Spot-On Review of Supergirl by Raching For It

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 […]

via Supergirl Takes On Its Biggest Bad Yet: Compulsory Heterosexuality — raching for it

Cascading Home

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I learned about this form of poetry, the Cascade, from Kat Myrman. With a three-line stanza, and capital letters representing repeated lines, the form is ABC deA fgB hiC. (I have also seen this done where the repeating line is the first line of the following stanzas rather than the last, now that I think of it.) Naturally, I chose a seven-line stanza because I am a bloody showoff. Don’t go there, people, or at least not without stretching out first.

I like it again right now because I am about to move into my first office ever of my own at work and I have bought a Laura Wilder print with a window to replace the window I did not get due to seniority and other issues. But art makes life better.

 

Home is the place where you write your name

In the dust and it remains your name,

Your dust, your cat’s pawprints telling the tale

Of small peregrinations, domestic pilgrimages.

All the books are yours. You have read them all.

You make your way from room to room in the dark

And as day recedes, your bed embraces you.

 

In other places, you wander, a stranger

Unremarked and nameless, a cipher

To those you pass by, who do not think

To wonder about your loves and dislikes.

They have their own shopping lists of worries.

Out in the world, you are ever nameless.

Home is the place where you write your name.

 

The geography of naming is such that

Your name points the way back to your birth

Or rebirth. Tell me who you are and I will

Point you toward the river whose water runs

Through your veins, calling itself blood.

Drop your name down a well or toss it

In the dust and it remains your name.

 

The story of your life would require volumes

Or a skilled raconteur with a very long string

Tied end to end and woven into itself,

A cat’s cradle of intention, obstacle, outcome,

And the serendipities that every life engenders.

Come to the window. Trace out your tale in

Your dust, your cat’s pawprints telling the tale,

 

Which would include a heroic company of friends,

Sister travelers, the wise one, the warriors,

A ring to find, a cup to destroy, some evil

To overcome, and now and then a resting place

Like this homely place, a place to pause between

The small battles and the long weariness

Of small peregrinations, domestic pilgrimages.

 

Returning home to your bed, your armchair,

Your cat sleeping on all the notes you took

On your travels, you settle in almost as if

You had never left. But now you see it

Anew: You have chosen every picture that hangs

On the walls. You have sat in every chair.

All the books are yours. You have read them all.

 

All of it is as familiar as your own hands:

Small and compact peasant hands that belie

The spectacles and teeming brain, the sword

Hanging over the fireplace. You can lay your hand

On any book you want at a moment’s notice,

Predict the pattern of new spring leaves in the window.

You make your way from room to room in the dark.

 

At dawn, both sun and cat pat your face,

Clamoring for your attention. As the sun passes

Overhead, the light turns this way and that,

Caressing doors and bookcases, chairs and the cat

Who stretches out in the bright patch of carpet.

In the afternoon, he ambles over to welcome you back.

And as day recedes, your bed embraces you.

 

Art by Laura Wilder.

Shakespeare, Young Americans, Et Al.

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So I just watched the single season of Young Americans, a Dawson’s Creek spinoff, via YouTube last week. Although the main stories are about the townie, Will, and his efforts to fit in with his richer classmates, and the townie, Bela, and rich kid, Scout, who start to fall in love and then find out that they might have the same father, my favorite plot line is about Jake and Hamilton. Jake is actually Jacqueline, who has used her computer hacking skills and gender-neutral looks to enroll in the school as a boy, hoping that her absent mother will finally notice her; complications ensue when chemistry arises between “Jake” and Hamilton.

For a show about summer session at a (very white) boys’ boarding school, there is a surprising number of women in it and most of them aren’t total clichés. Bela is a mechanic working at her father’s gas station and Jake is a computer hacker who claims convincingly that s/he hacked NASA. The males are also nuanced. Finn, their rowing coach and English teacher talks a lot about literature, and Will writes poetry (and they steal a plot device from Cyrano de Bergerac, with a love poem and mistaken identity). So first of all, hooray broader representation of women and men!

You have to hand it to the WB, the television network that produced this show: they were horrible at racial diversity but they told interesting stories. The show played around with the awkwardness between Jake and Hamilton for about three and a half episodes, until Jake finally tells Hamilton that she is a girl, but since he needs to keep her secret, they end up having to let the other guys think they are gay. In the final episode, when everyone’s secrets get revealed, there is a moment when Hamilton turns to Jake and says, “Next you’re going to tell me that you are really a lesbian pretending to be a straight girl pretending to be a guy, because I might actually be into that.” This is funny mainly because the actress playing Jake, Katherine Moennig, really was exactly that, and it reminded me a lot of Shakespeare.

