Thursday, March 22, 2018

My Feelings on Labels

Why I hate labels:

 I've gone the vast majority of my life never feeling completely comfortable with any label I could ever find. Gay, straight, bi, male, female, transgender, agender, poly, queer, even my current go-to of genderfluid. Some fit better than others, but nothing's ever been a proper match.

Beyond that is the fact that labels bring baggage. Some of this baggage gets acknowledged, which is the baggage of assumptions and stereotypes people might make about you based on your chosen label. The very idea that there's a "gay" stereotype (effeminate, hates the outdoors, limp wristed, wears bright colors, high pitched voice, possible lisp) speaks to this. But what doesn't get properly acknowledged is the pressure from those who share your chosen label. The pressure to "do it right."

I have both experienced and seen people settle on a label and then literally reshape themselves into what they think that label is "supposed" to look like.  As soon as you say "this is what I am" there are people who will happily tell you why you're a poor representation of that label. This has given rise to even more specific labels. It's not enough to simply be gay. Are you a bear? A twink? An otter? A power top? A femmeboi? Even if you find a more specific label there's still a standard you're expected to meet in order to not be mocked by others who think you can and should be more like the expectations that come with that label. And heaven help you if the label you finally settle on doesn't have mass acceptance and you are told flat out to your face "That's not real."

You're not real. Because of a label.
Why I use them anyways:

It's unreasonable and unrealistic to expect every person you interact with to come to a deep enough understanding of you as a person that they get you fundamentally without needing to put a name on it. Labels are a short cut. More accurately they're a crutch. And like a real crutch, there are certainly times that they can help provided they're not leaned on too heavily. They're also that, when used properly, can grease the wheels of social interaction and grant others a quick and basic understanding which can then (hopefully) be built on.

And I recognize that as much as labels have brought no small amount of frustration to me personally, there are those for whom they are life lines. For some, even realizing there is a term for what they are and how they feel is an assurance that they are not some indescribable monster. There are words for them. And where there are words, there is potentially less fear. If we can name it then we can talk about it. If we can talk about it then we can understand it. And if we can understand it then maybe, MAYBE, we can tolerate if not accept it.

Labels can and have been used to better lives and better communication. With a few quick labels you can get a sense of somebody. If I were to tell you that I'm a polyamorous burlesque performer who loves geeky entertainment, you'd have a near instant (if general) sense of what things we might have similar feelings about or could bond over. What would have taken lengthy personal backstory to cover without labels is conveyed in just a few words.

But labels can just as easily be used to restrict lives and shut down communication by causing us to wall ourselves off from each other because we don't like the labels others use. Or more accurately we don't like the assumptions we have about those labels. A reminder of this has been to watch a queer woman and dear friend of mine build an amazing relationship with her deeply conservative neighbor, built on the foundation of each of them looking past the labels and getting to know the people.

Labels are not going away. We need them, but please respect their power and use them wisely.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Branching Out (see you in Montreal!)

So, I finally stopped just thinking "I should get around to that" in terms of applying to burlesque festivals and started actually doing it. As a result I'll have the great honor of getting to perform at the Montreal Burlesque Festival in October this year. I had a true, down to my core, shortness of breath, "ohmygodohmygodohmygod" moment when my acceptance came through. Years of rejections on my writing projects had tempered my expectations and I was legitimately not prepared to receive this good news. Now comes all the logistics like renewing my passport, figuring out if anyone else I know is going and if we can split a room, and all that other fun stuff. These are chores I'm more than happy to take on!

