Friday, June 30, 2006

Yo Straights: go to Pride, it's good for you

Stop being afraid, stop being apathetic, you NEED to go to a Pride party (that goes double for the straights). This is the start of Pride season, which is the LGBT annual family reunion, bar-b-que, concert and fashion show in one. This means it is the time of year when gays and lesbians reflect on where we are as a community and when Conservative and Evangelical Christians pray for the floats to catch fire. It is also when 90% of straights receive their annual impression of what “gay culture” must be about: drag queens, dykes holding dildos and assless chaps.

There are two truths about the LGBT community: we regularly squabble and backstab each other and that we will overcome our differences. Being gay can sometimes seem as if you are stuck back in high school, where who talks to you is determined by who you are willing to be friends with. First, as the anthology Sister & Brother brings to light, while gays and lesbians have a lot to learn from each other, they tend to not mix. Within the groups of gays or lesbians there are subgroups, jealousy, spite, fear and distain. In one city I lived the monthly lesbian get-together had two tables, one for the “regular” lesbians, and one for the “feminist” lesbians. Lesbians, as the 14th annual protest at the Michigan womyns festival highlights, tend to discriminate against MTF transsexual and intersex lesbians. And now, with the new documentary, Boy I Am, we see the articulation of the growing fear/discrimination toward lesbians who become FTM transsexuals from other lesbians (since as a femme, and often viewed as “less empowered” by most of the lesbian community, my reaction to the worry from butches that they will lose dominance if some butches transition to male: boo-freaking-hoo). And if you want to know about exclusionary bitterness, talk to a bisexual, as bisexuals are viewed with distrust by both gays and lesbians. But you know what, families are like that. There will be bumps as we educate and learn from each other; learing to love and accept people, even if we don’t always agree with them.

The question is: will straight people join us? We have seen multiple decades where straight society tried to force, threaten and deprive LGBT people into, if not being straight, then at least pretending to be straight. And quite honestly, it hasn’t been heterosexuality’s finest hour. In 2004, on valentines day, gay marriages were bursting out all over, 4000+ just in California, it looked like things were changing. Within a few months, over a dozen states were changing their state constitutions to ensure that gays and lesbians would never have equal marriages as their straight counterparts. Some states like Virginia were enshrining official discrimination and since then, organizations and States, including the Federal Government have removed LGBT discrimination protections. When the president of the US says publicly that YOU and your partner’s desire to marry is a direct threat to the American people, it is hard not to take it personally.

This is nothing new. In 1958 Mildred Jeter married Peter Loving in the District of Columbia and returned to live in Virginia. They were arrested and in October sentenced to one year in jail each. The crime: A violation of Virginia code 20-59 - Mildred Jeter was black and Peter Loving was white. To remain married they accepted a 25 year exile from Virginia imposed by the court and sought, through legal means to have their marriage recognized. It took nine years later in 1967 and a trip the US supreme court before they were a legally married couple in all states under the decision “Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man"”

The truth is, we need straight people to stand up for all minorities, including LGBT people. LGBT people will always be a minority of the population, and thus, always be at the whim and potential bigotry of the majority. My partner and I are legally married in Canada. Canada, whose population apathy is often mistaken for tolerance, can, just as easily in some right wing future, pass a law and strip that away from us. There is no universal justice, or “fair play,” there really is only you.

Which is why I ask and urge all straights to come to Pride; to come and get to know us. Pride is about diversity and acceptance, so I am certain we can squeeze in a few more straights (as long as you aren’t clutching your bible and/or leaflets on SIN). Pick up your handy spotters guide, “From Leather Daddies to Bears, Diesel Dykes to Goddesses”, and take your kids to the face painting. There is plenty of eye candy for people of all orientation, plenty of free stuff (don’t forget to pick up your gaydar whistle) and lots of cool things to see and buy (love the lesbian-goth leather wear!). For a day or a week it’s a party and we try to remember that whatever our disagreements and internalized homophobia, we are in it together. Whether you like it or not, we are part of your community, so why not come and try to be a part of ours?

Photos: http://prideparadechicago.com/public/photogallery/photogallery_main.aspx

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Incest, child abuse and a need for heroes

She lies in the darkness, waiting for a hero. Will this be a night of creaks in the hallway? She’s not allowed to scream, not allowed to tell anyone.
She doesn’t know about sex but she knows her body is something to be used by another. She’s 9. Only I can’t find her. She will grow up joining the growing group of unreported sexual child abuse. No one will come, no one will save her.

Here in North America we like to see ourselves as a land of heroes, people who believe in superheroes. But there is one crime that we, as a society, don’t like to talk about: sexual child abuse and incest. There are tens of thousands of cases of forced incest and all wilkepedia can say is two sentences. Incest is sex between family members that it is illegal to marry.

And though we don’t talk about it, or make movies about it, child sexual abuse goes on, flourishing in silence. In the last 30 years the number of rapes in the US has dropped to 1/10th of what it was due to campaigns of “No means No,” sex education and greater sensitivity to rape victims. In the same period sexual child abuse has, depending on the study, either remained the same or risen 88%-130% (in the decade 1980-1990 reported cases increased over 300%). Of course it is difficult to get statistics because the last comprehensive study in the US was done almost 10 years ago. Sexual child abuse and incest are THE highest unreported crime from reasons of threats, fear, fear of breaking up the family to simply living in a religious/authoritarian setting. Over 50% of those who initially tell an adult will not be believed.

I made a promise; a belief, that I would stop it. I’m failing. Late at night, I stand at the window, listening for them. Because a child is hoping to be found. In the US another child is being sexual abused every 2 minutes. 1 out of 7 of them are aged 6 or under. Childwelfare in their last study estimated 200,000 cases in the US annually, and a same number per capita in Canada. Only 31% of these sexual abuses will result from strangers. In Canada 61% of ALL reported sexual assaults will be youth or children.

We may not be sexual abusers ourselves, but we are culpable. We all are part of a society that would rather maintain the image of sexual purity than sexual abuse. And when sexual abuse is socially raised, it is in flash waves of hatred toward the 31% of strangers who sexually abuse - “Kill the pedophiles” the people cry, leaving their children home to a higher instance of forced incest; from siblings, cousins, uncles and step-parents (natural fathers are only 4% of reported incest cases).

I waited 20 years for anyone in the church I attended to say, to print, or to indicate in any way that those “Christian children precious in the eyes of God” shouldn’t be abused. Or that it happened. Or that it was bad. President Bush, riding on the shoulders of Christian is promoting abstinence and purity as the solution to all problems for teens. $3 billion this year from the US for abstinence and “Faith-based” AIDS programs. How much for, “Not getting raped at night by uncle”? We know that 66% of sexually abused prostitutes were abused by fathers, step-fathers or foster fathers. And we do human trials on prostitutes to see which ones die faster on different AIDS medications, or which trial groups infect faster. Disassociation isn’t just done by children being abused, it is also done by societies wanting to believe that prostitutes and abusers appear from nowhere at all.

“Talking about incest is a bigger taboo than incest itself” (Patricia D. McClendon) Isn’t that the truth? I talked to a doctor today about child abuse and incest and his comment on the US, “They don’t have any do they? Have they admitted it yet?” In his experience, people feel ashamed because they have reason to; if you say you were abused, people will pull away. There is something so scary about the idea that we will sacrifice children annually to live in a society that doesn’t have to face incest’s existence. There will be no “break the silence” school day for incest or child sexual abuse because no one wants to put on that t-shirt. I don’t. I do, but I'm too ashamed to.

Millions debate over whether a stripper has a right to say, “No means No” in a country that has Father-daughter purity balls where girls pledge their sexuality to their father to keep until handing over to her husband. The FCC and the Parents Television Council work to keep mention of teenage sex off the TV, Churches teach girls and boys that the worst thing they can be is not a virgin. Conservative groups work to keep gay-straight alliances out of schools on the premise that 14 year olds don’t need to know about sex. And already another two children have been sexually assaulted since you started this piece. There are no telethons, there are no national programs, no walk-a-thons, no “no-child-left behind” programs, no national fundraising or public sharing and awareness. RAINN (the Rape abuse and incest national network) operates a help-line and links and works largely alone: abused children aren’t like panda’s; they aren’t cute or cuddly, they aren’t going to be displayed in a white house photo shoot.

We don’t know what to say so we say nothing at all. That’s not good enough.

Show me a land of heroes. Find her.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Epee night and why William is going down!

