Marissa Explains it All #31 – Screamed At For Existing

For those of you who don’t already know, I am pansexual and polyamorous. I have a husband and two girlfriends, and one of my girlfriends is trans like me. As I’d already been invited to Utah Pride by another podcast, and seeing as she’s from there, I invited her to come spend the time with me before we move in together with my family in St. Paul.

When you live in the East, you often hear combinations of cliches about flyover states, but Utah in particular is associated with the Mormons; people who have a reputation for being overly friendly, but also holding some incredibly bigoted and backward views. I’ve had to live-read the book with Molly Un-Mormon, I’ve read this shit!

But there’s always the promise that in a metropolitan city that hosts a huge Pride festival, it won’t be as bad as, say, having it in a rural area with a bad reputation. The cities are always safer for people like us, right?

The crassness, arrogance, ugliness, and deliberateness of the people in this area surprised me, and I’ve spent the last four years in Philadelphia, the city known to respond to its reputation for being assholes with “At least we’re not as bad as New York!” This was a different beast though.

We weren’t sure where the festival was being held, and we ended up taking an unintentional several mile hike around the city. As people who love each other tend to do when they’re doing something together, we held hands… something you can only find gross or inappropriate if you hold queer people to a different standard than you would anyone else. Apparently, this was the latter.

Slurs were shouted at us from car windows. People passing by made remarks. From all types, from all directions, we were shouted at endlessly for having the nerve to walk on a sidewalk while being trans. And of course we were holding hands, which is like third base in Mormon, so there was also that.

In Philly, someone might shout something at you, but it won’t be an epithet. They’ll tell you to go fuck yourself, but it’ll be for taking a parking space, not for existing. They’ll punch you in the face, but it’ll be for wearing a Cowboys jersey, not for being a minority. That’s the difference I’ve noticed in all my traveling: People are assholes everywhere, but it’s why they choose to be assholes that marks the difference for me.

Even when I was in Lexington, Kentucky, the South, people stared and made remarks under their breath. But to be this verbose and deliberate about it was something different for me, and I held up a little better than she did by returning it with my signature snark, but I can only hold up for so long. We’re human, after all.

It takes a lot of energy to wear armor. It takes the emotional battery to try to shield others from hatred, and no matter how strong you are, sometimes you have to put the shield on the charger and close your eyes and cry. After that, being called “sir” after four times of saying “I’m not a sir,” after being treated like shit in the Staples, and after some of the worst hotel service I’ve ever experienced, I felt drained, apathetic, and just needed to be held in my girlfriend’s arms. The world got too loud.

But as I calmed down, I had to reflect on some other things. Our time that we spent together here was magical, whether it was alone or with friends. Daily messages of admiration and appreciation for what it is that I do keep me going, and I’ll take one of those for every hundred bigots that call me a slur. The memory of those will remain long after the pain from being catcalled has faded.

To spend a night with friends who are genuinely curious about your story and share theirs with you… To learn from new friends, meet their families, and divulge experiences that we may have explained a thousand times, but ears and faces are willing to receive them, that was magical. And even though I had to leave the room several times because the noise got to be too much, the love and support from the friends far outweighs the multitudes of assholes.

Plus I got to meet Misty K. Snow, the first transperson to run for Senate. Or, as Felicia put it, “she wants to meet you.” I still haven’t reached that level of dissonance where I understand that, especially when it’s someone who has done far more in this world than I could ever hope to. I feel like a phony, a fraud, when I stand next to someone like that and people regard us in the same sentence. But they do. I don’t get it, but they do.

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Then, as I awoke this morning, I recalled the Wells Fargo teller who responded to me correcting her use of my name with a compliment. I remembered the affirmative messages that a dozen people sent this weekend. And I saw the look in my girlfriend’s eyes as she woke up next to me and we were still here, still strong, still together, and still ready to fight, even as much as it hurts. I wrote a poem about that moment that I’ll put at the bottom of the page. It was a transcendental moment, no pun intended, and even with all that’s happened, I’m truly grateful for this experience.

I may not have spent a second at Pride, but I still have reasons to celebrate. Sunday, I’ll have my first event as a featured speaker in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I just got booked at another in Flint, Michigan. I repeat that I don’t know why people want to hear what I have to say, but the best I can do is try not to let them down, especially in these times.

