(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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gender Label

There were probably a few things I missed... but here's a selection:

My gender is
ALWAYS!, active, activist, ally, anarchist, artsy, beautiful, bi-romantic, bitch, bottom, boy, boy in a skirt, brother, bubbly, caring, child, complex, counselor, creative, cuddly, curious, dog, dork, dude, dunno yet, etc., extrovert, eyeliner fag, fairy, feline, feminist, free, friend, friendly, gay, gay-friendly, gender bender, gender blender, gender fluid, glittery, human, indecisive, intelligent, LGBTQ, LGBTQA, LGBTQIOPPS, leftist, lover, loving, male-bodied, male-born, man, me, metrosexual, multifacetted, odd, open, passionate, philosopher, pomosexual, prettyboy, privileged, pro-sex feminist, queer, queer liberationist, quirky, right-brained, romantic, sassy, sensitive, sex positive, sexy, sissy, slut, snuggly, spiritual, student, sweet, trustworthy, understanding, whore, wife, XY
What's yours?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

UV Rays in the Wintertime

I used a tanning bed for the first time the other day. It's not something I foresee myself doing often, but given I paid $40 on a package deal so I could use a coupon and get two free sessions, I'll at least go seven times.

The experience made me realize among other things that tanning by and large is a white-people problem, or more precisely a problem for people with a range of skin tones between brown and translucent. As the safety disclosure agreement I signed before I was allowed in read somewhere in the fine print, “if you don't tan in the sun, you won't tan in a tanning bed.”

If I were trying to get a tan, I have the perfect skin tone for it. I'm not so pigmentally-challenged that I burn easily and I'm not so dark that a tan would go unnoticed.

Given that it's December, I'm in my light time of the year.

The machines are hardwired not to run for more than 20 minutes, as a safety precaution to protect stupid people from baking themselves alive. As I was checking in, the receptionist said I could probably go in for 14 minutes since this was my first session.

The friend who'd convinced me to go had gone in for 14 minutes a few days before and come out just barely reddening. I think I could have gotten away with 16 minutes before I would have needed to worry about that, but with all the worry bandied about around skin cancer and UV radiation, it's probably for the best that I didn't.

Each tanning bed had it's own room. Throw in an intercom system, a few crying children and a six item limit, and we might as well have been in the dressing room of some department store.

The whole process was a little sterile. Metaphorically and literally, there was a little tri-fold placard sitting on the towel next to my tanning goggles that told me the tanning bed was sterilized. While business is light this time of year, I couldn't help but imagine the kind of horrors the smiling receptionists have had to clean up after in these tanning beds. Realistically, probably very little since there's a bathroom for your convenience and I imagine the kind of clientele that a tanning salon attracts would shower fairly regularly before considering climbing into one of these glass coffins.

I stripped down to my underwear before shutting myself into a glowing doom. I would say I was too shy to go naked, but here underwear means fashion jock so I might as well have been naked.

Hitting the blue button on the wall turned on the body-length tubes that buzzed faintly with the energy flowing through them. A fan at the foot of the bed whirred ominously the entire time. It made me feel like I was lying down in the eye of a small, strangely horizontal hurricane of light.

At first I was worried that I would get bored. I'd forgotten my mp3 player in my rush out the door and even had I brought it, I'm not sure I was ready to figure out the plug and play system somewhere in the vicinity above my head. But soon enough I let myself relax and fell into some of the deep breathing techniques I use during meditation.

After the first few minutes in this painfully bright, bluish light I started to feel a slight warmth on my skin. Once I relaxed I might as well have been laying on a beach. A beach where the light comes from beneath you as well as the sky, but sunny and warm and kind of pleasant to lay on if you don't plan on being there super long.

Fourteen minutes later everything shut off with a start. My session had come to an end. I climbed out of the machine and dressed, meeting my friends out in the lobby. As we walked away, I felt a smile inextricably pulling at the corner of my lips. This was an endorphin high of a different kind than you get from exercise or sex, it was more like a tall cup of yerbe mate on an empty stomach. For that first hour or two afterward life felt exceedingly good. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gay Fiction

I've always been reticent when it comes to LGB fiction, as if there's something about it that drives me away. I've read my fair share and almost always come away from it with a question: Where are the voices that speak for me?

If you look at most pop-fiction for gay male youth, it's either the tortured angst of coming out or some slightly less tortured, teen romance. Looking at a lot of the literature for the older set, we come across pages written by the justifiably angry gays who spent the 70s and 80s fighting for visibility and the right to march in something as outrageous as a Pride Parade, now a little bit older, a little bit settled in.

A long standing in joke amongst my friends says I never came out as gay so much as I came out as Danny. That kind of intense romance was okay when my body was swimming in enough of its hormones that I even had crushes on a few girls. Having grown up in a culture where Pride Parades have reached enough mainstream appeal that they can be sponsored by Budweiser, I think I'm what's called the epitome of Millenial apathy, at least when it comes to a homogenized subculture that while I respect it's history, is the stuff of history books (or as is more likely the case, Wikipedia searches).

I'm among the first in a generation of fairies standing on the shoulders of giants, bears, self-styled trannies and assorted other woodland creatures to see at least hints of equality in America. Yes, the racial, class and gender divides meanwhile are even farther from equality, but from certain perspectives we're closer than we've ever been.

We're here, we're queer and we're not something you've seen before. We're the generation saturated in postmodernism from birth onward. I was part of a panel discussion my junior year of college on what it means to be queer in community and one of the panelists could barely answer our questions because of the contextual differences created by the age gap. The very fact that we could ask about a “queer community” at all was astounding.

It's not apathy that we face; it's a paradigm shift. There is an intimate connection between generation theory, activism and sexuality that I don't think current discourse has completely taken into account yet.

So again I ask, where are the voices that speak for me and those like me?

They don't exist. Or rather, they're out on the streets protesting the color/gender/class-blind ideology and practices of reactionary mainstream movements. They're in classrooms laughing at all the silly little boys and girls who still have this image of feminism as bra-burning and man-bashing, writing papers and quoting names like Judith Butler and Michel Foucault. They're homeless on the streets. They're on social networking sites like tumblr, aggregating information and resources and the occasional funny image so that others can stumble upon their tumblogs and make better sense of the world.

And really, when it comes down to it, do I want any other voices other than my own representing me? No, but I would like just once to find a story about a queer that I can relate to without being sickened by the cliches and stereotypes and heteronormative tropes and the bad writing. It's a wonder people even know what queer is since the literature is hidden away in academia rather than mingling with the masses and making itself known.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Finals Week

I woke up today and I felt stressed.

I felt worried and sad and hurt.

But then as I got up and walked to campus I looked around at the trees and the clouds and I decided that I'm not going to let my stress hold me back and keep me from being happy, beautiful, lovable me.

Since I have short break in the middle of my finals week, I'm getting STI testing done today. I'm not concerned that I have anything, but I've been sexually active for almost a year and a half and this is long overdue. Getting tested isn't just about me, it's also about the health and safety of my current partner, and that's something I'm trying to be responsible about.

