(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On National Coming Out Day

For my Facebook status, I copied and pasted the following as part of showing my support for National Coming Out Day (October 11):

"I'm queer. And National Coming Out Day is tomorrow. I'm coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality because it's 2010 and almost 90% of LGBT youth experience harassment in school, and too many lives have been lost. Donate your status and join me."

Though really, what is out? Do I need to say I'm gay to prove that I'm out?

Really, haven't I been so for years? Perhaps then it is better to live a queer life, unapologetically and prove to these youth that being queer and being strong is possible. Prove to them that it's something you can celebrate and live with joy.

Being queer isn't always torture because you grow with it, grow into it. In accepting yourself and forgetting what anyone else could say, what they do say (and they will say many things), you become something else, something stronger. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? So don't let it kill you. You have to make it your resolve to be better for it.

But at the same time, I have to recognize that I'm speaking about this from a place of privilege. Despite identifying as a queer person of color (color being loosely defined by an unknown mix of genetics to give me that off-white olive tone when I get enough sun), I can pass as a straight, white male.

I've never tried to pass, and so my identity has never been called into question. I'm queer. Period. Out of time, save your questions for another day. So in a sense I've never come out. What does it mean that we live in an age where there are people who can live vicarious, actively gay lives and never come out and actually say they're gay?

I'm lucky. I was never bullied, never harassed. Which is why it's all the more important for me to take part in these kinds of queer movements, to show that it is possible and make it more possible for others to have the kind of experience I did where being queer wasn't a struggle, where it was a personal norm (even if still not a societal one).

There's this mythology that coming out has to be a drama, a tragedy. And yes, it will always be a struggle to find yourself and figure out who you are and what you want and love that for all that it is, but I think that happens whether you're queer or not. It's my mission to help make a world that breaks this myth, turns it on its head and questions proudly, "What do you mean by out?"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Socially Aware

‎"I saw a photo of a member of Maria in the Shower performing in Black face and feel hurt and dismayed by this image. I want to know why it is OK in 2010 for people to perpetuate stereotypes of blackness. It is hard for me to believe that this was done with the intention to harm, but it is a reflection of white privilege and the ability to not have to think about how we might be affecting our brothers and sisters." Khari

Photo credit to the Maria in the Shower facebook page

Privilege is it's own kind of oppression whether it be based in race, gender, sexuality or any of the other potentially minoritized aspects of a person's identity. One of my intentions after a Power of Hope camp earlier this year was to become more aware (and actively do something about) the privilege in my life.

A few of my friends and I joke about our 18th/19th Century American Lit class, calling it post-Revolutionary White Guilt because, well, it is. But I think there's a larger significance here. In class, we talk a lot about race and politics and how it's so horrible the way things were back in the Enlightenment era. It's progressive and forward thinking (though perhaps it's backward thinking since hindsight is 20-20), but I think it's missing that one step further, the critical level that looks not only at what we're reading, but our own reactions to it and why we react to it the way we do.

As a class of predominantly white, relatively well off (we are in college after all), educated college students, we know better than our predecessors, in fact most of us - and here I'm assuming rather a lot - were raised in what I imagine were pretty liberal environments and so at least have the rudimentary understanding of what it means to defy social norms or at the barest minimum be socially aware.

How then does it seem like we are ignorant of the very society we are creating in critiquing the discourse of a past age?

It would and should not be socially acceptable to use another group or culture's identity in jest, at the same time I would argue that it is equally wrong to put them on a pedestal as an ideal or a model. To critique a period is to risk creating a false sense of superiority that blinds us to our own created faults. This is the privilege of being able to see our own privilege, to see the oppression around us and choose to do something or to do nothing.

Being socially aware is not just about knowing, as is the case with all kinds of awareness, but using that knowledge. This is me using that knowledge to further educate others, to say that I don't think this is okay and change needs to happen.

I'm working on it, are you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

On recent gay teen suicides

I've been relatively disconnected from a lot of the queer community the last few weeks, my information systems are down since I'm so busy working on other relevant causes in my area.

Partly motivated by the prospect of Mallard's ice cream, partly by the fact that everyone in the QPOC (Queer People of Color) meeting I'd just attended were going and partly by a desire to be more social in the WWU queer community, I went to the LGBTA Ice Cream Social on campus Thursday.

I saw people I knew, people I didn't know. I ended up volunteering myself to run the button making table because I know how to work the button machines. So I failed miserably at the social part, but I've just accepted that as the way my life works. You go places and you become a part of whatever you go to, the sociality is the action of being involved. My roommate will tell you it's me being a yes man, but I disagree. What authority do I submit to by stepping up?

In the wake of 6 suicides nationally by gay teens, happening just on the periphery of what I know is going on in the world, I find it especially heartening that Western has such a vibrant, diverse and open presence for the LGBTQ community. TRANSport, QAAFA (Queers and Allies for Activism), QPOC to name but a few closer to campus. I can take off the rose tinted glasses long enough to recognize that there are problems, it isn't perfect, Western and Bellingham have work to do to take meaningful steps towards true queer inclusiveness, but compared to a lot of places, we have resources.

So even though I have plenty of other things on my plate, I've decided to apply for an internship in the LGBTA offices. I don't know if I'll get the position, and I'm sure even if I don't I'll be involved in some way, but this is a step for me, taking ownership of part of this identity I create and showing exactly how much of an impact I can have by being the queer I am.

I'll edit and post my own video when I get around to making one. But it gets better.

I'm not going to list them here, because I believe that if you're reading this, you probably already care enough to have already looked up resources online. And there are resources out there.