Poetry

Hurricane

Wave after wave

Lulls exist when the eye is above

But the storm returns

Power and vengeance

Hammering and slamming

Eroding

No escape

Can’t survive

Bending to the wind

Roots clinging, slipping from sand

To be torn out and discarded

Sinking to a promised end

The approved finale

Grey, gone, gone,

Under the current

Settling into a purpose

That only means survival for others.

 

Normal

Normal.

Everyone wants to be

An impossible feat

The voices in our heads

Define that word,

Normal

Its what no one can ever be.

There isn’t a same

A like

There is only different

Normal

Desperate and clawing

I ache to be that.

Clinging to hope

That was dashed ages ago

Normal

My parents think I’m that

Not knowing what it is

That I’m not

Queer is

Normal

Defining me

Us

That is what people want

What society pushes

Normal

We’re all ab

Queer

Beautiful

Sometimes functional

Normal.

 

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That’s Sick

I’m writing this post out more for me to attempt to work through some thoughts. It might be disjointed and ugly, but that’s how feelings are sometimes.

Last night, I was telling my mom about a holocaust documentary I watched, filling in gaps with other bits of knowledge I’ve learned through the years. In the process, I explained the some of the patches worn, like green triangles and pink triangles.

Surprisingly, she said she could respect someone who was gay. She didn’t agree with it because it was immoral, but she could respect them. Still, she is against allowing same sex couples to adopt.

The fact that she said she could respect someone of the LGBTQ community gave me an exciting spur. For a moment, I thought I might be able to come out to her. So I asked her, what about transgender?

That spur turned to a spike in my heart.

“That’s sick. And wrong. Just sick and wrong. You’re made in God’s image. Being gay or transgender, its all a choice. But transgender is sick. It’s cosmetic and there is something wrong with those people. Just sick.”

She even shivered when she spoke. The disgust was so palpable.

I asked if she thought transgender people should be able to serve in the military.

“Nope. That creates a bunch of other problems like where they sleep and change or go to the bathroom. And I’m not paying for their health insurance for an elective surgery.”

I was so dumbfounded. I knew her views. I didn’t understand her level of disgust, particularly with transgender. There will be a time where my parents are out of my life. Of that I’m now sure. I had intended never to tell them I’m transgender. To just do my own thing because they’d prefer to ignore the elephant in the room. At some point, that will boil over and they will decide to cut me out. Perhaps that is for the best.

Still. It’s devastating today. It negatively reinforces my core belief that I’m a mistake. I’ve believed that for a long, long time. I thought I was making progress. Now I am wondering if I am making too much progress.

Combating Impostor Syndrome with Writing Success

This week, like many writers, I was faced with impostor syndrome.  I was really down about where I am with my own writing progress when compared to that of other writers.  I’m going to get into a few things here, but today, I decided that instead of comparing myself to my fellow writers and friends, I would tackle this issue a different way.  First, the most important question a writer must ask themselves is why do you write?  Yes, we have goals and want to succeed with those goals, but that does not answer the question.  If we are writing just to make money, we are in the wrong business. I confessed to my counselor, the lovely Leslie Walker, that I was dealing with impostor syndrome and she asked me that very question.  The trick is, the answer can be different for every writer and extremely personal.

Why do I write?  In my writing, in the worlds I create, I can be my most authentic self.  This is how I want to be remembered.  As someone who was able to create this worlds where people were able to be themselves without question.  Someone who isn’t on Twitter, but does write, Erin Cico-Konecky, writes for personal reasons.  She doesn’t intend to share her writing, but that does not mean she is less of a writer.  That is success because she is achieving her personal goals and, more importantly, following her heart when writing.

Now I want to celebrate the success of several friends.  There are a ton of people who I am not listing, but know, you are loved and I believe in you.

C.L. Ogilvie (@CLOgilvie), who I am also wishing a very happy birthday to, is at work writing her sequel to Some Assistance Required.  While I know it is nowhere near complete, the fact that she is in love with what she is writing is so important.  Also, if you like a snarky take on contemporary fantasies, check out her book.

