NOTE TO ... Newsweek Magazine

April 24, 2009

I admit it. I’m downright queer.

So thanks for including Alan Cummings' short, it's-about-time piece on gay icons in your April 13th edition. Mr. Cummings' article, Judy, Barbra, Liza—And Little Edie: How the 'Grey' ladies, and their ilk, became the gays’ ladies, is amazingly aligned with the underlying message of Aberration Nation. His concluding statement hit the proverbial nail on the head:

“I would like to replace the word gay with queer when talking in broad terms about our collective experience. Queer isn’t just about same-sex wedding tackle. Queer is about sensibility. You don’t have to be gay to be queer. Indeed, some of the queerest people I know are straight. My mum is a bit queer. Obama is definitely queer. Little Edie Beale was very queer. I think if more people embraced their queerness, we’d all be the better for it.”

Based on his plea that we all embrace our queer identities, I’d like to officially define queer within the context of Aberration Nation as “having physical, mental, and/or situational aberrations.” Mr. Cummings noted that the original gay icons are "people who, like gay men of a certain age, have faced adversity, and who, like them, have had to fight to become the person they want to be." This inherent struggle and compassion for others is exactly why Aberration Nation includes aberration stories focused on gay men. It's also exactly why I chose to include a gay primary character in my novel, Aberrations, which is set in the late 1980's in the deep South. Angel, the protagonist of Aberrations, has narcolepsy. Based on negative experiences with those who fail to understand her plight, she has retreated into herself as a coping mechanism. The gay character, Tim, (who would now be of "a certain age") emerges as the one person in her life capable of identifying with her struggle and calling her out of the unique closet she has created for herself. By Mr. Cummings' standards, Angel could be a quintessential gay literary icon, and Tim her adoring fan.

In creating Angel and her surrounding characters, I intended to embody the emotions and inner conflicts we all share regardless of our particular aberration. Aberration Nation was created to broaden the concept that the underlying human emotions we experience are often quite similar despite what our story is, and therefore we're all capable of true compassion. I hope my readers, as well as yours, can see that when you strip away sex, political party, race, education, culture, and whatever else seems to define us these days, we are all an amazing animal called human.

I’m naming Alan Cummings as my first honorary member of the Aberration Nation. He'll join the everyday heroes who have graciously and bravely shared their aberrations with the hope that folks out there will finally understand that we're all brothers and sisters of the same huge family.

After all, we’re all queer ... some have simply worked harder on the closets they choose to stay in.

To learn more about Aberrations, go here.

Up Next: Living with Chronic Pain: An Aberration Story



Frank said:

As a str8 dood who participates to some degree in ghey-coded culture -meaning I like history, cultural studies, clothes and music – my fedora hat is off to Cumming for being way ahead of the curve on the “queer” issue.

Ironic that a ghey male would want to cede such hard-won cultural territory in the name of openness and human-ness.

Just don't expect the academics or activists, who are all about group identity and territory, to embrace the openness any time soon.


avisannschild said:

Oh me too (I’m queer, that is)! I love the inclusiveness of the term <>queer<>. I’m also loving your “Note to” series (and your blog in general). Thank you!

Penelope Przekop

Penelope Przekop said:

Thanks so much for leaving a comment. It’s so nice to get feedback! One of my goals is to get better at commenting back to folks …

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