25 April 2016

I don't use this any more!

20 July 2015

I finally got around to adapting my "new to comics" email into an actual post, but I'm far too lazy to reformat it (again) and post it here. If you are so inclined, you can read it over at Medium.

Also, if you are reading this... why? How did you get here? How lost did you get on the Internet to wind up on this deserted cyber-road?

16 July 2015

My Queer Manifesto

Within the last year or so, I've started identifying as “Queer”. There are many reasons for this. For a long time, I reluctantly considered myself bisexual. I say “reluctantly”, because while I had a relatively healthy idea of what being bi meant, I misinterpreted the rampant bi-phobia and misconceptions about bisexuals I encountered as the dominant and popular opinion. I got tired of clarifying what bisexuality meant to me. I didn't realize that I was giving bi-phobia so much weight by carrying my identity like a burden.

No, it isn't phase. No, I’m not half gay and half straight. No, I’m not “curious”. For a long time I didn't have a connection to the greater LGBT community, and I thought I must be the only person in the world to think that being bisexual was a valid, safe and healthy identity.

But even being bisexual didn't fit me 100%. It still rang of “one-or-the-other”. Even “either/or-and-both!” seemed limiting. Both? Doesn't that mean I only have two choices? The more people I met, the more ways of expressing gender - or expressing no gender at all - all served to show me just how little I know about the world, and how woefully narrow my vocabulary was.

I know now that there is no wrong way to be bisexual, and that bisexuality has a place for trans and non-binary folks and attraction. Personally though, I see the term as having its genesis in “male and female”, and though the definition has evolved, it just doesn't feel 100% right for me. That’s not to say that I judge anyone who finds it fits them. And I support the idea that the concept has evolved. Hell, it was originally a term for having two sexes, so I think the idea of an ever-expanding definition is pretty much built right in.

As I grew more comfortable with my sexuality, the more I saw that it wasn't a single, standalone thing, separate from other parts of me. Yes, I’m attracted to a whole lot of kinds of people, people of all genders, or no genders at all. But that’s not all there is to it. Learning about, and accepting who I am attracted to is inevitably connected to how I choose to present myself, in terms of gender and also in general. And how I present myself is in turn connected with greater ideas about representation and how I feel a part of my community. All of this is about so much more than who turns me on.

I also noticed that for a lot of the world, being straight isn't just a separate, sexual thing either. Being straight is about more than who one chooses to have sex with. So much of our culture is built around the idea of straightness, of hetero-normativity, that even as the world at large grows much more tolerant of other sexualities, it still feels like that acceptance is strictly a sexual one. Okay, fine, go have whatever sex you like behind closed doors, then come back and take your place in our straight world. See? We accept you now. Isn't that great?

That’s why I love the word Queer. I love that it is, in itself, confrontational. I love that it says both a great deal, and nothing specific about me. I love that it doesn't pin me down, and yet totally defines me. While straight people, gay people, and bisexual people all had ideas about what “bisexual” meant (even, or perhaps especially, inaccurate ideas), I’m yet to find anyone who knows exactly what I mean (or thinks they know exactly what I mean) when I say I’m queer. Some people like that. Other’s don’t. And that’s why I choose that word.

I personally like that queer has a history of meaning skewed and strange and just… odd. I like that it is short hand for “take what’s ‘normal’ and twist it around a bit.” I also realize that feeling comfortable with this connotation comes from a place of privilege. I have never had this word hurled at me as a tool of hate, and while I like to think that I would still embrace it even if it was used that way, I cannot truly put myself in that situation. Far too many people have been in exactly that situation and I do not want my embracing of the word in any way to disrespect or devalue the struggles of people that fought for acceptance before me. I want to challenge people with the word; I don’t want to disrespect people in my community with it.