Someone taking a break from writing should still be celebrated.  Leigha (@the_murky_elf) is focusing on another dream as she opens her own jewelry store.  Having been fortunate enough to read her work, I will say, everyone will enjoy her space fantasies.  She has inspired me in so many ways and will continue to do so, even when she is taking time away from writing.

Sometimes long breaks are necessary to help us recharge.  That doesn’t make us any less of a writer.  Megan (@MeganLaHood) wrote her first book, Existence: The World of the Undead, and took a break for a bit.  Now, she is back at it.  Not only is Megan working on a sequel, but she is already outlining a third novel which is very exciting.

Let’s also celebrate independence.  Vee Lozada (@BecauseItsVee) is always updating her Wattpad works.  She is very hard at work, following her dreams.  Indie authors so often are forgotten and shouldn’t be.  Having written two novels and self published them myself, I very much love indie authors.

Twitter gives authors an opportunity to connect, but also to improve and earn an opportunity to work with professionals.  T A Chan (@The_Book_Lander) has written a very fun novel that is a space take on Moby Dick.  I’m beta reading for her at the moment and loving the adventure.  She has been able to work with a mentor on her project after a successful round of #PitchWars.  It’s amazing!

Of course, something like that takes us into the querying process like Beth Wertz Sanmartin (@bethwswrites).  Beth is preparing to query her novel which she describes as a One of us is Lying meeting One Tree Hill.  Fine tuning her first chapter (which is excellent), Beth has worked on her query and is now submitting to agents.

With submission to agents, we hope for the email requesting a full manuscript.  Look at Brittany Evans (imbrittanyevans).  Her Peter Pan retelling recently earned a full request.  She has also coauthored a novel, Simply An Enigma, with Chelsea Lauren (@chelslauren92).  Getting that first full request should certainly be hyped and celebrated.  It’s not like agents are able to rep everyone.  They are actually taking their time to read a full manuscript because they are genuinely interested in the story.

With querying comes publishing.  Kathryn Sommerlot (@KSommerlot) is now following her dream and publishing her books with the help of Nine Star Press.  Having read another of her books, this is very deserving.  Look for her book The Life of Siphon, May 20th, and The Mage Heir, September 30th.  For Kathryn, these are re-releases which is great! Never give up.

Finally, I would regret not celebrating the best accomplishment.  Ashley Shuttleworth (@PaperAshes) had her first publishing contract announced this week.  What an amazing thing for any writer and well deserved.  Having read A Dark and Hollow Star, I can vouch for her.  She, like all the other writers above, is so talented.  Her book will hit stores in 2021 and I can’t wait to read the final draft.

The point is, all real writers are going to deal with feeling like an impostor.  Success can’t be measured against other writers.  Success needs to be measured by the question, why do we write?  Celebrate every goal and victory that is met and crossed of the list, but do not forget why you started writing to begin with.

My Morning Epiphany

This morning, almost immediately after starting my morning drive to work, I had a real epiphany.  In my first novel that some of you have read, I mention a song called Chasing My Shadow.  This wasn’t simply a song title I made up for the book, I’ve been wanting to write that song since my freshman year of college.  The problem: I can’t read or write music.  Regardless, I’ve had a vision for a music video ever since the title came about.

In the video, I had always pictured a young man literally attempting to catch his shadow.  Imagine Peter Pan or the way a child might attempt to step on their shadow, but always missed. That is the vision. Then add in the fact that he bumps into people and objects until the end of the video where he ends up next to a fountain and steps on the shadow of a girl with whom he shares a look of love.

Fast forward to today and I finally understand why this song idea has never left me.

Much of the video would be the same, but I realized, I should play the guy.  At the end though, my shadow disappears, I look up, and the video cuts to the real me. To Natalie. I’m smiling and happy for the first time.

It’s not a love story like I thought between two different people.  It’s a story about self-love and acceptance.  Its raw, real, bumpy, messy, but in the end, can be wonderful.  I know this is a short post, but I’m tearing up again.  Thanks everyone, you’re all amazing.

