24 January 2011

For the first time in my adult life: a job I LOVE

I am very, very, extremely excited to say that starting today, I have a job that I love. In my final semester at TCNJ I interned with PhinLi Bookings, LLC, a talent agency which represents LGBTQ and Sex Positive artists, performers, and authors, and now I am working for them.  Since I am both writing a book and pursuing acting, with a full run of a play happening in May, I have been seeking a job that would provide some stability, but is flexible and part time.  I didn't dream that I'd not only get it, but that it'd be a place that I have already enjoyed working! Additionally, how I came to find PhinLi is one of those "isn't if funny how life works out?" stories.

Giovanni's Room photographed by uwishunu
It must've been about two years ago that Giovanni's Room was first having their fundraisers to rebuild a structural wall that cost over $50,000 to repair.  I happened to tweet a musing that it would be awesome if Kate Bornstein did a reading as a fundraiser for them.  Little did I expect that a few minutes later I'd get a reply from Kate saying that that sounded like something she'd be very excited to do, indeed!  I went and saw her perform at Hot Fest that summer.  She did a special piece that was coupled with  Sean Dorsey's stunning "Uncovered: The Diary Project," as a one-time pairing for the festival only.  There we met for the first time, and I also met Serpahin, one of the two women behind PhinLi.  Both Seraphin and Lisa came down to Kate's reading at Giovanni's Room that fall, and though I didn't know how at the time, I knew it'd be a lasting relationship.

If someone had told me then that I'd be working for them, but that it would take a few years to work out the details, I wouldn't have had the patience for that, though I might now.  However, I didn't know, and the details were all interwoven with everything else going on in my life.  I made the decision to go back to school in November of 2009, lost my job a few days later, and both got accepted to school and started interning with First Person Arts a few weeks later.  I don't know exactly how things came together in the summer of 2010 but I knew I needed an internship in the fall, PhinLi needed an intern, we got in touch, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Gender Queeries Logo by JAC Stringer
Since then I've met more of our talent than I had expected, including Johnny Blazes at the International Drag King Extravaganza (IDKE); Ivan Coyote, S. Bear Bergman, Jessica Halem, Sassafras Lowrey and Sinclair Sexsmith at Sideshow in NYC; and Kelli Dunham at an event co-hosted by Queer Memoir and First Person Arts.  In addition, I've been hankering to perform with a few (OK as many as possible) of the folks on our talent roster, and in fact, that's happening! On March 5th the Liberty City Kings are having our Vixens & Vagabonds Queer & Kinky Cabaret and The Gender Queeries are our guests!  They are a traveling troupe that include the aforementioned and immeasurably fabulous Johnny Blazes, Ignacio Rivera (also repped by PhinLi), and Midwest GenderQueer, who is not repped by us, but who've I've recommended to be at our next expansion, and whom I also met at IDKE.  I am so super stoked to perform with these amazing artists and be the MC for the show.

19 January 2011

Method Cleaning Products for the Genderqueer Win!

I don't have only one gender, use one dominant hand for doing everything, think that "top or bottom?" does the miraculous possibilities of sexuality any justice whatsoever, or generally fit into any binary, so this just made my whole day. This marks the first time I've ever seen a web form that requires an answer for gender, and yet lets you choose an answer other than "male" or "female," with the exception of a form for an LGBTQ organization. Dear Method: it'd be cheaper for me to buy Whole Foods brand plant based cleansers, but I will buy a product of yours just for being this nifty.


13 January 2011

Genderfabulous in Sci-Fi & Fantasy - Share your geekery with me!

If you follow my Twitter and/or Facebook, you have likely heard that I am writing a book, specifically a collection of essays, and it's on gender and some of the messy places that it touches upon in our lives.  As my friend Scout put it "My gosh, that could be an encyclopedia. Good luck whittling that down to fit into a single volume."  Indeed, Scout, indeed.

I am whittling down and speaking mostly from personal experience and observation, which is generally a good way to say out of trouble.  Yesterday I got to thinking, inspired by Lordissa knows what, about how explorations of non-binary gender in fiction tend to come up, in my experience, only in science fiction and, as some thoughtful, geeky friends pointed out, in fantasy as well.  The two examples that I thought of were: 1) In Slaughterhouse Five, it is pointed out to Billy that human sexual reproduction requires not two, but five human sexes, including gay men, women over 65, and the children who died before the age of one.  (Most were present in the fourth dimension only which would mean they were stationary in space and moving through time at light speed, but I'll let it slide.)  2)  In A Wrinkle in Time Meg is cared for by an alien that gets the name "Aunt Beast."  The creature gives no indication of having a sex or gender, but chooses those two words based on reconciling Meg's language with how she was relating to Meg.

The Slaughterhouse Five example is significant especially for it's inclusion of gay men as intrinsically necessary to the continuation of the human race as they/we are often portrayed as ill and detrimental to society.  (I usually choose queer on both sexuality and gender fronts, but "gay man" describes a significant portion of my experience and culture.)  It also breaks down the idea that men and women are sexually complimentary, and that it turn questions a great deal of assumptions about compulsory heterosexuality and sex and gender binarism.  In A Wrinkle in Time the author instead uses an entirely different species that exhibits no sex/gender (at least insofar as they're described in the book), yet Meg's language necessarily imposes gender upon them.

