Archive for June 2017

Pride

This is last day of June and the last day of Pride month.

I have a lot of thoughts about Pride month.

I am hesitant to share them as I have not been out for very long and feel like I have the right to speak about Pride. These thoughts are also conflicting which makes it even more difficult. I am going to put some of them down here to help process and maybe help someone else who struggles with their identity and Pride.

It is hard to think of Pride without thinking about parades.

I am not a fan of parades but I see the value in our Pride Parades. We take to the streets and celebrate who we are. We do so knowing that even in this day and age that we will pay a price for being out and proud. We march to show those still trapped by fear what a life outside of the closet can be like. We march to show strength, community, and solidarity.

The Pride parade shows me both how far I have come and how much work I still have to do. The parade makes my heart sing with joy that I am able to be free of the need to hide or pretend. I join the others in the LGBTQ+ community in publicly embracing my identity and showing it to the world. We step out of the shadows to be visible and claim our right to exist. We also step out into the light and make ourselves a target because to hide from discrimination is to say that this type of treatment of another human being is okay. It is this that lays bare my own personal failings. There are people I know that aren’t truly out. They hide away from who they are due to the costs of what being out will have for them. I know the fears that they go through about taking that next step and yet it still bugs me that they aren’t out. It has taken some self-interrogation to realize that instead of being aggravated by those that still fear coming out I should be more compassionate. I should stand out more and be out, loud, and proud. By pushing forward, I and others will make it easier for those still afraid of the oh so real consequences of being LGBTQ+ in this day and age.

The Pride Parade highlights the idea of solidarity as well. We take to the streets and embrace our identity and the consequences be damned. We are joined in this march by companies, organizations, and politicians. They take up the banner of Pride to let us know that they recognize our right to exist as well as the need to stand up for a marginalized community. Once again, it warms my heart to see these people and organizations step up and support us. It just comes with the price that, in the past, these same people and organizations were just as complicit in our marginalization. These organizations and people still take part in practices that deny us the rights that are accorded to others people in the community. How do we applaud them for supporting us but still hold them accountable for treating us so poorly for so long? How do we say thank you for helping but explain that there are days that they are still hurting us?

Pride month and Pride parades bring us together as a community. We organize the parade. We gather together people to put on parties and charity events. We work with the communities that we live in to get them to give us time and resources to allow us to celebrate who we are and our right to exist. We show that we are community and are capable of organizing to support each other. We then gloss where we as a community ostracize the more marginalized members of our own community. There is Bi erasure as we talk about bisexual people as if they are confused or just lying. We don’t do enough for our Trans brothers and sisters who are murdered, commit suicide, and are legislated against. We turn a blind eye to those in our communities that continue to use bigoted language like “no fats/no fems, No blacks/no asians”. We create communities that state that they are inclusive and have members due petty distinctions that have no place in the queer community. I see it happen and am victimized by and don’t know what to do for my community.

Pride month comes to a close this month and I look back on with mixed feelings.

We have come so far.

We need to drop these things that hold us back and distract us from pushing forward. We need to embrace all of the letters in the LGBTQ+ and make sure that they feel welcome in the community. We need to continue to push forward and do better by each other. We need to take time to look at our community and embrace the positive but see the negative and take a step to changing it.

Take the time to do some self-examination this last day of Pride. Where do you stand strong? Where do you stumble? What can you do to be better in both areas?

I can do it and I believe that you can too.

Heathen

It’s pride month and I want to talk about comics.

To do this, I want to talk about a book that tells an excellent story while still embracing queer content.

Heathen is just such a book. It is written and drawn by Natasha Alterici. This is her creator owned title which she funded on Kickstarter back in 2015. She has done work on Gotham Academy and Grayson. She is also a member of the LGBT community.

Heathen is a reimagining of Brynhild legend from Norse Mythology.

Alterici does an excellent job of getting someone unfamiliar with Norse Mythology caught up on the story. Our heroine, Aydis, tells the story to her horse as she begins her journey. As she winds the tale up, she shares how long the story has passed down through her clan and laments that Brynhild has been waiting to be free for a very long time. The exposition feels very much like a story that a skald would tell over a fire to enthrall a mead hall. The art that supports the story is evocative. It has a rough hewn quality that feels like a gritty dream.