The Acceptance and Evolution of the Singular They/Them

Natalie Summers, 11/30/18

From an early age, the pronouns they and them have been taught to be used when referring to more than one person. Prescriptive grammarians are going to insist that the only acceptable use of they or them is in this form. However, over the last decade, they and them are words that are often used to refer to a singular person as individuals buck the trend of using the traditional, he or she, pronouns. As psychology has advanced, it has become recognized that gender is a spectrum that can allow people to identify across the spectrum and for some individuals, gender can be fluid allowing for pronouns to be used interchangeably.

In 2015, the American Dialect Society named the singular they as the word of the year. Marriott Marquis reported the events on the American Dialect Society’s website. According to Marquis (2015), “Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as a “vocabulary item”- not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year.” The society has the longest running vote for Word of the Year and they was selected, in part, because it is already in the English language.

This movement to use more neutral pronouns is mostly attributed to today’s youth as they are no longer feeling bound to one part of the spectrum. The vocabulary for gender has expanded considerably over the past few years. Fifteen years ago, transgender was barely a term taught through society and was often recognized as a mental disorder. Now, not only is it not characterized as a disorder, but states like New York have put out list of gender terms. The original list that New York released in 2016 contained thirty-one genders. The list is still expanding and there are resources for individuals to find various pronouns for individuals to look at as they attempt to find the correct pronouns for themselves.
Recently I had a conversation with a woman from Canada where we were attempting to identify a way to normalize chosen gender pronouns. It was her belief that when introducing herself to someone new, a person should always say their preferred pronouns to prevent any confusion and to keep people comfortable. The context for this conversation came from reading, as I was reading a novel for her and she has a character that prefers the use of they/them pronouns, but the conversation is very relevant in today’s changing society. It was my argument that, when reading, authors could simply use the desired pronouns without the conversation as it can be a bit tedious to read. However, to her point, to normalize that conversation in books could help to normalize it in everyday interactions to prevent any kind of misunderstanding or hurt feelings. The conversation would go along these lines:

“Hi, I’m Brittany. I prefer they or them pronouns. How about you?”

“Hi Brittany. I’m Natalie and I prefer she or her. Thanks for asking.”

In agreeance with this person’s argument, Time magazine had an article by Jacob Tobia asking people to verify pronouns with new individuals. Tobia specifically addresses the awkwardness of this conversation. Tobia states (2016), “Meeting new people is always awkward. But using the wrong pronoun to refer to someone is more awkward because pronouns are about respect.” Tobia asked Nick Adams of GLAAD’s transgender media program who they (Tobia uses gender neutral pronouns) quoted, “By using the right pronoun, you can show that you see and respect their identity.”

I have always had a strong desire to ensure that everyone is comfortable around me and studying to be a teacher, it is of the utmost importance to me to use language that my students are comfortable with when being identified. Prior to the last six weeks, not once in my life, have I ever been asked, what pronouns do I prefer? When I was recently asked, it was natural and easy to explain my pronouns. Specifically, I was asked if I preferred, they or them pronouns. After responding that I prefer she/her, the conversation was able to advance and we were both able to relax. It is a courtesy, like saying hi, for someone to use the correct pronouns when addressing an individual.

Gender specific pronouns for individuals can be a source of much anxiety for someone who does not fit into the traditional two fields of male or female. Someone who is transgender or agender may prefer they or them as it is more fitting to who they are. Across many mainstream media guides, the singular they has been accepted in recent years as psychologist and counselors have gained more of an understanding of the gender spectrum. The current political climate can be viewed as toxic in terms of how accepting people are of this reinvented use of old words.

In many languages there are gender neutral pronouns or forms, such as German, which has the male der, the female die, and the neutral das. American English has spent much of its time ignoring this habit even though the gender neutral they has existed for some time. Writers such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens have used the singular they in their writing. Geoff Nunberg of the National Public Radio points out that speaking the singular they has been accepted for some time such as when verbally asking Did they leave their purse behind? Prescriptive grammarians are more likely to attack the written word rather than a person speaking sentences like this. Nunberg states (2016), “But the Victorian grammarians made it a matter of schoolroom dogma that one could only say “Everybody has his failing,” with the understanding that “he” stood in for both sexes. As their slogan had it, “the masculine embraces the feminine.” Not only is this thinking ignoring a person’s desire, but it is also could be considered sexist, which Nunberg explains, was the reason why this was discredited in the 1970’s.

