A thing about encouraging the media to do better

Y’all see that Trump presser today? Where he threatened BuzzFeed, argued with a CNN reporter, and basically called everything that doesn’t praise him fake news? Meanwhile, reporters there to ask questions seemed flumoxed on how to proceed — asking too many things at once, allowing Trump to weasel out of questions, not taking up the deeply salient questions of a reporter when he was ignored by Trump, and struggling, often on whether to soften questions in hopes of potential increased access. A lot of reporters tried valiantly, but on the day after  a day with ninmajor breaking stories and with a confounding entertainer who does not adhere to U.S. political norms, it was sort of a hot mess.

And that’s just one day! How do we make sense of a news media that covered an FBI announcement about Democratic emails that amounted to nothing, but has seemed to go soft on Trump and Russia in the midst of an oft confusing and hostile relationship between intelligence services and and incoming administration? Everyone is screaming about Fake News, no one can keep up on the real news, and Americans have largely lost any understanding on what journalists can and should do (hint: when interpreting, interpretation should be clear; the ideal of neutrality is not a real thing; journalists are not stenographers but must contextualize facts; audience service does not mean providing audiences only what they want to hear). Journalism is a risky profession that helps to safeguard democracy around the world. Good journalism is aggressive in investigation, thoughtful on possibilities,  and cautious — but not timid– in conclusions.

Anyway, a friend just texted me asking how to encourage the media to do their jobs in a political climate that is rapidly violating all sorts of norms. The answer to that is really long and involves multiple types of action, so I said I would write this up.

Context to the below is I’m a former AP journalist, with a degree in journalism, who also has a day job related to media analysis. I speak only for myself.

What you can do as a consumer of news media without talking back to the news media:

1. Stop saying “Mainstream Media” when discussing news content. No one knows what this means anymore . Some people use it to mean liberal bias. Some people use it to mean print media. Some people use it to mean non-cable TV media. Some people use it to mean non-Internet media. No one can agree on what it is, so when talking about the media critically, don’t use the term, just define the specific media or category of media you mean, otherwise the stuff you’re saying isn’t super helpful.

2. Stop saying “Fake News.” Say what you mean — satire, propaganda (foreign? or domestic?), doctored email, leaks, rumors, lies, websites pretending to be for newspapers that don’t actually exist, opinion outlets, partisan think tanks. Be prepared to say why something is what you describe it as.

3. Get your news from multiple sources. This includes from multiple platforms – TV, print, internet, and as widely across the political spectrum as you can stand.

4. Read foreign English-language news about the U.S. and the rest of the world. This doesn’t just mean going to BBC.com, this means foreign language news media with English language editions. You can find these on every continent. I rotate through English language editions of papers in Germany, France, India, the Middle East, and Africa over the course of the week. Google is a wonderful thing. (If I make a list it’s going to be wildly incomplete and I don’t have time. Google. And if you make a list let me know and I’ll add a link to it).

5. Trace stories back to the original reporting. Okay, so you found out about something from a partisan newsletter, a friend’s Tweet, or even a Wall Street Journal article that references another media source. Google the original reporting and read that. Media can be a game of telephone. Get the first story. Read follow-on stories that go more in depth across other media, but don’t rely on tertiary sources.

6. Understand the actual media relationship with objectivity/neutrality.  Media in the U.S. are not legally required to be unbiased. In fact, the idea of “unbiased” reporting is a convention of network TV and big-5 American newspapers in the mid-late 20th century. Historically, and in the 21st century, American media and those in many democracies around the world have specifically been organs of particular viewpoints. For heaven’s sake, The New York Post was founded by Alexander Hamilton to talk trash about his rivals. Media neutrality is not, and cannot be, a real thing. What is the neutral viewpoint? That of a white straight cisgender Christian man with a traditional U.S. university education? Are reporters from other demographics less considered neutral? To consume and evaluate news you need to know: 1. Your own biases, 2. Our cultural biases in defining neutrality, 3. The actual objectives of any news organization which can range from “as neutral as possible” to extreme partisanship.

7. Bias your news exposure towards outlets that provide access to source materials/documents.  This allows you to evaluate news interpretation for yourself.

8. Observe and note patterns of portrayal Who discusses what issues on a given program? Are people impacted by a particular issue given the opportunity to speak to a particular issue. Is crime framed on a racial basis? Are women relegated to discussing only lifestyle issues?

