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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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Losing That ‘Phobic Edge

This evening as I unlocked my car outside the Y, a car zoomed through the parking lot in my direction. It was dusk, but the remaining sunlight and increasing fluorescents revealed there were three or four people in what appeared to be a souped-up Neon, similar to one of the cartoonish Hot Wheels cars I had as a kid and hoped to drive someday.

The passenger-side window was down, which seemed odd since it was a little cold out, and one of the passengers’ heads was leaning out. My brain and body went into anticipating-gay-bashing mode: I re-unlocked the door, reached for the handle, tried to calculate through felt sense whether I would be able to get into my car before the three or four assailants could leap out of their losermobile, meanwhile scanning the area for possible escape routes. To say avoiding danger is second nature to me is an understatement.

As I swung my driver’s side door open, a teenage boy pushed himself out of the window of the losermobile and shouted, “Yo, I’m GAY!”

I didn’t really process what he said until I was safe inside with the door locked and the losermobile had vacated the premises. Yes, there was an anti-gay insult; being gay was, according to the young man’s tone, laughable. But rather than throwing the insult at someone (me), he threw it back on himself. His technique was reflexive and somehow self-deprecating. Having experienced a fair (actually unfair) number of “faggots” and “homos” hurled my way over the years, I was surprised by this development.

At the risk of overanalyzing (you know I’m going to risk it): Maybe he’s depended on “That’s gay” as a guaranteed laugh-getter, but it doesn’t get the approval it once did. Perhaps he’s been a hobbyist homophobe but he’s losing his edge. So instead of hurling a “gay” pie at someone else, he turned it on himself. The payoff didn’t seem worth it to me, but to be fair, I’m not his target audience.

I found the whole scene (which took only a few seconds, actually) so befuddling, I haven’t even been able to think of clever comebacks that would have slain him with wit if I’d been able to think of them. He just seemed like a pathetic little fuckwad. Being able to see him that way is a vast improvement for me. Situations like this usually trick my mind into believing I’m a vulnerable adolescent. In a dark parking lot, that way of thinking is probably still the best strategy.

We Are a Proud People

As Pride month goes out like a fabulous lion belting out a high note, I want to say a few words to you homos who believe the “T” part of the movement is bringing down the “LGB” part, that “they” don’t belong, blah, blah, blah:

You’re wrong.

For one thing, trans people helped start this fucking movement and have always been part of it. If you doubt me, read about our history. Trans folks, like the rest of us queers, are quite deserving of equality and capable of organizing protests, carrying signs, throwing a punch–whatever needs to be done. Duh.

And are you unaware of the tendency most people have to conflate gender and sexuality? (This gets a little complicated, so follow along and reread if you need to.) It’s not just about one’s own sexuality and gender identity and how s/he expresses them. Someone who identifies, for example, as a gay man, by desiring sex with other men, is all-too-commonly viewed as less of a man (than what, no one is quite sure). Let’s not pretend it’s just bigoted straight people who do this. Queer people use gendered commentary as reward and punishment, too. Sometimes we celebrate transgression; other times we use it to justify disapproval according to some fucked-up binary set of genders. (I know you do it, mary, so don’t EVEN…)

On a good day, we could argue there’s something playful about this kind of teasing, that it suggests we’re acknowledging a fluidity of gender specifically and personal identity more broadly. It’s fun to slough off the gender straitjacket. We should all do it more often. Always, even. But someone like you can’t allow the fun to last. When I, a queer/gay guy, tell you I don’t completely identify as male, nevertheless masculine, you’re, like, “What the fuck do you mean? You think you’re a woman?” And I’m, like, “Not exactly, but definitely not completely a guy.” I offer the term “genderqueer” and you make an icky face. You want things simple (they’re not) and give in to whoever you think has power (they have it over you mainly because you grant it) or to your middle-class values (which are shit). You grasp for privilege while shaking off any of us you think might be holding you down.

We’re all guests in our ancestors’ movement. You should respect what they sacrificed. To be clear, they did it for their own well-being–nothing wrong with that–but we’re a lot better off than if they hadn’t fought for progress. We have a responsibility to make things a better, and exclusion is not the way to make progress.There’s no question in my mind that “T” is an integral part of our alphabet soup. You, however, we can probably do without.

End of The(ir) World

I’ve allowed myself to get sucked into Rapture-mocking. It’s fun, and, I mean, what do I have to lose? If it actually happens at 6pm today, I was going to hell anyway. If it doesn’t happen, then my dinner plans at 7:15pm are a go, and I can share a see-it-didn’t happen toast with them, although we’ll likely have better things to discuss.

Meanwhile, to get in the spirit, I’m doing what everyone else seems to be doing: posting songs that allude to or center on the end of the world or, more generally, on endings. There are some great ones. My favorite is Matt Alber’s straightforwardly titled “End of the World,” which uses the ending as a simile. Major conflict and change threaten his relationship, but isn’t the staying together worth the struggle, he asks. Isn’t the struggle simply part of life and love?

While I’m sure Alber invites anyone to put her-/himself in the persona’s place, he’s gay, and in the video he does a gorgeous slow dance with a man. Unashamed, public displays of affection between men is the kind of “sign” that Rapturites believe indicates the end of the world is near, as does increased acceptance of LGBT people. Their exclusionary beliefs on earth will be justified when they rise and co-mingle with Jesus and the dead, or some version of that.

It won’t be the end of The World, just the end of their world. As more of us queer folks reveal who we are (actors, athletes, solders–oh my!), and as the people who love us openly accept us, the vicious lies fundamentalists tell about us lose power. Sure, we’re as humanly sex-obsessed as heterosexual people, but we also long for tenderness. We enjoy a slow dance, a dip punctuated by a sweet kiss. Some people have been obsessing about terrible ends. My people long for happy beginnings.

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