I’m a queer person. I identify as queer. If you want to get technical about it, I’m bisexual. I am attracted to people of all genders.
At this point in my life, I am prioritizing sexual and romantic connections with women and non-binary people.
Though I am attracted to them, I have complicated feelings about dating men. There have been periods in my life where I’ve stopped dating men entirely in order to explore my queerness, prioritize relationships with non-men, and not feel like such a “bad” queer for consorting with them (though I recognize this last one comes from internalized biphobia).
I often go back and forth on whether or not I should keep dating men. Do I actually want to? Am I really attracted to them? I’m pretty sure that I am, but something as simple as going on a dating app causes me to question my sexuality. As I swipe through prospective male matches, I wonder, am I even attracted to men? I frequently look at their photos with disinterest, jokingly thinking to myself, all of these men are just so . . . men. I don’t think that’s what I mean though. I think what I mean is: all of these men are just so straight.
I think that might be the issue. Most of the time, I’m not attracted to your typical cishet dude. I don’t often find myself drawn to straight women either. I’m a queer person. I resonate with queerness. I’m attracted to queer energy.
What I’ve been coming to realize over the past few years is that I have no interest in pursuing sexual or romantic connections with people who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ2S+ community. I’m attracted to people of all genders, yes, but the majority of the people I find myself attracted to are some flavour of queer—whether they be lesbians, enbies, bi dudes, etcetera. I’m Queer4Queer. That’s it. That’s my sexual orientation.
It’s not that I’m not attracted to men at all, it’s that the vast majority of cishet guys just don’t do it for me.
I also just want to be with other queer people, other people who carry queer energy and experiences. In general, I’ve had a better time dating queer folks than I have dating straight cis guys. I won’t list all of the reasons why in this piece, but suffice it to say that queer dating has felt more comfortable, intimate, and safe for me.
Is this it then? Has the ever-questioning bisexual finally figured out their sexuality? Probably not, but I feel like I’m closer to understanding it now than I’ve ever been.
Note: I’m using “queer” in this piece as an umbrella term for members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. I recognize that not everyone vibes with or uses this word, and that’s totally fine. I wouldn’t refer to a specific member of the community as queer unless they identified that way. However, I believe in all of the reclamation work that’s gone into it and see it as an acceptable umbrella. It’s also a useful shorthand to use when referring to the community rather than awkwardly writing out LGBTQ2S+ each time.
Content note: this piece deals with addiction, abuse, and intergenerational trauma.
I wish my father a happy birthday. He tells me he’s drinking again, And that he hardly heard from anyone. I can only ever write poems about him.
Write back, he always says. His emails come quickly, contain hardly anything. Write back, he always says. Write back.
I have to come up with more to say, more that I can share. There are so few safe topics to choose from. He wants to see me. I don’t know if I can let him. Just a few years ago, seeing him on the street would send me reeling— Running, hiding, heart pounding, panic swelling. I don’t know if he ever saw me run away.
I don’t know how to write that fear into a poem, And perhaps this is where I fail as a poet.
I never thought I would speak to him again, Never expected to write to him. Five years of estrangement passed, And then I did. Something within me shifted. Words like abuser, monster, Jekyll, and Hyde Moved over to the side— Making room for Illness, sickness, and intergenerational trauma. It took five years for my fear to begin melting, For my anger to start eroding, Revealing layers and layers of fresh-cut Pain, Confusion, Compassion.
Write back, he always says. Get your brother to write to me, And write back. Write back. Write back.
Content note: this piece is about the COVID-19 pandemic.
I walk up to the hospital. There’s a line with a sign that says “COVID VACCINES”. I get in it. A woman lines up behind me and starts coughing. I inch forward. A nurse hands me a medical mask. “You can take off your mask and put this on or put this on over yours”. I put it on over. The mask I wore already has two layers and a filter, so now I have four layers of mask. It slides into my eyes. I fix it. It slides into my eyes again. I am ushered into a foyer, and a nurse with a mask and face shield screens me for the first time. I have to ask her to repeat herself. It’s loud with all the people milling about, and I can seldom hear anyone who wears a mask. “Has anyone in your household been ordered to self-isolate?” I lean my ear towards her, unable to maintain social distancing and our conversation. After a bit of repetition, we settle that my answers to all her questions are no. I am ushered forward again and told to follow the pink dots.