9. Make sure you consider local news too. I don’t watch a lot of local news, but I’ve started to recently. It’s helped me understand the sentiment so many people have of America facing lots of problems even as crime has dropped and employment has gone up. Local American news is about fear on every axis imaginable. Just like fashion magazines sell women products they don’t need lest they fail to get a man; local news sells us fears only they can solve. Yes, it’s true, “if it bleeds, it leads,” but news doesn’t have to be like this. I’d encourage you watch this video from Ulrik Haagerup on the “constructive news” approach he implemented in Denmark. Constant fear-based local news reporting in the U.S. contributes to the extreme polarization we face on race, politics, and the urban/suburban/rural divides, and it’s something we need to address.

10. Read journalistic review and criticism, such as Columbia Journalism Review to understand how the media is struggling with itself right now.

What you can do as a consumer of news media by interacting with the news media:

Okay, by now, both from reading this and your own experiences with the media, you probably have a sense of what you’re watching and what you want the media to do. But how can you encourage the media to do those things?

1. Social media makes news outlets and journalists accessible. Misleading headline? Tell them. Unclear writing? Tell them. Need more details on a thing? Tell them. Like their work? Tell them. Learned something new? Tell them. Have gratitude? Say thank you.

2. Most newspapers and broadcasts have a public editor or ombudsman, whose job it is to evaluate coverage and determine if the publication is meeting a public need. Think coverage is unclear? biased? or inadequate? Contact this person via email, phone, or snailmail. I have looked and looked for a comprehensive list of these people/contact addresses and can’t find one. If you’re aware of one or create one, please let me know and I’ll add a link here. If you cannot find a contact for a public editor then just contact a more generic point at the media outlet.

When contacting about coverage, be specific. “Your coverage is biased” is not helpful. “I watched the PEOTUS press conference today and felt your news outlet could have asked tougher questions” or “Many people don’t know what the Alt Right is, please make it clear in your coverage this is a loose affiliation of groups that support white supremacist agendas” is helpful. You must clearly articulate what’s wrong, what you would like them to do, and what action you might take (will you unsubscribe? will you subscribe if coverage improves? Do you own a business that might stop advertising with them? Do you teach a class that uses news sources in the curriculum and you might go elsewhere?).

Be aware that the contact that takes the most effort is the contact taken the most seriously. Email doesn’t take as much time out of an employee’s day as a phone call or paper mail.

3. Support media you like with $. Let them know why you subscribe and what you think they are doing right.

4. Are you an expert? Join the mediaI mean it. If you know about a thing, make sure you’re registered with a speaker’s bureau. Write and submit op-eds (you get paid for those, unlike letters to the editor). Realize expertise is a broad concept. Make yourself relevant based on demographics, where you live, your creative life, a thing hat happened to you, your day job, whatever. ACA saved your life? You’re an expert. Have family that has fled fascist governments? You’re an expert. Have a disability? You’re an expert. Been harassed because of your identity? You’re an expert. Scientist? Expert. Teacher of any sort? Expert! Religious professional? Expert. Author? Expert. Super into Star Trek? Expert on pop-culture and the future we envisioned vs the future we’re getting. Everyone is an expert on something. If you can’t figure it out, ask your friends, they totally know what you’re an expert in. Write stuff and submit it. This is another case of, someone else needs to make relevant lists here — let me know and I’ll update this document.

Got stuff to add? Or stuff that’s relevant? Comment/link and I’ll add as appropriate. Thanks!


I was born in New York City in 1972, and it rained a lot.

To write about Valerie’s letter, and then go silent, seems a special type of horror. This week has been a special type of horror. There isn’t, in some ways, much to say.

This isn’t, by the way, about policy. I am not, for example, concerned we are about to return to the Reagan and Thatcher years, as terrible as they were, as desperate and as full of death. I am concerned that we will return to what we thought the Reagan and Thatcher years were, that we will live in the literature and the songs and the films we produced in that time. That things will be like Valerie’s letter.

In the last week, what I have been struck by in moments quieter and calmer, has been a sense of continuity. I asked my father about his father, in case I am eligible for Italian citizenship. His name was Vincenzo when he came here. At Ellis Island it was changed to James. He married, had children, and then went back to care for a sister, before returning here again. We’re trying to figure out the years. We’re trying to figure out if my father – who complained when I moved back to Brooklyn because his parents spent so many years trying to get out of Brooklyn – can help me go back to Italy, if I need to.