It indicates something about our epee club that I can show up to fence with purple hair and no one notices: it indicates I fence with a lot of guys! William, the 16 year old high school graduate, kids me about showing up later to avoid Mr. Ho giving me another public lesson, and he is right. I am still working on my lunge, I have been all week.

The lunge is supposed to do two things: close the distance between your blade tip and your opponent’s body part quickly and hit precisely. At home, with practice I have found that I can lunge quickly with no point control whatsoever or slowly with great accuracy. I decide that tonight I will choose accuracy as I try to perfect my lunge form. I also expect to lose. I tell this to Steve, the 6’7” dark haired guy with lamb-chop sideburns who talks a lot about Penelope, which turns out to be his car. “I’m losing every bout tonight.” I tell him.

“Stick with the plan.”

I put on my helmet and we fence. All the chemicals from my five hour hair dying soon fill the space in my helmet, making me slightly high. This improves my fencing as while I am slow, I am incredibly accurate. I hit Steve on his wrist, his arm and then as he is pulling his hand away from me, I hit him on his pinky. Gerald comments on the hit, “like salmon fishing with a spear.” I assume this is a compliment in Gerald-world speak.

My plan is failing miserably as I win virtually every bout, in my slow, long lunging, mid lunging fashion. I hit Gerald in my longest lunge yet and he asks the universe “How did she do that?” I don’t know.

William has developed a new technique where he lunges as I lunge but hits my arm just below the shoulder with enough force to actually stop me from being able to extend my arm completely (Ow!). My lunges to his collarbone are falling short and my arm hurts. I adjust my aim to his bicep instead and it works. Almost everything works tonight.

Steve and Gerald are having bad nights; Steve goes home but Gerald plugs on. We suggest he drink some alcohol to tap into his special drunken-master powers. Gerald has a bunch of black belts and taught martial arts for 20 years and has taken up epee because he doesn’t have the body to absorb the hits anymore. Mr. Ho says that “Gerald thinks he knows martial arts.” Mr. Ho knows a lot about fencing but isn’t someone people turn to for affirmation. Even his wife Veronica says she doesn’t have the temperament to be coached by him.

Brian shows up and we fence for the first time in a month. I do long lunges to his shoulder and he gets me on the approach. I’m getting the touches but just not quickly enough. Brain wins the bout and pulls off his helmet. “That’s what I love about fencing” he tells me, “You try something, I defeat you and now you have to go and try to figure out something else.”

I look at him for a few seconds before saying, “Wow, you really are an asshole.” He says that it might have come out wrong but only fences one more bout over the next hour and a half. Amanda comes for two hours but manages not to fence anyone by drifting around talking to people. So Gerald, William and I fence on. We joke a lot. Gerald constantly mocks the way I give my hips a wiggle to try and keep them loose for lunging, and William covers his eyes while he pleads with Gerald, “Not the hips, not the hips.”

Twice Gerald and William get so tangled that Gerald does a very slow takedown on William who emits strange sounds of rage from behind his mask. Even when all the other fencers, including the foil fencers have packed up, we fence on. In the second to last bout, Gerald beats me by waiting for the lunge and then parry-reposing inside. I guess that means I will have to try something new next week. While William and I face off, Gerald takes off his kit to let us know his fighting day is done. We just hope he stops when he gets to his shirt.

William and I are always close, but this one is closer than other bouts as each time one gets a point ahead the other claws it back. We are supposed to go to five but at 6-6 I am sure I can get that single touch, but William hangs in there. We fight on. At the end, my blade skids off his mask as he pushes through for the touch: 8-7. My shoulder aches from the 14 bruises tightly clustered on my shoulder, collarbone and upper bicep. William has become very consistent and accurate. The people from the Y are there to turn off the lights. Hmmm, William will need to be chastised next time. I just hope I am the one to do it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I'm vain, I'm self destructive: good hair day!

I am vain, but I am also self destructive, so that kinda evens out. Recently my life has gone from a woman saying to me; “I’m going to sand down your chest” to three women having an argument over what to do with my head, to a few hours later when I am telling a reporter that “I guess that would make me the Hitler of novelists” and ending the day with 14 bruises within a handbreadth (for the epee fencing & bruise story, see tommorrow’s blog)

A couple days ago I had to wear a holter heart unit (spelled houlter in Canada). This records all the heart related stuff for the 24 hours you wear it through the five electrodes permanently stuck to your body. This is why I ended up early in the morning, in my bra, leaning toward a female technician who is coming toward me with sandpaper in her hand telling me she's going to "sand down my chest." Turns out that’s not a joke (still qualifies as the kinkiest thing anyone ever said to me that they followed through on). Two of those electrodes are right under your collarbone, meaning that cool tank top now shows a bunch of wires and electrodes and gets you attention from old men on the bus; “You have something stuck to you…”

“I’m mainlining, leave it alone!”

Next day I am up even earlier to see same female technician whose only comment is “I’d grit my teeth” before starting to rip off the electrodes. That’s her job, sanding down people and ripping off glued electrodes, eight hours a day. I love this country.

Friday I got my hair dyed. Last time I dyed my hair blue at a salon which managed to fry my roots. This meant that when I pulled a brush though my hair, a chunk of 15-25 hairs ripped out of my head (blue colored hair). Basicially I paid $140 to have my hair fall out (but look cool). This time I wanted the cool without the chunks of hair on my pillow so I went to a training school. The two supervising teachers had different philosophies (one reminded me of Mr. Ho, particularly when she rubbed my hair with her fingers and said, “Ugly, so ugly”) which resulted in the teachers arguing over my head as the student looked between them in bewilderment. I wanted to dye my whole head from light brown to red (came out mahogany), with big deep purple streaks (came out magenta) and blonde highlights(which came out...blonde). This took just over five hours but I left there feeling good, so good that when a guy made a howling noise out the window of his car at me, I took it as positive affirmation (getting your hair done can be a lot like drinking – it puts you in an altered mental state).

I just made it to the apartment in time for the Victoria & Saanich News interview and photo shoot regarding my novel Zed. They called a few days before and wanted an interview and photos of “the writer’s workspace.” Since my “workspace” is usually a clutter of paper notes, boxes, about 20-40 books half open or stacked on each other and wrappers of the last two weeks of food and snacks, that meant two days of intensive cleaning. In the end the photo was like all author photos; standing in front of my bookcases. I did remember to take out the explicit gay picture/sex books but left my books on eugenics and poisoning. The reporter had a nice tattoo but he had not read the novel and asked me questions like “What themes are there?” This is like asking a physicist, “Can you tell me about energy?” I did okay until we got onto the subject of what I want from a book when I started saying, “I want to make a book that changes the way people see everything.”

“The world?” he asked.

“Themselves, the world, everything. I want to write a book that permanently alters people’s minds simply by reading it.” Realizing how megalomaniacal that sounds I try to recover; “I guess that makes me the Hitler of novel writers.” Not good. I follow this up with comments about Victoria and how “The first time I went to Oak Bay I wanted to smash all the windows” (the newspaper he writes for is syndicated in Oak Bay) and direct comparisons between heroin addicts and local politicians. And yes, he was recording the interview. The article comes out on Wednesday in the Regional section which will go to all of lower Vancouver Island.

Okay, now that I have alienated my town and immediate reading public, back to what is important: my hair. Based on the known fact that your hair never again looks as good as when you leave the salon I immediately rushed outside to take pictures: a new user photo for the blog, and my “little bit dirty” shot for the 6’3” Women of Epee 2007 Calendar and the photo’s Linda took for the flickr slideshow below. I recommend setting time per slide to 1 second. It shows me turning around, getting distracted by my own breasts, thinking of Curly McDimple’s poem: An Ode to My Itty Bitty Titties which starts “My titties are perky and really quite small. They are as wee as the rest of me’s tall.” I regained concentration in the end; it was a good hair day.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Do "Family Restaurants" listen to you pee?

As part of my limited civic tourism related duty, I wanted to pass on this information to those visiting the Victoria/Olympic Peninsula area.

Reasons to avoid “La Mexican Family Restaurant” in Port Angeles.

1) I was the only female in the restaurant
2) The entire kitchen staff came out to watch me go to the bathroom (the door has a lock, hooray!)
3) While I was in the bathroom my Dad listened to the discussion of the waiters/owners which was “What’s your plan before the police pick you up?” One guy was going to max out all of his credit cards on the belief that once he is in prison there is nothing they can do to him (except wait till he gets out). Unless he did some crime which requires a life sentence?