Friday, May 5, 2017

The GOP is Not the Problem

Ok, so it's been a while, as tends to happen. And for whatever reason I'm going to get political again. I don't know why I use this as outlet for these thoughts. I think because when I've really got something I've put a lot of thought or energy into I don't like seeing it just fade into the background of my Facebook wall. This feels more like a proper record of things.
I find myself being angrier in general. And I don't like that. I don't like being confrontational. I've always liked to think that I'm not that kind of person by nature. But I'm becoming that. Events on the political landscape are bringing that out of me, a little more every day. And it seems to be the case for many others I know. However I see so much hatred being spat at the opposition, and there's another contingent that I feel is at least at equal, if not greater fault. Because there will always be people on the right pushing for diminished social programs and civil rights. That is never going to go away. But there's something else that I see that is causing me greater rage right now.
I'm seeing so many people putting up equivalent "If you voted for Trump/the GOP, you might as well unfriend me" posts. Basically throwing the blame at anybody they know who might be directly supporting what's going on in Washington right now. Allow me to offer a variant view.
If you voted for Trump or a Republican representative, I'm disappointed and confused. But I'm not mad at you. We didn't agree before. We're not going to agree now. Hate won't help.
However, if you take issue with Trump or the GOP or the healthcare bill that just cleared the house or any of that, and you didn't vote in November, or you don't vote in local elections, or you stay home during the mid-terms, then it is you who I am pissed at.
The next person who posts an equivalent of "I'm sure this won't clear the senate," or "I don't think we need to freak out about this," or "don't worry, we'll get through this" is getting my size 12 pointy toed boot embedded into the side of their complacent ass. It doesn't matter if it doesn't clear the senate, it shouldn't have gotten this far! We do need to freak out about this, because staying calm is how we "learn to live with it" and we should not be accepting any of this as ok. And no, we won't all get through this because people could lose their medical coverage (or be priced out of being able to use it) and die as a result.
If you're claiming to agree that these things are problems while simultaneously telling the rest of us to keep our heads cool, I'm telling you right now that YOU are the fucking problem. And you can go ahead an unfriend/unfollow/block me. Because fuck you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Just Here to Say that I Have Nothing to Say

I wasn't going to talk about the election. But given that the last few times I've actually made use of this blog it was with political leanings I came to the conclusion that my silence was a bit too conspicuous. That said, I have very little to say about what happened, and this is mostly an explanation of why that is the case.

If you were to go by my social media activities (youtube, facebook, instagram, etc.) you might not even realize that there was an election. So let me put it on record here, to be clear: I'm not happy. I am however very very very very tired. I've had to minimize my time on Facebook because if I spend more than 5 minute browsing my feed I frankly get almost too depressed to function. I can't talk politics right now, I can't watch other people talking politics, and I can't listen to the news. I'm not in denial, I know what happened and I understand the implications of it and I'm aware of how bad things could get from here. However I simply can't go down that hole right now, because I don't think I'd have the strength to pull myself out of it. It's self preservation, and I recognize the selfishness in that. But I'm of no use to anybody anywhere if I shut down because I've let the dread take over.

I hope people will recognize my continuing my normal output of pictures, videos, etc. as what it is: an attempt to offer some normalcy. That is NOT the same as normalizing Trump as president. But as much as I know that I've been grasping at the things that bring me joy and holding on for dear life, it's my hope that maintaining my usual output could possibly be that for somebody else. It doesn't mean I'm ignoring what's going on, it means that I need parts of my life to be as minimally impacted by it as possible. Because if I let this darkness touch every part of my life then I risk extinguishing all of the light, of sapping out the joy that I need to keep going.

So no, I'm not going to be commenting, sharing, retweeting or otherwise involving myself in the political climate of social media for the foreseeable future. That doesn't mean I'm burying my head in the sand or not watching, but I need to keep a certain distance for my own sanity. But also, please do not mistake social media silence for complacency. I'm not sitting idle. I am finding ways to help, causes to donate to, people to be sure I'm there for who I know are vulnerable. But I'm not going to talk about it on social media. I'm too tired to shout, but not too tired to act.

I have nothing to say, but I have so much to do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Coming Out Day (or for some of us - Staying In Day)

Here it is again. And this year, just as every year, I debate whether I should come out to a more complete degree than I have. And this year, just as every other year, I will not be doing that.

Photo by Syd London

Of course I'm kind of out depending on your own view. I'm not closeted in the sense of being overly secretive, the close people in my life are well aware of this side of me and its importance to my identity, and obviously I have an online presence that I'm not at all shy about. But I don't show "before" images of myself (before make-up, wig, etc.) on my cross dressing related pages. I don't talk about being gender fluid or a drag performer in my non-drag social media profiles. I'm not out at work, despite there being no gender specific aspects to the company dress code. I don't walk down the street in the town where I live in makeup or heels. And I don't expect any of that to change this year.

I don't put up the sturdiest dividing line in the world between my male and female identities. But I don't allow them to purposefully overlap either. I've never promoted my non-drag work on my drag profiles and vice versa. And even as certain aspects of my day to day life see the two sides of myself becoming a bit more blended and I'm more comfortable with the middle ground, I don't see myself having a formal "coming out," anytime soon.