When I started identifying as queer, I realized that it is not a coincidence that the attitude of queerness permeates most of my identity. My art, my politics, my self expression, my passions and my pleasures are all queer, skewed from “normal”, and that has nothing to do with sex. And being skewed is not to say better or worse. It is just different, but inclusive. It means, have no preconceived notions about me. Judge me by my actions and my words, but don’t think you have me in a box. But it also means, let’s talk about the idea of boxes. How do you see your self? Are you in a box? Want to be queer with me, and also… want to be queer with me?

Because while queerness isn't all about sex, it is about sex. And not just about who I want to have sex with, but how. Queerness says, more options please! Everything’s on the table! Everyone’s on the table! It doesn't mean I do everything in the every way with every person, but it means that anything safe, sane and consensual is just as valid and interesting as anything else. Sex isn't always about love, but queerness says that our definition of love needs to be broader too. Queer means why would I ever put an arbitrary limit on who I can love and how I can love them? Love might be the only thing in the universe that there is never, ever too much of. Queerness says, how can we get more of that (love) in there (and it also says HOW CAN WE GET MORE OF THAT (SEX) IN THERE).

This is the first time I've written at length about being queer. It is both easier, and harder than I thought it would be. When I started this, I hoped it would be my definitive statement on the topic. Of course, that is not the case. My identity, and my writing about it, will always be in flux. I still occasionally introduce myself as bisexual, or a queer bisexual. Sometimes it is a shorthand that isn't 100% accurate, but is expedient. Writing about my identity, whatever it is, is just as important and helpful to me as I hope it can be for you.

I was inspired to write this, in large part, because of this excellent post by about Queerness. The blog it is on looks abandoned, which is a shame, because that post really changed my life. Read it. I feel pretty much the exact same way. Every sentence I nodded along: Yes, yes, yes. Me too. It read so close to me, I almost didn't write this, because they summed up everything I might say so much more eloquently than I ever could. But that’s what queerness means to them, and while I may agree, I would rather add to the conversation rather than co-op their words. (I found that post via nonmodernist’s excellent post about their queerness. See how important community is?)

This post originally appeared on Medium on 26 February 2015.

09 July 2015

Writing the City

Remembering Seventh Avenue Parkway

Over at Write Denver, I found the following prompt. I'm not sure I really paid that much attention to it once I got going, but it led me to a nice place, so I'll share it here.
Remembering: The word “nostalgia” has two Greek roots: nostos -- returning home, and algos -- pain. Even if you’ve called Denver home for a short period of time something has likely gone and been replaced by something else. Part of the societal work of literature is to push back against erasure, against forgetting, by honoring what once was (and by cribbing off that in-built tension to color and motivate your work!). Pick a lost location, describe it down to the smallest and most precise details available to your memory. You may have a lyric piece in and of itself or you may have a meaningful setting for dramatic prose.
Seventh Avenue Parkway. I have memories there of things that haven't happened yet, and maybe never will. Memories of taking a walk with someone. Holding their hand. Imagined memories of basking in my real memories. The walks to and from work. From York to Colorado. Colorado to York. The green reprieve between two places I didn't want to be. The unexpected discovery of that street that sustained me for months and years.

It's the trees. Big trees. Old. It's the houses that have been lived in for years. The sharp brick corners rounded down.

It's the walks in late afternoon and dusk I remember most, the late summer ones. Knowing that months from now, or months ago, it would be dark at this hour. (And those dark walks would only remind me of the people, the families already in their homes, home for the night, gathered around something I feared I would never have myself. People who had found their way inside together, while I was out on the street alone in the orange streetlights.) But those summer dusks: green leaves against the purple sky, blooming flowers in the medians, people jogging, or walking their dogs. Those I treasure.

Houses. Most vaguely matching, but still a mishmash. Built before neighborhoods were drawn up and planned as whole units. Some houses whole and aged, others subdivided into apartments. The odd architectural anachronism. Uneven sidewalks. Hand planted flowerbeds. Screened in porches. Cars in alleys or opened garages. The canopy of trees.

A neighborhood of soul, of character. People connected to the city. Roots running deep.

