holiday weekend trash day is sort of filled with serious stuff

Greetings from Boston after one hell of a week. Patty’s in Ohio dealing with some family stuff and I’m up here for work, although I am headed back to New York tonight.

Not a lot has changed since the amazing adventures of last weekend. We’ve replaced our electronics; there’s still plywood on the window and we’ve been dealing with tons of apartment/lease related stuff. We’ll be moving out of our current place by August 15, and would love to find a new place with a lease that begins on or around August 1. If you have any leads for us (2 bedroom, around 2K) in Brooklyn or Manhattan, please get in touch.

Perhaps the most upsetting part of the entire situation at the moment (and there are a lot of upsetting parts, I’ve been a bit sparse on some of the more aggravating parts of this publicly) is that I’m in a really good mood today, but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is not normally how I do things.

Meanwhile, I know I’m always like “I have news, soon!” but I really, really do! The RSN is getting RSN-ier.

Lately, I’ve been having a great time on Twitter. Some of that’s been a small world theater experience that’s been slightly surreal, some of that is all the new people that I’m talking to in the wake of all my #NY4M tweets, and some of that is the wackiness of the Glee fandom (Chris Colfer needs to know where to buy sea monkey food, okay?).

Via one of those channels I was recently pointed to Dorothy Surrenders which bills itself as “A Gay Gal’s Guide to Pop Culture.” I’m just so glad this thing exists. I’m so sick of the whole “lesbians are dour” thing (among a million other stereotypes that screw over pretty much every one).

The piece that pointed me there was also interesting because it was about gay by association, but what really startled me was that I assumed the piece would be about “look at how gay and straight public figures can’t be seen in public together because everyone assumes the straight one is gay and then it’s a big PR headache.” Instead, it’s about this sort of thing from the queer perspective, i.e., “I wonder if she’s on our team.”

So, a bit less grim than I expected, but wow, I’d really like a world where closeting and speculation weren’t so part of the game, because this whole thing where speculation, regardless of whether with positive or negative intent, adds a layer of scandal and whisper to sexual orientation conversations that serve no one.

Which brings me, oddly, to another topic entirely. While I’ve been focusing on and will continue to focus on queer equality issues, there’s also a war on women going on in the U.S., specifically as regards reproductive rights and access to both birth control and safe, legal abortion services. One very prominent example is in Kansas.

As regards queerness, I believe that coming out is a privilege, but also that it is a responsibility. If you can come out safely (and safely doesn’t mean “without risk” it means “without what you define as unreasonable risk”), you have a moral obligation to our community to come out. I also believe it is inappropriate to out anyone unless they actively, publicly work against queer causes.

But there are, in this world, a whole lot of things to come out about other than sexual orientation. And abortion is one of them. 35% of all women in the US of reproductive age will have had an abortion by the time they are 45. 35%.

But we never talk about that do we? Do you want to know why? Because when women write articles about their abortion experiences, such as Mikki Kendall’s “Abortion Saved My Life” they get harassed, threatened and publicly shamed; they wind up in danger.

So I would like to add to “if you’re queer and you can be out, you should be out” with “if you’ve had an abortion and you can be out about it, you should be.” Because being out about issues that put people at risk does, over time, make everyone safer. I promise I’ll be revisiting this topic in a few weeks when my life is a little less consumed with plywood, brokers fees and moving, because I believe in the obligation.

In completely different and more cheerful news, since people keep asking since it’s programming season: no Dragon*Con for Patty and I this year (I’ve mentioned this before, but that was months ago and it’s slipped everyone’s minds, including ours). We’re going to San Francisco instead. I promised I take her one day right when we first started dating and this is the year. Woo!

life happens out of order; that’s how I know it’s real

Life happens out of order. It’s one of the only things I’m really certain of.

It’s a screwed up certainty, though, because it’s this thing in my head that comes solely from being too attached to story, where even complicated, unsettling events are neat and always driving towards a conclusion, or at least a pattern. Non-fictional life isn’t like that; hence that out of order feeling.

