Friday, November 26, 2010

One Foot in the Closet

Lately I've been finding myself with a slightly odd feeling... and I'm starting to realize that in some ways the life I'm leading now is the closest I've ever been to being in the closet. The annoying thing is that I know it's really just all in my own head and there's nothing being done to me by anybody to oppress or repress me. Yet the feeling lingers.
Mainly the issue just has to do with living in a small town. When we were in New York I could be safely be pretty out with who I am. Granted I avoided going out the front door in dress just due to our immediate neighborhood, but other than that I didn't really care who saw me or what they thought. However that mentality doesn't work in a small town, gossip spreads quickly. While in the big city you're likely to never see the same people again just walking around. In a smaller town you're going to keep running into the same people over and over... and they tend to remember that time you were wearing 4" heels.

Undercover Tranny! Photo by Millie Acosta

The feeling of being semi-closeted has been creeping in over the past few months. There's a couple of factors I feel. The first is how few people know about this side of my life. There's Laura of course, my mother... and that's pretty much it. Some of my long time friends know but not the ones who live around here (as they mostly fall into the "lost touch and maybe will reconnect" category of friend.) So when somebody who I either have only gotten to know since moving back or I just haven't been seen in a long and can't gauge a reaction asks me what I did in New York I'm forced to censor myself. There's a whole chunk of my life New York that I don't get to share because I can't be sure how people will take it. Whereas in New York if they didn't like it they could screw off, here there just aren't enough people to get away with that attitude (at least not until I'm more settled in.) And in truth a big part of getting people to accept this side of me is to make sure that they get to know me in a more general sense, so that the fact that I'm a drag queen doesn't become what defines me to them.
I still feel no shame at all for who I am but for the sake of making day to day life easier it just doesn't make sense to be as out as I was in New York. It's actually part of the overall Vermont mentality. In reality even if it gets around that I crossdress (and eventually it probably will) nobody is really going to care so long as I'm not walking down mainstreet. I live in a state which is populated by a fairly even mix of rednecks who've been here forever and the hippies who started coming up in the 1960s. The two generally don't get along in most settings but they do ok here by adopting a general attitude of "as long as it's in your own house I don't really give a damn who you do."

Photo by Millie Acosta

I'm not really living my life any differently. I still dress at home from time to time. I still get out to dress every now and then. Yes my location has changed but I really do think that I've developed a mental block that's making me feel more repressed than I actually am (which I'm really not repressed at all.) I think it'll help some when Laura and I finally close on this house and have a place that is truly our own. I'm so done with shared space.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It Gets Better

There's obviously been a great deal of attention in the news about the suicides of bullied teenagers. I wanted to contribute in my own way to the cause and share my own experiences. Because it does get better.

I debated myeslf for a while on whether or not I'd made a video like this. For a while I told myself that there were so many others making these videos that they didn't really need my story. But the more I thought about it it occured to me that perhaps my story might reach somebody who isn't connecting to the other videos out there. I think the reality is that I was just scared to open up and it was something I needed to get over and just do this. There's the chance this could really help somebody. And even if it doesn't another voice in the mix of people trying to help isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When it Rains it Pours... and You Get Struck by Lightning

I've been trying to do weekly updates on this thing and I've fallen a bit behind. While I don't normally like to make excuses, there has been plenty of reason for that. I told myself when I started this blog I wanted to avoid it me just relaying day to day crap. I feel very strongly that my daily life is dull as hell 90% of the time. That's not a complaint, it's just a fact. I go to work, I come home, I watch tv with my wife, I go to sleep. That's my day most of the time. I also prefer not to use this blog as a place to bitch and moan unless I feel I have a point to make. Well forgive me but this will be a bit of a bitch session, but at this point I need it.

Lately it just feels like an inordinant amount of shit has gone wrong. Not irrevocably wrong, all of it is manageable but all of it happening at once just hasn't been a fun few weeks. Followers of this blog might remember that my wife and I have been working on buying a house, well we're still trying to get it closed. That in and of itself has been an on going headache, seriously trying to get everything that's needed in place is like having a second job (well first job now, but more on that later.)

Photo by Laura

Part of the headache is that because we're buying a foreclosed house the company that owns it puts all kinds condensed timelines and potential penalties in place just because they can. The big one is that if we miss our closing date (which is in less than a week) they will charge us $100 a day. Obviously we've been working our asses off to get finished by the closing date, but there's been an odd delay because of our plumber. A little context: we're getting home improvement costs built into our loan so we have a contractor and a plumper lined up. The plumper was brought in seperate from the general contractor because he came recommended by our realtor. He gave us a quote and everything we needed, he just had to fax a copy of his plumbing liscense to the bank giving us the loan so they could validate him. Well he never did, which seemed odd but whatever so I called him and left him a message asking him to do that. And so did the realtor. And it didn't happen. It never happened. After a week of messages. Well with the deadline coming up we said screw it and got a plumper through our general contractor and now we think we know why he never called back. He underbid the job by about $2000, and probably panicked when he realized that. So now we're lined up with a new plumber through the general contractor and just hoping to have everything sorted out by closing. If we do end up incurring charges for missing the closing I plan to take the first plumper to court because the only reason we're running late is that we were waiting for him.