I am grateful for the pink dots because it’s overwhelming inside with nurses, doctors, admin staff, and patients everywhere. I am no longer used to being in places so full of people. I’m thankful for the double masks. I follow the pink dots and am told to stand on a circle. “No, not that circle, stand on the circle at the end”. I walk towards the circle at the end when someone with a tablet beckons me over. Sorry, circle, not today. I hold out my health card, and they do not take it. They don’t take anything from you these days. My details are read off the card and typed into the tablet, and I am screened once again. Then they ask, “Why are you getting the vaccine?” I wasn’t expecting this question. Why are any of us getting the vaccine? Not sure of the appropriate response, I just say “Work”. I give them the name of my agency.
I am told which door to go through. I have no autonomy. I’ve become compliant, turned into putty. Another nurse asks me to stand on another circle. Someone else is told off for standing on the wrong circle. I enter the doctor room. Their names are posted on each tiny cubicle. Dr. This, Dr. That. I see an older woman getting vaccinated. A doctor is explaining to her that the vaccine is not a substitute for social distancing. I follow the line and move to a new circle because it seems to make sense, hoping I’m not doing it wrong. Everyone is terribly close together, but there are screens everywhere to prevent virus particles from floating into mouths and eyeballs. I am sent to cubicle six. My doctor’s name is John. I feel a sense of familiarity, like I’m always encountering doctors named John, though I don’t think this is actually the case.
I sit down and neither of us speak. He is looking at his tablet. He asks for my name, and I tell him it’s spelled with an I. I’m screened for the third time. I still don’t have any COVID symptoms. I am told that this is not a substitute for social distancing and wearing masks. I tell him I understand. I get the evil eye because I am a young person. I swear, Doctor, I’ve been good! Doctor, doctor, I have an anxiety disorder. I’m a hypochondriac. Trust me, I’ve been good! I am given a choice of arms and sacrifice the left one. “Do you consent to the vaccine?” “Yes”. God, yes. It’s quick, painless. “Well, that’s it, you’ve been vaccinated.” “Thank you!” “Go over there. You will have to wait for fifteen minutes to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction.”
I am directed to a hallway where people are lined up and waiting on chairs between screens. They print out my ticket and tell me I am allowed to leave at 12:21. I hear the nurses tell others that they can validate their parking at the welcome desk. I left my ticket in the car. Damn.
When allowed, I exit the hospital with a little more autonomy (though not a lot). I use sanitizer before I leave. I’m not protected just yet. I get in my car and begin the hardest part of my journey. I don’t go back in to validate my parking because I believe that would disrupt the order of things. Just a few people out of place in there could throw everything into chaos, and then I may end up on the news: Local vaccinations stalled by careless redhead over parking dispute. The person in the car in front of me struggles with the parking meter, but eventually, the bar rises and they are free.
I drive into place. The person ahead of me left their ticket in the machine. For some reason, I pull it out and try to put it back in. Then I try with my ticket. Then I try with theirs again. Then mine. There’s a car behind me. I realize then that the machine is telling me to stop putting the tickets in upside down. I put in their ticket again. It tells me it’s already been used. Duh. I put mine in again. It says I owe six dollars. We’re getting somewhere. I pull out my credit card and tap to pay on the contactless “tap to pay” spot. It beeps. Nothing happens. The car behind me pulls into the other lane, pays, and leaves, which I am grateful for. I don’t need a sustained witness. I tap my card about six more times. I begin tapping my card all over the meter. Sometimes it beeps, sometimes it doesn’t, but otherwise, nothing happens. I will die here.
I have to call for help. I press the green “call for help” button. A voice answers.
“Hi, um, I’m trying to pay with my credit card, and it isn’t working”.
“Have you tried putting it inside the machine?”
“Like where the ticket goes?”
Thank goodness there were no other witnesses.
“Thank you!” I say. They hang up.
It accepts my payment, and I leave. As I roll out of the parking lot, I say to myself, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. Not the vaccination, just the parking.
I was impressed with how well-organized and efficient they were, like a well-oiled machine, easily able to handle my chaos. If the hardest thing about getting vaccinated is leaving the parking lot, that means they’re doing something right. Thank you to all the frontline workers, the nurses, doctors, screeners, and admin staff, for working long and hard all year to protect fools like me. Your services are essential and greatly appreciated.
I like to walk through urban wastelands. I like to walk where I won’t stumble upon anyone. I like to walk where the grass is dead and the buildings are disused. I like to walk past peeling billboards, abandoned advertisements. I like to walk out of pedestrian-friendly zones, out of friendly zones. I like to walk in areas only meant to be seen for seconds through a car window. I like to walk where the aesthetics have never been considered nor cared for. I like to walk where I’m not supposed to go.
