The last few days have been absolute garbage. You know that, I know that. I don’t mean to take away from the terrible things currently happening in America and the rest of the world. That’s truly the last thing I would ever want to do, but I think it’s important to focus on little positive […]
Well, 2016 was a year of many things, most of them pretty bad. We lost Prince, and Princess Leia, Colonel John Glenn and Major Tom. Voldemort and his chess set of white supremacists gained entry into the White House when Russia took a page out of the US playbook to help make that happen, putting immigrants and queer folks and women and people of color at even greater risk of the kind of things that made Germany into an object lesson eighty years ago (one we have ignored, it seems).
In the midst of all this darkness, it is difficult, but not impossible, to light a few candles.
- In February, my union got my colleagues and me a 26% increase in pay over the next three years, because, yes, that’s how little the school had been paying us.
- In March, I started playing Lesbian Dodgeball on a monthly basis (see #5) with a bunch of overeducated goofballs. This started my collection of Fabulous Dodgeball (and other) Socks.
- In May, I got a fabulous roommate and her Hello Kitty bestest buddy.
- In August, I went alone to Boston ComicCon, wearing an Agents of SHIELD uniform and had a pretty good time. This is also where I got my Wonder Woman and Groot socks.
- In November, I went to the Love Rally on the Boston Common with the abovementioned goofball friends, now in Deeply Serious mode. Then on Supergirl, the Girl of Steel’s sister DEO Agent Alex Danvers figured out that yes, she is into girls, as I had some months before.
- In December, I went on my first date in eleven years.
Now, when I originally started writing this post, I had some vague idea about writing about the tradeoffs a gal makes shopping in the men’s section, but my pen had other ideas. Still, I stand by my title.
Because we could look back on 2016 as the year we lost so many of the best and brightest: Leonard Cohen, Muhammed Ali, Janet Reno, Richard Adams.
But I will look back on this past year as the year my sock drawer–that oft-ignored repository which, like a bookcase, tells the world through its changes how one’s life is changing–got a little fabulous.
So yes, 2016 will go down as the Year of the Fabulous Socks. And as God is my witness, 2017 will go down as the Fabulous Year.
And when that starts happening, I will get back to talking about traversing the men’s section.
So when I came home Friday night after attending the Boston Love Rally in the Common, I went to clear my email, and came up against my first experience of homophobia.
This was an extended Facebook post in response to a meme I had shared:
I did not think this was a radical statement, but rather the sort of thing any reasonable human being would agree with.
Oh, but Facebook.
The commenter was the leader of a popular culture Facebook group. I had had one disagreement with him before, when I posted something about rape culture, which he disparaged as propaganda. At that time, I acknowledged that women didn’t generally talk about these things but that I was sure if he talked to his mother, sisters, aunts, female friends, he would hear stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault, so many that it would surprise him.
This time he said, in small part: “I don’t like queers. (I’ll use the word queer as I can never get straight the ever changing alphabet soup acronym) I met my first one when I was 6 or 7. I of course did not know why I did not like him. I did not find out what he was until 20 years later. Same for a certain guy in high school. Again, I was unsophisticated, didn’t have a label for him. Found out later. Some I seem to have no issue with, many others simply provoke a sense of unease and physical revulsion. But get this, I am JUST like a gay person. I don’t deserve to be attacked, called names, shunned or marginalized because of my natural feelings. This is the thing you CryBullies do not embrace. If people are not with you, you attack them. Now, do I go around attacking queers because of my physical revulsion? No. Live and Let Live. I simply avoid them. I LOVE Trump because he is anti-you, —- —–. You and all of your CryBully friends. Martin Luther King would NOT be doing as you do. He would support what he chooses, but he would NEVER attack those who choose to not believe as he did. MLK would NEVER be a CryBully. Think about that.”
I have put a few things out on my Facebook feed since the election ended, and some things were probably less than even-handed, it is true. But why is it this particular meme that seemed to enrage him with my extremism? That is what I don’t understand.
I am glad that I did not see this until after midnight. In the time between its posting and then, my brother, his wife and son all posted defenses of me and what I had shared. This made me feel safer. (Never underestimate the power of allies when they step up.)
Obviously, I have left that group. I have not unfriended him and I have no intention of responding to him directly in any way, although like many of my friends, I will be posting a caveat and invitation to unfriend me if they disagree with what I post.
