How do you find your people? How can you make yourself feel good in a world that wants you to feel bad? How do you communicate with your sexual partner around kink?
Hear it all on this episode of the Queer Joy Podcast; where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
Put QRQJ into action with our free 5 question worksheet. Get it here: bit.ly/QRQJworksheet
Shop at As You Like It here: bit.ly/asyoulikeitshop
Connective Therapy Collective website: www.connectivetherapycollective.com
FB & IG: @queer_relationships_queer_joy
Foster: Once I kind of figured out the nuts and bolts of how stories were working and why they were so moving to me, I really wanted to start creating those worlds for other queer people to take refuge in because those safe places were so few for me when I was younger. And it's so important to me now, as an adult. hello everyone. Welcome back to Queer Relationships Queer Joy. I am one of your hosts, Melisa DeSegiurant, and we're doing things differently today. I'm without my co-host Keely C. Helmick, but I'm very excited to be interviewing and joined by an acclaimed author Foster. Yay. Welcome to the podcast.
Melisa: My pleasure. It's good to have you here. Before we dive in, I do want to give a little intro for anyone who's new to Queer Relationships, Queer Joy. We like to start with a brief introduction of self, just so you know who is talking to you. So, as I said before, I am Melisa DeSegiurant. I am licensed as a marriage and family therapist, also licensed as a professional counselor. I am white and able bodied. I'm bisexual. I am polyamorous, and I am gender fluid. I use she and they pronouns. So Foster, would you like to introduce yourself.
Foster: Sure. Hi everybody. My name is Claire Rudy Foster. I go by Foster. My pronouns are he/they. And I'm queer, non-binary trans, writer in Portland, Oregon.
Melisa: Again. So excited to have you. I am excited both for the Portland themes in your writing and the queer themes.
Foster: Thank you. Yeah. They say right what you know.
Melisa: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I am curious, we've, you know, out of the fact that you write about queer relationships. How did that journey start?
Foster: Oh my gosh. That's such a good question. You know, I was an early reader and an early writer. And was that kid who would hide in the library during school, you know, cut class and go to the library. Awesome.
Foster: And I, I was just, I was always drawn to stories that that would take me elsewhere, wherever that was. I loved being inside other people's minds, you know cross gender or, you know, cross dressing, heroes. You know, Girls in Armor was always a big favorite when I was younger and I just, you know, over time it wasn't that I actively sought out queer books, but I learned that the act of reading with someone else with whom I had an intimate relationship was a very queer practice for me. So, you know, I was one of those kids who always had a crush on my best friend always. And the intimacy of having a shared book or a shared read was very much part of the way that I expressed, expressed love and received love. You know, being able to enter a story with somebody was really special to me. So I think books, books have always represented to me kind of this magical other place that you can go with your, with your few chosen loved ones. And to me that is emblematic of queer community.
Foster: Very like sweet magical you know, story that we're, that we're telling each other. And in my writing, especially after I'd kind of gotten a handle on like, this is how you write a personal essay, this is how you write a story. Once I kind of figured out the nuts and bolts of how stories were working and why they were so moving to me, I really wanted to start creating those worlds for other queer people to take refuge in because those safe places were so few for me when I was younger. And it's so important to me now, as an adult.
Melisa: It's beautiful. I love that comment too about the, the Connective nature of reading and sharing stories with one another. The first time I was on a date and somebody read aloud to me, I was like, Oh, oh my goodness. It's a new kind of intimacy.
Foster: But it's also very old. I don't know if you know this, but in the Victorian era, that's what young people would do on their dates. They would, they would hang out in public places like fountains, you know, where you didn't have to, you didn't need a chaperone. And they would read to one another. And this was, this was very hot. And frankly, I still think it's hot.
Melisa: Yeah, absolutely. Let's have it make a comeback. Well, I would love for our listeners to learn a little bit more about what do you write.
