Even real life Christmas stories can be full of romance and love… #LGBT #ASMSG

Even real life Christmas stories can be full of romance and love… #LGBT #ASMSG

I came to think of my own Christmas story last night, my husband and our first celebration together

A bit of a personal Christmas story today, all real, no fiction. We’re approaching the half-way point in the Rainbow Advent Calendar which I hope you’re following. I’ve already read some really cute and some quite unique stories. And plenty more to go. If you missed it, don’t worry, all the open doors stay open for you. You can go back and read anytime you like. My husband and I met in 2001, on 9/11 (it’s an important piece as you’ll see soon), and after that, things moved quickly. We had been talking online and on the phone ever since our first contact in April that year, but our first date was 9/11, in part because he lived three hours away from me.

Christmas

Our official Christmas picture!

He moved in with me December 2 that same year. I’d spent the night up there in his apartment and on Sunday morning, we left it all, dumped the furniture (which was mostly old stuff anyway) and took what little belongings he owned, to my car and drove to Gothenburg. The lone exception was a bicycle, a gift from his parents we couldn’t fit. We’d be back for it later. I had known by then that Alex’s parents were quite homophobic but I wasn’t prepared for what I was in for. He’d also told me that Christmas had always been a dark period for him as he grew up, with his dad leaving for his mistress and/or both his parents drinking heavily. It was not a Holiday he looked forward to. For me, it had always been the opposite. I LOVE Christmas, and even when I was alone, I always had a tree. I was on a mission: I’d show Alex that Christmas was a time to enjoy, a beautiful time for family memories to be made, and yes for unconditional love.

I came to think of this last night, as our little family was enjoying a traditional Swedish Yule table, our Christmas version of the famous Smörgåsbord with delicacies ranging from herring to cold cuts, sausages, meatballs, ham, and fish, not to mention a great assortment of candies and desserts. It was one of the gelatine-pressed meat dishes that triggered my memories because back in 2001 I had bought food for a six-headed family and then some. I’d cooked the ham but most of the rest I’d bought in the story. I had, after all not spent that many years in Sweden and I wasn’t exactly an expert on Swedish cuisine.

 

Christmas

Our tree this year.

So I bought “Sylta”, which is minced meats in a form surrounded by gelatine. Quite delicious, but yeah, I’d bought a big sized pack and it was more than too much… We sat down, as tradition bids after noon, to eat. We didn’t get far, as the phone kept ringing off the hook. Alex’s father had left his mother for Christmas, to spend it with one of his mistresses, up north instead. So he called Alex and expected him to be home with his mom, rather than spending time with a [insert colorful expletive] faggot… After fifteen or so calls, we put the phone on voicemail and after thirty plus calls, we pulled the cord. Finally, we’d get some peace and quiet… But by then, the magic was gone, and so were our appetites.

 

On Boxing Day, we fled the country. No, not because of Alex’s dad, but because that year was special. After 9/11, people stopped flying, for fear of ending up in a building, and in New York, hotels stood empty. We got a super cheap deal and were able to fly to New York on Swissair and stay at a four-star hotel for almost no money at all. We had a great few days in the Big Apple, visiting the various sights, even going to Ground Zero to pay our respect to the many victims we’d watched live. We had a great New Year’s Eve dinner near Times Square and celebrated the arrival of 2002 with a million New Yorkers chanting “Fuck Bin Ladin!”