But if you have the relationship with fiction that I do, and considering how many of the people who read this come from fandom, you just might, there’s always a drive for narrative that distorts our non-fiction messiness into something neater and more elegant. It is, at its most basic level, why we play where were you when games. It’s how we make stories about the true things that happen in what is generally a clumsy manner.

A week ago, I was at a gig at Irving Plaza, half distracted by the NY Assembly’s passage of the marriage equality bill. When I got home, amped up and a bit tipsy and my voice hoarse from singing along with the show all night, and Patty was asleep and I knew I wasn’t going to get even four hours of rest myself, I emailed my buddy Christian and said: “This is a stupid thing man, but I want the Senate to pass the bill tomorrow, so Colfer can reference it in that stupid skit about the proposal at Glee Live.”

Christian has a narrative compulsion too, and we met through Torchwood fandom, so he got it immediately. It was a trivial desire in the face of a non-trivial thing, because it made for shinier narrative and thorough distraction. It was also a way to make fiction seem a little more real — although whether that was about the skit, or the bill I didn’t think would pass, it’s hard to say.

Of course, I actually saw Glee Live in New Jersey (it’s one of the cruel ironies of living in New York City, that many convenient stadium shows are in another state, that we hate, and the shout-outs are never for us), and it never came up. Then it did, in the reports from the shows on Long Island later that weekend.

There was just one tiny, embarrassing problem (other than this whole post) — marriage equality still hadn’t passed in New York; our congress is bicameral. But it sure didn’t stop the screams for Colfer giving a shout out to the law (supposedly) passing or delivering the most marriage-y of the non-marriage proposals the skit (in which Kurt asks Blaine to join glee club) had yet seen.

I sent Christian a link to a vid of it someone had linked me to. “When this doesn’t pass, I’m going to be gutted because of these fictional kids being dumbasses.”

“Maybe it’ll be okay,” he said.

“Maybe it’ll just be like how everything always happens in the wrong order,” I said.

Thank god.

My whole fixation with it seems stupid now, but I’ve been involved with the marriage equality story for twenty years now, and maybe I just needed a buffer from it that was young and optimistic and not all this life and death; a whole hell of a lot of people didn’t get here with us.

When I joined my LGBT student group in college, I was 17. And other than a lot of really bad crap happening to me and mine, the other thing that happened was we talked about marriage equality a lot. I knew people who were involved in some of the earliest court cases about it, and we all spent endless hours shooting the shit about how we could get a marriage equality case to the Supreme Court.

“Can we do it on a religious freedom basis? If a religion recognizes gay marriage, doesn’t the government have to?”

I was so young. And I was, and remain, of a generation that was taught (even if we didn’t believe) that marriage was not just a marker, but perhaps the only marker, of adulthood. A wedding, in my eyes, those 21 years ago, seemed like the only way I was ever going to be something other than the property of my parents, with whom, at that time, I had an extraordinarily difficult relationship.

21 years I’ve been talking about marriage equality, because I was precocious and wounded, because I wanted to be chosen, because I was a born a girl, because I felt like property. It’s never been anything but a bucket of screwy symbolism and pedestrian magic for me, and despite a profound, sometimes yo-yo’ing, ambivalence about the institution now, it’s been a huge part of my queer story.

Which is probably why I spent the last week, not just frantically tweeting about the New York bill and calling senators all the time, but also trying to insulate myself from my own history and from an expected legislative disappointment with stories about fictional kids who weren’t even a potential concept on the narrative landscape of my childhood.

See, this sort of painful, annoying drive I have to personalize everything and make everything a narrative? Well that was the only way I was ever going to get stories about people like me twenty, twenty-five years ago, because there weren’t any. I had to be self-involved because there was no one else to be involved with instead.

Marriage equality doesn’t change my life. It’s just a thing that makes it seem like the fight’s a little smaller, and I’m a little realer. It makes me feel safer walking down the street (although, in truth, anti-gay violence is expected to rise in the city in the wake of this), more comfortable calling the cops, and freer to say “my partner” without getting any damn backlash. With marriage equality in my state, the idea of being in any closet seems antiquated.