Yesterday at my job everybody was called into an unexpected meeting. We were told that the office was being closed down effective immediately, peace out and good luck. Maybe not those words but that was the gyst of it. There was a bit of crying in the office from many of the full time permanent employees. Now it makes sense that they were dragging their feet on transitioning me from temp to perm even after six months: permanent works get severance and temps just get sent back to their placement agencies. This one is more a nuasance than anything else, and thankfully not as derailing as job loss can be. Because our lending officer working on our home loan knew my job was still technically a temp position my income was never factored in when our loan terms were set up. So thankfully this doesn't affect the purchase of the house. It does put me back on umemployment and back on the job hunt. Work isn't exactly plentiful around here, and with the office shut down there's now 50 other people with similar qualifications and experience to me also looking for jobs.

And to round out the week I hit a deer coming back from the cast party with Laura on Sunday. I've never hit a deer before and when people say that at night they come out of nowhere it is not an exaggeration. While I'm very grateful that neither myself or Laura were hurt and the car sustained minimal damage it still shook me up rather badly. To see a deer bounce off the front fender of your car is frankly a little traumatic. And I use the word bounce literally, the deer flew off onto the side of the road in a way that was almost cartoonish... which somehow made it more horrifying.

I'm hoping that the rule of three applies and that this week will basically fill my bad shit quota for a while. Sorry this turned into a "poor me" mope-fest but sometimes you just have to get it out. Hopefully something a little more cheery next time around.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Can LGBT Have Too Much Pride?

So elections are over (thank God!) and while I'm no longer living in New York I'm very grateful that Carl Paladino was crushed in the election. Now for anybody who wasn't following this, Paladino said more than a few not very nice things about gay and alternate life styles. The man is a bigot clearly, but some of the things he said also got me thinking. Now I have to be really careful with how I word this, because if I say it wrong I'm going to get my ass kicked. I might anyways actually but I think this needs to be said.

At this point I believe that the LGBT community is causing some of it's own problems in regards to how we are perceived by the public. It's a thought I've had in the past but it's been sparked again by Paladino. In his attempts to justify his decrying of gays he cited over and over again an experience his family had in Montreal. Apparently he was on vacation there with his family during that city's Gay Pride. To use his words they "went around a corner and there were all these guys in thongs grinding on each other." Now that man is a bigot, and regardless of what he saw or says it should be used to justify his bigotry. However at the same time I think it highlights a big problem, which is how the public perceives the LGBT community.

There is a very high percentage of people in this country who don't know (or at least aren't aware that they know) somebody who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. This means that their perception of the members of that community is dictated by news, entertainment and what we ourselves put out there. And if the dominant image of LGBT is gay men in thongs grinding on each other in public, is it really any wonder that so many people are afraid of us? Please understand, I'm not knocking pride. I think the feeling of pride and all of the Pride events that take place across the country are very important. The problem is that middle America does not understand that it's like our Halloween, or our Mardi Gras, or our Las Vegas. Basically it doesn't count: it's when we really go nuts because we can. But 99% of the time we're not in ass-less chaps groping each other on Main Street, and that's what people like Paladino need to be made to understand. Until they get that when we're not at Pride events that we're just like everybody else they're going to continue to fear us. Some people always will but there are those out there who only see these aggressive in -your-face antics and then is it any wonder that they start to think we're recruiting their children?

It feels to me like the LGBT community is in a similar place to where the black community was in the 1970s. It's true that there was certainly a rise in the appearance of blacks in film and on television but they were playing walking stereotypes. There couldn't just be a black character, they had to come from the ghetto and/or be a pimp with their own funk soundtrack. I feel like we're in the same place where there are more gay character in film and television than ever before. However they're there to just be stereotypically gay, basically it's gay-sploitation. What's more we're doing it ourselves. LOGO TV may be the worst offender with shows like The A-list just cashing in on the most shallow and stereotypical amongst us.

I realize it may sound like I'm picking on gay men. It's not my intention but it's clear that they are the most visible part of the LGBT community, which also is part of the problem. Lesbians are represented in pop culture primarily by The L Word (which as a premium show wasn't seen by that many people) and Ellen Degeneres. Bisexuals are undermined even within the community and in pop culture have had to make due with people like Tila Tequila, clearly a damaging image to have out there. Trangendered people are almost totally ignored in pop culture aside from the occassional cheap cross-dressing joke on a random sit-com. Drag queens are out there but in truth most of them fit more into the mold of gay man than truly transgendered. Actually backing up Ellen again I really feel that she is more of what is needed right now. She does not hide her sexuality however it is not needlessly flaunted either. She is a very funny person with a fun daytime show who happens to also be a lesbian. Being gay is not her defining characteristic, it's just one part of a whole person. That is the image that needs to get out there more, that our sexuality or gender identity is not what we use to define who we are.

I'm not saying there is no place for these more overtly "gay" shows or movies (I'm still a sucker for RuPaul's Drag Race) but the problem is that they are almost the only representation of the LGBT community that many Americans get. There was a time when the most important thing was just to make sure we were known. That was back when we were in the closet (and I do appreciate that some still are) and were suffering in silence. Now we're out, they know that we're here to stay and the need to be in your face about it just isn't there anymore. I think it's time that "We're Here, We're Queer, We're Not Going Anywhere" were adjusted to a less confrontational form. Perhaps "We're Here, We're Queer and We're Just Trying to Live in Peace." I know it doesn't chant as well but until it can be shown and understood that not all gay men are grinding on each other in front of families on vacation then we're going to keep getting people like Paladino on the ballot.