With You By My Side, It Should Be Fine

The story that got me into the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop was about a nonbinary prostitute called Tolly. Thomas Disch, one of my Clarion instructors, was extremely disappointed when he met me and my gender didn’t match his expectations, based on the spelling of my name and the subject of my story.  The same story, when written by someone who presented as a woman, meant something completely different to him.

At the time, I didn’t have the language to describe Tolly. I saw him as a boy who was more comfortable dressed like a girl. Once, decades later, I saw the term nonbinary, I knew that was how Tolly would describe himself.

In this story, which was originally drafted in the early 80s, I’d never heard of nonstandard pronouns. Because of that, Tolly uses masculine pronouns throughout, because that is what was available to him in the world he lived in. I like to think that wherever he and Doug end up, there are wider options available. Masculine pronouns have never encompassed all that Tolly is.

WilyWriters.net invited me to kick off their new reading series. Since it’s Pride Month, I asked if I could read the LGBTQ+ story closest to my heart, the one I chose to end my story collection, Unsafe Words.

This is “With You By My Side, It Should Be Fine.”

About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, as well as a space opera trilogy. I'm also co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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5 Responses to With You By My Side, It Should Be Fine

  1. Love the story. You’re good at reading out loud.:-)

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Thank you! I used to have terrible stage fright, so I’ve made myself read in public a lot.

  2. jeffbaker307 says:

    Thomas Disch! OMG!

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Clarion was an amazing experience. Our first teacher was Algis Budrys and our last two weeks were taught by Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight. Disch insisted we all learn to play poker so we could use it in metaphors (and he could win all our money).

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