Other than they have fairly good dip, they are not what I would call a “family restaurant” unless your family is the Gamboni’s. And my Dad said the margaritas were not properly blended.

On that note, I actually do know a guy who got a job at a restaurant in Atlantic City which turned out to be a mob restaurant. After two years there, he went to Japan and became a Zen monk. Just saying.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cart & rope girl and my other crap jobs

I have never understood how the jobs that other people have, ones that are exciting, glamorous and paid well, are never my job. It is not that I don’t apply for them, I do. It’s just that when the phone rings and someone offers me a job my usual response is “Where?” That’s because the top 100 places I applied don’t want me and the one place I desperately entered after losing all self esteem, knowing I have no possible interest in the job/field/industry is the job I get. Plus, as I have had about 30-40 different jobs (Wish I was kidding about that) maybe I never “career develop” enough to get to the level above crappy jobs.

Crap Jobs

1) Tape & CD assembler – This is assembling the parts of a tape set like “Learn Croatian the Easy Way” by hand – over and over again with a clock chiming every 90 seconds when you are supposed to have finished. Repeat until the room whirls around like a scene in The Twilight Zone. Time lasted: 1 day.

2) Invigilator – while the title sounds good it really means “stare at university students for three straight hours to make sure they don’t cheat.” You can’t read, you can’t move that much, you just stare at the students. After 10 minutes I got bored and started thinking about things other than if a student was cheating or not. The problem is when I start to have conversations in my mind, part of me likes to comment along with “Yeah” or “Not again” or whatever I may be thinking about (yes, technically this is “talking to yourself”). This is frowned upon during a final exam taken in complete silence, particularly when you are supposed to be the person enforcing this silence. Time lasted: 1 week.

3) Selling jewelry door to door. – this was not the first or the last thing I tried to sell door to door because a) I was always broke b) I liked money and c) my father kept saying things like “If you work hard enough at something you will succeed” and I believed him. Okay, I was 13 or 14 and couldn’t get money legally somewhere else and though I did babysitting, I wasn’t paid for it (some weird Christian cult rule). I lived in Los Angeles. Can you imagine going door to door in Los Angeles trying to sell jewelry? (my entire sales pitch: “Would you like to buy some jewelry, it’s really nice?” “NO!” door slams. “Oh.”) I learned early the face of rejection. Time lasted: many months

4) Working the luggage department in J.C.Penny’s. The rule of department stores is that all staff have to look busy. Standing around with the expressions of extreme boredom and sullenness are bad for business. A luggage department is small, already has the luggage stacked and might get 5-8 customers A DAY. So that means you a) polish the luggage about once every hour and b) work out combinations. See, kids come by and enter combinations into the combination lock suitcases and then shut them. Part of the job was to go through EVERY SINGLE variation for hours and hours until the luggage can be reopened and the combo reset. It usually took me 40 minutes for two three digit combinations. Time lasted: 2 weeks

5) Dishwasher – I worked one summer as a dishwasher and kitchen help at a summer camp. This one should be pretty self explanatory. I washed dishes for 10 hours a day and when I didn’t I peeled potatoes or ripped out chicken guts. I wasn’t allowed to cook anything or learn to cook anything. Think about it – this is the job they give AS PUNISHMENT to people during basic army training. Also, because my food and sleeping bunk were free, I made about $3 a day. Woo Hoo! Time lasted: somewhere between weeks and months, time in the kitchen tends to get blurry.

6) Cart & Rope Girl – while that sounds like some sort of thing you have to pay to see, it was actually a job I never remember applying for – collecting carts at a lumber and building supply store (the other employees teased me because..I read books during lunch- guess I should have been drinking like them). I would have to go out this tiny door (the size of a cart), round up the carts, and shove them back through the door. But that’s not all...I also tied things on to people’s cars. Why I got this job I still don’t know – apparently the low person on the cart collecting ladder gets it (there was one guy there who had collected carts for 4 years – everytime I walked by him I shouted, “Why?”). I only know the knot that ties my shoe so I would just use endless rope around and around the car to try and tie on this giant piece of plywood to the roof with granny knots every 6 feet or so. Several times, after I finished, people couldn’t get in their cars because I had roped them shut. I was really, really trying to get fired but no matter how many expensive items flew off people’s cars on the highway getting home they would never get anyone to replace me. When I handed in my notice to go back to university, the manager asked me to come back next year. How sad is that. Time lasted: 4 months

Actually this list could go on and on and on and probably will on another day. If you had any crap jobs, please email or post them as I never really tire of reading about the misery other people endure in the job force. Misery does love company.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Full body contact epee; sword optional

Is wrapping yourself around a fencer in a full body hug, pressing your body up against them as your legs ride up and wrap around them, just to stop them getting past you a sign that you’ve lost perspective? If so, I am lost, very lost. On Friday, after winning a bout against Gerald he started doing his ninja magic and I couldn’t get him, I couldn’t even get close to him. At one point, I lunged, he avoided the blade and ran past me, so I chased him down the strip and ended up wrapping my body around him, legs and all (that will stop him running away!). After I realized my position and sanity returned I explained to the guys watching with open mouths: “I’m sorry, my desire for Gerald overwhelmed me.”

“We all know that feeling” William comments dryly.

On Friday I came ready to lose, and started winning. When I thought, “Great, I’m winning!” I started losing. It starts to make me a little odd. Even after Gerald has gotten the point we keep poking at each other. “When you’re lying in bed tonight,” I tell him, “You’ll remember my touches....wait, that didn’t sound right.”

After my final bout and humiliation at the blade of Gerald I dropped to my knees. Trying to get the blade tip far enough around to rest on my neck I tried to fall on my sword. Not advised while still plugged into a body cord.

Friday had started so well, I got up, energized and went for a 4.5 mile run. However without Linda to pace me, as I passed people walking their dogs, vanity pushed me to run faster, and faster. By mile three I was a bit heat touched and tried not to vomit by the side of the road (so much for vanity!). I ended the run 20% faster than our previous run on Wednesday. Too fast. So for the rest of the day, my body took revenge. That night at epee I was wheezing and gasping, sweat pouring down me, two people came up to me to ask me how I was still standing (you know you are looking good when that happens).

Last night, I went early to practice lunges in the mirror as I felt my footwork was getting sloppy. “Too slow!” Mr. Ho yells at me, “You could practice 1000 of those but you are too slow!” Thus begins a lesson on lunging.

He pushes me out, he has me lunge as long and as hard as possible then grabs my blade with both hands and tries to drag me forward “Where do you feel it?” He wants to know. Front leg turns out to be the wrong answer. So he pulls some more until my lactic acid has built up to leg twitching levels. “Do you feel it?” Yes Mr. Ho, I’ll say whatever you want if you please let me get out of this extremely long lunge position. He finally lets go and I manage not to fall over. “No! You must snap back. Snap! Like an elastic!” More long, long lunges.

As Mr. Ho has the key to the equipment and his assistant can’t get his attention away from my problematic lunge, the entire club is lined up against the wall for 20 minutes watching as Mr. Ho shows me more things I am doing wrong. Everyone watching – check. Instructor shouting out my inadequacies – check. Am I naked – no. Then this isn’t a nightmare, it is really happening.

At least he doesn’t weigh me. Last Monday Amanda told me she was getting weighed and having her fat percentage taken by Mr. Ho the next day – she hasn’t shown up at practice since.

When we get fencing I am already a bit in the la-la land zone but trying to focus. I get frustrated with William always managing to win the close points when we are stabbing at each other. When he tries to run past me I stab him in the butt. When he tries to run past again I block him with my body, grinding my hips into his to stop him as he tries to push past. Linda was watching, “Uh, what exactly were you doing with William out there?” she asks.

“He needed to be stopped.” I tell her with a fixed look in my eye.

“Okay...time to go home.”

“No, I’m okay, they’re just being tricky!”

She lets me fence until I am standing in a pool of my own sweat mumbling to myself. Then she leads me home. That’s what I love about Epee; the dignity and grace of it all.

