by Antonia Crane
I’m in my closet office writing, or rather doing everything in my power to avoid writing. The dog shit has been scooped into tiny knotted bags, the laundry folded. I’ve 409’d the bathroom counter and swept floors. I’ve put away the dishes, which I hate—whipped myself into a procrastination lather both shameful and accomplished. A couple of grubby sponges into my Pine Sol frenzy and I’m soaking in it. I take a well-deserved break to check my email.
That’s when I’m asked what class I wanted to teach this fall. I have no idea. I imagine a class that could invigorate my writing and spark zesty conversations, push boundaries and scrape the grease off my keyboard, but the only classes I come up with are linty, mediocre repeats.
Summer was rock and roll time for those lucky enough to dash off to writing residencies or fellowships. Tin Housers jockeyed for position on the wait list and Bread Loafers cashed in their miles for their plane tickets to Vermont. Bootcamps beckoned, promising bikini-worthy butts and Kindles glow by the pool; kids were marched to museums to frolic in the AC and fuck off.
But now it’s back to school.
Fall is Writing Time.
What do I want to teach, to write? And more important: What stories do we need to tell right now in our culture in order to teach empathy in an era of homophobia, hostility, and terror?
We need the most human stories from the queer community in order to transmit empathy and create change.
We need stories that matter: dangerous, taboo stories with gobs of heart. We need Queerness that pushes against gender and sexuality and transcends what’s expected. If stories begin the moment something different happens one day, then let’s cast a light on queer as the starting point of our class. What is queer writing and what are queer bodies in fiction and nonfiction?
I’m interested in gender fluidity of people in their sensual lives—the crackling gray matter where heart and skin crash. I’m interested in love in all of its messy and prissy forms and how it stretches and builds, flies and walks and ends.
The only way I know to cure homophobia is to share our queer stories with the general public and create empathy. No matter what variety of queer we are, let’s bring it to the page. I proposed the class, “Writing the Queer Body” because I wanted to create a colorful place where queer lives thrive because we need that now—especially now.
I want to write and read stories about: the trans wedding, the lesbian bachelorette party, the elderly gay men and their flamboyant female friends dancing sexily at all the weddings; horny, gay elderly sex scenes and bisexual threesomes with no neat endings; An Irish Jewish woman and her African-Haitian partner and her kids and their family breakfast on Sunday morning. I want to read story about a sex worker who falls in love with another female sex worker and their jealousies and sisterhood and strength; I want to follow a woman well into her forties who leaves her husband for her bisexual yoga teacher and together, they heal her PTSD from serving in the Marine Corps ten years prior; I want to see the wigs of beautiful drag queens and know the smirk of dapper drag kings and feel their twisted dance of transcendence and escape after all the loss and AIDS stripped them of any pretense. I want to dance in their glittering sadness and know the joy of having survived it together in a proud and glamorous trance; and I want to read about a young male prostitute who falls hard for a meth-addicted homeless man only to discover he cannot save anyone, not even himself, especially not himself. Where are the stories about two gay male artists who stayed together for 46 years? Where is the lesbian nun who falls in love with a woman and leaves the covenant? Where is the vegan boy who steals a kiss from the busboy where they both work? Where are the topless T-girls stripping at the club in the Tenderloin, accepting dollars in their garters on Catholic School Girl night and their silver fox attorney-client who sweeps one of them off their feet and moves them in and gets two cats and hopes the sex work will be abandoned but the allure and security of sex work is its own peculiar addiction, regardless of sexual orientation or gender or totally sincere sugar daddy?
Where are these stories? We need to write them.
Teaching reminds me why I write in the first place. I write because I breathe. I write because I know the alphabet. I write because I want to create complex characters that reflect a deeply baffling human experience. I write to transmit emotion, touch universal empathy, and punch into surprising unknown terrain. I write because I live.
It has been said all stories about the fact that we are going to die. There are so many stories to write before that happens—so many summer suns and hot moons and queer bodies to march out on the page. Won’t you join me?
Antonia Crane’s Class Writing the Queer Body begins October 3rd.
Antonia Crane is a writer, Moth Slam winner, and writing instructor in Los Angeles. She is the author of the memoir, Spent. She has written for The New York Times, Quartz: Atlantic Media, The Toast, Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Salon, The Believer, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, DAME and lots of other places. Her screenplay, “The Lusty” co-written with Silas Howard about the Exotic Dancers Union is a recipient of the San Francisco Film Society/ Kenneth Rainin Foundation Screenwriter’s Grant, 2015. She is at work on an essay collection and a memoir. She is a co-founder and Senior CNF editor of the Antioch Alum journal The Citron Review and the CNF editor of Word Riot. She can be found running up Griffith Park mountain and here: http://antoniacrane.com. She tweets @antoniacrane.