(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.