In Twelfth Night, we get Viola, a woman who gets shipwrecked and then dresses as a young man and works as a page for the Duke Orsino who is in love with the Lady Olivia. Viola has to pass messages between them and Olivia falls for her/him. And for audiences of the day who knew that the actor was of course a man playing a woman pretending to be a man and avoiding the lady’s advances, this was apparently just as chuckle-worthy. But I am not sure why it is so funny.

I think some of it is similar to what happens when you tell a little kid that the sky is green and they laugh hysterically because (they might say) the sky is most definitely not green, so claiming that it is seems funny. (And I should point out that in really terrible weather, such as right before a tornado, the sky can be green. Pray you never see it.) Humor often is the result of turning expectations inside out, and the stronger and more inevitable the expectation is, the funnier it is to see it transgressed, transposed or just tossed out the window. Apparently masculinity and femininity are two such expectations, or otherwise why are we still telling these stories and being entertained by them?

I feel like this matters in part because if we could figure out what we mean by masculine/feminine, male/female, we might also begin to unpack all the irrational fears underlying these ridiculous new bathroom bills. Given that transphobia is “fueled by insecurities people have about gender and gender norms” (Serano, qtd. In “Transphobia”), and can have horrific consequences when it leads to harassment and violence, our society needs to get a grip. And this is a deeply political social problem because, as Jody Norton writes, “male-to-female transgender incites transphobia through her implicit challenge to the binary division of gender upon which male cultural and political hegemony depends” (Norton).

 

Norton, Jody. “’Brain Says You’re a Girl, But I Think You’re a Sissy Boy’: Cultural Origins of Transphobia.” International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies. 2, Number 2 (2) 1997: 139–164.

“Transphobia.” Wikipedia. 12 April 2016. Web. 14 April 2016.

I Am My Voice

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People often talk about the voice of a writer, and to some extent I think that can be problematic. Saying that a writer has one voice to use for all projects and genres is misleading. Look at Meryl Streep. Does she have a single voice? No. Instead she modulates her voice for every role she takes, making her one of the most flexible actors in film. On the other hand, one’s speaking voice is, in effect, oneself. People who know you will recognize your voice the moment you say “Hello” on the phone

For the musically inclined, this is even more true. If you hear one of Barbra Streisand’s long-held notes, even if you didn’t hear the way she pronounces whole words, you would know that it was her. This is one of the reasons I named this blog after the film and musical Victor/Victoria. In the film, when Julie Andrews was forty-seven, she had a five-octave voice, which is not a common phenomenon even among professional singers. In the musical, when Andrews was sixty, she had four octaves, also very impressive for a singer at that age.

The plot is simple: “A penniless soprano, named Victoria, colludes with a struggling gay impresario to disguise herself as a man named Victor, who entertains as a female impersonator known as ‘Victoria’ – and as a result becomes the toast of Paris. Complications arise when a Chicago mobster sees the act and finds himself attracted to the star” (“Victor/Victoria.”) So you can see why Andrews’ incredible voice is central to the plotline.

I did not give much thought to the movie when I saw it, as I was still in high school “singing low” and not really giving much thought to what that meant for me. In church at my confirmation, a classmate turned to me and said, “Sing like a girl!” as if that was a matter of choice. Later, in college, when the Christian Fellowship group split to sing men/women for different stanzas or harmony, I always sang with the men because I could do that cleanly and both loud/soft, whereas I did not have a whole lot of control over the small higher part of my voice. If people thought it odd, they didn’t say anything. Years later in church choir, I sang tenor. People looked at me a little bit sideways, and our choir director often found himself saying, “Women, do such and such. Men—er—Low voices, do the other thing.”

At this point I was in my thirties and I wanted to improve my voice so I could sound a bit more like the other singers in the choir. Luckily, I met a teacher named Kamal Scott. When I told him that I was a tenor, he sounded thrilled and told me that women who can sing that low can usually also sing equally high, eventually. After four years with him, I proved him right. So I could sing pretty much anything as a tenor, and a lot of things as a second soprano, but when I tried to sing in the middle of my voice, the alto part, I often sounded like a twelve-year-old boy on a bad day.

I spent ten years between voice teachers, but when I found my new teacher, I actually found someone who could smoothen out the crack in between my head voice and chest voice and teach me how to sound like a single human being. Around this time, I was learning about queer theology and gender identity/performance, and at some point I found the DVD of the only filmed performance of the Broadway version of Victor/Victoria, which they made for broadcasting in Japan, so I had a chance to compare the film and musical versions.