So many people I talk to have this sense of return. Of continuity. Of generational wisdom, of the ways we can be buoyed by both children and loss.

If the end result of this political period is simply that I look silly, that I worried for nothing, that it was all just a bit crass and not to my taste, I will be overjoyed. But in the meantime, I am – like so many others – looking to who I once was to figure out who I will be.

We say, easily, that what is happening right now is not normal. In many senses, this is entirely true. In other ways though, we must acknowledge that this moment of uncertainty is entirely normal. Fascism seems to rear its head when we begin to forget its last appearances, and in times of trouble, people look close to home, to their families and their neighbors, in both worry and hope.

Because writing speeches is kind of what I do tonally, this piece should end with a call to action. I can tell you to volunteer, to donate, to speak up against hate, and to call your representatives in Congress. I’m doing all those things, and I hope you will do whichever of those you can too.

But my call to action today is simpler. Smaller. More basic. And vitally necessary:

Trust your gut.

Glee: Eating some hats

While there were a lot of amazing details in “Prom-asaurus,” — the predatory theme of the prom; Brittany’s run for king; the Faberry fan-service; the references to both Medusa and Icarus (we’ll definitely be coming back to Medusa and the snakes in the toilet here at this blog); some important stuff regarding Kurt and Puck and the faerie court (which we’ll also be spending some time with soon); the heavily foreshadowed implosion of Tina and Mike; and pretty much everything involving Becky and Puck — because of one tiny little thing, this episode has me eating my hat (or, probably actually Brittany’s and Kurt’s) about something.

Kind of.

One of the big debates around Glee is whether the lack of physical affection shown by the gay couples is a concession to the realities of Lima, WMHS, and personal history, or a concession to a squeamish network. For me, historically, the distances have worked consistently and plausibly on an intradiegetic level, especially considering Kurt and Blaine’s experiences with violence, and I’ve got a pretty decent track record of pissing people off for defending what I’ve seen on screen because it makes sense to me.

Plus, Glee usually reserves physical and sexual affection for couples about to be broken apart or who are busy being publicly dysfunctional while trying to derive status from theie relationship. It’s generally a narrative tool (with the exception of Mike and Tina, who, in exchange, don’t really get a narrative), and in the face of smooth and steady Klaine, there hasn’t been much cause to use it.

Last night’s episode was largely consistent in this for me. The boys continued not to touch, even in a relatively safe-space of the anti-prom. Considering the overall social awkwardness of that room, I actually still on board with the state of things, in part because there was such a comfort and tug between them even in that distance.

But then there was the prom itself.

Or, more specifically, the closing montage of prom, where each couple got their little closeness moment and the closing prom photo. And Kurt and Blaine just had less time. That’s all. And I can’t do anything with that intradiegetically, because it’s an editing choice; and I can’t do anything with that structurally, because it actually runs counter to the law of prom episode structure on Glee, and yeah, it just didn’t feel right.

Now, this is where the “sort of” comes in on eating my hat. It doesn’t matter.


Because in one scenario I was just having an on-point emotional night last night (which I was, thanks to the passage of an anti-gay amendment into North Carolina’s constitution — North Carolina has a long history of breaking my political heart), and the problem I feel was there in terms of visibility and affection wasn’t.

In that case, the intradiegetic truths I’ve always highlighted remain, that Kurt and Blaine have to be so conscious of their safety so constantly, that they can’t even stand to be closer than two feet from each other in a hotel room with a small group of people they at least know won’t physically hurt them, lest they get out of the habit of constant vigilance.

But in the other scenario, Fox has a hit TV show it hates filled with gay content and involving many gay people in the creation process and at every single moment the show’s powers that be are having to bargain with the network’s powers that be for what we see.

Both of those scenarios suck.

No matter how much what I’ve viewed as consistency and plausibility within the narrative has allowed me to side-step the question of network drama about all of this (because it’s so much more than the shows I grew up with — although with everything I have to say about Kurt and magic, maybe Kurt and Blaine just like Buffy‘s Willow and Tara and also perform magic instead of actually having sex), last night just felt like I really, really couldn’t, even if, I believe that given free-reign by the network, the content the show would give us between those characters would remain almost identical to what we’re getting now.