It was full of hope. It reminded me that I still had a future. That I would get past this, and something and someone was waiting for me. I'd never known this area existed. How had I discovered something so beautiful in this, the darkest, most lost time I would ever have? Something so full of hope and potential. I could have a home, or an apartment, or even a room. I could live somewhere that felt real. I wouldn't need anything else. A space of my own among the trees and brick. The blank space of my future had a little color now. It wasn't something from the stained past I was clinging to. It was the first time I really saw that there could be a new life for me. A better life.

It would do me well to remember that now. I'm a few years removed from these daily walks. And I don't have the bookends of despair around them anymore. But I'm not in that glorious future either. I'm lost again, but a different kind of lost. Back then there were crushing lows, and dizzying highs. Now, everything is flat. I don't have the righteous anger simmering deep down. I'm just tried.

But there was a road lined with tall, dark trees.It is still there. The houses not on the land, but of it. They are there too. The pointed roofs, the painted doors. The porches with benches and knickknacks. Apartments, mansions. All ages and incomes. And I saw myself in them all. One day, when I was free.

I am free now.

It was something that was mine. Not someone else's plan for my future. The first thing that was mine. Maybe ever. And it opened the door at a time when everything was on the table one moment, and the next moment, my life was more restrained than I ever thought possible.

But almost every day I could walk through this neighborhood I didn't even know existed. I could see beautiful old homes, and tall trees and families all living a kind of life that I hadn't been sure was even real. And it gave me hope.

It was easy to hold on to something so bright when everything else was darkness. But now, everything is just gray and the light doesn't stand out so much. But it is there. Its just as bright. Maybe brighter.  I can not give up.  I can get to that streets and those houses. I can finally go home.

I do not have a home. I can't remember I time when I did. Not really. My childhood home belongs to the child, and is tainted with hindsight and melancholy. I only lived in the next house two years before I went to college. There I bounced between dorms and apartments, and now they don't even feel like real places anymore. A version of me lived there that is gone, and was such a stranger.

And now, in this house I am a guest. I've been a guest for years now. It's not mine. I can't ever, truly let go here.

I need a home. On a street. With trees.

18 May 2015


I think a lot about how weird it is to be a human.

We are tossed onto this planet that we are not even remotely physically capable of surviving on. That's weird.

These thoughts come to me at seemingly random times, like when I am putting tinted transparent plastic on my face because my weak little human eyes are pained by the light of our own sun.  What kind of planet makes life forms whose weak little eyes can't stand the light of the sun they need to survive?

Animals have it going on. They have adaptations that get the job done. Fur, claws, wings. Multiple stomachs, infrared vision, sensitivity to Earth's magnetic fields. Don't even get my started on mantis shrimps and Tardigrades. THEY CAN LIVE IN THE FUCKING VACUUM OF SPACE. I FREAK OUT IF I FORGET MY FLIPPY FLOPPIES AND HAVE TO WALK BAREFOOT BACK TO MY ROOM AFTER A SHOWER.

Why in Darwin's name would evolution throw a tiny, naked ape onto the surface of the earth and expect him to survive? Well, its because we didn't get fur, we got the ability to make snow suits. We didn't get binocular vision, we got to invent actual binoculars. Instead of direct physical adaptations to survive, we got the ability, and the attitude, to one-up nature by creating our own adaptations.

That is the human legacy, to take the shit hand we're dealt by nature, and transcend it and survive anyway.

(Of course, it is also the human legacy to go totally overboard and just NOT FUCKING STOP. (See: Slavery, Capitalism and The "Final Destination" Movies.) But that's a different topic.)

When I look at the world through this lens, it occurs to me that the most natural thing humans do is create ways to overcome limits imposed by the natural world. Its our special skill and its, ironically, what nature bred us to do. No fur coat? That's okay, I made a fur coat. And now I won't die. THANKS, BIG OL' BRAIN.

