Who am I now? Slouching toward queerlessness.

I’ve had a strange and sombre day. Surrounded by hundreds of books and thousands of pages of words, with a couple of vague essay ideas sketched into notebooks or percolating in fragmented Word documents, I found myself thinking: What is the point? What value is there in this mass of words, written and unwritten?

Certainly we all hit creative impasses, as writers and as readers, but the impact is stifling all the same. For those of us who traffic in words, what are we when they cease to flow?

I have frequently posited my literary intention as an act of writing myself into being. By that I mean that I am acutely aware of my life, my being in the world, as an unfinished process—as is, of course, every human existence—but for me that process has grown increasingly undefined and undefinable over the years. I’ve been hunting for an existential language. I have, at heart, hoped that in my words someone else might recognize themselves; that I might not feel so alone.I’ve been thinking a lot about what drives us to tell our own stories. Some might argue that it is an essential element of human nature. We are story telling creatures. But to what end is it helpful to try to impose a narrative on lived experience? And what do I hope to achieve writing personal essays when I don’t have a very strong personal memory? There are huge swathes of my life that I cannot clearly remember or that are buried beneath the distractions of mood disorder and the disorientation of decades of gender insecurity. If I cannot clearly remember who I was, how can I hope to uncover any truths about who I am?

It might be easier if I was inclined to fiction, to creating shadows and echoes of myself and allowing them their own experiences. Play with variations on a theme. But my imagination is tethered to the hollowness that troubles my inability to find comfort within this real life lived. The only life I have. Queered and queerless.

When I started writing and publishing essays after an extended period of closeted post-transition existence, I hoped and believed that I could reclaim for myself an identity and a sexuality I had buried. Four years later I own even less than I started with. How do you write about an increasingly meaningless way of being in the world? It’s not a happy story; not the trans narrative that finds a ready audience. From the moment one comes out as transgender, the story you can tell defines your validity and access to services and support. Twenty years ago that was a very specific story, one I could not tell and so I had to carve my own path. I should assume it’s better now, but with the explosion of trans discourse, the narrative essentially remains the same. At odds with my own.

What do I know? All I know is that in my experience, this journey is intrinsically incomplete and unresolvable, lonely, and, in the wrong situation, dangerous.

I have friends who question my continued efforts to find myself within a conversation that cannot contain me, especially when my search for queer comfort causes so me much pain. I have good people and good things in my life, but when your history and your body are skewed against the norm there is a driving need to find a chorus to which to add your voice. A chance to a love song even. No matter how hard I try to believe, I cannot dream there is one. At least not for me.

Who wants words to that effect? There is no catharsis in writing or reading to that end. There are simply words, strings of syllables leading nowhere, achieving nothing at the end of the day.


Of course, I will find refuge in books again. And I will write. I just wrote this. For what it’s worth.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

19 thoughts on “Who am I now? Slouching toward queerlessness.”

    1. I’ve almost written much bleaker fare recently to be honest. I have been depressed and quite sick of late, but don’t worry, I have solid psychiatric and psychological support and friends I check in with regularly. This post is a reflection of my need to confront how I feel and try to write past it, after some recent conversations with other writers it had to come out.


  1. What if, instead of imposing a narrative on your lived experience, you wrote more automatically and then read your story as if you didn’t know it? The way, for example, you recently read Charles Quimper.

    Just a thought, from someone who has also wondered what value there is in putting more words on paper. But I always find so much value in yours. I hope you’ll keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Leslie. I can’t imagine actually imposing a narrative on my memories and experience, because I don’t think it’s a valid approach. At the same time, I think we do feel inclined to believe it should be and when I look back at my scattered journals over the years I can see how many times I tried to write one for myself in my efforts to make sense of my life (you know: “I believe I have at last found my purpose/true identity etc”). The older one gets, the more you understand that living is a process, not an end to be achieved.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post reminded me of a meditation I listened to, reflected on and did yesterday, it’s theme, The Best Way to Be Yourself and the Centering Thought “When I am being selfless, I am most myself.” I wish it was still available, it was one of Deepak Chopra’s freebies, that’s just ended.
    He basically posits that our ego is an encyclopedia of me, it records the past, our life history but that who we is when we are without ego, resting in existence, in awareness, when we are ready and able to serve others. We experience that flow of awareness when we meditate and our great challenge is to understand and sense our true self outside of meditation.
    I’ve been struggling with this too, as I’m writing a personal memoir which puts me back into old stories and narratives I no longer inhabit, and writing about them puts me back in that limited view and I lose that sense and awareness of being. Reflecting on his words and doing the meditation, for me, is such a reminder that it’s beneficial to have a daily practice. So I remind myself that the stories aren’t my true self and I try not to allow the unhealed aspects of my ‘self’, the ego, to dominate the narrative. But to stand back in a neutral space and be kind to myself, using the phrase”that’s interesting” when some of these unwanted thoughts arise.
    As Rumi said “There is a force that gives you life, seek that.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Claire. Much food for thought here. My recent move uncovered all kinds of diary entries and email communications stretching back over 20 years or more. Very disorienting to encounter these scraps of one’s sense of one’s self through time!


  3. 1)there was a point in my life when there were tears in my ears early in the morning because i would wake up crying

    this was nearly 30 years ago

    i started on prozac then, and after one gap of a couple of years, i am still taking it today

    it seems to help

    2)each person is a time-limited phenomenon, and we all face the fundamental questions: where did i come from, why am i here, where am i going, and when and what will i have for my next meal?

    here’s my non-theistic edit of a guided meditation someone named in honor of st francis

    My goal is to be an instrument of peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is despair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    Where there is sadness, joy.

    I seek not so much to be consoled, as to console;
    to be understood, as to understand;
    to be loved, as to love.

    For it is in giving that we receive.
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    and it is in letting go of a smaller self that we are able to recognize our wider identity.


  4. Hi Joe, clearly you are going through a tough time. It’s hard when you are in one of those times to take a step back and see any positives. We also seem hard wired as a society to be critical of ourselves, instead of giving ourselves love and compassion. So for now, those of us who know you only via this blog, will do our best to give you our love and compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Karen. In many ways, writing this post has helped me gain a little emotional distance. Which in turn reminds me why it is so important to keep writing. The support is most appreciated.


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