Emmie Mears is the the author of the Ayala Storme series, the first book being Storm in a Teacup. Emmie had a post about Pride and being a political entity and also being an artist, and I’m glad to host them here.
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Before: I am small and squalling. They pronounce me Baby Girl. There is a binary and I am on it, like a chubby, black-haired, grey-eyed point on a finite line with two defined ends. Later I am older and headstrong. I want to be an astronaut or a sewer cleaner (shut up; the TMNT lived in sewers) or a professional hang glider. I am handed things I am supposed to like. I am given a role. It chafes. I feel adrift, chaotic, alone. I try to make myself fit and fail.
After: I have examined this binary and found it wanting. I have no place in it and never have. There are magic words in our languages, words that give form to thought and emotion, identity. I taste the word “agender” and it feels like relief. My partner embraces my queerness. I’m given space, and in those corners that felt so cramped before, in after I can breathe. I don’t have to be sugar or spice or anything nice. I can be starfire and primordial muck. I can be covered in algae and shining with the light of a million comets all at once. My body is only the vehicle for my brain, and my brain has no gender.
Before: I have two mothers in rural Montana. Matthew Shepard is murdered one state away, and I am old enough to feel it. It is too easy to picture. Wyoming’s face is Montana’s blood-relative. I know why it happened; I feel it in every muttered “dyke” someone applies to my family and it makes its home in my skin. I resent the treatment of my family, but I feel helpless staring into the maw of it. I whisper to myself in the quiet of night that because I am attracted to boys, therefore I am straight. That that will make me safe. This thought is incomplete.
After: I write a book about grief after a beloved cousin dies suddenly and tragically on the eve of his baby’s first birthday. That book is a thing of subconsciousness and inexplicable magic. It’s about losing control and never really having it. In that book I look at the queer characters, the queer community, the fear of losing family and fortune. Something in me whispers again, “You are not whole.” I know what I am missing. I fill in the gap of my younger self’s statement. I am attracted to boys and girls and both and neither. The thought fills me with old fear that tastes like dust and makes my asthmatic lungs clench on it. I think of Matthew Shepard. Am I brave enough?
Before: I go on a date with a woman, and wherever we go, men yell at us. They act entitled to our time and our bodies. I want to hold her hand, but I am afraid to ask. There is a secret language of attraction we speak in public. Flirting in code, ignoring the fear but ever-aware of it. If I kissed her goodnight on the street in front of those men who yell, would I make it safely to my car? I don’t know.
After: Forty-nine beautiful queer people, fifty-three more. They take bullets made of homophobia and half die of this disease, this infection that has poisoned so many lives and is transferred by force, by pastors and pulpits, by the slow seepage and steepage of culture. For days I cannot keep the grief at bay. I have seen this play out in hundreds of characters on the television screen, in the pages of books. Is there a happily ever after for those of us who bear the letters of that acronym like badges? It’s Pride Month. Of what am I proud? Can I be proud when this world still shovels shame upon us? Can I take her hand?
This happened in a place where we go to dance. Where we don’t need codes to flirt. Where we can be wild and free and without fear.
Fear came to that place.
We deserve to live.
There are temporal shifts that happen throughout our lives. Sometimes we see them as they happen. Sometimes we only see them when we look behind.
During, Part I: I meet beautiful friends who are genderfluid, genderqueer. They use the singular they or neopronouns or Ye Olde Pronouns with defiance of cultural expectation. They teach me those magic words that give form to my own feelings. They sing soft songs of community and welcome. They make a space for me.
During, Part II: I write an urban fantasy series, and my protagonist’s female friend is in love with her. I need that story. I need it. So I write it. I need to fall in love with a woman, so Ayala does for me. I write that story and step out of the first of many closets. I do it in tiny steps, so subtly many people later tell me they barely noticed.
During, Part III: The Pulse shooting in Orlando was a pivot point. There is Before Orlando, and there is After Orlando. It is the spectre we all know could come for us, and in that is absolute terror. It is why I am afraid to take her hand on the street. It is why Matthew Shepard died. We all know it could be us.
But it doesn’t have to be.
It is an uncomfortable thing, to have a book coming out a week after something that hits you and hollows you out, confirms fears you knew to be true. It is yet more uncomfortable when it is a book about a queer protagonist. It’s a personal book. It’s a political book, even though at the same time it’s not. It’s about a woman saving the world in the face of hell, of navigating moral grey areas, of getting covered in demon slime and tearing through hordes of hellkin like her blades are part of her hands.
But it is a political book because my identity is political. Until the lawmakers don’t seek to limit my rights solely based upon my identity, my body, and my loves, it will remain thus. It is also a personal series, because it is the series of my own coming out and a series I needed to write to see a queer hero who fights things that aren’t that poisonous homophobia. I erased as much of that from Ayala’s world as I could. I wanted to write a world where we could put that burden down for a while. Where we could just exist without being objectified or sexualised or threatened on that basis. There’s plenty of other things for Ayala to worry about, believe me.
Our world could be more like that one. I want to believe it gets better for us. I lived through the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s and watched gay men who were like uncles to me die. My tiny child fingers sewed squares on their quilts. I watched Ellen come out and slowly lose her show. And now look where she is. Look where we are.
Being total Hamiltrash, I can’t help but think of the myriad meanings inherent in one line of that musical: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”
I am alive. I am out. I think that it is important for me to be out and alive and visible right now. I am lucky to be alive right now.
Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.
If you need a story about a queer hero, if you need Ayala like I needed her, if you need Mira Gonzalez like I needed her, then I wrote these books for you every bit as much as I wrote them for me.
Peace, bunnies, and rainbow flags.
Happy Pride, and fuck shame.
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Emmie Mears is an author, actor, and person of fannish pursuits. They speak four languages and hold a degree in history, which means they can tell you their anteater is sick in German and rattle off Polish tongue twisters. Emmie is proudly queer, agender, and a knight of the singular they. Emmie is the author of five adult novels and is open to bribery in the form of sushi, bubble tea, and just about any variation of cheese on carbs.
They spend most of their time opening wormholes and studying fantastical wildlife.
Emmie may or may not secretly be a car.