Personalized for Authenticity

Authenticity’s exposure is informed by expectations, the measurement ruler that experiences are held against.  Expectations color our how we present our authenticity, often diluting, covering up, or ignoring parts of myself that I would alienate me from those around me – the unique parts of an individual.  Conversations expressing authenticity are collaborative dialogues.  These interactions become cornerstones of authentic identity, informed by cooperative experiences.

Struggling with presenting authenticity is first, contradictorily, dealt with by creating facades that amplify the most acceptable of ourselves.  The parts, believed, that would force support networks away are believed to be shadows of our true place in the world.  Reinforcing social facades requires experiences go un-analyzed, unlived.

On the playground we are taught, as evolutionary survival, that it is important to be like everyone else, to find acceptance into the group dynamic.  From pre-historic to ancient-times, and beyond, avoiding being ostracized meant avoiding death.  This evolutionary hold-over is what pushes queer youth to hide our authenticity from others, keeping our interests, past-times, and loves from friends and families.

I grew up in a suburbia that was a nostalgic Mayberry: students walked to school, left campus to eat lunch in the village, and formed cliques based upon clothing labels; there was a dairy to buy milk fresh from the cow and boutiques that were hobbies for doctor wives.  The school district heavily focused on academic success and rigor, not grit or character; children were taught to be students and not to interact with educators.  We were academically prepared but street smarts were not taught between Great Expectations and chemistry.  The few gay boys that were known easily fit the mainstream suburbia of backyard pools, in ways I never could.  I sabotaged acceptance by defensively rejecting the labels and tokenism they appeared to willingly accept.  I deliberately kept to myself, denying myself a confidante, by refusing anyone I could divulge to because I was scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.

I retreated into books, making the characters my friends.  I found with Spyder from Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Silk, the characters of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Milkman from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and everyone in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, characters similar to myself – they struggled with authenticity in silence.  The characters modeled authenticity as being politely selfish by connecting through known shared hardships and joys.  Connecting through the simple failed-expectations of personal days deepening relationships with friends and family.  Personalizing shared experiences allowed façades to be dropped, deeper connections are formed, resulting in an increased quality of life.

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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.

Squad Goals

The Golden Girls as Sailor Scouts by Abraham Perez
The Golden Girls as Sailor Scouts by Abraham Perez

Sailor Moon and The Golden Girls created the blueprint of what friendship looked like, and then Tales of the City expanded friendship by introducing the concept of the found family.

Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts were similar in nature and temperament, supporting one another while forming deep bonds.  While every character was an individual, their personality traits overlapped with each embodying a type of girl.  For youthful elementary and pre-teens, the Sailor Scouts modelled the necessary conflict resolution skills needed to be an individual within a group.

The Golden Girls kept their cast much smaller than Sailor Moon, focusing on four women and not nine characters, which allowed Golden Girls to present more complex characters.  Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia, were women who each embodied character traits with less overlapping.  Unlike the school-aged Sailor Scouts, except for one (and later the Sailor Soldiers), attended the same school, The Golden Girls were brought together by circumstance and experiences to form friendship.

Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City exemplified the concept of the “chosen family,” the supportive people in a life that actively assume the ideal family role.  The novel, and the series that came after, was the first time that friends were not similar, but radically different from each other.  They showed that sharing experiences create a united humanity.

Undergrad Dating

 

“In the Year 2001″ by an illustrator in 1895, via The Appendix
“In the Year 2001″ by an illustrator in 1895, via The Appendix

For my undergrad I attended SUNY @ Purchase, where perfect was the antithesis of high school, evolving to be the artistic and eccentric.  In college perfect was chased by girls and boys, and perfect boys were more likely to chase boys back.  Perfect was still not the quietly humorous one who liked school and read in his dorm.   He was cool though, which afforded me the opportunity to be entertained by a peer as a possible date.  Refreshed by a sudden gust of attention, I set my sights on who was deemed the most desired boy on campus: Daniel.  He wasn’t actually a student, but was the friend of the students on the floor below me, and visited every weekend.  Luckily, the friends I had made on my floor knew the people down stairs through a mutual friend from Long Island; guess New York City isn’t that big of a city. Continue reading “Undergrad Dating”