May I return one day?
Bent and old
To sweep the floors
Of the hallowed hall
And the sacred spaces of making
Redolent of sawdust and paint,
Makeup and sweat,
May I hand out programs
And strugglingly direct supplicants and hedonists
and numbered perches,
Pilgrim's pews or thrones?
May I return?
With middle class purses held up in offering?
Or offering the currency of time
No longer spent toiling for wages?
To give the slippery hours remaining
To the cause of the muses
Step out onto those storied boards
And read a litany of largess
Or an admonishment of flash photography?
May I return?
One last time?
To feel my swelling heart expand
As if to fill the cathedral of dreams,
Thrumming once more
With the all-consuming magic
that is Theatre?
I have never spoken about this publicly, but beginning at the age of 17 and lingering into my early twenties I questioned my gender identity. We had fewer options back then, even the transgender narrative was binary, and eventually I realized I was (a little to my chagrin) hopelessly cisgender male. I am a fixer and a mansplainer and I try to be better every day. Mostly I fail.
When I was a freshman in college I wrote a poem about my fantasy alter-ego, the one who had helped me survive being a less than macho art-fag in a an early 80s small town blue collar high school. In love with boys I didn't realize I was in love with, crushing on girls who made me feel comfortable and safe.
My Name Is Rachel
My name is Rachel and I deal with feelings.
Though they may not separate us completely
From animals they do make us so uniquely
And between the realms of euphoria and pain
they possess the power to split a mind and
shatter a soul,
unbridled, their passions corrupt and destroy.
I stand in their path and manipulate their
My name is Rachel.
I have a friend and he is in love,
he is in pain.
Summoned by the tempest which has engulfed him,
I have come to help.
They are close, he and teh other,
but never closer than the boundaries allow.
Their love can never be, for the other is
trapped by society's web,
he can never accept the love of a brother,
only the love of a she.
So for my friend I will love the other.
I will take my friend's passion and give it
i will share my body as only I can,
as my friend wishes he only could.
And for that moment we will exist as one,
tandem souls sharing heart and flesh.
Then I will depart
My purpose fulfilled.
I am Rachel and I am one of many.
OK, I was also fascinated by multiple personality disorder, still am, but that isn't what this is about.
What is Rachel saying? She is saying that her friend is a dude in love with another dude. Her friend is a gay boy in love with a straight boy, and wouldn't it just fix everything if that gay boy could be all the things that straight boy liked but also a girl? This is the logic of a 1980's adolescent closet case, who grew up idolizing Jodie Foster and Tatum O'Neal because tomboys were so much better at being boys than he was, and then got to doff their baseball caps and suddenly transform from objects of admiration into objects of desire. Thereby making all of the difficult conflicting feelings and urges her audience's problem. This is not a nuanced feminist perspective. It sees none of the struggle or danger inherent in being female in this society or any society. This is the magical thinking of a boy in love with boys who knows no other way for boys to love him. This is the magical thinking of a boy who saw tomboys in the media as more successfully tough and sporty, and therefore masculine, than he was. He also wanted to be pretty. And, so he dreamed.
I knew about transsexuals. I loved Phil Donahue, and as it turned out the first transsexual I met was in my great-grandmother's kitchen when her former minister came to visit on Thanksgiving. The dialogue back then was all about gender dysphoria. Were you in "the right body" or the "wrong body". I wasn't in the wrong body, I was pretty sure of that, I was in the wrong society.
The more I learned about feminism, sexism, homophobia and its roots in misogyny the more I realized that my personal crisis was about who I was expected to be. The more I learned about feminism, sexism, and internalized homophobia the more I realized this particular crisis (and oh I've had many) wasn't about who I was. We didn't have the word back then, but I was a cisgender male. Sometimes problematically so and for that I am not at all proud. But, just because that is where I landed that does not mean that there was not in my life a very real period of struggle and self-discovery. We are all on a journey. I don't know and it's not my business where any one person's road leads, but I hope we can all give each other the room to travel freely. Today is a future the 80s could not have imagined and there's still so much future yet to come, and that, my friends, is a wonderful and exciting thing.
Some say we are spun from starlight,
That is how they show us the way.
Where men stumble in shadow
We dance as if welcoming the day.
But, not all darkness is nightfall.
Not all brightenings invitations to foray.
Beware the deepest of places
Where your eyes may seem to be open,
But the stars have forsaken the way.
