31 December 2009

Open Thread - Why do you or don't you celebrate the New Year?

I don't celebrate the New Year because it has no personal or astrological significance, except for the coincidental full moon this year.  The only New Year's Eve celebration I have enjoyed in my adult life was staying home alone last year and going to bed before midnight.  In terms cleansing rituals or resolutions, I find them far more powerful at my birthday, which I celebrate as a personal new year.  When I started looking at spiritualities outside of the Episcopal faith that I was raised in, I found that the seven year cell renewal cycle of the body oft mentioned in biology classes matched the seven year chakra cycles observed in some some eastern beliefs, and so around the time of my birthday I evaluate what I've accomplished, what I want to let go of, what that cycle tells me would be most auspicious to work on in the coming year, and create observeances and rituals around that as I see fit.

How about you?  Do you make resolutions now, at your birthday, at a different holiday or astrological event?  Do you skip them altogether?  When and how do you celebrate the beginning of a new year, if at all?

Whenever your new year, solar return, spiritual journey or other observance of a new time period begins, I wish you one of love, healing and growth.

Blessed be

28 December 2009

This Week in Fabulosity - It's all About Our Lady J

Perhaps at some point later this week when I've snagged photos from friends and family and I'm ready to parse out what about the holidays and what was emotionally traumatic, I'll review the whole week.  For just now I'd like to make this post all about our trip to Manhattan yesterday.  My Christmas Saturnalia gift to Sarcastabitch was a trip up to Joe's Pub in to see Our Lady J, our very favorite transsexual Gospel singer.

I love Joe's Pub, and have seen Justin Bond perform there several times in the recent past.  In fact, it was via Mx Bond's Twitter feed that I first heard of Our Lady J, and she was Justin's pianist when I saw hir perform on Halloween.  (Twelve year old aside - teehe, I said "pianist!")  Having downloaded her EP "Our Lady J:  Live from the Zipper Factory," and loving her original songs, I was really excited to see her perform again.  She performed songs from that EP, her new single "Pink Prada Purse,"  and other new original songs, as well as covers ranging from Dolly Parton's "The Grass is Blue" to Nine Inch Nails "Hurt."

While her singing and songwriting are enough to claim great talent and dedication to her craft on their own , Lady J is also a wonderfully accomplished pianist.  Between gospel sets and Dolly covers she started into a classical piece asking "anybody in the audience know who that is? Anybody? It's Chopin!"  She continued playing, sharing the deligthful yet morbid story of the expatriated  Chopin willing that his heart be cut out upon his death and taken from France to be buried in his homeland in Poland.  Weaving this and family stories with her thunderous gospel crescendos on the piano and great vocals, she is an act not to be missed.  If you are in the NYC area next Monday, I highly recommend seeing her third annual "Gospel of Dolly."  Her passion and performance do Ms. Parton great justice.  Tickets availible here.

Yours in fabulosity,

24 December 2009

My Christmas - Twice the (Soy) Nog, None of the Christ

Growing up, Christmas was THE holiday for me.  I didn't care for Thanksgiving all that much - I hated turkey and being shunned to the kid's table.  Easter was joyful, but it was already Spring, so he needed an upper?  Christmas was it.  At the darkest time of year, Christmas was a celebration of lights, my favorite foods, gift giving and decorations.  And oh, the decorations.  All of those handed done, sparkle and glitter laden decorations were my first chance to bring my drag sensibility to the world.  Perhaps most importantly, Christmas was my Poppy's favorite too.  He died two years before I was born but I've felt his presence strongly since I was a child, and I felt I was honoring him and connecting to him more strongly at Christmas time.

It's been a good number of years, the better part of a decade now, since I have celebrated any Christian holiday.  There are miracles in the Gospel that I think, as an allegory, are really nice.  For example, Jesus prophesying his own death and saying that the temple would be destroyed but raised up again in three days.  The point was that God was both in him and in everyone and while I don't take a Christian or monotheistic approach to spirituality, that's a sentiment I can get on board with - that each of us contains the utmost ability for healing and unconditional love.  However, the Virgin Mary myth is twisted and elevating a physically impossible birth to the highest achievable level of morality and purity has been one of the greatest tools of women's opression and general sexual repression for the last two millenia and change.  Gross.

For years I've thought that I'd celebrate my own version of Christian holidays, take what I loved about them most, including the secular traditions, and pass them on to my children when I had them.  Yet I've come so far and I have to wonder, does everything have to be a tweaked version of what I grew up with?  A tree but no Santa (I don't get the lying to children thing), soy nog, tofu lasagna, lights on the house, the creche on the table just because I loved settingit up when I was little?  Going vegan I learned that all of the frozen burgers and dogs and various faux meat products were sort of bad copies of something I didn't like in the first place, so why do the same with Christmas?

Having attended no holiday parties this year, and having had no landscaping to light, or decorations to put up, I don't feel like I'm missing out.  I had a beautiful Solstice celebration with the Radical Faeries and I imagine that I might expand that celebration next year.  The next old one to go is the new year celebration.  I realize now that the reason I've never particularly liked celebrating the new year is that our calendar pays no heed to any particular rhythm of the cosmos and is entirely random.  I now celebrate my personal new year at my birthday, taking stock of where I've been and where I'm going.  I've devised rituals.  Some may stay, and some may go, making room for others to be added.  I'm a radical faerie.  Break that down and what you get is that I get right to the root of things, and I do it magickly and with love.

Realistically, I will probably continue to gather with my family of origin for the rest of my life on Christian holidays, even though almost nobody is a Christian, because that's when they all gather.  If it feels appropriate, I'll invite them to celebrate the holidays and rituals that I observe too.  It feels very liberating to realize that I can let go of Christmas as I knew it and still connect to Poppy and to joy and to charity and love without traditions that no longer serve me.

Wherever you are tonight, whether you're reflecting on your Solstice ritual or moving into a Christmas celebration, whether you celebrate all of it or none, I wish you joy, peace, healing and growth with your families or origin and families of choice.

Blessed be.

23 December 2009

Why are pornbots so heteronormative?

I'm feeling humored about this, but also curious in an anthropology and psychology sort of way - none of the porn emails that end up in my spambox in Gmail are ever gay or bi or queer in any way.  Ditto the porn bots on Twitter up until a few days ago.  Since then two bots with some variation on the handle "Gay Live" have followed me, most likely because I used a keyword like "fag" in one of my tweets and they automatically added me.  However, this is literally the first time in well over ten years on the internet that gay porn was been advertised to me via spam.  Doesn't this seem odd to you?

The way I see it, we live in a capitalist culture and anything that can be effectively sold through advertising will be.  Obviously all of those spam bots and emails selling porn to straight men generate enough capital to make them worth sending.  Therefore the possibilities are:

1) Queer men don't consume pornography and therefore we aren't marketed to in this way.
2) Queer men consume a comparable amount of pornography compared to straight men, but are less likely to find it through spam advertising.

Clearly we're going with option two.  So then the next question is are we an untapped market to this style of advertising, or are we less responsive to it.  Again, I'm going with the latter.  The more interesting question is, why?  I have my theories. 

As queers, we have to think a lot more about our sexuality in general.  We're already deviating from one of the most deeply entrenched normative values of society, and as a result we delve into and explore various facets of our sexuality more, can articulate our desires and kninks, and have less (or no) shame about them.  Our leather daddies march with their collared boys in Pride parades just as respectably as drag queens, activist groups, knitting groups and queer churches.  And why shouldn't they?  Sex and sexuality is a beautiful part of life that doesn't need to be hidden, but you sure as hell wouldn't know it talking to most straight Americans, doubly so if they live in the 'burbs, attend church regularly, etc., etc.  I think that porn bots and porn spam are for Midwestern accountants who keep their dicks in Mason jars under the sink and can't imagine a world where your Saturday errands are grocceries, returning library books, and stopping off for a new butt plug and some hardcore pornography.

Goddamn, it's good to be a faggot.  Now if I can just permanently block these BritneyFuckedVid bots on Twitter, I'll be set!

22 December 2009

This Week in Fabulosity - Cabaret, College & More

Thursday - I started my internship with First Person Arts and, as with pretty much everything in my life right now, it's not just that it's fantastic and contributing to the fact that this is the happiest I've been in my whole life (see also: I got fired from a job I hated, I adore my flatmate and my puppy, I've been hanging with fab New York authors and performers).  This is more than just an interhsip for me.  Like my most recent dating experience, it's a short term attunement to be what it is to be treated well, have open communication, and feel that the energy that I contribute is honored.  This hasn't been the case in past dating or work experiences, and I'm on my way to unbelievable creativity, a career and a relationship.  This is great training for how to do that.

