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 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.

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.