Pen To Print
David Cabrera Zapata diversity paradox write on pen to print

Showcase: The Diversity Paradox + Do Something For Me

Pride may have its roots in the late ‘60s USA, but the movement has well and truly spread to every corner of the globe. One advantage of our globalised, technologically connected society is that nations and populations no longer have to feel quite so isolated when undergoing cultural and social revolutions; rather, we can face them together, as one species, supporting our fellowship from the other side of the planet.

Sadly, the opposite can also be said to be true in this age of post-truth. The message, however, was already out there, even before this current wave of fake news. It’s okay to be LGBTQ+, diversity is good, and we must all be allowed to embrace our true selves as equals!

That’s not to say some nations and communities aren’t further along at accepting the LGBTQ+ community than others, but Pride is celebrated on every continent around the world, with many first-time parades taking place within the last few years.

In celebration of Pride’s international status, I am delighted to present a piece from Colombia. David Cabrera is a 19-year-old university student studying design—a subject he considers a passion rather than a profession. As you will see, his English is utterly phenomenal and he writes almost as much in this second language as he does in his native Spanish. While David considers writing his hobby, he has enjoyed great success despite his young age, winning the ninth-grade National Story Competition in 2015. As you will see in this deeply personal and honest piece, David writes to make sense of his own feelings, offering us a perspective on the LGBTQ+ community that I, for one, had not considered before: coming out is often discussed as one of the hardest things a non-cisgender person can experience…but what comes next? I’ll leave David to guide you through his thoughts himself; he puts it far more beautifully than I ever could.

I also want to draw your attention to the main ‘Showcase’ artwork today. This is also by David and is his own creation, designed specifically to accompany his submission.

David’s writing and artwork are the only submissions directly relevant to our theme this week. Of course, I don’t want to short-change you, so we have an excellent and haunting piece to follow. Before I introduce it, allow me to take this opportunity to declare a call for submissions from our creative and talented LGBTQ+ readers. Write On! was established to give a voice to every community on this little blue dot of ours, and I want to see more poetry, stories, and works of art being sent in for us to share proudly with our growing international audience. As ever, you can find the contact details at the bottom of this post.

Now, back to our second piece. Brian Thomson’s first submission (I am thrilled to say he has since sent in more fiction and I look forward to sharing it with you all soon) is entitled Do Something for Me. The piece is short and deliberate, yet thought-provoking and emotive on a number of levels. What appears as a gentleman meeting a lady in her kitchen to engage in some illicit affair is actually a tale of relationships: between fathers and daughters; mothers and sons; and even with ourselves. Its incorporeal meaning remains visible but elusive throughout, and yet Brian expertly presents the reader with enough familiarity to form a connection with the protagonists, and enough questions to leave us wanting more.

The quality we are receiving at Write On! is reaching new heights. Thank you all for continuing to share your work with us and the world! Your voice, your creativity, your message matters, and we want to hear from you.

Keep on writing!

Dan (Associate Editor)

 

The Diversity Paradox by David Esteban Cabrera Zapata
David Cabrera Zapata diversity paradox write on pen to print
(C) David E Cabrera Zapata – “Diversity Paradox”

It’s a sign of the times…when brands dress their logos red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet once a year. It’s a sign of the times…when there isn’t a series, film or book created post-2010 that doesn’t have a character attracted to the same gender, both genders or neither. It’s a sign of the times…when, fortunately, it’s at least politically correct to frown upon, or avoid, homophobia. Now, I know this is my own picture of reality, distorted by my cultural bubble. And, I am aware that we’re still some way from the utopia I’ve  just described. Therefore, I warn you, what I have to say, I’m saying from within that bubble. My reality is that of an introverted design student, from my own Western, Latin-American and comes from an utterly subjective perspective.

I’m very grateful that we now celebrate diversity; that we see the world wrapped in a rainbow every once in a while – that there are now singers, artists, actors, writers, athletes and, even politicians sharing their story. These people in the public eye are able to live and discuss their lives meaningfully, serving as existential references for millions of people across all ages. As it happens, it was mostly thanks to Troye Sivan that I even considered coming out four years ago. The response of my social environment (parents, friends and teachers) could not have been better and I realise I have been very fortunate. “What’s the matter, then,” you might ask, “if you’ve already gone through the toughest part and it turned out great?”

