X-Men’s Legacy Virus

X-Men's Legacy VirusI annoyingly tagged along on my mother’s weekly grocery trips, using them to routinely see if the magazine spinner rack contained a new super-hero adventure.  As a youth, I connected with every aspect of the superhero genre: the ordinary persona was a cover for the true fascinating life away from restrictions.  The grocery store’s spinner rack held many A-list superheroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Captain America, but was overwhelmingly mostly C-list, Ex-Mutants or SleepWalker; others were B-list or cult heroes like the growing Dark Horse line, Ghost or X.  I flipped through each title, sitting on the ground, sampling their plots and characters, but their struggles felt too distant from my own.  It took months for me to find the title that was my life, that reflected everything that I was feeling – the X-Men.  These were heroes that instinctually understood me and I them.  Their world was my world.  I was a mutant and that’s why I didn’t fit in!

The X-Men family of titles when I discovered them were polybagged because they were amid the “X-Cutioner’s Song” storyline, and each issue contained a trading card.  The X-Men’s founder and mentor Professor X had been shot.  Searching for the would-be assassin the X-Men discover the attacker was a clone of Cable, time travelling son from the future of founding member Cyclops.  Before being defeated Cable’s clone, Stryfe, gave a mysterious canister of mutant DNA to the X-Men’s enemy Mr. Sinister, who opened the container to discover it open.  Rather than receiving the genetic code to Cyclops and Jean Grey, another founding X-Men member, Mr. Sinister released the Legacy Virus, a disease created by Stryfe that targeted mutants and disrupted their necessary RNA replication, making the body incapable of creating healthy cells, which resulted in the mutant’s death.  In the final moments of life, the Legacy Virus caused a mutant’s power to flare violently, in effect turning the mutant’s ability – what made them unique amongst other mutants – into the cause of their own destruction.

Underneath the garish early 1990s costumes the X-Men had pathos.  The Avengers and Fantastic Four were friendly clubs occupied by those who found being a super-hero an adventure.  The characters were chums and friends who spent their down time around a pool or squabbling over used condiments.  The X-Men were a found family because there were no other heroes that understood their position in society.  The X-Men didn’t want to save the world, they wanted to live and be left alone.  The villains of other teams wanted their opponents subdued so that victory could be achieved.   Down time for the X-Men was spent training to control their powers, running through numerous survival scenarios because their antagonists were actively attempting to kill and commit genocide.  Still the X-Men believed in showing compassion and empathy to their opponents, believing in finding a common ground to move forward.  The X-Men taught me that exposure to similar experiences has the potential to bring about understanding.

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Path to Deeper Character

It’s been beyond joyous to redecorate – to create this new home a nest made of my life.  Having a residence free of memories and past lives means there is only me to defer to; the present is my only reality.  My history is riddled with opinions and directions of exboyfriends, family, and friends.

While I am thankful for the people I call friends and boyfriends and family, the route to meet them was not always preferable.  I had modelled my actions on the expectations of others, and strayed too far from what had been expected and planned by suburbia: a four-year degree followed by the appropriate entry-level job, then settle down.  For me it had been decided I was to be an English teacher.  I was foolish and left college for a boy.  I did some hardcore drugs and made reckless decisions because of boys; when weed was just find by me.  Eventually, I refocused on myself and returned to college through online courses.  I tried to be a teacher, but found working with people with developmental disabilities a better fit.  I thought I wanted to teach literature, but truly I wanted to teach literacy.

I don’t know if staying on path I would have been as happy, or if I’d have gotten to the same conclusions at an early point, but now my home reflects a better suited narrative, and a deeper character.

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.

My Chronic Shame

Chronic shame developed from the best of intentions of my parents when raising two children.  They were good at it, striving to create balance for two radically different kids – providing food, shelter, and safety, but I still felt neglected if the parents do not bond emotionally with me.  I have few memories of being held, comforted, played with, or asked how I was doing; plenty questions about the events of a school-day, but not their impact.  When they didn’t live up to expectations they privately, and I’m sure to this day, scolded themselves; they failed less times than they believe they did.  My parents instilled in me the three F’s – family, food, and fun.  If there were two then the third would be automatically follow suit; should food be part of the family gathering then we’d have some fun; if there was food and fun, then one must be amongst family.

Most of their concern was aimed at my sister and her uncontrollable outbursts.  My sister’s (then undiagnosed bipolar) behavior drew my parents’ attention, exhausting them, resulting in an often-chaotic home life.  The chaos she created taught me that disruptions to a plan lead to eruptions of an77ger and violence.  I blamed myself for that distress, believing I was the reason I was left alone. I sought safety and closeness from their parent — yet my parents could not be close or safe. All I could feel was “unlovable,” creating the seed of shame. The feelings of my parents, whether expressly communicated or sensed by a child, become internalized and automatic. The state of being alone and powerless became pervasive.

I felt shame for being abnormal or wrong. During childhood, I leaned into my better ability to gloss-over my bad behavior, or just being generally more agreeable, to be the “good child.”  This also meant not being seen, in comparison to the spectacle that was my sister.  My parents did what they could at the time, so I created a compliant personality designed to make life far simpler; I didn’t want to be the reason for everything or have the spotlight on me.  This allowed me to get attention when my parents sought respite from my sister.  I became incapable of trusting my own emotions, so was unable to use them as a compass for living.  There was no developed skill to ground myself in the present, and being in the moment and staying observant without judgment of my own emotions.