With that in mind, it makes no sense to me when opponents of homosexuality and trans lifestyles, sorry, bigots, say that being gay or trans or poly is not natural.  Excuse me? Putting aside the many well-documented examples of homosexual behaviors in the animal kingdom, expanding what we are, who we want to love and how we want to have sex beyond puttin' the peepee in the hoohah, is the most natural thing for humans to do.

Maybe in most species, most of the time, "sex" is penis-in-vagina sex (and fuck, I'm not a scientist, that might not even be true). Fine. But us humans were like. Okay, but what else could I do with my vagina to feel good? Let's try THAT. Where ELSE could I put my penis to feel AWESOME? What if that person of whatever gender I happen to go for and me could be in love and NOT EVEN HAVE SEX? LET'S FIGURE OUT A WAY TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN, HUMANS.

And guess what? We did! And its great!

I'm not saying every instance of non-heteronormative sex and love was a conscious decision by specific people to try something new. I'm saying, writ large, human kind naturally evolved wider and broader definitions of gender, sex, love, and identity than we are aware in the rest of the natural world. (Although we don't know, do we? That male lion with the big ol' mane might feel very femme. How would we know? And that's super cool! And I think that would be a great animated movie! Get on it, Internet!)

And to me, that means being trans is the MOST natural, most human thing you can be.   Our very natural human ancestors once said, You're going to make me live in Siberia and not give me a thick fur coat? FINE. I'm gonna invent fire, and clothes, and houses and hot cocoa. SUCK IT NATURE.

How is that any different from nature putting a woman in a man's body, and humans going, Wow, what did I ever do to you, nature? THANKS. That's fine, we'll invent hormone therapy, and support systems, and families, and friends, and lovers, and clothing of all shapes and sizes, and medical procedures that all help me to be exactly the person I want to be. SUCK IT NATURE.  WE WIN AGAIN.

Am I over simplifying things? YES. Because this is an overly-simple matter.

Being trans, queer, asexual, poly, tall, short, good at karate, ANYTHING, is the most natural and awesome thing for a human to be. Next time someone bitches about what's "natural", strip them of their smart phone, their synthetic fabrics, their house, their fire that didn't come from random-ass lighting strikes, and their organized religion (because I've never seen that growing on a tree) and tell them to call back later.

But, you know, literally call, like shout. But not with words. Humans invented those too. Not natural.

26 April 2015

Ha ha. Its almost May and I've posted nothing. How predictable.

31 December 2014

It Just Might Be a Happy New Year

I have just gone through my list of 52 goals for 2014. I might have been a little over ambitious. I suppose I had every right to be. 2014 was my return to The World. The End of Exile. I had grand plans, and like most grand plans, they didn't come to pass. Well, most didn't. I did read a-freakin'-lot of books, and I am quite proud of that.

Lengthy lists aside, what I really needed was for last year to be better than the years before it, and it was. That, however, was a pretty low bar, and that is why I am ready for 2015 to be even better. I'm ready for things to be more than "not bad". It is nice to look back over the last year, and not see any (personal) Horrible Things, Tragic Mistakes or Terrible Let Downs, but its disconcerting not to see too many Wonderful Surprises, Glorious Victories or Unforgettable Escapades. Actually, all I see is a lot of Unnecessary Capitalization. No downs, no ups. The year just was. I accept that.

I also know that it doesn't have to be that way.  There's a lot I don't have control over, but there is plenty I do. I know this year end/beginning fervor never lasts, but that doesn't change or cancel out the fact that I do want things to be different, and that I think I can do it.

Besides, its not like I'm buying a gym membership.

While it is relieving that I don't have lines of bad things in my ledger, that, in itself is pretty boring. Bad things are still experiences. They are still stories, and tests, and whatever other metaphor you can think of. They are still the stuff lives are made out of. A rough year at least gives one the hard earned trophy of having survived it. I didn't survive this year, I just happened to wander to the end of it.