To his point, I grew up with individuals using the singular they regularly. One classmate would constantly refer to people by they instead of by name and she was constantly corrected by our teachers as it was not grammatically acceptable and could be construed as lazy. This is ignoring the fact that her grammar was easily understood and had a set of rules that descriptive grammarians would accept. Gasser notes, “In fact there is no evidence that people in some cultures speak in sloppier or more elegant or more monotonous ways than people in other cultures. And while languages do differ in striking ways, these different features seem to balance each other out. As far as we know, all languages are equally expressive, equally logical.” (qtd. in Kruse Ch. 1, p.8). This user was not being lazy, she was speaking with logic and was clear. They stole my pencil, is very clear when a teacher is breaking up a dispute between two students.
The media has been accepting of the singular they and them in recent years as several style guides and manuals have been updated to include these pronouns. As the American Dialect Society named the singular they as word of the year, the Washington Post added it to their style guide that same year. Bill Walsh, copy editor of the Post (2015), stated, “For many years, I’ve been rooting for — but stopping short of employing — what is known as the singular they as the only sensible solution to English’s lack of a gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun.” Now both the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style have been updated to include the singular they, them, and their.

Even though these have become acceptable in media and outlets, one caution that Grammar Girl’s Mignon Fogarty states (2017), standard test still do not recognize the use of these pronouns, so studying for test, students still have to think of these singular uses as wrong. As language evolves, teachers often remain stuck on traditional prescriptive grammar because it is easier to explain to students these uses. For me, I want my students to understand that I will use their preferred pronouns, even if the test says they are wrong. I need my students to know that they can be themselves, but they need to understand that to succeed with the current rules in society, they will have to understand that it is wrong in this context. Fogarty does reassure teachers that this will probably change again in a couple of years.

Young people are extremely vulnerable due to changes in hormones and simply learning who they are that it is a kindness to be able to address them using their desired pronouns. It is common to see young people accidentally write the singular they on their homework as they attempt to tell a story. Teachers have often graded this as wrong, although there has been a movement as of late to correct this as we learn about family dynamics and home life. Parents who identify with they or them have reached out to teachers explaining the reasoning for the child’s mistake. In this case, mistake is used as a loose term.

Across the country, universities and schools alike are adapting gender neutral pronouns and are encouraging regular use of these pronouns rather than gender specific pronouns. Washington University in St. Louis released an article based on a report the University conducted on gender neutral pronouns. In the article, How and Why We Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns, it even asks people who find an opportunity to update pronouns, to contact the school with specific information such as the website to allow the school the opportunity to correct the pronouns to they or them. The report itself goes on to site that the gender spectrum has been accepted by various psychological and psychiatry organizations based on studies from around the country. Quoted within the article, the 2017 report “Use of Singular They in Academic Writing and Communications: Background and Recommendations for the Brown School” by Vanessa Fabbre and Peter Coogan states, “Accepting the use of singular they in academic and professional writing is the responsible choice for social work and public health programs because it recognizes the gender spectrum and aligns with the National Association of Social Workers’ (2008) core value of the “dignity and worth of the person” and the principle of treating “each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity.”” Brown School is actively asking students and faculty to use the correct pronouns based on this report on everything including resumes that students are making for future jobs. This will overflow into employers as they will begin to see an influx of resumes and cover letters with pronouns that may not match the sex of an individual, making them use the correct pronouns in the hiring process and work force.

For someone who identifies as something not on spectrum that society has accepted for so long, the use of correct pronouns for individuals is incredibly important. These moments I hear my correct pronouns result in a spark of hope for myself. The fact that the media and style guides have adapted to accept individuals on different spectrums is a major step for society to take forward. As President Trump moves to dismiss the needs of individuals that identify as gender neutral or transgender, language becomes more and more important. While people have used the singular they for a long time, the majority of these people have done so in a different format than the American Dialect Society intended, it should not be a stretch for the majority of society to adopt these new norms.

