“How to Alienate Your Queer Self During a Pride Literary Event”, GrubWrites, June 2017

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How to Alienate Your Queer Self During a Pride Literary Event

Milo Todd

This post originally appeared in GrubWrites, June 2017.

To kick off Pride Month this year, on June 5th GrubStreet hosted an event at Trident Booksellers called “Queering Literature: A Pride Panel.”

Freaking awesome idea, amirite? It’s rare to get to see some high-name, successful LGBTQ+ writers together, discussing what it means to write about queer lives. And so it’s no surprise that the place was packed that night. People were eager to see the infectious Kelly J. Ford, the badass Catherine Guthrie, the hysterically funny Brontez Purnell, the gracious Christopher Castellani, and the quietly brilliant Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.

Everything was spot on. The right atmosphere, an amazing lineup of speakers, a successful turnout, the welcoming Trident staff.

But Grub made one fatal flaw: They invited me to be the panel’s moderator.

Me. Unpublished me. Unimportant, unknown, unsuccessful me. Wisecracking, doe-eyed, smart-mouthed, thinks-he’s-funny, falls-down-sober, chocolate-cake-for-breakfast, quietly-screams-at-his-anxiety me.

I had no idea why they thought this would go well. So of course I said yes.

I immediately started prepping. Tons of research on the authors to make sure I got in every last detail of their successes, reading and re-reading the bios I wrote to make sure I had their intros just right, putting the authors in a particular order so my questions for them would flow, practicing my talk so I could look more at the audience, and on and on.

I was not going to fuck this up.

So here, it turns out, is how you fuck up:

  1. Have no idea how to use a microphone. Be so bad at understanding how to use a microphone that the speaker to your left has to nudge you and explain.
  2. Ask tough questions. Ridiculously tough questions. Like, Barbara Walters-level mindfuckery.
  3. Waste time apologizing profusely for said questions.
  4. Tell jokes that only you find funny. Laugh at them anyway.
  5. Research the panelists so hardcore that you come off like a stalker.
  6. Waste more time apologizing for that.
  7. Quote a panelist on something they can’t remember having ever said. Ask them a follow-up question about it anyway.
  8. Forget how to use the microphone again. Keep going and hope nobody notices that they can’t hear you anymore.
  9. Ask if the audience have any questions and then stare blankly at them when nobody does. Keep staring.
  10. Fail at drinking your water.
  11. Have no idea how to sit on a stool and suddenly realize four limbs is way too many.
  12. Have a quiet existential crisis in front of fifty people.

It would appear that moderating may not be my calling. But you know what? That’s okay. Because I lied before; I know why this panel of people asked me to moderate. It’s because they’re part of a wonderfully supportive community (both LGBTQ+ and the Grub writing community), and it was a great way to get me more involved with both. They extended a kind hand as a way to invite me in, to help me take a step up, and apparently they have yet to regret the choice or say an unkind word about my performance.

Because that’s the fam for you.

It makes me wonder if it was largely all in my head, my failure. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Because I appreciate them so much that I’d moderate for them again any day of the week.

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