This morning, I’ve seen a flurry of emails and tweets along the lines of “did that really happen?” And that’s when I smile at my supposedly petty defense mechanisms of the last week. Of course it did.

You know how I know?

It happened in the wrong order.

But it happened. It really did. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t as happy for the idea of stories as I am for all the real people (myself included) who never should have had to fight to get here.

the ghost of Pride past (and future)

It’s Pride month here in the US (see, we get a month, but we don’t get lots of basic human rights), which means, among other things, that it’s the season of Pride parades.

I’ve been going to New York Pride since I was in high school, missing it here and there for travel or rehearsals, but mostly going year after year. And I’ve watched Pride change from something angry, or at least defiant, in the 80s to the corporate excess of the post-2000 era to whatever it is now, which seems like a shadow of what it once was. And so, as it approaches this year, I’m a little bit torn about what to do. I don’t want to go if the whole thing just feels sad.

But it does feel sad, and not in the right ways. Because it’s not sad like it used to be when the moment of silence seemed to make the whole city hold its breath. Now it’s just sad because the route is shorter (due to city budget cuts that have impacted all parades) and the fact that fewer people turn out in favor of skipping right to the parties.

But honestly, I thought I was just being cranky and “hey you kids, get off my lawn” about this. But then a friend who has recently moved to Texas from NYC tweeted about Pride there, about how different it is in a state actively trying to take away your rights.

Which means all of this is about the evolution of community and about assimilation again. About how we’re not supposed to be able to have it both ways, but how we are supposed to be grateful for floats from Chipotle and Delta (do they make you feel more human?). And let’s not even get into the marginalization I feel as a woman at Pride — there’s the dance and the women’s dance. I am just as gay as you, and people shouldn’t make assumptions about gender, and I hate the many, many types of segregation that go on in my community (along lines that include orientations, genders and race).

My community. Which I feel like I need more than ever because we are in this fight for so many things that are so close, so close, right now. But that community feels more fractured, apathetic, and lost than it ever has. We weathered crises and have wound up at sea.

I’m working on a bit of fiction right now that requires me to imagine what it will be like — on the news, in certain cities — on the day when equal marriage is legalized on a national level here. I lived in DC for a long time, so it shouldn’t be that hard for me to find the image, the moment, my story needs. Certainly, I can list all sorts of things people partied or held vigil in front of the White House over; after all, I lived just a few blocks away for nearly five years.

Yet imagination is hard when you’ve spent your whole adult life waiting on something you’re sure will never come and yet can almost taste. You get muddled. You get confused. You forget how in a lot of cases life will just go on like nothing is different: you’ll still get stuck in traffic, lose your dry-cleaning ticket, and come home from work too tired and pissed off to flip on the TV, and so you may not even find out until someone tells you at the water cooler at work the next day.

Of course, for all those people, there will be the people that hear the second it happens, that will celebrate on the street, or honk their car horns or phone old friends from college or pour into bars, talking to strangers about all the people who didn’t get here with us. So many people will not have gotten there with us.

Right now, though, Pride in New York feels like a victim of the economy and so many years of waiting. I can’t not go, but the thought of it feels disappointing already.

Anyone out there got an answer, other than wait, about how to make it matter or at least seem enjoyable this year?

in a lot of ways, I would have preferred the aliens

Last night, Erica and I were sitting in my apartment’s office working on the show when it became clear from the living room that something important was happening. So we rejoined the rest of our households and flipped from HBO (because we were going to watch Game of Thrones again) to CNN and waited to find out what very important thing was happening, all of us with a certain degree of trepidation.

“Well, it can’t be something anyone else knows, or the news would have it,” we reasoned, which quickly ruled out any sort of explosion or nuclear war. We figured the Libya and Syria situations had been too ongoing to merit this type of news moment and we were sort of at a loss. Like most of the Internet, we reached the first contact or Bin Laden’s dead conclusion pretty fast.

And then we all know what happened.