But either way you slice it, Glee remains what it’s always been: a show about terrible people in a terrible place, that somehow suggests we all deserve a little bit better than we’re getting.

Sadly, that includes the audience too.

8: Realer than real

I’ve been watching the big star-studded benefit performance of 8 in bits and pieces since it was performed and broadcast on the Internet. I’ve been fighting not just against time zones and travel but a series of remarkably spotty Internet connections to do so.

Obviously, the piece is interesting to me for what it is as its core – mostly actual text from the Prop 8 hearings. While the transcripts are accessible to the public, video of the proceedings has not been and really, who reads transcripts like this anyway? Sure, we all know someone who does, but the fact is most of us just don’t.

What’s really interesting to me about 8 – other than that it exists and that the cast of this particular performance involved enough A-listers (among others) to command some serious attention, is the way it straddles the line between fact and fiction, and the way it reminds us, constantly, about both. 8 is relentlessly knowing about its content and the context of the stars who have performed in it.

I also know that it being a staged reading can throw people. Why don’t the actors know their lines better? and Ugh, I can hear them turning pages. I’m by and large no fan of staged readings myself. They’re a useful vehicle for some material and often enjoyable, even if I personally prefer a more immersive experience when I got to the theater.

However, in the case of 8, I love that it’s a staged reading, because it reminds us, at every moment, that these are the words of real people, not characters, that we are hearing, and that the documents exist for us to find life and truth in. It also means that every moment on stage reminds us that this is what we were not allowed to see.

8‘s casting is also fascinating and chilling. I’m only talking about the recent benefit performance in Los Angeles right now, but watching Jane Lynch (who is openly gay) portray, with a truly ferocious anger that’s as frightened as it is frightening, a leader in the anti-equality movement is just about one of the most wrenching and exhausting things I’ve ever seen.

And while it’s humorous in its way, Lynch in such a role is also a sneaky nod to the suspicion that many of us have that at least some vehemently anti-gay individuals may be struggling with their own experience of same-sex attraction and taking it out on the rest of us.

So 8 is a weird animal. It’s largely a preaching to the choir show that tells us nothing we didn’t already know, at least in the abstract. Were there any surprises in Chris Colfer’s performance as Ryan Kendall, a witness in the case who was enrolled in reparative therapy by his family? No. But did I feel shocked and unable to breathe during those two and a half minutes he was on stage anyway? Yes.

On some level, 8 may be a more effective tool than the video of the actual proceedings we’ll never get. Because 8 is not just an act of information, but of protest, and it makes the courtroom environment as vibrant and dramatic as most people expect from TV but quickly learn it rarely is in non-fiction life after an experience or two of jury duty.

8 will go on to have performances with celebrity casts in other cities in all probability, as well as be performed in smaller cities and towns and colleges as an act of information, protest and fundraising, much as The Laramie Project and The Vagina Monologues have been and continue to be. There is also talk of it being turned into a film.

What I’m curious about is what 8 can do beyond preaching to the choir (and raising money). Do you know anyone who has watched it and gone from silent support of equality to activism or contribution? And more than that, have you seen it change anyone’s minds? I’m really curious to know people’s personal experiences with it.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen the Los Angeles performance yet, it is currently available online for the next few days only. I’d urge you to check it out, even if you are already deeply familiar with this case and its issues.

Switzerland: I’ve done this before, but it’s always a little complicated

After a very long trip, I have arrived in Switzerland. It’s a funny thing, because Switzerland and I don’t have the best relationship, but I’m here often enough that it’s familiar, and I can mostly find my way around and be unobtrusive.

Why do I want to be unobtrusive here? Well, because Swiss politics, while vastly different from US politics, have a significant dose of cruelty in them. That cruelty is usually a mix of racism and religious intolerance; remember, this is the country with the political party that brought us the anti-minaret initiative that featured posters in which minarets that looked like missles were spread over the Swiss flag while a woman in niqab looked on.

Other posters from that party, the SVP, which is particularly popular in the area I am visiting, have included things like black sheep being kicked off the Swiss flag by white sheep, and white crows attacking black crows shown trying to rip the Swiss flag apart. I could go on, but you get the idea.

So I was oddly relieved when I saw that the worst the SVP seemed to be dishing out this week was simply a poster that translates to, “More Foreigners = Fewer Jobs.” We all still know what they really mean, but it feels a little less assaultive than usual.

