Honky, Please: Protesting Beyoncé’s ‘Black Panther’ Dance?

First, let me address the obvious issue that some people are going to immediately have with  the title I’ve chosen: I am the direct descendant of an immigrant to the U.S. from Austria-Hungary, and the term “Honky” is short for Hungarian. So when I say “shut the fuck up, you stupid honky,” please understand that this is coming from someone who is allowed to say that.

First, some people in this country are freaking out about the Black Panther imagery of black leather and berets that Beyoncé’s back-up dancers were wearing, but it is very important to understand the actual realities of the Black Panthers before jumping to conclusions. I’m not going to explain the entire history of that organization, given that anyone who can read this either 1 – has access to the internet, and can look that up their own damn self, or 2 – Has broken into my laptop without my permission, so they need to get the hell out of my apartment. What I will do is address the most blatant issues, to me, with the overreaction and misunderstandings of Ms. Knowles’ performance.

As to whether politicizing a performance during event is acceptable, that is a debate that requires its own extensive discussion. People have a right to expression, part of that expression is the reason Beyoncé was invited to perform at the event in the first place, and you are welcome to simply disagree with whoever you feel like (just do so quietly if you live in an area of despotic corruption and don’t want thugs masquerading as a legitimate government to come after you or your family).  But the specifics of this example are what I want to talk about.

Some people have pointed out that “The Black Panthers are a Hate Group!” – but this misses the real history here.  The “New Black Panther Party” is considered a Hate Group by some of the same groups that keep an eye on the many disparate factions claiming to be the current KKK.  But unlike the Ku Klux Klan, which was first declared a bunch of Terrorists in 1870 (Yes, really, we’ve had terrorism for centuries in this country, people), the original Black Panther Party was part of the civil rights movement starting in 1966.  Dissatisfied with the state of progress of the civil rights movement in combating the lingering effects of obvious racism, this was a radical organization that, among other things, believed that their natural rights, including those defended in the U.S. Bill of Rights, endowed them with the authority to patrol Black neighborhoods armed.  Because if you don’t believe that corrupt and racist police were abusing Black people in 1966, you don’t know a whole lot about 1966 in the U.S.A. (or at least, the parts of the U.S. were that was blatantly rampant).  While the original BPP was connected with various inappropriate things (accusations that members were involved in various crimes were used to publically discredit the whole group, and every group that calls itself “Nationalist” makes enemies, sometimes deservedly so), the original BPP founders were not advocates of deliberating seeking to harm white people, white police, or any one else simply on the grounds of that Nationalism.  The KKK, on the other hand, was so obviously a bunch of violent terrorists that it only lasted for about 5 years in its first iteration before the U.S. government began doing everything it could to dismantle it, despite claims from Klan members that they were “doing God’s work” and “protecting Christian values.”  Maybe I missed the part of the new testament about who you should go out and lynch on the weekend, but I have reread the entire Bible (More than one translation, Catholic and Protest versions, and so  on) more than twice, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t in there.  Helping your neighbors most decidedly is, and it’s the only reason most Americans have even heard the word “Samaritan” mentioned to them.

Whether or not the Black Panther Party was right about everything is not the issue here – the issue here is that she is calling attention to the fact that racism, even if it is no longer part of the law, is still very much an issue many people, millions of people in the United States, have to deal with, and sometimes it leads to people getting killed. The idea that criticizing abusive police is offensive to all cops should be most offensive to the cops who are actually doing their best out there, who became cops in the first place for the right reasons, and who have to be associated in the minds of the family of innocent victims with the worst people to ever share their chosen profession.  Most cops aren’t shooting innocent children, in the same way that most politicians aren’t advocates of Genocide.  Politicians have a far easier time of speaking out in the media against the terrible things they oppose, however, because public speaking is part of their job. So the real issue people behind #BlueLivesMatter should be addressing, is why they aren’t doing what they can to help police departments weed out the sorts of people who will abuse their power in the first place.  The training received during and after police academies, Internal Affairs, public review and scrutiny, and many other methods of making sure that the right people are appointed to protect the public are crucial, so perhaps you should stop screaming at a song and dance number and contribute what time and energy you have towards something real getting done in this world if you really care as much about cops as you claim to. Being seen as corrupt and dangerous by the public is a far more serious issue for police officers trying to do their jobs right than any concert ever has been, so rather than pretend there is no problem, how about we try and make it better, from all sides.

