I'm a queer, nonbinary/trans creator. My pronouns are they/them.
I've been moving away from thinking of myself exclusively as a writer and as more of a general artist. Writing is my main medium, but I've found, over the last decade, that the more I try to fit myself neatly into a label, the less satisfied I am with it.
My work has included everything from fiction, to poetry, to scripts, to essays. I'm interested in trying my hand at podcasting and making videos. I've done some visual art, but only dabbling, really. I'll never stop drawing, but I'm not dedicated enough to it for it to deserve any kind of recognition (well, other than a friend asking me to draw a tattoo for her--that was pretty rad).
I'm also a full time student. I am pursuing two bachelor's degrees--one in Psychology, and one in Modern Language and Culture. I hope to enter a doctoral program in psychology after graduation. I'm a nontraditional student who survived five years of severe depression and an emotionally abusive marriage, and I'm proud as hell of what I've managed to accomplish since I started to rebuild my life two years ago.
If you want to see my old work and some really bizarre commentary on my old life, you can see my old account, SurrealCachinnation. I lost access to it and, honestly, starting fresh feels right anyway because I've changed so much since I was last active. If you knew me before and have looked at all these changes and still want to be friends because you've decided that I'm not a special snowflake or a crazy commie (I mean, I am a commie--just a sane one), shoot me a note. I'd love to hear from you.
My favorite part of DragonCon this year was having an existential crisis over seeing my ex at a Steven Universe sing-along event. He looks like a stereotypical hipster geek, so I feel a slight adrenaline boost every time I see someone with a similar likeness. If I were to describe him to a sketch artist, I’d say “y’know, he looks like most male geeks who are around thirty who you see at DragonCon. He’s on the chubby side, has a hipster haircut and a scraggly beard that looks like it belongs on the crotch of an 80s porn star, and wears a kilt.” Except he wears it all the time, not just to conventions, because it’s about 85% of his personality. The other 15% is being “one of those guys women feel comfortable talking to.” When I first saw him at this sing-along, I wasn’t entirely sure it was him, because all I had to go on was the back of his meaty head and the fact that he was, indeed, wearing glasses. And the fact that his earlobes have a pretty distinctive shape, which I wish I could forget, because my god, what a waste of space in my brain that information is. My girlfriend had to confirm it for me after getting a better view of his face.
The event itself was entertaining. A friend of mine who always cosplays Steven was there. My girlfriend was, of course, there. The guy who sat on my other side was a friendly, middle aged man who enthusiastically sang along and reminded me that Steven Universe is, truly, an all-ages show. I wish I could get my dad to watch it after he spent my childhood critiquing the lousy fathers in every cartoon I watched, because Greg Universe is the best cartoon dad ever and their relationship reminds me so much of ours. I worshipped my dad when I was a kid, much in the way that Steven looks up to his dad, knowing he was a rock star. At the event, they played most of my favorite songs, and I sang my heart out even though I don’t think I’m all that good of a singer. There’s just something about the music from that show that can lift your spirits no matter how crappy of a day you’re having, and I can’t help but imagine me as a child coming home from school, tuning into this show, and visiting their awesome Gem friends after spending the day with their bullies. It’s hard to imagine anyone legitimately hating this show if they’ve actually taken the time to watch it. And it’s hard to imagine encountering a fellow Steven Universe fan and not becoming instant best friends.
Sitting next to my ex in the audience was a young woman. I don’t know her. She was cute. She sat up straight and watched the screen, singing along with all of the songs. My ex stared down at his phone the entire time and didn’t open his mouth once—not to sing, and not to talk to her. I knew they were together because I recognized myself in her. She was so happy to be at DragonCon, participating in a fandom she loved, and happy to have a sweet nerdy boy by her side. She wished he’d participate because, seriously, why come along if you’re just going to be on your phone the entire time? She gets it—phones are great, and it’s cool being able to access the world with a small device that fits in your pocket. But what could possibly be more interesting than her and this energy-filled room? Something mildly amusing on Reddit, she guessed. How can she keep his attention? Is she not enough?
Yeah, I know—I’m projecting like crazy here. I’m taking all of the insecurities I had about my relationship with kilt guy and applying them to this total stranger based on watching them sit together without interacting for an hour. Sometimes my girlfriend and I don’t interact for a while—we’re busy people with busy lives, and we’ll be in the same room together working independently and an hour is nothing at all. For all I know, they could have stayed up all night talking about whatever it is that an attractive young woman and an article of clothing have to discuss. Maybe she’s just using him for sex. I honestly wouldn’t judge her for it, because I’ll grant that he does have a symmetrical face, which indicates a lack of childhood illness and therefore pretty good genes to pass along. Seriously, after studying human sexuality and learning about why humans find certain characteristics attractive, it’s all I can come up with to explain how he gets so many sexual partners. Facial symmetry. And, okay, sometimes his jokes land well and he can be pretty funny.