Look, Facebook is a place where people connect, where they reconnect. People who have known each other since... I don't know... the eighties for example. And it was thus that on FB I was called upon to "narrate" a thing. What I put before you is my text inclusive of a link to the context. Please note that no disrespect to the undead nor to persons missing digits is intended, this is merely satire created at the behest of a friend of longstanding. And it's a pandemic, folks, people need to be heeded.
stilts, waffletated body bags, and vampire-sized tea-cozies
hand-wrought at a summer camp for the thumbless were only the beginning
of what was to come as Valentino's parade of disaffected post
post-apocalyptic refugees slunk down the catwalk debuting this "Eyes
Wide Shut/Ass Wide Open" collection."
I don't know why this popped into my head today. I haven't turned on the television nor was there a prompting meme crawling across my social media. But as I tried to stifle my anxiety over teetering here on the cusp of election day, and the interminable days of vote counting that will follow, this memory burst forth like a magmatic belch from the surface of a deceptively still and crusted lava pool.
A few years ago my (now) husband and I attended one day of a Star Trek con in Boston. Neither of us had ever been to one and I was curious about this "other corner" of con-going fandom. We quickly agreed it was awful; the vibe insular, the atmosphere a tad mercenary. I saw not one person whom I recognized from either of our local SFF cons, Arisia or Boskone, which was weird as all other nerd events tended to have at least a little overlap, anime, SCA, medieval music, steam punk, film festivals, cult films, lecture series... In retrospect this would have been best taken as a sign.
The standout memory is, due to arrival time and our one-day membership, the only celebrity speaker we had the opportunity to see was Robert Beltran. What an unbalanced ass-hat. He was bitter and whiny, petulant and vaguely unhinged, but what stuck with me has his vanity and the cruel way he spoke about his costar Kate Mulgrew, the first woman to captain a titular starship in a Star Trek series as Captain Kathryn Janeway. He ranted about *fans (and occasionally writers) shipping Chakotay and Janeway. He kept saying, "Why would I want to get with granny???" (OK, I'm paraphrasing, but he absolutely did refer to Mulgrew/Janeway as "granny" and "grandma" multiple times and always with a tone of disgust.) He then waxed rather greasily about how much more sense it made for him (Chakotay) to pair up with Seven of Nine played by Jeri Ryan...
Here's a quick math problem.
In 1997 when Jeri Ryan joined the cast of "Star Trek: Voyager" Beltran was 44, Mulgrew was 42, and Ryan was 29.
So while two years older than "grandma" Beltran thought it was only sensible (and palatable) that he play love scenes with an actor fifteen years his junior. He played this up to the audience. Strutted about running his fingers through his shaggy gray hair all but crowing as if to prove to someone, anyone, that his bird still had a beak. But how could it possibly peck at anything... well you get the idea.
Since that day, every time I come across and episode of Voyager, a show I truly loved, I am flushed with anger and feel my fist tighten whenever Beltran appears on screen. I try to "separate the art from the artist" but given how much I liked the Chakotay character and enjoyed his interaction with Janeway it is difficult. That said, the chemistry evident in scenes between the captain and Seven of Nine, or Tuvok, or The Doctor (think hologram not Time Lord) remains a delight. Maybe in time that will tip the scales. In retrospect Beltran's antics onstage that day were as pathetic and sad as they were infuriating, maybe knowing that might help... As would news that Mulgrew has punched him.
In this age of ill-advised, inflammatory, and downright insane tweeting one need not go to a convention to hear a famous person (even another Trek fave *cough* Saavik*cough*) spout things that threaten to cast their previous work in a jaundiced light. Yet I am sticking with the choice made upon emerging from that dark corner of the convention center. No property-specific actor-peppered for-profit cons for me. I'm sticking with the volunteer-run genre and pan-fandom barn shows I know and love where at least the ass-hats are people I know and/or know to avoid, and can maybe pull aside and say, "Dude, WTF is wrong with you?"
*Full disclosure, I was one of those fans. I was not writing fan fiction but was absolutely sitting on the edge of my couch willing the writers to finally "go there".
: So is the kilt AND the katana umbrella over the top? It IS Allston?
: As long as you have the right shoes
: Have you met me?
: Forgive me; compliance is a big part of my role at work.
: I understand.
Standing at a bustop in a saturated landscape painted in reflected auras of neon and sodium as the calendar begs 2020 with 1979 synth pop in my ears and stirring my brain it is suddenly 1987, July, in another city... and of another mind. What is time? And, wherever are we in it, when the guideposts are out of sight, and all we know is "now", isolated, singular, beautiful, and deeply mournfully ephemeral?