I got a tattoo of the Against Me! lyric/motto/attitude: “True Trans Soul Rebel.” It means that even in the worst of times, when everyone wants us gone or dead, we defy them by continuing to live our lives outside of the closet. We will be loud, we will be defiant, we will express our love without apology, and we will continue to fight against this ugliness and bigotry so that others don’t have to. People like Misty, who ran as a transperson in freaking Utah, help me remember that. If we can take heat off those who are coming out now or in a few years, it’s all worth it.

And this has all been worth it.

I’ll leave you with the aforementioned poem I wrote this morning. Hope to see some of you in Allentown, Flint, and at my live show in July. Thank you.

SMALL MOMENTS BLUES
By Marissa Alexa McCool

The sun peers in from the bay window. The curtains gently unfold ever so slightly, allowing the light of a new day to envelop the darkness. Short breaths, signs of the unseen and subconscious haunting reality slowly dissipate among the new morning rising.

The stacks of books make way for trains of thought, chugging through the heavy slog of the weight of minor sorrows. To compare the slurs and hatred against the affirmations and encouragement, it brings us all to an examination of the balance.

The hatefulness pricks harder, but the love remains long after the sharp stings of ignorance penetrate our armor. Your hand, my hand, united and defiant against what we’re supposed to be, committing revolution by knowing what we’ll face from the public, and choosing to be visible anyway.

Not all life needs to be a fight, this is true. But in finding happiness in simplicity, peacefulness in serenity, we defy the wishes of those who would harm us by smiling to ourselves and each other.

You can call us dykes. You can call us trannies. You can call us queers. You can fight to eliminate us from public life. But every time that we smile at each other and kiss despite you, we’re winning the war.

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Marissa Explains it All – #30 – Reflections on Family and Memorial Day

I have trouble with Memorial Day.

Truthfully, I have trouble with all holidays, but this one has an extra few levels of confusion. I’ve never been able to process feeling a certain way just because society or tradition says I’m supposed to. I don’t have that association with tradition; I feel how I feel because that’s how I feel, not because it’s a day and that’s when I’m supposed to feel that way.

Every year, Memorial Day trots out what I like to call the “guilt-trip meme.” It will show soldiers saluting a coffin with a flag draped over it, or a small child being handed a flag, and the caption will say some variation of “just in case you thought it was National BBQ Day.”

That seems rather insulting to our intelligence, especially in a country that puts the military on an untouchable pedestal and no matter how much of the budget is put in defense, one side of the aisle will constantly say that they’re underfunded and underappreciated. Nevermind that they turn around and slash the VA, slash benefits for citizens that include veterans, do nothing to help the homeless and only reference homeless veterans when trying to force a case of moral superiority about taking in refugees… The military itself seems to be regarded as a single entity, through which no member can be criticized, and doing so is somehow the equivalent of treason or supporting the enemy. I was a teenager when the Iraq War started; I remember the rhetoric that surrounded it. Never mind things like “Facts”, if you didn’t have a yellow ribbon on your car, that meant that you supported 9/11 and were un-American.

I’ve always seen things like yellow ribbons as purely symbolic. They have their purpose and I don’t mind that, but when their purpose is “look how much better of a person I am than you,” it loses that original intent, doesn’t it? Saying “support the troops” and carrying that yellow ribbon doesn’t mean a thing if that’s the extent to which you supposedly support the troops. And it’s so often used as a blanket phrase that those who participate in it are dehumanized the basis of arguments of morality and self-righteousness.

You can’t exist in America for five minutes without knowing that Memorial Day is about the military. Nobody in the world thinks that it’s National BBQ Day. We know that we’re supposed to remember the fallen veterans on this day, but some of the freedoms for which they fought, that we’re supposed to remember them for, include having BBQs on an off-work day. Are we instead to stay somber the entire time? Then people will say “no, don’t be sad, celebrate the freedoms that those who fell protected for you.” Then we begin the whole vicious circle again. Can I have a BBQ but only if I’m sad? How long do I have to be sad? Is it just a BBQ that is disrespectful to what the day means, or do pig roasts get included too? I’m just trying to understand this as someone who wants to show the proper appreciation that, as I said in the beginning, I will never understand how to portray just because I’m supposed to.

