My spouse and I had a lot of fun going to a bunch of fims during this year’s local annual LGBTQ+ film festival! I liked all the films we picked out this time around. Here’s a little more about them (some of the links are to trailers while others’ are for the films’ websites:
Pulse – This Australian film was part of the “ImageOut There!” series, it definitely took some interesting twists and turns. What if people could surgically switch bodies, like for example go from a disabled teenaged male body to a “picture perfect” teenaged female body? This is what Olly chooses to do, with his/her reasonings unfolding slowly throughout the movie.
Man Made – This may be my all time favorite movie I’ve seen at the festival over the years. I cried a lot (and that’s saying something because lately tears are super hard to come by!) It’s a documentary that follows the journeys of 4 transgender men as they prepare for the only all-trans bodybuilding competition, in Atlanta, GA. Their stories are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and they hit on a bunch of emotional points in between.
Cola de Mono – This Chilean film was also part of the “ImageOut There!” series. It’s a feature length that focuses on one family on Christmas eve, 1986. The men in the family have been “cursed” by homosexuality, and the next iteration is now playing itself out. It’s super melodramatic, definitely campy, but not in a fun way. They undertones are full of hypersexuality, perversion, ritual, and horror. The film takes its name from a traditional drink similar to egg nog, which translates into “monkey’s tail.”
Studio 54 – I didn’t really know anything about the behind-the-scenes, so I learned a lot! The documentary featured a lot of interview time of the more “silent” partner, Ian Schrager (the more public partner, Steve Rubell, passed away from AIDS / hepatitis in 1989.) My spouse pointed out that it was a smart idea not to rely on a bunch of famous people being interviewed about it – that seemed like the easy choice, but this way the film spoke for itself a lot more.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post – My spouse was super psyched this was part of the festival, because they had heard of it and had just finished reading the novel that the film is based on. It takes place in Montana in 1993; when Cameron is caught in the backseat of a car with her girlfriend, she’s sent to a conversion therapy camp called God’s Promise. It was awesome to see this with a theater full of people because there were so many sound bites that got big laughs (although the writer and director didn’t seem to account for those interruptions, there wasn’t a beat for us to catch up, meaning we ended up missing dialogue because we were laughing so much. At one point, the audience burst out with a round of applause!) This was thoroughly entertaining and also disturbing – a more dramatic partner piece to “But I’m a Cheerleader.”
I haven’t written one of these since 2014! That’s way too long! My spouse and I just watched Another Earth for the second time, and I had forgotten that the protagonist, Rhoda, is a high school janitor. Heads up – this post might contain spoilers! And also, although I’m being critical and having fun with it (the portrayal of a janitor), I actually really do love this movie (hence, the wanting to watch it for a 2nd time!)
She doesn’t start out as a janitor. She’s a promising student that just got accepted to MIT, but her path takes a sharp turn when she kills a wife and child in a drunk driving accident. She spends the next four years in prison, instead of college, and when she gets out, she struggles with even wanting to be alive. When talking to a social worker about a job placement, she says,
“I don’t wanna really be around too many people or do too much talking.”
And that is, in a nut-shell, what being a janitor is all about! She gets placed at West Haven High School. We see her in a bunch of scenes at work. I’ll try to break it down a bit:
Uniform: She’s wearing workboots in the style of Timberlands. She has a hoodie and a full-body jumpsuit on over that. Plus a beanie. It is winter, but this is what she’s wearing while working in the building, and she is WAY overdressed! I’d be sweating bullets in this get-up, plus the footwear is too heavy-duty. Even running sneakers would be better – you do a ton of walking as a janitor. I wear a t-shirt, pants, and sneakers, and I still get hot – school buildings are usually kept super warm.
The Work: We see her pushing her cart through the building, mopping halls, and scrubbing at bathroom grafitti. This is fairly realistic, although where I work, we have an auto-scrubber for halls, and I’d never use that much elbow-grease on anything the way she’s going at that grafitti – I’d blow out my ligaments! I already struggle with “tennis elbow” from regular repetitive motions. Not worth it!