Today, I both feel like I’m supposed to write about it, and that I don’t need to write about it. Isn’t everyone writing about it? But I also live in New York City, lived here in 2001, and when I didn’t live here, lived in DC just blocks from where all that partying was going on in front of the White House last night. So whether I like it or not, and whether you like it or not, I have stuff to say I should probably say.

When 9/11 happened, I termed the time after, when parts of my city were closed and you could still smell the burning, During. Eventually, During would be over, and it would be After. But in the time since then, I’ve discovered something horrible: After never came. During‘s just gone on and on with all sorts of fear and bigotry and security theater and wars that were supposed to be about one thing and turned out to be about something else.

I’ve spent ten years saying I want my country back. Everything wasn’t perfect before 9/11, of course. And terrorism isn’t just about bin Laden; most terrorism as it transpires in the US, is, of course, actually domestic in origin and related in no way to the fears that particular Tuesday in September instilled in us (except when it’s an ugly and violent response to said fears).

I’ve also spent ten years wanting my city back. New York isn’t just where I live or where I’m from. It’s where I was born. It’s my home. It’s in every iteration of my biography; it may as well be part of my name. It’s changed a lot, in the decades I’ve spent here. And lots of those changes have had nothing to do with 9/11, but some of them have. We went, I felt, that day from being the world’s myth — a slightly wicked city every one dreams of calling home — to being America’s TV-movie of the week setting — theme park and object lesson, safe in a box, and not even real, not even in legend. It’s something that sucks, and that I’ve hated.

Last night lots of people cheered and lots of people felt relief. And I just felt… not that much. It was anti-climatic. I’m glad we finally found the guy and did something that at least resembled what needed doing. I’m certainly glad we have one less bogeyman out there to justify all the ways in which things over the last ten years have gone wrong. And I wish that this means that soon it will finally be After, and we’ll bring our troops home, and I’ll be able to do silly stuff listen to Ani diFranco’s “Arrivals Gate” without having to explain to people younger than me what the world was once like (if you’re impatient, skip ahead to the 30 second mark).

But I’m not counting on it. I don’t think many people are. And that’s really been the price of all of this, hasn’t it? On top of all the lives — and if you only watch US media the numbers are way higher than you realize — there’s this whole no going back thing. Time never works that way, I guess, but last night I realized I’ve spent ten years waiting for After, when all I ever really wanted was Before.

If last night was the end of a war, I have no discomfort with all that celebration we saw on TV. But I don’t think it was. And if the news of bin Laden’s death is a cause for celebration, it is one because it means that fewer people will die because of him and his legacy. That’s not just about the US, that’s about the world.

Look, I know in New York City we often pretend we don’t live anywhere but here. We don’t live in America; we don’t live in the world; we live in that conglomeration of quasi-legendary cities, a country made up of places like London and Rio and Rome.

So when I say that much of what I saw on TV last night made me uncomfortable, it’s just that; I’m not policing your feelings; I’m telling you mine. I live in a place where yeah, some really terrible things happened, a place that doesn’t even always seem real, by choice, even to those of us who live here. And it’s complicated and it’s hard and someone, no matter how criminal, being dead isn’t something I know how to be happy about, not because of some moral high ground (believe me, I don’t have a lot of that), but because it’s still During, and I just want to be done.

a place where I was real

If you know me, you’re probably heard me do the whole hand wave-y, Oh, I’ve always been out thing about my sexuality. But that’s not true; I just didn’t always know what it was that I was hiding; after all, I went to an all-girls school through 9th grade and I was attracted to men. Therefore, it was pretty easy to grow up at least pretending to be sure that I was a girl, and that, like all good girls, liked boys.

I was way more preoccupied by how weird I felt in a generalized way — my face was too long; my uniforms never fit right; and I hated everything from the way my voice sounded and to the shape of my eyes that made me, I thought, look perpetually sad (okay, truth be told, I still think that). I was other, and being queer sort of never really entered into it. In fact, I remember calling myself queer when I was 12, before it was a reclaimed word, before I knew it was a slur against gay people; I thought it just meant peculiar, and I was.