I respect anyone who could give up years of their life in service to their country, and sacrifice their youth, family, and private lives in order to represent their country, believing in honor, service, respect, and dedication. I get that. I nearly enlisted myself, and I didn’t stop until just before the swearing-in ceremony, mostly because I was told to lie and I couldn’t live with that, and because it also hit me at that moment that: holy shit, this is the kind of social grouping that will destroy me inside. I don’t respond well to being yelled at, I’m not able to do things just because someone asked/demanded me to. It’s not for me, and by that I mean no disrespect to anyone for whom it works. That’s just not the way my brain processes things.

There’s a long line of military history in my family. My mother’s side is descended directly from the Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry of the Flagship Niagara, for whom there is a Perry named in every generation, my son included. My grandfather and his brother both served, and I learned a lot about the service, history of that era, and nuclear science because of him. I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to see some of the things I did, but I was ten and who I was I going to tell? His brother served in early Vietnam. We were told never to ask about it.

I have a fan who served on the USS Paul Hamilton and wrote me letters about my column keeping him connected to home while he was away at sea. I’ve received letters from military wives who thank me for distracting them from that empty spot in the bed, some of which will never be filled again. I see the WWE, who back up what they say, and go there and perform for the troops in person, bringing a little bit of home to them as they’re separated by worlds, cultures, and duty. I’ve been sent tokens and items from those in the military who felt that what I wrote somehow mattered to them in that time, and I have no idea how some bullshit I put on the internet can do that, but it means the world all the same. I’m not speaking on these issues as someone completely disconnected from this reality.

One of my best friends is a veteran who is bisexual, and often has to deal with people from veteran groups sexually harassing her or denying her right to be recognized for who she is. I know several trans people online who struggle every day with their right to exist, despite having served their country, which is supposed to be something that the people criticizing them see as the ultimate good deed. Out of the other side of the same mouths, they still hear the same shitty arguments that are used against transpeople everywhere in order to remind them of their place in society.

My grandfather is the one who told me more about his experience than anyone else. And even still, he managed to remain distant and vague about certain things, which were his rights to do so. I’m owed no one’s experience or stories, but I’m grateful when I do. We lost him in 2015, and I gave the eulogy at his military service funeral where he was interred. The majesty, specificity, and ceremony were something I’ve never experienced anywhere else, and to see my grandfather honored in such a way is still awe-inspiring. I have his military picture and dog tags placed appropriately in a mini-shrine in my collection of special moments and autographs, complete with the obituary and a picture of us from the 1995 World Series. I loved my grandfather, and I remember him every day, not just today because that’s when I’m supposed to. I understand that holidays hold that significance of reminders and duty, but it doesn’t process for me. I hold it against no one for observing in that way, it’s just not for me.

“Support the troops” though, something always bothered me about that. Much in the same way that “thoughts and prayers” are a vague platitude that sometimes represent a substitute for any actual effort, supporting them in the ways they’re used in guilt-trip and moral superiority arguments is really just that: “I’m a better person than you because I do this more selflessly or actively think well of X conflict and you don’t.”

I want to support the troops by making sure they have access to the medical care they deserve, and that is not exclusive from the rights of anyone else to have healthcare. We’ve somehow gotten to a point in this country where healthcare is seen as a privilege, and if we are going to thump our chests about how much we love the military, can we at least also make an effort not to forget about them the second they get home? Can we do more than say “thank you for your service” and actually show gratitude? How about we not get into more stupid conflicts where they get killed? False pretenses, assets, whatever other bullshit reason politicians decide to use the military rather than do anything themselves, can we do all we can to not have to put them in that danger? I often think those in the 40’s get the title “greatest generation” because they answered the call and were conscripted during a time of international war, and it’s amazing how much gets left out of that story so that we can feel proud about how awesome we are. The shirt I’ve seen that shows an American flag with the title : Back-to-Back World War Champions just reeks of a willful, ethnocentric misunderstanding of a global conflict, where the Russians were the ones who got to Berlin, we only got involved when it was us attacked, before which we were chummy with Hitler and turned away Jewish refugees, and World War I barely involved us at all, but we get to take carte blanche credit and brag about our country’s untouchable superiority? And anyone who doesn’t say that is somehow taking the side of the enemy?

