4 min

Things I’ve learned from three years of column writing

Dear readers, guess what? This is my last column for Xtra West.

I’ve had so much fun here over the past three years. What could be better than having a public forum for my various ponderings, rants, opinions and even, I admit it, some whining? How luxurious, how decadent.

But the time has come to focus my time and energy on new endeavours. I need more time for my illustration and cartooning work and projects like the new website, which launched last month. So although I am leaving this space, I will definitely see you around. 

I thought that in this last column, I could tell you some of the things that I learned during my time here.

The most important thing is this: when you get the amazing opportunity to put your opinions out to a bigger audience than your own living room, you get to find out that there are other people that agree with you. It’s not just your friends and your girlfriend, it’s even people who don’t know you!

Those little grumbles you’ve had in the privacy of your own home — like why are all these dykes having babies through insemination when so many kids are waiting to be adopted and we don’t need any more over-consuming, polluting North Americans — other people are having those same rants.

They will come up and thank you for writing down your thoughts and publishing them. This is a fabulous experience, even if they keep looking around the whole time to make sure no one sees them talking to you.

I also learned that the people who disagree with you probably won’t write a letter to the editor. They will just talk about you to their friends, or complain about you in an online forum and totally misrepresent your argument.

One thing I still have not learned is to rise above it, let it go, not take it personally. That kind of thing.

Here is a related learning: you should make sure you have good hair for your headshot. One time I offended someone by suggesting that people were assuming all butches were FTMs — or maybe it was when I said the Vagina Monologues were dumb because they were actually about vulvas, not vaginas. I forget.

Anyway, this person wrote a post about what a bitch I was and someone commented on their post and said, yeah, she is a bitch and did you see her hair!? This was really a low point in my obsessive Googling of “sarah leavitt vancouver.”

Not only did they hurt my feelings, but unfortunately after taking a close look at my photo in the paper I had to agree with them that I needed a new look.

I wanted to email them and say that I no longer had the pigtails that I used to have and plus they were always way cuter in person.

Luckily I decided that that would just be too pathetic for words. So I have just nursed my wounded ego in silence.

When I started the column I never thought I would write about my family so much. But I don’t know, I couldn’t resist writing about my dead mother and my sister’s hopes that if her son turned out gay he would help her pick out clothes and my whole family’s rigid ideas about gender roles and obsession with weddings and babies.

Of course I never showed these columns to them. I already knew enough not to do that.

The new thing I learned at Xtra West was that you should not even show your family the positive things you write about them.

Last year I was all excited because my sister told me she had out gay and lesbian students and she was really supportive of them and they came to the prom with their same-sex dates and everything.

So I interviewed her and wrote a column and she completely freaked out and didn’t speak to me for months. She thought my column put her at risk of being fired because I had described one of the students as flaming. So yeah. Don’t show your family anything.

I learned what kind of person should be reading your columns before you submit them. It needs to be someone with an eagle eye for obsessive navel-gazing, misrepresentation of facts, straying off topic and limp, mediocre writing in general. This person must be brutally honest and not worried about insulting you.

What fucking rocked in my case was that the person who went over my columns for me was my girlfriend. She happens to be a very particular person (she has gotten me to use “particular” instead of “picky”) and also extremely honest. Oh and did I mention she’s a Top?

She is to be thanked for sparing you from knowing even more minor details about my childhood, my neuroses and my pets than you already do. And if there was anything in my column that you really really hated, you can blame her.

Last but by no means least, I learned that I’m not alone in observing that “gay and lesbian” media is overwhelmingly filled with stories written by, about and for men. People have told me that even when they disagree with me, they’re glad to see some dyke content in among the pages of articles and photos about guys. Queer women want to see ourselves represented here as much as the boys do: we want to be columnists, we want feature articles to be written about us and about the things that matter to us, we want to see photos of ourselves in the Mix section, we want to be on the cover, for goodness sakes.

That’s it for me. Thanks for reading this column. You can always check in on my other adventures at