(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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Queer Body Issues.

A friend asked me to write up a short piece for a zine they're making on Body Image in the LGBTQ community so I thought I'd post here as well. This will likely remain a work in progress for a few days.

Growing up, the remnants of the anti-drug movement of the nineties taught me that my body is my temple. I internalized this like so many of those early messages, but reshaped it and adapted it for my own use as I grew up. I'm also queer, which means growing up my body has been subject to a range of external pressures telling it to be perfect through various media (mis)portrayals since junior high onward.

I suppose I could tell you how since starting college I've lost weight, that more and more I find that I fit the stereotypical "twink" body-type: smaller, relatively hairless, more cute than hot, more harmless than imposing. And I could let you assume that there's a correlation, that it was a conscious decision to fit this mold, but that would be a lie. I started losing weight because I got involved, started living what the health world calls an active lifestyle. I found things that I'm passionate about and I've yet to let my metabolism (or eating habits) catch up. But now I'm faced with a different kind of dilemma: the image my body projects doesn't necessarily reflect who I am.

And I dislike the box my body is forced into, it tickles the back of my mind like a badly made woolen sweater. I know I'm being judged. My body image issues aren't between me and my body, they're between everyone else and my body. Well, my body is my temple, subject to change, open for business on a whim. I'm not some twink, I reject this assumption because I would be just as awesome no matter my size or shape.

To quote that infernally popular John Mayer song, "I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for." The more I'm immersed in the queer community, that sex-positive, open-communication, radical activist side of the LGBT spectrum, the more this is reinforced because we're taught that everything is culturally encoded, everything is socially filtered and policed for acceptability so you can either change yourself or change your surroundings. I'm lucky, I'm able to do the latter and find a culture that accepts and celebrates me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I have a friend, a graphic designer, who's always posting links and articles to artists and projects related to his work. It's something he's so passionate about he just has to share it with the world. Sometimes I check them out, other times I just skim over them, most of the time it's pretty cool stuff visually.

It's also pretty cool stuff mentally as a practice and as an art. The designer is putting themselves out there, working for themselves and for their audience. Their at is their life.

I want to make my life my art. I want to design my life. Which isn't to say I want to revolve my life around my art, no, I want my life to be something I'm passionate about; a life with intention that breaks the rules when it has reason to.

Anyways, just some thoughts.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 14, 2011

My day started at about 9am, though in all reality it began yesterday as I ran around town preparing for the day to come.

Chocolate. Hundreds of small kisses taped to pieces of paper declaring that the reciever is loved. I handed them out, smiling and dancing, a veritable whirlwind of positive energy. "Valentines," the word lost its meaning to me when I realized that we barely know anything about St. Valentine. I called them "Dinosaur Rememberance Day" chocolates, the terrible lizards substituting for the consumerist conglomerate of hearts and flowers.

People laughed, but I think they were secretly terrified. There's an instinctual level of our brains hardwired to fear even prehistoric threats to our safety. I shouldn't be frightening people, but unsatisfied, I continue with my haunting reminders.

A crowd, mostly in red, gathers around a view of the sky.

They dance with me, a wild, crazy dance that asks a question. What is love? There's something almost pagan about it to me. A flash flood of bodies brought on by the wind, by the rain, by the date. We converge from seemingly nowhere, cameras materializing out of the aether to capture us in this abandon. Four and a half minutes we are in solidarity. At the drop of a hat we disperse.

I find myself alone save this clinging February cold. So I embrace it, pull it toward me with a half step and a twirl, my arms flung high then low, convulsing in almost epileptic fury. I feel the eyes of passersby on me, but ignore them. I am not theirs. In this moment I belong to the music, I am another medium through which it expresses itself, my body possessed.

An eternity later I'm grounded again by the weight of a ticking clock, the music exorcised by the metronomic repetition of the face perpetually attached to the wall.

Brought back to reality, I find myself drawn once again down to the ROPs. The VU, my third home away from home, populated with dedicated, smiling bodies. We're slaves to the system seeking solace in each other as we attempt subversion, an infection of ideals put in stasis by the bureaucratic powers that remove our politico. Our opinions exist outside, but so long as we represent this space and act as agents of the organization.

So we left. Off hours of course, but mobilizing a small crowd and preparing the makings of a speech in under two hours we set out for the courthouse, intending to be denied an application for a marriage license. Two consenting, unrelated adults over the age of 18: check. Fifty-eight dollar application fee: check. Dressed nice: for me at least check. Camera crew to record expected refusal of application: check.

