Essays explain the world to me

Writing is a pure reaction to the world that produces something, new to create and build upon.  Fiction, essays, and articles bring currents to depths, re-contextualizing the world and experiences.  Writing affects the physical world, re-conceptualizing experiences.

The writing process involves searching to a root of what I would enhance or disagree with in life.  Writing allows me to edit and revise the world or myself into agreeably unique.  What is put down on paper – fiction or non-fiction – is the distilment of that act.  It is the statement of the me that cannot tap down.

Essay writing grants me the opportunity to talk about the world, and its effects.  Essays require stories from the writer’s life to provide wisdom for the reader.  The level of introspection on my past affords me occasion to forge new-ness, spurred by the peace brought from new perspectives on experiences.  Essay writing crystalizes life events into formative moments to create a sound foundation to move forward.  Sharing personal moments – connecting through failures, cultural touchstones, milestones, etc – that enlarge and unite everyone’s humanity provides foundation to deep relationships with friends and family.  Celebrating humanity as foundation analyzes to create an increased quality of life.

Kabuki & Elektra

Kabuki (Bill Sienkiewicz)
Kabuki by Bill Sienkiewicz

I had missed Bill Sienkiewicz’s work in the 1980s, but I had David Mack; ‘Metamorphosis’ was Mack’s Elektra: Assassin.  Both artists combined traditional fine art skills, collage, and traditional comic book style-art in their work.  David Mack’s artwork exposed me to comic books as fine art; before, the closest at this point was Sam Keith and Travis Charest.  David Mack was the first sequential artist whose name I knew and followed from project to project.

Both Kabuki’s ‘Metamorphosis’ and Elektra: Assassin are stories of teenage rebellion.  In their respective storylines, Kabuki and Electra begin their journey awakening in a mental institution disjointedly recalling their origin, and eventually must escape.  While Elektra escapes and thwarts an evil ninja clan’s plan to take-over the United States, Kabuki spends the entirety of her storyline in the mental institution.  In Kabuki’s case, though, the institution reprograms secret agents to work in other organizations.  While escaping Kabuki is pursued by released inmates and former teammates.  Kabuki’s fights are battles against intrusive ideologies.

Elektra (David Mack)
Elektra by David Mack

By defeating the anthropomorphized points of view, Kabuki rejects the limitations of philosophy.  For Kabuki, a myopic view of the world does not fully explain the world.  Returning to Elektra, by the end of her journey she has defeated the plan of The Beast, an evil entity worshiped by an evil ninja clan.  Having been groomed by outside forces to be a vessel for The Beast, Elektra’s defeat of the creature is her own statement of anti-establishment.  For Elektra and Kabuki their stories are about rejecting the societal expectations, which others use to groom them to be killing machines.

Is This 34?

While I am glad my cousin has come out as gay and found a happy relationship – or good enough to move to a new state.  His actions mirror my own with Ben.  I’ve read that due to stunted social development, homosexuals truly enter identity development until they come out.  This means that learning to navigate relationship dynamics does not occur until the first relationship.  This explains the teenage behavior in grown men and women that I have seen.  What age am I behaving at?  Have I finally reach 34?

Life has been relatively quiet.  No drama – just work, and writing (which I need to do more of). There has been no emotional upheaval.  The most world changing event was moving apartments, otherwise it has been a plateau of slice-of-life.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  I do know it means when it all turns to shit, it will be a big heaping pile.

Ill-Equipped for Ethnography

For such a long-time Joey cast a constant shadow over my decisions and actions.  My life was in a holding pattern as I hoped he’d come back in.

Joey seemed to be the first same-age guy that showed an interest in me.  Prior to Joey, guys my age said was too geeky, too short, too thin, not thin enough, not gay enough.

Joey liked all those things about me.  He was sweet to me.  He was kind to me.  College’s manic pixie boy façade had paid-off.

In my memory, he was the perfect straight-laced rebel.  Edgy enough to be interesting, and clean enough to bring home.