Storyline: There’s a sub-plot where her co-worker, Purdeep, is noticeably blind, and you’re left wondering how he gets his job done without seeing. Then, one day, Purdeep isn’t there, and Rhoda asks about him. The reply? He’s not coming back because he poured bleach in his own ears. This was the 2nd incident – he had previously blinded his own self by pouring bleach in his eyes.
“He said he was tired of seeing himself everywhere.”
Later on, there’s a scene where Rhoda visits him in the hospital, and she writes letters on the palm of his hand in order to communicate with him. It’s a tender connection, but other than that, I’m not sure what’s being coveyed through this other than here was a janitor who incrimentally lost his mind and self-destructed. ???
There’s one other scene, early on, that I think is really relevant. She runs into an old classmate at a corner store, and from his demeanor, it’s apparent he’s super surprised to see her, and he knows all about what happened to her, going to prison and everything. Their dialogue reads, starting with him asking,
“So, are you working?”
“West Haven High.”
“Yeah? What do you teach?”
“I clean the school.”
“Oh, that’s cool. …That’s probably very … therapeutic.”
It might not be apparent from the words, but his tone is sooo condescending, his classism is really shining through. I often tell people that I’m a janitor, and I feel fortunate I don’t come up against this kind of bias, generally. But there was a long period of time where I did feel shame about my job, especially because I work for the same school district I went to school at, and I too was a “promising” student, and I actually did go to college (and not prison), and I would brace myself for those moments where I might run into someone I knew from school.
Back in November, I lamented about not being able to find much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of a psychotic episode. In the past few weeks, two such books sorta fell into my lap, so I want to mention them!
My spouse picked up a book called Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind from the library last weekend. They pointed it out to me, like, eh? You’ll want to read this! This weekend, I was super sick, and I binge read it in 2 days, while trying to stay warm on the couch. It was compelling for so many different reasons, one major one being that I could relate to so much of it. The author, Jaime Lowe, was also hospitalized for a good chunk of her senior year of high school, and she also just took the pills without much reflection for years and years. Like, it’s something that is a thing now. (Although, for me, it was Depakote, and not Lithium.) She had another manic / psychotic episode when she tried to get off Lithium at age 25. I successfully(?) did get off all my pills in my early 20s, and that was my new normal for a long time, until I had 2 subsequent manic / psychotic episodes in my 30s. She had to switch off of Lithium because it was killing her kidneys, and she had a really hard time stomaching Depakoke, but she finally did get through it.
Having to switch sent her on a spiritual journey to learn about Lithium as not just a psychotropic drug but as an element, super common in nature. Which made the book encompass much more than just her mental health trajectory. The best thing about it though, was how thoroughly and deeply she gets back into that headspace of being so completely out of her mind. The slightest suggestion toward a minuscule thing could send her on an all-day (or longer) journey to do and/or be that thing. She devastated every aspect of her life that second time around. I was surprised by the fact that everyone around her wanted to keep her out of the hospital for a second time because she was no longer an adolescent and the adult ward was apparently to be avoided at all costs. As a result, she was in that state much longer – days, weeks… I was brought to the hospital like, BAM! So fast my head didn’t get a chance to spin out too far too fast with too many repercussions.
The second book I’m reading with a portrayal of a breakdown is called The Petting Zoo, by Jim Carroll (of The Basketball Diaries fame). He wrote this book in 2010, and according to the forward by Patti Smith, he died at his desk while writing. He had finished it at the time of his death, but it was still in the editing process. A few people had their hands in trying to edit as close to Jim’s style as possible. It’s fiction. It’s hard for me to get through (probably largely because it’s fiction – I almost always gravitate toward non-fiction and memoir). The book opens with the main character, Billy, in the midst of a manic frenzy. I didn’t know the book would be about that at all – nothing about that on the back cover summary – I bought it on a whim from a record store that was going out of business. So it was interesting to get thrown into that unexpectedly, but I gotta say it felt lacking in… something.
