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”

Verve (January 2017)

Growing up I longed for a surprise party that was like what was seen on movies, where a home would be filled of people that wished to be there.  That dream has never come true, even in grade-school when it was mandatory to report to a classmate’s birthday.  I never enjoyed the idea of celebrating my birthday; I do enjoy getting older though.  What I feared was not getting older, but that no one would ever come to a birthday party for me.  My sister was unable to make time to celebrate my birthday, and since family waited for each other to acknowledge milestones, birthdays adhered to my sister’s schedule; my sixteenth birthday was two months late because my sister couldn’t be bothered to take time off from work.  Eventually, I stopped sending invitations out at all, choosing to ignore the celebration and take enjoyment only from cards – and then settle for Facebook birthday posts.

My birthday was where I learned to exist within the cracks, as typically during the school year it fell in the middle of Winter Recess.  Later, this became the excuse for why no one needed to hold a celebration for me.  I wanted to avoid any fuss that would draw attention from friends because if they were paying attention to me, I believed they’d peak beneath my mask and judge me inappropriate – or worse, inadequate.  Around friends, I remained shy as if they were strangers because facades kept everyone at an arm’s length.  It was simpler to cover my self-consciousness and inferiority beneath masks, that were fashioned for inclusion by adopting specific friend-interests, and sub-cultures, and abandoning my own.

Researching the Part

At SUNY @ Purchase, I freely made my homosexuality explicit and explore relationship dynamics.  I was no virgin before or during college, but a relationship continued to elude me.  I wasn’t laser focused on acquiring a boyfriend because the class load made it quickly clear that was not going to happen.  I was a child compared to my classmates who all seemed much worldlier than I.  Their world seemed so much bigger than the one I came from, filled with parties and adventures that I had only see in movies and television.  I desperately wanted to be like them, sophisticated, well-read, and so comfortable in their uniqueness that they could sell themselves.  This was something I couldn’t be, but I could pull forth a façade.

Hours were spent in the college’s library developing my cool gay cabinet, identity, and vocabulary; I read cultural writers to know what to think, and studied the writers and artists to know what to get away with.  I formed a cabinet of (famous or not; perfect or not; real or fictional) people of characteristics to emulate, to develop a crisper identity and world-view.  The cabinet that was selected had no root in the people and interests of my own, but in the interests of the people I wanted to impress; Kafka, architecture, Feminism, playwriting, and psychology.  I could converse deeply about their interests, and engrain myself into their graces.  They revealed themselves, exposing their interests and desires, while I continued behind a mask that reflected them back.  Everyone enjoys seeing themselves in others because it knocks down walls of isolationism, in favor attachment.

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.