Foster: Oh, I write everything. With that said, my most recent book is called Shine of the Ever, which came out from Interlude Press in 2019. Interlude Press, can I just give them a quick spot? Interlude Press is fucking awesome. This is an indie press, an indie boutique press that only publishes LGBTQIA+ authors. It is, it was founded by two badass lesbians who are organized, smart, kind, literary citizens who just really support their authors. And if you have a chance to like check out their catalog Interlude Press, they emphasize like stories about queer resilience, queer joy, and most importantly, an absence of queer trauma. They will not publish stories where queer characters are harmed. There's a, there's a, you know, content warning at the beginning of every book. Like they're very very ethical in their, in their publishing practices. And I just, I've been so happy to be one of their authors and, and to see like how their catalog has grown. They're just so far on the cutting edge in terms of what's out there for readers, and writers.
Melisa: That's so good to hear and know, and I, I appreciate your comment about. Absence of the queer harm. That's something that Keely and I talked about when we first started this podcast. And of course, as therapist we hear everything that's horrible and horrible and, and rough. And so I think part of our own agenda was not just to focus on that, you know, and to focus on the queer joy and what's working in queer relationships without, you know, totally dismissing the fact that harm has also been done, but not highlighting it. And that, actually, that makes me curious about in your writing, what has felt important to you to bring to the table when you talk about queer relationships?
Foster: In Shine of the ever my short story collection, I really emphasized no sad endings. There will be no sad endings. I imagined a world in which queer and trans people had all of the privileges of a cisgender person, you know, the ability to make mistakes, the ability to love someone who's unsuitable, you know, the ability to take risks you know, to live in a world where it's not just a, a house of cards. And just writing those, those stories. First of all, I was profoundly grateful for our community. And I think that there's something really special about being queer, which is, you know, and I tried to capture this in, in Shine of the Ever, which is that, you know, to be queer and to be self-aware is, as you said, essentially it's a, it's a contract with the self that I will never gaslight myself into believing that I'm happy. You know, I'm not, I'm not one of these, I'm, I'm not one of these queers who's like, Oh, I'm so soft, I'm so tender. I can't handle reality. No, no. Because I can handle reality. I'm able to celebrate my tenderness. I'm able to be vulnerable because I know how to be strong. And so finding that, finding that line and speaking to a queer audience without infantalizing people, I mean, as you said, you know, you hear it all day long. Every, every single one of us, regardless of being a privilege or ability that we have, everyone endures a certain amount of hooking. Before we arrive in our, in our final selves. For some that's, it's harder than others, but, but to really focus on, on joy is something that is, that is the product of unexpected circumstances rather than something that's like planted or, or created. Like, it's just something that comes out of the self that we cultivate.
And I, I think that my stories really aim at capturing, at capturing them.
Melisa: That's the sense I got when I was reading them, and I, I like what you said about no sad endings and at the same time it didn't feel like there were these painted fake facade happy endings. Like it felt so real was my biggest like takeaway. And I, I'm curious with that, if you have any feedback or maybe critique of the way queer relationships or just queerness in general has been painted in media up until this point.
Foster: I think it's interesting that you say media because. I think we can agree that like the mainstream media has never really been a friend of the gay. So for me, like my, my media is, as I said, largely like indie presses. You know, I, I came of age in like the Zen era, so, you know, the Zens that we would make and swap or like the tapes that we would, you know, trade it at shows or, or whatever. You know, like the little things that you'd leave in your care package for your sweet heart. You know, all those things. Yeah. Like that kind of media and then, you know, even coming out of like the hot LiveJournal, you know, the, the thing, the ways that queer people found to reach one another and to get our real stories out there. That's my media. You know, I love, I love reading, reading other authors in our community, and I highly recommend that folks check out, especially the work of Hugh Ryan who wrote this wonderful book called When Brooklyn was Queer, and another history book called The Women's House of Detention. Wonderful, wonderful queer Histories. He did face to face interviews with people. Also highly recommend Sarah Schulman's book, Let the Record Show. She interviewed this took several years. She interviewed every single survivor of the original ACT UP New York Group about the HIV and AIDS crisis. So anybody who says that queerness is new or that it's invented, or you know, that they're like, congratulations if you're discovering yourself. Now also, we've been here, you know, And so for me, like finding these, finding these books that connect me to my community, they give me roots, is really important. But I think, you know, the mainstream media, I think really Sarah Shelman has written that one of the great lies that the mainstream media tells about queer people is that in mainstream stories, we're always alone. It's always like the one gay in town and like they're so lonely and they do found family with straights or you know you know, it's like the one gay kid in the high school who finally falls in love with the other gay kid in high school, you know fuck that shit. Fuck that shit. That's so fake. And, and the lie is that queer people are alone. We're not, we're never alone.
