hop against homophobia and transphobia begins today

2013 HAHATJoin me in the annual HAHAT blog hop in recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia beginning today, May 17. The blog hop runs through May 27, and THERE ARE PRIZES! There are over 180 blogs participating, so after you read my blog, press the button on the left to get to hoppin’ and find out what they have to say. Share your thoughts, and show your support!

I’ll be giving three participants a copy of my ebook anthology, Stories for Boys. To be included in the random drawing, comment on this post and you will be automatically entered. Include your email address so I can contact you. Drawing takes place May 27.

Now listen up, because I’m going to tell you about my ignorant youth.

I was confronted with the power of homophobia when I watched my state pass an amendment in 1992 banning “special treatment” for gay men and women. Special treatment? No one was asking for special treatment. Amendment 2 was outrageous – I knew it, and I thought everyone else knew it, too.

I went right from school into an open and supportive work environment. Everyone was out about everything, including sexual identities. I had many gay friends and acquaintances, I lived in a liberal neighbourhood in the heart of the city. I had surrounded myself with like-minded people, and I forgot where I was.

When Amendment 2 came up on the 1992 Colorado ballot, I prominently wore my “No On 2” button, and saw many others flashing around me on the streets. It was a statement, but for me it was more a show of solidarity, a kind of “all for one and one for all” declaration that I pictured to be widely held throughout my state. I thought we all knew the amendment was laughable—a mistake, a joke on the ballot, albeit a nasty one. It never entered my mind that the thing had a chance in hell, but it had more than a chance; it had strong support, and was adopted by Colorado.

The passing of Amendment 2 was a hard slap in the face, and it knocked me out of my naiveté. I saw that outside of my cocoon, my state – the state I was born in, grew up in, loved and had pride in – was completely unknown to me. How could I have been so deceived? But the deception was my own. I learned to open my eyes to look beyond what was comfortable, and confront it.

The amendment was challenged, ruled unconstitutional, and knocked down. But Colorado is still under the shadow of DOMA. We’ve taken some big steps forward within the last two presidential elections. We went from red to purple to blue, and we approved civil unions just last fall. That’s great, and I’m beginning to have hope that we will redeem ourselves. But we need to press forward, and strike DOMA from the constitution. I can see we’re on the verge. Just this month, out senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet signed a legal challenge against the federal Defence of Marriage Act, along with 210 members of congress.

We are progressing toward equality as a state, and as a country. So much has changed just between 1992 and 2013 – I can see a time on the horizon when homophobia is what it should be: an embarrassment, along with racism and anti Semitism. The phobics are losing their power, and one day they will be the ones pushed into closets, forced to hide their shame. I know it’s coming; and this time, I speak from a position of conviction, not naiveté.

What do you think – am I right, or am I wrong? Have you had an experience that opened your eyes?

I have to add a quickie about this year’s Finnish Eurovision entry, a song called “Marry Me” in protest of Finland’s rejection of gay marriage legislation. Read more about it here. And if you haven’t yet discovered the splendor that is Eurovision, do so immediately! The finals take place tomorrow, May 18.

spring… and all

spring and allI read William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All twice through, back to back. Due to my travel boredom, yes, but also because it’s a crazy little book, and requires another go asap. It did for me, at least. I was frazzled and travel weary, my focus wasn’t all there – a great mindset for a mindfuck. This delivers.

It’s a treatise on intellect, creativity, and the boundaries (if there are any) between poetry and prose. While he argues that there are indeed delineations, the book itself argues that there aren’t. WCW writes in deliberately imperfect prose, assigning random chapter numbers and using large breaks between paragraphs so it would seem that each must stand on its own. He leaves off mid sentence, and makes you finish thoughts. He forces you to think, goddamnit. I could picture him cackling with glee as he pushed out another sentence spoken with logical and intellectual assuredness, complete with typos that may or may not have been intentional. And I thought, ‘you’re an asshole, William Carlos Williams’ and laughed, too.

The poem that gets all the attention is XXII, known as The Red Wheelbarrow. But my favourite is XXI (illogically preceding in the right order) that goes,

one day in Paradise
a Gipsy

smiled
to see the blandness

of the leaves  —
so many

so lascivious
and still

I don’t know what scholars have said about this poem or this book, perhaps it should be obvious that it doesn’t matter. He’s set up a playground that will make some readers giggle as they wind and dart through the words, that will cause fierce playground spitfights, knock a few readers on their asses because they didn’t see the swing coming back at them, and make some violently ill with the spin.

I was always a playground bystander, unwilling to jump into the fray, so I think the Gipsy is Williams, the Paradise is a false one, and the amusing blandness of the leaves – sheathes and sheathes of tomes of leaves – are overwrought attempts at Great Prose or Great Poetry. And still….