On our way back to Europe, I was able to upgrade us to Business Class, a first for Alex. That was our first Christmas, and I’m happy to report that seventeen years later, we still celebrate Christmas, we’ve made some amazing memories along the way, traveling with my family around the world. Now that we have a child of our own, the Christmas tree is back, and I’m currently sitting right in front of it, watching TV with a bed-ridden kid. Things turned out alright for us, which is the one thing you never really find out in those romances. They just kind of leave you hanging after that first kiss, right? Well, sometimes, IRL really can rock. Today, 11/12 also happens to be our wedding anniversary. Alex and I got hitched today, thirteen years ago. Sixteen years as a couple, thirteen as spouses, certainly longer than the average marriage these days…

Have a great week, and now go on and read some more Christmas stories. I know I will. There’s one I’m not quite done yet. Remember, my own Christmas story is due On Christmas Eve… Don’t miss it.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. The next issue is due next week. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: don’t forget to check back in on Friday, when I’ll be posting my release day review of Roe Horvat’s new book, a total must read, just like her last one…

Just when I thought I couldn’t write any more, inspiration struck… #AmWriting #ASMSG

Just when I thought I couldn’t write any more, inspiration struck… #AmWriting #ASMSG

Are my panic posts about my inability to write in fact a sign that my subconscious is ready to talk?

I can’t say, but I DO know that I did write my post on Monday ending it with these words:

“I know the story will write itself. Which also means, that I’ll stop writing this blog post, now, to get ready for my day.”

I had barely published the post before a string of ideas emerged, little things, big ideas, and pieces began to fall into place. So weird. I got a better sense about Martin, who he is, what he’s done etc. A second character came onto the scene, and even though I don’t know if they will end up friends or more, they’re currently talking about their lives, and I’ve managed to also resolve a weird conflict with a third character who had been there from the beginning. I’m sure I’ll get more from him, but the question is how.

Clara_Cover

I have had a mini-release, yesterday. My short story about Clara. More below

The interesting thing about “Martin” or Opus XV is that I don’t know where the book will take me. I think it’s going to be a fairly light-hearted story about old age, the ups, and downs, but nothing angsty, certainly not the way Disease was. What topics can we expect being dealt with? Well, there’s gerontophilia, the love for the elderly, which is a sensitive and still very taboo topic. But for now, it’s still a fringe topic, and I’m not sure it’ll get a more prominent space. I’ve already seen the current #MeToo discussions wiggle its way into the story, in an interesting way, although I don’t see that going very far. HIV is there, a “must” given the age of the characters. But I think mostly, two things I look forward to: Martin will at some point travel back in “time” to see if the love of his life is still alive. Not sure how that will turn out. I don’t even know if he actually is alive still. And we’ll be able to see how the relationship between Martin and Eugene evolves: friend or lover? Maybe that is the topic of the book. I’m not sure. And all the practical things to consider once you’re that age… Interesting. Can’t wait to get back to writing, but I doubt it’ll be today. I have a busy day ahead of me with my son’s Lucia recital in school, shopping, a full weekend at my mother in law’s, checking out a new car (long story) etc.

Oh, before I forget: you are still following the Rainbow Advent Calendar? It’s worth reading a free story every day of the advent countdown… And mine’s due December 24th, on Christmas Eve. I’m really pleased with Paul’s story… Don’t miss it.

Never Too Late - CoverAlso, my publisher and I have had a release this week, of an amazing anthology, called Never Too Late. Martin was inspired by the question of “LGBTQIA+ life after fifty”, and the stories in the anthology depict just that. I’m super proud of my own contribution, a short story about Clara, which loosely can be categorized as “genderqueer”. Here’s what two reviewers had to say about Clara:

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved by a story. It isn’t because the story is particularly sad. There’s some sadness in it, yes, but it is not tragic or depressing or even especially angsty. […] There are very few stories about non-binary characters. There are even fewer which are good. This one will forever have a special place in my heart because it felt so real. Right down to Clara’s presentation and sense of self, all the details were so perfect.”

“Hans Hirschi has written a story that is entertaining and touching, yes, but it’s also an excellent education in what being genderqueer/non-binary is like for Clara and others. It’s a story I’ll be recommending to anyone who tells me they don’t understand gender beyond male/female.”

Amazing reviews, and I’m glad I managed to get it right. I feel very strongly about the connection of gender identity, sexuality and gender roles. I invite you to read this amazing story and the anthology it is part of. Great authors, great stories!