Foster: And, and I would really like mainstream media to stop focusing so much on like the lonely gay or the, the outsider gay. And stop focusing so much on like the coming out story and talk more about like, the spectrum of our experience because, you know, we don't live in these spaces or in these timelines that are strictly delineated in, in the same way. It's not like I was single and now I'm married. Like that's not how. Queerness works. It's, it's this fluid living organic thing. You know, I would say that unless there is some traumatic event queer people are very rarely alone for long.
You know, we kind of create community, we find our own wherever we are. So I, I think that that is really beautifully done in the media that we make ourselves, and especially in like independent and like Fringe, Fringe Publishing, but, Mainstream media, you know, they, they sell that same traumatic narrative over and over again. Like, and then I came out and everybody loved me. Who gives a shit. That's so fake that's not, you know, maybe that's someone else's reality. That's not my reality.
Melisa: Absolutely. Yeah, that's what I was gonna ask is like is is there hope for mainstream media? What is the hope? But I think you just named it so well.
Foster: I think, you know, there has been some progress and I think, you know, creators like Tormaline are, are really important to bringing those stories to life. I love that that Pose has done so much especially in highlighting like truly talented actors, you know, to to play, you know, characters that are true community members. I love that Paris is burning, is having a little revival right now. And that people are talking more about like rural, queer life. You know, I'd like to see Dorothy Allison have a little revival too. I think everybody should read faster than Outta Carolina. But yeah, I just, I think that, that there's just so much more to it, and I think it's a real, you know, if you are like that suburban kid or you know, that pers- you know, the parent in their forties or fifties who is, you know, deeply embedded in cisgender heterosexual culture who's like, Oh, I really don't belong here. Like, I, I honor that sense of isolation and the courage that it takes to find community. And also just know that that is not, like, that doesn't have to be your normal. Like, you don't have to, you don't have to stay lonely. You know, it's a lot of, lot of fun on the other side.
Melisa: Absolutely. We talk so much about community and especially being in Portland, how small the community is here. So it's a big focus on what we do on the podcast. Hey, it's Cardinal. You're behind the scenes, buddy. This episode has got me thinking a lot about community and I want to hear from you faithful listener. What's your queer joy of the week. Tack us on Instagram at queer underscore relationships underscore queer underscore joy. And I know that not everybody is on Instagram and honestly, I don't even want to be there.
Cardinal: So we were thinking of starting a discord server. It's less of us and more of you finding and connecting with other listeners. So, what do you think, would you join a chat room full of people seeking queer And with that back to the show. Well, I'm also curious how much of your personal life makes it into your writing? Tell us about like the journey that you've been on with your queer identity. I know you've written articles too about coming into your gender, and so I'm curious like how has it been writing about that.
Foster: You know, I would love to say that I was like that person who knew from day one, you know, But I'm not, you know, I wish as a writer, like I wish in hindsight for the clarity, cuz it makes a better story. It's like, oh, you know, from the moment I was two or three, I knew, you know, I. Who knows who can say, I identified as bisexual for a really long time because I grew up in Virginia in the nineties, and that's what we had, you know, it's like there was no such thing as trans. There was no such thing as like you were either gay or straight, and then bisexual was kind at least in where I live was kinda this umbrella term that covered like literally everything else, it's like the other category, sort of like the nonbinary of sexualities or something.