Forgive this long-(short-)winded ramble, my mind is in eight and a half different places right now. Perhaps I should find somewhere quiet on campus since I'm up and about and meditate. Or exercise, that always helps.

I'm stressed, but I also feel calm, serene even.

It's still there, this stress, walking beside me, but I'm holding its hand, telling it thank you for reminding me I'm human. Thank you stress for reminding me that life is a challenge and I'm winning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rowing Dreams?

Dreamt last night I was pledging some kind of frat. It was more a movie gaze than a 

There were like ten of us in a barracks together and it was very clear either myself or one other guy would be the leader within our group, so to test us, they sent a sorority to kidnap us. Took us out on a lake where apparently the western men and women's rowing teams were having some kind of skirmish regatta. 

I ended up on one of the coach barges but we hadn't been out on the water more than five minutes when it was needed for the regatta so myself and the boat driver got shoved into the back of a women's eight. Somehow they rowed with us sitting between them. We passed two men's eights warming up and two singles that looked mostly capsized racing. I remember seeing my friend Thomas in one of the eights. At first I thought he was coxing, but when I looked again, he was stroke seat. One of the singles had a blonde guy with long hair in it and he must have been defying the laws of physics to still be rowing at that point, the boat was so far under water.

We went past the finish line and exit launch and turned around. Somehow on the way back we took a wrong turn and ended up in a narrow canal with barely enough room for the boat, it conveyor belted us past the start launch and out of the water. We had to carry it back and it was mostly my friend Alix and I with it on our heads at opposite ends.If it hadn't been for Alix and I it would have been dropped multiple times, no one knew how to carry a boat.

It was a funky black shell that had fold away handles. Someone behind me mentioned Cy being short. Got it back to the water and the women took over. 

Back in the barracks somehow it was very clear i'd won the leadership challenge but was still under scrutiny. I was showering when everyone walked in. Approached my counterpart since he looked really disappointed. He essentially hadn't made the frat-thing. I asked him how he felt about watching the rowers since he and most of the guys seemed fascinated. I told him that if he doesn't make it he should consider joining the team as an alternative.

Woke up feeling powerful and inspired, like I can do good in the world. Today will be a good day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This Text is a Sheep in [Beo]wulf's Clothing

Alrighty, lovely blog readers, as promised, here's a copy of the paper I wrote for my English 307 class.

When the Roman Empire departed Britain at the beginning of the fifth century, it took with it the military might that protected the island nation so that there was little resistance when the pagan Angles and Saxons invaded and took over, their culture quickly becoming dominant. In part because of the early Christianization of Britain by the Romans, when mission work returned to England conversion became a far easier task. Beowulf, transcribed in the early years of 1000 but purported to have been taken from an oral narrative with origins as early as 700, reflects the competing influences of the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture and the Christian church in England. 

While it predominantly follows the hero narrative more traditional of the Anglo-Saxon paganism, the Christian influence on the written record of Beowulf paints not only a Christ-like image of the title character, but an evangelical one to readers that serves to transform the hero into an allegorical redemptive savior. By characterizing Beowulf as both a hero and a Christ-figure, he bridges the gaps between Anglo-Saxon paganism and Christianity.

In setting up Beowulf to arrive as savior, the first part of the story takes place in the Danish kingdom Hrothgar rules where the people still followed the Norse religious practices that would be familiar to the Anglo-Saxons. When the Danes are first beset by Grendel, they

offered honor to idols
At pagan temples, prayed aloud
That the [devil] might offer assistance
In the country’s distress. Such was their custom,
The hope of heathens.” (175-179).

The Danes prayed to their non-Christian gods because none of the Danish warriors could defeat the monster besieging their kingdom. As an evangelical text setting the stage for Beowulf as a Christ-like savior, it is important to characterize the Danes as both non-Christian and ineffective against Grendel. In his rebuttal to Unferth’s story, one of the first things Beowulf does is recognize that the Danes do not resist Grendel's attacks (591). When Beowulf and his men land on Danish soil, they are wished “the almighty Father guard you in his grace” (316) as they continue their journey to King Hrothgar. While grace in this line is suggestive of “almighty Father” as meaning the Christian God, given the pagan roots of the Danes, it is more plausible that “almighty Father” refers to the Norse god Woden who was commonly referred to as the “All-Father.” From such strong conditions of paganism attributed to the Danes, who are unable to defend themselves, the poem begins to set the case that it is only as an outsider that Beowulf is able to defeat the monster in battle. This is developed throughout the rest of the poem up until Beowulf’s battle with Grendel where it is ultimately proved true. Beowulf is distinguished as an outsider both by being a foreigner and by his Christian faith. Again and again it is emphasized that Beowulf is a Geat, both in the repetition of his lineage and in his address. 

In his opening speech to Hrothgar, Beowulf, after establishing his lineage and knowledge of the Dane's plight, mentions putting “his faith in the Lord's Judgement” (440-441). Within Norse mythology, references to the gods were not as commonly related in terms of “faith” and “judgement” as is the case in Christian language.The Geatish warrior is the first character after Hrothgar to make reference to the Christian God. When Hrothgar tells his retainers that “Holy God in His Grace has guided [Beowulf] to us” (381-382) it is tempting to make the same attributions to Woden as with the sea guard, but the use of the Old English “Holy” here is reflective of the Latin use of sanctus more than the original Old English use meaning “whole” or “inviolate” (OED). The language Hrothgar uses here is indicative of a Latin and therefore Christian influence. This characterizes Hrothgar as king being just above the pagan morals of his people. While he is of the Danes, his Christian faith alone is not enough to save them, it does not lend them the authority of the non-pagan influence needed to fight Grendel. It is in part the Christianity of the great hero Beowulf that allows him to defeat the monster where all others are unable.

Beowulf cannot enter the kingdom and defeat the monster without first proving himself and in doing so converting the Danes. To save the Danes from the monster, Beowulf must first save the Danes from their pagan ways. When challenged by Unferth with the story of his race against Brecca, Beowulf counters with a list of accomplishments that while having caused him to lose the race, showed himself as a far greater warrior (529~). When Wealhtheow approaches, Beowulf’s words “well pleased that woman” (639). By his actions and words in the mead hall, Beowulf’s boasting impresses the Danes so that they will accept him as a hero of great renown. It is shown that they accept him when Hrothgar entrusts to Beowulf “the great hall of the Danes” for the first time since he “could hold and hoist a shield” (656). This early in the narrative, it is harder to imagine the impact of such a symbolic action, but in accepting Beowulf as their savior from Grendel, the Danes are also accepting his faith and Christianity. Beowulf, taken as an allegorical figure, as the most Christ-like character is Christianity so when the Danes accept Beowulf, they are accepting a proxy of Christ.