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. The next issue is due next week. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend and enjoy the second advent.

Hans

PS: May I talk about Disease for just one last time? I just received another review this week, and the book has now received 36 five-star reviews on GoodReads, 27 five star reviews on Amazon and even the 3/4-star reviews are raving about the book. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a chance… You won’t regret it!

I can’t hear my voices anymore and without them I can’t write #AmNotWriting

I can’t hear my voices anymore and without them I can’t write #AmNotWriting

I can’t hear my voices anymore, and it’s driving me crazy

I don’t think this is the first time I’ve written about this. How life gets in the way of writing. In fact, just last week, I wrote a long post about all the things going on in my life that keep me from writing. It’s not made easier by all the posts from friends and fellow authors who write, write and write, posting regular updates on Facebook, particularly as the rest of us just had to endure another #NaNoWriMo. As always, I haven’t participated, because I don’t believe in the idea as a principle, but unlike other years, when I used the time after GRL to write, this year I can’t seem to get into the right mental framework.

Some of my author friends would say: “just write”, and maybe at some point, I will. Out of sheer desperation. The odd thing is that I’m not even trying to procrastinate. Quite the contrary. I want to write, more than anything, but I can’t. I have so much going on in my life right now that all I hear is my mundane everyday life. I can’t hear the voices of my characters. A few months ago, I had begun work on a new story about an octogenarian, living in a retirement home. I really like the character, and there is – I’m sure – plenty of stories to tell, but I just can’t seem to get into his head anymore. I don’t hear his voice, nor do I hear the voices of other characters.

Will it help me hear voices?

A dramatic and cloudless dawn sky over Gothenburg and the archipelago.

I’m trying to get ready for writing, and today is – would be – a good day to write. And who knows, I might actually succeed. I’m really not trying to procrastinate, unlike other times. I am trying to delay other tasks, like reading other people’s books, simply because I need to clear my mind for Martin.

For my spring release, I really need the manuscript ready by end of January, so I don’t have that much time left. And should you be one of the authors currently waiting for me to read and review a book of yours, worry not: I keep my promises. There are reasons why I don’t like to read while writing, the fear of plagiarism is omnipresent. If you had my brain, you’d understand… So I stay away from books when I write.

I need to clear my mind, and as crazy as it may sound, I need to focus very hard to listen in on the little voices in my head. Once Martin is allowed to emerge, I’ll be fine, and I know the story will write itself. Which also means, that I’ll stop writing this blog post, now, to get ready for my day.

By the way, you have heard about the Rainbow Advent Calendar by now, haven’t you? If not, read this post and join the fun… My story will be the climax of our little project, and I hope you’ll join us for some free reading, every day, until Christmas Eve. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans

It’s time for the Rainbow Advent Calendar: new #FREE stories every day #amreading #ASMSG

It’s time for the Rainbow Advent Calendar: new #FREE stories every day #amreading #ASMSG

Today we open door #1 of the Rainbow Advent Calendar, are you ready?

Rainbow Advent CalendarI didn’t hesitate a second when Alex Jane asked me if I was interested in joining them and some other authors in writing short Holiday and Christmas stories for a Rainbow Advent Calendar. No chocolates, no sweets to throw our physical bodies out of whack, but twenty-four (more actually, as you get two stories on some days) short Christmas and Holidays stories.

That’s a lot of stories: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 (plus three bonus stories on some days)

I chose to finish it all up, on Christmas Eve, the 24th. I’ve always loved Christmas, and less than an hour ago, we opened the first door on my son’s Advent Calendar, and he built a small toy steam engine, the first mini gift/toy in his Lego calendar. This is his fourth calendar, and yeah, it is of great help in getting him excited about Christmas, but more importantly (because the excitement part is easy…) to pace it, so he doesn’t burn out before the big night (or morning, as it is.)