Science has told us that a gender spectrum is a very real thing. From brain scans to psychology, evidence points to this thinking as normal and that the brain is more closely related to the identified spectrum of that individual. For me, my counselor is always encouraging the use of my own pronouns. It is a new line of thinking. Fifteen years ago, even though I knew what I was labeled as was wrong, I couldn’t accept my own pronouns. Terms have evolved and psychology has accepted that gender and sex are different terms. There are people who will ignorantly argue against this despite what the scientific evidence states and those are the people who will never understand the purpose of the singular they or them, despite probably using the term in their own livelihood.
Prescriptive grammarians will disagree on the appropriateness of the singular they or them, even if being used as a preferred pronoun as an individual. They would deem it to be a lazy use even though descriptive grammarians and educators around the country would disagree as it has been accepted into grammar guides as society accepts different norms. This despite the fact that it has been used in conversation and in plays going back to William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Should I be corrected by a prescriptive grammarian, I will refer them back to the likes of Chaucer or Jane Austen. In turn, should a student of mine ever question their ability to use their own gender-neutral pronoun, I’ll be able to point out that it has been used for centuries and would be accepted by descriptive grammarians as well as academic institutions around the world.

Someday. Someday I’ll use my preferred pronouns every day. Until then, I can accept any pronouns an individual prefers to use and do my best to teach the changing thinking of acceptability. Before this class, I had trouble accepting myself. This class has not changed me, but I started counseling for the second time in my life during this class for an issue that has changed drastically in today’s world. It was a thought of mine to use the singular they or them over the last few months, but it did not fit me. That does not mean that it doesn’t fit others. As NCLB continues to be repealed and teachers stop teaching to tests, teachers can start teaching to what is acceptable. Media and entertainment can continue to help normalize language that is more fitting to individuals across the gender spectrum which, in turn, will seep into everyday conversation. What foreign languages mastered eons ago, American English is only in the infancy stage of accepting. I’m hoping for a rapid maturation.

Bibliography
Marquis, M. (2016, January 09). 2015 Word of the Year is singular “they”. Retrieved from https://www.americandialect.org/2015-word-of-the-year-is-singular-they
Tobia, J. (2016, May12). Gender Neutral Pronouns: How to Use the Right Pronouns. Retrieved from http://time.com/4327915/gender-neutral-pronouns/
Nunberg, G. (2016, January 13). Everyone Uses Singular ‘They,’ Whether They Realize It Or Not. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2016/01/13/462906419/everone-uses-singular-they-whether-they-realize-it-or-not
Kruse, Martha. Short Course in Descriptive Linguistics. 2018.
Andrews, T.M. (2017, March 28). The singular, gender-neutral ‘they’ added to the Associated Press Stylebook. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/03/28/the-singular-gender-neutral-they-added-to-the-associated-press-stylebook/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6b9f91fb46ea
Fogarty, M. (2018, October 05). Gender-Neutral Pronouns: Singular ‘They’. Retrieved from https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/gender-neutral-pronouns-singular-they
How and Why We Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns. (2018, January 30). Retrieved from https://brownschool.wustl.edu/News/Pages/How-and-Why-We-Use-Gender-Neutral-Pronouns-.aspx
Fabbre, V., & Coogan, P. (n.d.). Use of Singular They in Academic Writing and Communications: Background and Recommendations for the Brown School (Rep.). Retrieved from https://brownschool.wustl.edu/About/Documents/Web_Use of Singular They in Academic Writing and Communications.pdf.

Life Lately

If you had told me in August that I would be in counseling, coming out to a complete stranger basically, and coming out in papers I’m writing for school, I would have thought you were out of your mind.  Or I was out of my mind.  One of us would be losing it.  Yet here we are and it is freaking fantastic.

I’ve got an incredibly long journey ahead of me, I’m not naive.  I love my counselor.  I make a lot of mistakes and am still shy with her, but she is open and easy to talk to, and best of all, accepts me for me.  She reassures and provides meaningful feedback, helping me to create goals.  For a long time, I’ve searched out things to contradict who I am, to try and prove what I knew about myself was wrong.  Even the little things I did, the lies I told myself, I wasn’t fooling myself.  I even took every “Am I Transgender” quiz I could find, which is not scientific in any way, but I wanted to be accepted by my parents.  That isn’t going to happen.