Friday - I headed out to see The Big Mess Orchestra perform Big Mess Cabaret at the Trocadero.  The Troc is one of my favorite things about Philadelphia and, like First Person Arts and the film festivals, will be one of the things that I miss dearly when I move, and that I will visit when I come back.  I've seen Pansy Division there, a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show, attended great dance parties and more.   However, it was nice to see cabaret there as one of the many historic incarnations of The Troc was as a burlesque hosue with cabaret and vaudeville.  

Right: Miss Carlotta in her 3rd frock of the evening. Girl can rock the purple sequined micro dress, but I'm sorry I missed a picture of her holiday dress.

The show had a great live band, flamenco, smoking elves, an insane singing ten foot tall nun who was also an insane ten foot tall singing Christmas tree (under her habit, naturally), vaudeville, stripteases, and the auctioning of dresses for an HIV/AIDS charity.

Despite all of this immense talent and hilarity, the favorite performance came not from a performer, but from Mic Boy, who rearranged the mics for each performer...in a jockstrap and work boots.  Yum.  Have I mentioned lately that I love my people?  I mean, straight people in Europe might be that cool, but the the U.S. of A. I'm sure as hell glad to be an urban dwelling fag.

Another highlight: nine foot singing purple penis.

Saturday - My college (re)acceptance letter from TCNJ arrived! In less than a year I won't just be a whip smart actor/writer/handsome gentleman, but I'll have a piece of paper (from on of the finest institutions in the country, I might add), that certifies me in at least one of those arenas.  Or something.  So yeah, huzzah to me going back to finish my degree in gender studies at the same time as I intern, continue my Meisner training with the Ward Studio, and keep my expenses down while I'm living on unemployment, all without losing it.  Wish me luck!

Sunday - A great schlep out to West Philly for our Solstice Heart Circle, which I blogged about here yesterday.  What a great way to celebrate the end of the year with some of my favorite Philadelphians, and some beautiful new ones as well!

21 December 2009

"Have fun, but remember the Heart Circle"

Someone asked me once to succinctly describe the Radical Faeries in one sentence.  I said something to the effect of: "Radical Faeries are queer, often don't fit into or like mainstream gay cultures, are open-minded and open-hearted, often have pagan or other older and/or nature based spiritual practices, and are often artists, activists, and freaks."  As far as I understand the history, we Faeries sprung up alongside the mainstream counterculture (how's that for a n oxymoron) on the West coast in the 70s.  It started out as all gay men and the demographic still tends that way, although Philly Faeries welcome queers of all genders and sexes. 

I first heard of the Faeries in a Queer as Folk episode wheretwo characters attend a Faerie gathering weekend in the woods.   All of the Faeries I've met groan at this a bit since it wasn't, to their estimation, an accurate representation, but also generally acknowledge that it was a sweet attempt.  Especially sweet because it was largely a framing story around a tribute to Harry Hay, generally considered the leading Faerie founder.  It was not long after that that I saw Harry Hay in the documentaries (at least I think it was both of them, it's been a while) Before Stonewell and After Stonewall.  With his long white beard, and long, dangling earrings and necklace he was a touch genderbent and totally fascinating to me.  It was several years later that I found the Faeries here in Philadelphia.

Yesterday was our Solstice potluck and Heart Circle.  The Heart Circle is probably the most consistent ritual across Faerie communities and, as I've yet to be to Short Mountain or Faerie Camp Destiny or any of the large Faerie sanctuaries, the only ritual I've participated in.  In short, it is a totally safe space to share whatever is going on in your life, good or bad, with people who won't interrupt, and won't respond or give advice unless you specifically ask for it.  Everyone has equal opportunity to speak into the circle and all things spoken are confidential.  When you think of how often the average person is given the opportunity to speak from the heart to her/his/hir community with their undivided attention (generally never), it is actually remarkable.  Furthermore, the Faeries were born of generations of men who were never to share their feelings, and plenty of Faeries, male not not, may still have the Heart Circle as their only outlet of this kind.

The rest of the evening following the Heart Circle was remarkable.  People sat around the room in groups of twos and threes, eating, sharing food, trading back rubs and snuggling.  Sometimes the attention turned from the little groups to everyone in the room interacting together.  Maybe it's just my raucous family giving me an inaccurate perception, but most times when I'm in a room with 12 people all involved in the same conversation, it becomes rudely competitive and loud.  Instead, after having had the experience of balanced and loving sharing in the Heart Circle at the start of the evening, everyone shared stories and laughs in turn and without stepping on each others' toes.  Nothing was forced.  Everything was in flow.  This is what group dynamics look like when it starts from a place of acknowledging and honoring every member of the community.  This is why Harry Hay told us, "Have fun, but remember the Heart Circle."

20 December 2009

My First Person Arts Story Slam

Embedded here is the story I told at a First Person Arts story slam.  I had a LOT of fun doing it and it made me want to start writing fictional short stories based on my (ridiculous) life.  Since I've been blogging here as much as possible and trying to generally organize my life post leaving Penn I haven't done that, but I definitely hope to at least tell a story at another slam sometime soon.  In the meantime, I've actually started interning at First Person and I'm absolutely loving it.  More on that later.  For now, I leave you with my wonky ass story:

(Also, check out the story by Chase on the same night.  She was the audience favorite and had me in tears I was laughing so hard.)

18 December 2009

Adults in the Tribe - Essential Traits & Responsibilities

Today I will examine the adult archetype in a youth/adult/elder/ancestor view of tribes.

The essential traits of adults are:
  • Although they will (hopefully) continue to learn and grow intellectually and spiritually across their lifetimes, adults have synthesized their varied life and learning experiences in the youth phase of life and tribal membership into a relatively stable world view, spiritual practice, etc.
  • They are steadily employed or otherwise engaged in some productive practice of value to themselves and fellow tribe members.
The responsibilities of the adults to the tribe are:
  •  Provide the vast majority of the material needs for the tribe.  This includes creating and maintaing any and all infrastructure that supports the tribe, providing food and generating capital, etc.
  • Provide spiritual, political, economic and other leadership.
  • Provide for and nurture the youth; this includes mentorship.  Because many youth will be lost for direction or fumbling in their confidence, adults should specifically seek out these youth, those who Kate Bornstein might call "teens, freaks and other outlaws," and help them connect with a meaningful mentor.
  • Care for older members of the tribe who can no longer care for themselves.
  • Support the transition of youth into the adult phase of life and tribal membership and continue to provide support as needed until stability is found in this new role.
The responsibilities of the  tribe to the adults are:
  • The youth must respect the adults (and elders and ancestors) of the tribe, abide by their decisions and guidance and, where they feel an adult is transgressing what is fair or right, seek out the help of other adults to rectify the situation.
  • The elders must advise the adults in areas that will effect the tribe for generations to come.  For example, while adults are focused in immediate needs such as creating and maintaining infrastructure such as transit systems, if said transit system poses an ecological concern, than it is the responsibility of the elders to speak up for the concern of the tribe seven generations into the future, and the responsibility of the adults to heed this advice and act accordingly.
  • Ancestors hold a similar role of advising the adults (and elders); depending on the spiritual beliefs of the tribe, this will either be done by example of the past or through shamanic or other spiritual contact with the ancestors for guidance.
  • Elders, supported by ancestors, will provide support and guidance for a transition from adult to elder in the tribe.  Youth and fellow adults not yet transitioning, will provide material, emotional and spiritual support through this process.
As mentioned previously, it is problematic to think of these roles in the views of dominant culture; for example many adults, and especially queer adults, may not be raising children.  However, this does not mean that these do not have the same value to the tribe, or that the responsibilities to them or to the tribe are different.  First we must remember that these archetypes are not wholly bound by age; all children start as youth but not all youth are children.  Therefore, a large part of queer adulthood will involve mentoring queer youth and transitioning them to adulthood within the queer community, and likely within the larger tribe as well.  Non-parents adults might also be teachers, guidance counselors, participate in a mentorship organization such as Big Brothers or Big Sisters, etc.  Functionally, all other aspects of adulthood should be similar across communities.

      17 December 2009

      Guest Blog - A Giovanni's Room Story

      The following is a guest blog from The Phaggot.  He is a self described artist, writer, wine drinker, objector, citizen, homosexual, computer geek, activist, super hero, and grad student. Most importantly, a CUTE homosexual.  He does a lot of great work in Philadelphia, and I am very appreciative to him for sharing his story below:

      I grew up in a poorer section of the great NorthEast corridor. Money in our family was spent frugally, better to feed the 7 kids then spend paychecks on any type of luxury. The VCR was a gift from an Uncle. Clothes were always hand-me-downs or Wal-Mart fresh. Our worn-out television was so old it bared the RCA logo. What few books we owned were dog-eared and smudged, passed down from father to son, to brother, to sister. Although our Encyclopedia was out-dated enough to talk about 48 states in the Union, we loved all our books.