Christmas has always been important to me, too, and Christmas scenes are included in many of my books:

  • Jonathan’s Hope: Do you remember Jonathan’s first “real” Christmas, and Dan’s struggle to make it special, given Jon’s past?
  • The Fallen Angels of Karnataka: Now here’s a Christmas scene that I won’t forget. Actually, there’s more than one, but I’m thinking about the one in Røros after Haakon returns from Paris… Cathartic and yeah, very important for the continuation of his life.
  • Jonathan’s Legacy: One of my favorite scenes is the big family Christmas in Orlando. I’m a sucker for big families, not sure why. I’m not normally comfortable around big groups… LOL
  • Last Winter’s Snow: There are several Christmases in the book, but my favorite one is definitely the first one Casper and Nilas celebrate up in Ammarnäs, with Nilas’s family. It’s as magical as the landscapes of Sápmi!
  • Disease: There are at least three Christmases described, from Hunter’s childhood experiences to his last celebration in Florida. It’s of course part of the sickness, to remember these special days, but it’s also a testament to Hunter sharing my passion for this day, that he seems able to hold on to these particular days better than others…
  • A Christmas Tale: A short story I once wrote back in 1990, in a different language (my only work available in three languages) when I was but a pup… But it captures why I think the holidays are so magical, as we get to follow a man who’s separated from his family for the first time for Christmas, being granted a special wish by the big guy himself…

If you want to get into the Christmas spirit some more, here’s what you can do:

  1. Join this group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1673039336093815/ and/or
  2. Head on over to this website, every morning at 7 am UK time (08:00 CET, 2 am Eastern): http://alexjane.info/rainbow-advent-calendar-2017/
  3. Tell your friends, share the joy of the Holidays. Thank you!

My Rainbow Advent Calendar story is ready, uploaded and waiting for you on Christmas Eve. It’s a short story about Paul, a man living in Chicago, alone, and on the night before Christmas, he’s visited by someone, in his dream… You don’t want to miss this, my homage to Charles Dickens, the writer of one of my favorite Yuletide stories…

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend and a peaceful and quiet start to the Holiday season.

I’m off to reading my first story, by DJ Juris…

Hans

Next time I moan, here’s why: a homemaker’s rant… #family #author #amwriting #equality

Next time I moan, here’s why: a homemaker’s rant… #family #author #amwriting #equality

I moaned and my husband asked me why: tale of a homemaker

I’ve been a homemaker for almost five years. In fact, I quit my last full-time job four years and eleven months ago. Since then, I’ve been primarily using the house as a base of operations for my consulting, my teaching gigs, and writing books. With that home office advantage also comes the expectation that I should look after said home. From the get-go, we set out some rules: we’d outsource the coarse cleaning to an outside cleaner coming by every two weeks, but I’d do the daily maintenance around the house and the household.

Yeah, I bake and cook, like any good homemaker.

Yeah, I bake and cook, like any good homemaker. The baking is fun, and it’s nice to see the happy face of your child. But I don’t have the time to do it often…

As we got going, we also expected our son, and I spent the first six months with him, followed by my husband. I was still at the house then, so we were basically both home, me writing and publishing, him doing the child thing. In the four years since, we’ve slipped into this comfortable routine of getting up in the morning, me getting our son ready for school, while he gets himself presentable for work. They leave the house at 7:05 am and don’t usually return until 5:30 to 6 pm. Once they’re out of the house, my routine begins, and it consists of your typical modern “authory” things: social media, blogging, writing, editing, reading & reviewing etc. Apart from that, I also try to make a buck or two from my consultancy and training firm. I’ll be honest: I’m not making much money. My husband is pretty much the sole breadwinner of our family, and therefore, the pressure on me to at least keep the house(-hold) in ship-shape is ever increasing, and my guilt with it. Don’t get me started about my dwindling 401K…