To a certain extent that makes me sad. Part of me wants to just go "Hey! I have a fluid gender identity and sometimes I wear makeup and skirts, and there's no shame in that!" Which of course is true, and I do believe, but the logistics and fallout of actually making that truly public knowledge are very real. And more to the point, they don't just impact me. I'm a parent, and I have a child whose life can be negatively impacted by how I am perceived by the town residents. I'm not just talking about embarrassment, as I'd like to think she's being raised in such a way that she won't see shame in something like this, I'm talking about bullying and shunning by others (both adults and kids.) I've found fairly consistently that impact on loved ones (children especially) is one of the biggest factors leading to coming out late in life. And I understand it, better than I would care to.

And yet, in some ways, the separation of my two primary gender identities makes life a bit easier. Compartmentalizing isn't for everybody, but for some of us it makes things easier to manage if everything isn't bleeding over and impacting everything else. Not every friend I have needs to know every aspect of my life. I can have my friends I only talk about geeky things with. I can have my friends I only really talk about the female side of my life with. In a way that makes those who I let in on both sides a bit more special and dear to me, as well they should be.

So before this day is over, don't expect me to announce my feminine self to the world on my drab profile, nor to connect my masculine identity to my drag profile. I will not be coming out anymore than I already have. And you don't have to either, if you aren't ready. This day is a wonderful thing, but don't let it jump a decision that requires no special date. Coming Out Day is not a deadline. You're not going to lose points for missing the due date. It's just a day. And if you choose to come out, wonderful. And if you don't, good for you.

There may come a day when the walls between my male and female lives crumble and fall. But it is not this day.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Where Have I Been?

Allow me to utilize that wonderfully annoying technique made world famous by politicians and public figures: ask myself questions and then answer them! WHEEEE! This'll be fun!

Where have you been?
I haven't gone anywhere, I've just been going through a period of doing too much and then attempting to refocus my life. So the things that I just didn't have time for, like this blog for example, have fallen by the wayside. But as far as my day to day life I've still be doing me. Still performing, still living, still evolving.

Does this mean you'll update this more regularly?
Probably not. I'd like to think you'll see more frequent posts here but I'm not about to promise something that I know I probably won't deliver on. There may be a temporary uptick, but I'm not about to promise anything like a weekly/monthly/whatever update going into the future. Not right now at any rate.

Will you ever make more videos for your Youtube Channel?
Yes! Yes I will. This is something that's fallen off by accident. I know I said over a year ago that videos would be less frequent, but I never intended for things to go completely dark for as long as they have. I'm a creature of habit, and sadly I got out of the habit of setting time aside to make videos. There may be other announcements coming in the future related to this, but I want to get my ducks in a row before I jump the gun on that.

Are you still performing?
Absolutely. Though video updates have gone quiet, I've never stopped hitting the stage whenever I've had the opportunity. I've also been making an effort to get out to more shows even if I'm not performing in them, so I've been around for more stuff in my semi-local area both on and off the stage. I've even developed a new stage persona.

Wait, so you're performing as something other than Vera?

Well, hosting at any rate. I sometimes co-host the Green Mountain Cabaret in a genderfuck persona known as Snow Peepers. When I say "genderfuck" I mean that Snow possesses clear traits of being both male and female, with the deliberate intention of confusing the hell out of people. Snow is a bit of a different beast from Vera. Vera is me (specific performance number affectations notwithstanding) with my natural feminine traits being emphasized over my masculine ones, while Snow is very much a character that I play with a personality not intended to be a representation of my day to day life in anyway. The reason for Snow's creation was that as a host I needed to lock down a more specific stage persona, and the direction I decided to go was not a direction I necessarily wanted be viewed as how Vera is. If you ever turn out for a performance you'll see what I mean.

Were you away because you're transitioning to being a woman fulltime?
No, and as I've said before I do not believe that I ever will go down that path. I strongly believe that I do have both sides to myself: I don't feel more right as a woman than I do as a man. However, I am experimenting with my own gender fluidity in that I'm trying out riding the middle ground a bit more in my day to day life. What I mean by that is up to this point I've basically either been Vera full on (make-up, hair, the complete look) or in total male mode. It was either all one or all the other. I'm experimenting with trying out the middle ground a bit more in my day to day life. For example I plan to get my ears pierced soon, which is something I decided against some time ago because I don't like the look of guys with earrings. But I'm going to give it a try and see how it feels having what in my mind is something more representative of my female side being present even when I'm operating more or less as a male. Now, I may well decide that this isn't working for me, let the piercings heal over and go back to what I was doing before. But who knows? That's part of the fun: finding out what's next.