Billy has some kind of crisis over an art opening at the MET and how what he saw of this one artist affects how he’s approaching his art for his own upcoming show. He careens off down the steps, on his own, into the Central Park Zoo, more specifically a side spectacle, an outdated petting zoo. From there, he flees down the street, in his tuxedo and fancy shoes, to a building that reminds him of an Aztec temple. He then hits his head and his eye on branches or something and starts shouting something about a knife. He has a momentary black-out and the cops pick him up. At which point he comes back to reality, and that’s it. Although the aftermath ends up taking longer, red tape and everything. He has to stay overnight in a mental ward, which is just kind of looked at as a novelty, a curiosity, a stop-over.
In conclusion, real life is zanier (or at least more compelling to me) than fiction.
This year was the 25th anniversary of our local annual LGBTQ+ film festival! We made an effort to invite friends to different films this time around, which was fun – connecting with some people we hadn’t seen much lately was nice. Most of these links are to trailers, and a couple are to the films’ websites.
Beach Rats – I went to this one by myself, and I was surrounded by gay men, for the most part. There’s something about that that I really embrace; it doesn’t happen often enough. The general story-line is that this young man is living a double life – hanging out with his friends drinking, smoking pot, playing handball, going to Coney Island, getting a girlfriend. When he’s by himself though, he turns to online websites to hook up with older men. I like the way it was filmed. Really sparse. And the story-line takes an unusual twist.
Tom of Finland – This is the Finnish entry for best foreign language film for the upcoming Academy Awards – how cool is that?!! This was a really well done bio-pic. I really didn’t know much about him other than what I saw of his drawings. He fought in WWII. He had a complex and interesting relationship with his sister. He had a long-lasting partner. He had fans all over the world, but especially in California, and they made sure he knew he was celebrated, flying him in for parties he inspired, etc. Highly recommend!
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson – You can watch this movie on Neflix if you want. So, this is really only some of the story. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the production of this film and who’s work is being credited, which we only found out about the day before we were going to see it. Here’s one article that gets into all the details: What Would Trans Art Look Like if it Was Only Made By Trans People? To sum it up in one sentence, a trans-woman of color – Reina Gossett – has been working on a film about Marsha P. Johnson, and she had done a ton of legwork and archival studying. Then this dude – David France – swoops in with his finances and his connections and essentially steals the work that had been made thus far. So, our experience was a little bit soured, but I have to admit it was still a good film. And I hope Reina Gossett is still feeling empowered to move ahead and create her own film – the more films that will educate people about transgender people and issues, the better. I just realized I didn’t say anything about what this film is about – so go watch it on Netflix! Haha.
Alaska is a Drag – This one was kinda campy. It features twins who are stuck living in Alaska – a gay guy working at a fish cannery, learning boxing, and fantasizing about making it big as a drag queen, and his sister who has cancer and is getting regular treatments, but her spirits are high, indulging in the world of drag her brother creates. It was so-so. Definitely different, but not all that compelling.
Freak Show – This was SUPER campy. Directed by Trudy Styler (Sting’s wife!) A kid has to move to a southern state and attend a super conservative high school. His mom is Bette Midler, er, I mean, a mom played by Bette Midler. He endures bullying on top of bullying and hate crimes and more and more violence. He then decides to up the ante and run for homecoming queen. Laverne Cox has a small role – that was one of the best parts. Also, costuming was stunning, but otherwise, I wasn’t a huge fan.
Saturday Church – This centers on a 14 year old boy named Ulysses. Similar themes as Freak Show, but the approach is a little more realistic. He starts to question his gender identity amidst bullying at school and conservative viewpoints from relatives. He meets other gender variant people of different stripes, they all convene at a youth service / shelter on Saturday nights. Kate Bornstein plays the person in charge of the space!!! They eat together, attend “balls” together, and talk about hardships. I liked this film a lot!
Tonight at 10PM (9PM central time), PBS is screening a documentary called Real Boy. If you’re hanging at home tonight, check it out!!
I had the opportunity to see this film twice now:
Last fall, my neighbors and I went, as part of the annual LGBT film festival where we live. I’d have to say that I was a little bit jaded at that time – here is yet another story about young, white, binary, trans-masculine people. Seen that / heard that!!!
