Recognize Fascism, edited by Crystal M. Huff

Book Cover for The Death of All Things

The Death of All Things, edited by Laura Anne Gilman and Kat Richardson


Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by R. B. Lemberg and Lisa M. Bradley

Go to the Mirror, Boy! – Rory, More Personally

Fascism is isolating.

It feeds on isolation, and it exploits it.

I have seen so many exhortations from people on the ground: get to know your neighbors. Know who will help you, and who will hurt you. Join together. Take collective action. Who would hide you in the basement, if you needed to hide? Who will pass you twenty bucks to make rent, to get away, to get a meal?

Whose streets? Our streets.

We save us.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

At the same time, I’ve read so many articles about the radicalisation path into fascism – about isolated, usually young, usually white, usually men, seeking community and being convinced that that community is under threat from the Other. That isolation provides a hook, only for those people instead of being a way of cutting them from the herd and tearing them apart, it’s an invitation to join the pack.

Those guys have the right culture fit to devour the world apocalyptically, and hey, it’s a place to fit in.

Hold that thought for a moment, now.

Another thread: I almost never see people like me in stories.

When I read Geometries of Belonging I sobbed for hours, because I had never in my life been so seen by a text I read, had never been in the head of a character whose texture was so familiar. I am not Parét, not remotely, but Parét was the most of me I had ever met in someone else’s words, and I suddenly knew what it was to have representation, and I will forever be grateful to R. B. Lemberg for that.

There is something deeply, profoundly isolating about never encountering that intimate familiar. I have read so many stories about alien people with unfamiliar textures and it is, perhaps, why I can only write speculative: there is so much alien, so much unfamiliar, so much of the strange in what I see, that I do not know that I could write otherwise, without that twist of the peculiar to make you forgive me for my otherness, for my solitude.

It is very easy to be alone in a neurodivergent mind, to be constantly caught on the chasms between me and you, whoever you are. It is very easy to be alone when prone to dissociation, to having a camera eye perspective on one’s own life, too.

It is very easy to be alone, and that means it is very easy to be afraid in times like these, when survival depends on being not alone.

(And I am lucky; I have a family, I have certain securities, I have the privilege of my whiteness, I have so many things that so many people don’t have, and so I have less fear than I might if things were different. And I am still afraid.)

But here is a secret about Rory: I wrote this bit about Rory to ask you to see me, to see people like me – to be less alone. I wrote Rory, and now you get to read “The Company Store” when Recognizing Fascism comes out, and we will see how I am doing at getting to know my broader neighbors.

(I’m really kind of bad at this.)

Now that my video recitation is up on the Kickstarter, maybe the next bit should go after you see the video, dear readers, if you are inclined to do so. I’m trying not to say much directly about the story than you can get from the excerpt, but I may miss that mark.

There is a cut tag here, in case you want to go back and watch the video before carrying on.

Of course, Rory isn’t me. But Rory’s brain is a little like my brain in its tangles and its constant referential snarls. If you read “We are the ones we have been waiting for” up above and immediately wanted to add “All of my li-i-i-ife” then we understand each other, maybe a little (or possibly both have children of an age to have seen Frozen II fourteen thousand times during the quarantimes).

I chose that piece of Rory’s story to read for the Kickstarter because it is tidy, it is self-contained, and it is a riff on a single concept, a single piece of echolalia: that entire little piece is talking about The Phantom of the Opera: that whole spirit and voice in one combined thing is such an intense trans image. (Not that, I think, I recognized it that way when I was obsessed with Phantom as a teen.)

But here is this man, this twisted, broken man, trying desperately to express himself through a woman.

What is there, inside my mind?

Perhaps I, too, am Erik.

But as I said in my author bio – I am only an egg.

I have … let’s call it thirtyish years of practice managing my dysphorias, because really my physical dysphoria comes out mostly as “vague antipathy for my secondary sexual characteristics”, and I deal with it. I could keep dealing with it, with fits of research into things, important things like “would taking T fuck up my singing voice, which is more important to me than a lot of things about gender”, or “what are the best affordable options for binders”. I could deal with it, stifle it, and do nothing of substance.

But the world is on fire, and way back in 2016 in the United States, some of the first strikes were at the disability community and trans people. And so I’m back to the imperfectable body and fascism, aren’t I? And here I am with my autoimmune disease – I can pass for abled, it’s invisible, after all – and also, I can pass for cis.

Do the things to make me a passable girl, like Rory says in that excerpt.

There’s a temptation to bundle up and lie and say “I’m a white woman with kids” and see how long that protects me, and I won’t deny it. There’s a temptation to say “If I go there, I don’t know what it’ll do to my kids, to my family, so I won’t go there”. There’s a temptation to be governed by fear, because fear is the weather, and there is so much.

There’s also a temptation to say “I don’t know where there is, so I won’t do anything”, because a nonbinary transition is tricky to conceptualise and I don’t even begin to know what I might need.

It’s a world on fire, and one famous author is suggesting that autistic transmasculine people are deluded little girls who are incapable of self-knowledge, and another famous author is cracking jokes about how a lack of external wabbly bits means that someone’s not a Real Man, and I am not a famous author at all, and I am small and afraid and composed of too many furious words, many borrowed from someone else, and the more they hate me, the more it hurts to pretend they’re not talking about me.

There’s a temptation to remain inauthentic, because the world is made of fire and terror. Blend in, hide, be alone but also in a crowd. Sever anything that looks like a notable difference, because notable differences are the things that aren’t Good Culture Fit. Be alone inside your brain, detach from your body, keep your head down, follow orders, oh, always follow orders.

And “The Company Store” is about the price of inauthenticity. It is about being accidentally an infiltrator, about being assumed to be a mostly perfectable body. It is, in the end, about being seen, about not letting isolation and dissociation win. It is about first steps. Gods know I don’t know where to go from here, I’ve got nothing but “do the next right thing” because I cannot see the future. But first steps are about being real, and about finding our people out there, and about trying to be seen as real, as people.

I couldn’t do the video recording I linked up there before I cut my hair. That lie would have been one too many, most particularly for that story.

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me…

(I begin and end more or less on Tommy, apparently. That’s rather tidy. Rory’s story begins and ends on Billy Joel.)

Fascism… is isolating.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

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