Eenglish Speling

This iz wut Eenglish koud louk liik if chaanjiz wuer maad tuu maak speling kunsistentlee funetik.  Wii duu that?  Wel, aftuer evreewun got yuust tuu it, it woud bee aa hel uv aa lot eezeeuer tuu teech peepeul than auwr kourent sistem iz.

Kaas in pooynt: Hauw duu yuu eksplaan “rough,” “though,” and “through” tuu aa skuulchiild?  Moostlee, wee doon’t bother.  Wee just tel them to memooriiz an inkonsistent sistem peest tuugethuer oveur senchuureez frum vereeus laangwejes oonlee sumwut reelaated tuu eechothuer.  Wich iz wii ii hav ritin this uuzing aa moostlee improoviizd sistem tuu ilustraat mii poynt.  Imajun hauw much faster speling lesunz woud goo if they wuer az simpuel az teeching aa singuel sistem and muuving riit uloong tuu othuer subjekts?

Uv koors, it woud reekwiiuer reemaaking siinz, bouks, and websiits tuu fit thu nuuw standurd, but oovuer aa long eenuf tiim fraam, it woud maak it eevun eezeeuer tuu udopt Eenglish az aa standurd laangwej uv gloobuel komuers and komyuunikaashun.

And sumwun kan probublee fiind aa priteeuer waa tuu duu it than this.

Transgender Momentum and Who Caitlyn Jenner “Was”

Yesterday, the media was abuzz with the news that Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic athlete and Wheaties box model, was unveiled to the world with a radical transformation into someone more at peace with her own body, and whom older gentlemen could ogle.

Obviously Jenner has put a lot of effort into presenting herself to the world in a favorable light, and I’m happy for her.  But this just highlights something that others more influential than I have already pointed out – focusing on the looks of a transgender person diminishes the spirit and struggle of such individuals as us in this world.  We don’t just enter into our transgender cocoons and metamorphose into new fabulous lives.  Most transgender people simply cannot afford the sorts of help that someone in Jenner’s position can command.  Some simply don’t have the genetics to ever look like the sorts of people who end up on magazine covers, and some would never even consider wanting that sort of attention, or even that sort of mainstream aesthetic.

One of the issues that’s been brought up in social media, is that a great number of people are still referring to Caitlyn as “Bruce,” “formerly Bruce,” or “born Bruce Jenner,” which goes against the standards set forth by several advocacy groups to not refer to a transgender person by their former name.  But this is an exceptional case – Jenner is already famous.  Bruce Jenner has even been mentioned in song: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka21UZUBgSY )

So what we have here is not an ordinary transition.  The majority of Transgender people are by no means famous, and even many transgender public figures are usually people who had already embraced at least some part of this identity before entering the public eye.  No one has any business using Laverne Cox’ pretransition moniker, because she was never known in the public sphere by that name.  But sometimes individual circumstances test the limits of what would normally be ideal – and in this case, while the ideal would be to immediately embrace Caitlyn and set that other name aside, the reality is we have decades of fame already established for this person.  So, while I do not speak for all transgender people or activists by any means, I understand and accept that, at least for now, “formerly Bruce” is going to litter media coverage for at least as long as it takes for this fresh revelation to become old news.

But this month is Presidentially-endorsed LGBT pride month – so we should be excited.  There has never been a better time in America to be a gay man, and it’s far from the worst epoch in our history for the rest of the spectrum.  But there are states trying to ban even the best ‘passing’ transgender people from using the restroom of their choice, trans women of color are still more likely to be murdered than any other demographic, and trans men are still the most likely Americans to take their own lives, combining the despair of depression with the ruthless efficiency by which more masculine individuals select their methods of suicide.