The core point of the myth is that Brynhild is rescued by a brave warrior whom she is then required to marry by the decree of Odin. Aydis has taken it upon herself to free Brynhild from her captivity and the consequences be damned. Aydis, you see, has nothing left to lose. Her village thinks her dead as she was condemned to death when she was caught kissing another woman and did not deny that she did this of her own free will.

I love this book!

It hits on all the things I love and want. We have mythology remade. I am familiar with the Brynhild story as well as the variations on the theme that can be found in Wagnerian operas. Alterici takes the story and blends in a modern sensibility with social justice themes. Her wild concoction is exhilarating. She gives us a book with a queer hero that is not afraid to be who they are and this makes my heart skip a beat. And in the process, gives us a modern Norse Myth where the hero is a woman to boot. It has been long overdo and the power of the story is amplified by this choice.

The art is gorgeous as well. It has a deep scratchy feel with rough hewn edges. It has a warmth and authenticity that adds to the story being told. In particular, I like how Alterici’s style makes the brief combat with a bull in issue one is handled. The action is quick and fluid without anything feeling blurry or hard to follow. The detail is never lost in the flow of the conflict.

Heathen by Natasha Alterici is a book that needs to be on your pull list. Great story, excellent art, queer content, A strong Heroine,socially aware themes, and mythology remixed. What’s not to love!

It is currently on issue four so it will not be difficult to get caught up.

Four bear paws out of four.

I bearly recommend it!

Monsters

There is a meme going around the internets.

It is simple yet funny. It is a few lines of text that made me laugh and then made me think. It sunk it’s fangs into my mind and would not let go.

It opens with a line of people calling LGBTQ+ people monsters. It follows this with a statement from us that this is fine. We then go about gathering up the cryptids.

It plays to the crowds with humor and intelligence but found little traction. It, like us, is transgressive and plays with a cultural icon and bends it in a fashion that people aren’t used to seeing.

The use of monster is correct. Take a trip back to Beowulf and you can see what it means to be a monster. Grendel lives outside of society, literally outside of Heorot. Grendel is excluded from society and all the the things that this provides. We are also outside of society. We behave in a fashion that defies the expected and we are treated just like Grendel. We are not given the same rights as the other members of society and are tolerated at the best or killed at the worst.

What’s a monster to do? When you are exiled to the dark and must survive on your own. The need for connection and the need to feel powerful get all mixed up. Thus, Grendel lashes out and wreaks havoc on society. Hrothgar and his soldiers are at a loss and unable to defend against a thing which they have excluded from the mead hall. They have reveled in their ignorance and lack the ability to understand what they face.

The Hero, the walker between worlds, must defend the people from that which has been deemed an outsider. It is with guile and force that the hero steps outside the hall and deals with the monster. The hero is the one that strides between worlds and is welcome in none.

This meme struck a chord. Instead of being the hero, we embrace being that which does not fit in. We take up the narrative and do not allow the idea of being a monster isolate us from those that are excluded. We find the other monsters and gather them up. We create a place where they are welcome and can be a part of something. It may not be perfect but it provides a family.

The hero, just like in Beowulf, is blind just like the crowd. He sees the monster as unfeeling and uncaring. Nothing more than a thing to be killed. He misses the point that Grendel has a mother and that they loved each other. His arrogance leaves more people dead in Heorot as he blinds himself to the idea that the monsters are just like the people in the hall. They want to fit in, be loved, and exist.

This fits well with the current trend of elevating monsters. There are those that hate the Twilight books and movies, as well as the Underworld movies. But they do a thing that people miss. They show you monsters that the humans want to be. They show you monsters that just try to get by while still being monsters. The allure of being both within the group and free to be who you are is highlighted in these simple pieces of fiction. There are those that want to step outside of the constraints that have been placed around them and take up the mantle of monster. They see the families that the monsters have created and feel the authenticity and that is to be had from embracing who you truly are.

On a personal level, the idea of the monster has always held an appeal for me. I’ve mentioned many time my love of mythology and the gods. I’ve always loved the monsters that followed in the shadows of the gods and found their tales to be fascinating. As I aged, my love of werewolves and all lycanthropes came to mirror both my fear of being found out and the deep seated need to shed the disguise and leave the closet and be myself.  Back before MMO’s there were text based games called MUDS. You created characters and ran around slaying dragons and fighting other players. I was an avid MUDer. There was a mud that allowed you play a lycanthrope character. You could define what type as well. Bear’s were just coming onto the scene and I had discovered them on BBSs, newsgroups, AOL chat rooms. So, I created a werebear and it felt so good. I enjoyed the game for some time with this character until one day I received a message in game basically stating that the person knew my friends and wondered if they knew I was gay. Panic and terror ended that character and ended exploration for some time on my part. It didn’t end the idea of the monster and transformation though.