Melisa: Yeah. Even growing up in San Francisco, like it still was like, Yeah, you're figuring it out still. You haven't decided.
Foster: Right. You'll pick a team eventually.
Foster: So, you know, I kind of used it as shorthand for I do what I want, when I want, with whom I want. And I felt fine about. You know, I, I was very much like attracted to women. And, you know, I kept settling for these relationships with like, very appropriate men. You know, I would get a in a relationship with a man. It never lasted for more than like 18 months, two years, you know, long enough. And then I dump him and move onto the next thing and move onto the next thing. And, you know, I kept really trying to attach myself to that. I tried really, really hard to fit in. I love telling people that I dabbled in heterosexuality, tried it in college but you know, it just, it just didn't stick. And over time I just, I just came to feel less and less comfortable with, with the story I was telling myself. As you may know, I'm, I've also been in recovery for 15 years. And getting sober, like you just, you can't keep lying to yourself. You cannot stay sober and lie to yourself about who you are. So, it, it took a process towards, towards the end of my, like, you know, pre gender affirming hormone therapy, pre top surgery. I really had a crisis because I felt I was placed at this point in my life where I had to choose, you know, I was in a relationship. I was engaged to a very nice man on paper. Very nice. Good for him. And it just, it's like I just kept coming to these impasses and I felt that I had to, like, I knew I was nonbinary, I'd met someone else who had my identity and was like, had that moment of, Oh wow, this is, this is like a real thing and you can do this and like you're flesh and blood. Like, I felt like I'd met another unicorn, so to speak about. Oh shit. There it is. And I couldn't lie to myself anymore, and I knew that, you know, this heterosexual man, loved my breasts, wanted to be married, might wanna have a kid someday. He's very immature, but very much a standard like cis white guy, Do-gooder. And I felt that I, I had to choose. I knew that if I transitioned I would lose him, and that turned out to be a hundred percent correct. Instant, instantly. It's like, well, if you're not gonna have breasts. He was afraid that staying with me would make him look gay.
Melisa: We've heard this from so many clients, and Keely and I have talked about this and, and you know, wanting to just be really clear about the changes that can happen as we come into ourselves. And they're real. And there's so much grief that, that I think we have to go through while embracing perhaps the joy too, of finding who we authentically are.
Foster: Yeah, the joy, I think there's, there, for me, there was a lot of grief, which I wished which I, I had great support for that. You know, I've, I've been with my same therapist for 12 years now. She's great. We have a great relationship. My recovery community saw me through a lot of it, but also, you know, I knew like underneath that grief was exhilaration. Because I was finally living in a way that felt authentic to me. I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted, sleep when I wanted, you know, it was like Summer Camp, and I, you know, in, in spite of the humiliation, in some ways of losing this very appropriate, various queer relationship, I felt so alive, you know, and this is in my thirties, which is, you know, old for a trans person. Like, Wow, I transitioned and now I'm a trans elder. This is weird. Great.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Foster: Now I'm old. So, um, it was just, it was really a ride. And you know, I, I just, I just really respect the transition. Anyone who's going through a transition of that magnitude, because it fucking guts. It takes guts and you've gotta have so much courage, and you've gotta love yourself more than you love literally anything else. And I honor that. I really honor that. That is some tough shit.
Foster: But once I, you know, once I broke the seal, it was like, oh, just all out the box. Honestly, it's, I've never been happier, you know, I've just never been happier. I feel like I spent my whole life just like waiting like a plant, waiting for water. And now I'm, now I'm here and I'm, I'm just irritatingly happy about it.
Foster: I love it. Look at me. I'm glowing.
Melisa: Well, you've highlighted. You've highlighted community too. And again, I, I named this already, but we talk about that so often and so many of our clients are dealing with losing their, you know, family of origin and, and starting to figure out how do I find chosen family? How do I find chosen family in my thirties, forties, fifties? You know, how do, how do I do that again? And actually, especially clients who are sober, I hear that like, Well, I'm not gonna go to the bar and meet people. How do I find my people? How did you do that? How did you find your people?