You see, there’s something they don’t tell you. Since I fared so well, it sometimes feels that I don’t have the right (or rather, I feel bad if I do) to become frustrated by the gap between the reality I see, and the one I live in.

For whom are the lives depicted in films, told in books, scored by series and portrayed by artists? Sure, they’ll show you how confusing it can get, the mistakes our protagonist makes, the internal and external prejudices he has to fight, the mishaps and vicissitudes he has to endure: we can all empathise with that. In the end, however, he always finds the boy, and they kiss under a cinematic, perfectly orchestrated fireworks display, foot popping and all. End of story. The credits roll while some lacklustre indie-rock/pop song about love and inclusion plays over the top. But what if he doesn’t find the boy at the end of the film? What if the years go by and you don’t mess up when you’re supposed to at your age? If the world moves on, along with it its expectations of you, while you become stuck in a limbo built by the very same mind-blowing cultural openness that allowed you to recognise yourself in the first place.

The diversity paradox is that they’ll show you normality, they’ll tell you that you’ve got this, that It ‘Gets Better’. They’ll charge you with enough pride to embrace yourself and, BOOM! End of story. Where are the rest of the instructions? It’s a surreal sentiment, a discrepancy between how you thought it would be, and how it actually is. What happens if you’re introverted, but don’t enjoy the hyper-sexualised, debauched gay night scene (similar to many straight clubs I daresay…. more so, why is there even a need for separate labelling)? What if your place is more within the pages of a book, calm conversations at dinner or  echoing through museum hallways? Where’s the space for the quieter voices? Where is our place in the parade? What if I don’t want to transform into the technicolour, glitter-covered, high-heel loving, ‘you-go-girl!’ product now associated with ‘living your true self? Am I, then, not gay enough? Is my queer passport revoked? I’m the one stumbling out of the cinema at the end of that movie, trying to connect what I’ve just seen to my own reality, but realising that I can’t.

The diversity paradox is being comfortable enough in your own skin to want to live your own version of the story but realising you can’t because we’re not there yet. It’s wanting to take your date to prom, skipping seventh period to go to the movies together, sneaking around back home past curfew because you spent way too much time watching the night sky holding hands, but understanding that you couldn’t because… we’re not there yet. In the movies, it’s all written out in a script, they’ll exchange glances in chemistry class, and a scheme-breaking, nostalgic love story about an undercover school romance will subsequently unfold. The diversity paradox is that they’ll tell you that everything will be easier in college cause it’s a more open environment, but open for whom I might ask? For what the majority sees as what waving the prismatic flag signifies, and more so in a career as diverse as design. Where’s the authentic diversity for everyone? The world is political, compromised, ‘open-minded’ and feminist until it comes across a bottle of Jack and Bad Bunny’s latest ‘hit’. God forbid if that’s not how I roll if I’m not original enough to be a part of it.

The diversity paradox is seeing a cute boy at the park or mall, and being unable to hit on him because you don’t know if you’ll be walking away with a black eye. You don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype that gay men ‘want every man they see’ or, best-case scenario, not knowing if you’ll be sent away with a scowl, because we’re not there yet. While it’s flattering for a guy if a woman finds him attractive (and vice versa), sadly that’s usually not how the story goes if it’s someone from the same gender. Better not risk it, therefore. It’s believing in the magic of a first kiss but being unable to experience it when your straight classmates do, unless you’re exceptionally lucky (or the main character in a queer rom-com).

It’s realising that reality is unscripted and feeling as if you’re waiting for something that will never happen; your mind more hopeful each day, while your heart breaks a little bit more every time you catch sight of your own reality, time slipping through your fingers like a handful of golden dust. It’s them selling you the idea that you can  live your own life but figuring out, unless you embody the mainstream version of diversity, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe I’m sounding a little negative – and please don’t get me wrong, it’s OK and I do understand the socio-historical reasons why gay culture has developed the way it has. All I’m saying is it’s just one gay culture, of many. For diversity to comprehend its true multiplicity, it should not exclude one or the other (see the irony here?). As @introvertgay expressed it in his Inspiring Medium article, “gay culture is being a teenager when you’re 30 because your teenage years were not yours to live.” I couldn’t have phrased it more accurately.