So while I was never really in, I also certainly wasn’t out until college, which sort of happened with a bang I didn’t have all the control over I would have liked (opinion piece in the university paper about how my being bisexual didn’t make my roommate a lesbian? did that seriously happen? can I get a do-over?), but it is what it is and happened over 20 years ago now.

My first experience of being a real-live gay person in a world where everyone knew I was a real-live gay person, was working at Lambda Rising, a gay bookstore in Washington DC. I worked in the stock room, with a dude we all called Millie. We took the phone orders that came in, found the books people wanted, shrink wrapped them and packaged them up in plain brown boxes.

We loved that stupid shrink wrap gun, the way we made the warning beep on the Mac SE that ran the stock room into a clip of Millie squealing about something, and the ice cream shop next door than the manager would sometimes buy us cones at. It was my first normal job in that it was an appropriate fit for my age and skills. It was the type of job people in TV shows had. It was what you do, when you’re in college.

But it was also the type of job that made Millie and I spend a lot of time talking about what it meant to be gay. We sort of had to, after every order, when callers would ask if we had foot-fetish books (I can still hear Millie drawl, are they gay foot fetish books? then yes!) or proclaim they were doing their once-yearly order from a town of 351 in Alaska or check and recheck that the boxes wouldn’t be labeled with anything that might let their neighbors (or their wives or their parents) know that they were gay.

“Sometimes, this job feels like a public service,” Millie would say.

“Don’t you feel guilty sometimes?” I’d ask.

“What do you mean?”

“The way people call like they’re perverts or it’s a dirty secret or they can’t believe I’m actually saying lambda when I answer the phone.”

“We do stock a lot of porn,” Millie would reply.

“Look, I just want you to know, all girls that like girls are not interested in Wonder of the Labia coloring books.”

I was 18 and I worked a gay bookshop in a gay neighborhood across from an independent cinema that often played gay movies. And even if I was never, ever going to get a TV sitcom style romance because I didn’t work as a cashier, I loved it. It was movie magic and hope over and over and over again.

Today, LGBT bookshops are largely disappearing, driven out of the market my a changing culture and by changing technology. Twenty years ago, they didn’t save my life, but they taught me I could have a good, happy, small, non-combative life and be queer, at a point when my life was big and public and very combative in ways that no one really gave me a chance to choose or not. In a life of big blessings, Lambda Rising was for me a small one, but a critical one.

One day, a lot of the things that have defined my queer experience just won’t really exist anymore. I mean, no one really keeps little maps in their dorm rooms anymore of what states they’d broken sodomy laws in, not since Lawrence v. Texas, but that happened in 2003, and we did, back in 1993. And ACT UP seems like more a part of history than the thing, along with Queer Nation, that taught me about what it meant to be gay as a teenager.

One day, this stupid, awful equal marriage rights fight will be over; one day kids won’t risk getting all the clubs in their high schools closed down just because they want to start a Gay-Straight Alliance; one day people won’t even understand why we had to have these conversations. That world is a long way away, but I also know it’s closer than I think most days, because where we are now in this struggle right now? More than I ever could have hoped for when I was 18 and working in a bookstore warehouse and reassuring people about plain brown paper packaging.

But sometimes, I feel like we’re losing things out of order. Or get really scared that my culture that makes me me is disappearing. Assimilation hurts. Sometimes it’s a prize, and, sometimes, it’s a bargaining chip; how much of your history would you be willing to bleed out just to get treated like you’re normal? It’s a shitty question, and one no one should have to answer.

Gay books stores mattered. They were a place where I was real. And I don’t necessarily feel like I’m real enough in this world as it is now for them to be gone already.

I might just be singing a lot of show tunes right now trash day

So the big news of today is that Patty is coming home. I’m doing research and tomorrow we’ll be grabbing her a plane ticket for April 7 or 8. For those of you not in the know, we’ve essentially been apart since September, although we got to spend a weekend in Zurich and ten days together in Cardiff in November and had about another ten days together over New Year’s (although some of that was lost to food poisoning). We’re used to this thing we do, and we’re very good at it. But this one was a long, hard slog. So while her coming home is always exciting, this one feels particularly momentous.

