Above: Cover of “Stroke Book: The Diary of a Blindspot” by Jonathan Alexander (Punctum Books), author Jonathan Alexander by Carla Wilson. Black and white header image, “Blindspot,” by Jonathan Alexander @jonathanalexanderirvine.
Contact: Andy Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Queer Time Warp
& Five Ways Queerness + Age = Power
Emerging in the wake of unexpected medical crisis—a minor stroke— “Stroke Book: The Diary of a Blindspot” is the new critical memoir by queer author Jonathan Alexander in which he considers how living in a society still toxic to queer people has impacted his health, and how queer time has its own rhythms, fluctuations, and perversities.
He discusses the ways in which a lifetime of homophobic pressure can accumulate in the ageing queer body; how little psychic nicks and cuts leave scars, and how even when one reaches a point later in life, of relative self-acceptance, there remains the legacy of damage that manifests in a bigger problems—in Alexander’s case, a stroke.
For many queer adults, it is just such an unforeseeable event that brings us smack up against a very mortal encounter with time. We are forced to recognize that we are never not beholden to it, even as we often refuse opportunities to confront the feeling and realities of time, and that for queer people time is warped. Untethered to the markers of heteronormative life, how do we queers experience time? Our aging bodies?
“As a queer man in his 50s, I find myself having lived most of my life without the ‘normative’ markers of life passage—marriage, then having kids, raising kids, seeing them off, possibly being increasingly cared for by kids with greater age,” says Alexander. “In a way, having a stroke in one’s early 50s isn’t necessarily THAT unusual, but having it as a queer man who has held to queer choices underscores both what I have (an extended ‘family’ of partners and intimates who support me in so many ways) as well as what I don’t have (the ability to rely on my own children for seeing me into my elderly years).
“So, for me, queerness has forced me to re-invent normative life passages to fit my queer life,” he adds. “In a way, I think my ‘early-ish’ stroke has just intensified the deliberateness with which I’m thinking through how we have to invent our own transitions, not being able to rely on normative paths. I’m reminded how much of my life I’ve had to make up as I go along—and how much I’ll have to continue doing that.
Ultimately, he asks, how is the aging queer body different from that of the ageing straight-identifying body? Are there additional pressures similar to those for women, and increasingly, straight men? Or are we in our own class of stress just because we are queer? How do we digest, lessen that stress, or make it a strength? How can we flip it to make it a plus, and give ourselves a new way to see aging as queer people? It’s all a matter of perspective, says Alexander. There is no shortcut to the strength and wisdom that only be earned by experiencing queer life. Below, Jonathan Alexander shares Five Ways Queerness + Age = Power.
Five Ways Queerness + Age = Power
- Surviving is its own power. Just having gotten to this point as a queer person is its own kind of success.
- We may have loved and lost—a lot!—along the way, but we likely have a wealth of friends and companions with whom we have shared the journey.
- We have had the chance to see our culture slowly—sometimes TOO slowly! —shift from widespread intolerance and hate to the very beginnings of tolerance and acceptance. (And yes, we still have a long way to go.)
- As older queers, we remember the really bad days of AIDS—and we have come to understand the value of remembering, even the pain. That was a turning point in LGBT politics. We were there.
- We have made this journey with other queers, with lesbians, with trans people, with more and more out queers and trans folk of color, who continue to challenge us, inspire us, and push our understanding of what it means to be queer. That is, as old as we are, we can continue to grow.
“Stroke Book: The Diary of a Blindspot” by Jonathan Alexander will be published on October 26 by Fordham University Press and available at www.fordhampress.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Look for “Bullied: The Story of an Abuse,” also by Jonathan Alexander to be published on November 4 by Punctum Books, in which the author looks at how the pressure of being queer inescapably and fundamentally shapes our lives and the stories we tell ourselves to make our queerness bearable.
Jonathan Alexander is a writer living in Southern California where he is Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author, co-author, or editor of twenty-one books. His cultural journalism has been widely published, especially in the Los Angeles Review of Books for which he is the Young Adult editor, where founding editor Tom Lutz called him one of “our finest essayists.” He lives with his husband and cat, and when not writing, dabbles in watercolors and plays piano in a music ensemble with friends. For more about Jonathan Alexander and his books please visit www.thecreeptrilogy.com and www.the-blank-page.com.