I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out how to write this entry. I figured that it would be seven days of consideration, weighing pros and cons, making sure I made no rash decisions, all that, but honestly, my mind kept returning to one point again and again that I couldn’t respond to.

Writing hasn’t made me happy in over a year.

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Paladins: An Interview With Vaughn R. Demont


Recently I had the opportunity to meet and connect with author Vaughn R. Demont. A talented writer and an all-around very cool guy, I was more than stoked when he agreed to sit down for this interview where we cover everything from life as a gay geek, being an urban fantasy author and of course diversity in speculative media.

Upkins: For the readers at home, tell us a bit about yourself.

Demont: It’s always weird to answer this question. Do I recite the same tired thing in my bio? Go humble, be brash? I’m a gay guy, pretty much, from central New York. I’m a gamer, tabletop and PC, I teach composition, and I write urban fantasy because I love the genre and the kind of heroes it enables writing about. I would mention that I run as well but Haruki Murakami does it too and wrote that book…

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Podcast: LGBT in Video Games

Did an interview/roundtable discussion with an independent game developer about LGBT characters in games. We touched on Bioware’s RPGs, Gay For You, and how things can continue to improve. Had a great time doing this one.🙂

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It’s Not Always Just a Game

This is an odd entry to write. Most writers use their blogs to talk about current projects, or failing that, things that matter.
I don’t know how many of you feel that table-top roleplaying games actually matter, and I don’t expect to make any converts with this entry, but writing is supposed to be, in some way, telling the truth about yourself. The truth of the matter is that, yes, I’m a tabletop gamer in my off time, recently part of a group again after a near ten year hiatus. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons before I was ten years old, pulled into it by my sister who played in a game run by our uncle. My cousin had had to drop out because his mother, my aunt, was deeply Christian and had a problem with her son playing “Satan’s game”.
Her niece and nephew, it would seem, were okay to let burn in hell. Continue reading


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JMED: We Alive, Dammit: The Unbreakable Survivors of Kimmy Schmidt

The Show: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Principal Actors: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski

Creators: Tina Fey & Robert Carlock

Synopsis: Rescued after 15 years in a cult, Kimmy Schmidt decides to reclaim her life by venturing to New York, where she experiences everyday life with wide-eyed enthusiasm. On a whim, she rents a room from Titus, a gay wannabe Broadway actor, who makes ends meet as a street performer in Times Square. The unlikely pair find they’re well-suited to help each other out, with Titus reintroducing Kimmy to modern life, and her providing him with the inspiration that you should never give up. Together they’ll make it through whatever life throws at them.

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Communities (Coming Out)

Coastal Magic was definitely a good time, both for meeting readers as well as other authors, and one of authors I had the opportunity and pleasure to meet was Damon Suede, who, let’s face it, is a hell of a lot more known than me, funnier than me, and… I’ll put it this way, a conversation with Damon is a sudden ride, and you can either try to keep up, or just sit back and ride along. I attempted the former, ended up doing the latter, it’s like a taste of what elevated conversation at a society party would be like. He shines bright and big, that’s the best way to put it.

And before I went to CMC, I did some reading on Damon, read the bit of his bio that starts with “the right wing anus of America”, which I guess is Texas, and as a gay New Yorker, the only thing I really know about Texas is to never fucking go there unless I go to Austin. That’s the rep the Lone Star State has here, you know? New York, well, we’re New York City and a bunch of real estate and parks and a few colleges and stuff, but we’re New York, the Democrat stronghold, a bastion of liberalism. If Damon Suede was ejected from a right-wing anus, than I was ejaculated from a set of genitals that leaned heavily to the left.

And I’m guessing Damon and I had… different experiences when we came out. You would think that coming out in Texas vs. coming out in New York would have a clear winner. It does, it’s just not NY in this case, and community is the big difference. Community is the difference, let’s be honest, between whether you come out knowing you’ll be accepted and that a whole bunch of people have your back the moment someone gives you shit, and being thankful that Ricki Lake had a talk show.