Anything else?
Not right now, but we'll see what the future holds!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Political Unfriending: Think Before You Do

Wow, it's been over two years since I've put anything on here. I suppose it's been a while since I had some thoughts I felt truly demanded more words than were reasonable for a tweet or FB post to contain.

So anyways, the reason I came back: political unfriending. This is something that seems to come up from time to time, and Ferguson has been a pretty major catalyst recently. I've had more than a few folks I know clean house on their Facebook, removing people who posted opinions on the matter contrary to their own. I even saw one post of a person thanking Ferguson for making it easy for them to weed out folks they didn't want to be associated with.

I suppose the first thing this points out is just how casually we "friend" someone on Facebook in the first place. I would say that it's a red flag if you don't know enough about your "friends" to be aware of their politics (especially if they're vocal enough to be posting such things online.) However, I understand that people with FB accounts geared towards performance or networking tend to accumulate more people they merely associate with and don't really actually know very well (or indeed at all.) And besides, that's not really the point of this post, so we'll move along.

Personally I have rarely unfriended someone for voicing their political opinion, even if it's one I don't like. What has happened is that the last few election cycles I removed a few people for posting nothing EXCEPT for political things for months on end. It came down to this: I friended you because I want to know about and keep in touch with you - the person. So if you only use FB as a political soapbox and aren't going to actually use it for social interaction then we're not here for the same reason. So those were instances of people no longer being people on their FB accounts and just being political mouthpieces, and for the record I removed folks on both ends of the political spectrum for that nonsense. But again, that isn't quite what I'm getting at.

So what the hell am I getting at? Well, today I did my first unfriending of someone for a post related to Ferguson (actually it was their third on the topic in the same vein, because I try to give folks at least one free pass,) and I found myself really carefully examining why I did it. It was hardly the first post from a friend who held an opinion that I disagreed with on the subject, so why did this one rub me the wrong way? Why didn't I delete about a dozen other people who'd been voicing thoughts on the same side of the divide? Ultimately it all comes down to intent.

I don't want to get too much into my own feelings on what's gone on in Ferguson. The actual shooting of Mike Brown I have very little opinion on at all, because I don't know what happened and only a very small number of people actually do. I do however feel that the aftermath has been very badly handled, to the point that whether or not Darren Wilson had cause to kill Mike Brown is almost irrelevant because what it set off was a mess and focusing on the spark that started the fire while the whole damn house is burning down is a bit backwards to me.

Anyways, I had a friend who voiced some defense of Wilson and the local authorities that I did not agree with (one of the things I feel is clearest is that the local police and their actions in the first few weeks only made everything worse.) However I didn't unfriend her for those feelings. Because I know she's married to a cop, and that ultimately the basis for her feelings was out of a fear of people demonizing the police in general. So this opinion, which I didn't agree with, was rooted in concern for other human beings. I'm not going to begrudge an opinion that someone has when it's based in something as pure as love and concern for others.

As for the person I did unfriend, firstly she wasn't expressing concern. She was expressing anger. That's not a deal breaker unto itself, people certainly have a right to be angry. But when I looked at what was fueling her anger it was all about race. She was mad that a white person being killed didn't make national news the way Mike Brown's death did. She was mad that blacks were hogging all the attention. It was all rooted in a basic racism that I just couldn't ignore. She didn't care about the context. She didn't care about all the ugliness that was brought out. She didn't care that it possibly pointed to a societal pattern in our country. All she cared about was that "some black guy" getting shot was national news. That opinion wasn't rooted in concern. It was rooted in hate. And I had to remove her from my circle of friends.

So as all of this continues to unfold over the coming weeks, I have no doubt that people of all political and social stances will be seeing things in their news feeds that they disagree with, possibly even violently so. However, before you furiously click that "unfriend" button, just take a minute to think about why this friend feels this way. Dig a little deeper, because more often than not what you'll find is someone with fears and concern and love that have just led them to a different conclusion from you. We like to paint those with whom we disagree with the "Hitler" brush. But ultimately the vast majority of us all want the same thing: we want the world to be a better place. Just because we disagree on what will make it better doesn't make that starting premise any less pure. There are surprisingly few people whose contrary opinion comes out of hate.

That said, when you DO find those people you better kick their asses to the curb as soon as possible, because they don't deserve any friends.