Friday, June 5, 2009

"Milk" post, part deux...

To revisit the last post, Milk did what—in my humble opinion—any good work of art should: it inspired self-reflection, a curious indictment of one’s identity and space in the world. In this vein, and in a sort of homage to what Milk evoked for me, this will be more personal, an emotional rather than an intellectual reaction to the film. I think these are often as significant as any literary or filmic analyses I and others might care to offer.

Of late, I’ve thought much more frequently on my, to sound pretentiously academic, subject position in this country, and moreover, within social systems founded on heteronormative lifestyles and ideologies. Maybe a month ago I penned a memoir-style essay for a campus literary publication aimed at voicing expressions of male sexuality (a really great magazine, too, manned by a close friend, and fellow nerdy queen, of mine). The piece began as a slapdash effort to make the submission deadline, sort of an addendum to a poem I had offered up, and my primary goal was to be satiric, biting and, in turn, coldly impersonal in ‘expressing’ my understanding of my sexual self. In the strange, and strangely violent, process, it transformed; the end-product was intimate—perhaps more than I would have liked—and still biting, but also vulnerable, deeply felt, and not at all what I had expected to ‘express’ while trying to voice a few purportedly dealt-with emotions related to my sexuality.

I came out at thirteen. A trying age for any kid, and exponentially more so in the case of the only openly gay kid in a predominantly upper-class, WASPish middle school (kid in question had also recently received a regrettable haircut that left him looking like early-N’Sync-era Justin Timberlake). I was more or less friendless, a self-proclaimed loner/loser, and even though I knew what being gay supposedly meant, because I had been labeled a faggot from fourth grade onward, I recognize now that I certainly hadn’t a clue on how to conceptualize myself as a distinctly gay—and sexual—entity. The path of least resistance soon became the one in which I allowed myself outwardly to perform a series of stereotypes—I wasn’t the unabashed queen of Will & Grace’s Jack, but I became the desexualized shopping buddy of many a girl (though my own style remained sorely underdeveloped until later), the theatre and art fag, the cynical and often boisterous bitch of each class I waded through. I became widely known as a know-it-all and, paradoxically, as a witty and self-deprecating (but again, asexual) faggot.

By the time high school came to a close, I had a number of friends (only a couple of whom remain so to this day, four years later), the grocery list of accomplishments beneath my belt (an above 4.0 GPA, honors, a prestigious college acceptance, varied extracurriculars), and an identifiable identity. What I suppose I wasn’t prepared for was having to cope with that outward identity on the inside, once I finally had time to clear out the clutter of the interior. So as to return to the overarching narrative of this post, I believe now that it wasn’t until that specific reflection (for the aforementioned mag) that I began to think of my sexuality on my own terms. It had always been as though through a predetermined lens. I’ve explained the middle-school and the high-school. Of course, while I was desexualized externally, I had been having sex (admittedly intermittently) for a few years by the time my college identity began to take form. First, I retreated into myself; later, I performed exactly as would be, I hoped, the most functionally shocking. I was a self-defined Wilde-ian figure of miniscule proportions; along with several friends, there was now a space in which I could be a flaming faggot if I so desired. We dressed up to scare the masses of our increasingly conservative college; heels, smeared crimson lipstick, teased hair, a stint as the Tran-derson Sisters (a la Hocus Pocus)—none of this was too outrageous when we were feeling either drunk enough or frisky enough. So I thought I had come to terms with everything—with my femininity, with my gayness or queerness, with my body, with even that sense of myself as loner which I had harbored for so long. I had covered, so I presumed, every notch along the spectrum.

But on writing that essay, and then again on crying for the last fifteen or twenty minutes of Milk, I had to face the fact that my sexuality will never be, simply, an issue that I’ve dealt with. I can’t cordon that fraction of my self off and say, ‘have done with it!’ As with any other experience or event or identification or struggle—those that are truly significant in life—my sexuality is an ongoing process. More and more, the question of my positioning, not only outside of, but within the gay community surfaces—particularly in the question of the frequent assignment of me (by others, and sometimes by myself) as a femme. It’s a trying category, I must confess. But for now, that’s going to have to be relegated to a future post. I’m enjoying a half-vodka, half-orange juice cocktail and I’m half through (after two glasses of wine), so the booze-fog is descending. I’m heading out to—none other than—a gay club, to have a much-needed evening out of dancing, boozing, and cigarette-ing. And maybe a little hands-on training with how to ‘cope’ with my sexuality. Kidding. Adieu, for now.

1 comment:

  1. First off, let me just say how jealous I am not to be sharing a cocktail with you, putting on Brit Brit and getting ready for a trip to the Wave. These memory things get in the way sometimes and make you really, really miss people.

    Secondly, let me say how beautiful this entry really is. I know how hard it can be to be vulnerable, and knowing you so well Jamie I can definitely see that in you too. We all deal with it differently though, in our own quirky ways of dealing or not dealing, or not dealing enough or overcompensating. I guess the thing is that this whole journey we're on-- this process of every day, every moment, every hour is more than just a stop along the way, but I kind of think of it like I'm made up of millions of tiny mirrors. That light hits me a certain way with each step, each breath and that sometimes I reflect the way you'd expect light to, but sometimes it bends and refracts and projects outward in a way that cannot be totally deciphered. But I'm just mirrors-- I am not the light that beams off after impact. So, what can I do but adjust my location, rephrase my scene, redo my alignment. It's this whole continual re-identification process that is both wholly terrifying but surprisingly calm when you're around people you believe in, who believe in you, and who you really trust.

    I just hope that you feel empowered not from having accomplished something-- by notching another achievement onto your belt, but that you feel empowered because you are growing and you are doing it in front of everyone. You're living and breathing and choosing to be here in the present. I just hope that in your days you find the joy that you give to so many of us and that I personally have felt since that first phone call way back in April 2005.

    Sorry this has turned into a wierd comment. I loved your entry, I love your blog, and I can't wait to read on. And I think about you every day. Miss you tons, sweetz. Hope tonight is nothing short of fabulous!! xx P