I was seventeen, in Central New York, which isn’t Brooklyn or Queens, it’s north of Syracuse, and you’re raised to think that people from New York City are assholes because they believe by virtue of living in NYC, they’re better people than you. The town I lived in was poor, in the poorest county in NY, and being on any sort of public assistance made you an easy target for bullying. A fixed income plus “child support” (from a deadbeat dad) put me in that category, so I’d endeavored to look as working class as possible. My mom was on disability, so she watched soaps and a lot of daytime talk shows, in particular Ricki Lake, who I only recognized as a “that girl” actor. I wasn’t doing fantastic, my sister was already off to college and it was looking like I had the test scores to get me into a lot of good schools, which didn’t mean anything because I didn’t have the money to afford them. (Luckily SUNY Oswego had a great Writing Arts program.) As a result of that and being seventeen, I was, let’s face it, pissy and bitchy and not the greatest of kids, but I wasn’t a criminal, doing drugs, drinking, smoking, skipping school, or anything like that. Part of it was having a crush on one of my best friends, and sorry, but there was zero chance of him suddenly going all “gay for you” upon finding out I was into him.

I was also going to a high school where “smear the queer” and “bag the fag” were acceptable games in gym class, and the track team that I was on was the athletic haven for nerds, geeks, and outcasts, because running away from aggressive men was something we had a lot of practice at. There was one kid who was known to be gay, and let’s just say it was a public hell and he was too bug-eyed and weird for the girls to take him in and protect him. Having a gay friend wasn’t “in” yet, it was better and easier to hang around the girls and let the guys think I was trying to get them to go out with me. It also meant, to sell it, I’d have to ask one of them out publicly. She’d be embarrassed, I’d get shut down hard, it’d be humiliating for both of us and get around and I’d be tormented, but I’d be tormented for asking a girl out, and that’d buy me a few months out of the critical eye.

And after one of these instances, I got into a fight with my mom, and it was looking like I was going to be kicked out. Most gay guys, if you ask them, plan their coming out, or blurt it out from a place of frustration, or make it funny or entertaining or tearful or something. I don’t know how many come out as a Hail Mary to avoid getting kicked out of their house. But it worked, well, sort of.  My mom’s first response was actually, “No, you’re not!” It was incredulous, complete with eyeroll, and then she noticed I wasn’t laughing, I was crying, and it really started to sink in.  She stumbled and fumbled through a few sentences and paragraphs, and eventually found her way to an episode of Ricki Lake she’d seen a few days before. The episode had kids coming out to their parents, and the parents that were accepting were applauded, the rejecting ones were booed. Yeah, in the 90s, coming out to your parents was worthy of a talk show episode.

That wasn’t that, though. A few weeks later, she took me aside to ask me if I was still gay, but it was the hushed, secretive way she’d said it that I remember, even though everyone in the house knew. It took her some time, I could mention where she grew up, the year, the attitudes, but if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that everybody’s different, and I came out into a pretty nonexistent community until I got to college. Coming out to my friends was a little easier, and I never told my one friend I was into him, because by that time I was more interested in someone else. The more people I told, the easier it got to tell people, but from what I understand that’s par for the course. Time’s moved on, I guess it’s supposed to be easier now, but one thing I have to give my mom credit for is that she never treats my being gay like a choice. I’ve said out loud that no one in their right mind would choose a life like this, given how you’re treated, but there’s still an element of choice involved: the choice to come out. And I don’t know, isn’t it a better choice to be honest?

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Two Conversations

I might’ve mentioned before that I’m a professor, no matter how little I’m paid, so I do have students, class discussion, all that. Most discussion is through writing prompts and all of us having a laugh at the sillier and clever efforts, but this is the first semester I’ve been given a lit course, no matter how introductory, so it’s given me the chance to actually encourage the sort of class-long discussions every professor hopes to see in their career. The opening of the course dealt largely with stories, poems, and plays examining the various issues and conflicts faced by women and men, some traumatic, others mundane, all enlightening, and near the end, there are a number of poems that examine LGBT issues as well as gender issues.