Monday, June 19, 2006

To Canadian Customs: X-men means X-rated

Saturday, I was surrounded by six officers, two watching me as the four others went page by page through my books looking for pornographic images and other evidence I was a sexual predator. How did this happen? I said a word which Canada Customs considers dirty: Manga. As soon as I declared that I had some of the japanese inspired comic books called manga, a Custom’s officer said, “That’s the stuff from Japan; there is some really obscene and filthy stuff.” No, I pointed out, these was printed in America and very mainstream. As more and more officers were called in, the six manga books I had were examined in detail. They were looking, they told me, for pornographic, obscene and adult material. “The age rating is on the back of each book.” (each manga book has ratings like 13+ or 15+ - mine were 13+). I was informed that I could have put different covers on or done anything else I could to get the pornography in and that if I spoke anymore, the books would be seized. So I stood there and watched my previously new books get examined page by page, thumbed through and pressed open because it was assumed if I read manga, that I was a sex offender.

That sounds like a joke doesn’t it. Except the exact same phrase “That stuff from Japan...” was used two weeks earlier on my last trip through Customs and my manga examined for the same reason; because Japanese manga is “really filthy stuff.” The reason I was so heavily raided this time, I found out afterward, was one of the manga titles had the word “boy” in the title, which “alerted” them to pedophile materials. Huh? Can someone please go get my next issue of the romance manga Tokyo Boys and Girls from the US? I’m too scared.

What I did know was that Canada Customs officers have a 20 year history of targeting and labeling “obscene” anything either with gay or lesbian content or simply owned by gays and lesbians. This is because the rules for what is “obscene” are so broad that they can fit almost any preconceived perception of a Canadian Custom’s official (under 1993 bill C-128 which includes not only anything perceived as “sexual” to those 18 or under, including kissing, but anything, including what is NOT in the picture/book, which is considered “harmful” to society: age of sexual consent in Canada is 14) . Canada customs has traditionally removed materials going to gay owners or stores and held them to a personal scrutiny, which is why for 10 years no one really cared if gay or lesbians were having books seized, until one week April 23 in 1993 when the Customs Agents, instead of separating the books to gay stores, went through the entire book stock and suddenly everyone from Christian book stores to Universities found notices that they had books seized for being “obscene”. What? Censorship! Canada briefly became outraged, Customs officials went back to targeting gays and lesbians and the media and outrage abated. Gay activism magazines such as On Our Backs and The Advocate have been seized, also HIV safety information sent up to gay stores during the 80’s along with hundreds of titles including the following classics and books of interest (but only if sent to gay bookstores or owners): Salome by Oscar Wilde, The Satanic Verses, Straight Heart’s Delight by Allen Ginsberg, Naked Lunch by Burroughs, Joy of Gay Sex, Joy of Lesbian Sex, Querella by Jean Genet, Women on Top (listed as Child Pornography also with the RCMP), Discontent: New Gay Writers, Lesbian Erotica, Nikola: Bride of Bigfoot (seized for a “lesbian encounter” description). They also confiscated a box of piercing jewelry that was going to a gay piercing store and the famous work “The History of Underground Comics” for “promoting bestiality” (there is an spoof Mickey Mouse who drinks, smokes and has sex). Amazon.com even has it's own list page: Books seized by Canada Customs

In 2004 a BC judge established that over 70% of all detentions by Canadian Customs are lesbian and gay materials and is “clearly targeting the gay community.” (seizures helped close the only lesbian bookshop in Victoria) The Canada Customs has no independent commission, no self regulation body and no one who oversees it. In 2000 Canada Customs was found to be unfairly targeting gays and lesbians in a systematic and corrupt way, and was given a “stern warning” but was noted in 2003 that so far Canada customs had done “nothing” to correct itself.

I found out about Custom’s non-regulated practices when I earlier witnessed (while waiting to pay GST on books) an older male Canadian Customs official (named Gary), after being informed of the age and mentally challenged status of a 15 year old girl, take her off for personal questioning. He did so after repeatedly refusing her legal guardian to accompany her before beginning to question her about her sexual history and relationships. When I called to report this I found that the person I was to report the behavior to was...Gary, the same guy who initiated it.

What I did not know on Saturday, was the Canada Customs has targeted manga for obscenity and child pornography prosecution, having charged a man in Edmonton six months ago for bringing in lolicon (sexual themed books of adults with young girls). The problem is, that since non of the customs officers I have encounter have any real idea about manga, all have viewed with suspicion, as an international artist found out when they were questioned for having “too many art books.” I also wonder if officials will know the difference between lolicon and Lolita & babywear. One is about sex with underage kids and the other is a style of clothing celebrating Edwardian childrens fashions which started in 2002 in Japan. The lesbian themed classic and multi award winning Kamikaze Girls is about a butch biker girl who falls for and comes to respect a Lolita girl (and yes, I brought that over from the states along with the girl manga magazine Shojo Beat which has advertisements for shops selling Lolita and babywear inside – that, thankfully they did not search page by page).

Linda was convinced the books were not taken away because the people examining them didn’t realize they were all same-sex themed because for those unused to manga, boys and girls often look the same. I buy gender bender/same sex romance manga books for enjoyment (maybe the links to Yuri manga on the side of the blog gave it away). And I am not ashamed of it, no matter how much they want to treat me like a sex offender. I buy them because thanks to the FCC and Canadian puritism I cannot find light reading which reflects the life of me and my friends. A typical alternative romance manga plot goes something like: Boy falls in love with beautiful boy who turns out to be a girl dressed as a boy who is trying to get a different boy (who is also a girl) to fall in love with her. By the time the first boy figures this out, he has fallen in love with another boy and concludes, what’s more important, love or society?

Canada customs rules mean that “Romeo and Juliet” cannot be brought into Canada (sexual themes in under 15 year olds) yet we all know that the heterosexual assumptions in the mind of the customs officials mean that in the same way most people think Pride Parades are about group sex, most officials assume if a lesbian is interested in something with gay/lesbian themes, then it is likely pornographic. DMP, who publishes the gay themed award winning series Antique Bakery won’t sell same-sex themed books or adult comics in Canada because their distributor Diamond, doesn’t want their other shipments of comics and manga seized (including when Canada Customs held a X-men comic shipment on the belief that X-men meant X-rated!). I will continue buying DMP books and I will continue bringing them across the border because I refuse to act as if I am ashamed (oh I feel ashamed and violated when they search me, accuse me of lying, of trying to sneak in pornographic materials, debate if I am a sexual offender and then let me go with the attitude of “we’ll be watching you”), over something I have no need to be ashamed of. The issue is in their head, not mine, and if I won’t give in to the dozens of different groups and societal pressures to try to put me back in the closet then I sure am not going to give in to Canada Customs. Welcome to the Gulag!

Jpeg1 - http://www.city.kelowna.bc.ca/CityPage/Images/Airport/Customs2004-10.jpg

Friday, June 16, 2006

The FCC, abstinence, teen sex and me

Yesterday President Bush signed legislation which gives the FCC a ten-fold increase in individual fines jumping from $32,500 to $325,000 for programming that “exceeds the bounds of decency.” The FCC defines indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.” Indecency, to the FCC, is whatever the five individuals who review the cases determine is offensive to the community. Does that include being gay? Yes it does. In communications to radio and TV stations the FCC has outlined what it considers “indecent” between the hours of 6:00 am and 10:00 pm which includes: “References to oral or non-heterosexual sex are typically found to be "patently offensive." & “non-clinical references to gay or lesbian sex.”

The problem is: who is determining what is “indecent” and why does that matter. In 2000 the FCC received 350 complaints which resulted in fines of $48,000. In 2004 the FCC received 1.3 million complaints resulting in fines of $3.6 million. Excluding the Janet Jackson episode 99.9% of the 2004 complaints were made by one organization: The Parents Television Council. The PTC is a religious oriented organization promoting “family values” which is clearly stated in their annual Best/Worst lists in which Joan of Arcadia and 7th Heaven are the best shows (and everything tens of millions of people like are the worst). The PTC ignores the tools already in place for adults to choose what their children/teens/selves may want to watch from show ratings to the show blocking V-chip. The PTC feel the best plan to protect children is to eliminate certain types of programs, and more specifically promote a Christian oriented world message: that teens shouldn’t have sex, and neither should anyone else.