I have never claimed that Obama’s America is perfect. Has he stood up against policy horrors like the Trans Pacific Partnership? No. Has he stood up for Standing Rock? No, he is just letting that play out. I have been writing letters and signing petitions on these issues all year. Meanwhile, far too many acts of police violence against people of color and brutal murders of trangender people and white men raping women on the local level have soaked our newsfeeds red, and the law fails to support the victims. (More letters, more petitions.) So no, America isn’t perfect.
But for a long time it has been better than when we had segregation, and lynchings, and legal discrimination–oh, wait, that’s been returning lately. It has been better with more representation in the political process and the media of the non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-straight Americans who make up a very big portion of America.
And in the last decade or two, it has become relatively safe in most parts of this country, especially in cities, for LGB people, who are out and even married. So I thought we were getting somewhere.
So much for that dream. Silly ignorant white girl. You should have known better. Just because it was good for you doesn’t mean it was good for a great number of people in this country, people you couldn’t see because they were far away or you just weren’t paying attention while you worked your three jobs.
So yes, now I am paying attention. And now I commit to act in more constructive ways for the people I haven’t been paying enough attention to. I cannot choose the reality of what America is: racist, sexist, homophobic. But I can choose the truth of what America always has the possibility to be: diverse, welcoming, egalitarian and loving of our neighbors even when we disagree. Have I always been good at this? Hell, no. But I can start now.
The haters are going to hate. You can’t change that. But I have been training all my life for this moment. Let it come.
“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” J.K. Rowlings
Okay, so I am bored, bored, bored with the Same Old Hair that I have had for the vast majority of my adult life, except for that year and a half (and ten years on my driver’s license) that I tried to grow it long and it looked utterly ridiculous except when I was wearing a baseball hat.
I have printed out some pictures from the Interwebs of hair I like, but in the end I am going to a new place recommended by someone I met in the restroom of a bar and I complimented her on her interesting haircut, and I am simply going to trust that the hair stylist can look at my little bullet head with my blond hair and make me look, well, if not fabulous at least pleasantly different.
Here are the peoples and their hair.
And here is a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon that I suspect is how my Saturday appointment is likely to go, although I am not bringing my mother with me, which is just as well (especially given that she lives in a different state) since if I get the kind of haircut I want, she will probably hate it.
A Google search of “history of my hair” just now turned up 68,800,000 results. This does not surprise me. Just as our geopolitical history is filled with battles, innovations, opportunities, colonizations, festivals and cooptations, so is the history of our hair. Think about it. When you are a kid, your parents pretty much decide what your haircut will look like, and it often ends up being a smaller version of theirs. Maybe around the time you are approaching your teenage years, you start to get a say in the matter and for some of us who grew up with our mothers cutting our hair, this will be the first time your parents paid for someone else to do the job.
Puberty is also when the changes to the rest of your body start to affect your hair too, usually making things harder, because who ever heard of puberty making ANYTHING easier? The hormone shifts, the social shifts, all of that make it even harder to figure out the individual shifts that might be happening in your identity: what do I want more, to stand out or to belong?
Eventually, in the business world, you adapt to a balance between identity and belonging, to set yourself apart a little while also maintaining a professional stance. And always assuming that your physical hair itself isn’t causing problems (not always a fair assumption, as my African American women friends will be the first to point out), sticking to that balance can—slowly or quickly—lead to utter boredom.
These things are compounded when your identity undergoes more shifts. People get married and need to do something excessively fancy with their hair for the wedding. They get new jobs where the professional standard is different. They figure out they are queerer than they thought, and want to express that. They go through a midlife crisis. They have a baby—and we all know how babies grab at long hair. A lot of things can trigger a desire to change what we look like. The problem is, when the world is full of options, how do you choose the change you want?
In her essay for PopSugar, “I’m Asian, I Came Out of the Closet, and I Finally Cut My Hair Short,” Jo Chiang writes about the difficulties of fitting into a white-dominated US queer subculture within the dominant gender-binary-heavy US heteronormative culture as an Asian, given the differences between Asian and Euro-Caucasian hair. She says, in part:
“Androgyny has always been about that hard-edged balance between masculinity and femininity. But when Asian masculinity is desexualised and Asian femininity is infantilised, twists on gender presentation don’t quite make the same impact.[…] It’s an ongoing journey to feel positive about my queerness, my race, and my hair on top of that. Even out of the closet, I would often feel awkward and ill-fitted. I tried new haircuts. My hair wasn’t fine enough to pull off the pixie cut or flexible enough for a pompadour, and my cowlicks were too tenacious for anything asymmetrical. It took trial and error and error and error, until I figured out a solution. I found a Japanese hair salon. They knew my texture, the quirks of my part, and the shape of my skull. While they did not share my Taiwanese heritage, they understood the very specific struggles I had with my hair.