That New Year’s Eve, through Joey and his friends, I was fully introduced to seedy and drug-fueled as normal.  I was introduced to the concept of frenemies by how Joey and his circle behaved toward one another.  A world where my façade got me accepted in and insulated me from; my silence and listening-skills gave the illusion of emotional investment.  In truth, my carefully designed masks had kept me the constant observe of life and not the actor, leaving me ill-equipped for ethnography.  I began seeing the catty duplicitous behavior and normalized it.  I gave myself permission to replicate their naughty behavior.

Eventually, I went back to school and Joey and my correspondence petered out, as he was always too busy to answer a phone.  As I waited for Joey to re-enter my life, I created disruption in my relationships, making myself always available but never alone.

Meeting Joey

The winter break of my 20th birthday I met Joey Antinore.  It had been New Year’s Eve, at club Tilt.  I had been standing watching the drag show when I felt the back of my ear get flicked.  I turned around and said, “Hi.”

Joey explained he was following an impulse and immediately knew the type of person I was dealing with.

“Alright.”  And turned back around.

Joey got my attention again by asking if wanted to roll.

“Okay,” I answered.

For the longest time Joey Antinore was the elusive ideal; the one ex that all potential suitors were measured against.  In attempting to write down our first encounter I came to the realization that there was nothing epic, template worthy, about the encounter.  There was nothing grandiose or particularly outstanding about the relationship’s arc.  In fact, the mental glorification of that relationship and its beginning is rather obsessive.

What was it about the whole scenario that became #goals?  I wasn’t particularly happy.  When I recall the relationship with Joey, what comes to mind is his habit of telling him something, then he vehemently disagrees.  These weren’t ideological differences, or rooted in arcane knowledge.  Rather, disagreements came over individual rights and basic operations of politics and humanism.  We’d part in the morning for our separate work, and then return to each other that evening with Joey’s mind changed.  This change of mind arose because he had talked to his co-workers, who told him that he was in the wrong; that I was correct.  That was the routine of our relationship: Joey respected only his friends and their opinions, and not mine.  I never fully understood how and why Joey could never just have faith that I’d know something, or respect my stance as having validity.

Tales of the City

My first found family was Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City, the second in the series, when I read it in high school.  The series took place in San Francisco, on the fictional street of Barbary Lane, at building number 28.  It was an apartment house owned by Mrs. Madrigal, who grew marijuana and dispense wisdom to her tenants.   In More Tales’ pages, I was introduced to characters that were diverse and inclusive.  Mary Anne was the Midwest middle class.  Brian was the womanizer who wished to settle down; the romantic hero.  Most importantly was Michael Tolliver, Mouse to his friends, my first impression of homosexuality presented as a normal.  I was captivated by how easily and zeal that Mouse navigated heartbreak, taking it in stride.  Mouse believed he was meant to find love, and that it could be found the very next day just around the corner; he was my gay Mary Tyler Moore.

As I devoured each book in the series the cast grew to include all forms of intersectionality.  Mrs. Madrigal’s daughter, the bisexual hippy Mona Ramsey came and went as she searched for her father.  Edgar Halcyon, who first was Mary Anne’s boss then became Mrs. Madrigal’s lover.  His daughter, DeDe Halcyon-Day, and her lesbian lover the model D’orothea Wilson offered opportunities to view the more affluent and art-centric San Francisco.  Mrs. Madrigal’s own mother, a brothel owner, appears towards the end of the series.

Tales of the City series offered a deluxe view the real world, through a fictional lens, demonstrating that groups do not exist in isolation.  Rather, they exist shoulder to shoulder, helping and loving, other groups.  Tales of the City celebrates the connectedness of humanity.

Felix’s Evolution

When Felix was originally created, in elementary school, I garbed him in the standard blue and gold X-Men uniform.  As I grew through school more “personality” was injected into Felix’s costume through individualizing his presentation.  Until, by the end of middle school Felix was dressed pop-punk: urban military boots, jeans, half un-tucked t-shirt, and bomber jacket; because the 90s.  Being 13 years old, and knowing nothing of bad-assery, I had Felix chew bubble-gum; a big no-no in my house growing up.

Going through high school, Felix’s costume became a simplified bodysuit again with a hoodie over it, a set of cybernetic goggles, a thigh-strap for pouches and guns, and urban boots; because the late-90s.  At the end of high school, Felix had ditched the pull-over, but attached the hoodie to the bodysuit.  The boots gave way to padded soles on the body suit.

