Man in the Iron Masc

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

When I was six or seven, my aunt gave me a copy of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas. It’s part of his D’Artagnan saga, most notably begun as the Three Musketeers. It’s a novel of historical adventure, with a political twist–not quite satire, but enough criticism it probably played a role in catalyzing the French Revolution.

The version I was given, however, was adapted for children. I never read it.

The book sat on my bookshelves for ages, and I probably still have it somewhere, stored away in a box in a closet probably, but because it was a gift, something given to me, I always felt obligated to read it. The intrigue was always present, if my interest in reading it was not: Who was this man? And why did he wear a mask made of iron?

The historical figure we may never know, but the fiction is a story all its own.

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TERF Wars

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

It’s a logical dilemma, I told my friend Cole. We’ve been friends for over a decade–we met in an online writers forum and though we’ve never met in person, I consider Cole one of my closest friends. When you share your writing with someone, an intimacy develops that rivals romance, and Cole has not only shared but inspired my stories.

Cole is also trans, and while I was investigating transgender issues more deeply and hitting mental blocks of my own to better understand trans experiences, Cole was kind enough to let me lean into the discomfort and talk about the hard things.

Cole has also given me permission to share some of the words we exchanged, for which I’m especially grateful: Not only did their words help me understand things more deeply, they also said them far more eloquently than I ever could.

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Karma and Jnana

I stumbled into yoga sometime around 15 – 20 years ago. My practice was guided almost exclusively by televised workout programs for those first few years, and then I took some classes, read some books, took more classes, and read more books. The only shortcoming of my life as a yogi has been my consistency: I might practice for a few years regularly, and then go on an unintentional hiatus for a few more. I even received a YOGA for Youth certification a few years ago, that has never actually come up as a teacher.

A staple of what I’ve learned throughout my practice is that practice alone isn’t what interests me: I’m also fascinated by the philosophy, and more than mere intrigue, I feel genuine attachment to it. Not to say it fills in the blanks of Jewish belief, but at times it seems to, and at other times it shines new light upon familiar scripture. The practice of Yoga, not merely the fitness of it, has persisted even when my exercise has not.

And when I finished reading the Sefer Yetzirah, a cornerstone of Jewish mystical thought, it seemed only natural to focus my gaze upon a cornerstone of the Yogic tradition: the Bhagavad Gita.

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Precipitate/Solution

Distilling wonders into words, says my “about me” page, since two thousand ten.

While true, and catchy, and a play on the blog’s subtitle “Words and Wonders,” I’ve never taken considerable time to actually say what these four words mean.

In times of continued self-exploration, I often find myself thinking, “What do I value?” Today, these two questions seem more intertwined than distinct.

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Pulse

Last night I was on the rooftop of our residence hall here at Rice University, sharing drinks and dancing and laughing with friends from the Milwaukee Teach for America corps. A few of us had gone to Rainbow on the Green, a family-centered LGBTQ celebration here in Houston, and since I hadn’t been able to attend, I eagerly listened as my friends shared their thoughts on the music, the atmosphere, the same-sex couples walking hand-in-hand with their children (“Life goals, right there,” Sean said, his hand on his heart, his eyes closing ever so slightly, and all I could do was smile and agree). And Houston Pride is two weeks away, so we’re already making plans to attend as a group.

Then this morning I was sitting at breakfast, and another friend said, “I’m kinda scared after Orlando,” and I didn’t know what she meant (my first thought was, “I haven’t been on Facebook lately” since that’s where I tend to get my news), and when she told me last night had been the largest mass shooting in US history–with more dead and injured than at Virginia Tech–and that it happened at a gay nightclub, I was stunned speechless.

It’s easy to rationalize different places and different spaces as a series of overlying Venn diagrams, here there is inclusion, here there is not, and here is that region in the middle full of tension and bated silence and awkward encounters at the bar, leaving everyone uncomfortable. But such drastic dehumanization forgets the fact that while we were celebrating our queer identity in the middle of a college university in Texas, the lives of hundreds were impacted by the bigotry born and raised in Florida.