Much the same way as gender, sexuality, identity, neurodivergence, politics, and many other aspects of life are not as binaried as the “leave it be” status quo would like it, it is not traitorous to acknowledge that we aren’t the only people in the world. It’s not traitorous or disrespectful to the military to not want to see them go into yet another war where they have to die when they shouldn’t have to.

On the back of some Jeeps, I often see an American flag on the spare tire with the caption: There’s only one. Only one what? Flag? America? Country? Jeep with that cover? Just because it has an American flag doesn’t automatically make it universally understood. And a lot of the same people who regard that flag is the ultimate untouchable symbol that’s been desecrated by queer interlopers and liberals, they also fly the Confederate flag as a symbol of “American heritage,” “state’s rights,” or whatever other bullshit reason they choose to fly a flag that represents white supremacy, the continuation and spread of slavery, and literally committing treason against America. Yet that’s the most patriotic place in the country, and flying a flag that was about separating from it is American heritage? Yeah, okay, and the swastika was just the representation of the German commitment to fair labor practices. For anyone, especially in the North, who flies that flag, especially when it’s ABOVE the American flag, yet lectures me about how much the flag is awesome and should mean X, Y, and Z to me, I will never be able to comprehend the mind pretzel into which you must twist yourself to believe that revisionist, Lost-Cause influenced bullshit. But the Confederates were traitors and fighting for their states’ rights to keep owning slaves, even spreading it into South and Central America. They wanted a white supremacy empire founded completely on the notion of white superiority and slavery as a national institution. To say it had nothing to do with slavery is ignorant, incorrect, and just another bullshit apologetic you’ve used as to not be an asshole.

I know that Memorial Day is about the military. Same for Veteran’s Day. Add in the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Flag Day, Armed Services Day, Opening Day, and many others that are militarized, one would have to be willfully ignorant to think otherwise. I just want to know what the appropriate way to regard it is so that I don’t have to read those memes anymore, because I don’t think having a BBQ on Memorial Day is the same thing as “thinking that’s what it’s about entirely.” We know better than that, or at least we should.

I miss you, Grandpa Jack. I miss everything you taught me about the military and history, and there is a part of my life I’ll never get back because you told stories in a way that seeing them in a book just can’t match. I haven’t seen you since I unexpectedly walked into a room where you had just passed, and every single day, I regret not traveling more to see you, or calling you to hear more stories, or appreciating the time I had with you more than I did. You probably wouldn’t understand me right now, and we’d have crossed that bridge when we came to it, but there’s nothing in my life that will ever replace the spot you had in it. I’m lucky to have had so many years of my life without losing a grandparent, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Thank you to anyone who made that choice to serve, regardless of the circumstances, and I hope none of you feel disrespected by any of these sentiments. If I have, please tell me how I can correct my behavior, as long as it’s not the exact empty platitudes and symbols I’ve already explained. Thank you.

Inciting Incident Blog #14 – You Know Who I Am?

Sometimes people think I’m saying something like that to be funny, or self-depricating.

I’m really not.

I’m legitimately surprised every time someone knows who I am, let alone that they liked a thing I do. It’s not that I have low self-esteem or anything; it’s that most of my life, few people have known or been worried about anything I was doing.

This is new to me. I got beat up daily for looking too gay back in school. I was sent to the principal’s constantly for standing up for myself or wearing makeup because it was a distraction. My parents still see me as the black sheep screw-up that I was as a teenager, despite being about to graduate from Penn with three degrees with honors.

I’m really not used to this.

This weekend in Chicago, I was so nervous to meet the people I see as heroes, the people who spoke to me through their podcasts and helped me come out of my shell. The voices that brought me to the point of telling Pastor Carl and Donald Trump to go fuck themselves in public were in the same place I was going to be. I expected to be a mere one of many, waiting in line to say a few things, and then move on and return to my own planet Ris, being oblivious and frolicking around inside my own head.

That’s not what happened.

First, everyone from the show was beyond the level of nice that I could’ve ever expected, even after having spoken to most of them at that point. Lucinda and I are even new besties, but my husband still had to coach me up as we were about to walk in to the VIP meetup because I was genuinely that nervous.

The first person not directly from the show to approach me was Anna, Eli’s wife. She complimented my recent appearance on God Awful Movies, and she’s married to the funniest person I’ve ever met. I still don’t know how to process this level of niceness. I’m amazed any of them listened to something I was on, but then as the night went on, there were others who heard my appearance and started listening to the show. There were people who had either read my book or were going to. I didn’t expect people I’d never spoken to before to come up and say, “Are you Marissa?” I walk through my campus not expecting anyone to talk to me, and for the majority of that four years, it’s been true. I’m not used to being seen.