      My school system, while under-funded and under-appreciated in that rural American kind of way, did have an excellent set of librarians. These women (yes, they were all women) worked overtime to make sure books were available to all students. Classics, science fiction, romance, adventure and horror, they were all stacked on the shelves. For a voracious reader like me, this was heaven. I found inspiration in the stories of Hans Brinker, John Carter, Thomas Jefferson, James and His Giant Peach, and those four Little Women. What I didn’t find was was role-models or people who seemed like me. My school’s Dewey Decimal system didn’t extend as far as the Kinsey scale.

      In my teen years, when my hourly rate at Dairy Queen allowed me some financial freedom, I was still in a sexual book bind. A small town in Maryland is still not a place a teen boy can find a Playgirl, much less any works of our great gay authors. Neither the Christian Light Bookstore or K-Mart’s book section carried any of the titles I needed.

      At 17, I visited a girlfriend attending Drexel University. A born fag-hag, she had known far before me what my destiny was in life. After a long walk on South Street, we took a detour north. We ended up in the middle of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood.  Lacking a sophisticated fake ID and born with a non-stop babyface, my initiation into the world of big city homosexuality would have been cut short without the most important shopping moment of my life: Giovanni’s Room.

      I didn’t buy much on my first visit; after all, I still shared a room with two brothers. There was only so much I could hide. Hefty purchases would be saved for later visits. But that wasn’t what made Giovanni’s Room special. The important thing was that Giovanni’s Room was THERE. It represented the first time I knew that there were other people like me out there, and that we were OKAY enough to have books about us! And while my parents had never said much positive about homosexuality, if anything at all, I did know that books meant something, something good and something important. I also knew, that a place devoted to our tales, catering to our fears and desires, and built upon our past and looking toward our future – that kind of place had to be for me.

      Losing Giovanni’s room wouldn't just be a loss to your bookshelf. Not for me now, and certainly not for the old me either. While it’s a tremendous bookstore with shelves and shelves of delightful gay fun, that is not why we need Giovanni’s Room. This bookstore transcends retail; it’s a place that is pivotal to the gay community – to our people and culture. We Queers are not just drinkers, or activists, or networkers or marchers. We are not always going to congregate in the squares with signs, or on social media sites with secrets. Not all of us want to join, and some of us are shy. Some of us, either always or at different points in our life, need a place were words are on pages and ideas are in front of us. Were we can learn the news, exchange in the arts, and see a little tushie too.

      16 December 2009

      This Week in Fabulosity - Photo Edition

      I realized shortly after posting that I had completely neglected the photographs from the most recent instalment of "This Week in Fabulosity" so, voila:

      First up two pictures taken after "Christmas Spells" with  Justin Bond and the Pixie Harlots. Here, Sarcastabitch and I pose with Mx Bond herself.  Now that is one hell of a sassy hairpiece, but if only you had seen her rocking out in a dress that seemed to be constructed largely of silk poinsettias the size of my head.  Now *that* was a serious costume!

      Oh but not for those pesky winter layers you might see Sarcastabitch's tie.  We coordinated outfits, makeup and nail polish in all blue, white, black and red.  We even wore ties from the same collection, mine solid red and hers black with white polka dots.  This furthers out theory that we must not be seperated lest, like conjoined twins, one of us wither and die.

      Next up, this busker in the subway station at Times Square.  In Philly you'd only find this kind of thing in Rittenhouse Square, but in New York there are artists and singers and performers of all types everywhere - in Union Square, on seemingly every subway line - and I love it.  I want to know this guy's story - was he a ventriloquist or a clown, an actor or what?  Whatever his story, he's clearly dedicated to doing whatever it takes to put food on the table and keep making his art.  From this distance you probably can't tell but the box he's standing on says "NEVER GIVE UP."  Even better, check out the card that he gives out when you drop money in his bucket:

      It's a little wrinkled from it's trips around town in my billfold, but this makes me smile every single time I see it.

      Youth in the Tribe - Essential Traits & Responsibilities

      Last week I started to explore our society in terms of its views on youth, adults, elders and ancestors.  I felt it was vital to first break down some of the less helpful ways that these are constructed in our society and now would like to look at the first phase of identity, youth.

      Although these archetypes are largely associated with age brackets, I submit that they are not necessarily age dependent, with two exceptions: youth begins with birth and continues until you otherwise transition your position in the tribe and ancestry begins at death and does not eevolve.  I have all sorts of fancy ideas about progression, regression, and even maintaining dual identities, but for now, I will examine the basic aspects of youth identity.

      The essential traits of youth is that they are:
      • in the care of adults materially, educationally, and spiritually.
      • generally not called on to provide material, educational or spiritual care for themselves or others.
      • in the most active stage of mental, spiritual and (typically) physical growth and development of their lives.
      The responsibilities of the tribe to the youth are:
      • The adults of the tribe must provide for all material needs of the youth, as well as their education and spiritual instruction.
      • The adults (and sometimes elders) must provide mentorship.
      • The elders must advise and plan for the next seven generations* of the (a responsibility that they have to both the adults and youth)
      • The adults must provide support and celebrate the transition of youths to adults.
      The responsibilities of the youth the the tribe are:
      • The youth must learn the traditions, customs, and history of the tribe.  These will continue to be important through all identity stages.
      • The youth must stir up new ideas and challenge traditions and customs that are no longer useful, and question history when it has a bias and disadvantages those learning it by teaching untruths. 
      • The youth must respect their tribal elders and receive their wisdom.
      • The youth mus respect their adults and work with them to receive mentorship.
      • Less a responsibility and more a seeming inevitability of human nature, the youth will largely rebel against the adults at some point and do whatever their cultures version of drugs, sex and rock 'n roll is.
      In another blog I'll parse what this means to the different tribes in which I personally participate and other thoughts on youth in the tribe.  For now, I think that's a good chunk to start with. =D

       *Seven generation forethought is includied in the branding of numerous eco friendly products and services and even an eco focused charter school, according to a quick Google search.  My mentor Chris Bartlett suggested this number, and it rang a bell as I'd used a product by Seventh Generation whose label I vaugely remember mentioning a Native American custom.  Another quick Google search points me in the direction of a seven generation consideration of action originating with the Iroquois.  However, seven is a significant number regarding the complete of a cycle in many spiritual beliefs from the Judeo-Christian Creation of the world in seven days to belief in the seven major chakras of the body and their spiritual evolution in seven year cycles.  Because it is a number of such wide and accepted cultural and spiritual significance, I continue to use it here.

      14 December 2009

      This Week in Fabulosity

      Thursday - I interviewed with my favorite Philly arts org, First Person Arts, for an internship.  I'm not sure yet when I'll start with them but I really look forward to picking up a whole new set of skills and learning about the behind the scenes work of event production, contract writing and all of the nitty-gritty of making art happen.  More on that as it unfolds!  

      Saturday - An almost indescribably amazing trip with my flatmate and fabulous sex blogger Sarcastabitch to see Justin Bond and the Pixie Harlots perform their original show "Christmas Spells," based on the short story "Dixie Belle" by Kate Bornstein.  Now I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, Pistol, is it possible for you to talk about fabulosity without mentioning Justin AND Kate?  Well, I suppose it is, but why try?  I want to see great art, they make great art, and they  often collaborate to make and/or present it together.  Who can argue with that?

      In addition to telling a new gender-bent Huck Finn story the way the only such an assemblage of artists and queens can, we were treated to:

      • solo and ensemble  performances of holiday songs, written by artists from The Gossip to Richard Carpenter to Irving Berlin
      • Justin performing songs from his EP "Pink Slip,"
      • Justin's outrageous tales and incomparable, fucked-up humor.  Try on for size this punchline from one notable (true) story: "And when they finally caught him and asked him why he had been punching these babies he answered, 'they were stealing my glamour!'"  
      With tears rolling down my cheeks, I was grateful that Sarcatabitch uses only high end makeup and that my waterproof mascara was not running.

      In addition to the sheer fabulosity of Justin's high heels and the hot and hairy Pixie Harlots in jockstraps and fishnets and glitter (well all of my favorite pixies were hairy anyway), I played another round of "It's a Small, Queer World."  I not only spotted a recent Philly to NYC transplanted Faerie friend, but also noticed that Sean Kennedy, previously known to me only via his Twitter stream, was tweeting from the same theater as I!  After some online coordination and at least one follower breathlessly waiting to see whether we'd find each other in the crowd, we met up and headed out to Yaffa Cafe for some post show food.  (Why yes, I was just there for breakfast last week with Kate.  It seems queer writers and creamy hummus go together like Lady Gaga and fake blood soaked avant garde costumes.)

      Somewhere in transit, a Faerie whispered in my ear (with a little help from text messaging) "Wanna come to Justin's?"  Bless her heart, Sarcastabitch and her short little legs managed to keep up with my dead sprint from Yaffa to the after party, catching her breath as I grabbed some ale because I was NOT showing up to Mx Bond's empty handed!  We arrived shortly before the Pixie Harlots had to make their way out to Brooklyn for a second performance and I was surely pleased to make their acquaintance. 

