I’m not going to see Ender’s Game. This is not a revelation. I’m queer. My opinion of Orson Scott Card’s politics and his flimsy rationalizations ison record. I don’t buy books he writes. I don’t watch the movies based on them.
But I’ve still got a paperback on my shelf — battered and worn in the way beloved books get, spine floppy, corners bent. On the title page, in faded blue ballpoint pen, it’s inscribed: “To Rachel – a friend of Ender.”
It’s not wrong. It would be easier if it were.
Soyeah. It’s never quite as simple as I’d like it to be.
This got to me.
I was banned from Virtual Battle School by OSC himself at 14/15 for RPing a gay character (I was given the option to stop, of course, and not be banned, but that wasn’t much of a choice). I wish so very much I still had the email exchange with the board moderator. Mostly I remember being…resigned. It was my first exploration of my own sexuality through writing, and it was scary to put those inner thoughts out in the real world, even in the mouth of a fictional character. Being told that such thoughts (benign; my sexual maturity came rather late) were not appropriate for a family site seemed— expected. They didn’t seem safe for /me/, either.
Since then, I’ve been through more copies of Ender’s Game than I can count (purchased primarily secondhand) because I keep giving them to friends. I saw the advanced screening of the movie, and it made me happy. The first time I read the book— at 14ish, after a mixed two weeks at summer camp where I was called ‘gay’ as an insult and /didn’t know what it meant/— I finished it in roughly eight hours. I closed the paperback, went downstairs to dinner, returned to my room, and reread the entire thing again. It was a difficult time for me. I was extremely rural and extremely gifted, and isolated as fuck as a result. I’d always found refuge in books, but something about Ender allowed me to connect with him as a character in a way I never had before. Timing, probably, and almost certainly his intelligence (though I never had any illusions that I was /Ender/ smart), certainly his own social isolation. Two years later, I was accepted into my own Battle School, my state’s Math and Science boarding school for gifted students, and I settled happily into mid-teenager-hood as more of a…Shen.
Early this year, the fourth of my PhD program, I took a four-month leave of absence to recover after a frankly ridiculous year of mystery illness that, despite being finally diagnosed and treated, left me with an obnoxious case of depression that sapped my motivation and concentration. When I came back to work, I /felt/ better, but I didn’t know if that would translate to actual success, and I have no ambivalence (a word I learned from Ender) about finishing my degree. If I master out, I will feel like I failed. I’m behind, and it’s still a possibility, but I’m working as hard as I can. Keeping my focus on my final goal. A couple weeks prior to returning, I got my fourth tattoo, on my left forearm. It reads: “the enemy’s gate is down”.
When I was 12 I had a lot of trouble with violence in my school. I was bullied and had decided fighting back with my fists was what I should do. I wanted to be the hero in my stories and not the one who needed to be rescued.
I was sent to a therapist after a particularly bad tussle and he gave me a copy of Ender’s Game. This book taught me that I didn’t have to use violence to win against my bullies. It taugh me m differences were attributes and not defects. I may not agree with OSC but his book changed my life. I can’t wait to see the film.