Breaking 50k

Getting out last week’s post felt really good, but there was no real update there, so here we go!

The QWF has a wonderful resourced called the Hire-A-Writer directory for people interested in coaching, editing, feedback, etc. Many of the faces there are familiar to me from social gatherings, and a friend of mine recommended Elise Moser from her own experience.

Many of the chapters of my novel have been workshopped on an individual basis, often submitted in pairs of consecutive chapters, but I needed someone to look at a larger piece and tell me whether I’m on the right track. I communicated with Elise, who put me at my ease immediately. After a brief exchange to clarify what I was looking for, I submitted the first six chapters of the novel and tried to put it from my mind and work on other things.

I got feedback a lot quicker than I expected! The short of it is, I am heading in the right direction, even if I have a lot of ground to cover. Elise provided excellent points for me to work on, and as a result I’ve drafted a new opening chapter. This makes my third attempt at beginning this novel, which is fine; the beginning is the most important part. It determines whether a reader continues along this journey with me or moves on to something else.

I’m submitting to my primary writing group, and I can’t wait to hear how they receive the new chapter. I have Elise’s notes for the remainder of the opening chapters, but I’ve been focusing my efforts on completing the rough draft. I have pushed past 50,000 words and nearly completed part two of three; I have seven more chapters outlined and that’s it. The rough draft as currently outlined will be complete.

Facebook was kind enough to remind me that it’s been a year since I sat down and outlined this book. I had recently returned to Louisiana to visit family and those experiences were fresh in my mind. I had been cultivating ideas of home and belonging ever since I moved here to Quebec, some eleven years ago. It feels like I built a framework then, and I have been steadily adding to it for a year so that now I have something that is beginning to take shape.

As slow as progress feels sometimes, I can look back on this and feel proud.

In other news, I’ve been invited to perform a story that appears in Claire at a special pride edition of Confabulation! Tomorrow night, I will be telling the story of how I met Mathieu, which began a chain of events that led to me moving from Lafayette, Louisiana to Blainville, Quebec. Come hear the tale at le Ministère tomorrow at 9:30pm!

Pride

I have been struggling since June to put words to my feelings about Pride. It’s taken me a while to get where I am with my sexuality, contrary to the idea I had when I was younger where I would come out, maybe get gay married, and that would be it. Turns out there’s a lot more to the story!

My most significant coming out was a few weeks shy of my sixteenth birthday. I spent the day with my girlfriend of nine months, Whitney. This was a rare treat for us; we lived 45 minutes apart by car, and neither of us had one. I have very fond memories of that day, but when I came to my realization, I felt I had to tell her. I’d been a shitty boyfriend and kept things from her before, I wanted to be honest.

It was a relief to say the words out loud, but I felt so guilty for disappointing her.

One thing I would like straight people to know is that you never stop coming out. New acquaintances, managers and colleagues in the workplace, complete strangers even. You get better at it, but there’s always that moment of hesitation before you say it because you wonder how that person will react. Will it change the relationship that you have? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter; you need to be true to yourself. But we always fear that change, or the idea of losing someone who cannot accept who we are.

I moved to Quebec, where coming out was part of my backstory: “I moved here to be with my husband,” I would say. I almost came out during a job interview when the recruiter was talking about diversity and acceptance being company values, but a small voice stopped me. A voice of shame that has been with me since before I knew I was gay.

I was raised in rural Louisiana, I grew up attending mass on Sundays, I have even had to listen to teachers denounce the effects of homosexuality on the sanctity of the nuclear family (nevermind that I am a child of divorce, like many of my friends growing up). There was nothing to be proud of, only a label that meant I could never fit in. How could these people really love the sinner when they hated the sin so much?

I went into university leaning into my gayness. I started my first semester with purple hair; I am so upset there is no photographic evidence of this. I spoke in a very animated fashion with lots of hand movements. Before long, I was being introduced the same way to new people: “Have you met my gay friend Lukas?”

Oh. Two months into a new and exciting phase of my life and I’m the Gay Guy. Still clinging to my shame, I didn’t want my sexuality to be the thing I was known for. I wanted to be that nerdy guy, or the fantasy buff, or, “Hey, he’s got great taste in music!” I got hung up on my identifier like I was in a cheesy high school movie. Picture a scene of me listening to Dashboard Confessional while crying over a boy and cutting my hair into a garbage bin. My stylist at the time loved that.

I was already trying to “tone it down” by the time I met Mathieu online. You may have seen the story at Confabulation: boy meets boy, boys get married, boy moves to Canada. Now I was a Responsible Young Adult, with a Husband, so I needed to work on a House with a Picket Fence and two-point-whatever kids. I decided to put away childish things, while my husband decorated our home with Hello Kitty clocks and posters and waffle irons.

Without understanding at all what I was doing, I began to emulate the image of married men I had known. Men who do not show emotions other than anger. They certainly don’t get teary-eyed during emotional scenes of animated films, or even watch cartoons in the first place. They don’t have stuffed animals decorating bookshelves. They don’t express affection, and even when their homosexuality is tolerated, they shouldn’t push it by ever kissing a man in front of someone else. Not even a peck on the lips is allowed.

