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Interview: Elliott DeLine! Pt. 1 of 2

Please describe your path to becoming a writer.

It probably sounds corny, but I’ve always been writing, since I was able. I used to make books as a kid, with paper and staples. Growing up, writing was always something that came pretty naturally to me. That, along with books, music and art, was my way of escaping and expressing myself. I was pretty involved with my high school literary magazine and had a lot of poems and short pieces I would share that way. When I got to college, I decided I wanted to focus on creative writing the most, and not visual art. I didn’t really know much about art, I just enjoyed making it. I didn’t like the classes so I switched to an English major and focused on reading and writing. The first times I was really published were in college literary magazines, prior to writing Refuse. Then I self-published Refuse, and then I was a runner-up in the New York Times Modern Love Essay Contest, and then my story was accepted for The Collection, a transgender anthology. Then I also became a blogger for Original Plumbing. Everything built upon itself and more and more people read Refuse. I started getting semi-regular “fan mail,” requests for interviews, and got to read or speak at some events and colleges. Nothing to crazy, but enough that some people took me seriously. I then self-published I Know Very Well How I Got My Name. That’s all it really was. Mostly, I asked people to read my book, or sell it at their store, or to read at their event, and enough people said yes. And it built upon itself.

How has living in Syracuse, NY informed your writing?

Very much so, given that it’s the setting of probably 75% of what I have written the past few years. I’ve lived here most my life, but it took going away a few times to get perspective on it. I’ve become fascinated with the city and region for these past five years or so. The architecture, history, demographics, crime, everything. It seems like everything about me is tied to my location, and I’d never noticed it before. I feel like Syracuse explained everything. Why I am who I am. It was empowering to stop being embarrassed about my history. I was embarrassed because it was so ordinary and I wasn’t anywhere near as worldly as my college friends at least pretended they were. So I wasn’t from some place hip or interesting. So what. I was glad. I am still glad. And people like that are wrong anyway. I’ve always had a lot of hometown pride. It’s common here. It’s a love-hate sort of thing. I think it’s a unique setting because it’s nothing special. Not to outsiders at least.

In what ways has your work been feminist and/or reflected social justice themes?

Like many trans people, I have a conflicted relationship with feminism. I think my books challenge the ways some (cisgender female) feminists view the world. I was actually surprised my second book, I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, didn’t get more backlash. I have to imagine it’s because so far fewer people read it. I thought the depiction of a trans person sexually abused by a cisgender female would be more controversial. Because it’s sort of the reversal of societal expectations, where the trans person is the predator, and male-identified people are predators, and cisgender women are victims only. Feminism is a tough one, because I’ve seen so many trans women as well as men hurt by the words of self-identified feminists. I don’t think my books are anti-feminist. But that wasn’t my concerns when writing those particular pieces. The social justice themes I am most concerned with in Refuse and I Know… are probably access to healthcare for trans people and a sorta anticapitalist view of work, particularly given trans unemployment. And I think there is a lot to be said about class and location, like I previously mentioned. But I figure what is good for trans people is good for all gender equality. So in that sense, feminists and I are on the same page.

What was it like being part of the first annual QueerMart arts and craft fair?

It was wonderful. We put a lot of time and energy into promoting it and it really paid off. The crowds were big and everyone was so excited. Most the artists made a decent amount if money. I don’t think there’s ever been anything like it in Syracuse. I’m really proud of it. It really brought people together for something positive and fun. It felt empowering.

More…

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Dear bookstores who never respond to my emails or say they are not interested in carrying my books,

1. How many books do you have that are about transgender people?
2. How many of those are accessible to most people as in not written academic, highly abstract, medical, or psychological jargon?
3. How many of those are written by transgender people themselves?
4. How many books do you have written about and by cisgender people?

Some other questions to ask:

Do you consider yourself an LGBT, queer, radical bookstore? If so, what does that mean to you?
Do you consider yourself supportive of independent artists? If so, what does that mean to you?

Thank you to Quimby’s of Chicago, Giovanni’s Room of Philadelphia, Buffalo Books of Ithaca, and especially BGSQD of New York for being wonderful exceptions. Shop at these places!

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In response to some of the negative reactions to my Huff Po interview

(for some reference, see www.gaytransguys.com and scroll through the posts a little ways until you find it.)

1. I said I have no interest in dating gay men, not no interest in dating cis men. I do date cis men. I have no interest in dating gay identified ftms either. Please make sure you actually listen before you criticize someone. My preference has to do with the person’s ideology, not discrimination based on body types. *I will add that I’m not dead set against it, because there may be people who are queerly gay, for a lack of a better term. But it’s more a matter of self-protection than anything else.

2. I live in a conservative area. I have not had positive experiences. I do not like participating in gay male culture in other areas either. I have plenty experience with this scene, and have actually not dated women in the past except as a teen, in atypical, mostly secret situations. To say that I’m used to women and am not aware of “gay male social conventions” is unfair. Cis women can be just as mean and actually my very limited experience in that realm was just as bad if not worse.