The best part was Noah telling me how much positive feedback they received about my appearance. Hanging out with my contemporaries in such fashion was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. But when I say that I’m amazed that people have been so nice to me, it’s not because I think lowly of myself. When I’m surprised that people follow our podcast, it’s not because I’m not proud of it.

I’ve been writing and producing content for more than half my life. The biggest difference between me now and four years ago when I was trying the YouTubes? I wasn’t saying anything, and it wasn’t me saying it. Anyone can punch low at commercials. Once I came out and started speaking on relevant issues instead of just wanting people to like me, remaining as neutral and passive as possible, it’s amazingly when people started to like me beyond, “oh, she’s nice.”

So trust me when I say, I’m flattered and humbled by all the kind words, gestures, and support I’ve been given recently. Most of my life I was either in hiding or being shamed for who I was. Now I’m not only being supported for who I am, but it’s being encouraged, protected, and I’m receiving opportunities I never thought I’d get in a million years. Being invited on podcasts, making appearances, having a name that someone knows beyond my inner circle… This is all new and unexpected to me, and it never stops surprising me.

With that said, I’m going to answer a few questions I’ve gotten recently…

Will I come on your podcast? Abso-fucking-lutely.

Does it matter if only five people follow it? Nope.

Will you make an appearance/do a thing/talk to this person? You bet!

I want to do all the things, because for so long, I was in a place where I couldn’t reach out to anyone or be myself. I’m not about to ever do that to someone, anyone else. But don’t be surprised if I’m amazed that you saw me here at all. I’m not used to it!

Inciting Incident Blog #13 – FAQ

Wrote this on New Year’s Eve. It’s a combination FAQ/Starting 2017 right. These are questions I tend to get in nearly every new interaction.

Q: Did you and your husband know about each other before you got married?

R: Sort of. He knew about me relatively early into us knowing each other. He started to come out of his shell more once he saw how comfortable I was in being unapologetically myself. We both toyed with the idea of identifying as “gender-fluid,” but the longer we went, we knew we were holding back and lying to ourselves. We were well aware of each other by the time we got married, which is why there were many subtle references toward it for the people in the know in attendance.

Q: How long have you been on HRT?

R: I started hormones in July, and added Spiro in November. Spiro, for those who don’t know, is a T-blocker.

Q: What’s the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?

R: Sexual orientation is outward, to whom you’re attracted. Gender identity is internal, who you are. Sometimes they play off one another, but they’re not connected.

Q: Why did you wait so long to start transitioning?

R: When I was younger, I didn’t know it was an option. I also didn’t know that it was a thing, so I thought it was just being different. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I was aware of more things than straight, gay, or bi. I suggest looking up the Queer Dictionary if you have any trouble with terms.

Q: What are your preferred pronouns?

R: Female. If calling me Ris makes you more comfortable because it sounds more gender neutral, that’s fine. I also don’t get too mad at mix-ups. I know it’s going to take people a while to adjust. I can tell the difference between an honest mistake and an intention to hurt me.

Q: What is your favorite color?

R: Purple. All the purple.

Q: How are you handling telling your kids?

R: Because of how and where they were raised until this summer, we’ve been slowly adjusting them to the idea before slowly coming out to them. They were in a heavy religious conservative environment, so we’ve been normalizing LGBT issues to them before we go full out. Right now, they just think Daddy wears makeup and paints his nails. Recently, we told them about our friend Asa, who is FTM, and were sure to say “and it’s completely normal.” Baby steps.

Q: Who has had the biggest influence in you becoming who you were always meant to be?

R: The true biggest influence was the Pastor Carl incident. There were so many wonderful people who supported me along the way and didn’t out me, but that was the moment of the epiphany for me. It was a combination of “This guy is a clown, nothing he says can affect me!” and “Fuck what everyone thinks, I’m tired of hiding who I am for the comfort of strangers!” At that moment, I went from being shy and reserved about it to wearing dresses and makeup to school with no apologies for it.

Q: Are you getting the surgery?