I can’t help but poke fun at kilt guy because I gave him five years of my life that I can’t get back. That’s a substantial amount of time. It’s on the short end of substantial, but still, I could lose my mind thinking about how much stuff I could have gotten done in that period of time if I hadn’t been severely depressed for most of it. I try not to demonize him because I like to think I’m better than that. But at the same time I’m like “fuck that, if he gets to go around talking shit about me, why can’t I fight back?” Women—and nonbinary people who the outside world perceives as women—have to be perfect. We have to take the high road. Always. Because if we don’t, when men we dated call us “crazy,” people might think it’s a credible claim, and then we have nothing. I saw a post on Facebook this week that asked how many abusers are running around and calling their victims their “crazy ex,” and my first thought was “all of them.” Kilt guy certainly thinks of me that way, and there’s a good chance the guy I dated before him is doing the same. My friends are all someone’s “crazy ex.” Or, if their abusers weren’t romantic partners, they’re some other flavor of “crazy.” “My daughter is crazy, so she doesn’t talk to me anymore.” “She was my best friend, but she’s crazy, and we’re not friends anymore.” “I didn’t assault this girl, she’s just crazy.” After five years of kilt guy calling me crazy, the self-destructive part of my brain started to believe it. It’s taken two years of being away from him just to start to reverse the effect. But when you go through trauma, your brain adapts for survival, and when you’re safe again, some of those changes end up being maladaptive. I can’t just change it back. It’s going to take more time, and I have to accept that, but it’s incredibly frustrating to feel like I have no control over my own thoughts.
Even though I obviously can’t stand kilt guy, I find myself sympathizing with this young woman who was with him at the con. I can’t mock her, and I can’t demonize her. She hasn’t done anything to me. I’m sad to see that she’s hurting herself by settling for kilt guy, like so many before her. I’m sad that he’s probably using the same manipulation tactics on her, and she probably hasn’t got a clue that he’s doing it, because he does this thing where he alternates between ignoring you and making you feel like the most important person in the world. I’m sad that men get to call their exes “crazy” and there isn’t enough solidarity among women and nonbinary folks for us to warn each other about people like kilt guy. If I went up to her and urged her to run because the guy on her arm is an extremely unhealthy narcissist, he’d say “oh, don’t mind her, that’s just my crazy ex.” And the odds are pretty good that she’d believe him, because who am I to her?
All of these thoughts ran through my head in a relatively short amount of time. When the event ended, I stood in the back of the room with my girlfriend and our fabulous, Steven-cosplaying friend, who was collecting donations for an organization that promotes adult literacy. We sang Be Wherever You Are and waved goodbye to folks as they left the room. I didn’t say a word to kilt guy or the young woman who accompanied him when they walked past us. I hoped that she enjoyed the rest of the con. I hoped that she was stronger and had more self-confidence than I did when I was in her shoes. I felt a weird connection with her, both because of kilt guy and because, of all the places I could have run into them, it was at a Steven Universe sing-along. This is the show that my girlfriend showed me two years ago when kilt guy was ignoring me and making me feel like shit; we both wanted a break from running around downtown Atlanta, so we looked it up and watched the first couple of episodes. It’s the show that I watched as I was falling in love with her. It’s the show that comforted me as I started to pick myself back up, dust myself off, and start to sort through the feelings about my sexuality I’d been suppressing. It’s the show that my girlfriend and I continue to bond over, eagerly awaiting new episodes and crying over all the beautiful, incredibly queer relationships in it. And even if kilt guy shows up for sing-alongs and fan panels at cons, he can't take any of that from me.
Fail ForwardThe shadow of the Eiffel Tower bent
Heavy the glare of Alexandre Eiffel's tower, though
Eiffel Tower has but quaint purpose
...but purpose BUILT-the Eiffel Tower's iron stands still...
Emancipation of my own creation only Eiffel's towering visitation came
I, as Alexandre's namesake had lost my Eiffel Tower: veni vidi vici
Friends proclaimed, even now Eiffel towers above myself
Flung from the Eiffel Tower losing my iron ring in that shameful jumpoff
Everyone ran from my aura to the fair Paris grounds of the Eiffel Tower's make
Leveraging lethally my love's languish, I laughed, leaving Eiffel's towering level
... A champion created countering Eiffel-towers threaten that trained theatric...
Today no delay, I shall climb above Eiffel, towered bewilderment
Onward! I'll catch my own iron ring from this Eiffel Tower. No
Was Eiffel's tower wrought as he wore that same ring? He was no such fellow
Eiffel's towering construct was born through will alone, no pointless symbols did he own; perhaps w
How To Be Me (a slinky)Sometimes I feel old, like a fly on the wall of the present,
too out of touch to fly in unconventional ways, during days
spent doing suspicious things, like flying through pictures
on Tumblr, not knowing how to interpret their fly fashion
or see or show my own. Art depicts all things from a fly to a lion
and sometimes I'm cryin' to fly from there, it's so square
to see a human fly have its thoughts laid bare on the screen
of green photos and written confessions that fly nowhere.