By the time I entered college, Felix had evolved from clown to trouble-maker.  Felix had begun as a fun character, evolving through the storylines into a stylized character.  Initially appearing as the jokester in Generation X, Felix grew to become a morally ambiguous character that juggled numerous facades by the Utopia-era.  I gave-in and gave Felix a green satchel bag, bringing him to full homage status.

Identity in Separate Baubles

Art by Sachin Teng
Art by Sachin Teng

Being homosexual has consistently been present in my life, beginning when I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The original facts I had about homosexuality came to me through knowledge about AIDS, gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  With limited exposure to healthy examples of homosexuality I stumbled into a stagnate malleable inauthentic identity, designed for avoidance.

As I grew up I struggled with the idea that there was something false and untrue about my place in the world.  In reaction, I created a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed.  I diluted or ignored parts of myself that I thought would alienate me from those around me.  When a false-self was created I ceased to be an authentic human being.  The psychologist, the late Alice Miller calls this “soul-murder” – shame that leads to believing that I was a failure. Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that I was untrustworthy accompanied each other until I believed I was a failure. Shame became my core identity, shutting me down to human relationships, living in hopelessness, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs. Continue reading “Identity in Separate Baubles”

Felix Masquerade

I dreamed of super-powers to be like the mutant X-Men, just as I had dreamed about being like the other boys in school.  I didn’t understand why I had to feel alienated and alone from everyone in my school and home; why couldn’t what made me different be celebrated the way athleticism and super-powers were? The character, Felix, I created was originally purely escapism, a way to join my favorite mutants as I read their new issues.   Over time he developed as I grew, becoming a character that I armored myself with in new and boundary-pushing situations.

The original power I grafted onto Felix were my wish fulfillment, liberating me from the conflicts I had with homosexuality’s shame.  Originally, I gave Felix shapeshifting abilities because I’d be able to become anyone other than myself.  With shapeshifting, I’d reflect the popular students throughout middle and most of high school, avoiding the lonely and isolation prophesized by television and movies.  Changing my appearance, Felix could literally become or match anyone’s desire, gaining the perfection that I had desired.  Being able to shapeshift I’d have more tools at my disposal to make my goals and fantasies match my outside.

Felix was eventually given telepathy as I struggled to juggle the various facades I had created to navigate interactions.  Telepathy ensured that the forms I took would be ideal for whom I was interacting with, removing the guess work about how to be part of the group.  I’d know exactly what to say, be prepared for what others would say, and always have a funny quip to keep grace.  Having the correct words, I’d be able to give the illusion that I was known without having to go through the painful experience of not exposing my queerness.

As I began to fully explore what differentiated me from others, I added the final super-power: teleportation.  Felix would be able to truly escape any situation that was uncomfortable; I’d be free to be away from ticky-tacky suburbia and be where the different, foreign, and unique are celebrated –  New York City, home to many of Marvel’s superheroes and faraway from the mundane.  By this time Felix stopped becoming escapism and became the armor for every day, designed to masquerade as popular and fleeting.  Felix had become the mysterious character whose silent smile spoke, so that I didn’t have to expose myself to isolation and alienation.

What Comics Mean to Me

avengers_youngbabyx_02It’s always been easier to say, “I enjoy comic books” then “I am gay.”  In school, comic books sheltered me from isolation growing because they offered a world to escape into that was more acceptable than homosexuality.  The differences I had from other boys was easily masked by the label “geek.”  I welcomed being considered a geek because it allowed me to avoid being ostracized as a “sissy.”  The popular boys were my superheroes, the ones that I modeled my failed mimicry after because they embodied acceptability, which I could not do on my own.

Away from school, comic books provided a space to explore my queer identity, which has allowed me to state my queerness with greater confidence.  Prior to comic books, queer experiences shown in TV mass-media were rooted in pain, neglected, and isolated.  Comic books offered the first examples of characters who took their uniqueness, and amplified them to create identities that were admired.  The loud personalities of super-heroes demonstrated to me that it was possible to be accepted for brashness.  Super-heroes, like myself, hid their true self behind mild-mannered civilian identities.  A world was opened to me where underneath the mask I created in school the true self was possible to be celebrated, and accepted, for its accomplishments.