This change becomes apparent when Hrothgar speaks at the feast following Grendel’s defeat at the hands of Beowulf and is further shown after Beowulf defeats Grendel’s mother. The very first thing Hrothgar does is offer thanks to the Almighty and gives praise to the “Shepherd of glory” who works “wonder upon wonder” (930~). All of Hrothgar’s language after the defeat of the monsters by Beowulf is greatly saturated with references to God compared to the scant one or two mentions he makes before Beowulf’s victory. At the end of this first speech, Hrothgar gives honor to whatever woman had “borne such a son into the race of men” and says that “the God of Old was good to her in childbearing” (945). While an indirect reference at best, this suggests a comparison between Beowulf and Christ through a blessed mother, i.e. Mary.

Beowulf’s characterization to resemble Christ throughout the rest of the text furthers this acceptance by Anglo-Saxon readers of Christ-as-Beowulf as their Savior. When Beowulf searches out Grendel’s mother, he comes to a place that, to the Anglo-Saxon people, would very closely resemble hell. In some respects paralleling the narrative of the harrowing of hell, Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother is like the story told of Christ in the days between his death on the cross and the Resurrection. Beowulf descends into the depths of this hell-place, defeats a devil and returns with a prize. While he is gone, he is assumed dead by the unfaithful Danes, but when he returns it is as if he is resurrected and the faithful Geats rejoice (1600). In Hrothgar’s speech after the defeat of Grendel’s mom, he says that Beowulf’s “glory is exalted throughout the world, over every people” (1704). Coupled with a few lines from the very end of the text where Beowulf is described by his people after his death “of all the kings of the world, mildest of men and most gentle, the kindest of his folk and the most eager for fame” (3180-3183), we can see how Beowulf is placed so far above normal men. Like Christ, he is a king of kings and is honored as such wherever he goes. When he returns home, he is offered land for the deeds he has done and treated as highly as nobility as any king or prince.

The kind of glory that Beowulf seeks throughout the narrative brings him fame and wealth. This search stems from a Germanic tradition of seeking glory and fame by going out and fighting monsters and wars to acquire wealth, but by virtue of Beowulf’s characterization also contains connotations of Christian glory, which is glory through and for God. This duality is reflected in Beowulf’s last word when, after having Wiglaf go to the den of the dragon and bring some treasures to show his dying lord, Beowulf first thanks “the eternal Lord, King of Glory” (2796). Beowulf’s constant reference to the Christian God makes his self-sacrifice in giving up his life to defeat the dragon for his people makes him even more Christ-like. 

Not once does the text mention any attempt made by King Hrothgar to defeat Grendel for the Danes, so as a King in a similar position later in life, Beowulf does not need to face the monster himself. Like Hrothgar he could choose to send his thanes out to fight it or wait for an adventuring hero to do the work for him, but he chooses to give up himself for the higher good of his people. In doing so, he is ensuring their safety by saving them from the dragon; by defeating the dragon he is gaining immeasurable wealth, fame and glory; and like Christ on the cross he is giving up himself so that they may live thereby attaining for them glory through God.

As much as he is characterized as Christ-like, it is where Beowulf fails as a Christ-figure that emphasizes the evangelical nature of this text and makes his character a better bridge between the Norse/Germanic influences of the Anglo-Saxons and the incoming Christian powers. When Beowulf is introduced to Hrothgar's court, he is challenged, his authority and renown are questioned. To counter this, he boasts of all his accomplishments (Sections 6, 8, 9). While such boasting defies the humility of Christian teaching, it would be a familiar cultural practice amongst the Anglo-Saxons. As discussed above, Beowulf's journey is partly inspired by a search for treasure. He does his work as a warrior for fame and glory, to gain renown. Like the boasting, this material focus is un-Christian behavior, but is a perfect example of the Germanic tradition in Beowulf. While he is characterized as a Christ-like, he is still very much a product of the Anglo-culture familiar to Old English readers. Where Beowulf crosses this gap and fits uncomfortably in both sides of the pagan/Christian duality he acts effectively as a bridge between them. Anglo-Saxons reading this story are more likely to accept the hero-Beowulf with all the aspects of Christian-Beowulf in tow.

By portraying Beowulf as a Christ-figure, his actions and the relations he has to the Danes and Geats serve an evangelical purpose. Within the text, Beowulf as an Anglo-Saxon hero is treated as Christ, turning the hero of a pagan tradition into the savior of a Christian one. This mixing of two legendary figures creates a common ground between the two conflicting cultures, making Christianity more easily acceptable to the pagan Anglo-Saxon audience. Beowulf the text, like Beowulf the character, inserts itself into the culture of the people, bringing with it a host of Christian faith to reacquaint them with ideas and themes that would seem fairly common. It shows that by taking in Christ, here represented as Beowulf, they can be saved.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Untitled Post

As human beings, we spend so much of our time and energy screaming, “Understand me, understand me, for the love of God, someone please understand me.” We scream until we are hoarse, until we lose our voices and fall to the ground of exhaustion.

And yet somehow we fail to hear the multitude of voices surrounding us, screaming in time with equal amounts of pain and frustration and longing. We fail to notice the equal vacuum of need pulling at us from all sides.

It is a sad state of affairs when we cannot acknowledge our own hurt, let alone that of those around us.

So I'm trying to retrain myself.

Whisper with me, “Help me understand you.”

It seems so simple. Create a pocket of silence in this chaos and wait. Transform our own energy and need into something useful.

Recognize the world isn't about me.

I need that reminder from time to time. The world isn't about me, I cannot focus on my wants and needs alone, but this also means I cannot be everywhere for everyone. We are not superheroes. It is selfish and arrogant to think that we must solve everyone else's problems.

Rather, and this is something I've learned from social justice communities, we must strive to empower people to take action for themselves, stepping in with further action only when it is absolutely necessary.

So what is most valuable in a world where all anyone wants is attention, love, validation? How do we empower people to find this within themselves?

Start with leading by example. Instead of adding to the noise, remove yourself from it. Turn down the volume even just a fraction. People are drawn to silence, to the open heart and listening ear. It's something we can feel from deep within.

To understand another, you must first start by seeking to understand yourself better. I don't think it's ever possible to understand yourself fully, but in coming to terms with the fact that we will never completely understand and accepting this, we gain something immeasurable. We gain the ability to move on and instead work on being ourselves.

If this sounds absurd to you. If it sounds ridiculously easy, easier said than done, I am not challenging you. It is indeed easier said than done, but this is no reason not to do it anyways.

So go out and find yourself. Come back to me with your findings. Help me understand you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why Don't We Talk About Sex the Way We Talk About Food?

On Monday night, the Sexual Awareness Center office will be showing the documentary Let's Talk About Sex. While I urge anyone reading this to go to that film showing at 6pm in VU 522, I am not writing this blog post as a representative of that office. Considering we live in a culture that inundates itself with sex, where “sex sells” and “everybody's doing it,” we're awfully reticent to having frank and open discussions about sex and sexuality.

For eight years, we had a Presidential administration that almost exclusively advocated abstinence only sex education,which given rates of sexual abuse, unplanned pregnancy, sexual violence, and sexually transmitted infections (STI), completely ignores the fact that young people are having sex and under an abstinence-only model are having sex unprepared for the consequences of their actions.

