Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore and Sassafras Lowrey Discuss the Queer Margins
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
October 14 2012 11:54 AM ET
Lowrey: It's tricky â€” you're talking about this gayness or queerness that started one way as very flamboyant and then has become normalized with all these rigid roles and boundaries. One of the things I wanted to do with this book was to ask what it means that so often our communities privilege certain bodies and experiences, like deciding what it means to be â€śreallyâ€ť trans. I think for me, as somebody who was on [testosterone] for three years and went off T and went back on T and then did go off T eventually, Iâ€™m really interested in exploring what the pressure to pass looks like, and that makes people in queer and trans communities really uncomfortable. I lost my whole community when I quit [testosterone] and so I know how present that fear is. That fear within our queer communities of not conforming to these worlds that weâ€™ve created is so palpable for many, many of us.
Sycamore: Itâ€™s so ironic â€” the pressure to conform to the nonconformist dictate.
Lowrey: The best advice I got during the writing process was to â€śwrite the most dangerous book that you can imagine,â€ť and I did. And at the same time I didn't realize at the time quite how uncomfortable it was going to make people.
Sycamore: Itâ€™s always interesting what people find controversial. I did an event for Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots at the University of Southern California, and there was a big controversy before I arrived where one gay student in particular was very offended that I'd used â€śfaggotâ€ť in the title and I doubt he'd read any of the book but according to him this could never be reclaimed speech because he had never met anyone who identified as a faggot. But I was never interested in a tamer title: the title actualizes what the book is invoking. Itâ€™s leveling the playing field. And I think of course â€śfaggotâ€ť is still used as a slur and as a word to keep people in their place, not just among straight homophobes but among straight-acting proper gay men, but honey, please, look in the mirror! I think as soon as something is toned down or streamlined or packaged to fit into a familiar narrative, it loses its potential for instigation and insight.
Lowrey: That messiness was one of the things I was so intent on keeping in Roving Pack. I didnâ€™t want someone to come away from the book feeling like it wrapped up in a nice little package and everyone lived happily ever after and it was clean and perfect. I wanted my readers to sit in that mess because thatâ€™s whatâ€™s real.
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