“Instead of going wild with a clipper, my stylist brought shape to the back of my head with careful trimming. She left the sides and top long to let my cowlicks bear down with their own weight, but added a choppy texture to keep it from flattening. When I stopped bringing in photographs of models I wanted my hair to resemble and instead worked with my stylist to understand the ways my hair grew out, I finally settled into cuts that suited me and my queerness.
“I walk the streets happy to confuse strangers with my gender presentation.
“There is no one way to look queer. A haircut isn’t a requirement for coming out. But the decision to resist against assumptions of gender and femininity and race can be a healing and invigorating aspect of loving and accepting yourself in a world that continues to police beauty.
“These days, I walk the streets happy to confuse strangers with my gender presentation. When I feel especially frisky, I style my hair up with some grooming cream, and when frisky is too much work, I wear a hat. Either way, long or short, my hair will always be as queer as me.”
I like the way this essay targets the intersectionality of identity–the flipside of the intersectionality of oppressions, since, after all, we get oppressed because of our identities. Having lived in Japan and been a martial artist for more than half my life, I have had a lot of East Asian/Asian-American friends, and it is good to learn a bit about their realities. One of the things I will consider this week is where hair texture is not the only problem a person could be facing in the Queer Hair Dilemma. But Chiang’s meditation is a great place to start.
I say this because I think we all look for quick fixes, believe that quick fixes are in fact possible: “Now that I know who I am, I need to declare it. Declaring it will be easy. Declaring it nonverbally may even be easier than doing it verbally.”
Ah, fond hope, so soon dashed for most of us. I am putting this out here as a hypothesis, which I intend to test this week by talking to my queer/lesbian friends.
H1: Most people struggle to find a haircut that represents them as they want after they come out.
Wish me luck, children. I’m goin’ in!
Jo Chiang, “I’m Asian, I Came Out of the Closet, and I Finally Cut My Hair Short,” PopSugar.com.au. 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.
So my coffee date with the OKCupid person went well. She was nice and we made each other laugh. I doubt I will see her again, but I am okay with these things simply being about practice.
Meanwhile, I am four chapters into my new novel. In theory it should answer the eternal question, “Why do fools fall in love?” with the wrong people, over and over again. (Also, probably “Why do birds sing so gay?” although I am pretty sure we already know the answer to that one.)
So tonight I went with some friends to the vigil for Orlando held in the plaza in front of Boston City Hall, and prayed and held silence and signed the book for our brothers and sisters in Orlando, to let them know we care. I still need to process all that, and I will write about it soon, but for now, a look back to Saturday and what I spent the time doing when I wasn’t either watching the parade or dancing my ass off.
Needle. Haystack. Backbeat.
A sea of exhausted queers, underdressed, rained on,
Milling jubilantly across the plaza. Three flags:
Stars and Stripes, Massachusetts Indian, Rainbow.
Sixty-nine reasons to salute. Save the environment.
Adopt a shelter dog. Get tested. Buy a t-shirt.
Help veterans stop our warring. Eat fried dough.
There on the steps, a woman break-dances to music
Coming from the stage, to the applause of her friends
And strangers. One onlooker, all in black leather,
Turns away. We text and call you, give up,
Then turn around, and there you are at last.
Parking lot block party between tall brick
Buildings echoing the DJ’s words, the backbeat
So deep my bones reverberate. Broken tarmac
And puddles of Bud Lite Lime make a rough
Dance floor, but I’ve lost my friends. I looked
Away for a moment and once again I was
Alone amid a few hundred tightly packed
Tattooed women’s bodies gyrating. Buzz cut
Blue hair bump and grind. Surely salmon swimming
Upriver move to no such background music,
Though the press of bodies must be something
Like this. How then to find four particular
Fish in the struggling river? Wandering the edges
Will not suffice. Only leaping into center stream,
Zenlike, gets it done. I abandon my goal,
My isolation, and finally find what I seek.
Black light disco ball and all the young men
Packed wall to wall and taller than all
My lost friends: I am tired of losing them.
Even more than the vibrating drums and lights
Is the slight pall of sticky spilled drinks
On the floor. All these men so intent on
Scoring block my view as the lights
Scramble my attention. Trying to make out
Lyrics, like making out faces, is too much
Of a chore. Some searches are just doomed
From the start. At least I can still find the door.
Photo by Paula M. Grez.
We spent some time at school this weekend talking about the digital world and how that relates to our spirituality. We learned about a game where you create an avatar and you join an online community that says they are Anglican. You can fly into the cathedral and experience services, how there is a person […]