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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Suburbian In Reverse

Freedom came with undergrad life.  I was away from home and finally near New York City, of a world that I had dreamed deeply about escaping to.  At SUNY @ Purchase perfect was the antithesis of suburban high school, evolving to from machismo jock to 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.  I freely made my homosexuality explicit and explore relationship dynamics.

Refreshed by a gust of attention, I set my sights on who was deemed the most desired boy on campus: Marc.  He wasn’t a student, but was the friend of 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.

Mutual friends who knew of my crush arranged for a chance encounter with Marc.  While nothing came of the meet, I did gain wonderful new friends who are cherished deeply.  Marc, also, knew of my crush on him; apparently, subtlety was not in my repertoire.  His rejection of me (I wasn’t his type; he preferred guys more seasoned than I was) dissipated my attraction.  His friends felt sympathy for me, revealing that Marc gets crushed on a lot.  I thought how if I wasn’t special or a first to Marc I’d move on and I was over him.  We hung out after and it was clear we had nothing in common other than our mutual friends.  During that friendship, I saw that beneath bravado, was a desperate want for stability with a boyfriend, just as I did.

As college goes relationships were fleeting but sexual encounters were not, with my attention no longer fixated on one person. The relationship that I had dreamt of, had hoped for during the college experience, eluded me.  I was good enough for a lay, but not to spend time with.  I was no wallflower, but I was unable to break the habit of isolating in my room and studying.  I didn’t go to the campus’ LGBTQ Union to meet peers because the members I conversed with assuredly proclaimed their identity to everyone.  Despite my sexual escapades during this time I continued to rebel from any identity label, that I had no history with.

With a false identity in place, I adventured beyond campus-boys to older gay males.  I turned, again, to the internet to dominate my acquisition of homosexual dynamics.  I quickly accepted invitations, hoping that I’d be a step closer to NYC-escape, that I had expected from Oliver & Company and Tales of the City. Behind my more sophisticated and cool mask older men seemed more worldly and attractive. The Jodie Dallas specter faded from the peripheral of my concept of homosexuality, Sex & the City experiences that I had dreamed of seemed a greater possibility.  Instead of the Manhattan fantasy – theatre, dinners, and art galleries – I repeated my suburban youth in reverse.  This version though didn’t synchronize with the ticky-tacky boxes.  Now I saw behind the neighbors’ curtains, and I didn’t like it.  Calling them dates is using the term at its loosest.  The men that I went home with would close their curtains, citing their need for privacy.  As my perceptions grew I came to see “privacy” as a bent mirror to my rejection of the homosexual label.

Verve – Tales of the City & Sense8

Sense8 [I Am We] (Tales of the City & Sense8)Tales of the City series offered a worldview where 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.  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.  More Tales of the City embedded in me the values and worldview that made the Netflix series ‘Sense8’, by the Wachowski Siblings and J. Michael Straczynski.

In ‘Sense8’ there is a parallel species called homosensate, where a group (‘cluster’) is mentally and emotionally linked across the world.  The show emphasizes the shared humanity amongst the diverse characters, while using their differences to unite and save one another.  The members of a cluster did not know one another, due to global distance, prior to being activated, and find in one another a family.  While happy in each other lives, they are isolated from those around them either because of a secret or just feeling misunderstood, but a cluster’s connections allows members to share experiences and memories, granting them innate understanding of who one another are.

The found family concept was introduced in More Tales of the City, which was taken to a global level by the wonderful ‘Sense8’.  The Netflix series acted as a macrocosm to San Francisco in Tales of the City, applying the US melting pot to the entire world.

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”