As you scratch your head in puzzlement, (teens not having sex?), take a look again at the reasons why the family show Everwood gets the number 1 worst TV show spot for 2003-2004. It is because a) The father who is a Doctor in the show gives birth control pills to a teen who asks for them and b) A character gets an abortion : “Everwood's reckless messages about sex without consequences are expressly targeted to impressionable teens.” This denial of teen sexuality is THE main concern of the conservative Christian groups that send their complaints through the PTC. And the FCC agrees. In a 2003 letter from the FCC commissioner to the PTC, Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Culture and Family Institute & Family Research Council the commissioner Kevin Martin outlined a plan which, with the cooperation of the Christian right, would stop broadcasters even creating certain themed material: “Classifying each indecent utterance as a separate violation could result in significantly higher fines for many complaints. Congressional action raising the statutory limit of each indecency fine also would help. Together, these steps could create a sufficient disincentive to violating our indecency regulations that broadcasters would vigilantly monitor their programming and emphasize to their on-air talent that indecent material is not to be tolerated.” Yesterday, all the aims of that plan had been achieved.

Three months ago the FCC gave a fine to the show Without a Trace for showing a teenage girl in bra and panties in a flashback scene about a rape during a teen sex party. The fine for the single episode was $3.6 million, bigger than the collective FCC fines from 1990-2003. The FCC stated reason for the fine: it showed "teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy." The FCC fined every CBS station the maximum in order to obtain the fine. Under the new law, enacted yesterday, a similar fine for a single TV episode could be over $35 million.

Many large media corporations have already signed private agreements with the FCC in order to reduce or minimize potential fines. Many of these agreements give the FCC the right to arbitrate to programmers what is and is not allowed, along with provisions that if the FCC determines something to be indecent, that employees involved would be suspended or terminated.

Since the PTC claimed victory for Will and Grace going off the air, with the current fines and hovering threats it is clear that we won’t be seeing LGBT people in positive, openly sexual roles in US non-cable programming anytime soon, as has already been seen with all major networks refusing to show ads of gay couples welcomed at UCC churches. It is interesting to note that while two guys kissing generates FCC complaints, the annual episodes of lesbian or bisexual crazy killers do not. It seems that misrepresenting LGBT people as mentally deranged criminals is not offensive to the public while them leading normal sexual lives is.

But this is not to say that the FCC ruling will not, with their obsession on teen abstinence, have a direct impact on my life. Besides the repeated studies showing the dangers of abstinence only programs (“Abstinence-only programs provide these youth with no information, other than abstinence, regarding how to protect themselves from pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs.”), and that the results are the same or worse than classic sexual education programs, the Christians march on in their odd belief that total and complete ignorance will prevent teens from having sex. Personally, I went to the most conservative religious high school ever which not only required abstinence but had adult constant monitoring of students. Students were still having sex (in fact at graduation over 10% of the girls were secretly pregnant). The US has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Western World which includes 34% of women getting pregnant before 20. In an 8 year study 61% of those who pledged and still intended to maintain abstinence to “True Love Waits” had sex before marriage. Yet the solution for the PTC (and FCC) is to educate by NOT show teens having sex (and LGBT teens having sexual lives at all) and to try and force out shows that show birth control and abortion?

Last week Linda’s brother told us the new “rules” he had decided concerning access to our nieces and nephews. We are allowed to visit them now as they are babies but once they reach a “certain age” (age 4? Age 5?), we can no longer visit them together; gifts must come only from Aunt Linda (as there will be no Aunt Beth) and a parent will accompany Linda at all times when she is with the children. I will only be referred to as “her friend” or at most “roommate.” These rules are to “protect” the children from having to know about what a lesbian is. And yes, he is a Christian. Painful, particularly as we moved continents to be more active in the lives of our nieces and nephews. But I already don’t see my blood related nephew, primarily because, as his evangelical mother states, “I don’t want him to grow up in a world where he knows what “lesbian” means.” Is it hard to be treated like sexual criminals by family members with children? Yes.

The Christian right, joined by the FCC is trying to make my sister-in-law’s dream come true. How opposing something that can be educated with one sentence (“some people are attracted to people of the opposite sex like mommy and daddy, and some of the same sex like Aunt Linda and Aunt Beth”) is now part of a public policy of broadcast “indecency” is beyond depressing. Worse, is this Christian need to try and create a cultural world where, instead of teens learning how to make choices and become adults, their choices are smothered through ignorance. I want better media representation than that for me, for Linda and for my nieces and nephews.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Washington Blade homophobia & Ann Coulter

In a single article of over-exuberant attack on Ann Coulter the gay magazine, The Washington Blade, manages to show hatred for feminine gay men, straight women, lesbians and male to female transsexuals. The writer, Ryan Lee, attacks Ann Coulter, not on her ideology, but on her gender, “With such a pronounced Adam’s apple and soothing baritone voice, I always assumed she was a pre-op transsexual...She’s about as feminine as a linebacker for the Fulton County prison football team and if God is making female faces like Coulter’s these days — well, let’s just say that I’m even more glad to be gay.”

These kind of attacks are the familiar recourse of bigots when attacking lesbians and straight women when their actions or language are considered a threat to enforced gender roles; the challenger of gender norms is thus denied their gender at all; “imitation man”, “Half-man”, “shemale”. The best way to shut someone up is to shut them out; to deny that they have the right to speak at all. And as Ryan Lee continues his piece, referring to Ann Coulter as “he/she”, by emphasizing that without fitting into gender norms, you have no place in society at all, that is what he is trying to do.

I noticed the similarity to the butch lesbian Amy Groshek, who is leaving Alaska because of harassment and refusal to accept and let her live as she is, a butch woman:

"One of the male security workers posted in the hall must have seen me enter (the women’s bathroom), confused my gender and sent his female colleague in to rout me out...Both in Anchorage and in rural Wisconsin, where my family is from, I have been heckled on the street by boys in rusted pickups hollering “Faggot.” Most often I'm confused for a gay man...I remembered leaving the restroom at the intermission of an Anchorage Opera performance, walking past a long file of well-coifed women. Three of them had glared and gasped. One had pulled her child towards her as if to protect him. "

I am not a fan of the ideology or strange and stupid statements of Ann Coulter who responded to the question, “What would you do if your child came out as gay?” with “I’d say, ‘Did I ever tell you you’re adopted?” or who says about Canada: "[Canadians] better hope the United States does not roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.” She says she hates Canadians because they speak French.

Often there is a bizarro world aspect to a lot of her statements but to hold her up as a target of attack based on perceptions of her meeting standards of femininity is intolerance passing as justification. Indeed, in many countries of Europe, calling someone “he/she” is hate speech, while in the US, a gay magazine uses it as “freedom of expression?”

Ryan continues on, “As such, she hates herself and doesn’t identify as a drag queen, and so people won’t blame our community for her ridiculous rants.” Ryan has decided that the only explanation for her offenses is to be branded a female presenting gay man. As we saw last week in the brutal and callous hate attack of the NY drag queen Aviance, men who visably deviate from gender norms receive an even more visceral reaction. Is this what Ryan wants for Ann Coulter? The blind hatred which causes attacks on visably feminine gay men?

Certainly many have reduced themselves to attacking Ann Coulter’s adams apple, perhaps not realizing they reveal their ignorance that ALL women have adams apples, just most are hidden under fat. I did not expect a gay writer in a gay magazine to display such homophobia as he reaches for the weapons bigots have used for the last two generations to try and put women and gay men “in their place.” And while I may not like or agree with a woman who states that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote if they don't vote republican, I will defend her right to do or say what she wishes without threats of “bad girls aren’t girls at all”. I support her as a feminist while I may personally think (like the opinions of many of my relatives, particularly when they have a bit to drink) that she is an embarressment. Neverless, shame on you Washington Blade, is there not enough homophobia and hatred around of LGBT people that you have to whip up a batch of your own?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Epee: The fighter stands alone

In 1984, I sat in my living room watching the first ever women’s Olympic race longer than a mile: the marathon. The American, Joan Benoit took an early and commanding lead and kept it to win. Fifteen minutes after her finish, the Swiss marathoner Gabriela Andersen-Scheiss entered the stadium and changed my life. Due to heat exhaustion, she had lost function of her left arm and her right leg was rigid, crippling her as she struggled against the loss of equilibrium to remain on her feet. I watched for 5 minutes and 44 seconds as she weaved and dragged herself along the final lap, described by commentators as a “grotesque sight” she continued on to the end the race, falling across the finish line. Inspiring me in a way the seemingly super-human athletes could not, I said to myself, “If she can do that, I can do that.”

Three years later I would have to drop out my beloved but hopelessly inept basketball. I could not run, it hurt to walk, it hurt to bend my legs; a year later I had both knees operated on. Less than 18 months after the operations, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon.

