Friday, December 12

Just thought I would share with the world a song that has meant a lot to me, "Shackles" by Mary Mary. These girls have stuck with me through many ups and downs and turn-arounds. So many shackles have been broken in my life, and I dance every day!
(apologies for the ad intro...)

Sunday, December 7

Sexual Programming and Laws

I wrote this on a whim and a rant, and it will appear in a journal about gender.

Sexual Programming and the Law: contemplating same-sex marriage and transgender rights  

or my unfortunately aborted career as a drag queen

There is an undercurrent of sexual energy that society structures to produce healthy, engaged individuals and sustain good institutions. What do you really desire when you are getting a law degree? A wife and kids? What do you really desire when you are competing in a sport? To be immediately muscular and attractive? The fulfillment of this desire is not necessarily immediate. If one has had their libido redirected into one pursuit which is sufficient outlet for them or has had a particularly bad experience with intimacy, there are roles to fill as well. What do you really desire when committing to celibacy for a religious purpose? Probably some sort of eschatological union which promises the kind of bliss you feel when you kneel before the priest to receive communion or worship. Society has built roles and avenues for sexual desire to be pursued in conjunction with things which build society and serve a greater purpose.

If you do not line up with these defined roles, you face greater challenges. Today I was contemplating whether or not I could make it as a drag queen. I would enjoy it for sure; it would be rigorous and I would have to give up my other pursuits, because as my friend said about professional drag, “Those bitches will eat you alive!” So I might be forced into a refined, highly artistic poverty. Not much cash to go around, but plenty of sequins. In a materialist sense, I would become pretty useless. But I could imagine my desire growing even in that poverty, even in that uselessness outside of the people in the audience to whom I would bring joy and entertainment and affirmation. I would sit in front of my dressing mirror, as if that mirror were an impenetrable wall, and throw myself at it with curses and crescendos in glory and get nowhere, but loving every useless second. And if I were in a place where that was the only outlet for my desire, I would take it and pursue it passionately.

I don’t blame straight people for being uncomfortable with gay people. I don’t think they immediately judge gays, I don’t think that they even immediately think that it is a sin. I think that straight people don’t understand the sexual program, and it is bothersome because their passions are set on a certain course in a different direction. In the same way a drag queen wouldn’t get along with the stiffs above ground, running around in their grey, straight, money filled worlds. She would build up her defenses, and try of course to lure them in with her charms, an effervescent evangelist. My inner drag queen pictures them being jealous of her freedom to pursue what she absolutely adores, and see their lives as just as futile as her own. The truth is that I have been raised to direct my desire toward providing for a family, and so the lifestyles of these stiffs appeals to me if it includes a partner I love and a family to provide for.

The question I ask my inner drag queen, and my inner above ground money-loving stiff is can we build a queer sexual program that fits in and contributes to society in concrete, meaningful ways? The answer is clearly yes, and the proof is in the queer people all around us who are contributing in wonderful ways to their communities, partners and families. But sometimes desires and experiences point us down different paths, and to different, less clear outlets for our lusting. An illustration that comes to mind is an anecdote my psychologist told me of the artist grants towns offer to attract gay men, and the single apartments they plan for in the midst of residential areas, because gay artists gentrify the area and raise property values. Creating art, which in a cold materialist view could be seen as pretty useless, becomes in a strange twist of modern capitalism an outlet for frustrated, single gay men who are brought to town to raise property values and ultimately taxes which will largely go to fund public schooling for children these men will never bear or raise.

Couldn’t we provide a legal framework that encourages gay people to build families and give in more concrete ways? Would not legalizing same sex marriage create a sexual program for gay people in this society which would direct them towards productive, stable lives that contribute to things above ground in concrete ways? Wouldn’t allowing same sex adoption, of course with all of the safeguards currently in place around heterosexual adoption, give gay kids growing up now something to look forward to, plan for, and build their lives around which will immediately contribute to society? Isn’t raising a healthy next generation inherently good? I think we need all the help we can get. Give orphans to gays to raise, and make sure that gays grow up stable and with outlets for their desire that leave the option of living entirely above ground available. And make sure that our transgender citizens have the same opportunities and privileges.

It is time that our laws help us all build a better society. Making same sex marriage illegal will lead to the same underground outlets that illegalizing marijuana created. Except this isn’t a mild drug that is being illegalized, this is love which has the potential to build enduring, supererogatory partnerships.

If this course seems like a “slippery slope”, it may well be a slippery slope for some. That is, it may well be a challenge to a straight person’s sexual programming. It may be uncomfortable and deeply disturbing even. But try to put my inner drag queen into a lifetime of wearing a suit and she would tell you it is just as disturbing. It may make a straight person feel some sexual programming dysmorphia, (body dysmorphia is the term used to describe how a transgender person feels when they are not comfortable in their body). It may make a straight person feel uncomfortable about his marriage or hopes for marriage, but for a queer person that discomfort is known territory.

So here is some advice from a drag queen who has some experience living in a straight world. Remember that it isn’t the law that helps you be straight, it isn’t even the years of tradition, it is your own libido honey, and nobody can take that away from you. The purpose of the law is not to erode family structures, but is rather trying to provide the same family structures for more people. Couples therapists will tell you that gay people have the same hopes when creating a family as straight people, and all of the same relationship issues and pitfalls. Think about what it would be like for a gay kid to grow up and not be able to raise a family. How would that have changed your life? If same-sex marriage still makes you uncomfortable, and you live in a state that hasn’t illegalized it yet, remember that you can always be as straight as you want underneath the legal framework. Sometimes it is enough for my inner drag queen to wear some sexy underwear underneath the suit. Would it be enough, for a straight person, to draw from the rich tradition of heterosexual art, literature, and ritual and look down at their wedding ring in the middle of the day to remind them that their sexual outlet is supported (is in fact, positively fabulous) when they are reminded that the legal code allows for more than what they might desire for themselves?