But I’d hate to end this entry on that macabre note, because overall, there is hope.  Because as the public takes in the glamour of the most successful transgender people, we slowly move away from being the very bottom of the social hierarchy.  Visibility means a lot, and it increasingly means we grow closer to bringing the public in on the real struggles, the real tragedies, and the real triumphs of the transgender world that has so long been ignored.  Magazine covers may seem like petty victories when people are struggling just to survive (Well, because they are…) but I see some light on the horizon, and as soon as I’m sure it isn’t a mob carrying torches and pitchforks, I plan to head towards it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVw8oWrHKEQ

My Problem With Hell

I’ve said as much before, but the emotional maelstrom of recent events led me to lose myself again – it happens with an embarrassing frequency – I have a problem with Hell. Hell and I have irreconcilable differences.

And why is that? Because I’ve loved a suicide. And I have and will continue to love atheists. Any code of behavior which says such people are doomed forever is morally unacceptable – and in such a system of belief where these people I’ve loved must be punished forever, well, I need to go right down there with them.

It’s a powerful emotion and I don’t know how to handle the swell of it all, particularly given my traumatic history (That I relive on far too many mornings) when others are around.  But by this time my words are well known enough (I’ve offered them freely to the best and brightest in entertainment) and that should speak for itself – I create, and I create alone.  Of course, if anyone has a desire to collaborate online, or wishes to hire this maddening muse, please feel welcome to do so.

Even if I seem like I’m just out of my mind, know that I still love this world.  I just need some space to create.

Prices are negotiable.  But I plan to keep on swinging.  Metaphorically – the actual swinging bothers the hell right out of me.

Also if anybody wants a bunch of random old stuff, come and take it.  Donations to the “I will leave you all alone” Foundation are much appreciated.

The Impossibility of “Don’t…”

Hey everybody, ever notice that everyone hates being told “don’t,” but loves telling other people “don’t?”  You probably don’t want my opinion on the subject, and if so, don’t read this.

Knock that off this instant.  Don’t use don’t in a sentence or something impossibly terrible will happen to you right this instant.  Because as an anonymous person on the internet, I know things nobody else does.  Anonymous not good enough for you?  Well here’s a trendy sketch or a picture I drew.

Building tolerance is a good thing.  Expressing opinions is a good thing.  Venting rage with jokes?  Well, that can be a good thing as well.  (As vices go, snark is one of the better ones.)

But use of the word (Well, ‘contraction of two words’) “Don’t” essentially seems to doom something to failure, in so far as only whoever already agreed will want to pay enough attention.  And the Internet is struggling with a crippling addiction to the word “Don’t.”

So I suppose the thesis here is that I am wasting my time by writing this at all.  But if you want my advice, which no one does, nor should they, don’t say “don’t” in an actual conversation if you plan to get anywhere with it.

Make your negative statements flip around into something positive and you can trick more people into agreeing with you.

You can even trick yourself into agreeing with you, and liking yourself is pretty damn cool.  (Even if some of the cool kids don’t try it.  Being a cool kid may also prove to be a problematic addiction, in some cases.  Avoid consumption of alcohol while pretending to be a cool kid.)

But I might have just ruined that statement by being reasonable for a second, in between my jokes.

“Don’t you use don’t a whole lot?”

“Yes, yes I do.”

“So you’re a liar?”

“Sometimes.”

“Don’t lie ever!”

“I love and respect that you  just yelled instructions at me over the internet.  Please don’t think that I am just saying this because I don’t have any respect for what you are doing right now.”

(Did you see what I did there?  I don’t.)

But I am trying to avoid the “n’t” when I speak.  Because it is a bit confusing for a simple conversation.  And if any of this nonsense confused you, just picture that little cartoon up there winking at regular intervals.  (It makes more sense the less you care about what makes sense).

And next week?  Maybe I’ll be less funny.

“Fear is Murder”

Slurs seem to be the hot topic of the day, and I hesitated when people initially asked for me to talk about the issue.  Because they’re scary.