Monday, I went in to fence a “full night” at least 150 minutes of epee. Mr Ho called me over to show me how my non-sword arm was putting me off balance. I usually keep it on my hip in a saber stance, but that was tipping me slightly forward. “Make your shoulders straight” he told me as I tried to hide my scoliosis by artificially dropping a shoulder (Mr. Ho won’t teach you if you aren’t “healthy”). It worked and he showed me how to not only change my stance but other aspects of my lunge. I have already been working on my lunge for a month but there seem to be endless ways to imperfectly lunge. For the rest of the night, I thought about arm position, I thought about extending the blade and I thought so much I got beaten repeatedly and badly. But in a few weeks I will be faster.

Now that I was getting regularly trounced, a couple of the guys, and one in particular felt the need to tell me everything I was doing “wrong.” I suggested he let Mr. Ho know. After about 90 minutes of this, I pulled Gerald aside and asked him, from his experience as a martial arts instructor, some suggestions on how to deal with anger when someone is being consistently condescending. I didn’t want to go home, but I felt that if I got any more “help” from one individual I would soon be attacking their throat. Gerald said that usually guys like that didn’t last in martial arts. Thanks!

I fenced Amanda and then William right up to 10:01 pm, with everyone waiting for us to close up the hall. During my bout with Amanda (who ranked 38th in the Vancouver World cup) I was down 1-3 when I ramped it up, using a high energy micro-jumping style which quickly evened things up 3-3. And then I stopped myself. That wasn’t how I wanted to win. This wasn’t the style I was training myself for.

Earlier in the evening Mr. Ho had said, “Make many many attacks, what does it matter, if you get the point? Everyone agrees.” I raised my hand. “I don’t.”

“What?”

“One target, one strike.” I said.

“What did she say?” Mr. Ho asked Amanda.

“She said, ‘one target one strike.’”

Mr. Ho looked at me like I had two heads. “First hand, then wrist, then arm, and up. But you are a beginner, only Amanda can do that.” He turned away.

I tapped his shoulder and he turned back. “Then train me.”

Mr. Ho laughed, “Amanda has been training for five years.”

“Okay. Train me.”

“I only train people for competition.” He said.

“I am going to do competitions.”

“I only train people who fence three or four nights a week.” He turned away.

Later Gerald had some thoughts about anger, he said that in the West we think too much about the individual and so we have individual egos and in the East they think more of the community, they don’t have the need to stand out. “Gerald, I am a 6’3” lesbian, I am always going to stand out. Second, I do epee; you have to have an individual ego for epee.” He laughed and agreed.

Epee is unique, it is a sport in which the only way to improve is by challenging yourself, and working on your own skills, gaining physical and intellectual experience. But at the same time, it is a sport in which it is just you, a sword and a piece of ground. Unless you are there for different goals, if you don’t have some sort of “I can be better” ego, then epee is not for you. The question is, how much do you want the point? I want it badly; so much that I will fence slower and get bruised and beaten and talked at like some slightly stupid little sister in order to improve. Every person who enters the strip with me gets the same message: “I am a better fencer: please prove me wrong.” And nothing is better than someone who takes your best and shows you better. Because unlike a gun fight, I don’t die. I get to learn and work and try again.

There are 11 Canadian women epee fencers between me and the world champion Sherraine, Schalm-Mackay. Tomorrow I will work on my lunge, and will work on it the day after. Then on Friday, I will fence, and I will see what else I can learn. I will bruise, I will get elated, I will joke with the other epeeists, and sometimes I will go home and cry. But there are 11 Canadian women epee fencers between me and the world champion. I can be a better fencer.

Two years after her Olympic run Gabriela Andersen-Scheiss spoke at the IOC academy, "Seek excellence everlastingly, for if we surrender in life, it spells personal death, both spiritual and physical."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lesbian boobies, hello kitty vibrators & me

I now face the question so many have faced in the past: what to do at work when horny? The last couple days have been an emotional roller coaster which started with a long blue funk depression on Saturday. Linda cajoled me out of the house with promise of beer and we went to Christies Pub where my favorite server, Elf girl, brought me beer and chicken wings. Last time, after complementing her visible tattoos, Elf girl told me she has her entire body covered with tattoo swirls and curves representing elf runes. Mmmmmmm (I like girls with tattoos, live with it, I do).

Within a pint of ale I was snuggled up to Linda and asking the servers if the big screen TV’s were showing the ice-capades. No, they told me, they were showing something called, The Stanley Cup. There were men and sticks and a zombie that looked a lot like Don Cherry. Meanwhile, this old guy at the next table over was staring really really hard at us trying to make our heads explode. This guy was really mad...at us. So, of course, I snuggled even closer and kissed even more, plus, due to being tipsy with the beer, I was flirting outrageously with Elf girl. I was having a good time, at least until the beer wore off.

Sunday, I was so undepressed that I willingly went on a 3.5 hour hike up a bunch of mountain peaks with Linda and her co-worker. I think there might have panoramas and vistas, but since I was trying to pretend that I was totally into this and in shape and thus most of the time starved for oxygen I don’t remember too well. I did find out that I can go 3.5 hours of hiking without whining or stopping for chocolate breaks every 15 minutes if we take someone who doesn’t know me. My vanity kicked into overdrive in attempts not to look like the pasty urban creampuff that I am.

So today, due to my exertions over the weekend I am tingly and alive. Alive, like blood pounding into every part of my body leaving me aching and restless alive. Mentally, I am very distracted; and I keep saying “boobies” to myself for no reason. Do you recognize this condition? Trolling through my bookmarked favorites I find a rather embarrassing number of pages on masturbation, which I now claim was for a follow up blog on my post on female masturbation (which never happened; I think I got distracted then too). I also seem to have bookmarked every vibrator from Hello Kitty to Ipod Surprise.

On vibrators, tingly & restless, I have to say nothing is sadder than turning on your vibrator and finding out, as it struggles to rotate or even twitch, that your batteries have run down and you don’t have any more batteries in the house. This is my morning.

Doing a bit of searching I have found pics of some very nice goth and tattoo girls, and some very odd things as well. Suicide Girls seems to have spawned unlimited knock-offs including one (Which I won’t be linking too) which has pictures and models of “kinky goth girls and hot satanists” To the creators of that site, I just want to point out that wearing devil’s horns while naked does not make a girl a Satanist – actually, if it is Halloween and I have had a bit to drink, it’s just probably me.

Due to my lack of batteries and iron resolve, I am going to put my clothes back on. I will go for a walk on the park, I will stop putting “Lesbian boobies” into google search engine and I will stop making semi-obscene phone calls to Linda. I am warm, I am tingly and I am out of chocolate. It’s going to be a long day.

Jpeg 4 - http://www.tao-of-tattoos.com/images/fetish_model_1.jpg

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Out of the Darkness Overnight: suicide prevention

Is there anything more important than human life? If so, then why does a large section of society stigmatize and ignore those who attempt suicide? Often while we can readily support those who deal with attacks on the body, from deficient immune systems to cancer many cannot understand and genuinely fear those who suffer from attacks within the mind. For example, a tenured professor at PCC has recently been fired for failing to fill in the medical leave paperwork correctly during a major depressive episode.

The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention organizes the Out of the Darkness Overnight, a 20 mile sponsored walk through the dark of night and ending at the light of dawn. It takes place in San Francisco on July 22-23 and in Chicago on Aug 12-13 and participants are asked to raise $1000 to help toward Suicide awareness and prevention. Last year the AFSP funded $2 million in 25 different research projects. They also fund education tools, support groups, and advocacy awareness.

Because I live 1500 miles away from both locations I cannot do the walk, but I support those who do, and encourage everyone to either take the walk or find someone doing it and support them. You may want to support the Chicago Gay Blogger Autocrat who lost his boyfriend to suicide. His blog covers, on the seven days of suicide awareness week, aspects of suicide and being a survivor of someone who committed suicide. You can follow his fundraising progress or financially sponsor him here. Or you can sponsor Rolo Talorda who is walking to support his friend who lost her mother to suicide, or Angelina Padilla who walks for herself and her 12 year old daughter, recently diagnosed with depression. Every minute in the US someone attempts suicide and every 18 minutes someone succeeds. That means every 18 minutes, one unique life is gone and many more left to deal with the pain of loss. I think preventing that is worth fighting for.

I planned and attempted suicide at 13; that was the first time. Here are some signs you may know too much about suicide: You know all about the taste of charcoal, You know what this means: “lateral NOT vertical”, Alcohol poisoning is really, really hard to do (unless you are in a frat house), and dying from exposure takes a LOT longer than it did on Little House on the Prairies.