My not being seen combined with its created a spiral of neglect and ignored are bound with being loved.  Compliance allowed me to go unseen, my homosexuality never being addressed.  This self-imposed inability to say aloud that I was gay.  I had seen modelled on TV even how the most progressive of parents reacted, which was with tears of worry.  I was not going to add more concerns to their already full plate.  I vowed to not be the straw that broke any one’s back.

Queer Identity: Against Homonormatives

News reached me that my cousin, my mother’s sister’s son, came out as gay at the age of 44 years old.  He’s met a man that he is moving to the Carolinas for.  I wonder how his journey went – what lead him to realizing he was gay; why couldn’t he say sooner; why didn’t he at least tell me?  “Your cousin finally came out,” my mother had said, informing me.  Was I oblivious, wrapped in egocentrism?  Ex-boyfriends had told me that he was gay when they first met him, but I brushed their observations off with an aloof, “Okay.”  I never felt obligated to care or take notice to welcome him into the tribe – or it appears him towards me.

Over the years, as I have embraced my uniqueness – shown self without a mask – I have found the term queer to better suit my identity.  I never felt as if homosexual was my tribe.  The punks and outsiders always felt like my people – the ones who believed normal was an insult.  A sexual identity has never felt important to my survival – rather not being alone, having a sense of community, of empathy, is what I have been after. Continue reading “Queer Identity: Against Homonormatives”

Verve (5/15-5/19)

I crave and have been longing for something, anything, new to create and build upon.  In looking to the past I have hoped to forge new-ness.  By editing and revising my story, crystalizing events into formative moments allows for the creation of sound foundations to go forward.  Part of creating the foundation involves sharing alleviating of secrets because secrets form a warm comfortability; particularly after being kept for so long.  Growing up I could not actively be authentic, developing into chronic shame.

For myself, chronic shame came from the best of intentions of my parents when raising two children.  And they were good at it, striving to create balance for two radically different kids.  When they didn’t live up to expectations they privately, and I’m sure to this day, scolded themselves; they failed less times than they believe they did.  The majority of their concern was aimed at my sister and her uncontrollable outbursts.  My sister’s (then undiagnosed bipolar) behavior drew my parents’ attention, exhausting them, resulting in an often chaotic home life.  My parents did what they could at the time, as an adult and child I understood that, so I crafted a compliant personality designed to make life far simpler.  This allowed me to get attention when my parents sought respite from my sister.

Compliance also allowed me to go unseen, with my homosexuality never being addressed.  This self-imposed inability to say out loud that I was gay.  I had seen modelled on TV even how the most progressive of parents reacted, which was with tears of worry.  I was not going to add more concerns to their already full plate.  I vowed to be the straw that broke any one’s back.

Playground Inauthenticity as Survival

Playground Inauthenticity as SurvivalOn 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. Doing so stagnates the formation of a queer identity, rooted in beliefs, attitudes, and values.

I grew up in a suburbia that wasn’t ticky-tacky little boxes, but 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 was different and I knew it, but didn’t wish to be separated from the herd.  By exaggerating what didn’t fit homogeneity I created a smokescreen of descriptors against isolation, hoping no one would the gay.  I allowed peers to silence my identity and interests – a little for all but not everything to one; and no one to me.

Root of Worthless

When I think of life growing up the immediate memories always turn towards my sister, though not for particularly positive reasons.  While growing up my parents were supportive, but always seem distracted and pre-occupied by caring for my sister.  She was always on the verge of crisis, and if she wasn’t catered to then there’d be an uproar; this was later diagnosed as bipolar.  Regardless of the origin of my sister’s behavior, it impacted the family’s dynamic, and continues to do so.  When it is just my parents and me I feel as though I am a favorite because I am easier to deal with than my sister is.

My sister’s temperament dictated time and date of family events; my own birthday dinners were decided when my sister elected to make time or take time off from work a priority.  If sister’s wants or mood was not a portion of the plans the result was spiteful and rude behavior by her at every moment of the outing.  Celebrations centering around me had minimal fanfare and conversation because of the landmine field of never knowing what would result in shouting.  My parents did become skilled at judging what would cause my sister to begin her spiteful behavior and quickly hushed me.  In my parents’ effort to keep peace I developed the feeling that my voice and importance would result in violence and negative attention.

Aeon Flux

Aeon.Flux.23Aeon Flux was my time, 30 minutes where no one bothered me or tried to have time.  Similarly, my father had his wrestling and my mother had her knitting and crafting shows.  In a family where parents were healthily involved in their children’s lives, having time that was private and uninterruptible was precious.  It felt awesome to be 12 years old watching MTV, and it felt better that no one bothered me.

Mom had watched Aeon Flux once because she wanted to know why I stayed up late on Fridays.  She found it too weird and went to bed, saying If I don’t understand it so go ahead and watch.  I felt smart because at 12 years old I still thought my parents were the smartest people in the world, and to be engrossed in something a parent found difficult was the greatest feeling in the world.  I felt like an adult!

Aeon Flux is the ideal a femme fatale, a fetish that was a malleable dominatrix.  She had designed her persona to be any fantasy.  She always had what people wanted and took what they had.  She is a pragmatist with a heart of gold having three back-up plans to her back-up plan.