So I am trying to fix a story that is sort of about going home again when the things that made it a home are gone. The characters are in the midst of a conflict that is old news, something they have fought about and struggled with for years and I find it difficult to write about the smaller pieces that keep an old battle alive. It is very much a game of how to name the things the character accepts as true, what colors their reality. It reminds me of a discussion that I had the chance to sit in on when I was still in high school about how giving a name to an old battle is sometimes empowering and sometimes impossible.
It was a sort of town hall with a group called Positive Images that operated out of the North bay in California. Before I knew the difference between transgender and transsexual and the concept of gender queer had not entered my vocabulary these folks were talking about what already is and what happens when you start to name something that has never ceased to exist. The topic was how to build a supportive program that recognized the “new” identity of the trans community.
At the time Will & Grace was incredibly popular and being called a break through for having an openly gay main character (see Eric McCormack’s 500+ interviews about how totally not gay he is in real life). One of the women who helped to facilitate the group said “That’s great, what does the character do for a living?” Silence. “What I am looking forward to is the day when the story isn’t about him being gay, or her coming out. I want story’s about FTM truck drivers who loose weight, and lesbian teachers who start a home business. When is it going to stop being about our genitals and who we sleep with?”I understood her to mean that a sexual identity and a gender assignment are not the beginning or end of a story, but part of the larger life of real people. The things that color someone’s reality. This idea has clearly stuck with me.
One of the questions that come up again and again is how to name something that already is a part of a character’s life. Often the relationships we have with our struggle’s are defined by who was with us, and who is still staying away. How does one write about the old grudges and half acceptance that we all hold on to?