Still, every once in awhile, someone manages to knock out something unique, in spite of themselves. Do I wish I was that someone? Oh yes. But I read stuff like this, and I know that I’m …still on the edge of the playground. I might stay here forever. At least the kids vomiting up their lunch are out there taking it on.

conversation with myself

foolSince I’ve already stepped out on a ledge, I’m going to take another toddle forward because why not. I’ve never known when to check myself, I’m a lot like The Fool in the Tarot deck – head in the clouds and blissfully unaware of where my feet are taking me. In this case it’s my words. They always have been my favourite mode of transportation, and like my feet, have an intimate relationship with my mouth.

I have a friend who is working on a thesis based around “dirty” books and how they’ve historically been dealt with by society and its laws. She’s exploring whether explicit sex is the last boundary in literature. I’m not sure whether it’s the sex itself or explicit sex as entertainment for the masses that’s creating a breach, but is it literary, or license?

Widespread exposure to sex via the Internet has made it safe (or at least convenient) for people to peek out of their closets and claim an interest, which in itself is a positive thing. But what are they meeting with on the other side of the door? I’ve been calling 50 Shades suburban porn – couch art. It has made the common denominator feel as if it has joined, at equal footing, a conversation that’s been happening around it all along. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. I mentioned in a previous post that the public has historically been unable to see brilliance from within its concurrent restrictions and opinions. Perhaps I’m having trouble seeing talent where I should, and that is entirely my fault. We’re at the foundation of new innovations to the written word, how it’s shared and enjoyed, and accepted by the public. Barriers have already been crossed and the question I have is this: is it freedom, is it destruction, both, neither – will it amount to anything? And ultimately, will it elevate us, or lower us?

Said friend mentioned Fanny Hill as parody of “sexually explicit virtue novels of the 18th century” as she put it. Everyone wanted to get their hands on it, mostly because they couldn’t – at least not without subterfuge, which is always a tempting little motivator. But what did it really do to advance literature? I’m still on my comparison of literature with other art forms, and as I said before, I think fine art had its revolution long ago. With installations such as Seedbed, I truly don’t know whether there are boundaries left to cross, at least not significant ones. What does that do to art?

But literature still does have clear boundaries between art and porn (even if it’s called by the more acceptable term, Erotica). So does film. As I told my friend, I find it very curious that literature and film are essentially neck and neck at the same signposts of restriction, when literature has been around for so much longer. One could argue that it’s because writing evolved along lines of religious representation, whereas film did not – but so did fine art. So why the discrepancy?

Does it have something to do with the written word as a common means of communication, which therefore has stunted its growth as art? Is the commonality the impediment? Or is it completely typical to disregard “impressions of sunsets” as having any value? Deconstruction is evolution in art. Fanfic is the new Fanny Hill – parody that has made a public splash, and found its defense in historical reference to having put access into the hands of the public via subterfuge. Deconstructed works of fiction. But don’t you need to understand the construction before you can successfully deconstruct?

Perhaps these works of 21st century Dada will ultimately have little effect on the ways we define literature. I’m not so sure. I think it will have a lasting and perhaps profound effect – I just don’t know what that will be, and it has me worried, because I’m already part of a much maligned genre of fiction that will not benefit from further compartmentalization. 50 Shadeseque writing is not empowering; it reinforces several long held—as well as a few brand new—stereotypes. That’s not something I care to see expanded. It’s the unenlightened contribution to a conversation that has remained incomprehensible not because it’s inaccessible – not anymore. But because it’s misinterpreted by those who will nonetheless interrupt the flow by diverging into tributaries that may or may not benefit the destination, unknown though that may be. Wherever it’s going, I’d prefer the momentum to be focused forward, and not diverted into little eddies of stationary movement.

sometimes a brick is just a brick: or, the incredible triteness of p33ning

Writing is my overriding passion, on which I spend most of my time and energy. But I also have a great interest in fine art, and I’ve spent years educating myself on different artistic periods and movements.

the lute henri matisse

the lute henri matisse

The Renaissance is overwhelming in the vast amount of sculptures and paintings produced, and I’ve just nicked its surface. I’ve spent a great deal of time enjoying the Impressionist period with its glut of bigtime artists, and the subsequent flow into modernism with Cézanne and Matisse leading the brigade. But I have danced around the perimeters of contemporary art, because for me, it’s a minefield.

