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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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Let’s Enchant This Garden

Once upon a time, I was a mouse. More specifically, I was in sixth grade performing a role in a play. My partner, a close friend, and I recently watched my performance on the surprisingly-not-so-grainy VHS tape my mother has saved since 1981. I, as mouse, discovered some of the world’s wonders as I ventured out for the first time on my own. My large, round pink ears flopped when I hit my spot and exclaimed in my pre-pubescent voice: “An enchanted garden! How lovely!”

The role couldn’t have fit anyone better than it fit me. I wasn’t acting so much as letting others in on my act. I remember loving the warm rush of excitement of being on stage with everyone focused on me. I stood in the spotlight and practiced pretty flawless comic timing. I was just being myself, nelly as the day is long, and for once, and for a very brief time, I wasn’t stopping myself.

From 30 years away, I’m amazed that none of my classmates at that time made fun of me for acting flamboyantly and obliviously gay. Maybe my openness won them over–the “what” of my identity didn’t matter because the “how” was so damn fabulous?

Perhaps. But the what was and is incredibly important to me (though I won’t deny how fabulous I am at it). Which is why I’m surprised to find some of my fellow queers avoiding specifics in their self-declarations. They’re coming out as themselves, but no aspect of their identities is more important than any other.


The point of Coming Out Day is to do it your own way, so I shouldn’t judge. But…even more important than how one comes out is the what one comes out as. Regardless of the terminology, today is a day to celebrate being queer. If you have no other day when you don’t have to hide or blend in, this is the day to step out and say what makes you you in terms of sexuality and/or gender. This is not a day for veiled language. This is not a day for celebrating metrosexuals.

The world is our garden, too. Take root, queers and allies. Bring on the enchantment, openly and vigorously. How fucking lovely!

Out & In & Out

National Coming Out Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love coming-out stories and so far have not tired of learning how we come to realize who we are and communicate our truths to others.

There’s a coming-out story in the novel I’m writing:

Penn came out to his parents the Friday of his Thanksgiving break of freshman year. With his grandmother and an aunt and uncle visiting, he ushered his parents into the garage for privacy. He chattered about how college had changed him, unsure if they would understand what he was about to tell them. Right before he said the word “gay,” his mother’s eyelids flickered, and she made eye contact with his father. He knew they already knew. His eyes had adjusted to the dimness of the garage. The faint highlights of objects emerged: the ragged blue shine of a dirty shovel, the gloss of a hose whose end had tumbled to the floor. The beauty of those objects overwhelmed him, acknowledged him in that moment as much or more than his parents, who stood silent.

His father thanked him for telling them, the words formal but tone of voice genuine. His mother said she didn’t know what to say. His father then grabbed his shoulder, eyes wet with grief and love. “But we want you to know we love you,” he insisted. His mother turned away, perhaps grateful that someone else was handling the heavy lifting of this news. Penn sensed she resented that his father smoothed things over so easily. It was unlike her to miss an opportunity to speak for herself.

To be clear: this scene is fiction. I didn’t come out to my parents while standing in a garage. But I’m sure they knew long before I told them; for that part, I definitely drew from experience. The announcement had been a long time coming. In the 21 years since I had my revelation, I’ve remembered moments that rang the clue phone so loudly I’m appalled I didn’t pick up earlier. Continue reading

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