We may be in separate places, but this space is shared: the sudden fear that all our years of visibility and changing hearts and minds has brought us nowhere, that the hatred against gay and lesbian and bi and transgender (and all other sexuality/gender-non-conforming) people is as paramount today as it was in the nineties when DOMA was passed, when Matthew Shepard was slaughtered, when Harvey Milk was assassinated.

Earlier this week someone told me that I “don’t really look gay,” and later this week I had a conversation with peers about a presenter who we all had thought was gay, and isn’t, and it only pushes to the forefront of our minds that sexual orientation and gender expression are not purely inherent, individual identities, but faces that can be inscribed upon others through the lenses of ignorance and assumption: I can move through the world being assumed straight, and that demands my authenticity even more. That privilege obliges me to be open about my sexuality and speak about all of these issues.

Because even when we speak openly, even when we keep to our own and stay in our own spaces, outsiders can and will and have come inside to shoot us down, to end our lives.

I will not be held silent. I will speak, and I will sing, and I will stand against hatred in each of its forms, before each of its faces, because if I cannot live bravely, who can?

The Quest for Queer Lit

I was hanging around the guilds on HabitRPG when another user gave a heads up to queer writers: Have you heard about Strange Horizon’s “Our Queer Planet” issue?

The sci-fi e-zine is hosting a celebration of queer identity, specifically looking for “work that explores intersectional queer imaginaries and experiences around the world,” with an emphasis on stories set on Earth (timeline variable). So I looked through my past fiction, and some of my best sci-fi stories feature gay male leads or gender-non-binary aliens–but none of them take place on Earth.

So, I decided, I’ll just have to write something new.

But then, I asked myself, what’s queer literature?

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Lies My English Teachers Taught Me

For the past week I’ve been in Mexico with my fiance Harel. It’s been delightful spending time with him, but also stressful since money issues always tend to creep up on us (making it even more important that we reach our GoFundMe goals).

Today I’m not talking about money, though, but rather language.

Part of our financial strains are due to Harel’s recently transitioning from one job to another. He’s completed his TKT English certification course, and while he takes the certification test on August 8, in his new job he’ll be teaching English to business professionals. So on Tuesday, I was able to join Harel in a workshop his new job provided on the proper place for a native language when teaching a second language. While I’m not a teacher of language, I am a student of Spanish, and listening to a dozen teachers discuss differences between Spanish and English, my mind tried to take these challenges and generalize them.

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Closet Confidential

Have you ever heard a joke that’s great until the punchline, and then it falls apart?

I feel opposite that: I know where I’m headed, but not how to get there–not even where to start. You see, I just spent a week in San Francisco, and seeing what the world could look like–what a more inclusive and queer-friendly world can look like–has made me realize a world where sexual orientation doesn’t matter can exist. But after seeing such high levels of inclusion, coming home feels a lot like walking back into the closet.

It’s not as funny as a joke, is it? But it does have a better punchline.

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The Long and Short of It

I was out with friends watching Interstellar the other night. Afterwards we were standing around, trying to figure out the movie, some of us closer to understanding than others. I was one of these guys, trying to explain multiple dimensions to people who have never had to think outside three (and even had a hard time understanding those).

But I tried to take it further, make it clearer: dimension is not only a spatial measurement. We think of space in three dimensions: we can move forward/backward, left/right, and up/down–three measures, three dimensions. So what, they asked, is four dimensional?

It may seem like this will be a post about science, but hold on. Shortly, it won’t be.

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Grand Unifying Theory

The fault in my stars made me a Gemini. Not only was the sun in this sign on the day of my birth, at the minute of my birth the earth watched as Gemini rose on the horizon. Expanding outwards through the solar system, three of the other nine astrological planets also stand in my first house.

I was destined for duality from the start.

In its most basic ailment, this often manifests itself in my having clearly delineated inner and outer selves, one known only to myself while the world witnesses the other. But as my particular brand of fate would have it, it doesn’t end there.

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