I'm just killing time. I throttle it, leave it lay wasting for flies,
and, there, I see how a fly lives, under the scope of eyes
dimmed by computer screens, folks who fly under pseudonyms,
as do I, there, waiting for the next part to fly open and free.
Then, I will finally fly to you. I'll leave this wait behind and find
a way to live again, maybe be young again - or, no, not to fly
back in time, nor be a fly on the wall, but to live this time, each
moment I fly, while I go see you again and be us, just like we
ghost tour (a slinky)if you travel along richmond's bridge road by ghost tram,
ghostly commuters suspended by vinyl straps, you'll clatter
through the ghost of industry, factories & shopfronts
like well-smacked gobs, the weathered ghosts of pop stars
peeling off their faces & aging skinheads ghosting past
what's left of the vine hotel [now itself a ghost, dartless
& rife with vegans, menus ghost-written by some TV
celebrity twat] & go by the infamous ghost-house at 117
where martha needle converted her entire family to ghosts
[& in 1896 gave up her own ghost, at the business end
of a sisal rope] -- ride on through the 90's, ghost-like
teen spirit, grunge & recession, the whole country a ghost
of itself & hope a yarn written in the dust of ghost towns
[may as well ghost through the age of millennials]
& the ghost of you will find me by the yarra where we lost
a chunk of '86, under the ghost-gums, drunk on everything
Hi! My name is Kaelyn. My pronouns are they, them, and their. (Sigh.) Why is that so difficult to spit out every time? Most people don't understand what it means to be nonbinary. "Woman" isn't exactly inaccurate, but it feels so limiting, like there's more to me and that word can never adequately describe who I am. "Man" isn't right, either. I'm just me.
People have always expected me to break my bones just to fit into a box that’s the wrong size and shape. It's suffocating in there, and all I can hear are the echoing, reverberating voices that keep telling me that it's unladylike to sit with my legs apart, and girls aren't supposed to play rough, and knights are usually boys, don't you want to be a princess instead?
For so long, I guess as a misguided way of rebelling against the "girl box," I rejected everything associated with girlhood: dresses, dolls, makeup, princesses, and the ubiquitous color pink. If being in the "girl box" made me miserable, surely I should just be as un-girl as I possibly could, right? All that did was get kids to call me gay like it was an insult, which was all the rage in the early-mid 2000's, along with all my favorite queerphobic slurs. Nah, I'm not gay at all. I like boys, I promise. I'm a real girl. Even though... I don't... want to be one?
I have this inner critic constantly prodding and asking me in this bitchy, accusatory tone, "Are you really queer?" She's this perfect girl in my head, shouldering the burden of all the things society tried to force me to be. She wears foundation and heels (shudder).
But I am queer--queerer than a three dollar bill! I mean... look at me. I have a super queer, trans girlfriend who I think is the hottest person on Earth, I rock an undercut, and I have a pretty impressive collection of flannel shirts and newsie caps.
"Could you be any more of a butch lesbian stereotype? You're obviously just doing this for attention."
I haven't hung out with a straight, cisgender person who isn't my biological relative in months.
"That doesn't make you queer. You're faking it. You're crazy!"
Can you please just SHUT UP in there? That’d be great.
"You aren't good at being a girl because you're a dyke, if anything. You're definitely not trans. Quit acting like a special snowflake."
This is the part where my girlfriend would typically say "Stop picking on someone I love, nerd!" and snap me out of it. Because she knows it's bullshit, and I know it's bullshit, and she knows I know it's bullshit. It helps. It really does.
The critic can be pretty persistent, but every time I start to cave and I almost believe what she's screaming at me, I think about the awkward child who, although they didn't have the vocabulary to describe what they were feeling, knew they weren't simply a little girl. And I remember how isolated they felt, how they might as well have had I AM A FREAKISH SPACE ALIEN tattooed on their face because they were a bright, dazzling, rainbow beacon and everyone could see it. And I want to shout Kaelyn, for fuck's sake, there is nothing wrong with you! You are not a space alien. It doesn't matter if those boys don't think you're pretty because you aren't even into them, and it doesn't matter if those girls think you're weird because they're straight anyway and they're bitches, did you even watch Mean Girls? They don't matter! You will find better people. You deserve better people.
And the child would reply with a million questions they never thought it was okay to ask, looking up at the tall, badass, visibly queer person in front of them with wonder. You mean I don’t have to do anything people tell me to do if I don't want to? I can dress like a boy and still paint my nails? I can be someone's knight in shining armor instead of being someone's princess?
Yes, child. You absolutely can.
My name is Kaelyn. My pronouns are they, them, and their. I'm proud as hell of the person I've grown into. You should be proud of yourself, too. You are not the only one in your shoes, but your story is as unique and as important as you are. Find your chosen family and lean on them as hard as you need to for support. And never, ever let anyone make you feel like you're not valid or not queer enough—especially your own bitchy inner critic. She doesn't know what she's talking about. There is no wrong way to be you.