The idea that in order to explore non-binary sex and gender it must be written in a fantasy or sci-fi genre is at turns amusing, frustrating, and horrifying.  Living outside of one or both of those binaries is a reality for lots of us.  Maybe if it was in the non-fiction section instead, a beautiful, healthy baby born neither male, nor female, would simply be celebrated instead of labeled as diseased and likely submitted to surgery that is non-consensual and not medically necessary.  But I digress (for now).

I put it out to my Twitter crowd, and I am now putting it out here:  I would love to hear what you've read that explored humans, aliens, hobbits, or  whomever outside of sex/gender binaries, and how you felt about it.  Specifically, I want to publish these in the book as part of the essay.  Basically a sort of "you're totally not alone, go see these fiction books as affirming models of non-binary sex gender and make it your own reality."  So here's the deal:  if you consent to me using your words in my book, won't sue me, and aren't looking for compensation, please post below.  I'm looking for 1) The name of the book or show 2) how it broke sex/gender binary 3) 1-2 sentences about what you liked best about it (or write more and I'll edit down) and 4) How you'd like to be credited.  It can either be completely anonymous or I'll include one or all of your name, Twitter handle, and blog or website.

I got some great responses on Twitter that I'm posting screenshots of below.  (Anybody with a private account, I have respected that and not reposted here.)

So, PLEASE, share away, and then in a year or so you can tell all your friends you're published in a brilliant and geeky essay about gender on Mars. Or something.  And retweet, post on FB, and send this out to your listserve for scifi meetups. Don't lie, I know you have one.  I saw that picture of you at a Trekkie convention on Facebook. ;D

08 January 2011

Writing Prompt: Fear & anger is ruining your country. Write for love..

I suppose this blog will need a prequel at some point to explain how exactly it is that, after an exhaustive year of reading and writing (and writing, and writing) for school, I've decided write a collection of essays to be published as a book.  Directly, it's about gender, which is to say indirectly it's about loving oneself, loving others, and celebrating diversity.   And when I say celebrate diversity, I don't mean like one of those awkward HR meetings with a brown bag lunch where they remind you to please follow the company policy of not being awful to brown people and maybe women, and maybe even queer people.  I mean celebrate diversity like throw a big party because I'm queer and monogamous and not religious and you're poly and straight and a Unitarian Universalist and neither of us need to save or convert or convince the other.  We don't have to sing Kumbaya, but we can at least have a block party together.  I won't even complain about the nitrates in your hot dog while I eat my organic quinoa salad, unless you happen to ask me why I have the food preferences I do.  Promise.

I've had little fits and starts of writing here and there, outlining essay names and some ideas, and feeling very foolishly proud and ahead of the game for having one essay already complete.  (What game I don't know since I'm unemployed and maybe four people even know I'm writing the damn thing.)   This is ridiculous because the completed essay is actually what inspired the book idea and until today I hadn't completed another essay, but I digress.  The devastating news of an assassination attempt on US Representative Gabrielle Giffords prompted me to write what will likely be the penultimate essay on the book, which is directly about loving oneself, and one's neighbor as well.  I see that as an antidote to fearing both one's internal reality and/or one's neighbor, which is the root of much oppression & violence.

I have lots of thoughts on that, but for now, I'd rather concentrate on writing, and the process thereof.  I remember learning to write here and there.  Persuasive writing was in the fifth grade.  At some point I got instructions on using more description in my (apparently sparse, utilitarian) writing, and later instruction to be less flowery and get to the point.  Only one college professor ever devoted a class period to writing, despite having to write multiple papers in nearly every course in my major and having  to write a thesis to graduate.  Additionally, I was generally considered one of the strongest writers among my peers, even in honors classes, and my experience of education is that the weakest students in a give subject received the most attention.

I am also a fierce critic and editor of my own work because I have complex ideas which I desire to explore fully, first broadly and then in minute detail, parsing arguments and laying things out in a spectacularly clear way, while still making attempts to remain as concise as possible.  Add to that a poet's soul, a penchant for snarky humor, and a bit of a perfectionist streak and I often find myself crippled by the second paragraph.  A blog wants to become an essay, an essay wants to become a book, and a book wants to become a multi-edition history of the world that brings together politics, particle physics, post-modern theory, and various other things beginning with the letter "p."  I then try to step back, reel in, use highly specific language to reduce overall verbiage, and focus my writing as narrowly as possible.

Today, I felt like I was writing one of the most emotionally raw, honest, and important pieces of my life and I had to let ALL of that bullshit go.  I don't know many writers or follow a great deal of them on Twitter but it seems that once again Kate Bornstein has been my mentor, even from afar.  I remember her tweeting about "crap drafting," and though I have no idea whether she originated the term, it has stuck with me.  It reminds me almost of the way on writes morning pages as prescribed by The Artist's Way, which is to say without any regard or attachment to what ends up on the page.  Of course morning pages are specifically NOT supposed to be writing as in an essay or novel, but more like a purge of the mind.

However, the tactic, I believe, works just as well for "real" writing, fiction or non.  It took writing this huge momentous thing to give myself over to it because nothing I've ever written before was so important to get out of me and on to the page.  I was writing about experiences so deeply personal and intense that I knew any editing by the second paragraph in would absolutely kill it.  I know that barely any of what I wrote will make it into the final copy.  I know that I was unfocused, and made poor connections between the story I was telling, and the (for lack of a better word) moral of that story. The thing is, I've rarely been prouder of anything I've written, not because this was written well, but because it was written honestly and I now have the raw materials that can be crafted into something beautiful.  I am trusting in my ability to crap draft now and revisit later.  I think this has opened up a path for the book to actually get written, instead of being an interesting conversation piece of something I'm "working on."