Friends of mine have committed suicide and I have talked others down. I understand why those who killed themselves did so, but I wish they hadn’t. I know about the physical and emotional pain of depression and when you stop hoping in a future that isn’t a living hell but one that is just at rest. But I believe that here, in life, is where things happen and that is why, it is better to be here, no matter how fucked up you might be, than taking yourself out of the game. New drugs for the physical causes are being developed every year. Now getting a society that stops making LGBT people, especially youth, feel alienated and sub-human might take a little longer.

There are, as is all things in American life, some protestors of Out of the Darkness Overnight. These people say that it is a tool of the big pharmaceuticals whose drugs cause more depression than cure (hahahahaha...oh wait, you’re serious). For me, if George Bush and Saddam Hussein got up together and announced a program on suicide prevention, I would support it. I don’t care who helps or why they help, all I care about is getting in time to the person who feels they would rather die than face just one more day. They matter.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Zed's new review: someone needs a hug

A new review by Tomasz Mrozewski in the Literary Review of Canada June issue (available across Canada) has unintentionally declared my novel Zed to be a cult classic. He doesn’t think much of me as a human being, however, stating the novel “is impelled by sheer force of bile and cynical nihilism.” In fact Tomasz has a lot of words to describe me and occasionally my writing: “Vicious, depravity, coercive, misanthropy, oozes, juvenile, bad taste, excess, unredeemed bile, appropriating, reveling in grotesque violence, such a tantrum.” Oh, Tomasz, not so publicly, you’re embarrassing me (you’re supposed to whisper that while covering me in whip cream).

Though allegedly a book review of Zed, Thomas starts with an evaluation of me as a person, using this blog as evidence and then continues a personal attack, occasionally attacking the book but usually veering off to pour vitriol on my thinking, my view of myself and my life experience. It’s odd because I could have sworn that he isn’t an ex-lover. He starts:

“Elizabeth McClung has staked a claim and is guarding it viciously. ‘every single review has implied that if you are some flower sniffing, dewy-eyed, love watching Little House on the Prairies person and you read Zed’ she writes in her blog, “then you will be found drooling and twitching over page 212 and spend the rest of your days in a locked ward.” McClung seems to think there are two kinds of people in this world: the twee and cowardly on one hand and those brave people who can read and love Zed on the other.”

He continues his evaluation of me and my writing relying heavily on the blog, previous reviews, the essay I wrote on Zed and the press materials sent out by Arsenal Press. The one thing I cannot figure out is whether Tomasz read the novel itself: Quotes from this blog: 4; Quotes from novel Zed: 0. I felt in pretty good company however as his writing shows distain for a great host of people as he uses them as negative examples in comparing them to me or Zed. This includes:

People who like heavy metal music
People who like punk
People who write heavy metal or punk music
People who like slapstick
People who like comic books (or movies about comic books)
People who are cynical
People who like escapism

“While reveling in grotesque violence, McClung’s descriptions of movement and physical actions are evocative of vaudevillian slapstick and modern day comic books” (he is trying to say that’s bad). So, the bad thing about my writing is that the people who like Dark Man, X-Men, Abbott and Costello, Ghost Rider, Niel Gaiman and films which gross over $100 million are going to love it? Damn, bring me some more of that condemnation!

The worst thing for a novel to be greeted with is apathy, so it was with relief that Tomasz Mrozewski showed that while not everyone will like the book, you will react to it (I told Linda when the book was about to be published: “If they like it, they will praise the book, and if they hate it they will attack ME.”). He throws himself into this full page review with something to prove, first by holding me personally accountable for all previous reviews of the book (I want everyone to read the novel. But NOW of Toronto says “I thought I was tough before I cracked the spine of Zed…(try it) if you can handle it.” Then four other reviews say they love the book but explicitly state that this book should not be allowed near children; can I not take some small joy at having been awarded a public safety warning?).

The thing I find deplorable with his review (I will try to type it up and link it for you) is that Tomasz holds himself as public arbiter, not using the novel itself to justify his spleen venting but instead trolling my essay (which for example has a long section on how I construct and write action and movement), this blog and press material to find justification for his condemnation, not of my work, but of my person. That these materials are not available to the person deciding whether or not to read Zed, makes this form of criticism on the same level as someone who reads a personal diary before using the material in a public debate. Of course, there is a perverse pleasure in watching a person lift, half-plagiarize and rephrase the materials you wrote (he wasn’t aware I wrote all the press materials including the back cover blurb) to attack you.

Zed has been crafted to be a mirror, so that each person looking inside may confront a particular reflection, much as I had to do when writing it. What particular anger or experience drove me to write a first draft is irrelevant to a reader's initial experience as each takes away their own reflection, which is why the essay is provided only AFTER reading the book. I am me, you are you; take away what is useful to you.

I don’t know whether Tomasz has looked into that mirror (perhaps what triggered a need to attack the one who holding it?) but I recommend that he try again. In his review he sees all the book’s characters as the worst of a humanity “deeply flawed or roundly condemned...proclamation of human cravenness” and refers to the plot aspect where “The denizens are at first shocked by the discoveries (of dead children) and then begin to gamble on which child will disappear next.” These type of people, like those who like heavy metal music, are far beneath the reviewer. He and his intended audience are the linguistically elite as his review is sprinkled with words like: nascent, machinates, trope, eponymous, misanthropy and detritus. Yet, he ends his review with a judgment that a person like me under “the intensity of her own angst” will likely end up either killing myself or giving in to the need of social conformity: “In the annals of outsider art this high tension...resolves itself into either self-destruction or a move to the suburbs.” Yes, Tomasz Mrozewski, completely unlike characters who gamble on the death of children you have decided to sit back and watch in idle curiosity to whether the struggles and desperation of Elizabeth McClung, a real human being, will find an expression other than the taking of my own life. How different we like to believe we are from those we despise.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Network Studios: Hire me, here's why

Why are LGBTI characters on TV shows so badly done? And why haven’t things improved in the last 20 years? These are two questions that have been haunting me, and which came to focus last night. As we don’t have a television, I watch an inordinate amount of TV box sets. Last night, we first watched Remington Steele, season 2, which was full of positive gay innuendo (a film director character says:“a couple means a man and a woman, but only on TV”) including an positively portraying a gay couple. That show was aired in 1983. I then watched Wire in the Blood: Mermaid Singing in which a killer who tortures men to death is a post-op male to female transsexual. Here transsexuals are depicted as an extreme form of gay male sadomasochism in which the body is transformed as an act of self torture and who by nature torture and kill others. That show was written by the lesbian writer Val McDermid and aired in 2002.

I believe that the writers and producers combination of apathy, ignorance and the desire to find a minority to demonize that few will complain over creates a particular spectrum of “evil” of badly treated LGBTI characters. Thus, the less a writer knows about LGBTI people, the more they rely on cultural and ironically, previous media stereotypes which they end up reinforcing. For example, gay males, typically comical figures, as gay murderers typically kill gays, falling into the “heat of passion” category but more often than not show up as sexual predators and pedophiles.

Bisexuals, from Wild Things to Basic Instinct to New Best Friend are portrayed as shifty tricksters who will lie, deceive and kill, as that is their nature. Here, their sexuality is seen as a natural byproduct of their amoral character. The message: trust them at your peril

Lesbian killers ala Heavenly Creatures, particularly lesbian man-killers are so much of a cliché that it finally hit mainstream in Monster and won an Oscar. Of course, the only thing more common than a lesbian killer, is killing a lesbian (though the first season of 24 manages to do both, while Hex manages to kill their lesbian, and main character in minutes, Death comes for lesbian lovers from ER, NYPD Blue and Wire in the Blood while The Wire & Firefly just shoot them). From Underground to Matrix, lesbians are understood to be depraved, but since almost all the writers are male, no one really knows exactly HOW they are depraved, so they tend to just slink around in black looking degenerate in the background of evil male characters. Though this can be changed up with a nice normal character backstabbing and acting evil, (like Smallville Season Two when Tina, who is called “monster” when she falls in love with Lana) which puzzles the viewers until we see her kissing a woman (or she could just be universally disliked like Dr. Weaver on ER, whose personality is then explained – “ohhh, she’s a lesbian”).