I also empty the dishwasher in the morning, put away the dishes, do laundry, fold clothes that weren’t folded after our (shared) Sunday washing day. I clean up after our son, I prepare and cook our evening meals, I run errands to the post office, downtown and to various malls (on public transport, since my husband uses our only car for work), and I feed our cats and keep their litter box tidy. Did I mention that I also take out the garbage and refill the compost container with a new bag every Wednesday after it’s been collected? I take in the mail daily and I’m our finance minister, meaning I pay our invoices and keep tabs on our credit card spending. I book all of our trips, stay in touch with our son’s school, I book electricians, carpenters, gardeners and others who need to do work in and around the house. I’m also the legal guardian of my mother-in-law and do all of her finances. A couple of times per week I hit the gym to keep my new and improved body in ship-shape.

homemaker

The traditional image of a homemaker, a woman. Sadly, still a reality, and for the few men out there, invisibility is challenging.

Mind you, I am not complaining. I have a lot of freedom in what I do, when I do it, and how I do it. Writing is a dream come true! But I have to run after a gazillion little things without which our household would seize functioning.

Tonight, after dinner, my husband sat down in our reading corner to work some more. He’s a senior manager for the city of Gothenburg and yeah, he works a lot, often until 10 pm, several times per week. No, he’s not nearly paid enough for it. I remember, having once been an executive myself, I know the work hours of senior management. And I wonder, how did we do things back then? Not having a kid must’ve helped… Still, how did we manage?

Our son was tired and after I had gotten him to finish his dinner, he went to bed. Early. I brushed his teeth, combed his hair, helped him gargle with his mouthwash, spritzed cortisone spray up his nostrils as he’s been having difficulties with his nasal tract again, and saw him off to bed, with a fresh glass of water, and after having fluffed his comforter and pillow for him. After that, I had to empty the dishwasher from the afternoon post-baking load (see picture above. I’m trying out to create the perfect oatmeal cookie) and to put the dinner dishes in, clean the table and the kitchen countertops. You know, the usual post-dinner clean-up. At some point, looking at my husband sitting comfortably in his recliner, laptop in lap, working away, I must’ve moaned. He must’ve heard, and he asked what was wrong.

Well, my dear husband, nothing really. As the one who costs more than he brings home, I don’t have the privilege to complain, really. I work from dusk to bedtime, literally, as my jobs don’t have regular hours, maybe with the teaching exception, but even course preparations often require evening work. I miss having colleagues, people to go to lunch with every day, or brushing off every now and then, having coffee with a colleague or a meeting or two (I know, I know, who would’ve thought I’d ever say that…), but the only ones I’m usually talking to throughout the day are the cats. And the fish, on a bad day…

Being a homemaker isn't about watching daytime soaps...

Yeah, almost. Although I never breastfed our son. This is, of course, the stereotype of a housewife, but there’s a lot of truth to it. We do have a lot to juggle, every day. Being a homemaker isn’t about watching daytime soaps…

Before long, and this is why I’ve stopped complaining a long time ago (apart from the not really being allowed to), is that our marital “chore split discussions” inevitably end up in “but do you really have to… [blog/be social/talk to readers every day/go to cons/do publicity interviews/review books or read this shit/ etc.]?” And I mostly shrug, because as a management consultant, I have that VERY same conversation (unpaid mind you) with my husband every other day, about these worthless and unproductive meetings he (has to) attend (which I question, nevertheless), tasks he finds meaningless (and which I recommend he divest, but he can’t/won’t) etc.

The big difference is this: I’ve been a corporate executive. I’ve lived in his world for many years. He’s never lived in mine. He doesn’t understand the complexity of being a self-employed consultant, or an indie author in today’s publishing flux, or how much fucking time I get to waste in phone queues with hospitals/suppliers/government agencies/etc. to fix things for us, our son, or his mother.

