Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Musings on marriage

I don't understand the heteronormative pressure to get married that seems to be driving a great many of my old school friends and acquaintances. I can't help but wonder how people I used to associate with every day could have wound up with such different attitudes to me. In order to understand the pressure they have grown up with, and have succumbed to, I have to remember that they always predominantly identified as heterosexual, and never rebelled against their traditional Asian upbringing too much. Even then, I have to wonder - why didn't they decide to be different anyway? "Why be happy when you could be normal," asks Jeanette Winterson, and the question is succinct to the point of brilliance.

Sure, I was out (and about) since I was 15, doing such "audacious" things as rejecting the expectation of marriage. "It's just a piece of paper," I would defiantly decry the institution. "I hope I never reach the point where I need to validate my relationship like that." Much later, Gloria Steinem sums up my sentiments with "I don't breed well in captivity." Not that Gloria is alone - there are a wide range of women (and men) who've proudly denounced marriage, preferring to make their own blueprint for love and life.

It could be because I've often identified as the eccentric (in fact, my former psychiatrist saw me as fitting the official description of such). It could be that - yes - I got married eight years ago for immigration purposes, or what would have been immigration purposes if I hadn't had enough of the American life and divorced the guy a few years later. It could be that I currently identify as gay for all practical intents and purposes. It could be that my parents have learned by now that, in the end, I always do exactly what I want, so there's not much use trying to persuade me to shun my nonconformist ways.

Whatever it is, I think marriage is a social construction I can be perfectly happy without. And it kind of amazes me that people haven't caught up to my ultra-progressive views yet. Stubbornly enough, I hope they will. In the meanwhile, suffering prevails in mainstream culture.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Starry-eyed Pragmatist

This week I came close to buying a cute apartment in a tiny village in the Scania region of Sweden. The village was called Tomelilla, famous for artists and apples, amongst other things. My daydreams of changing my Twitter location to 'Middle of Nowhere, Sweden' (it's actually well connected to Malmo and other bigger towns, but sleepy enough to fit my description) were rudely interrupted, however, upon finding out that my idyllic Nordic dwelling had some problems with robbery and other kinds of crime. It then occurred to me that all the villages I had been to were quite xenophobic. By the time I found out that the contract was leasehold (you buy the right to live there for a certain amount of time, but after that it no longer belongs to you) my dreams had been well and truly dashed.

I'll always have this picture of a lovely-looking bank to remember my fleeting obsession with Tomelilla by

No matter. I am now learning everything I possibly can about the nearby town of Ystad, and creating new dreams as I speak (so many dreams, so little time).

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The new bogeyman

I happened to watch two Hollywood blockbusters in the last month, and couldn't help but notice how prominent homophobia is in both The Avengers and Prometheus.

In Prometheus, two men venture out to explore a part of the unknown planet they have just landed on dressed in the standard protective wear. Their supervisor, clearly not thrilled with the situation, advises that they 'try not to bugger each other,' which works as a portent if you're paying attention to the symbolism of what comes next.

The two men explore in the darkness until, suddenly, an off-white, phallic-like organism (and it's hard to overstate how penis-like it is) shoots up from a mysterious ebony puddle to monopolise their attention. One of the men is all smiles and curiosity, stepping forward to kneel down, speaking to the being and eventually trying to touch it with his hand in the spirit of friendly exploration, while the other urges caution as he hangs back. This when the erect member alien life form breaks into action, coiling around the limb of the human, and growing longer, thicker and more monstrous by the second. The victim's arm is broken, and when the onlooker tries to cut the organism it gets him too. Eventually both men meet a grisly end when the organism's head buries itself deep into their mouths (only one of their deaths is shown). So there you have it, folks: death by anal sex, where the oral cavity is the more visually acceptable (and less literal) one to penetrate, but the reference to 'buggery' suggests another.

The Avengers is a lot more tame by comparison, even though you could argue that there is a phallic-style monster to contend with in the New York City battle as well... but mostly I was scratching my head at the witty dialogue, such as:

Steve Rogers: We have orders, we should follow them.
Tony Stark: Following's not really my style.

Steve Rogers: And you're all about style, aren't you?

Tony Stark: Of the people in this room, which one is a) wearing a spangly outfit, and b) not of use?

There is a quest to single out the behaviour which can be perceived to represent the highest degree of 'gayness'. Steve is punished by having no comeback and wearing a miffed expression. It should be noted that both of these heroic characters wear non-neutral, shimmery eyeliner at some point, with Steve in lavender and Tony in pale blue. What this movie offers in innovation of Desirable Male presentation it punishes with self-scrutiny of the homophobic kind.

The 'people in the room' are almost all male, and most aren't given a female love interest. They take a keen, almost invasive interest in each others' activities (especially when they're tearing each other apart, verbally or physically). It is then a fitting climax in Whedon's world that when Tony regains consciousness after exerting great effort to save the world, and finds himself surrounded by men hovering over him, his first words are something like: Please tell me nobody just kissed me.

From an optimistic view, we can call it progress that fear of homosexuality is becoming so topical. When I was growing up, homosexuality wasn't given much thought in the movies I consumed, but times have changed. These days, there are a lot more gay role models, laws have been amended to allow homosexual couples the right to marry or adopt children, and people who would have never considered homosexual attraction a decade or two ago are now doing so quite fearfully.

I'm confident that, in another decade, we will be seeing homosexual themes explored in a more loving and accepting manner. Those of us who already have homosexuality within our comfort zones are given the task of helping out the rest of the world, which will warm to our wisdom, sooner or later.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Absorbing it all

Experiencing the world can get very intense very quickly, unless you know how to filter, sort and ignore some of what you register.

Coming out is hard to do

Especially when it's to yourself, in private. I've been vocal in public about being attracted to women as well as men, but at some point I started owning it less and less... by the time I realised it was time to get back in touch with that aspect of my experience, I had some faint internalised homophobia to replace with genuine self-love. Admitting this was difficult, because I've always prided myself on my open-mindedness and my political activism, especially where GLBTI rights are concerned. But I am lucky - like remembering how to play the guitar again, I relied on sense memory and positive NLP to work through my fears, and now I feel ready to love anyone.

I love and support transgendered and intersex people

In the feminist (radical and otherwise) circles I am part of, many women identify as 'transcritical' and think themselves progressive by churning out transphobic arguments, which I can't stand. Fear and hate are apparent in each interaction, can hardly be concealed. In contrast, the transpeople I have known have invariably been lovely to me. Very often they have offered me nothing but kindness and consideration from the beginning of our interaction till the end. They experience extreme prejudice from a startling variety of sources, yet still maintain their dignity and a love for the people they share the earth with. If only more people put themselves in their shoes and walked around, the world would be a better place.

If you don't know any transpeople, please go to your nearest queer-friendly bar and start a respectful conversation when you can... I promise you that the only thing to fear is fear itself. Transpeople are just like all of us, trying to make sense of a world where the gender roles given to us are rigid, confining  and inadequate to express ourselves as we'd really like to. At the end of the day, it's about being comfortable with who you are; trying to find that elusive [comfortable, creative and celebratory] space within.