I understand that this is just the point of view of a minority within a minority within a minority (being gay, accepted by friends and parents, and an introvert). Thus, I don’t know whether  this will resonate, I do know (or refuse to believe, at least),that I’m not the only one. I see how this can be the queer version of ‘first world problems’. However,  it doesn’t make them less real, or less valid. It’s the reality I live, the divergence I experience, the flag I believe in and my very own rainbow-dressed logo. For now, I’ll keep living through the verses of songs, perfectly synchronised moments in films, and amid stories in pages. At at least they exist and are able to show me a remarkably ordinary universe that, for the time being, is only present in a collective consciousness I earnestly hope won’t take too long to materialise into a collective reality.

(C) David E Cabrera Zapata, 2020

Follow David and view more of his designs on his instagram (@peppermintcities) and Behance account.

 

Do Something For Me by Brian Thomson

brian thomson do something for me write on pen to print

He arrived, as always, around five in the afternoon.

She let him in and immediately returned to the kitchen. He closed the door after him and followed her.

Sitting at the kitchen table he watched her as she stood with her back towards at the cooker, stirring something in a saucepan.

“How you been?” he asked.

Without turning she said, “Okay, I suppose,” and then she added, “Jason’s been doing my head in.”

“Still after them trainers?”

She nodded, “and the rest.”

“Where is he now?”

“Where’d you think?”

From the living room could be heard urgent music and the occasional ping of cartoon gunfire.

He traced the rim of a teacup with his finger.

“I could lend you the money,” he said eventually.

She stopped stirring.

“Lend?”

“Well…”

“I still owe you for the gas.”

“It’s doing nothing sitting in the bank.”

“It wouldn’t be fair. You’ve worked all your life for that money. I bet you didn’t have trainers when you were his age.”

He smiled. “That’s true.”

She turned down the heat under the pan and went to the cupboard.

“Want some pasta?”

“No thanks.”

A shout of exultation came from the living room.

“Yeees!”

“He seems happy enough. Even without his trainers.”

They shared a smile.

The preparation of the meal finished, she joined him at the table.

“Did you meet with Susan?”

“She called to cancel. Work, apparently.”

He wiped the palms of his hands on his trousers. She reached across to take them in hers.

“But at least you spoke to her,”  she said.

Tears filled his eyes. “For what it’s worth, yeah. Perhaps it’s for the best. We only end up rowing,”

She went to stand next to him and cradled his head in her arms. She kissed his balding forehead.

“Kids, eh?” She said softly.

“Susan’s nearly forty,” he said, clearing his throat and sitting upright. “Hardly a kid.”

“Forty or fifteen. They all want what we can’t give,”

“There’s nothing I wouldn’t give Susan.”

“She wants her mum.”

“So do I.” He brought his hand to his mouth and bit his finger.

She waited.

“Cuppa?”

“That’d be nice.”

She went to the cooker and checked on the pans simmering away. Then she filled the kettle.

“You don’t have to worry about the gas, you know.” He said quietly.

“I know. You’re so good to us.”

“We’re friends, aren’t we?”

‘‘Course we are.”

They sat sipping tea and nibbling biscuits. A muffled explosion and victorious yelp came from the living room.

“Ten minutes?” she said.

“Ten minutes,” he said, getting up.

They went into the bedroom.

(C) Brian Thomson, 2020

Brian Thomson is a member of Ian Ayris’ Advanced Writers Workshop and the Barking Writer’s Group. He was awarded a Highly Commended nod with his short story, Eleven, in the 2019 Short Story Competition.

 

If you’d like to see your writing appear in Write On! Showcase, please send your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to pentoprint@lbbd.gov.uk or you can read more fiction, poetry, interviews and author advice in the latest issue of Write On! Available here 

The diversity paradox is that they’ll show you normality, they’ll tell you that you’ve got this, that It 'Gets Better'. They’ll charge you with enough pride to embrace yourself and, BOOM! End of story. Where are the rest of the instructions?