      Machine is just as sweet as pie and an excellent conversationalist to boot; PamperZ confirmed what a queen told me on Halloween about applying glitter to one's lips and added the essential information of how to remove said glitter!  So yes, the party was great. A performance artist and indie film actor here, Mx Bond's favorite rockstar there, Faeries and general faggotry abound.  The room represented ten times more artistic achievement than your standard soiree, yet without one iota of the pretension.  AKA, my personal heaven.

      Sunday - My dear friend, mentor and Faerie elder Chris Bartlett and his gay history wiki project were written up in the New York Times.  In fact, my understanding is that this was on the front page of the style section of the print edition.  I am so proud and excited of and for Chris and his work.  I look forward to how the wiki will grow and eventually go viral over time.

      With love and fabulosity, and body glitter adorning body hair,

      Guest Blog - solidad decosta on her favorite queer books

      The following blog is penned by solidad decosta, who graciously agreed to lend to her time and her voice to my efforts to keep Giovanni's Room open, and to bring you the best and brightest, latest and greatest in the queer worlds of art, activism and blogging.  (And it is a small queer world friends. I found solidad via twitter and she was one of the first people I reached out to for this series; recently I emailed PhinLi Bookings to see who amongst their talent might lend me their voices and lo and behold, they represent solidad!)  Follow the links to buy the books online from Giovanni's, and for items not in regular stock, they special order!  Without further ado:

      Performer/author/musician solidad decosta is an uppity Portuguese woman who isn't afraid to claim her black Latina maternal ancestry. Equal parts street journalist, storyteller and crone-ta-be with Leo moon credentials, her work encompasses the why and where of life outside the boxes in a label obsessed world, and the what, when, who and how of everything else.

      (One of) my current projects: A new collection of page poems called Dérive. “From personal-is-political sonnet cycles on the Paris suburb riots to minimalist excursions into the trials of being a renter, this work covers new territory while staying true to the direct, passionate tone that shines through her previous works.” It's available at my website – solidadrocks.com.

      My favorites? There's so many. Here are four of them:

      Kate Bornstein, My Gender Workbook. If you've ever wondered “why is it that gender doesn't seem to fit neat and tidy for me, like it's supposed to?,” this book is for you. Lots of process work, but in the sparkling, engaging, inviting style that is uniquely Kate's.

      kari edwards, a day in the life of p. Difficult, amazing, transgressive prose. kari was an amazing writer and a stellar human being; you owe it to yourself to check out her work. Her book of poems Iduna is a great read as well. Special order from Giovanni's Room via ISBN: 978-1930068186.

      Matthew Rottnek (Editor), Sissies and Tomboys. An engaging combination of personal narratives and critical theory, this is the best book I've read on gender non-conformativity and those who want to police it. If you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, a must-read.

      Arlene Stein (Editor), Sisters, Sexperts, Queers. An amazing companion to Sissies and Tomboys, this book rocks my world in many ways, but what has stuck with me over the years is how patiently and insightfully it calls into question the faults in 2nd wave feminism, from a queer/lesbian perspective. Special order from Giovanni's Room via ISBN: 978-0452268876.

      11 December 2009

      Ronald Gold - Patriarchy & White Male Privilege

      In my previous post on Ronald Gold's insensitive, inaccurate, and offensive "'No' to the Notion of Transgener" blog at the Bilerico Project, I rebutted specific points.  Today, let's get right to the root of the problem:

      Mr. Gold is a white man with white male privilege and his incoherent, factually inaccurate blog, which sites no research or even anecdotes yet purports to speak for the mental and physical experience of all transsexual and transgender people, neither of which he identifies as, reflects the fact that he is an active participant in institutional patriarchy and racism and the belief that his whiteness and maleness give his opinion automatic authority.

      I have it too, that pesky white male privilege.  Whether I want it or not, my voice will automatically be heard more often, and given greater credit, whether I've earned it or not.  It's not fair, but I don't deny it or feel guilty about it like I once did, because I can't change it.  Guilt and denial won't help, but I can at least acknowledge it and refuse to actively participate in it  or actively use it to my (further) advantage.

      Because I'm aware of my privilege, I'm never going to say (in the way that Mr. Gold did) that "transsexual people experience X, Y and Z," because I do not and cannot know from experience.  I might say "my transsexual friend told me that his experience was..." or "a study showed that 95% of transsexual people reported X."  However, for me to  say "transsexual people are/do/should/etc." would mean that I have stopped listening to the experience that I cannot have had and I have stopped pointing people back to the first person sources.  It would mean that I had become an active participant in my white male privilege, believing that my opinion mattered without any factual backup or shred of compassion for the non-white/male/cisgender experience simply because it has always been reinforced that that is my white male right to do so.

      We will never make progress until we check our own privilege before we open our mouths, and before we open our mouths we need to do a whole lot or opening our ears and hearts first.  It's not easy, and it hurts, and too bad because it's the only way we're going to grow.  However, I can tell you that in doing so, I have come to love myself and others so much more.  I used to have myself for being fat, for not being butch enough to prove that not all queers were effeminate stereotypes, and all sorts of nasty, polluted thoughts that hurt me, my community and the world.  When I stopped hating and punnishing the "other" in myself, I was able to better hear and love all members of my communities.

      We must stop, listen, hear, and love as it is our only hope for progress.  In love and soliarity,

      "No" to the proliferation of transphobia

      This blog is in response in Ronald Gold's post at the Bilerico Project entitled "'No' to the notion of transgender." (If the link goes dead, we can assume that Bilerico has pulled the post.)

      Update: Bilerico did indeed pull the post, but over at Pam's House Blend they have the original article in PDF  that you can view and even download in case you missed it.

      Interestingly, the blog opens with a few paragraphs that deny biological sex as behavioral destiny, which is an idea that is vital to breaking down patriarchy and the related misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and all other systems of sex and gender based violence and oppression.  Mid blog he seems to come to an underwhelming crescendo of post-modern gender theory, writing

      Let me state it categorically. There is no such thing as a male or female personality. Personality is not a function of gender." (Emphasis original)

      On a queer blog in 2009 this is hardly revolutionary; regardless, I see no harm in rehashing that notion, even if it seems to be preaching to the choir.  Where things become outlandish, disturbing and offensive are in his very next statement:

      So where does that put the concept of transgender? In my view, down the tubes! And that leaves the further questions of how transsexuals got to think the way they do, and what to do to resolve their dilemmas.

      I won't repost his theory in its entirety here but he essentially states that transgender people are simply reacting to early societal and parental admonishment for transgressing traditional gender norms.  Additionally, he hopes to be "forgiven for rejecting as just plain silly the idea that some cosmic accident just turned these people into changelings."  He goes on to suggest that transgressing gender taboos such as clothing, hairstyle and have same-sex relationships can all be achieved without changing one's sex.

      I have no idea where to even start, other than sending Mr. Gold to a gender studies 101 course at any decent liberal arts college.  He fails to clearly differentiate transgender (an inconsistency between a person's perceived/assigned birth sex and their gender presentation) and transsexual (alteration of one's physical sex via hormonal and/or surgical intervention.)  By including gay sex as a fading gender based taboo he would seem to imply that all transsexual people are actually gay but are altering their gender so that the sexuality would instead be straight.  This not only fails to properly disentangle notions of sex and gender from sexuality, but is also flat wrong, given that some transsexual people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer in their sexuality.

      His bizzare closing paragraph supports legal protections for "cross-dressers and post-op transsexuals" but closes with this statement:

      I would, however, get after the doctors - the psychiatrists who use a phony medical model to invent a disease that doesn't exist, and the surgeons who use such spurious diagnoses to mutilate the bodies of the deluded.

      My only response to that is to ask Mr Gold, have you ever listened to a transsexual person tell their story?  He is not the first person I've heard put forth an opinion about transsexual people being delusional about their bodies.  I've heard a physician compare performing gender affirming surgery on a transsexual person to stapling the stomach of an anorexic.   Again, you have to wonder who or what these people are listening to.  I would submit it is their own internalized ideas and fears about sex, gender and sexuality because from where I stand, most transsesxual people whose stories I've taken the time to listen to describe a journey of greater and greater harmony between mind and body by way of their transition.

      The question now becomes, aside from addressing the fallacies and offensive statements, how do we repsond?   The post is already prefaced by a standard editor's note/disclaimer.  Additionally, the tagline to the Bilerico Project is "daily experiments in LGBTQ."  This is clearly a failed experiment, but any scientist worth hir/her/his salt will tell you that a failed experiment doesn't get trashed; rather, it's mined for the invaluable data that will move you forward to the correct answer.

