I’m a mycologist. This is part of my identity. It’s a part that I’ve chosen, but one that it would be hard for me to give up, at this point. Why am I a mycologist? What brought me to the love of fungi? I think a lot of it has to do with an interested in the peculiar and the odd, and some deep-seated need to root for the underdog. I like fungi because they’re under-studied, poorly comprehended, misunderstood, and misrepresented. I identify with that; I feel a kinship with fungi because I feel like there’s something in common between myself and them, in a way.
Also, I am queer. This is part of my identity, but not one that I chose for myself, though it has been a long, slow road in recognizing it within myself. And it’s not unrelated to being a mycologist — that feeling of kinship with fungi because they’re misunderstood and misrepresented? I think that comes from my queerness. Growing up in the military, in a family from rural Appalachia, there was no way to express certain feelings, even to myself. My own attractions (call me pansexual, if you need a word) and my own gender expression (I am cis-male, but my concept of masculinity is radically different now from anything I had access too as a young person) were confusing and contradictory as I grew up, and I did not even have the vocabulary to talk about them. Now, looking back, I can recognize that certain discomforts and confusions stemmed from the conflict between how I was feeling and how society expected me to feel. But, not having even the ideas, much less the vocabulary, to think about it, I had trouble recognizing what was going on; I just felt other and different. Continue reading