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.