It’s true that nearly every movement suffered through a period of adjustment, wherein art and artists were mocked before they were appreciated. New things are difficult to take in, and it does require dedication to receptiveness, and the trust that you will find the keys to opening those doors. I’m missing some keys.

le gerbe henri matisse

le gerbe henri matisse

I plunged in with Matisse, who showed us collage as fine art. There are certain shapes that repeat throughout his work, whether paint or paper, that make his evolution as an artist easy to follow. I have a great love for Picasso, which led me to his contemporary Duchamp, whose evolution was made in leaps rather than steps. He was a cubist painter who moved on to what he called Readymade art – he’s the one who signed a urinal and called it good.

Now, that was quite a jolt to the public. People hate to be jerked around, and that’s what it felt like to some – a twisted joke, making fun of their sensibilities. It was one of those Emperor’s New Clothes situations in the art community, where you were either going to join in the praise or fear for your head. Or miss out altogether.

fountain marcel duchamp

fountain marcel duchamp

The thing about Duchamp’s urinal was that it was legitimate, in that it was a new definition art. He saw it as engaging the viewer by providing an opportunity to view and define art from a different approach. He said he felt unmoved by these objects, and therefore instead of forcing us to praise the Emperor’s complete lack of clothing, we were allowed to stand back and make an assessment based on our own aesthetics.

I really am building to a point, here. Bear with me.

There have been standout artists in the time since Duchamp busted open those doors. Andy Warhol took everyday objects and arranged them in ways that we couldn’t help but notice, and therefore see in a different light. Jean-Michel Basquiat took graffiti and moved it into artistic statement. The thing is, there are a handful of standouts in a glut of artists. I know when I’m looking at a Basquiat, because there is unmistakeable skill in what he gave us. Put his work beside an admirer’s, and there absolutely is a detectible difference in the use of paint and form and space. We can’t all be geniuses.

untitled (skull) jean-michel basquiat

untitled (skull) jean-michel basquiat

So it is with much difficulty that I approach the majority of contemporary art. A signed commode does not speak of greatness to me, it speaks of a lack of originality. A dirty mattress shoved into a corner, a brick on the floor – to me, they read as jaded attempts to mimic a greater man’s work. However, I can’t believe that we’ve wrung all creativity out of ourselves, even as presentations such as these have me asking, “is that all there is?” Have we said everything, done everything? No. And there will be many more innovators who come along and pull us into something completely new. So far, with my present day view of what is and isn’t significant, I have largely been unmoved.

Sometimes, a brick is just a brick.

Which brings me to the second part of this diatribe: Are the plain bricks essential? Are they basic structures upon which the innovators can build their masterpieces? Or are they merely obstacles in the path.

david michelangelo di lodovico buonarroti simoni

david michelangelo di lodovico buonarroti simoni

I’m drawing a parallel between fine art and the written word, because I think the same factors apply. You have innovators and you have mimics, and in between there are perfectly acceptable, if not remarkable, stories to tell.

But there’s a new medium that is influencing our output and our standards, and I’m afraid it’s not all for the better. Epublishing is like Duchamp’s urinal. There is the initial innovation and the ability to engage the public in a way that has never before been explored, and then there is the ensuing onslaught of those who would sign their name to anything and call it good, not out of creativity, but because they can.

olympia edouard manet

olympia edouard manet

Finding your way as an artist is essential. There are a few prodigies, and there are a much greater number of those who work their way toward success. That’s true in any art form, including writing. But is it right to pull something half baked from the oven and serve it up to the public? Isn’t that detrimental not only to the artist, but to the audience? Standards will either drop to invisible clothing levels, or leave the public cold.

It’s freezing out there.

And I’m not happy about it, because it’s not the self published would-be artists—who have every right to hone their craft in whatever way they see fit—who are the problem. It is the proponents who are eschewing standards in favour of cheap and cheerful profit. It’s easy to do with a virtual product that requires little more than a push out the door.

les demoiselles d'avignon pablo picasso

les demoiselles d’avignon pablo picasso

And it’s definitely, definitely exacerbating the already existing obstacles in the path of certain genres. Genres that have a sexual focus. Genres that have gender centred focus. I don’t believe this is commode art, I never did. I believe there are innovators, and I absolutely believe there are great strides to be taken in introducing the public to new art forms, new thought processes, and a new way of engaging with the world.

It has happened before. The human body has long been revered as an artwork in itself. Prostitutes have become a revelation, their depiction a thing of beauty; urinals have become Fountains of forward thinking. Ugliness has been ground breaking and glorious. Defacing has offered statements of importance. In fine art, sex, along with several other plain and simple facts of life that have routinely been kept hidden, have become masterpieces of artistic expression. Why should the art form of words be any different?

nude descending a staircase marcel duchamp

nude descending a staircase marcel duchamp

But we have to respect it in order to elevate it. We have to revere it, and embrace the beauty in order to share it. We have to give the world something that will break through the barriers and allow others to see and experience in a different way. We have to believe in our art and respect ourselves as artists, and our venues and avenues must support that as well. We’ve got to step up and take control of what has become an increasingly precarious situation.