So yes, every now and then, I moan, simply because I wonder – silently of course – what it would be like to go back to a day job, contributing financially to our family again, and to have a looong discussion with my husband about how to redistribute the household chores equally between the two of us. And I wonder, silently of course, what it would be like, having to get up even earlier, for both of us to be ready in time for a 7:05 am departure, and to come home at 6 pm night after night, getting dinner started, rather than sitting down and eating. Would I still be able to write? Would I find the time? The energy?The inspiration?

I don’t know, but yeah, these questions, too, deserve a moan every now and then because I am aware of my contribution to running our family smoothly. No thank yous (usually), no pension funds/points, but at least I know my husband and my son can focus on their days.

Author Hans M. Hirschi, photographed by Alina Oswald in Central Park, NYC. May 1, 2017.

Me, I get to let out a moan every now and then, before it’s back to work for me, too, a 1,400+ word rant on my blog, a post dedicated to the world’s silent worker, who like me, isn’t paid, doesn’t get pension points and far too little gratitude and attention: the homemaker.

Rant over.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good week.

Hans
Homemaker, father, author, consultant, teacher, former corporate (& future again?) executive

 

Labels: they really get in the way, unless… it’s just for you, and you alone! #LGBT #SAGA #diversity #equality

Labels: they really get in the way, unless… it’s just for you, and you alone! #LGBT #SAGA #diversity #equality

Labels and labeling aren’t helpful, at all, with one exception: to find yourself

“What are you, little one?”, “why can’t you be like everyone else?”, “it’s just a phase…”, “we need to see a doctor!” In this progression, many a conversation has been held around kitchen or dining room tables around the world, in many different languages. At some point, labels were used: “how can you know you’re [label]?” or “mom, dad, I’m [label]” etc. Over the years, I’ve had neverending discussions with people about our labels, who we are, what we are, and most importantly, why we are (or why we aren’t like the rest…)

Clara, my short story for the upcoming Beaten Track Anthology. Clara defies labels.

Clara, my short story for the upcoming Beaten Track Anthology “Never Too Late“, is about someone who defies labels, too. Clara is, quite simply, “a Clara”…

Labels, I find, tend to get in the way of progress, of true equality. This isn’t primarily about being LGBT, or SAGA (sexual and gender acceptance), or about “masculine” and “feminine”, although the two are closely linked, particularly when it comes to our society, and our value system. Here’s why, and I’ll give you a couple of examples to show why labels are great if you need them to find yourself, but really, really suck, when it comes to shoehorning others.

When we fall in love, or when we’re horny (or sexually attracted to someone if you prefer), a great many things are in play, procreation rarely being the focal point, no matter what they say. We are lucky to be one of the many species on this planet to actually be able to have sex and relationships for pure joy. We should make the most of it. Whether the person we are together with is procreationally compatible with us is irrelevant in nine out of ten cases. We are also lucky to live in a day and age where procreation is no longer necessarily needed to keep our societies growing (a conservative mantra usually) since there are enough kids being born as it is.

I have several friends in my circles who at some point in their lives came to the realization (although this is a lengthy – life-long (?) – process rather than a one-time revelation) they weren’t as clear-cut “male” or “female” as everyone thought, least themselves. A few of them are married, and there are plenty of cases out there which have been dragged around the media. Most people would say that two men who are married are “gay”, right? You might stretch yourself to a compromise that it is entirely possible that one, or both, might be bi-sexual, but with the lingering doubt about “why didn’t they just marry a nice girl then?” (but let’s not be bi-phobic, shall we?) But would you consider it possible that two men are married where at least one of them is straight? Both even? Yet consider this:

Adam marries Eve, Eve realizes she’s really more Steve and transitions, with all the “bells and whistles”. Since Adam really loves Steve, they stay married. So, does that mean that Adam is now gay since clearly he’s married to a guy? Or, as those awful romance books will trope it, is he merely “gay 4U”? Or is Adam still straight? Was he ever straight? Is he pansexual? Here’s the thing: labeling Adam is none of our goddamn business. We shouldn’t even ask him. We should just be happy that there’s one marriage, one relationship, that pasts the test of time and doesn’t break over something as fundamental as a trans/queer coming out.

