The cracked spine of my journal. The broken power button on my laptop. The notes app on my phone. These are my writing spaces while I live in transit between Kingston and Toronto.
Over the last two years, writing days for me haven’t been exactly typical, as they’re often mixed in with my life as a student. I’m an undergrad at Queen’s University, meaning that most of my working (read: waking) hours are devoted to writing and reading for grades, rather than pursuing personal projects. I’m lucky to have found immense pleasure in my schoolwork as a gender studies major and am deeply passionate about my coursework. However, no matter the topic, it can still be hard to crank out between five to ten papers each semester. So, I try to keep it interesting. Making zines with my friends for the media component of a group project, writing, sometimes ad nauseam, about video games in any way, shape, or form I can swing it. I continue to seek to imbue each assignment with something new, something creative that resonates with me and makes work feel less like work and more like art.
It has worked wonders to keep my interest and passion alive during the long slough through university. It has helped me develop my skills as an academic writer, and engage with scholars who’s work I admire and aspire to emulate.
But what I really love is poetry. I’d consider myself, above all, to be a poet, though on average poetry is given the least of my time. I can’t plan when I’m going to write poetry. I can try- I have tried, in fact- but it doesn’t work like writing a paper. Poetry hits me while I’m trying to focus in class, or right after I’ve taken a melatonin. It held my hand through first year, and stayed by my side when Jordan Peterson spoke on campus. It’s a specter in the corner of my room, and lives rent-free in my head- in the best way, of course.
I write in bed mostly, whatever ‘bed’ means. My parents house in Toronto, my residence room at Queen’s, the home I new share with three friends in Kingston. Poetry isn’t picky. It happens when I’m physically comfortable and emotionally charged.
I wrote one of my favourite poems in first year of university. It was after I tried to see a counselor at student wellness, only to be informed that they were closed. I went back to my room, climbed into bed, and cried. And then I wrote. When no one was able to help with my hurt, I wrote instead. About being non-binary and feeling alone. About hiding, but being far too visible anyways. About wanting to slide through the floorboards and stay there, maybe forever.
It’s only been a year and a half since then. I’ve read this poem, “How to Exist in Between,” for quite a few audiences now, sometimes queer, sometimes not. And every time, I feel it deeply and fully, because it’s still real and the pain is still raw, even though I no longer feel like hiding. Since then, I’ve written more, because I’m always writing in some way or another. I’ve written about euphoria, about loving my gender and my body, even if I’m still coming to terms with them both. I write and I share precisely because I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I want my words to be read and felt and lived in, like I’ve lived in them. I want everyone to know what it feels like to be me; to be trans and non-binary, to be scared, to be brave. And to speak about it anyways.
Danny McLaren is a queer, trans and non-binary writer who uses they/them pronouns. They are an undergraduate student at Queen’s University working towards their degree in gender studies, and learning about queer, anti-racist, and anti-colonial theory. They have an interest in exploring themes related to equity, resistance, and survival in their work, and often write about their gender, sexuality, and mental health incorporating these themes. Their work has appeared in Memoir Mixtapes, ENBY Magazine, and GlitterShip Podcast and Anthology. They currently have a micro-chap with Post Ghost Press titled Sorry It’s Not better News, and are a 2019 Editor’s Pick poet in the Brain Mill Press National Poetry Month Contest. They can be found on twitter at @dannymclrn.