That’s really the whole point.  Offensive words have been inseparable in my consciousness, still are in the minds of many, from getting your ass whooped.  The funny thing is, the word that bothers me, personally, the most is “faggot.”  Because it’s the first word I directly associated with my own physical suffering.  Faggot is the first thing someone called me, specifically, before hitting me.  As though that was their reason.  As though they believed that was a good enough reason to hit me.

But they hurt me because of their own damn reasons.  I was just a convenient target.  And the word Faggot didn’t rough me up, or tear my clothes, or make me afraid to wear short shorts for over a decade.  It was the fear that if anyone thought I was this concept that they liked to vent their frustration on, they could hurt me.

And then I ruminated on that, and denied who I was to protect myself, until I resented myself enough to start hurting myself.  Because I was a worse bully of myself than they were.

And that is my deepest personal experience with slurs.  And that is why I take it very, very seriously when somebody complains about a word offending them.  But the word, itself, is just a symbol of something.  Fear, in the minds of victims, or a scapegoat, for people who feel like they can yell at someone else.  But the yelling doesn’t invalidate the pain.  Nor does it validate it.

But if somebody says the word faggot on stage, it doesn’t actually hurt me.  It reminds me that I was hurt once, it reminds me that I was so afraid of getting hurt that I denied myself ferociously (I actually came out as trans *before* admitting I was interested in men because I had heard more about homophobic sentiment than trans sentiment, because I didn’t want to be targeted myself, only to find out that any combination of variables would result in me being disliked by someone, somewhere, for something that isn’t even about them.

But using a slur isn’t “evil.”  Saying words doesn’t kill people – if you yell anything loud enough, angrily enough, at a stranger, they will shudder.  But when it becomes a symbol, well damn, that’s pretty awful isn’t it?

But as much as I shudder when I hear, in the middle of a show I enjoy, transgenderism being referred to in dehumanizing terms, *that* isn’t hurting me – fear of getting smacked around again is what’s making me miserable.  And that’s why I take a break from a show if certain terms show up, make me miserable, make me sick to my stomach.  And it’d be lovely if I were never reminded of something awful.  But you know what’s worse than being called a name?  Being scared by it.  Screaming at myself in the bathroom because I’m terrified and alone.  And the cure for that isn’t accusation, I don’t think.

I figure conversation works better.  Now obviously, animated conversations are fun.  Oh my can it be fun in some circumstances to have animated debates, or I’d wager nobody would voluntarily do so.  And these conversations can teach people things.  Even the worst conversations I’ve ever had, the most insipid moments of “What did they just say?!” were still informative.

Doesn’t mean I have to like a damn thing they said.  I feel like I’d rather not be afraid all the time though, so I do things.  And I shake it off.  And then I can watch comedy again without flipping out.  But I do get why offense is taken – offensive things can go beyond merely bothering someone to the point of insidious pain.  And complaining is probably the best weapon we have against pain, so kvetch onward.

Kvetch about those douchebags who keep saying tranny and faggot and whatever other words are pissing you off.  But there are other things we have to do as well, I’ve heard.  And some of them I quite like.  And among those things I quite like is dark and brutal comedy.  Because funny is better than scary, and sometimes, just sometimes, that’s actually worth it.  You know what’s scarier and more disturbing and fueled by more awful stereotypes than a lot of comedy?  Cable news.  That is some scary, scary stuff.

So kvetch on, but I still quite like Louis CK’s routine on the word “faggot.”  And I might decide start watching Archer again.  I might just skip the rerun of the episode that made me feel bad.  Or kvetch again.  Because both options work.  And honestly, as much as many words may suck, being afraid of them sucks more.  And being smacked around sucks too.  So maybe we should stop scaring and hitting each other… oh wait, we are hitting each other less.  Because we can talk about our problems and learn from each other, because we share our opinions and people figure things out if you give them a chance!  And the street harassment, and the online death threats, and the horrible misconceptions of many people are terrifying.