In the case of Steve, you might say it’s clear-cut since Steve goes from being a “woman” (although was he ever?) to being a “man”, but what about Josie, who considers themselves queer, floating freely between genders, one day feeling all male and butch, the next donning make-up and a nice girly dress. They aren’t “agender”, since clearly, they embrace sometimes very stereotypical gender representations, unlike Sasha, who absolutely hate everything about their born sex and thus assigned gender and consider themselves “agender”, meaning they are neither male nor female, although, to the naked eye of the observer, the way they dress and act, may at times appear very similar to Josie. And yes, there’s the mess with pronouns which gives more people headaches than necessary. Remember this with your “they/them” friends: in 99 out of 100 times when you’d have to use the “they/them”, they will not actually be in the room to hear it – and be offended – as you’d otherwise be using the pronoun “you” in addressing them. Therefore, no need to really worry. You’ll be fine. Just try to get it right. It’s intentionally getting it wrong which is the offensive gesture. What about Josie’s and Sasha’s spouses? What would you label them?

So why do we use labels in the first place? Quite simple: we are so used to the binary system or “male” & “female” and them being straight, that everything that falls outside those categories is confusing to most. Our brain has a built-in need to understand, to categorize, to box things neatly, and that’s where labels come in handy. Problem is that labels can cause offense and be hurtful. Just imagine how Donald Trump would react to being addressed as “Mrs. Trump”, or if you’d call the Queen of England “Mr. Windsor” or “His Majesty”… Imagine yourself, if you’re cis-gendered, being labeled the opposite by a complete stranger. It would certainly sting, and you’d ask yourself “why would they say that?”, “what’s wrong with my masculinity/femininity?”, “what clue could they have misinterpreted?” and depending on who you are, you might ponder for a long time about what signals to avoid sending henceforth. It’s how we tick. Not having a label makes us uncomfortable, and we’d rather shift then discomfort on the other, rather than dealing with it ourselves. Quite egotistical really!

Alok Vaid-Menon is an example of what I'm talking about. Alok defies labels, with the exception of their beautiful name.

Alok Vaid-Menon is an example of what I’m talking about. Alok defies labels, with the exception of their beautiful name. To learn more about them, their art and their views, listen to this great podcast. Photo: Alok Vaid-Menon

The “rest” of us are quite the same. As a father, I often get to hear that “well, you’re not a mother, you couldn’t know how this feels…” to which I could say a whole bunch of things, but it just exemplifies that we attribute so much content to a specific label, regardless of whether it is true, or not, or to what extent something holds true.

I’m not saying all women are as physically strong as men, but there are a significant number of women who are significantly stronger than a significant number of men. I’m not saying that all men are better at raising kids than women, but there are a significant number of men who are significantly better at raising kids than a significant number of women.

Now replace “physically strong” & “raising kids” with anything, and you’ll get my point. Labels just aren’t helpful. They just cement our prejudice. Labels are necessary though, for ourselves, as we try to learn who we are, ourselves. The minute you realize that you’re different, “abnormal”, a “freakosaurus”, that’s when labels can help you. Whether you’re a gay boy or girl slowly walking the path from straight to gay via bi (it happens kids) or whether they stay put at bi, whether you wake up one day to realize that the body bag you’re in doesn’t quite suit who you are, and you need help to find out where on the spectrum between the poles “male” and “female” you are at home, or whether you’re an eternal wanderer. If a label helps you to find yourself, and – more importantly – others like you, then great.

I’ve used labels to describe things here, too. If you go back over the text though, you’ll realize that the only label which really fits each of the individuals above, is the one we learn when we first meet them, their name: Adam, Steve, Josie, and Sasha. And they’re beautiful labels, individually tailored to fit each and every one of those amazing human beings. The rest? None of our business really, as long as they are kind, gentle members of society.

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Hans