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”

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.

School Homosexuality

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.

Feeling distant from classmates and peers, particularly the boys, began in elementary school when I didn’t want to participate in the same games and activities.  Middle school proved to be a more complicated time because as boys were discovering girls, I had no interest in them.  What I did find more appealing were the boys in my grade, who became the subject of fantasy and infatuation.  The more popular the better.  I equated popular-by-association with acceptance into the societal norms.  There were no boys to roleplay intimacy or boundaries; everyone’s burgeoning masculinity was too fragile.  Back then ‘gay’ was a pejorative for ‘stupid,’ ‘sissy,’ ‘girly,’ or ‘less than.’  With group acceptance as the primary goal being labeled the outsider was unacceptable, so I kept any suspicious ‘gay’ buried through comic books.  For other students, their exploration didn’t have many venturing far from home, keeping them safely in the group.  My search for identity would have had me travelling far into the realm of gay-other, which at that time was predominately found in the character Jodie Dallas, from Soap reruns on Comedy Central.  Jodie Dallas was a sad sack that never was taken seriously by his family, and was unable to find happiness with another person that was similar, whom he could divulge his thoughts and feelings to.  Jodie Dallas was ridiculed and dismissed every time he came out.  He was also constantly alone, single, and nearly friendless because his homosexuality separated him from his family.  This was still a typical and normal portrayal of homosexuality in the early & mid-1990s, and Soap was from the late 1970s.

Fearing the concept of isolation, I steered far from the queer identity, and built a wall safely hidden beneath goofball.  A lack of interest in sports was chalked up to geek, safely hiding within the group.  I ignored the adventure of exploring a gay identity, and embraced the descriptions that avoided me being ostracized into the group with the more flamboyant homosexual boys – the ones labeled “sissy.”  So, when a girl asked me to be their boyfriend I said yes, lacking the vocabulary and experiences to know that it would be an ill-fit.  I withdrew and couldn’t muster the interest to mimic boyfriends I saw modeled on TV, and waited for the inevitable implosion.  When she did call to break-up I didn’t feel relieved, or even numb – I simply went about my afternoon watching cartoons.

When I left school, I spent the rest of my life un-learning the group mentality.  I wondered what about who I was that was unacceptable.  My identity was separated into different baubles, guised with adjective-derived masks to fit in, and denying myself a confidante.  By refusing anyone I could divulge to because I am scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.  And that there is no possibility for repair. I felt punishment was warranted. I imitated to the expectations of others when I should have been fostering an identity to grow into.  Inclusion was predicated upon adopting various skins that brought me affection and attention.  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, a self-imposed inability to label that I was homosexual.

Break Through in Shame

When I left school, I spent the rest of my life un-learning the group mentality.  I wondered what about who I was that was unacceptable.  My identity was separated into different baubles, guised with adjective-derived masks to fit in, and denying myself a confidante.  By refusing anyone I could divulge to because I am scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.  And that there is no possibility for repair. I felt punishment was warranted.

Over time I learned to express feelings and practice self-compassion, by putting a strong spotlight on the dried and cracking leather hid of my baggage.  I embraced my uniqueness – shown self without a mask.  Rather, I am a historical queer, existing outside rigid associations of mainstream acceptable.  Being queer is being liberated from essentialist identity politics, instead focusing on how numerous sciences, histories, and legalities to examine the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer.  Avoiding traditional social theory, and taking a critical theory approach to queerness enriches the discussion around the vulnerabilities and suppression faced by societal outliers, those whose identities further remove them from society because of association with more than one group.  Queer requires the ability to empathize with and perceive the world through the experiences of fringe and minority groups.

Queer exists as a counter to homonormative, white homosexual privilege that pushes heteronormativity onto LGBITQ+ culture and identity, which creates hierarchies of worthiness.  Those that most closely resemble heteronormative are at the top, while the rest are less worthy and dangerous to homonormative individuals receiving privilege.  Homonormative is the rejection of any group that endangers the privilege that comes with assimilation from emphasizing commonalities to heteronormative: marriage, monogamy, and procreation.  Viewing mainstream as the ideal dangerously suppresses the more radically different, silencing voices for radical inclusion in favor of acceptable goals like marriage equality and adoption rights, but also commercializing and mainstreaming queer subcultures.

Queer culture is a set of shared perceptions that take heteronormative practices, beliefs, and arts, to repurpose for identification.  Self-classification as any one sexual category, such as heterosexual, does not eliminate one from participating in queer culture.  Queer includes all gender and identity-variant individuals to find civic participation by engaging in complex dialogues that emphasize diversity in history and experiences.

Chronic Shame Creates Masks

I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The facts that I knew of AIDS came from what was gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  This opposed the previous generation of the 1960s and 70s, who found a footing after Stonewall pushed back underground and took on a seedy 8mm feel.  In the pre-internet era, there was limited ability to connect to others in the homosexual subculture, which could counter my first impressions.  These circumstances led to low queer acculturation particularly if someone lived away from gay neighborhoods in urban areas.  Growing up independent of a greater knowledge of homosexuality, I never became interested in homosexual culture, liberation/movement, camp, or fashion.  With limited exposure to homosexuality my development stagnated with a 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, only to realize that those feelings come from the fact that I was not living with authenticity.  In reaction to this I created a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed.  I diluted or ignored the 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” – toxic that leads to believing that they are a failure. Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that they are untrustworthy are also feelings which accompany those who believe themselves failures. Shame became my core identity, shutting me down to human relationships, living in hopelessness, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs.