Meanwhile, I continue to roll around in the Glee fandom (someone drew art for one of my stories yesterday!), which we have already established will be her time to be all “Yeah, reading a book now,” when she comes home. Despite the fact that we met through fandom (thank you, Ellen Kushner), we don’t actually share fandoms with much frequency. Although sometimes she call me Jack when I’m being particularly egregious, so it’s another wacky thing we navigate with good humor.

Speaking of pop-culture (this is the flimsiest segue ever), I’ve been meaning to make note of Rebecca Black, a teen who put out a really terrible video thanks to her parents paying to make it happen. The back story is as fascinating as the reaction to the video (which truly must be experienced to be believed). It raises a lot of questions about how we define a person as a public or private person in the digital age, bullying, slut-shaming, and whether there really is any such thing as bad publicity. I’d urge you to read this one.

Also deeply compelling is this piece about a mom having to unpack slut-shaming on the playground. Her son is eleven, and expressed to her disapproval that one girl he knew was kissing a lot of boys. And the reason he felt it was a problem seemed to be because of her gender.

Meanwhile, while out of the realm of stuff I often write about, it seems necessary that I note the existence of Mark Kirby, A. J. Sapolnick and their son Digby, a family that doesn’t seem to firmly fit into the category of fact, fiction, or art, because they’re pretty much all three all the time.

Next, a story that’s so irritating, I could write a full post on it, but I can’t bring myself to: an author pulls a story of hers from a YA anthology because the editor says that the publisher won’t like that the main couple in it are two boys and one has to be turned into a girl. Of course, later it turns out the publisher doesn’t care and the editor is defending herself with “Well, I assumed other people are homophobic, but I’m not; I once touched a gay person.” Not even kidding. I so do not have the bandwidth for this crap. But I will note, I am sick of my sexuality being described as alternative. At least we didn’t hit “lifestyle” on the bingo card.

Finally, on one more personal note, there are only 7 seats left in my Public Relations for Creatives 101 class on March 31, so if you’re planning to register, you should do so soon.

the distance to Mars

In the midst of everything else that happened in this very heavy news week, Maryland sent its equal marriage rights bill back to committee. Despite what was initially thought, the votes just weren’t there, the state just wasn’t ready yet.

Equal marriage rights are a tricky topic for me as a queer person, and, believe it or not, one I don’t actually like talking about. There are huge issues of heteronormativity and queer culture erasure involved in the discussion, as well as issues regarding misogyny, and an ongoing hunch I have that much of mainstream heterosexual culture is characterized by such intense and unnecessary hostility and suspicion between the genders, that what really terrifies people about equal marriage rights is the option to opt out of that misery that doesn’t really work for them, as opposed to a parallel discussion about trying to fix the often toxic male-female dynamics in this country.

A lot of the gay couples I know are married. Some legally, some spiritually, some both. Some in states where their marriages are recognized, and some in states where they aren’t. The one thing all these couples have in common? Equal marriage rights didn’t exist when they were kids, anywhere, and so they’ve all had to adjust to being pioneers. For some of them, it’s easy. For some of them, it’s easy with a bit of peculiar on the side. And for some of them, they still feel like they have to mention their spouse like a question mark, as if they won’t be believed, as if no amount of paper in the world could make it make sense — not just to others, but to themselves — even as it’s actually happening.

One of the things I think we overlook in the discussion of equal marriage rights is the importance of narrative. Not political narrative or marketing narrative or campaigning narrative, but stories, fiction, the way what is possible often comes to us through the mechanism of what it is not actually a non-fictional fact in the world.

In one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes, “The Waters of Mars,” which I love because it’s about death and sacrifice and early space exploration, there’s a small, completely incidental moment (it’s character development only, not narrative advancement), where someone mentions another man’s husband. It’s completely without note of how notable that is to us in the non-Whoniverse here and now. I don’t have time to find it in the disc, but trust me when I tell you it’s “blah blah blah his husband blah blah blah.”