More terrifying than seeing the words “faggot” and “tranny” in print, even.  But I’m still allowed to hate those words, some days.  But I’d rather not have anything mean yelled at me on the street.  “Your shoes are awful” could just as easily ruin someone’s day in the right tone of voice as “Nobody loves you, faggot.”  So make fun of that asshole with your friends later.

This was all serious and brooding again, but rest assured I’ll try and put more jokes in the next thing I post, don’t you worry.

Poop.

The “Under the Knife” Question

Of all the feedback and discussion from last week’s article, one issue very definitely got my attention, and I should not be surprised it had such an impact.  Surgery is serious business.

 
I am someone who can no longer recall what it may have been like to not experience dysmorphia, or waking up on any morning without pausing to ask God, “Why this again?”  This is a subject of infinite importance and baffling intensity for me.
 
I sigh, I lie, I wonder why, if every day I always cry, should I simply die?
 
No, this is not Dr. Seuss’ suicide note – it was more or less my default state of mind for years, before I put on the character of the day.  (I usually tried for a Cary Elwes-vibe, a la Princess Bride and Robin Hood, Men in Tights; Clearly being the pinnacle of representations of masculinity to my childhood mind)  It was a hell of a lot more fun that feeling like I should hurt myself every time I stepped in the bathroom.)
 
Now, I’m not suicidal – I pretended to be on two occasions because there was just no way I felt comfortable being honest about myself when my extreme misery was questioned.  (Just as a quick aside here, because the internet is a dark and scary place, there really is no shame in suicidal feelings, and check out help if you need it kids – There are chat rooms and 1-800-273-8255 for the USA.  Try not to think about the fact that this spells “ape talk” on a phone, that’s just a neurotic tangent.)
 
But the key point I’m meandering around here with sarky tangents is this – being uncomfortable in my own body was a horrible experience, and it isn’t over just yet.  Not all transgender people need, or want, surgery, and they most definitely should not have something imposed upon them in the form of present legal discrimination, let alone physical treatments.  For those of us who do need harsher methods, well, these sort of issues can make or break someone.  They almost broke me, and distraction is crucial.
 
I used to make up dreams when people asked about them so I wouldn’t have to share the truth about them, either.  Listening to people talk about their dreams is damn boring, I know, but long story short the highlight of my days for a good while was the occasional dream where I could just be a girl.  That was my great moment of subconscious wonder – not flight, not power, not sex with that one person from that show with the dreamy eyes and the great hair, very rarely unicorns, but just getting to go through the day with my parts all in a proper, synchronized order.  Also, rollerblading with the Gilmore Girls was pretty cool.
 
But it never happened enough.  I tried to barter with God for years just for the privilege of, if I could just dream that I was a girl every night, life would be something I could handle.  This was, incidentally, after I had lost hope in the idea of praying to just be a girl.  I had no idea that was an option.  But neither of those prayers made it very far in the short term.
 
There are better sources than I for the details – just throw “transgender resources” into your search engine if you want sordid details about high cost, limited availability, and the general awkwardness of this whole topic.  Ivy League Schools and Fortune 500 companies helping their own still relies on someone not only being capable of getting into one of those programs, but doing so, potentially, while terrified of taking showers (And not because they just saw Psycho).  
 
Just sitting down to write this flooded me with miserable memories, because that’s what dysmorphia is – misery.  Remember the worst movie you ever saw?  I’d watch it seven-million consecutive times if I could trade away this feeling.  My body has betrayed my mind with a dozen details I could tear myself apart over at any moment.  So distraction is crucial.
 
So my take on the subject is this – some of us want nothing to do with surgery, and others need it so badly we will try anything that seems to offer a sliver of hope at progress, at wholeness.  And some slide from one side to the other of the issue too often to know what to do with any of this.
 
Distraction is crucial, and asking somebody about surgery for something so awkward is just another reminder of the problem, of the misery, of the pain.  So unless you are willing and able to help do something about it, please don’t ask any actual transgender person you meet about surgery, just to be safe, of any kind.  It’s not the sort of thing that makes for casual banter.
 
Casual banter is supposed to be distracting.