Foster: I mean the, the good news is there are a lot of people out there. You know what I'm saying? So for me, I also was informed by letter. My parents declared us estranged after I came out and started my transition. So I mean, again, like I grieved and I grieved and I also was like, now it's a lot of dead weight, frankly.
You know, the family members who stuck around are like just crystal and gold to me. It means a lot and it, not because it's a sacrifice, but it's like, Oh, that that person is offering me unconditional love, not this, you know, you have to be a certain way to look a certain way. You know, I haven't, I haven't seen my mother in years at this point. And honestly, you know, after the, after the pain of being rejected by my biological family, I feel, again, like I feel the freedom of that. And I don't feel guilt for making other relationships. I feel healthy. Having, having other attachments, having my, my found family, my friends I found the people who are in my life now through mutual interest. So, you know, if you are trying to get sober or if you're in recovery, there are queer recovery groups that I highly, highly recommend, like even if you're just going to like be around other queers. I am on the board of a new sober club. I think the only one in the United States that's opening on MLK later this year called True Colors, and it is an LGBTQ sober club. It's not a treatment center, it's just a place where you can go and hang out, do like art, and listen to music and chill.
So that's really important to me, is to create those spaces and support those spaces. Going to readings, go, you know, book, book people are my people. You know, the great thing about knowing myself is, you know, I, I just realized like how much I have to share and I think before I was, I was always scared and insecure, so I was really interested in what I could take and when I, when it came time to actually like, Hey, you gotta suit up and like, go be trans in public.
You can't just keep wearing a binder and skulking around hoping your gender will like, resolve at some level. It's like, you gotta, you gotta go for it. I, I was really scared. To start mingling with people because I had been such a selfish person. You know, I was always very interested in like, how can you make me feel good?
You know, how can you make me feel better about this? You know, am I better than you or you better than me? There's a lot of measuring up and it's because I was so unhappy. And now I'm like, Oh wait minute. Like I have these life experiences I can offer, you know, I'm, I know I'm a good friend.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. That's an important reframe. I feel like so many of us just need to hear over and over again.
Melisa: You know, that reminder, and I'm hearing that, especially coming off of this pandemic where it feels like social skills have really fallen off and social anxiety is so high for so many people.
Foster: It is. and you know, again, like the only real bomb for that as far as I know, is just, just, you just gotta get out there and be awkward. You know, you asked how much of my stories are like my, my life and I, I would describe myself as a magpie. I'm a collector of details, you know, good dialogue. Maybe a little, you know, personal experience here or there. Something I heard. All the plants are real in my stories, but you know, I noticed that during the pandemic with the absence of social interaction. I really kind of dried up in that sense.
Like, I need to, to eavesdrop. I need to sit in a public place and like listen to how people talk. I need to be on public transit. I need to be circulating. And so for me it was, it was imperative that I mingle. But one of the things I really appreciate was that people who were hosting, like outdoor gatherings or like, you know, covid, you know, where I was able to at least see fresh faces, hear new voices.
Like I just, I needed the, the refreshing part of that to enrich my, my writing. You know, that was humbling because I'm not, apparently, I'm not like, I don't have an entire universe here, I need, I need other queer people and I need to hear those stories. You know.
Melisa: Yeah. That stimulation from outside.
Foster: Yes. Yes. I, I am so excited for, I was invited to a dinner party, I think next month, speaking of the Victorian era.
Gonna go to a dinner party with some new friends, and we're going sit at a table. We're gonna eat some beautiful food, and we're gonna talk for several hours. And that to me is, Oh man, I don't think it gets any better than that.
Melisa: Yeah. Wonderful. That's amazing. Well, can you tell us about what's your relationship status now? What's going on in in your life and what's working in your relationships?
Foster: Oh my gosh. I will preface this by saying I'm newly in love with somebody I have been dating for, we did, we counted yesterday. Yesterday was our fifth full moon together.
