“I guess I’m a hybrid, as I am in so many other ways. An essayteller. A storicist. In my family, it’s pronounced loudmouth.”
This is how S. Bear Bergman describes himself as a writer, and truly, there’s no better way to do it. His latest book Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter (Arsenal Pulp Press) is a brilliant example of his tremendous storytelling ability coming head-to-head with his love for educating the public on all things relating to gender, sexuality and culture. He takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through his life as a trans man, living with his husband and their son, and the many people in his life who make up his ‘family orchard’ and ‘constellation of intimates’.
In this thought-provoking, charming collection of essays, Bear explains the differences between his family of origin – AKA the family he was born into – and his chosen family. These are the people who make up his orchard – those he has known all his life, with whom he is biologically linked, and those he has picked and pruned and shaped into his life as new members of the family. It’s a relief, especially for somebody in the queer community, to have a group of people close enough to call family that will accept and love you for who you are – a relief to not have to censor yourself or lie to them. His chosen family is made up of drag-sisters, Sparkles, Fairy Godsmothers and various other glittering self-titled personalities who do their part to light his world.
Beyond Bear’s heartfelt descriptions of his familial ties, he goes on to address certain groups directly including struggling parents of trans children who have sent him messages requesting advice. He also writes to the youths themselves, encouraging them to reach out to find their peers and insisting, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no matter how society tries to normalize them, they are beautiful exactly as they are: “You’re a gift. Spend your time with people who know that.”
Bear is a person who strives to help his readers find a beauty that has perhaps been overlooked while gently reminding us how important it is to be conscious of choice and the fact that we only make it for ourselves. “… the other, equally present truth is that nothing that has happened to me since I started living in the world in exactly the masculine, gentlemanly way I experience myself has been as bad as how I felt when I was still trying to hide, and when my parents were trying to force me to be more feminine.” His openness cuts deeply, revealing a raw world of pain, happiness, acceptance, defeat and everything else that goes along with being a person pushed to society’s margins. He lets us into his world so that we’re exposed to an entirely (perhaps) new world, in an entirely new, captivating light.
Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter is an excellent book for both those just peeking into the LGBT world for the first time, as well as those who are already well versed in its terminology and particularities. Emotionally charged, provocative and tantalizingly seductive, every essay answers questions you may not have even known you had and opens your mind to the possibility that asking them may not be a bad thing after all. I highly recommend it to anybody who has the slightest interest in trans-friendly life. S. Bear Bergman will make you laugh, cry, sigh and positively wriggle with joy that such a fantastic life could possibly be so … “normal.”