, ugly men shouted at her, pushing her around with their voices, telling her things to do and she had to. They harmed her in the most awful, horrible way and she got torn in all the wrong places. The woman with light brown hair behind her one desk had a coin, a red coin in her hand, and she wanted the coin, even if Ma was supposed to die

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