      So yes, if Mr. Gold refuses to reconsider or apologize to those he hurt, then boot him from Bilerico.  With transgender and transsexual people the group most targeted for hate crimes and  trans women of color being disproportionately attacked and killed, we cannot continue to promote transphobia from within the queer community.  But before his dismissal or a boycott of Bilerico or anything else happens, let's make sure that the course of action we take is one that moves the dialogue forward and makes this world a place more loving and safe for our transgender and transsexual brothers and sisters.

      With love and solidarity

      10 December 2009

      Rafe on the importance of queer bookstores in his life

      I met my Friend Rafe through Twitter and appropriate to our queer/nerd bond, first met him in person at Giovanni's Room.  When I first heard that they were in need of fund raising events I had no idea that a hopefull tweet about Kate Bornstein doing a reading for them would not only be read by her, but that plans would start being laid that same day.  It was several months later that Rafe and I connected in person at her reading there.  

      He recently wrote a great blog about the importance of queer bookstores, and I'm hoping he'll later guest blog here with some other fantastic folks about their favorite LGBTQ reading materials.  Here's what he had to say:

      Sometimes the queer bookstores are the only place a kid can go and find a book about other people who are the same kind of freak and weirdo. The same kind of queer. Sometimes a person struggles to find community, and can’t, but at least there are books. I was not a very good lesbian, ever, but I was damn glad to have Rubyfruit Jungle and The Revolution of Little Girls, People Like Us, and the ever-invaluable Dykes to Watch Out For series. Without being able to go to the queer bookstores in Denver, Albuquerque, and, yes, Washington DC during my late teens and early 20s, I don’t know what I would have done. And now, trying to find trans references… Yeah.  So help your independent stores.

      Read the rest of the blog here.

      09 December 2009

      Youth, Adults, Elders and Ancestors in the eyes of Dominant Culture

      In any society/community/tribe there are generally recognized stations of life, each of which correlates to certain responsibilities to the community held by the individuals in that station,  as well as responsibilities of the community to those individuals.  For example, in one dominant view, adults are often charged with the rearing of children, either literally or figuratively.  Inspired by Chris Bartlett, one of my mentors and Faerie elders, I view individuals as primarily fulfilling the role of either child, adult, elder or ancestor within a community. 

      Because our dominant culture is both heteronormative and capitalist, I will first look at how we typically are taught to assign people to these roles and how the value of each group, as well as the individuals in it are perceived.  Heteronormativity constructs youth/adult/elder/ancestor as child/parent/grandparent/deceased while capitalism sees student/worker/retiree/deceased.  These systems of understanding the child/adult/elder/ancestor roles are both concerning.

      Heteronormativity is a hierarchal system of value where the undeniable gold standard is one man and one woman, married until death do them part, conceiving and rearing children that are wholly biologically "theirs." Deviations from this ideal include blended families resulting from divorce and subsequent remarriage, adopted children, sexual and romantic relationships which are not heterosexual, sexual and romantic relationships which are not limited as being held between only two people, etc. Like beauty, hierarchy is in the eye of the beholder and the relative values of marriage and childrearing vary individually. Regardless, measuring adulthood and (possible) subsequent status as an elder by these criteria means that the contributions of many adults and elders to their communities are undervalued or disregarded entirely.

      Taken from a capitalist point of view, the only two roles of value are the youth/student and the adult/worker.  While I would not state that capitalism is entirely without value, as a world view, it is disturbing to measure an individual's worth only by his/her/hir future potential (youth) or current ability (adult) to generate capital.  In this paradigm, elder status is not achieved by wisdom or a concern and responsibility for future generations, but simply by advanced age and the cessation of work and generation of capital. Thus, the elder role doesn't functionally exist; instead there are only old community members who are winding down, waiting for their retirement fund or life force to hit zero, and hoping for the latter to happen first.

      Finally, both heteronormative and capitalist views of the dominant culture disregard ancestors entirely.  Clearly, ancestors are of zero value in a capitalist view, unless you are perhaps an entrepreneur  selling a service to track genealogy.  There is nothing in a heteronormative construct which inherently devalues ancestors, yetin our culture the primary interest in researching them seems to be to satisfy curiosity or perhaps learn more about our medical and genetic destinies. 

      Ancestors can and should be treated as active participants in a community.  For some reason it is easy for us to regard someone we've never met, perhaps an author, as a mentor and a coumminity member.  Contrary to that, and despite the fact that our ancestors often leave very real and palpable contributions to us, our view of death is that we mourn, let go, and forget.  Perhaps this is due the pervasiveness Judeo-Christian belief systems in our society about the linear nature of life and death.  Many other spiritual beliefs would maintain that we can still contact our ancestors regardless of the life/death divide, or that they would be reincarnating to continue their progression towards Nirvana.  Such a view helps to invalidate the "out of sight out of mind" attitude with which we seem to regard our dead.

      Having established some of the challenges our dominant culture has instilled in understanding our communities as collections of youths, adults, elders and ancestors, I will continue to publish subsequent blogs regarding each role, it's responsibilites and primary characteristics, and so on.  As the series progresses, I will return here to turn some keywords into hyperlinks and cross reference the blogs.

      08 December 2009

      Another One Bites the Dust - Queer Bookstores Fading Fast

      I was extremely disappointed to read that Lambda Rising, a queer bookstore with two locations serving LGBTQ communities in Washington DC and Rehoboth Beach, DE, will be closing its doors.  This comes less than a year against the closing of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in NYC, then the oldest independent queer bookstore in the nation.  However, this blog is not intended to be a lament, but rather a call to action.

      Here in Philadelphia, we still have Giovanni's Room.  While I'm sure they were suffering due to the economy and the decline in print media just like everyone else, Giovanni's Room has been especially hard hit this year because they've had to replace a structural at a cost of over $50,000.  They continue to host a variety of fund raisers, but I intend to use this blog, other blogs, Twitter and our combined social networks to keep them open.  They have served the LGBTQ population of the Philadelphia region for decades and are one of the only independent, queer bookstores left on the East coast.  Here's how we're going to pitch in together:

      1.  I'm going to post three books below that I really love, with links to purchase them directly from Giovanni's Room online.

      2. I am asking all queer & ally bloggers, Twitterers, activists and artists to help me out and do the same.  Ideally, to reach the most people, I would like you to guest blog here and post a link it on your blog/Twitter.  We will have network overlap, but you'll also likely gain new audience posting here.  The format should be: A) Introduce yourself and a 2-3 sentence plug for your current show, project, your blog, whatever B) Your 3-5 favorite queer books, hyperlinked to be purchased directly online from Giovanni's Room.  Alternately, if it's not something they usually carry, link to their contact info and let the readers know that they can special order pretty much anything at all, even if it's not queer related!

      3. Spread this blog and all the subsequent blogs in the series every way you can.  Email it to friends and family, put the books on your wish list if you are one of the many people celebrating an upcoming gift-giving winter holiday, tweet about it, etc.

      Without further ado, here are my three recommendations.  In a nod to Twitter's #transtuesday, all three books are trans or genderqueer related.  Click on the titles to buy them online from Giovanni's Room!

      1.  GENDERqUEER - This is a fantastic anthology edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this book was a huge stepping stone for me in understanding gender.  The arrangement of stories, essays and interviews represents a diverse culture within the genderqueer, transgender and transsexual communities and is a great place to start examining gender in small bites, as it were.

      2. Girls will be Boys will be Girls will Be... - This delightful queer coloring book is appropriate for kids, adults and tribal elders aged 2 to 102 and was created by Jacinta Bunnell and Irit Reinheimer.  Along with a genderqueer short story, each page has one illustrated statement such as "Stanley Spends Superbowl Sunday Sewing Slacks," and "Enough about our forefathers, let's learn about some revolutionary women," with an (adorable) accompanying illustration. I cannot pick up this book without smiling.

      3.  Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us - By Kate Bornstein, this is a staple of trans writing, and a great book on gender overall.  If you can put this one down without learning something new, congratulations, you must already have written your doctoral dissertation in post modern gender theory!  Pass go and collect $200!  In all seriousness, Kate is an outstanding author, performer and mentor.  You wouldn't be hard pressed to find people in the trans community who count this book as the first time they saw their reflection in someone else's experience, or even the thing that facilitated their transition.

      If you are interested in writing a blog to help Giovanni's Room and are willing to cross-post here, please contact me. jrudyflesher[at]gmail[dot]com.

      With love and hope for our community, and supporting the queer spaces that support us. xoxo

      UPDATE: Want to share this on Twitter?  Simply copy and paste this text and tweet away: RT @njrugger45 Another one bites the dust. The demise of queer bookstores & how to save Giovanni's Room http://tinyurl.com/ygjcp6j

      New & Improved ::headdesk:: worthy Catholic Commentary

      From the religion that has brought us over two millenia of patriarchy and all of the related opression - misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and complete lack of compassion for those suffering with and dying from AIDS, to name just a few - come especially hurtful, insensitive words from one Edward Egan via the New York Times.  The NYT, along with three other newspapers, spent seven years in court compelling the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, of which Egan was then Bishop, to release reams of documents related to lawsuits against the diocese for the moelstation of children parishoners by priests.  Here are a few gems highlighted in the Times editorial:

      Responding to one accusation involving 12 children and a former priest, he stated “I am not aware of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things. I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth.”

