On Monday evening I returned home from a grueling evening class, intending to “just quickly” check my social media before turning in. Now, normally I am a lot less active on Twitter than I am on Tumblr, but I like to check in and make sure that my account has something on it other than links to my blog posts. It was on this occasion that I discovered the hashtag #OwnYourOwn.
Own Your Own was started by the YA lit blog Interrobang and championed by Kaye M., a Muslim American YA writer and intersectional feminist activist. The core concept of OYO is to further the discussion of diversity in publishing, highlighting the perspective of writers and creators from marginalized communities. To own your own is the ability to write your marginalized experience into your creative work, without fear and without apologies.
For me, this tag came at an especially relevant time. Strange Horizons has been championing their upcoming Big Queer Issue for some time, an opportunity that I pounced on to, if not get published, at least use as an impetus to produce new original content. While the process of writing and editing this work went surprisingly smoothly, deciding on what to write turned out to be the difficult part.
I’m queer. I’m bisexual and aromantic in my orientation, and nonbinary in my gender identity. I have tried to write in the past about my experiences with the representations of bisexuality and nonbinary gender in SFF, with little success. I am apparently still angry, angry in such a way that hampers my creative expression and tangles my words and my thoughts both.
In short: bisexual characters, when not presented as predatory and depraved, are still often depicted as sexual omnivores. Both nonbinary and bisexual characters appear frequently as alien or inhuman, or else are othered in more coy ways, such as Captain Jack Harkness’s “they do things differently in the future”. But I’m bisexual in the present, on planet Earth, and presumably I’m still a human. So as a bisexual nonbinary person, I want my representation in the form of human characters, not just aliens or elves.
As a writer, though, I function best in secondary world fantasy. When called upon to write a human character in present-day Earth — that is to say, someone like myself — my mental muscles seized up. This is what #OwnYourOwn meant to me, the knowledge that I wasn’t alone in this fear. Not just fear that my writing would be dismissed as part of a trend (h/t Samira Ahmed) or pulling a card (h/t Claribel Ortega), but that the writing itself would be somehow diminished.
I had somehow absorbed the idea that I could write about anyone but myself. #OwnYourOwn became an opportunity to try and disassemble this idea. If I can break it down to its component parts, maybe then I can overcome it.
I’d like to seal this essay with some deep insight or triumphant declaration, but I can’t. Instead I’ll just direct you to the #OwnYourOwn tag itself and some of the articles that sprang from it. There’s so much there to read and think about, enough to keep you (and me) busy for a while. Maybe long enough for me to figure out how the hell to write my own stories.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.