Transgendered individuals and transsexuals tend to fit any form of villainy needed for the situations (as well as highlighting homophobic humour needs). Every US legal show, from Law and Order to CSI, will highlight at least one psychotic transgendered killer. And if you haven’t seen a split personality/kills while in drag killer, then you aren’t watching enough movies (though some like Killer Drag Queens on Dope, almost make it to kitch). When not killers, transsexual/transgendered characters are often seen in police/legal drama’s as prostitutes, which even includes Canada’s supposedly “enlightened” legal drama This is Wonderland. In Wire the Blood, the main detective/phychologist makes leaping “insights” into the murderer “Of course, a transsexual, had the operation, and how can someone pay for that? Prostitution. She was a rent boy!”

Intersex characters, due to medical dramas, have been making appearances, almost universally with a kind of brutal “She’s a boy!” surprise and subsequent vomiting we associate with The Crying Game. In ER’s 5th season, Barbie, a cute 9 year old girl was found to be intersex, showing a father who could “no longer love” his child as he went around muttering “She’s a boy?”. House and Grey’s Anatomy have followed up on these themes with even less sensitivity. For doctor’s, who face intersex and ambigious genitalia in 1 in 2000 babies to be portrayed this way shows bad and insensitive writing and industry ignorance in general.

There are notable exceptions, like the first season of the female medical show Strong Medicine which covered not only lesbian AI fertility treatment (In the generally anti-Queer TV show House, the only patient to die on Dr. House for the first season was the baby of a lesbian couple, who died to find the right treatment for a straight couple’s baby), as well as treating a transgendered woman for menopause and helped a dying priest who was biologically a woman, treated with dignity and respect of her decision previously unseen on TV. The only positive portrayal of an intersex individual I have found is in the 18th episode of the quickly cancelled cult series, Freaks and Geeks. This is typical as almost all series with positive portrayals of LGBTI characters get cancelled (Book of Daniel, Dark Angel, Wonderfalls, Dead like Me, Joan of Arcadia for example). Meanwhile, new shows like the Job, Scrubs and Rescue Me bring an openly homophobic worldview (I nominate Rescue Me as the most toxic LGBTI show to date) where “lad culture” means a woman joining a firefighter is openly assumed to be a lesbian and plotted to be driven out.

In the UK, most crime drama’s include a gay/lesbian likeable characters (including Frost, Prime Suspect, Between the Lines, State of Play), but many of these series are not brought over to the US because of the accurate (and thus unappealing to middle class viewers) depiction of institutionalized homophobia where though the investigation reveals the gay/lesbian police officer was unfairly treated, but in the end nothing is done as the “boy’club” at the top rules.

The Police forces of the UK, particularly London, have had extensive gay/lesbian recruitment campaigns to overcome this particular image. Meanwhile, in the US, lesbian and transsexual firefighters are demonstrating that the fire department isn’t working particularly hard to change (my favorite was the 2003 Video “Being who you are” which won an Award and was made for the Tuscon Fire Department to comply with 2001 diversity training requirements – the video still hasn’t been shown). The reality is that as an LGBTI person you are more likely to suffer hate crimes, murdered, raped, assaulted, have vandalism done to you than the average person. Integrity Virginia lists the 25 gay men killed in hate crimes in the US in 2004 and refers to the 37 transsexuals killed in hate crimes that year. I have waited for Law & Order: Special Victims or Without a Trace to cover what is a month or weekly event: reading about the brutal murder of another LGBT individual (last year was the first recorded in the US where someone committed a hate murder on a bisexual simply for being bisexual). LGBT individuals are statistically far more likely to end up assaulted or murdered than be murderers. It’s time TV shows stopped fishing about for societies despised LGBTI in order to find a guilt free villain. And far past time they started hiring more LGBTI consultants to help them stop spreading the view that Hollywood and the Networks are at best homophobic and at worst stupid and lazy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Magic Epee breeches, kisses & boo boos

When people are betting on how quickly they can destroy your clothing, it is a normal night at the Victoria Fencing Club. I arrived late (some US customs thing) and tried on some new breeches that Veronica Ho had ordered in but were too small for her. They fit me just right, or rather just tight, as the stretchy material hugged the curves. “Are you fencing or just planning to run around dressing all night?” William yelled at me (William is our 16 year old, 3 night a week fencer who is moving toward nationals).

I was quickly pushed onto the strip to fence with Steve, the tallest fencer in the club, who was unbeaten for the night. “You’re going down.” I told him rubbing the hip of my new white breeches, “I have magic breeches.” Five minutes later, Steve was staring at his epee as I won 5-3. “Magic” I said and gave the boys a saucy look while rubbing my butt slowly.

Gerald, the 50+ karate master, and Steve urge William on with suggestions on where to attack my breeches. Already a pool had started for the first person to cause a rip in my new breeches. Not tonight William. “Magic, touch the magic” I tell William at the end of the bout with my finger pointing to my butt. Linda, who came to watch, tells me to stop tormenting the teenagers. “Kiss my boo-boo?” I ask her pointing to my neck. We giggle.

Steve tells me that if I keep winning tonight and he hears me pouting another night about my fencing he’s going to push me down the stairs. Touchy, Steve, touchy. As for my fencing, I have no idea what is going on as I should be losing badly. Linda’s parents had come to visit and for the last four days we had been taking them around the island. No practice, little sleep and Monday, the first chance to practice, I go instead to the US and get drunk on a ½ pitcher of Sangria.

I face Gerald, who I haven’t been able to beat since his return from Cuba. “If you need a better view of my tightly clad ass” I tell him, “Just keep staring into the wall of mirrors behind me during the bout.” He gets a stupid and vacant look on his face as he stares in the mirrors. “That’s the spirit!” I tell him and we put on our helmets.

I have a tendency to over-lunge but with these tight breeches, over-lunging is highly discouraged. Maybe this makes the difference, maybe it’s the planetary alignments but a few minutes later and Gerald is watching as I am leaping around pointing to my breeches shouting “Magic” Oh yes, I’m undefeated, and treating it with my usual grace and tact.

William is having a bad night and wanders off to talk to one of the younger fencers who trips backward retreating from him. “I see William is cheering himself up by pushing children around” I say to Steve who immediate responds with a “Meow” and claw motion. This from the guy who started his last bout by getting in a shoving match with William as they both shouted “I’m Batman”, “No, I’m Batman!” William comes back smiling.

Amanda is here, her last week of training before going to the Vancouver World Cup this weekend. She beats me 5-2, with arm hits and one of my new problems, continuing to attack again and again once I start an attack until the other person hits me. I need a bit more self control.

It is getting close to 10 pm and someone has fence Steve who, besides me and one bout with Amanda is undefeated. “I don’t wanna,” I complain to Amanda, “He’s too hard to get too.” She agrees as no matter how far you lunge or get past the blade, he’s still too far away. Actually, since I am ahead in bouts 2-1 with Steve, I want to go home having beaten him for once but I agree to go on. He starts by getting the only successful touch to my thigh for the evening (that one’s going to bruise) before I start getting all these amazing arm and hand touches that give the impression that I have control of my point and have been putting in lots of practice. With one point to go, I charge and he retreats, pulling his body back so far it puts his head at chest height, just hanging there (he later claims that my obsessed attack on his future children was the cause of such a strange position). With the sweet taste of an insanity-driven desire to win in my mouth I launch myself into the air trying to fly over his blade like a high-jump takeoff in order to hit his helmet. I have no idea how I landed but I got the touch! Bout Elizabeth, oh yeah!

Amanda steps on and we will fence the final bout. Linda is still watching and I promise her that “this time” I would win. I manage to resist most of my mistakes and find myself ahead 4-3 in this five point bout. I realize that the pressure of possibly winning is going to screw me up, tighten up my muscles, and cause the point to fall short. I decide I will try a risky approach on the first point and safe on the second. After a few engagements I beat her blade aside and then do a long lunge to her ankle. She is still too far away so I dive forward with such total abandon that the force of the dive continues into a rolling sideways somersault. “Did I get the point?” I ask Amanda, my head at her feet. “Nope, I did.” Curses!

I play it safe after that and do half lunge arm attacks until Amanda gets my timing and counters. Bout Amanda. The Coach Mr. Ho offers me some advice, “Better way to win...keep feet on ground.” Hmmm....I’ll think about it. “Sorry Linda, I’ll get her next time.” I am aching in all sorts of strange places and she gives me a consolation kiss. I point to a place on my no-longer-magical breeches, make my pitiful face and say, “Boo Boo?” She gives me a look that says, “Dream on.”


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