We are embracing the idea of the monster a little late. We take back language in order to regain power but this is different. The cultural cache of the monster runs deep. It occurs throughout all societies and provides a mirror by which a society views what they are and what they can be. The monster is what allows a society to define its heroes and how it treats these self same heroes.

Accepting the monster as a part of society is where the stories differ across cultures. Here in the west, we see them as something to be driven out and destroyed. This, in turn, defines the hero as something that stands outside of society as well. The hero is also a destroyer. They are to be lauded for keeping the things outside the walls at bay but should be viewed with caution as they too, are destroyers. When the idea of the monster is accepted as a necessary part of the society, it redefines the hero as well. When we embrace the idea of the monster we show them that what they have isn’t special or new. It is something that we can create through force of will and not the prerogative of those deemed appropriate. This in turn allows the hero to be a full part of society as well. They are accepted and embraced instead of being kept at arms length.

Transformative.

So, takes some time this pride season to think about monsters. Watch the Babadook and be open to the allegory within. We have been called monsters for a long time and our process of accepting ourselves reflects this. This doesn’t strip us of our humanity but gives us the power to show others what it means to be truly human.

Thoughts From A Run: Masks

It’s been awhile.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks and I haven’t done a thoughts from a run post in awhile either.

Time to remedy this.

I have not been running much lately. I have not made time for it. I have kept myself busy with other things and vacation. I miss it though. It allows me to both to clear my head as well and push through some odd problems while the distance stretches before me. Having not kept up with it, my speed and stamina have waned and I set myself a goal this run of covering at least four miles and running for as many miles as possible before I started to walk.

I was pleased to get three miles before I had to slow down and catch my breath.

A thought rattled around in my head while I was running and fell into place part way through.

It was a thought about masks.

Now, I am a person that the idea of a mask has taken up some important headspace. I have worn a metaphorical mask for almost my entire life. It started when I was young, as I had to undergo many surgeries as a child to address several birth defects. My earliest memories are of trying to school my emotions to deal with the terror of operating and recovery room. As I grew older, I knew that I did not fit in as I stood out for how I looked and being out so often for surgeries. I also realized that I did not fit in as I grew older in that I was gay.

So, with imperfect knowledge, I began crafting a mask that would allow me to function. I would hone this mask over many years. It was as I entered into my thirties that the mask would start to become a burden. It would slip, fall, and break and I would have to quickly pick up the pieces. Never realizing that by holding onto it so tight that I was making it impossible to hold for amount of time that I would need it.

There were points where I would sit down and literally write about this mask that I had created and debate it’s value. I knew that the effort of keeping it up and maintaining it was pushing me to the edge. I just didn’t know how to step away from it.

When I came out, I let the old, busted mask drop by the wayside. It was not an easy thing to do but it felt liberating. I was able to at least share a bit of myself without the anxiety of being discovered. I did not relinquish a metaphorical mask all together as I am nothing if not a creature of habit. I instead began working on new ones and instead of thinking one would do, I shuffled through them like a kid in a candy store.

The idea of actual masks has arisen recently. It was both a shock to discover that it was an intriguing to me as well as something that stirred up old memories. So, I shied away from it. It took some time to become comfortable with the idea of literal masks as something that would be interesting to try out. There was that fear hanging around in the background though that this was just another way of hiding.

It was while running that things fell into place. One of the things that gets associated with masks is the idea of anonymity. It is seen in the superheroes masks in comic books and even better illustrated in the book V for Vendetta. It was while thinking about the idea of anonymity that it struck me that that for these characters, the mask was not them hiding. The mask was who they were, those other identities were where they retreated to be anonymous. The mask allowed them to be their most authentic self and allowed them to strive to be the best version of themselves.

With that, the world tilted and I am better for the change of perspective.

The thing is, that we all wear the metaphorical masks. We put them on every day when we go to work or out to meet someone new. We do it without ever thinking about masks and the energy it takes to make them and maintain them.

Take some time to think about the masks you wear every day. Does it allow you to be authentic and strive to be the best version of yourself. Is there a mask out there that will?

Maybe it’s time to look.