I got so excited that I bought a small version of the Broadway poster and put it up on a wall in my bedroom. I remember thinking, primarily in regard to my own voice, that this would remind me that we get to choose who we are, by choosing how to use what we are given. I still love the low part of my voice best, because when I sing low, I can feel the vibrations all throughout my body. When I sing high I can only feel a bit in my head and face; it’s not nearly as much fun. But I still get to choose where I want to sing, as at Christmas when I went to church with my dad. Singing “Angels We Have Heard on High” to a loudly played organ, I chose tenor. Singing “Silent Night” to a piano, I chose soprano. In a way I am both those things. It’s the best of both worlds.

 

Victor/Victoria (musical).” Wikipedia. 27 Feb. 2016. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.

Introducing Rowan Ellis, Who You May Already Know (Lucky You)

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Answering the How Did I Get Here? Let’s Not Be Chronological! question. One person who helped me see the world through a Queer Lens is Rowan Ellis, a perky and insightful British woman who makes great little informative videos and posts them on YouTube. Ellis introduces herself in the following way:

“Hi, it’s Rowan! I make videos about pop culture from a feminist and queer perspective 🙂 Aside from that expect a mix of rants about literature, smashing the patriarchy, me being my hella queer self, writing tutorials, and British accent videos.   Book group livestream discussion every last Sunday of the month at 6pm GMT. New videos every week. Wanna collaborate? Send me an email over at: rowanellisyoutube@outlook.com ”

Because I am a Huge Nerd, and in love with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Hayley Atwell is my patronus, one of the first videos of Ellis that I watched that had a huge impact on my was Queering Agent Carter, which I embed below. Watch it! Talk to me about your impressions of both Carter and Ellis!

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Alas, WordPress doesn’t support this “file type”; you will  have to do your own typing, but I promise you it will be Totally Worth Your While: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jd6bHDDm-c

 

Are We Victor? Or Are We Victoria?

215px-VictorVictoriaBroadway

So I have been thinking about androgyny lately and looking at other folks’ blogs for inspiration on how to dress. As a cis-woman recently considering the idea that I might be bisexual, in part because of how folks react/respond to the way I dress professionally, in part due to how folks tend to call me “Sir” and then immediately apologize when they shift their attention from my fedora hat to my earrings (I suppose), and in part because of that lovely Gateway Drug to the LGBT World, Katherine Moennig (Shane McCutcheon of The L Word [which is not to say Shane, who would break my heart in five minutes, and from whom I would reluctantly run screaming, if you see what I mean]), I have recently been reconsidering how I dress.

How much of it is instinct? How much of it is social pressure? How much of it is based on fashion ignorance based on the eleven out of twelve of my pre-collegiate years being spent in Catholic school uniforms? (And yes, that really does have an affect on people.)

While I suspect such a background was useful in many ways, it also had its downsides. Primarily, it made me not care what other folks thought of what I was wearing, since the VAST majority of people I knew were wearing the Same Damn Thing. (Admittedly Saturday night mixers with the all-boys Notre Dame High School were somewhat a different problem.) On the other hand, I only had relationships with guys every five or so years, when I was younger, and there was a longer time lag as I got older. Women evolve at one speed; guys, apparently evolve a little slower. I do believe they will catch up. I don’t think, at this point, that I will benefit from that glacial movement.

Luckily? the world has been changing in the last several years. I am lucky enough to live in a very blue state, where gay marriage, at the very least, has been legal for a while, and that has made people more blase about it, hallelujah. In the meantime, we are all working toward a more mixed idea about gender, and although this Killers song is not expressively about this issue, it comes to mind when I think about it.

I give you their lyrics. Eventually, I will find the poem I wrote about it…

Human

I did my best to notice
When the call came down the line
Up to the platform of surrender
I was brought, but I was kind

And sometimes I get nervous
When I see an open door
Close your eyes, clear your heart
Cut the cord

Are we human or are we dancer?
My sign is vital, my hands are cold
And I’m on my knees looking for the answer
Are we human or are we dancer?

Pay my respects to grace and virtue
Send my condolences to good
Give my regards to soul and romance
They always did the best they could

And so long to devotion
You taught me everything I know
Wave goodbye, wish me well
You’ve gotta let me go

Are we human or are we dancer?
My sign is vital, my hands are cold
And I’m on my knees looking for the answer
Are we human or are we dancer?

Will your system be all right
When you dream of home tonight?
There is no message we’re receiving
Let me know, is your heart still beating?

Are we human or are we dancer?
My sign is vital, my hands are cold
And I’m on my knees looking for the answer

You’ve gotta let me know
Are we human or are we dancer?

My sign is vital, my hands are cold
And I’m on my knees looking for the answer
Are we human

or are we dancer?

 

Are we human

or are we dancer?

 

Songwriters
FLOWERS, BRANDON / KEUNING, DAVE BRENT / STOERMER, MARK AUGUST / VANNUCCI, RONNIE JR.