I like to walk with music. I like to walk all alone. I like to walk out here in the open.
I like to walk at night after the joggers have returned from their flight. I like to walk until the muscles in my legs twitch when I stop. I like to walk where I can sit on the ground and type out a poem. I like to walk where I won’t be given funny looks for writing a poem. I like to walk until I am unimportant, unworthy of comment. I like to walk through places that don’t matter as a person that doesn’t matter. I like to walk where and when I won’t be seen.
I like to walk through urban wastelands. I like to walk, And I like to pause Without holding anyone up, Without drawing any attention.
I like to walk at dusk as the joggers are just finishing up. I like to walk as the sun sets, as the heat follows it out of the pavement. I like to walk where the ashplant is cracked, and there is no one around to complain. I like to walk until I empty every last thought from my brain. I like to walk to the bus shelters without waiting for the bus Because I like to walk. I like to walk. I like to walk, And often, I wish I never had to stop.
Content note: this piece discusses alcohol consumption, binge drinking, intoxication, and trauma. It also briefly describes sexual assault.
I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink except when I do. Throughout my twenties, drinking gradually evolved from an enjoyable activity to one I’m rather afraid of. There have been too many nights where I lost control, too many days lost to hangovers, and so many apologies that I’ve lost track. When a night went well, people told me I was fun and funny and crazy, the life of the party. I miss being able to be that person. When a night didn’t go well, people told me I was crying and yelling and crazy, that I’d killed the party. I don’t miss that and am afraid of becoming that person again.
I was drunk when I yelled at my friend about her girlfriend who sat listening in the other room.
I was drunk when I threw myself out of a cab and into a snowbank.
I was drunk when I hurled nonsensical accusations at my boyfriend. I was drunk when he carried me home.
I was drunk after sneaking shots of Irish whiskey away from my friends in-between the shots of vodka we were doing together. I was drunk when they carried me crying through the streets with my strapless dress hanging around my waist. I was still drunk hours later when I woke up in my bed after blacking out and asked if they still wanted to party. I was drunk when they told me I had killed the party.
I was drunk when I tried to leave and he pulled me onto the floor, ran his hands over my body, and whispered his repulsive desires into my ear. I was drunk when I went still and silent, when I needed to spring into action, to fight and to run. I was drunk when I shoved my elbow into his gut, releasing his hold on me, and fucking ran, ran, ran.
I was drunk when I broke my best friend’s laundry basket and puked on his dorm’s bathroom floor. I was drunk when I tried to clean it up with my socks, and he told me the biohazard people would have to come. I was drunk as I imagined that scene from E.T. with horror: people in head-to-toe gear storming in, taking over.
I was drunk when an angel found me crying alone in a laundry room. I was drunk when she introduced me to her friends and took me out for the night.
I was drunk on prosecco on my champagne birthday when I stood up on a chair and made announcements to the surprising number of people who liked me enough to attend.
I was drunk on red wine in your bathtub when we poured it into the water and watched it turn a cloudy grey.
I was drunk on hard liquor on New Year’s Eve when I calmly and carefully made myself throw up in the toilet and then came back downstairs for snacks…and more liquor.
I was drunk and standing by myself in a bar while tears crept silently down my face. I was drunk when you asked me what was wrong and told me it’s okay, wine makes you cry for no reason too.
I was drunk when a little voice inside my head whispered that it wanted more, more, more. It never wanted this to stop. It wanted to feel powerful and brave and invincible forever.
I was drunk when I told you I loved you and made you cry.
I was drunk when I ran out of your house in socks and a t-shirt in the middle of February, and you had to chase me down the street.
I was drunk when you found me hiding in a stairwell, when I was a scared and needy puddle. I was drunk, and I wanted you to look for me.
I was drunk when I splattered glow stick goo all over your basement, ripped down your curtain rod, and then smoked a cigarette while sitting on your floor. I was drunk when I held my friend’s hand and took her to the bathroom to clean the blood off of her feet. I was drunk when I ran the three of us a bath, and you threw up in the toilet. We were drunk when we put you to bed soaking wet in the freezing cold glowstick room after laying an unopened sleeping bag on top of you.
I was drunk on the half-empty bottle of vodka and orange juice I held in my hand as we sat on the swings and flew. I was drunk and full of the future.
I was drunk when I stripped naked next to the fire, when you laughed and said my name before we all dove into the lake. I was still drunk when I joined the others hotboxing in a tent even though weed fucks me up, and I don’t like it. I was drunk, and then I was crossfaded, sick, disoriented.