3. Bill Roundy totally defended this view when he basically told me that grindr is just like that and that some gay men just have shallow standards. He also, I believe, was meant to represent the viewpoint that there are accepting gay men out there. Again, I’ve been involved with men 5 years now. I’m not stupid and I know that my experience is not the only one. I’m not a noobie gay or something. If I were coming from the lesbian scene though, would my criticism be less valid? I did not like Bill’s story about young trans men being comforted by his comic and that’s what I was reacting to. Honestly, I do not care for his comic. I wanted to interject that I do not need the approval of gay men because I tire of being seen as a victim in need of an understanding savior who dates trans men.

4. A queer identity is not ‘superior’ to a gay identity and I don’t especially see myself as either, but a queer mentality is generally more inclusive and compatible with my own. I AM SPEAKING ONLY FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE. Isn’t everybody? If gay men are awesome in Europe that’s awesome but again, that is one person’s opinion. Some trans men even in my town are not bothered by blunt questions that I take as transphobic and abrasive. I have gay men who I consider close friends but at this point, I have trouble dating anyone who identifies as something monosexual, and this is also due to what I like to do in the bedroom, which is not anyone’s business. I have become very jaded and I am very selective with the people I become close to. I want someone who views gender similarly to me. Most gay people do not, in my experience. Most people do not, period, and that is a big part of why I remain alone.

5. A gay trans man who loves the gay community and fits right in would probably have been an interesting counterpoint but I would have probably argued with him anyway and just offended more people. I think that a critical trans guy is also a rare voice and so please don’t dismiss me as “oh here we go again.” Please, by all means, use as many venues to share your positive stories. No one is stopping you by sharing a small fraction of his negative experience. Conversely, people have criticized my NY Times article because I fit in too well with the gay community as a white twink type and complained that you don’t see other view points. Why do people who want diverse viewpoints complain when views that aren’t their own are voiced?

I apologize if I’m being overly defensive, but this is not the only place I’ve been dealing with this. It seems a reoccurring theme that people dislike my “negative” views and accuse me of being divisive, online and in my local community. I have been really looking inside myself and I don’t think I am doing anything wrong. Huff Post invited me on the show and I gave my opinion. I was flustered and speaking off the cuff and in a bitter mood, but I am really OK with everything that I said and stand by it. In general, I try to be responsible but mostly just candid and true to my own experience. I think of myself as a storyteller more than an activist. I try to be aware of my strengths and weaknesses and I am not ever looking to be a spokesperson. In fact few things would cause me more anxiety.

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An interview with me and others about trans men and cis men who date, on HuffPost Live

Huh, I posted a list of what I liked and didn’t like about this experience but it didn’t show up. I guess I’ll try writing up a thing about that later.

Here’s me, Matt Kailey (Just Add Hormones), Bill Roundy (Orientation Police comic) and another psychologist dude talking about gay cis men and transgender men who date. I wish I had phrased a few things differently but over all I’m pleased, given how caffeinated and awkward I felt…and also pretty annoyed near the end, but that’s a story for another day.

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Huff Post Live Tonight

I’m going to be interviewed tonight on Huff Post Live in a segment about “gay [cisgender] men who date trans men and visa versa.” Funny enough, I don’t date gay men. I don’t technically date anybody, but I have no interest in gay men. So tune in at 5:45 PM ET to see if anybody asks me about my genitals. Don’t get upset if you go to the page right now- that’s not my mugshot, it’s Justin Beiber. http://live.huffingtonpost.com/

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NYC, Less than a week away!

Elliott DeLine, Reading and Book-Signing at the Bureau of General Services- Queer Division

Where: BGSQD, hosted at Cage. 83A Hester St. New York, NY 10002

When: Friday, January 17th, 7 PM

What: Reading and book signing with wine! Including a musical performance by Audrey Zee Whitesides of the Brooklyn trans punk band Little Waist.

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/751547541540880/

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FTM Author Elliott DeLine's 2014 East Coast Tour!

My indiegogo campaign has been going well, thanks to Andrew Molloy, Aine & Nora, Wes McQuillin, Ayana Davis, and an Anonymous donor! They will be getting nifty gifts and will be immortalized with their names on my website and in my next book. THANK YOU AGAIN GUYS! And there is still time for others to be a part of this as well :)

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I’ve updated the descriptions on the backs of my two books. They will be available soon on Amazon. Books ordered through me directly will still be the old versions, until I’ve sold my current batch.

Unfortunately, the printer won’t let me put text on the spine of the novella because it isn’t 130 pgs. I’ll find a way around this eventually.

Thank you to all the people quoted on the backs for your kind words. If you are a new follower of mine, or an older follower, and you haven’t checked out my books, you can order them here

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Samples of what $10, $20, $50, and $100 will get you if you donate to my indiegogo campaign to fund my 2014 book tour! You choose the books from my collection of over 75, available here: http://etsy.com/shop/thepurrcolatorpress and here: http://www.ebay.com/usr/elawrenced

The indiegogo page is here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ftm-author-elliott-deline-s-2014-east-coast-tour

"Make it possible for a transgender, independent author to travel for book readings and important LGBTQ literary events in 2014."

Please share and reblog. Thank you!

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