The parts about his (Ben’s) mom, and family dynamics were what held it together for me. My neighbor was really touched by it in a different way – there was a lot about singing/songwriting/creativity, and also about recovering from substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Then, two weeks ago, I went with my spouse and her parents. It was a free showing, and the two main “characters” were there in person to answer questions and play some of their music as well. I felt really happy that we all saw it together – we then went out to eat and talked about how we related or didn’t, with the movie. Awesome conversations.
I would say that, for me, the second time’s the charm, haha. For one thing, closed captioning was on, so we could all listen and read the dialogue simultaneously, which was kinda necessary because some people mumble more than others. I got a lot more out of it – the way that Ben’s navigating his new life / roles / perceptions as a very young person (I can’t imagine transitioning at that age!!! Hormones are already on full alert and then to mix it up so drastically, must be stressful – both positive and negative stress.) And the male bonding that was going on between the characters felt a lot more touching to me this time for some reason. He has a mentor / protegee dynamic going on with an older musician, and then a housemate / brotherhood with a trans-guy he met through mutual friend.
In terms of content notes, I would give this warning: Topics that are potentially sensitive to those in recovery are brought up: mostly grappling with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-injury and family issues / rejection. Also, we follow along as Ben and his housemate move forward with getting top surgery with Dr. Garramone in Florida.
I’d say catch this movie if you can! Although it didn’t really speak to me the first time, I came around to really like it!
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, named Evan Westfal. He said, “Thanks for sharing your blog with the world,” and he directed me to his website where you can stream his music. He recently put out a new EP, called “Gay Pirates.” He says, “I was hearing a lot of love songs, but none of those love songs had any queer representation. I wanted a narrative that spoke to my identity as a gay man. So that is how gay pirates came to be. I describe the EP as a series of lamentations and exaltation of a very gay love.”
You can check it out here: Evan Westfal
The music is fun and catchy; the lyrics are full of stuff like coy promises and sweet deceits, treasure chests and booty, tight shirts, resiliency, and a “raging sea of hormones.” My favorite is probably the title track.
I asked him a couple of questions, because he’s got a lot going on behind the scenes, and because I was really curious what it’s like to live in Edmonton. He said,
If I had to explain Alberta to an American, I would say that, culturally, it’s the Texas of Canada. Politically Alberta is fairly conservative, and it’s also a Province that is rich in oil. A lot of our citizens are tradespeople that work on oil rigs. As for my city, Edmonton itself is a really cool city. A river valley runs through the centre of the city, it’s rich in wildlife and flora. The city has a fantastic pride centre, and lots of other queer organizations. To answer your questions regarding weather and topography, Edmonton is really cold in the winters, and really hot in the summers. You are correct, the surrounding areas are prairies.
The pride festival is really cool. Edmonton had it’s first parade in the 1990’s, and it was very small, and most of the participants wore bags over their heads to hide their identities. Flash forward to the millennium, and things have changed quite a bit. In the last few years our city hall has raised a pride flag, the Edmonton public school board was a marshall for the parade, and the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton raised the pride flag. Each year over 30’000 people attend the parade. This year the pride festival’s theme is “one pride many voices.” The festival says they’re taking strides to become more inclusive. I think this is a great approach, as pride could definitely stand to be more intersectional and welcoming.
I asked what his musical background was, and also what instruments he plays / does he collaborate? He said,
My background with music begins with my schooling. I am a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, it’s a musical theatre program in Victoria, British Columbia. I think you’ll notice some heavy influences of musical theatre in my songwriting. I then decided to focus on commercial contemporary music, I achieved that through matriculating at MacEwan University. As a musician I’ve had the opportunity to sing backing vocals for Josh Groban, to play for the opening ceremony for the Edmonton Pride Festival, I’ve performed with Opera Nuova (an Edmonton based opera company), and I’ve produced and performed in many cabarets. Right now I’m working on a music video for my song “Gay Pirates,” it should be out in a month or two. As for instrumentation, I play the piano and sing. On my track Gay Pirates, I wrote all the song, but I had some great musician’s record with me. I have to send a thank you to my drummer Julissa Bayer, guitar player Andrew Brostrom, and Bassist David Pollock.