The marriage ended for many reasons, but the biggest culprit in my mind is this false image I was trying to realize. I was trying to act out what I thought our marriage should be instead of understanding that it could have been whatever we wanted it to be. There was a lot going on that I didn’t have the vocabulary for: toxic masculinity, intimacy issues, and the growing notion of polyamory.

Freshly divorced, I moved from Blainville to Sainte-Rose. Now most interactions seemed to take place on the apps: Grindr, Growlr, Scruff. Ostensibly for meeting people, but everyone calls them the hookup apps. I learned how boredom can turn into an hours-long quest for sex, how validation can become addictive, and how awful it feels to be ghosted after making what feels like a genuine connection. I would delete the apps out of frustration, or because I’d agreed to be exclusive with a new boyfriend, only to come back weeks or months later, single and hungry to connect again.

After a few cycles of this, I started therapy. I learned how to talk about what I really want, how to manage my expectations, how to use the apps as the tools they are instead of getting pulled into long nights and disappointing encounters. I started embracing this idea of being who I am without a care for what people think, and being rewarded for this in encounters with new people. Now when some guy ghosts me, I only spend a moment wondering if I did something wrong before moving on. Why should I spare a thought for someone who decided I wasn’t someone they want around?

This process of learning to celebrate who I am has helped me understand that I want to emphasize what makes me different. I will be that gay guy, the guy who watches cartoons, the guy who uses stuffed animals as home decor. I have seen children looking at the bright and colourful buttons on the shoulder strap of my bag and I have thought, Yes! You can decorate your life like this, too! Be weird, now and in your thirties!

In short, I have found pride. It has been a struggle, and it continues to be a fight in a world that seems to prefer that we sit down and shut up. I’ve started to say I’m done being polite, because I feel like I’ve held my tongue for too long while people say and do hateful things. By being silent, I stifle my own self-expression, and that only leads to more doubt and anxiety.

Do not apologize for who you are, do not let anyone tell you who you are, and do not let anyone try to change who you are ❤

Happy belated Pride!

Last weekend was the big weekend of Fierté Montréal, and the Village drew me in a couple times before I ran out of energy for it. Friday had me having supper with a friend from out of town, which led to a nostalgia tour of musical favourites as I walked to the bus and let my memories carry me away.

Saturday started a bit more low-key: brunch with the boyfriend, followed by meeting up with Lisanne for some serious writing. This time, we weren’t going to get carried away with conversation. We stuck to five-minute breaks between 25-minute stretches of silence, and I got out the entire second chapter of my novel. During our second break, I had shared a bit of what I was writing, and some of Lisanne’s questions led to me adding a bit more to the second chapter than I had originally planned.

We retreated to the park afterward, sat in the grass beneath a tree, and talked about writing and life. I think I liked this arrangement better than our last meeting; we got more work done while still being able to socialise and enjoy each other’s company afterward. I’m sure we’ll do so again soon.

From there, I met some friends for an afternoon of snacks and drinking. Then we headed off for the show in the park, me thinking I was entirely too drunk to be bothered by the crowds. In the beginning, it was fine, though I kept complaining that the music was too much soul and not enough beat. Then the act changed, the beat drew a bigger crowd, and I peaced out.

I only meant to step to a less densely-packed area for a moment, take a breath, maybe grab a bite, and head back in. Instead, I found my feet carrying me out of the park, my thumbs texting my friends to let them know that I’m fine, but I’m leaving. I wasn’t really fine, but I went for the shorthand. I knew I was going to be fine and that even if I was in a state, it would pass, and I didn’t want them to worry over me. Enjoy the show, but I’ve gotta get out of here.

I felt a little stupid being bothered by it, but I’ve long known that I’m a homebody, and my weekend had already been filled with social activities. I could have figured that my reserves would be low and I would’t be able to properly deal with stressors. Still, I did go out for a little bit, I heard some good music, I sang in a crowd with friends. That’s a win.

For the end of Pride Weekend, I had planned on going to the parade, but I didn’t feel up to crowds again. I opted instead for a quiet afternoon with my boyfriend at a friend’s place. We watched the Pride episode (a Pride episode? Did they do more than one?) of Queer as Folk, made comments on how much has changed since that show originally aired, and ate entirely too much junk.

I came home and ended up doing some more work on Claire. I was describing a conversation that was happening during a drive, so I decided to pull up the google and take a virtual trip down familiar roads. It’s the first time I’ve really done this, a good dozen years after the time when I drove those roads most often. The experience was surreal, and really helped me pace the conversation and weave in little details, some versimilitude. I know these roads. My school bus used to take me down them, so that even before I started driving, I had memorised their twists and turns.

There was even a memory around a certain twist, and as I wondered if it was too dark and too real to include, I wrote it in. I can think about it when I’m editing. I’m going to have a lot to consider in terms of where I draw the line between fact and fiction.