On the other hand, then I found this while going grocery shopping. It’s one of several I’ve found in this town today, all defaced the same way: Jew.

Anti-semitism, of course, isn’t something unique to Switzerland or Europe, but my experience of it here is markedly different than my experience of it in the US, and particularly in New York, where, yes, even with the large Jewish population, I’ve experienced related slurs a handful of times.

Secular Judaism here in Switzerland seems to be a pretty foreign concept, and Judaism is viewed as a clear racial difference with what is to me shocking frequency.

So even when reactions to Jewishness here aren’t overtly toxic, they can feel a little weird. People that I am friends with here are curious about my Jewishness; they ask me, “what is it like?” and they tell me stories about their families and the War.

I don’t mind the stories, because I have the luxury of not minding them; the Jewish side of my family came to the US long before WWII, and I’m a huge history buff. It’s honestly fascinating to me to be given these insights no matter how awkward the reasons.

But I don’t ever really know what to say. I can’t absolve or reward people for actions taken long before my birth, that didn’t impact my family, and that have nothing directly to do with the people telling me the stories.

And for me, who is not religious, trying to explanin what it’s like to be Jewish is just weird (I think it would be weird even if I were religious); it’s like the same way I am also Sicilian. There are words I use, in-jokes, food I like, and a sense of the world my family came from, versus the one I live in. It’s unremarkable, and nothing I can explain.

But here it is different, in a way I also can’t explain despite the efforts of this post. And as terrible as it often is (I have been chased out of stores by old women flapping their hands at me and naming what I am), it’s also interesting, valuable, and terrible to come somewhere where how I am perceived is completely different than how I am perceived at home (I am also, often, asked about my racial makeup here; I am not read as white in the same way as I obviously am at home).

All of that said and without ignoring or minimizing it, this is a beautiful little town. Exquisite, really; it even has a reindeer viewing park thing by the medieval church. I’ll try to get pictures for you.

But, in the meantime, a seasonal sight, because I’ve never been here around Easter before and I have been utterly taken with the way the grocery shops are filled with cakes shaped like lambs.

This weekend, I head to Berlin for 48 hours I have desperately wanted to have since I was 16. I can’t wait. I’m also terrified. I’ll try to do some writing about Glee or other pop-culture items this week before that trip, but that particular travel update is probably also going to be entirely about pop-culture because Berlin is where art tells me the entirely of the 20th century happened, and when I was in high school, a song called “Heroes” saved my life.

Police brutality and that thing I haven’t been writing about

I like to pretend that I don’t really write about politics here. After all, when I talk about marriage equality or anti-gay violence, I can link that to Glee or Torchwood or at least to my own life. It’s politics, but the sort of politics I give myself a pretty free pass on, because it’s not really politics, I like to say. When it’s my life up for debate, that’s not fucking politics.

You know, except that it is.

Anyway, I’m a political person and an opinionated one.

I guess you know that.

And I do write about media, and these days everything is media. But I guess you know that too.


One of the things I haven’t been writing about here, or, well, anywhere, is Occupy Wall Street. There are a lot of reasons for that, including that the movement really ramped up when I was out of the country, and I just sort of missed the initial sweep of impetus.

But there are other reasons too.

One is my frustration with the American left’s seeming inability to organize in an effective, message-focused way, even if identifying OWS as a movement of the American left isn’t exactly accurate.

Another is my sense that many parts of the 99% aren’t welcome in the OWS movement; that includes both the homeless and the people who are doing pretty well for themselves but certainly aren’t that 1% or benefiting from the taxation and regulatory absurdities than the 1% benefit from.

Various accusations around particular OWS groups regarding racism and sexism also haven’t helped earn my comfort.

But none of that is really here nor there. I agree with many of the complaints that have spawned OWS even if I don’t always agree with my perception of its methods, (un)focus, suspected goals, or apparent consensus model (for the record, I sort of loathe consensus models). And I think it has initiated a desperately important conversation in American life and politics, and I hope the protestors are able to hold on, even if I’m not necessarily sure of what I mean by that. Which gets us to why I am writing about this, finally, now.

I did my university senior investigative reporting project on police brutality in Washington DC, centered around, but not limited exclusively to, the events of the Adams Morgan riots. One of the most most notable incidents I remember from that project was the story of man beaten by police when he would not answer their questions. The man was deaf, and the police were accused of additionally ignoring his family providing this information during the confrontation in question.