R: First of all, there is no “the” surgery. Second, unless you’re sleeping with me, I really don’t owe you an explanation on that. Please don’t ask about my genitalia unless it concerns you, which it likely doesn’t.

Q: Now that you’ve published the PC book, what’s next?

R: Andrew Torrez asked me to write a book of my full story, being a former professional wrestler, going from being homeless to the Ivy League, growing up and not realizing I was a trans teen while simultaneously being bullied for it, and a number of the other crazy adventures I’ve managed to compile into these 31 years. I also have a novel in the works, as patrons will be familiar with the first few chapters. I’m toiling with some other ideas as well. Plus, you know, this. I write a lot for you!

Q: What’s your biggest goal for 2017?

R: Be completely public, get into grad school, become financially self-sufficient on my work (writing, columns, podcast, books, photography, videography, etc.), keep my marriage amazing, fight Trumpeters and Fascists at every opportunity, travel to new places and meet new people, find more of an audience, maybe get some speaking gigs, live in a place that sucks less, not have to commute 100 miles for college finally, and I suppose officially graduate from Penn after all I’ve been through in the last six years. Just off the top of my head.

Q: Why Patreon? Why not advertising or something else?

R: Patreon allows me to have a more direct relationship with my listeners and readers. It also allows you the option to contribute instead of being forced to listen or watch ads. I can’t say I’d turn down advertising, but if I can get the three Patreons up high enough, it won’t be necessary. I’d rather have the latter.

Q: You don’t exactly look that feminine until you put on the makeup. Does that bother you?

R: It used to, but now, I couldn’t care less. My only real source of dysphoria is facial hair. I’m hoping to get the fuck rid of that as soon as possible. Other than that, I’m a tall girl with a strong jaw that’s been softening since I’ve been on hormones. Deal with it.

Q: Are you starting any new projects in 2017 besides what you listed?

R: I’ve been talking with Molly Un-Mormon about doing a new podcast. I seriously can’t wait to give that a shot!

Thank you, my lovelies!

Inciting Incident #12 – If You Don’t X, You Have a Girlfriend

I remember a few years ago, there was a meme being passed around. It had a typical redneck-looking guy with a beard and a shotgun (or some other kind of long murderstick, I don’t know the difference), and it said: Ladies, if your man can’t fire one of these, you have a girlfriend.

There’s another one which shows a guy in a hipster beard, and it says: If you have this beard but can’t change a tire… Shave.

Change out any pseudo-masculinity dickmeasuring cock substitute definition for manliness, and I’m sure you get the drift.

This is the kind of shit that makes me glad I don’t have to pretend to be cis or straight anymore.

Inherently on the surface, it seems harmless, right? Tough guy stuff means gotta step up and be tough and manly and rugged, lest ye be considered weak. But unpack that for a second: What that meme is saying is, if you don’t do this socialized masculine gender stereotype, you’re the opposite of a man in a way that associates you with the negative countertype, feminine. And that, of course, is the enemy of strength, courage, honor, and any other cliche that comes from firing loud things or having facial hair.

Sometimes people question the things I say about toxic masculinity, and I think it’s because they’re so used to seeing it that it doesn’t phase them anymore. Every society and civilization has had some form of a rite of passage for its male members, but at this point in time, this country is made up of such a diverse range of identites, interests, and personalities. This is a social equivalent of hating someone for liking Game of Thrones or NFL Sundays; it’s fucking insulting. “You don’t like the thing I see as manly, therefore you’re invalid.”

The first time I saw the gun one, I was still questioning. The meme was shared by someone who not only knew about me, but was rather supportive as well. I picked out the inherent flaw in that argument, especially pointing out that it indicated that having a girlfriend might be a bad thing. The response missed the point, something along the lines of “oh, but you know how to handle a sword. It should really mean handle any weapon.”

That’s not the point, and it never was. The point is that this competitive masculinity reaching the point of being the polar opposite if you don’t fit a certain narrow criteria of one particular set of society somehow renders you invalid, and that’s harmful on so many levels, even excluding the boutique transpeople like myself.

Even when I wasn’t questioning my gender, actively anyway, I never gave a shit about hunting, fishing, and most outdoorsy stuff. Despite being raised in an area where people get the Monday off after Thanksgiving to go hunting, it never interested me in the slightest. I was more interested in books and baseball. Yet if I’d ever worn my Albert Belle jersey out to the range and said, “ladies, if your man can’t swing a piece of lumber like my guy Belle here, you have a girlfriend,” I doubt I’d have left the range in one piece. Yet doing it the other way around for a niche section of society is perfectly valid because of where they live and who they know.