      How enlightened of him.  Like so many women who have been raped, like so many people who have been oppressed by sexual or other violence, Bishop Egan responded not with Christ-like compassion or an attempt to get to the bottom of things and solve the problem, but cast aspersions on the victims instead.  He suggests some sort of conspiracy or assault against the Catholic church and uses the relationships between victims, logical since they attended the same church parish, to frame them band of con-artists in cahoots with one another.  Despicable.

      Additionally, he gloated, “It’s marvelous, when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything.”

      I don't even have words to respond to that.  I did enjoy the reaction from Father Tony over at Farmboyz; he recommends a Christmas eve call to action in which parishoners stop making donations and start placing pebbles in collection baskets instead, and do so until the church reforms itself.  (Side note - Father Tony is a very cool blogger and I had the privilege of getting to know him while we were both working as extras on the set of Bear City this past August.)

      In an interesting parallel story, the Catholic Church has also been reaching out to conservatives in the Anglican Communion who oppose the Episcopal church's move towards ordainging gay and lesbian ministers and bishops and to blessing gay and lesbian marriages and unions.  Having been raised and confirmed in the Episcopal faith, I continue to watch this unfold with great interest.

      (Quick lesson: The Anglican faith formed when King Henry VIII couldn't get a Papal anullment.  The Epsicopal church is the American arm of the same and they partially broke with the Church of England, though they remained a part of the Anglican Communion, at the time of the American Revolution.  The Episcopal church has ordained female minsters since the late 70s whereas Anglicans still don't.  The Episcopal faith elected their first openly gay bishop in 2003.)

      My question is, why doesn't the Episcopal church launch a similar campaign?  They are the most politically liberal Protestant faith in America and are dogmatically and theologically closer to Catholicism than any other faith.  If I designed the billboards they might say "The Episcopal church welcome you and your family....not to be diddled and cornholed by some creepy old fuck during youth group."  Then again I'm a little heavy handed and will never be asked to manage a political or advertising campaign.  Bottom line, if you're Catholic and you don't hate women and LGBT people, or you're a female and/or LGBT Catholic person and have moved past your internalized guilt and opression and don't hate yourself - please, stop giving them money.  Stop trying to reform from within.  There are already Christian religions that encourage Christ-like behavior (imagine that!) and they will weolcome you with open arms.

      We're here, we're queer, we're buying a cell phone!

      I read about this  ad rom Virgin Mobile Canada yesterday over at Joe. My. God and it got me thinking about a few things, like for starters how much cooler than the US Canada must be if they put this up in the first place.  Aside from that, it makes me think about representations of gay people in main stream advertising.  I would suspect that this is targeted to bus shelters in neighborhoods with high gay populations, but obviously plenty of straight folks will see it as well.

      To my estimation, in a society where it is acceptable to show a man and a woman kissing on a billboard, it must be acceptable (at the minimum) to show two people of any sex and gender presentation doing the same.  However, this isn't an affront just to hard line right wingers but to lots of people who say things like "it's fine what people do in the own bedrooms, I just don't need to hear about it."  For just right now I'll sidestep my issues with the weird, Puritanical notions we have about most or all sex and sexuality in our culture, and address the issue specifically at hand.

      Coming out about our sexual orientation but leaving all of our epressions of sexuality and even affection behind in the closet plays into the idea that there is something pathological and deviant about sexual expression outside the hetero norm.  It is important to have positive images of same sex and other gender non-conformist sexuality become so regular in society that I can walk down the street every day for a week holding hands with a man, kiss him goodbye when I get on my bus, and never be taunted or, worse, threatened or attacked.  Of course this ad represnts the beginning - two fit, masculine, white men sharing a kiss.  We're a long way from a black bull dyke dominatrix sharing a kiss with her collared femme, but a Radical Faerie can dream, can't she? ;D

      07 December 2009

      This Week in Fabulosity

      Tuesday - My fellow actors at the Ward Studio in both Philadelphia and New York agreed to extend our semester of Mesiner Technique II by a day in order to do a joint showcase of our work for one another, performing at the new studio space at 150 West 28th Street in New York. My classmate Brandon and I performed a scene from the Odd Couple and I was (perhaps obviously) cast as Felix Unger. I remember the first time we worked through the scene and classmates were really laughing and I couldn't believe it because while I knew the script read as comedy, all I could feel acting it was anger and frustration at bickering with my juvenile, slovenly room mate. In that scene I gained a better appreciation of humor and why it need not and should not be funny to the people performing. It was great to do it in NY with a (partially) fresh audience who didn't know the jokes and gags because once again I got to experience that weird parallel of being angry Felix, but also having some consciousness as myself hearing big laughs and knowing that I was entertaining my audience. A most excellent feeling. Stay posted for when I'm cast in an advanced study workshop and, later, for when I'm on Broadway and subsequently accepting my Tony. ;D

      Thursday - Another trip to New York. (Are we seeing a trend here? Yes, the Liberty Bell is neat but no, it's decidedly *not* always sunny in Philadelphia). Before it closed, I wanted to see COLD WATER, an art show curated by the absolutely fabulous (and fellow Radical Faerie) Justin Bond. It was a show of visual art created by artists who typically channel their creativity into other media, ranging from performance art and song to acting to post-modern gender theory and more. *swoon*

      Another highlight of the evening was a heading to Therapy (where, bless their hearts, pints of Stella Artois were only $3 - cheaper than Philly) and staying to see Levinia Draper perform along with Dorothy Bishop who was doing her best Sarah Palin, and damn it was good! Somewhere in the mix, my friend Nicholas and I decided that between the two of us, one was bound to win the $100 for the best audience go-go dancer and up we went. Long story short: I was ahead in the first round as Sarah Palin's pick because being from Alaska she “likes her men hairy and hung like a moose.” (Thank you Calvin Klein for bikini briefs that gather and lift!) However Nicholas pulled ahead and won in the dance portion. Feh! Regardless, it was an absolute hoot following Levinia's dance routine as she went along, singing “The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow” with her, and hearing Sarah Palin sing about converting gays to the tune of Wicked's “Popular.”

      Friday – I volunteered for and attended Philly's premiere holiday party of the season, TOY by the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund. They collected a veritable mountain of toys for pediatric HIV/AIDS patients and presented aa big 'ol honkin' check to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Additionally, co-director Chris Bartlett (see how often we Faeries pop up where fabulosity is concerned?) delivered a beautiful speech, outlining goals for our community in Philadelphia for the next ten, twenty and thirty years. Bravo to our Lady Bartlett, we love you dearly!

      Sunday – One more trip to the Big Apple. I don't even know how to describe how great it was. I saw a fellow classmate perform in an advanced workshop at the Ward Studio and was immensely proud of him. This was bookended by breakfast at Yaffa Cafe in the East Village with the delightful Kate Bornstein and dinner in a Midtown diner with one of my favorite new people of 2009, David Badash. “Auntie Kate” to teens, freaks, and other outlaws (that's me!), Kate asked great questions about spirituality, what challenged me most in life, and lots of other stuff that got my brain moving early on a Sunday. We discussed her latest blog about gay marriage and what it meant to move forward with a civil rights movement that built coalitions and addressed issues by urgency rather than popularity. More thoughts on that later in the week.

      I met David later in the day with that same energy and had probably one of the best conversations I've ever had with someone I had only just recently met. This reaffirms that I will never again ask someone what they do as a first question, but rather, what they're strangest childhood dream or nightmare was or maybe what secret good deed they did that nobody ever found out about. Life is too short to not be asked and be asking the interesting questions. I'm here to keep it real, learn, grow, heal and make some fucking amazing art. And, of course, to be fabulous. In any event, David, who writes The New Civil Rights Movement, also really inspired me (OK, he told be what I should be doing, then apologized, but seriously I'm thankful because *somebody* needed to tell me what the hell I should be doing!) with regards to writing consistently. Hence, I outlined a week's worth of blogs on the bus ride home and am writing this now.

      Know something fabulous, daring, brilliant or heart warming that I should be covering? Hit me up here in the blog comments section or on Twitter. Until next time, always be kind, never be cruel, and stay fabulous. xoxo

      17 November 2009

      A More Radical TransTuesday Post - Eradicating the Binary from my Life

      In last week's post I talked about the ways in which I came to have a rudimentary understanding of the world of transsexuality, but my journey through sex and gender certainly didn't end there, nor can I imagine it ending in my lifetime. It seemed that not long after I was able to put my head around transitioning from one discrete sex to another, there were suddenly new options to understand. There were transgender folks who didn't necessarily feel the need to transition their sex to transition their gender, or to transgress gender entirely. There were folks who were genderqueer, whatever that was. There was the fabulous Kate Bornstein, writing "I know I'm not a Man...and I've come to the conclusion that I'm probably not a woman, either. The trouble is' we're living in a world that insists we be one or the other."