The problem though is not merely systemic, it's cultural as well. We don't allow ourselves a space to healthily discuss sex. Within the public domain, we rarely hear about condoms until at least puberty, and even then the focus is on preventing pregnancy with little to no mention of STI prevention. Few parents would be able to overcome their embarrassment to bring up condom use to a teenager beyond surreptitiously leaving a pack bedside and assuming they'll know what to do with it.

Even this discourse completely ignores the range of emotional and social pressures that come along with sex.

About six months ago, I purchased a copy of the Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides, an irreverent, comprehensive sex manual that with glossary covers 982 pages. At times it exhibits language that makes me uncomfortable for its misogynistic, heteronormative or culturally-incompetent connotations, but it attempts to be inclusive and is reflective of the idiomatic culture that spawned it, so I would still recommend it for anyone interested about sex.

My favorite part about this guide is not its wide range of sexual positions and detailed descriptions of what to do in bed, for that kind of information I would actually recommend you to a copy of the Kama Sutra or Cosmo, but the way in which this book emphasizes the connection and communication between partners.

Most sex ed that I've encountered deals almost exclusively with the mechanics of conception and rarely STI prevention. This is your basic anatomy. This is how it functions to make a baby. This is everything that can go wrong. If you're going to have sex, use protection or die. What's missing from this approach is pleasure. It tells you nothing about how to make sex better, which comes most strongly from responding to what you and your partner want.

Now, I've been an advocate for good communication skills probably since about the time I became literate. Sexual literacy and communication is no different. A sexual relationship is still, first and foremost, a relationship. Even if it's casual hook-up sex, if only one partner thinks of it that way, problems will occur.

Having sex with another person is intimate. We're trained to keep it behind closed doors both physically and mentally. So acknowledging that you're with another person who has wants and needs and boundaries is the first thing we should be teaching youth.

If your brain is the most important sexual organ, your ears are the second.

Part of what will help make this process of education easier is changing the way we talk about sex. The other day I was at a presentation by Cynthia Morrison from the Washington State Department of Health and a question she asked our scant audience of eight was why do we not talk about sex the way we talk about eating.

The question was mostly meant to address language use in a sex positive culture. Consider for a moment the slang used for masturbation. Jacking off, beating one out, spanking the monkey, choking the chicken, ad nauseum, I would go on, but doesn't this list seem rather violent, and it only really talks about male masturbation. Or for another matter, what does it mean that some of the worst insults are related to body parts?

I like to eat standing in the kitchen as I'm making food for other people. Sitting down is a rarity.

I like to fuck in bed, being penetrated while on top, riding my partner.

Okay, so you wouldn't exactly talk about sex the way you talk about eating and I apologize if that last sentence gave any of you far too graphic mental images of me, but the language we use is important. I would rather hear about spicy, succulent, delicate, aromatic, tasty things in bed than I would this pseudo-violent harder, faster, aren't-I-such-a-good-little-bitch, use me, rhetoric we most often ascribe to sex. 

Can you imagine if it were the other way around? You're a bad apple, I'm going to have to take a bite out of you and swallow you whole. 

Yeah... this is still a developing series of thoughts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The true-life account of a conversation I have at least once a week

“So, Danny, what are you majoring in?”

“Um, I'm actually double majoring.”

“Oh wow, really? In what?”

“English Lit and Kinesiology.”

Short pause.

“That's an interesting combination, what are you going to do with it?”

How the conversation reaches this point changes, but the exact wording of the exact same questions is surprisingly stable for the number of times I've had to explain myself.

I like English. I've known since about the eighth grade that when I went to college I would most likely would end up as an English major. Sure, there was a period in high school where I considered a Journalism major, but this was only because it was similar enough to English and would have allowed me to continue in my passion for journalism. I realized pretty quickly after getting to college that my passion wasn't for journalism itself, but for the journalism community I had build up around me in high school.

So as I neared the end of my sophomore year, I was struggling. I was running out of GUR classes to take and needed to declare in order to get into the upper division classes I would take within whatever major I chose.

As I sat with this decision, I knew I didn't want to be one of those people who starts at university straight of high school and takes forever to finish their undergraduate degree because they waffled and wavered and switched majors five times. I didn't want to get so far in a program only to realize it wasn't for me with a year left before graduation.

So I looked around me. I had one professor tell me that if I went into English I should be prepared to work in a non-English field. There are so many people majoring in English out there, but only so many jobs related, and with the critical thinking abilities you get through an English major you're able to go into things like teaching or data analysis or even law should you apply yourself in that direction.

As an English Lit major I've learned to deconstruct a text, to pick it apart and analyze it in order to see both the broad implications and the minute interrelations between facets. This appeals to me. I love reading something and just mulling it over until I see the socio-cultural, political, narrative, historical implications. For example, rereading books by Orson Scott Card with the knowledge of his conservative politics has completely reshaped how I interpret them.

I'm a better feminist, queer and activist because I can better understand the plurality of discourses at work in any given conversation. That kind of bigger picture, holistic mindset is something I've learned to strive toward.

But at some point I realized this isn't what I want to do. I want to do this and I want to apply it everywhere in my life, but it's not something I want to make a career out of. So I looked at what else fascinates me and eventually concluded that the only other fields of study that really held my interest were related to human bodies.

There are multiple reasons for this, not the least of which stemmed from watching my mother go through physical therapy the latter half of my high school career. As an extrovert with an interest in serving people, a health-related field seems natural in a way. That and my experience rowing on the crew team gave me an appreciation and understanding of myself I never knew I had.

Yeah, in all reality I was the weakest guy on the team, but I was consistent and determined and absolutely captivated by the dynamics of movement involved: the kinesthetics, chemistry, and physics behind each muscle contraction, the leverage necessary to generate each little movement, all of them have captured my attention. And it taught me to be physical, that I can do something with my body beyond just move from place to place.

Growing up I was always a bookworm, eschewing the outdoors and ball games of my peers in favor of flying through the works of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and countless others. In a similar way, I've come to appreciate the human body as a book I want to learn to read. Not just muscles either; the whole thing, from nutrition to psychology to immune responses.

And as a double major with English, I can do that. If I take the time to understand material, I feel like I can explain it and make connections clearer than I would be able to otherwise.

That's not exactly why I'm double majoring, which has far more to do with me being stubborn and wanting to be well-rounded.  But it helps explain why I would choose such disparate majors.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I saw a squirrel today. It had picked up a discarded apple core, carried it up a tree, and sat on a branch to eat it. Something about this made me smile, so I walked back and took a picture.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Linguist Boy: A Missed Connection

So I posted this poem to Craigslist earlier. We'll see how this goes.