He also mentioned that he volunteers with an outreach program called fYerfly, so I asked him to elaborate on that too:
fYrefly is a great program. The name is an initialism that stands for: fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah! You might notice the Y is capitalized, that’s because youth are the most important part. fYrefly originated as a summer leadership camp for LGBTTQ2SIA+ youth between the ages of 14-24. I attended the program as a teen, and it changed my life. For the first time in my life I got to be surrounded by people like me, I got to share a sense of camaraderie, and I got to feel pure acceptance. I loved the experience so much that I spent over a decade volunteering for fYrefly. Every year it’s a treat to see the difference the camp makes for youth.
I’m just going to repeat that acronym: “fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah!” Haha, I love that! Evan will be performing for the opening ceremony of the Edmonton Pride Festival, coming up on June 10th. If you’re able to get up there – I just looked it up, and for me, it’s 34 hours away, by car! It’s up there!
Also, related, here’s one of the first posts I ever wrote – an experience I had at a wedding:
Effeminate Pirate Orders Fruity Drink on Party Boat
My spouse and I attended more films than ever before, at the annual LGBTQ+ film festival in our town, recently. Most of these links are to trailers; a couple are to the film’s website directly. I highly recommend the first 6, and then I don’t recommend the 7th at all.
Suicide Kale – This film was shot in 5 days, with no budget. Even without stipulating that, it’s an intriguing and complex look into the dynamics between 2 lesbian couples at a lunch party, and what happens when one of them finds a suicide note tucked away somewhere. Sounds like it’d be intense, but it’s actually fairly lighthearted and humorous. Very well attended, mostly women in the audience.
Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo – This film takes place in real time, as two men fall for each other in a love/lust at first sight type-of-way. Things start out in a laid back, sexually explicit environment / vibe, but quickly become complicated as the two grapple with an emotional twist, and whether the connection is worth working through it. Super well attended; roughly 98% men, 2% women.
Closet Monster – This might have been my favorite one this year. It’s a coming-of-age story of an 18-year old boy coming to terms with his gay identity, complicated by flashbacks of a hate crime he witnessed as a young child. There were body horror elements to the film, which I was really into. Plus, Isabella Rossellini’s voice is featured as a talking pet hamster! Well attended, very diverse audience, including young adults, which isn’t usually the case.
Strike A Pose – This also was possibly my favorite one this year. It’s a documentary about the 7 dancers who went on tour with Madonna in 1990, and where they’re at now. Not all of them are gay! Some of them had a lot of secrets at the time, and they are now much more open about things. Way more emotional than I would have thought, going into the film. Very well attended, diverse audience but definitely mostly men.
Girls Lost – A film from Finland. Magical realism. 3 tight-knit female friends, about 14 years old, are frequently bullied at school but find solace in each other and a greenhouse they regularly retreat to. Suddenly, a magical flower appears; they drink the nectar and turn into boys, for about 12 hours. One of them realizes he is transgender, and he becomes addicted to the feelings the nectar brings. At the same time, he is self-destructive, in an effort to understand himself. Really well attended, diverse audience.
Real Boy – This is a documentary spanning over a few years, as a singer/songwriter FTM person starts his transition. It focuses on the relationship between him and his mom, between him and a best friend who is also trans, and between him and another trans singer/songwriter who is a little older and acts as a mentor of sorts. Issues that are discussed: hormones, sobriety, top surgery, family dynamics. Also really well attended, diverse audience including young adults, which is not generally the case.
Lovesong – This was a flop. My spouse and I were attracted to it partly because it stars Jena Malone, and also it seemed like a complex story-line. It was fairly complex, but they characters were not at all likeable. Two female friends who go way back, dabble in acting on their attraction to each other, at various points spanning a few years. Kinda boring. Sparsely attended, mostly women.
My spouse and I diligently filled out audience participation ballots for each film, and a survey about the festival in general. My most important feedback: more films with trans characters please. And also, please make it more affordable.
Have you seen this thing going around right now? Where someone distills certain qualities of their personality and culls different characters from popular media to illustrate what they’re all about? (Or, they just relate with certain characters, or they meant a lot at a certain point in growing up, etc. …)
It was a fun mental exercise while I was working last Friday – I started thinking about what if I participated? The first thought felt like a no-brainer: Ziggy Stardust!! Androgynous, flamboyant, theatrical, other-worldly… Over the weekend, my spouse suggested Ed Wood (who actually was a real person, but seems like such a caricature in the film by Tim Burton) or Edward Scissorhands, both of whom seemed like they could fit. My super-close friend once compared me to Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle, so that also crossed my mind.