I was drunk and full of possibility when I ran out of the house, called your name, and then held your hand and said goodbye.
I have a strained relationship with alcohol. It’s not all good nor bad. It’s not cut and dry (heh). I go through periods of sobriety. I go through periods where I drink cautiously. Occasionally, I lose control, the alcohol imp in me waking after a few drinks and driving me to have more, more, more…
When I drink, I awaken my fun side. I awaken my wild side. I awaken my no fucks given side. I awaken my destructive side.
Over the years, I’ve learned that vodka and trauma make a terrible mixed drink.
I guess you could say I practice harm reduction when it comes to alcohol. I mostly avoid it, and when I drink, I tend to do so cautiously. So cautiously that I rarely let myself get drunk, as that’s usually when I lose control of my behaviour and how much I consume. I also get wicked hangovers after just a couple of drinks these days, which makes it feel not particularly worth it anymore. I don’t miss the hangovers. I don’t miss drinking most of the time. I do miss the person it allowed me to become sometimes: fun, bold, adventurous, wild, and free. I don’t miss the person it brought out at others: angry, sad, destructive, tactless, and self-loathing.
I have a complicated relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink except when I do. That glass of wine you put in my hand? It makes me nervous. It can also make me fearless, spontaneous, reckless…
Drinking enhances and exaggerates whoever I am, whatever I’m carrying inside. There are days when I have a beer and all it does is make me feel sad and hopeless and vaguely nauseous. There are days when I have a beer and it makes me feel lighter, looser, and more carefree. I can’t predict what the next drink will bring out. I can’t predict who I will be.
It’s not all bad, so I don’t cut off all contact. It’s not all good either, so I’m wary of our interactions. I’m not sober, but I don’t really drink either. I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I wish I didn’t. I wish it was simpler. I wish I could go back to when drinking was fun and exciting instead of fraught and disconcerting. I wish I hadn’t inherited this perilous relationship with alcohol that goes back generations in my family. I wish it was simpler, but it’s not.
I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink anymore. Oh, except when I do.
I’m on testosterone. You’re in a corset. You’re more visible than me, So you’re treated differently At this event, within this scene. It’s like people don’t quite know What to do with you. They think they know what to do with me, But they call me a girl, Indicating they really don’t.
Is it a warm welcome If they do not see me? Is it acceptance If it comes with erasure? Is it friendly If they keep saying she?
They show me how they treat trans people With how they treat you. It’s subtle, but it’s there. They show me how they treat trans people With how they treat me. It’s subtle, but I’m here.
Guess what? New zine, that’s what! Details are listed below.
Guess what else? New zine store! You heard that right. I will now be selling my chapbooks/zines on Gumroad. Check em out here.
Quarantine is a 40+ page zine that contains creative non-fiction, poetry, and semi-fiction I wrote throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a photo series I created with my companion Peter while in quarantine. In these pieces, I draw upon humour, the surreal, and hope as coping strategies for an especially challenging and strange time. I use my work to step outside of myself, imagine a better future, and be playful as a way to get through the shutdowns, the lockdowns, and the quarantines. Many pieces in this collection are also available on my blog and Instagram, though they have been re-edited and formatted for this publication.
I am a little pink pillow with a tiger on it. One of my feet is a circle. It’s the foot that’s raised. It was sewn from memory. I posted this tiger illustration on DeviantArt in high school, and you commented to say, “I want this as a poster to hang on my wall”. For your birthday, I printed it out and gave it to you. You hung it up in your hallway and looked at it every day. Then you moved out, and it continued to hang in the hallway of your mother’s house. For years, your mother had the tiger poster. Then she moved somewhere else, and it was taken down and packed away. You haven’t been able to find it since. You wanted to use it as a reference, but you remembered it pretty well, particularly the foot that was a circle.
“Aw, I was learning to draw,” I say after receiving the pink tiger pillow for my twenty-eighth birthday. I was fifteen? Sixteen? A teen who dedicated a year of their life to learning how to draw. I drew every day, and on one of those days, I drew a tiger in my sketchbook and coloured it in on Photoshop. Or maybe it was Paint. Either way, I used block colours: orange, white, black, and pink.
Of the front feet, which is its right and which is its left? Nobody knows!
This tiger was my commitment. This tiger was my enthusiasm. This tiger was my dedication. This tiger was my anxiety, my neurosis. You cannot see its face. It never turns around. The original file was lost. The poster was displaced. Only the pillow remains, created from memory. Memory made from years and years of hanging in a hallway. This tiger was my adolescence. Its raised foot is a circle. We’re not sure how its front legs work. We’re not sure if that’s what its stripes looked like. There’s no shading. It’s in block colours. I made it on a trial version of Photoshop I had on a CD back before it was subscription-only. Or maybe it was Paint. Either way, I made it. This tiger was me.