Friday, December 5

Mark 1:1-3

This is the first post in a project I am undertaking to revisit the gospel text. I am doing this in my current post-modern, queer-oriented, critical of colonialism and capitalism grounding, having been thoroughly disillusioned with the complicity of the church in past and present power structures, as well as the church's sexual and gender role agenda. 

I don't think I'm going to pull a C.S. Lewis here and flee what some may consider my contemporary paganism. However, I do think that the scripture is beautiful story and parable, and also an account of people embracing an ethical stance despite its self-damaging potential. I cannot shake that there is something good about a guy who gave himself up entirely for his friends, and loved his enemies, and raised an army of people willing to do what was right even when it wasn't easy. 

In that sense, the gospel has a hold of me, and like any good, giving, and game lover, I am compelled to take a hold of it and use my whole body, brain and emotions to give it what it is looking for, a good verbal fucking. And let me say that most of my lovers leave happy. >wink<   Read ahead here.

Mark 1
1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
"I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way"—
3"a voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.' "

So "gospel" is supposed to mean good news, which might be a western-applied interpretation, but one that I am willing to go with for a bit, if only to queer it. It seems to make sense to read the gospel accounts in the genre of journalism. Archaic, strangely expressed journalism that is reporting on such un-empirical/objective subjects as your soul and universal moral conduct, but what I mean is that we can use our newspaper reading skills here for most of the account. Which is what I think they are saying when they call it "news". Often quotations and events in the gospel accounts are not followed by explanations, which means that the reader is left to interpret. The biblical reader uses the interpretations they are trained to and accustomed to. 

"Gospel" hear stings a bit if you read it as "a grand narrative/ethical system designed to make you feel guilty and bring you into a rigid community". So I'm not going to think of it that way, I will set that aside. (assuming lover's best intentions, not killing the mood here)  I'm going to start out by saying that this is a story which will bring me to a better place by reading it. I know, I know, the eternal optimist. But what do you say to yourself when you read a headline in the paper? That the headline signifies a metanarrative with consequences for your life that you have to defend yourself against? Maybe a meta-something is implied by every headline, but I'm not sure if the "gospel" could change the way that I feel about myself for the worse, or lead me down a bad path. Even if it does talk about my soul. 

I think there is something unchangeable about my soul, and the gospel may comment upon the truth of things I know already (and perhaps things I know deep down but have not found the words for yet). Heaven and hell don't exist on my spiritual geography. Expressed soul and un-expressed soul are places I have occupied, and I must say that I would want to end up in a place of more-expressed-soul, thank you very much. If this piece of journalistic literature can teach me something about the expression of human souls, bring it on.

Then there is this quote from the Hebrew Bible, from Isaiah, who from reading more of the account about him in 2 Kings, was a tripped out probably bipolar prophet who sulked, was angry at people, had extravagant visions of God and angels which rival any pagan myth, occasionally performed the freak miracle, and wrote in ways that confuse himself and God all the time. Actually, the first person shifts in the book of Isaiah are the best defense of post-modernism that I know, check it out. But here I think it is an interesting reference, from an interesting prophet. 

We think at first that this messenger is Jesus, we learn later that it is John. However, the impression sticks with me (poetically) especially when we learn how Jesus is part of God and is therefore part of the plot in some mystical way from the beginning, and especially because I believe that people are responsible for inspiring/eliciting others' response to them in ways they aren't always explicit about and John's ministry was partly caused by Jesus from the get-go. Gay men recognize each other from early early ages sometimes, and like the future-lovers/truthmakers we are, the account of fetal John flipping around in Elizabeth's belly reminds me deep down of the boys I flipped around for as a child recognizing a common spirit (see Luke 1:41, sorry that was a different-gospel-digression). 

Anyhow, I don't know where I would be without gay men having gone before to set social norms aright for me, so it makes sense that there is some sort of generation of inspiration-making here, that God would send a messenger out beforehand to carve a little nook for the seed to snuggle into and germinate within (yes, that is a reference to the mustard-seed parable, which I constantly think about as it seems so related to procreative properties of all of the things that we do and, well, semen is on my mind occasionally as well). 

There is a voice (text/text authority) in the desert. The desert seems to me to be a morally neutral geography. There is no city, no custom there that isn't blown over and assaulted by sun and sand. It is the eternal loneliness, the endless 360 degree horizon that is our current crisis of knowledge. There is no authority in the desert but what you force for yourself, no landmark even, simply what knowledge or instinct you carry within you. And here God is saying through a prophet that there will be a road, not an authority in the desert, but a way to get to where you are going-- and straight, not turning around yourself and wasting away. Suddenly, on this morally neutral ground, there is a purpose. A telos as the Greek is, a direction of a sort, often applied to ethical direction (in Russian t'elo is the word for body, a linguistic bridge that has certainly been inspirational for me, see b'ez avtora). 

And on this word, this last gendering of God, let me claim that whatever divinity is out there they is not gendered, but transcends gender as the being-that-was-before-gender, the being-whose-idea-was-gender, so let's read (shamelessly revisionist to help past-misled-male authors-more-misogynist-than-they-could-fathom) to "make the ways straight for her/him/it/both/allgendered."  I like that. God is allgendered.  My body and mind would be happy making ways in barren lands for that.  (Am I just catering to my own pleasure here?  Would I destroy something I do not like but may be ethical to protect in the process of this task?  I'm not sure, but if anything good news is about liberation, so let's start speculating what kind of liberation it is about.  God is coming to Earth to free us, right?)