Stories play an important role in my life. It might help that my wife is an author, but as a person who grew up in a small city on the East Coast, for the longest time stories found in books were the closest I could get to seeing myself in this world.
Allison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For was one of my first non-academic reads. I remember “borrowing” a copy—sneaking an issue home and bringing it back a few days later—from a friend who had legitimately borrowed a number of issues from one of his friends. I was deep in the closet at this time. In fact, so was he. We are now both writing our own stories these days, he in graphic form and I in writing.
Over the years I have had the privilege of witnessing how important it can be for someone to share stories from their life. I have also witnessed the power those stories have once they move into the world in a way that allows for others to read and connect with them. While authors might like to think that they have control over their stories, once their writing moves into the world they cannot control how people read their work. This is one of the powers of the written word.
Hiromi Goto is a Vancouver-based author. In a 2014 article in issue 19.4 of Ricepaper Magazine, Hiromi wrote: “[s]tories are powerful devices. And, like all powerful devices, they are capable of doing great harm as well as great good.” This power is complex. It is about writing new possibilities into existence while it is simultaneously an act of exclusion because a writer is limited to their own perceptions of experience. We are, after all, individuals inhabiting bodies whose gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, historical and cultural backgrounds, faith, migration, colonialism, and race all impact our understandings of the world in unique and distinct ways.
While these differences can divide us, they can also bring us together in important and meaningful ways.
Stories are important because they allow us to time travel; they draw us into the lives of the characters being portrayed; they give us a chance to empathize with others; they give us opportunities to learn and see our world through different eyes.
Stories are important for queer, trans, and two-spirit individuals and communities. Stories provide opportunities to escape, find new meaning, find connection, and see ourselves living, struggling, surviving, and thriving. Stories pull us together, help us find new meaning, and allow us to work towards a future world where we are all equal and honored.
Goto also wrote in this article that much of her “writing has been informed by a keen understanding of missing stories.” Like many writers in LGBTQ/2S communities, we are writing our stories for ourselves and possibly, for those like us and those unlike us. It is no wonder then that she is this year’s keynote speaker for QMUNIY’s 13th Annual IDAHOT breakfast.
The International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia marks the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. IDAHOT is an internationally recognized day geared towards mobilizing communities to protect LGBTQ/2S rights on both a local and international scale.
For those of you not familiar with Goto’s work, let me share a few things with you. Her first novel, Chorus of Mushrooms, was published in 1994. She is a multi-genre writer with works that span poetry, short stories, novels, and young-adult speculative fiction. Her next book is a graphic novel, bringing her into five different genres of writing, which isn’t surprising as she is always looking at innovative ways of storytelling.
Goto is a mentor at the SFU Writer’s Studio and has spent decades weaving stories, mentoring writers—both young and old—and has brought light into the shadows, teasing out beauty through the mundane and the magical. She engages in a lot of community readings and volunteers her time to support literacy at the intersections of social justice and art.
Join us and start off your morning with some of Vancouver’s finest storytellers.