Starting back in school for the first time in eight years, I was nervous.  My family grew in August.   My stress ramped up exponentially.  I literally didn’t know how to process my feelings anymore.  I’ve felt like I was being slowly suffocated for years.  Now I was being crushed in a landslide.  I have not dug out yet, but at least things have stopped to the point where I can breathe through the grit and grime.  I’m coughing still, yet things are clearing up, if only slightly.

What I have discovered the last few months is that my thoughts are really normal for trans individuals.  Doesn’t really make it easier, but it does provide comfort to know that I’m not alone.  For example, I hate being naked in front of anybody, including myself.  Turns out, that is fairly common.

This semester I have been observing a class of high school students for the first time as I study to become a teacher.  I  wasn’t expecting to have happen what happened.  I was able to observe a teacher who has a spark that is missing from some educators.  She is amazing.  Awkwardly, I emailed her and asked if she wanted to be friends, admitting that if she said yes, I would have a follow-up email with a bunch of information.  When she said she’d love to, I told her my story.   This morning I had coffee with her and our conversation was amazing.  I think she is my sister now, weird as that may sound.

As my semester winds down, I’m sad to see the students for the last time.  For my English class, I had to write a paper on a language topic of my choosing.  I chose to write about the use of the singular they/them in American English.  These are not my pronouns, but part of the paper I had to write about is why I chose that topic.  I could have changed my topic.  I thought about it strongly.  Instead I came out to my teacher after verifying that the paper wouldn’t become public domain.  I am not ready for that.

Things are far from perfect.  At least right now, I feel like I can survive, maybe even come out on top.  Where things lead, I’m not sure, but I’m a bit excited.

To Quote My Child, “What’s going on?”

First off, forgive my grammar as I blog from my phone. I have a ton on my mind and feel like sharing.

Whenever something doesn’t go the way my child thinks it should go, they like to ask the question: What’s going on with it?  There is a lot going on with me right now and its not good or bad, just a lot.

There was a time I moved 14 hours away. I thought about disappearing. Letting my lease go and becoming Natalie. Not telling anyone from my life, just finding freedom. I couldn’t do it.

Yes I have depression and anxiety.  I’ve been sort of treated before. I’ve seen two people in the past, one of which made me feel like a science experiment and the other I saw once as she made me feel more guilty than I normally do.  The first spent our sessions asking questions like, how would I decorate my room or apartment.  She really avoided personal questions.  The other, religion came into play. The last time I saw someone was about 10 years ago.

Now I’m going to someone new, someone who I know for a fact is accepting.  My problem, I’m still depressed and dealing with anxiety, but also confused and angry.  I’m trans. I know that. I can’t change that. And everywhere I go I feel judged even though I’m not out.  When I hear people judging others (has happened with a particular coworker twice in the last two days) I get so angry.  I want to scream and shout at her ignorance.  But in my workplace, she is in the right.  I don’t feel safe.  I never feel safe.  I’m not even sure what the word means. I’m terrified. My work is not safe for someone who is not a conservative flag waiver.

Honestly I feel like a phantom going through the motions. Like I’m on the outside of my body watching some joyless person do what is expected, but I have no real control. I’m helpless.

I bought a dress this week. It was my birthday, so why not? I drove to a city an hour away to do it so no one could recognize me. I wore it out with makeup and for a few wonderful hours, felt content.  Then I had to return.

To what?  What am I returning to? Who am I?  I’m getting lost and I can’t process it anymore.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be out, but god do I need to be me. I need to know me. I desperately want to be out.  Under my skin, there is someone clawing to break free, to explore who they are, and I have to lock that person away.  Its time I get help again.  I’m excited and terrified. I had an anxiety attack after calling the place.  People wonder why I’m so quiet in my life. If you can’t be you, can’t afford a slip up, how can I say anything?

Yes people know me as Natalie. Do you know how often I’m actually called Natalie by those who know? I can probably count the number of times on one hand.  Right now, I’m a disaster.  But that is only right now.  I’m confident in my future with who I’ll be seeing. I’m just not confident in what my future holds.