I didn’t assign any of them, rather I allowed the class to pick 6 poems from a long list to write reactions to in their journals for discussion, and a few students did go with the LGBT poems. “Crazy Courage” by Alma Luz Villanueva, which examines gender identity, was the one that some in the class loved, but it eventually brought out the reminder that I’m in a rather red part of NY when several students took the time to make it all about gay marriage, and why they didn’t understand why it was such a big deal to the gay community. “Gay agenda” was even dropped, and I did my best to not cringe, and make a smartassed retort that a thousand memes already have about what the “gay agenda” truly is.

“We’ll just say I disagree with you on that point. I’m not going to argue it with you, because right now we’re having two completely different conversations at the same time, so we’ll just wrap up and move onto the next poem.”

William Blake’s “The Garden of Love” proved to be much less controversial.

And yeah, I did want to really put out there what I felt, but I can’t, because let’s face it, fear is still a very real part of the daily gay experience. But, we were having two different conversations, and the odd thing was that I wasn’t angry at the student, because hey, it’s their opinion, and I’ve kind of run into this before.

The student’s conversation was that they simply don’t understand why gay people want to get married, and have it called a marriage, when there are other options. The student was straight, male, and likely never had to even consider why it would be an issue. It’s just not part of the sum of their life experience, they’re largely innocent to what it’s really like to be gay in the US, even with all the advances. To that student, we’re just fighting over a simple word.

My conversation was a little different.

My conversation was about how I refuse to be “less than”. And by “less than”, I mean “less than human.”

I’m not going to be angry at that student, because how do you be angry at someone who honestly has no idea what it’s like? How can you fault them for failing to possess skills that they will never have to possess?

Here’s a short sampling of just a few skills I’ve utilized over the past week:

1. My fiance and I have perfected the unspoken communication to stop holding hands in a nonchalant fashion, separate to at least 3 feet apart, and not make eye contact with anyone approaching, yet still smile in a genial fashion to seem nonthreatening.

2. My collection of gender-neutral pronouns that I use to describe the man I love has quadrupled since I started teaching here, while I’m discussing football, automobiles, and heavy metal with enough knowledge to be considered in the know of generally heterosexual male subjects. I’ve always been a fan of the Seahawks, but I’ve been clinging to that fandom like a talisman to ward off the muttered “faggot” comments.

3. My fiance and I can go to a restaurant 30 minutes after I’ve proposed, and act as if it’s a simple dinner between two good friends.

4. I can keep a countdown going in my head, informing me of how many days are remaining until I can feel comfortable enough to let it slip around my students that I’m engaged to a man. That countdown is to the last day of withdrawing from the course without financial penalty, because I lost five students in one week when I let it slip during the last three days of add/drop.

5. I can recall, at will, a list of people who know, people who don’t, and people who can’t, and can edit, revise, delete, and add to my conversation topics and talking points when talking to them to keep people in the dark a little longer until I can exit the conversation with a sigh of relief.

6. Before I go anywhere I know various people are going to be at, I can remember which version of me I have to be and apply the necessary filters in less than ten minutes. Personal best is four minutes, but I had a soundtrack to help.

7. I can, in less than an hour, successfully remind myself with adequate confidence that I am still, in fact, a human being and am worthy of being treated like one. Personal best is thirty-nine minutes, but that’s largely thanks to Odesza’s Summer’s Gone.

Like I said, two conversations. Two sets of skills. I have to appreciate the fact that we spent time on William Blake, as he had a number of poems exploring Innocence vs. Experience, poems that examined the same issue from both sides, whether it was God, faith, love, hope, or life itself.

Two conversations.

And sometimes never the twain shall meet.


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