      Aside #1 - I've chatted with Kate on Twitter, met her in person, seen her perform in a theater, seen her perform in a book store, and shared a wildly cool dinner with her and some other lovely Twitterati and assorted geeks. Additionally, she once saved my ass whilst stranded in Manhattan waiting for a call time and directed me to some cool museums. Her fabulosity has been confirmed, reconfirmed by independent lab analysis, notarized and announced publicly, here and many other places as well. So huzzah to her books, lectures and performances that have given so many the reassurance that they weren't alone and the bravery to transition.

      Aside #2 - Yep, all quotes from books and names of books/films are going to link you directly to buying said items from Giovanni's Room which you should run, not walk, to do. They are the oldest independently owned queer bookstore on the east coast and recently had to replace a structural wall to the tune of $50,000 so they need your support more than ever. Please shop there for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Michaelmas, any Pagan holidays whose names I haven't learned yet because I've been lazy, and pretty much any holiday, rainy day or Tuesday that you can think of. Do it!

      Back to our regularly scheduled blog: Here are a short list of things that helped me leap from "Yes, there are two genders/sexes and sometimes people are born in the wrong one" to "There are many sexes in nature, although all but the predominant two are considered pathologies in most cultures. There are as many genders as there are people, it's all a social construct, and people are WAY TO FREAKING UPTIGHT about deviating from the predominant two in almost every culture I'm aware of."

      1. Watching more of those programs on Discovery Health, I discovered intersexed people. They'd pretty much all had surgery performed on them at an age long before they could consent of even express what sex or gender they felt like they might be, and were none to pleased about it. My initial thought was "they ought to wait until at least puberty and then let them pick one, with of course "one" being one of two options. It was a process of years and bits of information here and there before I realized that some people might be more than fine with living as a third, fourth, or fifth sex beyond M or F.

      2. I saw a documentary on Kinsey. A lot of science focuses on either/or, mainly because it's easier to teach than "maybe," "nuance," or "depending on fetal conditions, resource availability, or diet," etc. We learned Mendelian genetics in high school. Peas were smooth or wrinkled, yellow or green, dwarf or tall, in a regular predictable pattern. We didn't learn about genetic aspects with multiple gene influences, gene expression inhibited by environmental factors, etc. We certainly didn't examine sex and gender: an almost unintelligible ballet of infinite genetic, hormonal, environmental and societal influences. So yeah, Kinsey. He looked at some insects and saw thousands of iterations of variation on one attribute and thought, hmm, maybe nature is not so often down with either/or. I can dig it.

      3. Yet another Discovery Health special. This one included a FTM trans guy who was at that point pre-transition and performing as a drag king. However, unlike every other Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, butch cowboy/mechanic/miscellaneous male archetype drag king that I've ever seen, this dude was, a huge, flaming QUEEN. Now there's gender confusion, or at least it was confusing at the time. I could handle changing your sex, and being queer myself I understood people who were gay after transition. (It still astounds me how many people vaguely get both gay & trans but then say "but if you're going to sleep with women, why not stay a guy?! But of course, sex and sexual attraction of nothing to do with one another.) Alright, so I've got all that, but a person born female who wants to become a feminine gay man, lisping and swishing in a boa? That was a big leap. I'd already disconnected penises and vaginas from man and woman and already realized there were other options for genitalia anyway, but now to disconnect masculinity from man and femininity from woman? It was a big pill to swallow, which if you've ever met my inconsistently moderately butch, mostly flitting self, is deliciously ironic.

      4. I read GENDERqUEER, an anthology edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell and Riki Wilchins. You should read it to. It is full of great stories, trans history, and ideas that will so liberate you from so many "shoulds" and "ought to bes" that I'm sure it's terrifying and fabulous and just will send gooesbumps right up and down your spine. Go read it! After, of course, you've bought it from Giovanni's Room! ;D

      That's one blog for me, one brief summation of my losing the idea of binary gender for you. If I left something out or you having something to add, a question, something you'd like me to address with regard to gender - please leave it is a comment and I'd be happy to respond in next week's post! Until then, happy TransTuesday!

      15 November 2009

      How to divorce a concept

      1) The beginning is to ask why. This often may not occur to you to do in the face of conventional wisdom, a boss, a parent, etc. For example, you suggest a new idea like going back to school, changing careers, adopting a dog, adopting a child, adopting a new political party, spiritual belief or religion. This is then countered with "but you have to," or "but you can't..." And then fill in the blank. You have to: have insurance, give two weeks notice , get married, see the dentist every six months, eat your vegetables. You can't: just up and change like that, upset your father, be a starving artist, live on rice and beans.

      Now here's the hard part: ask why It usually doesn't even occur to us to question thing so ingrained as the need to steadfastly pursue a steady income and health insurance, at least if you come from white, middle class parents like mine who believe it is your first and foremost concern to have a job with a steady income and insurance. I'm lucky to be queer, to have friends that up and change their sex and/or their gender, lucky to know a whole bunch or radicals and hippies and freaks who meditate, sculpt, pray to God, pray to Kali, pray to the moon, or maybe don't pray at all. For me, I'm surrounded by questioners and asking why has become as strong a reflex in me as offering the ingrained rules is for the people who do it all the time.

      Advanced technique: ask why without having an answer yourself. For example, I've already figured out how to counter why I should need insurance and can quickly rattle off "why should I worry? I'm healthy, vegan, I exercise, and haven't needed medicine in years. If I get cancer I'll go bankrupt curing it and then start over or I'll die. Who gives a shit?" The harder and scarier thing is just to ask "why" even if you don't even if you don't have any answers yet. If you're really and truly lucky, you might get possible answers to this questions, arguments for both or many sides, and a chance to explore the possibilities. More likely you'll get some more conventional wisdom, platitudes, cliches, and some shit your great grandmother thought made sense in 1911. Remember, the person doing the offering isn't malicious. Then again, even if well intentioned they may well be shit and an obstacle in your path who needs to get out of the way or learn to support you, even if they don't understand you.

      2) If you ask why and don't get a good answer, divorce yourself from the idea.

      Advanced technique: get a divorce yourself from the entire system on which that idea is based. For example, some transgendered people change their sex from male to female or vice versa and end there. Other trans folks, regardless of how they do or do not transition their sex, come to the realization that, regardless, sex and gender as binaries are false and do not exist as described in biology, psychology, or society at large. The second group are using the advanced technique, and teaching the rest of us something truly fabulous and wondrous and amazing.

      Likewise, I've recently divorced myself from a steady pay check, but I'm ready to divorce myself from the entire concept of validation of achievement through discrete digital values including, but not limited to, the numbers on my pay check, grade point averages, scores on individual tests or other assignments, batting averages, job reviews expressed as a number, the number of pages I write per day, the number hours it takes me to memorize a scene by rote, or the number of blogs I post in a week.

      One of the great hallmarks of the modern world is to quantify things. This is by no means a terrible thing all of the time. The percentage of my laptop battery that is charged is a valuable number that can help me plan my actions to best benefit my productivity. Believing I have achieved some adult rite of passage by earning a paycheck isn't valuable, at least to me. It is certainly not valuable to ask how many pages I wrote this week.

      Do you know what I did do this week? I looked at an affirmation in the Artist's Way that seemed really silly, like a straight ream of New Age horseshit, and I wrote it down and I responded to it with every cynical and mean and unsupportive thing I had to say. Afterwards, I responded to my own cynicism with kindness and support that I didn't know I had in me to give to myself. And I just sobbed and let it out, and then went upstairs and painted a whole new affirmation on the wall so I would remember what was really important. So, does it matter if I wrote a paragraph or a page or an epic novel? No. It matters that I forget that men aren't supposed to cry and that I "should" be earning a living, or that I should be doing anything at all other than exactly what I was doing which in fact was amazing and transformation and healing. I stopped trying to do anything at all other than create and nurture the best possible me I could be and I had a real, honest human experience. You cannot quantify spiritual and emotional growth. The weather yes, the human experience, no. That's how I'm working the advanced technique (this week).

      3) Be willing to be validated, rewarded, fulfilled, clothed, fed and brilliantly happy. On the surface this looks like a no-brainer, but it's not. Some people find it emotionally, spiritually and/or physically easier to stay where they are than to go someplace new, especially if it involves risk getting there. And let's face it, it takes risk to get anywhere interesting or rewarding. So yes, this seemingly obvious thing is actually an important step.