Linguist Boy

Linguist boy,
I would forgive you your bilabial trills
if you would do the math
and make them quadrilabial.
Would you, for me,
cut down that Indo-European tree
so we can keep warm in its ashes?
Linguist boy,
save some sibilants
for my ears in the dark
and maybe I'll teach you
the anatomy I've been learning.
See, that fricative is begging me to stop,
but you left it unvoiced
and it got swallowed in the laryngal folds.
Linguist boy,
I want to explore that interdental space
and touch your alveolar ridge with my tongue.
The topography of your body
is a morphology I want to learn to read
but the phonetics contains sounds
I've never heard before.
Here's a clause, let's draw a tree:
"Linguist boy," that's a noun phrase
with embedded adjective phrase. Linguist describing boy.
"warm up my bed."
I admit the verb phrase suffers some
lexical ambiguity.
Do I mean warm as in heat
or warm as in ffffffuriction
between all those parts you linguists ignore?
We can blend our bodies like
two free morphemes to make something new.
Linguist boy,
do you consider "boyfriend" to be monomorphemic,
or are we two free morphemes
unbound by labels and only loosely 
connected by word order?
These looks and smiles we share
have a semantics of attraction,
but the meaning gets lost in 
a convoluted syntax of time and distance:
wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.
Linguist boy, 
have I said too much?
I don't want this to be the 
false etymology of a relationship, 
but maybe you can pause
and analyze my language variation. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Western Front: Censorship and spending

I've decided that if I want to call myself a former student journalist, I should start reading my campus publication regularly. Activists throw around words like solidarity, but I think it's equally viable to apply the term to other ares (and I think in many forms journalism has the potential to act as a stimulus for activism). It's also good policy for knowing some of what's going on.

So let's start with yesterday's Volume 156 Issue13, November 1, 2011.

I'm tempted to play a game of count the inaccuracies, but that's just mean and detracts from the content. So I'll focus on two stories that caught my eye.

The first, an unobstrusive seeming piece that starts hidden in the bottom right corner of the front page, has a headline that seems rather dry: “Resolution would ask publications to censor content in online archives” but blossoms into what must easily be a 1200 word piece when it continues on page four that is further continued in an editorial on page 12. This was my first clue that this was a story stirring up trouble in the WF offices. Journalists report the news, they don't make the news, why would they be writing so much about something they're directly involved in?

Ah, censorship.

It's a bane of the journalist's existence, more so of student journalist who have to deal not only with media law and ethics, but campus ethics and codes and policies. So what is this resolution that has our friends at the Western Front scared? Apparently there's a little something-something dancing around on the Student Senate floor saying that online content could be subject for removal or alteration.
In short, because of the ease with which it's possible to make changes to digital media, someone says it might be worthwhile to erase some of those ill-conceived comments made by students that could otherwise be construed as indiscretions.

I'm sorry, but I have no sympathy for that line of thinking. Assuming this isn't some kind of undercover operation that would never happen with a campus publication, if you're being spoken to by a journalist (and if they're interviewing you in such a way that you could be quoted, you'll know they're a reporter, they'll have said so), you should always triple think what you say before you say it.

If we were all minors, it would be one thing. The vetting and verification process for content would likely be a little more rigorous and permissions might be a sticking point, but this is college. We're supposed to be adults. In fact, any of us could be interviewed by national news organizations and all our stupid little “um”s and “like”s could be broadcast to the world. A college paper, not so tough cookies. If we need to limit what gets posted by our campus publications, what's the point in having them?

And that is what's scary about censorship.

The other story that caught my eye was a guest column about university spending during budget cuts that made me want to cry a little. Why don't people research how the system works? Buchannan Towers are not being remodeled, those things under construction were additions so we could fit more students (i.e. more freshmen crowding classrooms and helping split the cost of our ever growing tuition).

The money for that was likely budgeted and allocated to that project at least a full year before it began. I'm assuming a good chunk of the funding came from some kind of donations or government grants having to do with building maintenance and updates that while significant in amount tend to be fairly regulated and specific in what they're used for. If the state gives me ten thousand dollars but with the stipulation that I have to use it for shoes, if I try to buy socks, they're going to take it away, so I'm going to buy as many shoes as I can. That's a reality of the way these kinds of institutions work.

It's a similar story with the rebranding brought up in this guest column. The money was spent a while ago, we're just now seeing the results. And for a corporation like a university, because yes, the two are increasingly similar in how they're run (how long until I can call up CEO Bruce Shepard?), branding is important. It's how you get more of those out of state students (holla to my OSSA peeps) who you can charge higher fees to help offset the money you're losing from in-state students losing higher education funding from the state.

Rather than piss and moan about how Western is spending it's money, why not yell and shout (or send a polite but strongly worded email to) your state representatives who are allowing all these cuts to higher education? The AS Board, and especially our Vice President of Legislative Affairs (there's something so satisfying about typing out the entire title instead of VP of LegAff) Iris are working their asses off to get people riled up enough to show the state that Western has had enough.

When people say vote with your wallet, they usually mean give money where it's worth giving, but I also think it should mean vote with your wallet in mind and choose people who are going to represent you and spend your tax dollars the way you want it to be spent.

Anyways, that's my two cents on the news. Someone give me a dollar and maybe I'll write about the whole issue next time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Coming Out Day 2011

While I respect the institutional and personal need for coming out that makes it an empowering experience for a lot of people, and I accept that because of this fact coming out has socio-historical significance for the majority of GLBT people, FUCK National Coming Out Day.

Come out when you're ready to. Don't let some nationalized agenda tell you that you have to come out today. Come out however works best for your situation be that to select people that matter or to the whole rainbows and glitter, campy universe.

The closet is full of more than just rainbows or childhood monsters and the door isn't always easy to open so once you're there, celebrate being out every day of your life by living out, not just today.

Think OUTside the box and challenge the normative institutions and thought systems that oppress you. OUTreach to the populations that will help you as well as those that need your help. The OUTcry of your actions will OUTdo any opposition.

This OUTburst is an exercise. Queer as in fuck you, shit gets complicated. I've been OUTraged and OUTfitted with the tools of expression to make it known:

Out requires an in.

But what about beside? What about around, encompassing? Even if I'd been in the closet, it couldn't hold me because this little nightlight is too damn bright.

Dammit if that in isn't going to be the best place to standOUT in a crowd. Twist and shOUT no need to pOUT, this is what I'm all abOUT.

Be daring and bold. Be warm and cold. Be so far OUT that the world is your closet and identity your clothes.

Am I making sense? Do these synapse connections collect inf(l)ections I don't mean?

I didn't think so.

There's a plurality OUT there. Thought you should be aware.

And if I'm flaunting a privilege, so be it. Humble me. Pride comes before a fall.

Coming out from sea to shining fucking sea.

I don't believe in out.

Only a socially constructed ideal of what it means to be gay.

Have it your way.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Anthems from the Collective

Anthem n. A song with rousing, emotive, qualities, often one identified with a particular subculture, social group, or cause.

So over the last month or two I've been putting together a playlist I'm calling "Anthems from the Collective." But being that I'm only one young man, I'm kind of limited on the number of contributions I can make and be able to call this a collective endeavor. This, dear reader, is where you can be of service to me.