So police brutality is one of those things I know a lot about. I know that when we hear about police brutality, as lay people, it’s hard to understand how scary a cop’s job is, or what their training is like, or how a situation that doesn’t seem threatening to us can seem threatening to them. But I also know how much utterly grotesque brutality happens, how little it gets reported both within the system and within the media, and how little it gets resolved by institutions like DC’s Citizen’s Complaint Review Board.

Today, things are a lot different than in 1991, when the Adams Morgan riots happened, or in 1994, when I wrote my report (the brutality cases from the riots were still languishing in the CCRB process at the time). When increased hard evidence of brutality was starting to emerge through cheaper, smaller video technology then, the sense was that incidences of clear-cut police brutality would drop. Twenty years later the tech is ubiquitous, but egregious incidents of brutality, because they happen at the extremes, still happen. These days, they just get documented.

And there are things happening in response to Occupy Wall Street that are not okay.

The UC Davis incident is just one example of the severity of the problem It is one particular detail of this story, not caught on camera that anyone is currently aware of, that caused me to write this. It pushes a personal horror button for me so hard, I have found myself wanting to turn away from the news, and in my experience, that’s usually when it’s the most important to talk about the news.

There have also been cases of critical injuries at OWS protests (including a war vet who suffered skull damage), protestors being denied medical attention (such as the dude with the lacerated spleen), and significant video footage in NYC of a police officer dragging a woman out of an authorized protest zone and assaulting her. There have also been significant reports of reporters being arrested while doing their jobs.

So something’s happening here. Seriously, even Forbes is blogging about it.

With the UC Davis incident, there is the sense that a moment has arrived that changes everything, even if we’re not sure what’s changing or how. But it is a moment where I think it is important for us to look, and to speak. Because for the first time in a long time there’s a movement in America where patience has been lost, and where people are willing to make explicit, personal, physical sacrifice for change. That’s notable; it’s not something I’ve seen in my adult life-time in this form and was only hazily aware of as a young child in the 1970s.

But more than all that, this is a moment where at least some police action has stepped outside of the bounds of appropriate behavior. It’s become violent, punitive, and medicalized.

And even while sitting in a comfortable hotel room on a business trip, it’s hands down the most frightening trend in response to American protest I’ve seen in my own life and experience, and let me tell you, I didn’t just do that one piece for my degree — I covered, and participated in, a lot of protests as a student journalist when I lived in DC. I saw people two feet away from me get bloodied by police batons, and I don’t even want to talk about the humiliation and nastiness that went on in response to Act-Up protests in those days in DC. I know how things can get ugly, and I know how these things can be more complex than they seem, but this, this is something else.

If there’s something you’re unhappy about in America, if there’s a cause you’ve ever protested for, or would ever consider protesting about — whether it’s gay rights or pro-choice issues or the death penalty; the wars or the union stripping bills or internet censorship; homelessness or the environment or nuclear power — whatever it is, on some level, what’s happening out there in response to OWS, is about you and your rights.

And no matter how uncomfortable it is — and this one is uncomfortable for me — I think we have to stop and look and ask ourselves what happens next.

So what happens next?

National Coming Out Day

October 11 is National Coming Out Day in the US (it’s the 12th in the UK), and since I’ve been out (and really, really out online) for a long time, today, what I’m thinking about is those times when I’ve not been.

Like two nights ago when I played the pronoun game at an awards banquet thingy when someone took “partner” to mean “husband” and it just seemed too awkward to correct them. It’s hard, I’ve always found, in small talk with strangers, even if you’re comfortable being out, to have to say, “Oh, by the way, you’re wrong.”

I’m lucky enough to run into situations like this rarely, but they always linger with me, long and strange.

And the world is changing so fast; I don’t always even know how to keep up.

When I met my guitar teacher, for example, she asked if I’m married, and I said, “Oh, no, I’m gay,” which actually didn’t make sense as an answer in New York State anymore (unless we’re actively talking about non-assimilation, which is a great convo, but was not the one at hand). Anyway, she’s surely forgotten about it, but I think about it from time to time; how it marks my age; and how my age has marked me.