      4) Be willing to be scared, look like shit, have no money, and fail. Let's get personal here. I asked why I should have to give two weeks notice to an emotionally abusive boss, so the last time she pulled her intimidating, immature, publicly humiliating bullshit I decided it was, in fact, the last time. I walked out, found another computer and worked from there, emailed her saying that abuse wasn't an option, and I wasn't coming back to the office until there was a solution. The next working day I called HR but they were already in the office and I got fired. I am willing to be scared, look like shit, have no money and fail. I'm not willing to be abused while I sit in a cubicle I hate, not making the art I would love to make, just so I can have insurance.

      If your job is the only ill effect on your mental and/or physical health, then ditch the job and BAM, insurance problem solved. I know that's not an option for everyone, and sometimes you ask why you must keep a miserable job to have insurance and you get a very good answer like you have a congenital condition and will die without your prescription coverage. Asking why doesn't mean you'll always get an answer that changes everything, but if nothing changes then at least you have a reasonable explanation as to why, at least for now and maybe for always, things are the way the are, and not just "because I said so."

      Now I have to be willing to be scared and possibly broke if my former employer contests my unemployment benefits. I have to look like shit. (I'm out of exfoliant and it doesn't seem like a reasonable purchase just at the moment.) I have to be willing to fail at an unemployed actor who is waiting to hear about his application to return to college. I have to be willing to fail to get in. I have to be willing to fail at getting a job serving, or even bussing tables. I have to be willing to fail at paying my rent and having to move to my parent's house, be homeless, squat an abandoned house or rely on the charity of friends or family. I have to be in an emotionally and possibly physically and financially precarious or even dangerous place. But this is divorce. It might end quietly and fairly in mediation; this might be the knock-down drag-out fight of my life. I have to be willing to get hurt and, if you're divorcing a concept, so do you.

      5) Lather. Rinse. Repeat. What, you thought you were going to divorce yourself from one concept and establish a new one in its place and life would be honky dorey from then until you shuffled of this mortal coil? No, not likely. There's always something else to learn, some other bullshit to unlearn, and a whole lot of work to be done.

      08 November 2009

      For Twitter's TransTuesday, A Blog

      I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't have some awareness of transsexuality. My cousin Erica is a male to female (MTF) transsexual person. (Aside: Some people just say "a transsexual," including some trans people that I know, but in the same way I wouldn't say "a black" or "a gay" I will generally use transsexual as an adjective that modifies an aspect of a person's humanity rather than as a noun.) She is a somewhat distant cousin from me and her immediate family wasn't initially so accepting so I never met her until another cousin's 90th birthday just a few years ago. I don't know exactly how to describe the ways I heard about her talked about other than to say that she was the butt of some jokes except that everyone is the butt of some jokes and embarrassed stories in my family so it didn't seem malicious even if it wasn't optimal. Additionally, I was so fascinated by the idea of someone that would change their sex that I didn't really care what anyone else thought. I just wanted to meet her for as long as I can remember.

      The other way in which I became aware of transsexuality was through programs on the topic on Discovery Health that I watched in high school. They were typically told as biopics on individuals, more often MTF than FTM, that were altering their sex through some combination of hormones, SRS , nd lessons on how to appropriately modify their voices and body movements. To me, this was a pretty straight forward thing. My understanding was that they were people who felt that they were born with the wrong bodies and they took action to rectify their spirit with their body. It wasn't my experience but it wasn't hard to understand. One program even discussed a study on the post-mortem study of the brains of 6 transsexual women demonstrating that a substructure of their hypothalamus called the BSTc was the same size of that typically seen in people born female. There was debate over whether this was a born variation that explained these women's transsexuality or whether it was a result of hormone therapy, but it seemed possible that there was a simple biological explanation for their transssexuality. It didn't seem like the kind of thing that should invite vitriol and even hate crimes to me. I never understood that.

      That was a great primer for me, but there was a lot not being answered. Were the little boys who wanted to play with dolls longing for that because it was inherently a girl thing to do, or because that's what girls were doing and they knew they wanted to be girls? Where was nature in nurture in gendered behavior. Beyond that, there was a whole lot more learning to get me from that limited-but-valuable understanding of being transsexual and transgender to the gender queer, gender fucked, gender what/what gender? place that I live today. But that is all for another blog on another #transtuesday.

      05 November 2009

      I Find Family Everywhere - Thank you Dr. Lee

      To me, family is just about anybody who supports me to be the happiest, most productive and creative version of myself that I can be. Today I found that support from the attending neurosurgeon for with whom I have worked directly for the past two years. In fact, our anniverary, as it were, is this Saturday. Since that time I haven't received any raises or promotions at work, though I've received considerably more responsibilities and seen a steady decline in my morale.

      Today was the first day I was excited at work in a really long time. I attended a meeting of surgical coordinators and was able to give input on how to make both my job and my patients' experiences more efficient and pleasant. I was working on a particularly dynamic plan that would coordinate the care of multiple departments to expedite the patient's visit and require them to make fewer stops in their pre-surgical consultation and testing day. Considering that 40% of my patients have metastatic cancer to the brain with a few years or even months to live, I'm thinking that reducing the amount of time that they spend in doctor's offices, particularly performing redundant registration procedures for multiple departments who after ten years can't agree to unify their fucking computer systems, would be a good thing. Aside from this I think that creative problem solving is a very creative (as the name would imply) practice and while I'd rather be screenwriting, it's a hell of a lot more interesting than editing and printing medical dictations in an inefficient system which, by the by, could use a hell of a creative overhaul of its own.

      Not only was my idea pretty get groovy but, miracle of miracles, multiple administrators in the nation's oldest hospital (officially), located in the country's angriest and most stagnant city (unofficially), were absolutely all about my idea and how to make it work. I take it back to my office manager and she immediately shoots it down. She talks red tape. She talks extending myself beyond what is "my job." Apparently, dynamic creative problem solving to increase the patient experience is not part of my job in healthcare. She pointed out that I'm already stretched to thin. I pointed out that this was because she gave me someone else's job to do one day every week and gave that employee no other responsibility. We were getting nowhere fast and my first enjoyable day at work in almost a year was sinking fast.

      As soon as Dr. Lee wrapped up a meeting I popped into his office to lay it all on the line - I recently reapplied for school and would be happy to continue working for him part time if he would get behind me having a more interesting task of changing the way things are run rather than putting together charts because the girl at the front desk is too lazy to and doesn't really care when dying patient's lose their medical records. I went on to point out my intelligence, my creativity, and the ways both were being wasted.

      He took it right from the little question of could he and I band together to reverse the inertia and lack of care in a broken health system to provide a better patient experience to what did I really want. We talked about going back to school just for the sake of learning, which I've missed terribly, and the fact that I am taking acting classes and building a film resume. He mentioned an interview with an actor that he'd seen where the actor said that said aspiring actors should study no other skills because then they'd fall back on those and not pursue their dreams. Mind you, I've been trying to have just such a conversation with my parents for well over a decade, not because I need their approval per se, but because we love one another and they don't need to understand me or how my value system differs from theirs to unconditionally support me and believe that I was going to be OK, which they don't do or believe.

      Dr. Lee then moved on to some of his own feelings of frustration and anger and raising his voice and arguing with other people and how it stemmed from a feeling of a lack of control and how my anger was basically coming from the same place. I agreed and was talking about how it's frustrating because I don't want control in a maniacal or power hungry way, but in the sense that my intelligence and creativity are recognized and I am therefore given the freedom to exercise them to the best of my ability and to the highest benefit of my patients. And then the really cool thing happened. He was talking about how when he was in the OR and far from office politics and phone calls that everything just melted away and he was in his element, removing brain tumors or evacuating subdural hematomas. I concurred and shared that I felt the same way acting a scene. The greater beauty of the moment was in recognizing that there are so many ways of finding our Zen space or Tao space or happy, centered, joyfully fulfilling our potential space. The world needs neurosurgeons and the world needs actors and those people need surgery or acting or any other imaginable profession, hobby or spiritual practice to carve out the moments in the day when it feels like every molecule in your body leaps from jumbled dissonance into a sudden an utter exaltation which, if heard, would be like the most glorious and resounding symphony in the history of people having the ears to hear such things.

      I feel so liberated. If he wanted to help me stay and work part time and do only the parts of my job that I enjoy then I'd have an excuse to stay in a toxic work environment and try to sidestep the horseshit while I'm going to school full time and taking acting classes and rehearsing and taking all of my vacation time for film work. Instead, he asked me what I want. Then he listened. Then, he told me I should pursue that and be non-negotiable in achieving it. That may not seem like a big deal but when you're 25 and a college drop out, it's a rare experience. On one hand it might seem unlikely that my big supporter for going into the arts would be an Ivy League educated neurosurgeon. Then again, maybe the audacity to root around in someone's brain and the audacity to say you're in acting for real (and for nothing less than an Oscar) aren't so terribly different. Now I know that when my acceptance letter comes and my loans line up that I'll be writing a two line resignation to management and a very heartfelt thank you to Dr. Lee