The project is a novel about a young woman coming of age in a conservative Catholic environment. The protagonist is gay, possibly transgender. The categories are unclear to her, and to me. She lives in an environment where young women in her situation are made to feel isolated, confused, and "ill." The character is very ambiguous about her sexual identity, feels a considerable need to hide and deceive, especially within the family, but in some social situations is able to be more out.
The protagonist is based to a considerable extent on my late sister, who hid her sexual identity much of her life certainly from me and to an extent from herself. I hope with the research help to get closer to her experience, coming of age in our conservative family in Montreal.
I would like to work with students who have some familiarity with the literature and scholarship of GBLTQ studies, specifically around the issue of young women feeling isolated and alienated within their societies and families, coming out or not coming out. I need to learn more about transgender versus lesbian identity, the history and politics of those boundaries and identities. I am unresolved about this character's identity—lesbian or transgender—because I'm not clear about the categories—neither was the person upon whom the story is based.
A student working on the project would gather insight into the processes of a novelist, the development of fictional characters, and the role family history and mythology play in the work of a writer who sees writing as a way to get beyond and get past what he thinks he knows and understands.