New Whoniverse stuff is, of course, filled with things like this (see: the lesbians in “Gridlock”) that often get overlooked in the face of stuff like Captain Jack Harkness. But as someone who really loves the Whoniverse and really loves both those small moments and the absurdity (and promise and hope) that is the idea of Jack’s 51st century, it bears noting that some of my sadness this week over the equal marriage bill being tabled in Maryland comes from stories seeming far too far away.

Look, I don’t get a TARDIS. I don’t get the Doctor. I don’t get Jack. I don’t get Torchwood. I don’t get the wonder of the stars as we’re busily retiring the space shuttles. I don’t get all the things I’ve written and dreamed about my entire life. I don’t get to save the world. But wow, if people could just say “his husband” and “her wife” all the time without pause or uncertainty or question, that wouldn’t just be equal rights, that would, for me, be spaceships and dinosaurs and time travel and hope.

sometimes trash day is a day late

I’ve been speaking to Patty every other or every third day. Yesterday she had to run to the grocery while we were on the phone so I got to hear India. There sure are a lot of car horns. I continue to be her own personal news service. She continues to be awesome. I’m looking forward to when I get to think about her coming home (when we have a firm date, you too can join the countdown).

Yesterday I used Living Social to buy some language lessons at half price. If you’re in New York City, you can do the same thing today. And yes, that referral link helps me out, because if three of you sign up, I get my classes for free. You can use the classes any time this year (but you need to register by October) and the choices are French, Spanish, Italian, German, or Arabic (you don’t have to choose now). If I didn’t need German, I’d be all over the Arabic.

Also in the real, of classes, I’ve signed up to take something at Trade School where people barter their expertise. I’ve also signed up to teach a class, so I’ll let you know as soon as it’s on the schedule.

Don’t forget I’ll be reading from Whedonistas, along with Teresa Jusino, NancyKay Shapiro, and Priscilla Spencer on Monday night. We will have books to sell, one day before the official release, but numbers are limited, so get their early.

As I mentioned the other day, I have a lot of things I want to write about, including the marriage equality mess in Maryland and the discussion of victim-blaming regarding a New York Times article. Most of the discussion I’ve seen has been about the Times specifically or rape-culture generally, and I think there’s a useful component missing: which is about journalism systemically. But as ever, my life is deadlines, Japan is getting a lot of focus, both Wisconsin and Libya need to be getting a lot of focus, I’ve got some interview questions to send to a film maker who I’m going to talk to here, and I really need to clean the flat, so it may take a bit.

Right now, I’m out the door, as I want to visit the farmers market (mainly so I can report to Patty on it, it’s her favorite), before I come home and focus on getting stuff done.

news, agenda setting, and you

Since the beginning of this year, the news cycle has gone from what we call a 24-hour one (i.e., around the clock) to what I call an instantaneous one. Critical events happen, and there is no time to cover them with the weight and detail they deserve, before other critical events, often in unrelated areas, occur (in the 24-hour news cycle there isn’t necessarily new news, it’s just that we never stop talking — what’s been happening is something else). We went from the Arizona shooting, to MENA uprisings (which continue), to the union situation in the US (which is continuing), to today’s earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.

And that’s leaving out other critical stories: WikiLeaks, the treatment of Bradley Manning, anti-bullying initiatives from the White House, equal marriage rights debates in multiple states, the appalling hearings on Islamic radicalization in the US, the war on Planned Parenthood, and the retirement from political life of the Dalai Lama. And I’m sure I’ve left out other critical stories. And that’s not even counting the stuff that’s really dropped off the radar. Like Haiti.

So what’s a person to do, when trying to do a Friday link roundup other than throw their hands up in despair?

The easy answer, the terrible answer and is my instinct to say, is I don’t know. Despite being a generalist, someone who works well on deadline, who’s very quick on the uptake, with a background in journalism and a career in media analysis, it all feels like too much, even to me, as someone whose job it is to never feel like it’s too much. But the first thing I do every morning when I wake up, is check the news on my Blackberry before I even get out of bed (something that drives Patty up the wall). I get up faster on days terrible things have happened. Today’s been one of those days.