So, on the odd chance you were one of the few people who didn’t know: I’m queer. Queer is my preferred word because it lets me get the genderqueer stuff and the attraction stuff and the fact that I feel like bisexual is too binary a word for me (but I’m really interested in gender, it’s not an afterthought, so apparently pansexual is wrong too? I don’t know, I’m not great at keeping up with the ever expanding QUILTBAG terminology) and the probability that I really can’t pass all into one neat little syllable.

I’ll also take gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, whatever, because they’re all varying degrees of accurate and I know queer isn’t a comfortable word for everyone. Mostly, it’s like my pronouns — if you’re not using it as an insult, with that nasty little hitch in your voice — we’re good. As ever, in case anyone still needs to know this, don’t use queer for people who don’t self-identify as queer, and please, it’s an adjective, not a noun.

Meanwhile, coming out is a privilege and should be a choice (political figures who actively support anti-gay agendas and who later turn out to be queer, being a common, but not universal, exception to this belief).

Additionally, coming out is complicated. For a lot of us, it involves not a sentence, but paragraphs, about sexual preference, romantic attraction, personal history and gender presentation and identity; and if we pass for whatever reason(s) (which is this whole mess of a thing filled with advantages and disadvantages and all sorts of complicated stuff), it can feel even harder to speak up.

Coming out can also often involve not just speaking personal truth, but often, countering assumptions or offering reassurances (No, mom, you didn’t make me gay). This can be everything from tiring to amusing to heart-breaking to just plain weird.

Of course, coming out also carries real, serious risks — homophobic violence still exists around the world (including even in my precious New York City) and in most US states you can still be fired from your job for no other reason than being or being perceived as being LGBT.

However, in spite of that (and perhaps because of it) if coming out, if being out, is a thing you feel you can do, it’s probably a good thing, not just for yourself, but other people in your community. Secrets are, I think, a dangerous currency, easily stolen.

National Coming Out Day has a lot of purposes. It says we are not silent. It says we are not invisible. But it also says you are not alone.

And that’s true regardless of whether you’re out or not.

This blog welcomes anonymous and pseudonymous comments that are non-abusive in nature. That’s true every day, but that’s especially true today. If you want to make this random little corner of the Internet a place you can be out in today, you are welcome to do so, but if you just want to keep reading along, that’s cool too. Either way, we’re honored to have you.

The Emmys: Was that a flicker of feminist awesome I detected?

Did I just watch the most feminist Emmys ever?

First there was the amazing Mad Men gay marriage moment in the opening video thing (it’s around the 4:20 mark).

Then, we had a whole bunch of female winners who were over 35 and/or not size fours. “Regular” looking people can be just as talented and luminous as what you’re used to seeing on the red carpet.

Next, we had Jane Lynch’s dig at Entourage, which was pretty hilarious.

And finally, there was the long sarcastic bit about the power and diversity of roles men finally have access too.

Was this awesome and subversive? Is feminism (and lesbians) the new (old) edgy? Was it so not enough (the whole thing was still epically white, among other things) that those glimmers just don’t matter?

And most importantly, did any of it even remotely make up for the fact that we were subjected to the Emmytones?


It’s been ten years since a whole lot of things

So, in about 36 hours, it will be the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Like The Onion says, remembering that day can seem less awful than remembering everything that’s happened since. Of course, no, not really, especially for people who lost people, but there’s a kernel of truth in the sentiment. Everything’s been so wrong for so long.

And everything is still wrong. Government officials give these weird announcements about vague, credible, unspecific terrorist threats against my city (this information is useful to me how?) and talk about “the Homeland” like we’re in some badly written, bizarreo-world AU where the Nazi’s won. Any day now, we’ll be allowed to keep our shoes on at the airport though. Really. Any day. They swear. That’s what we’re supposed to be grateful for in these last ten years, and I just can’t even… there’s some screed I could write, something poetic about feet and vulnerability and slavery, and I just do not have it in me anymore.

All of that’s without getting to the racism and xenophobia and violence that 9/11 unleashed, and in the eyes of too many, seemed to justify. Do you know how many civilian casualties there were in Iraq?

But on a personal note, the thing that keeps sticking with me, particularly as a New Yorker who hates the city being used and exploited and pitied and revered and even exiled (it’s like lower Manhattan has become some sort of tragedy theme park) for all of this crap instead of the things it should be (Broadway, 24-hour restaurants, night clubs and possibility), is that it’s been ten years since a lot of other things too.