Do you have any songs that speak to you no matter your mood, no matter where you are or who you're with? Songs that scream and dance and hit you over the head saying, "Hey, you with the ears, we should do this together"? Send them to me so I can add your anthem to the collective.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

A preface: Though I speak them and share them, the words that follow aren't mine. They're yours, synthesized and stolen from the calmness of your eyes, the whisper of your breath from across the room, the gentle curve of your spine against the chair. They're our words. Feel this.

There is a path that leads nowhere,
 leads to nothing.
It is not a path you follow
and it is not a path you take.
It is a path of Enlightenment.
Many will dismiss it,
ignoring the call of future-past.
Many walk it unknowing.
At times it is wide as the deepest river.
At times it disappears amongst the undergrowth.
As you walk with it,
 You will come to know its many moods.
Some days it will caress you with falling leaves.
Others it will batter you with branches hurled by gales.
But keep walking. Always continue walking.
There is a lesson to be learned.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Life is one big collaborative art project." ~quote from camp this week

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thoughts on the "new" Spiderman

Reading articles like this one about the new Spiderman depresses me for a few reasons.

1) The racial outrage that Marvel would dare to create a non-white hero.

C'mon America, your demographics are changing. There are more people of color in your borders than you're willing to recognize so shut up and let them do some talking instead of subscribing to the same kind of Western imperial ideologies that have silenced them and plagued us for generations. Miles Morales is half-black, half-Hispanic, this totally fits with the subversive history Marvel is known for (anyone care to remember how the X-men were/are originally a poorly done metaphor for racial tensions in the 60s?).

2) The ignorance of the fact that this is happening in the Marvel Ultimates universe, a separate continuity to reflect a more contemporary readership.

According to the Wikipedia page (a source I trust in this instance because no self-respecting comic book geek would let there be inaccuracies), Ultimate Marvel was meant as a new continuity for a new generation of comic readers, so the argument that having a non-white Spiderman flies in the face of the history of the character is invalid. This is not for the people who grew up with Spiderman, it's for the people growing up with Spiderman.

Peter Parker is alive and kicking in the standard Marvel universe.

This actually bugs me a little for other reasons as well. The fact that Marvel has to utilize an entirely separate universe to allow for something like the death of Peter Park and birth of Miles Morales shows institutionalized racism of the industry. This is a step in the right direction, yes, but the fact that it would be impossible to pull off in the "regular" or "original" Marvel universe brings to light some of the inherent problems with comic books when it comes to race.

As long as Miles doesn't end up being some kind of tokenized "ethno-diversity man" character, I'm happy for him. Though the way the "could be gay" comments by writers have been misinterpreted by the media and taken by the hoardes of internets, let's just say I don't have very high hopes. You go, web-slinger!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Directive: Challenge Authority

A common theme I've run into with English classes here in college is this idea of challenging authority, disrupting the status quo, subverting the established social order, questioning power and in short: thinking for myself. Postmodernism (poststructuralism, deconstruction, whatever you choose to call the greater majority of contemporary academia and critical theory) is all about shining the light on binary systems and showing how nothing is real. Nothing as we know it, from gender to life and death to sexuality to religion is based in a concrete, objective reality. The very idea of reality is false if we can augment and change it through thought, through will, through technology.

There are some who would say I'm oversimplifying, that this critique misses the nuances of the movement and that none of these things are the same and that using postmodernism as this kind of umbrella term to attack is wrong. I see it as this kind of amorphous octopoidal construction that serves its own purpose as a reaction to its own socio-cultural and historical influences

Paradox: If I challenge authority, I must challenge the original directive (to challenge authority), but in doing so I would be obeying and failing to challenge, risking complacency and blind following.

Feedback Loop.

We then cannot rephrase the directive with the potential implied meaning: Challenge all authority but mine. To take this Directive into the appropriate context, challenge authority is not so much a preconventional notion of "fuck the man, you can't tell me what to do" so much as a postconventional challenge to think critically and reason why something might not be worth doing. Ideally, it has moved beyond that kind of narcissism, that I, me, self that is incapable of thinking about the communal we or even further about the global we.

I'm in part being influenced by my reading of Ken Wilbur's A Theory of Everything, a thoughtful gift from my friend Emerson, and I think it would be irresponsible of me to ignore this contribution to my thoughts. I'm attempting to approach this reading critically, not blindly accepting everything Wilbur says, but I think it's important for my development of these thoughts to use the tools made available to me to critically analyze what I already know and see how it interacts and reacts with these new thoughts.

My biggest understanding so far is the integration of hierarchies. In order to understand how systems work, to understand how to affect them, you cannot ignore hierarchies and hierarchal thinking. Hierarchies may be false, they may be constructs of society that malign and marginalize identities and groups, but on some level they have to exist. They serve a necessary function in the social and psychological evolution of an individual and culture.

In my English class today, someone brought up the socio-evolutionary argument for why binary thinking exists, which is to say that from an evolutionary standpoint, which translates to mean from a biological sense, we are built to think in binary ways. The sooner you can make a snap judgement of friend or foe, the more likely you are to survive. The argument then was made that the power of literature and therefore education is to defamiliarize us to this instinct. Our current cultural climate and industrialized society allows us to train ourselves to overcome this instinctual process. Away from the false core of a self to a we and as we progress further from a humanist (which is egoist on a species level) to a global or what Wilbur would call a holistic level.

So on the holistic level, a hierarchy is part of a greater system of society and culture. A lot of styles of thought focus on this, but I think the difference is in the approach. The holistic approach is about integration, the nested realities that coexist.

New directive: Question authority critically.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting Political on the Fourth of July

“The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain." - George McGovern

To everyone saying that we need to honor and remember our service members, I challenge that this does not mean we have to simultaneously honor and respect blatantly wrong wars and acts perpetuated by our government. Respect those who have fought for our freedom by using that freedom to tell your government to be a source of justice in the world.

As a starting point, here are some of our basic freedoms as outlined by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," means not favoring one over another, means we cannot be a Christian nation any more than we can be a Muslim nation or a Buddhist nation or a Pastafarian nation. Separation of church and state is as much protection FOR the church as it is FROM the church.

"Freedom of speech, or of the press" means we can express ourselves. Not with full impunity because historically there have been court rulings limiting what kind of speech is okay. Things like the fuzzily defined obscenity, and libel, slander, etc are generally not okay.

The freedom to "peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" to me is not just a right, it is a call to hold our government responsible. This does not mean immediately go out and protest, but also protest with your vote. Protest with your wallet. Tell the people you voted for that they owe a responsibility to you to work for peace, justice and equality; they need to protect your rights and your interests over some private entity. And if it comes to it, protest. Gather in numbers and let the government know that it has done wrong by its people.

For more information:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yet another poem post so I can at least say I blog once a month...

This piece has been bouncing around in my head for a few days and now I unleash it on the world. Any and all feedback is welcome.