Our entourage captured the entire thing: me standing kind of thunderstruck with no room to get a word in edgewise as Outspoken statements fly. An article covering our activism appeared only to dematerialize with nary a word more.

We have to address the legislator, not the county auditor in order to change the laws concerning marriage of "same-sex" partnerships in Washington State.

Afterwards in the quiet of the drive home, I listened to the sounds of a broken stereo, its noise the music of rotating wheels and 30-40 mph velocities in a metal box. Dinner, fried rice that I carried with me all day, back in the ROPs as I finished my office hours.

The next few hours escape my memory, the word spelled correctly but somehow looking wrong (a trick perhaps of the liminal gods who rule my fate), though I know they existed online. Was I perhaps upstairs, in my usual perch overlooking the lobby? No, I joined a Cirque down in the Underground Coffeehouse. The name has always bugged me. The building is built into the side of a hill, there is no underground to be in.

He read House of Leaves, I among other things, started this post. Johnny Truant is a child, a child who dropped out of high school and has sex with pretty much every woman he meets, but he lacks passion. He talks about these many encounters in detail, but the details are dry, sanitized in their crassness. They have no meaning. Jesse laughs, winces at the deepening shadows.

Duty calls and I am off again, this time for a night of dancing, a night constituted of a chunky mixture of tomato and spices roiling around an open room for two hours. I sacrificed my vest to the gods of Latin rhythm, baptizing myself in sweat to be reborn. Salsero.

Home, I concluded with sent messages and open inboxes across many miles. Self-satisfied and a kind of happy. Something about this day felt right.

The tip of my right, index finger is numb from accidentally getting slammed in a door on Sunday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Consider this a story of Coming Out

I remember in 1st grade one day having a conversation about tomboys in my class, the teacher, her name now long forgotten (Ms. Quinn or something similar?), nowhere in sight. It was recess, perhaps, or lunch.

I wasn't familiar with the term, so someone explained it to me.

"A tomboy is a girl who acts like a boy."

I remember thinking about this for a moment before declaring that I must be some kind of tomgirl then because I was a boy who often acted like a girl and preferred doing "girl" things out on the playground.

Everyone laughed at me. But I didn't quite know why.

It's been a few plus years since this incident. I've grown up, learned a few things and for the most part lost touch with pretty much anybody I knew back in that period of elementary school.

I wonder sometimes how much of me is still that goofy 7-year-old running around with all the girls, proudly making up words to fit me because nothing else quite works and then I look at myself and my life and I realize I never stopped doing this.

My English professor loves to quote the Marilyn Chin poem The Barbarians are Coming:

"If you call me a horse, I must be a horse.
If you call me a bison, I am equally as guilty."

Adam was a namer. Adam was of the earth, of the ground. His legacy in humanity is our naming because to name something is to describe it. To quantify it, to reduce it down to its constituent adams (atoms?) and know it from the inside out.

But names are shadows.

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

A name is a part. To name me separates me, divides me into a Self and Others. But I have many names, many symbols that cannot be said.

I'm queer. I'm here.

But that's only a picture of a piece of the puzzle.

"I am that I am."

But before I make a statement worthy of boasting godhood, let me say I exist in relation. We say identity is a social construct. Race, gender, sexuality, etc. are byproducts of the perceptions created and maintained by everything around us, reinforced by ourselves, our surroundings, everything.

To illustrate with a gem from a conversation last night:

Imagine two "bros" walking down the street together. You're driving by and you see them, what are they doing? They're acting like stereotypical bros of course. But why? What if by some chance these two young men love each other but are unable to because of how they have been culturally inculcated as bros.

Which isn't to say they were raised this way, though that is a factor. But what's more important in this instance is the fact that they might not be able to act the way they may want to because of where they are, because of who they're with, because you're watching, because of what they're wearing, because of who's not there, because of how old they are, because they're male. It's a whole complicated mess of influences.

What then are we to do about this?

To exist outside this system of identity politics doesn't work unless the entirety of your culture actively works to exist as such. But unless you're ignorant to how the system works, it's an oppressive, hierarchical abuse that limits you from being who you truly are or want to be.

Armed with knowledge though, we can work from within to corrupt the system. To make an overly simplified analogy (because for a lot of the identities I talked about above, it's not a choice), if you suddenly decide to you hate clothes and think they're oppressive, you don't simply stop wearing them. It's not socially appropriate to do so. Instead what you do is you change the culture that surrounds you. You frequent nudist-friendly areas and teach the people around you that it's okay to not wear clothes. You start wearing short cuts and fewer layers. And yes, maybe you participate in "subversive" activities that bring attention to the oppression but you also take advantage of the system.