I don’t draw anymore. I got that out of my system. I focus on writing now. I write in Google Docs, and I do my best to shade in my words. I try to use references. My backgrounds are more than simple block colours. I attempt accuracy with my proportions. I’m not afraid to write faces. I examine the tiger from all angles. I have a lot of learning to do still and a long way to go yet. I did not start here. I started with enthusiasm. I started with dedication. I started with a tiger, drawn in a sketchbook and coloured in with bright digital blocks.
People always ask me, “Sage, how is it that you have so skillfully refined the art of avoiding writing?” I tell them there is no one simple answer, no quick fix. There’s a lot of little answers, a whole variety of distractions that make up the whole. You have to practice, do a little every day. This is an honest answer, but I recognize it isn’t all that satisfying. That’s why I have decided to compile this list of tips, showing you fifty different things I do in order to avoid writing. I believe that you too, with enough practice, can avoid ever getting any writing done. Don’t expect to get there overnight. It has taken me years to learn how to properly avoid writing. Years. Take it one step at a time. Don’t give up. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. With guidance from mentors like me and enough dedication, you too can basically never write again.
Please enjoy this list and don’t forget to preorder my e-book, which will be coming to a virtual shelf near you this fall. It will be completely blank.
50 Ways to Avoid Writing
Check Discord. Oh, what was that, a notification? Better check again.
Open Instagram to look for a NaPoWriMo prompt and immediately forget why you opened it.
Build a brand.
See what’s trending on Twitter.
Call your doctor. Get the busy signal. Rinse and repeat.
Do the dishes! There are three dishes, ya’d better do ’em!
Read a novel. Read another.
Play some music to help you focus. No, not that music. Find another playlist. Find another platform. Turn the music off, it’s too distracting. Now it’s too quiet.
Go get a tissue.
Refill your cup of coffee.
Go make some breakfast!
Get a snack. Eat that snack. You can’t write while you’re eating a snack, but you should do something to entertain you and your snack. Open youtube.com.
Get invested in someone else’s drama.
Experience your own drama! Oh no! Ah! (This is ideal as it will prevent you from writing for quite some time).
Google the lyrics for the song you heard yesterday in the convenience store.
Think about how you’ve been using commas wrong for twenty-eight years.
Stare at your blank word doc. Open another tab.
Curl up into a ball on your couch and start crying because the world’s been like this for over a year and you’re tired.
Take some nudes.
Check how many likes your post got. Check again in twenty minutes.
Reread the DM someone sent you three weeks ago shaming you over your writing.
Overly censor yourself. Think about all the different things people could yell at you about. Nitpick your own writing before the call-outs can. Try to get ahead of them.
Remember what it was like to write on trains when you used to ride trains. Think about riding trains again.
Shame yourself for not having published a book yet. Think about how you’ll be thirty in two years. WEEP.
Update your profile, doesn’t matter which one.
Go for a walk. Bring your notebook with you but call your friend to hear the latest gossip instead of write in it.
Ask yourself if perhaps the well is empty.
Allow yourself to relax for once. Take a day off.
Look at the NAKED TREES out the window.
Treat yourself like a machine but forget to oil yourself.
Remember visiting your ex in a cafe and the frothy yellow drink you ordered that he found off-putting. Try to recall the details of your conversation.
Drink some mushroom tea.
Have a little cry about it.
Notice that your friend has left his watch on your mantle.
Remind yourself to write about something other than your childhood.
Light two candles, one for the goddess and one for the god.
Listen to a podcast about cancel culture and get worked up about it.
Wonder when the pandemic will end. Wonder again.
Reach out to a new therapist and ask to be added to their waitlist.
Remember the shitty breakup you went through six months ago.
Feel the barometer change in your head. Ask yourself what to feel instead.
Close your eyes and hear all of the sounds around you. Pull them into pieces.
Read your friend’s thesis.
Think about moving to Montreal. Make a plan. Learn French on Duolingo.
Look at the fog outside the window. Think about how it’s foggy out there and lonely in here.
Ask yourself if this year of lockdowns means you’ve run out of things to write about.
Remember that you have to finish doing your taxes.
Hop in the shower.
Pick up your phone.
Write a list. Ask yourself if that counts. Ask yourself what it means to count.