But I was thinking, I would like to pick someone who is openly non-binary. And I was stumped. I though and thought and thought some more. I started to feel like, OK, well if not non-binary, then at least gender-ambiguous. The character of Sally from Third Rock From the Sun came to mind. I loved that show as a teenager. The four main characters are aliens who inhabit the bodies of a “family” in order to study Earthlings. Sally is a macho military-type stuck in the body of a feminine model-type. Humor ensues. But then I honed in on Harry, the “uncle”? who is forever clueless. Which, might not be apparent from this blog, but if you knew me in real life, you’d realize that a lot of times, I just don’t get it. Like, seriously. I do not get it.
So, yeah, Harry stuck out (and plus he wore an awesome jacket a lot of the time, in the show). But I was still stumped on the gender-identity aspect of who I am. So, I decided to subvert it, and came up with this:
It’s not all grim though: there is representation out there. It’s just super obscure, at this point. And I have great hopes for the (nearish) future.
For now though, here’s an extremely, incredibly thorough bibliography of all things non-binary, created by Charlie McNabb, maybe about a year or so ago. This document is in-process: you can suggest edits and new entries!
The most well known entries I could spot were:
– Pat, from Saturday Night Live, 1990-1994. Bleccccchhhhhhhh!!!
– A character from the film, Shortbus, 2006. I need to see this film again; it’s been too long!
– A Star Trek episode from 1992. From Charlie’s archives: “The Enterprise encounters a humanoid race called J’naii that is androgynous. Riker becomes close with J’naii pilot Soren, who reveals that she identifies as female, but is closeted because her people think that gender is a perversion. When their affair is discovered, Soren is forced to undergo “psychotectic therapy” to convert her to theproper genderless state. Although this episode is an allegory for gay rights, the gender neutrality is interesting and rare for the time.” I need to seek this out, just for this plot line!!!
Anybody got any other examples out there?!?
This week has thrown me for a loop, big time. Between Saturday AM and Wednesday AM, I was in the hospital for mental health reasons, on a psychiatric unit. I don’t believe I ever thought I’d be back there; in fact, it was my biggest fear. Scarier than heights, the tallest roller-coasters, the dark, spiders, sharks, germs, etc. etc. (I’m actually not afraid of any of those things.)
Just to summarize my history briefly, when I was a senior in high school, I suffered a psychotic break and subsequent major depressive episode (lasting 4 months, and then on and off throughout college). I was on a mixture of different drugs for about 6 years, and I weened myself off all of them after a certain point. I’d been med-free for roughly 10 years, and pretty proud of that fact.
I’ve written about mental health before…
Here: Depression and taking testosterone
Here: That specific trauma is still there
And here: Continuing to work through a specific trauma
…and also scattered throughout many blog entries.
Although this blog is mainly about taking a low dose of T and working as a janitor, it is undeniably also about mental health and self-care. I slipped up pretty big in the self-care department, slowly and gradually at first, and then fast and unstoppably. I went through a full blown manic episode / psychotic break. A lot of it was so fun it’s kinda indescribable. In fact, I can definitely tell I still haven’t come down completely yet – I’m registering a heightened sensitivity to bodily sensations, both pleasant and annoying, I feel keyed up / antsy, I need to be in control of the stimulation levels or else I feel overwhelmed within seconds, smells and tastes are waaaaay off (not constantly, but sporadically), colors and patterns are popping out, my thinking is still relatively disorganized…
But I’m sleeping well and eating well and engaging in a lot of different things and spending 24/7 with my partner for a few days, and that’s what’s important right now. I was prescribed ziprasidone, which is an atypical antipsychotic approved by the FDA in 2001. Am I happy about it? No. Do I think I’ll be on it indefinitely? A strong NO! But I can accept it for right now.
