Word On The Street& ReLit& Trillium& Continual Coming Out
And end-of-May update on events, awards, and what's to come
Things have certainly been busy lately—in a good way! I’m so grateful to be able to say that The Pump recently won the 2022 ReLit Award for Short Fiction and is a finalist for the Trillium Book Awards, the winner of which will be announced on June 21st at an awards ceremony in Toronto.
In terms of upcoming events, I’ll be participating in a Trillium Finalists panel at this year’s Word On The Street Festival, on Saturday June 11th on the Vibrant Voices Stage in Queen’s Park, Toronto. More excitingly, I also get to participate in a WOTS panel called Worthy Sacrifices alongside Assiyah Jamilla Touré and Nic Brewer, moderated by Terese Mason Pierre.
Humans are resilient, and most of us have the scars and wounds–old and fresh–to prove it. The places we come from, the creative work we do, and the simple act of living day to day can cause pain. But what makes the pain worth it?
Sometime within the next few weeks, I have a personal essay coming out in Electric Literature for Mental Health Awareness Month. The essay is written through the lens of my experience as a writer & author who also lives with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and it’s mostly about how, in my case, the act of writing has become an avenue for my healing.
Art by Joshua Davidson for Fubiz Media
I was diagnosed with my dissociative disorder in early 2019, but it isn’t something I talk about often, particularly in professional settings and when promoting my work. DID, which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder, isn’t widely understood outside of clinical psychology. Movies like Split have contributed to immense stigmatization and misinformation, so much so that when I happen to find someone who actually believes that the disorder exists, their only reference is a cinematic serial killer.
Thankfully, new, well-researched projects like Marvel’s show Moon Knight are introducing everyday people to the disorder in a way that’s both accurate and artistically interesting. Representation—a wide variety of it—is the only way forward through the mess of misinformation.
Despite Moon Knight’s recent success, having my essay on DID published feels similar to when I came out as non-binary to my friends and family.
Part of that is because of the way in which we romanticize certain aspects of people (sexuality, race, gender identity, physical disability, mental illnesses, the list goes on) but stigmatize them when people ask us to change the way we speak, live, and act.
When I came out as Bisexual in 2016, I was fortunate to have a pretty smooth reception. When I came out as non-binary in 2018, things went smoothly until I explained that I had started using they/them pronouns. Queerness is marketable until it asks something of you. To change your language. To speak up on behalf of those facing hate and discrimination and death—even to family members and friends. It is “fun” to look at fan art of two queer tv characters falling in love; it is “work” to correct harmful stereotypes about the queer community.
I often talk about having Anxiety and ADHD because, in recent years, those have become “marketable” mental illnesses. We see them as palatable; manageable; easy to talk about in terms of worry or lack of focus—things that everyone struggles with. Despite the fact that having an ADHD diagnosis is not the same thing as a being a neurotypical person who has trouble focusing on a particular day, the concept of ADHD has been romanticized and warped into something that’s relatable.
But when I needed extensions on my papers in university, or couldn’t sit through an entire lecture, or found it difficult to write in-person exams because of the sounds of people’s pencils on pages, ADHD was no longer relatable—it was unreasonable. When I need accommodation for my very real disability, when my diagnosis becomes real instead of just a conceptual category, I am immediately branded as too much.
The idea of DID is marketable; the reality of DID is unacceptable. The intense PTSD symptoms coupled with dissociation, derealization, and an abundance of physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, blurred vision, and vertigo cannot be turned on and off at will. There is a difference between watching Moon Knight and knowing a real person with DID. There is a difference between watching and understanding. In real life, your ability to understand has very high stakes for someone like me.
Artwork by Corné Eksteen
My wish for you today: That those who interact with you and your work seek to understand you.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. It really does mean a lot.