DiversifYA: Audrey Crass
|July 3, 2014||Posted by DiversifYA under DiversifYA, QUILTBAG|
Today, the wonderful Audrey Crass joins us! Audrey is a writer, equestrienne, and 2013 Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow. And, as those at #QueerRT14 can attest, she’s many kinds of amazing. Her latest manuscript, a YA fantasy about a princess who falls in love with her fiancé’s sister (and lights a few things on fire along the way), happens to be quite spectacular as well.
1. How do you identify yourself?
I’m an equestrienne and a writer of YA fantasy with a penchant for profanity and ice cream binges and a weakness for brilliant women.
2. What did it feel like growing up as a lesbian?
It felt confusing and lonely. Back in my early years, cluelessness was my jam; I had no idea was attracted to women. In retrospect, the entire wall of my bedroom devoted to Xena: Warrior Princess should have been a hint. My parents had a few gay friends, but somehow I did not draw the connection between those people and my own series of devastating crushes on older, unattainable women. The manuscript I’m querying right now draws heavily from that clueless phase before I started to understand myself. One of the main characters in the book, a princess, has been betrothed to a prince since childhood, and has never been in love. When she meets her fiance’s roguish sister, she has to reevaluate everything she planned for her future and choose between the crown and her heart.
My cluelessness came to an end during my junior year of high school. My best friend up through sophomore year ran away over the summer with a 40-year-old guy. She had been my social lifeline, so I started junior year with no friends. But several new students transferred into my small school that year, including a girl with eyes like the ocean and the most bizarre sense of humor I’d ever encountered outside my own head. We bonded over horses (we were both owners/riders) and after only a few weeks were exchanging our deepest secrets. We had a wide array of crazy nicknames for one another (I was referred to as Audpod, Podly, or Queen Shebashoba, Chortle of the Snufflers). We’d speak to each other in code and play games where we tried to guess each other’s thoughts by only giving the first letters of each word in a sentence. She was so beautiful. Three months after we met, I had her guess “IWTKY.” Five hours of fearful waffling later, our lips touched for the first time.
We had a secret relationship on and off for about nine months. Even at that point I didn’t think about how to label myself. I just knew I loved her. When we parted ways she asked me not much long afterward if I would consider dating another girl, or if it was a one-time thing. It took me a few days to arrive at the conclusion, which was that yes, I would. And thus the clue bat made firm contact with my thick skull.
Although it was in a liberal city, my high school was very small, and coming out didn’t feel safe. So I went on some ill-advised internet dates with girls, dodged prom invitations from well-meaning guys, and finally came out in college. Even then I was a bit lonely. There weren’t a ton of other queer women out at my school, and I felt like I didn’t have the right clothes or politics or anything else to fit in with them anyway. It took me a long time to realize that being myself was enough.
3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?
The funny thing about being gay is that you never stop coming out. It’s very awkward, particularly in a professional environment, when people start to ask questions about your “husband.” A snap decision has to be made about whether or not that person can be trusted with your true self. My day job is in a conservative industry, and it’s frustrating to have to spend so much effort dodging what ought to be small talk. If I could give everyone on the planet one piece of advice about meeting new people, it would be “assume nothing.” People are rarely what our limited perspectives might lead us to believe.
As far as quirks/perks, hey, I never have to see hairy man butts that look like brillo pads or find the toilet seat left up.
4. What do you wish people knew about being a lesbian?
It’s not all fanny packs, mullets, women’s music festivals, patchouli, tattoos, and moving in and acquiring four cats on the second date. There’s no right or wrong way to be queer. It doesn’t matter what you look like, dress like, act like, or what your politics are, and you don’t have to change any of those things to be a lesbian. Do/dress/eat/wear/love whatever feels right to you. Also, being a lesbian doesn’t mean I can’t be heteroappreciative from time to time. An attractive person is an attractive person. There’s no harm in acknowledging that.
5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?
It’s frustrating when people assume all lesbianism is a result of being treated poorly by men. Men are great and have always treated me well. I just don’t want to sleep with them.
For further stereotyping, I will just leave this here… (NSFW)
BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?
Remember that before someone is GLBTQ or any other label, they’re human. Diverse characters should not be defined solely by whatever it is that makes them diverse. Being queer/disabled/non-neurotypical is not something that makes a character inherently complex/better/worse/interesting–it’s the lens through which they see the world that makes them unique (which is of course influenced by queerness/disability/etc.). But particularly in the case of GLBTQ characters, a person may know a great deal about themselves before discovering their queerness, and often those things shaped us much more than a label ever could. Write from there.