We’ve been used and abused as much as our subject matter, and the exploitation is becoming more and more mainstream. The more visibly prevalent it is, the more widely acceptable it becomes to marginalize. Those who have never before ventured beyond the black curtains are being introduced to a view that is the exact representation of their worst expectations, which greatly influences every subsequent encounter.

We don’t have to call it good, because I know we have something better to show for ourselves. We have prodigies and skilled artists and innovators who can lead the charge, if we as artists and champions of the art of words make it a priority to support them. Are we ready for a revolution? A Salon des Refusés for writers of debauchery, who are poised at the entry to a key shift in culture.

I think it’s time.

isn’t it romantic?

Romance. This is a word around which I’ve had a considerable amount of awkwardness. After having avoided The Word for so long, it’s now constantly dangling within my periphery, and I don’t like it. Which of course means there’s something to be learned from all of this hissing and cowering like a vampire who has just been shown a cross. It’s time to delve in.

A couple of weekends ago I participated in the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop, on the topic of what writing GLBT literature means to me. Many participants boiled it down to one overarching inspiration – the love of love. I’m fine with love, I’m totally okay with love. Love is a many splendored thing and whatnot – though when I was a kid I thought the lyrics were “love is a many splintered thing” and I have to say, it still makes more sense to me, because true love, real love, isn’t all splendorific.

And I’m not a romantic. I don’t like all of those typical gestures of romance, the red roses, candles and champagne. I can’t stand rom-coms. Romantic words directed at me make me twitch (and not in a good way). But when I really look at it, I discover it’s not the love I’m rejecting, it’s the common associations with romance that make me cringe. It’s when love scarpers over to the side of puppies and hearts and flowers that I get squeamish. But how much of that is truly dominating the genre, and how much is it my own Harlequin-tainted fears?

I’ve said before that I don’t like labels, and it’s true. There are labels that have scared me off, and Romance is one of the top five. I’m trying to restructure that reaction. My friend and wurbling buddy, writer Anna Reith (aka M. King), pointed out in one of our many epic discussions that in literature, Romance has broadened its definition, and the common formula of boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy wins back boy and they live happily ever after is no longer the focus. Happy endings – these are still key to satisfying romance, but there are many ways to reach that conclusion, many roads to take.

Overall, I write satisfying endings. Ninety-nine percent of the time, things turn out well for my characters (okay, maybe 96.7%). I’m all for positive storylines, and especially in this genre, there have been too many tragedies. Balance needs to be created. In fact, one of my books took on a decidedly romantic spin when it was accompanied by too many depressing movies about thwarted love, lost love, and heartbreak. In response, my story became romantic – sort of a “fuck you” romantic retaliation. So why do I feel like I need to defend myself – “I didn’t mean to! They made me! Hey, you know I am not like this, right? I’m not like this!” But I didn’t change it. I tried to when I came around and all of the sentiment had seeped out of my brain, but I just couldn’t. It was meant to be.

Urgh, it was meant to be. I guess that’s the key to romance?

wrap your gums around me plums

I’m a drinker with a writing problem – Brendan Behan

Writers and their drinks. We’re all a bunch of raging alcoholics, it would seem. There are several articles available online that list authors with their drinks of choice: Dorothy Parker drank whiskey sours, Oscar Wilde enjoyed absinthe.

So closely associated is drinking with writing that there should be a ‘match the writer with their drink’ game – perhaps there already is, I wouldn’t doubt it. Many are very easily mated. Of course William S. Burroughs drank vodka and Coke – what else could it be? Dylan Thomas drank whiskey, William Faulkner loved mint juleps. But Ernest Hemingway and mojitos? I suppose that makes a certain amount of sense, though it’s not my immediate association. Apparently he also was fond of daiquiris. He hits me as more of a scotch and soda type.

When I think of a particular story of mine, I immediately recall the scent memory of cherry brandy. I can smell it as keenly as if I had a glass in my hand. Cherry brandy, summer nights, IAMX: the sustenance of my storytelling. Hey, we all have our muses.

Now I’m drinking jasmine tea, and let me tell you, it’s not doing a lot for the creative process. There’s a fine balance, of course. I walk the line to achieving a pleasant inner warmth between the extremes of green tea and too much wine – my usual tipple. But it’s hot out and wine is just not the thing in hot weather. Cherry brandy, though lovely, is taken, married to a previous tale. Perhaps plum brandy would be the thing. Let’s give it a try, shall we?