I’m sure I’ll return to some of what I went through, in an attempt to process things and just share where I’m at (it does feel like it’ll be an arduous rehabilitation process, and I’ll be out of work for roughly 2 weeks). For now though, I want to just write about a strange parallel. It might not mean anything if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, but I’ll give it a whirl anyway (and there are no real spoilers in what is to follow):
Leading up to what I went through, my partner and I were watching a lot of Breaking Bad. Not really binge watching it, but watching an episode almost every night. Now we are not. Haha. We only have 4 or 5 episodes left, but we’re putting the show on pause. I suggested we start watching Malcolm in the Middle instead, largely because Bryan Cranston plays the dad in both shows (and I used to watch it as a teenager and thought it would be fun. It is fun). But – we just watched the 5th episode, and the family is getting their house tented and fumigated. They are in a camper trailer on their front lawn in the meantime. And the parents, at the tail end of the episode, put on gas masks in order to enter the house and get some alone time. I was flipping out. (I mean, my partner was too, but I was shouting and swearing and pacing and called it a night, basically). Haha. I’ll probably be in bed by 9pm.
About five months ago, I did a phone interview with Monica Hesse of the Washington Post, as a potential candidate for an upcoming article about non-binary genders. She was planning on spending a few days with the person / people she selected; it wasn’t just a matter of chatting with her over coffee. It sounded really intensive and potentially uncomfortable at times. I thought the interview went well, and I talked to my partner about the possibility of her hanging around with us for a while. My partner was game. I was game.
I got back to her with a few reservations: When might this be, exactly? (I really love being able to plan ahead.) And, would you be coming to my work?!! (I am not out at work as non-binary, and I could not fathom her being there with me, at all.) She assured me that it was not a necessary part of her article, and it’d totally depend on who she ended up going with and what everyone was comfortable with. She seemed well versed in trans issues and understood the need for partial anonymity or a potentially incomplete story.
She had a lot more phone interviews to get through, and as we messaged back and forth, it became clear her interest in me was waning. I was pretty bummed. It sounded like something I was ready to challenge myself with! Of course, the disappointment faded with time. I’ve been looking forward to catching the finished article. Here it is!!!
I think this article is really well done. It covers important ground: pronouns, the internal isolation such an identity can bring (when society has no starting point for understanding), family and friend relationships, coming out issues. There is nothing sensational or hyped up about it – the reporter seems well informed and sensitive.
A major thing struck me. This article is about a very young person. Kelsey is 18 years old. They are at a completely different life stage than I am at. The article follows them over the entire summer. It appears that the reporter spent many many days with Kelsey, over a matter of 4 months or so. We get a glimpse into what’s going on, as they have concerns about clothing. As they have difficult conversations with their mom. As they go to a therapy appointment to discuss the possibilities of going on a low dose of testosterone. As they talk about teenaged things with their teenaged friends. As they meet someone they found through OKCupid, for the first time in person. As they pack up and plan for life at college.
“They will go to college. They will study engineering. They will get a job. They will find a partner and make a home. They will begin with finding a T-shirt.” This quote sums up the tone of the article.
Had I been the subject, it would have been nothing like this at all. I’ve been to college (glad that’s over with!!!). I have a job. I have a partner. We have made a home. I have a T-shirt. In fact, I have many T-shirts. Haha.
This story is no doubt important. However (and I’m definitely biased here, bordering on ageist maybe) I think it’s really really necessary that there are representations of older, established non-binary people. It’s not just a young people’s thing. (Not to imply that young people will be growing out if it – they won’t be!) I just mean that it’s not just something someone is focusing on at the time when they are naturally growing into their identities, just at the beginning of starting new chapters of their lives. There is, relatively speaking, a lot of representations (if even just online only) of young people, starting to question and figure these things out.
Gender identity issues are multi-generational. They are lifelong, and they come with different sets of challenges at different stages in life. I hope more media outlets will start jumping on the bandwagon (in respectful ways!) and more articles will pop up, with more frequency, soon. And that those articles will focus on other identities within non-binary genders, and different age brackets, different ethnic backgrounds, different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.
And if I’m not seeing it, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing my own article, here. Like, pretending I am a reporter, looking in. Look for that in the near future, maybe!