It’s been (almost) ten years since I stayed with someone because without them cooking dinner for me twice a week the level of my food insecurity was more than I could bear, and it’s been (more than) ten years since the dot.com boom wasn’t. It’s been (nearly) ten years since I held a job I couldn’t talk about in polite company, since I first met my friend Anton in person, since I decided I couldn’t live alone, and since I had the tiniest apartment in the world (but it was all windows< I swear) in Gramercy Park.

None of these things are that interesting to you; nor should they particularly have any reason to be, but I've found them a good reminder as the anniversary looms. Life continued on, continues on. What still often feels like a line in the sand of before and after, isn't. We are not, as a nation, required to be irrevocably changed for some fearful, cruel and wasteful worse. In the midst of really bad things, the minor tragedies of life do not disappear. Neither do the joys.

Anniversaries as we normally celebrate them reflect achievement related to love or memory related to loss. Certainly, in that context of loss the massive attention being paid to September 11, 2011, makes absolute sense, and it is a good, right thing that the occasion be marked. The human mind isn't, after all, really well made to remember fear and pain; if it were, we'd never do anything twice, I often think. September 11, 2001 was a real thing that happened, to us, and it was devastating. It is worth being able to recall it as it was and not, as so many of us thought when we turned on the TV that day, as just a movie.

But the last ten years on a national level are not something to be proud of. And too much of what I see in the impending anniversary coverage is pride in the mess we’ve made out of anger and fear.

I have hope, perhaps unreasonable (but that is what hope is, optimism, even when it may not make any sense), that after this anniversary, things will get better. That the eleventh or twelfth or thirteenth won’t be as compelling as these first ten. That the big wallows in all of this will come every five years, every ten years, that all of this will begin to seem farther away, and as it does, we will return to ourselves.

Because “Ground Zero” (a name I loathe, born out of our nuclear imaginations) has become a tourist site. And while there are numerous reasons that can be justified or called crass, I’ve got just a single reason it infuriates me: coming to New York City, this island off the coast of America, has never, ever been supposed to be about the end of things. I grew up in this place with its poisonous myths, understanding New York as a city where people celebrate the end of wars, not as one where they come to revel in the criminal tragedy that helps make certain they begin.

Diner en Blanc: some accomodations aren’t that accomodating (now with a positive resolution!)

Tomorrow, registration for New York’s first Diner en Blanc begins, and I want to go, badly. It seems like a manifestation of so many things I adore: the power of cities and the cheerful clinging to things passing out of the world just a little too quickly.

Today, I received an email explaining how the registration process for the event will work. It contains the following sentence: “In order to avoid any discrimination toward homosexual couples, you will be able to register up to 2 tables at a time (2 men/2 women).”

At first, I could not parse its meaning, but after discussing it with friends and reading the rules, it seems to indicate the following:

Women must be seated on one side of tables; men on the other. Thus, a single individual may register up to two tables, so if they are gay, they can register themselves and their partner, and then two individuals to gender balance them.

This does not, however, prevent discrimination, as the email suggests. Rather, it places an undue burden on gay couples to find beards for the sake of gender balance. Our gayness is welcome, but only if it looks all nice and neat from afar.

Additionally, who decides what gender I am? Regardless of how I feel about my gender, the reality is I rarely pass as male in the US (I almost always do in Europe, it’s sort of weird), and since we’d be registering on my credit card would my very feminine legal name cause me not to get invited back as per the rules?

And I’m just genderqueer and ornery. How’s it going to go for trans people who don’t have legal name changes yet or who the organizers feel can’t pass? Will they not be invited back?

Diner en Blanc seems like a GORGEOUS thing, and I feel like I am most probably jeopardizing my potential participation in it by raising these questions. But an event that strikes me as about the ghosts of finer things should be not about the world as it was (and is) often cruel, but about the world as we have always wished it to be.

At the end of the day, I have to believe that people like me are part of our collective daydream; sometimes, in fact, it has seemed as if it is only in daydreams that we exist. So I certainly hope the organizers can figure out a way towards making our participation as easy and full of grace as the event itself strives to be. Because the current solution isn’t actually much of one at all.

EDITED TO ADD (8:40pm 8/11): An email from Diner en Blanc announces a resolution to the problem. A discussion of what formal dining traditions should be anywhere in this modern age, however, is probably merited.