Social butterfly:
a leaf trapped in the wayward breeze of impartiality
you fleeting flutter to and fro
caught not by the red rose of lovers' trysts
nor the painted daisies of the well-tended garden.
No, the butterfly dips and dodges clasping hands and gilded nets alike.
Do you taste the nectar of every conversation
or merely touch the surface before you're gone again?
Social butterfly, your wandering ways bewilder,
where do you belong?
"In-between! In-between!"
rally the cries of the extrovert elegant.
Then carry on, untouched by the dervishes of many faiths surrounding you.
It must be lonely being a butterfly, sometimes,
always surrounded but never quite there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Slutwalk: Seattle and Beyond

First off, let me start by saying that this is a difficult post for me to make, because SlutWalk is complicated. If people actually read this, I expect there to be controversy, just remember attack the issues, not people.

So let's start from the beginning. I'm going to copy and paste directly from SlutWalk Seattle since they have more experience telling the history of the event than I do.

On January 24th, 2011, a Toronto police officer gave some advice that is all too common: “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” From an 11-year-old in Texas being blamed for being gang-raped to a teenager in Seattle not being able to file rape charges because witnesses “portrayed the act as consensual,” this line of thought pervades our culture. As long as it seems like the woman might like sex, they’re made to take the blame.

Women of Toronto got angry and showed the establishment that this kind of language and treatment is not okay. And thus was born SlutWalk.

The SlutWalk Seattle FAQ page goes on to explain that SlutWalk as they interpret it is reframing the discourse on rape culture, specifically with regards to victim blaming and slut shaming. Again, I'll quote the page since they did a good job defining those terms.

Victim blaming is when the victims of sexual assault are explicitly or implicitly blamed for their own assault (for example, saying that a woman should have expected to be raped if she wore a short skirt). This wrongfully shifts the burden of prevention from the perpetrator onto the victim.

Slut shaming is when people, especially women, are made to feel shamed and guilty because of their actual or imagined sexual proclivities. Labels like “slut” stigmatize and dehumanize women, making it easier for society and the legal system to turn a blind eye to victims, make excuses for violence, and deny them justice.

Now I'm fairly frustrated with the discourse surrounding SlutWalk. Up until I started doing research into the critiques of the movement, all I (thought I) knew about the event was that it was held to reclaim "slut." Which I'm uncomfortable with, but I also recognize that as with any reclaimed (or as some would argue in this instance claimed) terminology it's a matter of personal choice. The event is not meant to promote a "slutty" lifestyle. It's a position that states that within a sex-positive culture, slut should not be assumed as a pejorative.

Reclaiming "slut" should be secondary to addressing the deep-seated institutional bias that exists when it comes to rape culture. But slut gets all the press and attention in the media. And from what I can tell, it's pissing everyone off. This is unavoidable and was unavoidable from the moment the first SlutWalk organizers named it SlutWalk.

So naturally I started digging. I've found multiple posts by radical feminists addressing the racial polarization around SlutWalk. And it would be a lie for me to deny the historical and cultural differences between many of the supporters of SlutWalk and women of color. In America the sexualization and objectification of women's bodies, especially along racial divides, has created a space where "slut" and the outrage around it is very much a matter of privilege. White women can be outraged because they aren't inculcated to a culture that devalues and sexualizes their bodies from birth. As one blogger put it:
It goes without saying that Black women have always been understood to be lascivious, hypersexed, and always ready and willing. When I think of the daily assaults I hear in the form of copious incantations of “bitch” and “ho” in Hip Hop music directed at Black women, it’s hard to not feel a bit incensed at the “how-dare-you-quality” of the SlutWalk protests, which feel very much like the protests of privileged white girls who still have an expectation that the world will treat them with dignity and respect.
In these instances, SlutWalk is not an appropriate venue through which to stage this conversation. The rhetoric and conversation around "slut" cannot and should not be used as a universal for women. It is culturally specific and should be treated as such. However, that doesn't mean SlutWalk should discontinue its efforts at inclusivity. If people of color want to participate, either in solidarity with a white movement, or because they want to reclaim "slut," that's their choice.

To ignore any of this would be racist and show the kind of privileged feminist views that erase or marginalize people of color. Further, a universalizing treatment of "slut" as a descriptor for women is colonialist based on Western ideas of sexuality that silence the experiences of people of color in countries and locales from a different social background. However, given the grassfire expansion of the SlutWalk movement, I think this assumes a unified agreement on what SlutWalk is. That is to say, it assumes there is a central SlutWalk organization coordinating the plethora of walks across the globe. To my knowledge, while the original SlutWalk Toronto initially sought to advise satellite walks, that line of treatment has all but gone out the door.

SlutWalks as they exist currently are the indicative only of the backgrounds and discourses engaged in by the individual organizers of each event.

Which is not to say that the people most likely to want to organize such an event aren't entrenched in hegemonic, white backgrounds, but ultimately the shape each individual walk takes will be determined by the people walking.

As Meghan Murphy writes, "‘slut’, is gendered." It is a term implicitly feminized by the patriarchy and used as a pejorative against men to imply femininity and thus weakness. I stopped referring to women pretty early on in this writing, because it is a matter of fact that more than just women-identified folk are involved in SlutWalk. As a queer male and self-identified feminist, I see value in the SlutWalk movement. In its potential to disrupt the dominant patriarchal discourse through a subversive reclamation of terms, SlutWalk can benefit anyone marginalized by patriarchal society. Does this mean it will do this? No, but it can if we as activists use it so.

Before I go further, I feel I must address the fact that I am male. Regardless of my sexual orientation or political affiliations, I stand to benefit from the kind of institutionalized patriarchy that privileges males. But I'm carefully straddling a line between accepting and celebrating the movement and between rejecting it for the kinds of issues inherent in a field ripe with potential for classist and racist discourse that further excludes and erases the experiences of people affected by this in ways not accounted for by the dominant language. I recognize the danger in my involvement and I care deeply about how my presence impacts the conversation.

I'm leery of "slut" but as I see it, the potential within SlutWalk lies in addressing those first tenets, that it bring attention to the culture that allows victim blaming and slut-shaming. To teach society not to blame the victim helps redefine our culture. It changes the attitudes around rape and hopefully will help spread the idea that we should be teaching people not to rape rather than "don't get raped."

SlutWalk hasn't even been around for half a year, as a cohesive movement, it's in its infancy, and I for one want to be part of its formation. I want to see SlutWalk (or whatever SlutWalk becomes) move past the valid criticisms leveled at it and I think more than criticizing SlutWalk, this means engaging in and participating in the organization of such events. There's a lot of contradictions and disagreements on both sides of the SlutWalk debate and no one will have a perfect answer, so I take these criticisms with me as I look forward to the fight yet to come.

As a last side note, I would like to thank friends and activists Ben C and Samuel S for involving me in this dialog. I would like to thank Laura G for giving me opportunities to speak out in solidarity with marginalized groups (though I'm still learning to find strength in that voice) and all the women in my life for whom this affects. You are my sisters, my mothers, my aunts and cousins. I hope this inspires and educates you as to why SlutWalk is important and how it can make a difference.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25, Summary of Class Notes:

Part of postmodernism is a reaction to modernism. In ways, it subsumed aspects of modernism into the dominant culture so that what was once fairly radical has become regularized.