The harder answer is, that as much as I talk about news selection and agenda setting as regards what the news puts out there, news selection and agenda setting also happens at home. It happens in what media any of us choose to consume. And, when stories get big, bad, and difficult, the impulse is often to consume less to preserve our own sense of well-being; or to consume more as if data helps us have control, as if more is always better.

But what we really need to do is be editors for ourselves. Am I annoyed ABC isn’t really covering the union crisis in the US? Yes. But I’m also annoyed when it’s all MSNBC covers, because I also need information about the MENA region (for which I’ve been relying on CNN out of the domestic options, and Al-Jezeera online for the international option). Meanwhile, I get my queer news headlines from The Advocate, but they never go into enough depth, and rely on my Twitter feed to point me to the news I need about WikiLeaks and Manning’s detention.

Of course, you aren’t me. You don’t need or want to watch two, five, or ten hours of news a day. So I’m not going to tell you to consume more news (unless you aren’t consuming any). And I’m not going to tell you what delivery technology to use. But I want to emphasize how news selection affects the information you get, especially on a day where a lot of us probably flipped on a 24-hour news channel and have left that channel on all day.

Haiti didn’t stop needing help because the media stopped covering it. The protesters in Egypt didn’t go home because the war reporters went to Libya. The right to collective bargaining isn’t safe in the US because state-level politics stories don’t often make national news. And queer people aren’t suddenly not in a civil rights battle for their very lives because you didn’t hear about a transwoman’s murder or a gay teen’s suicide or yet another damn couple who can’t get married.

The only way to get around the reality of agenda setting (which is sometimes about political agenda; sometimes about racism, sexism or homophobia; sometimes about dollars; and sometimes about an evening news program only having thirty minutes or a newspaper only having so many pages) is to do your own agenda setting which means varying your news sources as much as possible. You won’t catch everything, but you’ll catch a much broader view.

Meanwhile, I? Have dozens of issues I want to write to you about here, but I’m struggling a little at finding the interval to do so today.

I wear these things like words

I hate to begin any post with something so trite as Life’s complicated, but that seems like an easier lead-in than When I was at university, I was threatened with corrective rape.

When I was in university, I was threatened with corrective rape.

By fellow students, people I knew, people who lived in residence halls with me and served in student organizations with me, because my having a girlfriend made the school look bad, they thought. They were just going to show me what I really needed. I had to have campus security posted outside my dorm room door.

That was the same year I had to take a friend of mine to the ER after he and his boyfriend got jumped on a street corner for holding hands. There were stitches involved, because of where his head had been slammed into the corner of a newspaper vending machine.

This was also the same year I had beer bottles thrown at me from a passing truck, while walking hand in hand with my girlfriend. No, they weren’t just littering and didn’t see us; there were some slurs and the truck slowed down, pulled over, and she and I climbed over a barrier and ran through a field because we thought our lives were in danger.

It was 1991, and I had just turned 18. These experiences were hate crimes, before there was a national legal definition of such in reference to LGBT people in the US, and I was lucky they were so minor.

Yeah, I live in a world where rape threats are minor; where only20 stitches is something to be grateful for; where the fact that they didn’t catch us, means it doesn’t really count.

I don’t wear these things like badges of honor, because they’re not. I wear these things like words, because they are part of the story of my life.

Which means you don’t get to tell me, no matter what your own experiences are, how insulted or threatened I’m allowed to feel about anti-gay discourse. You also don’t get to tell me what is and is not a hate crime (it has a legal definition in the US; and we’ll try to run with that). Nor do you get to put words in my mouth when I talk about some stuff that has offended me. Believe me, if I were going to call something a hate crime, I’d use the words.

The ones that are written on me, by all the terrible things that I’m supposed to be grateful didn’t quite happen.

Life is complicated. Your mileage may vary. But don’t tell me what mine should be. Not on this subject. Not ever.