(I want to make is abundantly clear that I am speaking strictly about my own life here, and about hardship on a personal level. I know that a lot of people, on every scale, had a hard, horrible year. I would assume that all of those people who are suffering are not glad things happened that way, for the sake of the experience. Nor, am I romanticizing struggles, tragedy, loss or hardship.  I know that in many, many ways I am very lucky and privileged to have had a boring year.)

My year wasn't totally wasted, I suppose. I got a new job I love, I hurt myself rather severely. (Those two events were completely unrelated to each other, by the way.) I won NaNoWriMo.  Out of context, those are certainly experiences. But I know there could have been - should have been - more.

May 2015 be a year of things. Of experiences. Of victories and failures. Of tragedy and celebration.

I did make a new list of goals. It's shorter than last year's, perhaps a little more practical. And even though one of them is to post to this site more often (weekly, even), its entirely possible that the next entry I make here will be in about one year from now. I hope I have things, good, bad and otherwise, to reflect upon.

01 December 2014

Adventures in Human Interaction, Vol 1 of ???: Amanda Fucking Palmer

Last Sunday I went to the Tattered Cover bookstore to meet Amanda Palmer. I had never seen Amanda Palmer live, and I had never seen any artist I cared so much about in such an intimate setting. We got there earlier than planned, and that was almost too late, as the basement was already filling up with an incredibly broad swath of the population, all waiting for Amanda.

When she came out, she was short and beautiful and wearing pajamas and she was real. I've noticed that Amanda can look so different in various photos. "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?" Amanda looks quite different from "Dresden Dolls" Amanda, who looks unlike "Theater is Evil" Amanda. And I noticed that today, at some angles she'd look like one version of herself, and at another angle, a different one. And sometimes, she didn't look like any version I knew. She just looked like... herself. That's when it hit me. This was a person. A person who gets up, gets dressed, and has a life; and part of that life is creating the art that means so much to me. That art didn't come from on-high, from some mythical, unknowable place. It came from this woman, who decided to visit my town, to play songs for us, and tell us her stories.

It was not unlike what Amanda herself talked about, that she when writing her own book she came to the realization that every book she had ever read had been created by a real, live person. It was the same thing for me. This woman standing not ten feet from me wrote the songs that got me through the hardest times in my life. But, it wasn't a song that helped me, it was this person. She pulled out her ukulele, THAT UKULELE RIGHT THERE, and created those songs, and gifted them to us. And now she's here, playing them again, right here, for all of us.

The simplest facts are sometimes the hardest to accept. And these "discoveries" of mine are even more ironic because Amanda Palmer is one of the most open and deeply connected performers out there. She shares so much of her life with her fans. That's one of the reasons her fans are so rabidly dedicated to her, because of that personal connection. But although I've been one of those rabid fans, I've always shied away from that connection. Sure, I'd watch it through the filter of the Internet, see it happening live, but I always felt it was Not For Me. No one else ever made me feel that way, it was something I decided on my own. I was like "that guy" at the party, standing awkwardly alone, and if someone would ever ask, Wouldn't you have more fun talking to people? I'd say, No, no I was having fun just watching. And I guess I was. But maybe it didn't have to be that way.

And yet, when I got in the signing line, and (a little too quickly for my sweaty-palmed liking) was ushered forward to kneel before the majesty of Amanda Fucking Palmer in a blanket fort, all of my discoveries and epiphanies melted away and I was star-struck and dumb at the feet of The Author and The Rock Star and The Artist. It was all a blur. I don't know what I said, if I said anything. Photographic evidence shows me looking like I was about to awkwardly propose marriage or something. But she signed my book, smiled at me, and I walked away.

Oh well.

I don't regret any of it. Yes, I was terrified. Yes, I was certain everyone, including AFP, had seen me and thought, "What a weirdo." But then I realized that there were 500 people in line, and that despite her gift of intimacy with her fans, I was just one of a massive, strange, and wonderful horde that descended on her that day. And then I remembered that it wasn't some inhuman machine of a An Author or Rock Star down there. It was a woman, an endlessly kind and loving woman, inviting 500 strangers into her blanket fort, and taking the chance that some of us might short circuit and hyperventilate.