Foster: I'm very officially in love.
Melisa: I love that you're counting by the full moons too. That feels very queer and wonderful in itself.
Foster: They are an astrology expert. They went to astrology school.
Foster: Yes, they, they know, they know their transits. In the year leading up to my top surgery, I committed to staying single. And, you know, I went on dates and I had sex and, you know, ran around was a Tom Cat, but I, I told myself like, you can't, you must be in a committed relationship with yourself in this time. It's your last year with this body. Like you need to be present with yourself. And I'm so glad I made myself that promise. In that time I learned a couple things about myself. I learned a lot about boundaries. To mention her name again, Sarah Schulman's book, Conflict is Not Abuse. I highly, highly recommend to anybody unpacking their privilege looking for a for how to communicate about queerness, the need you know, in, in a time when we're very quick to run to the victim. Victim mode and say like, Oh, this person's a narcissist. I'm an empath, they're toxic. Let's dismiss that person. Like, no, no, no. Community, especially queer community comes from mutual building, which comes from mutual discomfort, you know? And so this book is great because it really tells you like, but it's okay to disagree with somebody, you're not gonna die. If you don't agree with them, I mean, we're not talking about like in the case of domestic abuse, but you know, to have conflict with someone does not make them bad. Mental illness is not an excuse for not doing work to build community.
Melisa: Right? Absolutely.
Foster: Just a little bit of extra there. So, you know, it's, it was really good to have that book. I learned that for me, I need at least a year to really decide if I can attach to somebody. I need to see them in four seasons. I need very specific types of communication. Like, I will not fight with you over the phone or by text. We will fight in person. You know, like there, I learned where my, where my hard edges are. I will not sleep in a bed with somebody else. You are not allowed to stay the night. You come over, but you can't stay. You know, and it's these funny quirks. I'm like, you know what, I'm, I'm done compromising on my, on what I need, My, my comfort and my security. You know, I learned that I really don't care if the other person dates other people.
I'm very comfortable dating multiple people at once. Although I don't think I could be committed to multiple people, you know, just like I, I was able to explore in this, in this way without self-judgment. And still, you know, using the ethical framework That's aligned with my, with my principles. But I, it was just such a growth moment for me. And again, like I'm in my thirties, you know, I, I said, I'm not new to sex. I'm certainly not new to queer sex, but bringing my whole self to the table and saying like, actually, I have limits too, felt very affirming for me.
Melisa: Yeah. Love that. And you've demonstrated so well what we've talked about on. We had a theme, actually a loose theme on our, our podcast last season that was relationship with self. And now we're moving into like exploration and, and I think you've demonstrated that like part of what's working is knowing yourself and being able to say, Yes, this is what I want. No, this doesn't work for me.
Foster: Right, right. Yeah. That the, the idea like that, if it's not a hell yes, it's a hell no. I'm like kinda 50 50 on that. Unless you're doing like, put down the tarp that is really important to me, especially in my sexual relationships, everybody should have a conversation about consent, clothes on, lights on, you know, like before shit gets cool, it's like, have, have that conversation that's like, listen have you ever been sexually assaulted? What is triggering to you? You know, how do you wanna communicate? One of the things I do with my partners before we enter like a, a kink or, or you know, a scene before we practice saying yes, because there are lots of ways of saying yes.
Foster: We practice saying no.
Foster: I will engage with the person. And I'm like, I want you to tell me no. I want you to feel how I stop.
Foster: I want you to feel how I pull back. I want you to set limits and we're gonna practice doing this before we do literally anything else gonna trust her? Yes, me either. Everybody says yes, you're turned on, You say yes in the moment, whatever. You're gonna have a great time. I need you to tell me no first.
Melisa: I love that. It's brilliant to also practice that because I find that having conversation is where a lot of my clients are getting to and that's great, but there's still this jump between a heady conversation about something and then the physical action of actually stopping, and so that's brilliant. Just being able to try that out in practice and learn each other like in that way,