When they write the rejection letters, why can’t they just say “Thank you, we’ve chosen another proposal.”
There’s always the bit about how many awesome proposals they received, how it was excruciating painful to choose (as if I care) and how truly, truly amazing my proposal is. How they look forward to seeing my work out in the world. And in the really stellar rejection letters, they find a way to ask for my continued support for their project.
So far this year I’ve received ten rejection letters, for a variety of projects, including conference proposals, writing contests and performance proposals. Each proposal I’ve submitted has taken hours upon hours of work to conceive, articulate, edit, answer all of the questions, and gather submission materials. Each one has been a dream, a calling forth of something important into being, only to let that dream slip away, perhaps to be reborn in a different form, or perhaps not.
With each rejection, the sting has been less. I won’t say it’s stopped.
I really, really wanted to create that performance piece about the circus freak show: the fat lady, the bearded lady, the half-man, half-woman, and the sexuality of each. It would be a powerful reclaiming of the fetishized, for purposes of validating our own eroticism.
But. “When the Fat Bearded Lady Sings Subterfuge” is not to be, at least not this summer.
With every proposal, and also with every rejection, I feel I stand at a bifurcation point: one path leading one way, another leading to a completely different destination. Taking the path marked “Reject” leads somewhere, often to somewhere unexpected and enlivening.
Creating meaningful content is not a challenge for me. I have ideas all day, every day. The challenge is to curate the ideas, discern which ones will further not only my work, but the issues that I stand for. Faith seems to be the only means by which to understand the mystery of why this project, this idea, and why now. Or why not. I am choosing to engage with the various selection committees as a divinatory process. The Hand of God, tapping my creative efforts that best serve my people.
The generative force behind all of my ideas is erotic.
It is inarguably the tide of Eros, churning within the moving rivers of my body. Each idea is a desire born of an embodied longing, bubbling up. These things, they want to be born, they yearn to manifest. They crowd around, like impatient spirits waiting to reincarnate.
When I answer the call of a particular desire, the ebullient and effervescent delight which courses through my body is sublime. Merely putting the words onto paper is sometimes orgasmic. Letting them then go off into the world, to be petted and stroked and sometimes mauled by complete strangers is oddly liberating. They are not mine alone, anymore. They belong to us, to our species. What is our medicine today, this week, this decade? What beauty, what insight do we need to ensure our collective survival?
Sometimes the desires are resilient. Tough, with bouncy edges. Sometimes they are tender, and become easily cracked and disheartened.
Sometimes, when I send an especially beloved desire out into the world, it has the quality of reaching out to touch an achingly desired potential lover, for the very first time.
That moment when you don’t know if your touch will be welcomed. That fragile, heartbreaking pause between your gesture, and their acceptance when the entirety of your self-esteem is up for grabs.
I’m practicing trust in my creative process, when I send those ones out, that the rejection I face will not damage me. That the burn of Eros will be fed by the ashes of rejection, and honed into an ever-clearer flame of yearning and expression.
It is a terrible-wonderful thing, to put one’s heart on public display, time and time again, for critique and judgment. The not-good-enough trolls stand just at the edge of that autonomous zone, waiting for my transgressive heart to cross the border into the land called self-doubt.
But wait! Ding, you’ve got mail! What’s this? A call for submissions for a new zine on fat acceptance? A film contest exploring marginalized sexuality?
Sorry trolls, not today. I’ve got the work of desire, burning down the house.
P.S. Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys is happening 2/21-23 in San Francisco.