I tried to spell out some of my Naked Heart Literary Festival experience over the weekend via Twitter and Facebook, but now it’s Monday morning, I’m back home, and it’s time to collect my thoughts, have a tea, walk the dog, and return to the daily routine of my life. And in many ways, I’m doing so with a completely recharged soul after the festival.
I need to explain that a bit.
My life isn’t very much in a queer space. Or, put another way, the vast majority of my interactions are not with queer people. I am surrounded by people with whom I know I am safe—allies in the greatest sense of the word—but for myself and my husband, often we are the queer folk in the room. Not always, no. But very often. Most of the time.
That? It takes effort.
I joke about being an introvert quite a bit, but the truth is—and I think this is a truth for a lot of queer folk—it’s not so cut and dried. Because this weekend at Naked Heart was another reminder that in a queer art space, I relax. I’m not the me looking over my shoulder before I say the words “my husband and I.” I’m not the me who has to judge between saying, “I write spec fic, mostly,” and “I write queer spec fic.” I’m not the me wondering if I’m going to get the “we haven’t had that talk” comment from a parent of a young kid, and thus be asked if I could gloss over parts of my life until they feel ready to “explain” me to their child.
No, at Naked Heart, I am able to be the real, safe, complete me without wondering, filtering, and considering everything I’m about to say. I’ve talked about this at panels and workshops (especially when I’m the only queer guy in the room) in the sense of “kisses goodbye” and “holding hands” in public with my husband. Yes, we can do both things—and we do—but never without that extra step. Where are we? Who is watching? Is this safe? Sometimes the answers to those questions mean we cannot do something as simple as kiss each other goodbye without a risk we’re not willing to take.
Not having that extra layer over every interaction and discussion? It’s a rare and wonderful feeling. It’s the “naked” of the Naked Heart, I think. We can take off our armour. Pull off the masks. Wear the skirt. Use the words we want to use. Be.
As well, the ability to have living exposure to so many queer voices—including some legends of queer literature—is so very humbling. This weekend I read from my second novel, Triad Blood, and when I got up to the stage and smiled at the audience, I realized Felice Picano and Samuel R. Delaney were sitting right there.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so privileged in my life.
Also, y’know, ready to toss my cookies, because “hurr-hurr, vampires and demons and wizards, oh my!” But I got over it. I’m a genre writer, and I feel zero shame about that, and the reality is these men—among so many others—made it possible for me to be standing there and reading my fun and fluffy stories.
I could walk you through the whole program of Naked Heart, and I could tell you panel by panel what it was like, and that’s normally what I do when I come back from a convention. I will do that, but instead I think I’m going to revisit those discussions over the next week or so, while today I’m just going to leave this:
The single theme I most often try to ensure my voice as a queer author carries is simple: You matter. Every queerling, every queer adult—you are loved, and you matter. The world will tell you otherwise. Hell, whole countries will have votes that tell you otherwise, but it’s untrue. Some queerfolk intersect multiple identities and get blasted from multiple sides with the message they don’t matter. Some queerfolk get it from within the queer community itself. But every time I can remind you, I hope you hear me when I say it.
You are loved. You matter.
Naked Heart was a whole weekend of being loved, and mattering.