Verve (February 2017)

When I dream of ex-boyfriends, I omnisciently observe what I imagine is a typical day: wake up, go to work (nurse, hair stylist, sales), then home to their husbands.  In my dreams, I give them the happy relationship that wasn’t possible with me.  They were good boyfriends, just not good for me; they were someone else’s happy relationship.

All male friendship I’ve attempted has been with unattainable straight men, which quickly fizzled.  It didn’t need to be the most attractive guy, but the man most girls circled.  I relied on being an exaggerated clown, flirting in hopes to win over the guy to have validation-sex.  Do straight women flirt to begin male friendships?  Regardless, the speed of the friendship’s lifespan was dictated by the quality time spent together.  Homosexual or queer friendships have been very rare.  The homosexuals I met for friendship, found through my standby outlet – the internet.  The bonds that were attempted consistently had an expectation of friend with benefit situation.  Friendship or old-fashioned dating was off the table.  I found those that took that route to be overbearing, as shallow as I pretended to be, or what I used for a mask was their true personality.

GWM ISO James Corden-Type

GWM ISO James Corden [2017.05]I learned early that existence was being in a state of constant heartbreak.  The gay domesticity templates of Jodie Dallas, Ellen, and other early homosexual representation demonstrated that life would never consist of a cozy weekend bubble with another, only the longing for one.  While Jodie Dallas was perpetually single, Ellen DeGeneres’ presentation of homosexual relationship was full of drama and bickering.  These examples of playing-house were a lacking perfect reflection of what I wanted, which was the bittersweet rom-com of When Harry Met Sally, or How to Marry a Millionaire; and later 13 Going on 30, What’s Your Number, Sex & the City.

In the past, I sunk under the weight of pursing others like a puppy only to not be selected.  The superficiality of idolized physicality in homosexuality was not me.  Perfect was the Abercrombie & Fitch model or Justin Timberlake; the pop-idol and the porn star got all the attention.  Not me, the queerly geek whose authenticity – the interests, experiences, and beliefs – existed on the peripheral of popular.  How could they not see how cool I was?  Continue reading “GWM ISO James Corden-Type”

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”

Wonder Woman – The Amazon Princess: Queer Diplomat of DC Comics

Wonder Woman by Christopher Moeller
Wonder Woman by Christopher Moeller

Wonder Woman, Diana Prince, with her powerful abilities, centuries of training and experienced at handling threats that range from petty crime to threats that are of a magical or supernatural nature, Diana is capable of competing with nearly any hero or villain.  She’s concurrently the fiercest and most nurturing member of the Justice League, capable of making the hard decisions.  Wonder Woman’s hard-decision making is derived from her backstory and characterization.  In comic books and the DC Universe Wonder Woman’s nickname, The Amazon Princess, makes obvious the dichotomy inherent in the premiere super-heroine.  As an Amazonian she is a trained warrior, powerful, strong-willed, and does not back-down from a battle.  The princess aspect of the character places her in the political and diplomatic spheres, pursing peace without escalating conflicts.  In both worlds Wonder Woman is a leader, who, unlike Superman and Batman, understands the ramifications globally and locally of her actions.

In the DC Trinity Superman is the admiral inspiring heroes to be their best; Batman is the general making the plans other heroes follow; Wonder Woman is the soldier shoulder to shoulder with the other heroes in the battle.  Soldiers are the decisive faction in an army, and in an army of superheroes Wonder Woman is the hard-decision maker.   Where Superman and Batman hold tightly to the superhero code, do not kill, Wonder Woman comes at solutions with more ambiguity.  She is the decision maker who makes the difficult decisions, where killing is never completely off the table, such as when she kills Ares God of War by cleaving an axe through his skull (vol3, #33).  There is also the infamous neck snap of telepathic villain Maxwell Lord to save Superman and by extension the planet.  Maxwell Lord had taken control of Superman and used him to nearly kill Batman.  A brutal battle ensues, Wonder Woman defends herself by slicing Superman’s throat with her tiara, and uses the Lasso of Truth on Lord to demand to know how to end his mental control over Superman, which he revealed was to kill him; if put in jail he’d just escape, regain mental dominance of Superman, and begin again.  Seeing no other way to end the carnage an amoral Superman would cause, Wonder Woman snapped Maxwell Lord’s neck.  While Wonder Woman’s actions are defendable, saving her friends and the planet, her decisiveness put her at odds with other heroes who ardently stand-by the superhero code.

[To Continue Reading the Brief Essay Open PDF Below]

2017.05 Wonder Woman – The Amazon Princess: Queer Warrior Diplomat

1990s Gay

I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The facts that I knew of AIDS came from what was gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  This opposed the previous generation of the 1960s and 70s, who found a footing after Stonewall pushed back underground and took on a seedy 8mm feel.  In the pre-internet era, there was limited ability to connect to others in the homosexual subculture, which could counter my first impressions.  These circumstances led to low queer acculturation particularly if someone lived away from gay neighborhoods in urban areas.  Growing up independent of a greater knowledge of homosexuality, I never became interested in homosexual culture, liberation/movement, camp, or fashion.  With limited exposure to homosexuality my development stagnated with a malleable inauthentic identity, designed for avoidance.