But prof started this discussion with the distinction that:
  • Modernism = ~1914-1960
  • Postmodernism = 1945 or 1960 - Present
  • But the present isn't quite postmodernism. Postmodernism has been around for a while and with advances in culture/society and technology our current situation could better be better described as digital culture, media & technology, atemporality or even post-postmodernism
If this last statement is true, then how has postmodernism or the ways in which it interacts with society/culture become regularized? How is our current situation reacting against postmodernism?

To be honest, pomo is kind of a downer a lot of the time. I respect it, but I think part of the reaction has been a yearning for praxis, how do you live or performatively enact this discourse? Yes, there's a lot of writing but when does this become practice?

I know this is happening, with Queer Theory when I go to events by the LGBT/Queer groups on campus we inevitably introduce ourselves and our preferred gender pronouns. This conception of gender as being separate from sex, attempting to subvert assigned, socialized assumptions of gender prescribed onto living bodies by performatively announcing our preferred gender, finds its origins in a Butlerian model of gender that questions the construction of a binary gender systems and "compulsory heterosexuality."

Or as was brought up in class, the entire construct of "hipster culture" is uniquely (ha) postmodern. It is based in a kind of nostalgia while maintaining a false pretext of being hyper-individualistic and original.

Often, it's subtle, but we've found aspects of that application. It's just the discourse used to describe it has to catch up, which is hard when you're working with what I would call a kind of meta-theory.

I'm sure I'll have more on this later, but this is a start.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Danny, tell me about the word "queer"

I'm not trying to be too in-depth with this piece so while I encourage you knowledgeable-types to make factual corrections, please don't quibble over every minor detail I got wrong. If you'd like to read a slightly better researched piece, go here.

That said, let's start at the beginning. There's the obvious origins of the word queer as a synonym for weird, strange, peculiar that because they were seen as such, was then applied to gays, lesbians, ad nauseum. In a lot of areas it has as much vehemence as the word "faggot."

Then around I want to say primarily the late-1980s with some of the bigger pro-gay movements, people started to reclaim it.

Nowadays it's used by more radically liberal activist and academic types as this really weird construction where it is used as a umbrella term. By that, I mean that queer is used to denote the entire LGBTQetc community. But these very same liberal activist/academics also often have a LOT of problems with that use since it kind of homogenizes the community. By having one word mean everything you erase the connotations and diversity inherent to such a community. There's more than one type of queer person. Queer used in that way tends to favor images of your standard college-educated, white, middle-class, gay male. Leaving out all those other types of queers.

An even more contemporary usage of the weird queer comes from the more radical academic-types as meaning something closer to "a non-normative political identity."

Basically what this means is that by this definition being queer isn't so much a sexual identity as a political affiliation. It's an outcrop of the postmodern rejection of binaries, be they gender, racial, sexual, etc. Queer in that sense tries to look at the intersectionality of those identity politics to kind of go "hey, that way of thinking is stupid and marginalizes a lot of people and doesn't really benefit everyone long run."

Which is why you find queer as a far more accepted term by younger, West coast (for lack of a better term) queers. Because we didn't grow up with queer as such a strongly derogatory term. We grew up in a world of Queer as Folk and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Here at Western, the LGBTA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance) Office recently changed its name to the Queer Resource Center. And there was the same kind of split on this decision as you see among most of the LGBTQ population. There are those (myself among them) who were for the decision. Queer Resource Center more accurately reflects what the office is and does. I still have issues with queer used as an umbrella term here, but I think the strength of the Bellingham queer community in particular is that enough of the people who claim the term as an identity come from a diverse range of backgrounds that disavow a lot of the marginalizing effect of that queer homogenization.

We queers are feminists, male and female, people of color, people with disabilities, of a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. For the most part we recognize where queer comes from (both good and bad) and often claim it as something beyond just the LGBT.

What do you think about reclaiming words? What do you think we can reclaim or can't reclaim?

Friday, April 22, 2011

First Loves...

My first love in college wasn't some boy. It wasn't a class, it wasn't a subject that made me reconsider my understanding of the world, no, my first lasting love in college was salsa dancing.

I have Charlie to thank for it. She's kind of my sister, and the most central part of my BellingFam. It's because she dragged me to Ritmo Latino Salsa Club the very first time that I started dancing.

My moves aren't the cleanest, and I tend to add a flair that's somewhere between hip-hop influences and swing, further muddling the lines between salsa and Danny, but I have fun with it. I own the dance floor no matter who else is out there, no matter who my partner is, and no matter what song is playing. Ritmo Latino is one of the places where I've always felt unconditionally safe and loved, where I've seen growth much in the same ways I see myself growing with the Power of Hope and Acts of Kindness Club.

Salsa to me isn't just something I do. It's something that resonates to my core. The rhythm rocks me, moves me, centers me in a kinesthetic euphoria. It's contagious and I've never heard anybody tell me that they didn't have fun dancing with me, usually quite the opposite. Even some of the other leads that I've danced with, while slightly chagrined in their masculinity to be pulled out onto the dance floor with such an outspokenly queer boy, always laugh and continue to dance.

So this is also love to everyone out there willing to dance with me. This is love for everyone who has danced with me and everyone who has yet to dance with me. This is love for the music, love for the people teaching me, and love for the people I'm getting to teach right now as one of the student instructors.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer...

No. I threw out this suggestion as a joke toward the end of my run with my roommate, Lucy, today. We're kind of looking for a song we can sing as we run together. Kind of like how in all the classic imagery soldiers have to yell out chants while they march. If we have a song that we can sing while pushing ourselves physically, we'll also be pushing our lung capacity.

Today we ran approximately the same route as we did on Tuesday. Down to Fairhaven, we made a pit stop in Village Books to purchase tickets for April Brews Day. We both wore spandex shorts because, well, if you got it, flaunt it, right? Plus Bellingham is starting to show signs of summery weather. It's a relief after the snow we woke up to on Thursday for it to be nice enough to go running in shorts and a tank top.

I'm really enjoying running with Lucy just because it's a fun time for us to bond and be around each other rather than exist as strangers sharing the same apartment.

My body is still adjusting to this whole running thing. I may be more physically strong than Lucy is currently, but I'm also readjusting to a semi-regular workout schedule when the extent of my time working out during winter quarter was dancing salsa once a week and getting sick and being stressed and on campus all the time (those of you who know me have heard all about this, so I apologize). After the last two runs I've done with Lucy, my energy has tanked in the hour after we finish. Today, once the endorphin high from running wore off, I actually fell asleep for a few hours. I attribute this to an erratic eating schedule that's resulted in me losing a few pounds since moving into an off-campus living space at the beginning of this school year.

Hopefully this is only temporary and the exercise will induce enough appetite in me that I will start consuming large enough quantities of food-mass to keep me up and going after we finish.

For all you Widdershin Readers, I apologize for not posting, I've kind of half-switched to tumblr at acelessthan3.tumblr.com. Find me if you have an account!