Six hours later, she was still there, staying for every single person that came to see her. This is because she is an amazing human being. Its statistically probable that at least a few other people also got stage fright, and behaved like Troy Barnes meeting LeVar Burton. That comforts me.

Seeing Amanda Palmer hit me at just the right time, when I need to feel like an artist more than ever. Reading her amazing book, The Art of Asking, helps me nurse that feeling. So, check out her book, support an artist and be nice to each other, okay?

PS: I also bought a ridiculous pair of sunglasses I will be wearing every day from now on.

13 October 2014

I cannot count it as coincidence that the years I was the most lost are the years I wasn't reading.

12 October 2014

In Which I Defy Neil Gaiman

I don't know what this is going to be about. But I do know that it is intended to be a blog post. Whether it actually ends up there is open for debate. With myself. (Here's the debate: "Yes it will!" "No, it won't!" The end.)

I have actual topics I'd like to write about. But they require thought. And effort. And doing. Whereas this, THIS, is just a stream of consciousness blog. But that's cool right? Like, let me just show you what's going on in my life, because that's SO important.

Hm. Why do I want a blog, if I am so fundamentally convinced that anything I write in it is piffle? Or codswallop, even? Why do I want to write blogs when I am sure no one would want to read them? Is it simple self doubt? Or do I have legitimate concerns about the medium? Does it even really matter? Because whatever I post is going to basically vanish into the ether of the internet.  Its true that everything on the internet never really goes away, but it also doesn't really go anywhere specific either. Its like slipping one handwritten page into one random library book. Its there. And totally save from ever being discovered. Except by robots. Wow, I got a lot more mileage out of that metaphor than I planned.

I remember reading somewhere that aspiring bloggers should avoid "meta" posts. Posts about posting. Blogs about blogging. No, "sorry I haven't updated this in a while," or, "Here's what I'm going to write about."  But I've also heard that the only way to learn anything, to practice anything, is to DO the thing. And if I mess around here in my text editor and write some half-assed thing that I know will never go anywhere, I won't save it, and it just disappears.  Maybe that is helpful, maybe that is practice.  But it doesn't feel like that.

In that video I linked to above, Neil Gaiman says that one very freeing thing about writing is that no one will ever see your first draft. You are totally free to write anything, to fail and suck and crash and burn, and I think that has a lot of merit. But, I also think that if no one is going to see it, why do it? Did it even happen? Maybe he feels this way because he knows, from experience, that first drafts written in secret become subsequent drafts written for the public. Well, I rarely get that far, so I don't have that assurance. I need to create a habit of writing ANYTHING. Literally anything. Just words. That are in some sort of order.  Trying to write words that tell a story is actually too advanced for me at this point. I'm not even joking. I need to start at the beginning. Before the beginning, even.   Words. Sentences. Fingers moving over keys. Training my hand to hold a pen.  I'm not (that) embarrassed by this. Marathon runners once didn't know how to tie their shoes.  This is me tying my shoes.  Or trying.

(FUN FACT: I am 31, and I don't tie my shoes like a normal human.  I had so much trouble learning that "normal" way of tying shoes, that some random adult in my life (a teacher, probably?) showed me the 'two bunny ear way'. I was able to handle that, and tie my shoes that way to this day. I can do it the "real" way, but I really do have to think about it.)

Anyway, I know that if I babbled along in this text editor for a while, and just filed it away, or threw it away, it wouldn't feel real.  It wouldn't feel like I did anything. There would be no stakes, and little reason for me to try again tomorrow. Neil Gaiman's advice is, perhaps, for when the stakes feel too high. But right now, for me at least, they feel too low.  Posting this to a blog that no one even knows exists isn't that much of a step up from burying it on my hard drive (or recycle bin) but its just enough to make me feel like I did something. And that I should do something again.