And that’s precisely why this bullshit has to stop.

This is what leads so many people to be afraid all the time. When they don’t fit in with the norms of people around them, they feel like they can either lie, hide, or risk alienation or worse. That’s no way for someone to live, and that kind of bullshit societal pressure needs to stop. Like what you like, and if other people do things that aren’t that “manly” thing you like, leave them the fuck alone.

If you’re really so insecure about your masculinity that you have to declare anyone else feminine and invalid, I seriously doubt the others are going to flock to you saying, “Oh, shoot this thing? That’s all I had to do to be valid to you? Gee thanks buddy, now we’re best friends and I’m super manly, ya wanna go skateboards?”

Inciting Incident Blog #11 – Holiday Bigot Apologetics

I wish I could get through one holiday season without reading a ton of horror stories about LGBT people having to go home and deal with their bigoted relatives, or even allies who just don’t want to deal with all that over the holidays. Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling super protective of my husband right now, so you’ll have to forgive me, but I am so sick and fucking tired of this bullshit.

I am seriously tired of shitty behavior being excused and validated by applying the “family” word to it. The apologetics are always broken out in defense of them. “Let it go.” “You know how they are.” “They were raised in a different time.” “Family only meets a few times a year.”

Why are they the ones allowed to have the filter off? I saw one of my Facebook friends today post a picture that their mother had in their house. It said: “Liberal free zone: No special snowflakes allowed.” The true meaning of Christmas, goodwill unto others, eh?

Allow me one minute to give a hearty “fuck you!” to that mother, and to anyone else who convinces themselves that this is reasonable behavior. We’re considered rude if we tell Uncle Steve to shut his fucking mouth, but if he starts quoting the Rush Limbaugh rant that made him once again see the errors of the evil queer ways and how they need to come to Jesus to forever steer away from their bathroom penis coke orgies, they’ll be magically cured and become legitimate human beings.

That’s bullshit, and that kind of shit has to stop. I haven’t gone through all the bullying, hazing, and pain in my life to have to deal with it from my own family, and nobody else should either. And the ones who know better are even worse, because they know it’s shitty behavior, and they know their loved ones are being hurt, but they excuse it on the pretense of social obligations around the holidays.

I can only imagine their heads blowing up if I had a sign in my house that said: “Apologize for your gender, cis scum!” or “Totally Queer Zone: No Fucking Drumpf Voters Allowed!” The outrage, indignity, and the phrase “War on Christmas” scrambled in somewhere could be heard over the next remake of the Christmas Carol, this time starring the Big Bang Theory guy doing a QUUUUUUUUIRKY version of Scrooge because isn’t mocking autism hilarious if they’re the good guys?

And if you choose not to go, be prepared for the ol’ gaslight guilt treatment. “Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of Gramma Susie’s opinion that I’m not a legitimate person because I don’t subscribe to her particular fairy tale in the way she likes, but I’m the asshole because I didn’t want to be told that I’m a faggot who’s going to hell again… Fuck me, right?”

We are not obligated to put up with your bullshit the other 363 days a year, so on the days when we’re supposed to be treating each other nicely, at least as social norms designate, it’s time to stop tolerating shitty behavior. We already elected a narcisstic bully as the President, so it’s going to be hard enough existing as an out LGBT person without having to be bullied by your own family. And if their version of keeping the peace is to excuse their behavior by telling you that we don’t have to agree about everything to be in the same room, rephrase what they just said back at them personalized instead of a vague platitude about the queers taking over Target or something.

“Gee Ma, I’d really love to come and hear Aunt Janet tell me about how cows don’t go to heaven unless they’re slaughtered by a cis straight white man who hates pride flags and uses them for target practice, but I’m not really a fan of being in the same room as people who consider me less of a person. Yeah, I know you all believe in Jesus, the guy who said love your family and your neighbor as yourself, and I guess I missed the part where if you identify differently or love someone else that you’re doomed for a lake of fire that this person who supposedly loves you is more than happy to condemn you to for existing, but I think I’d have a better time trying to find the one blade of grass in my yard that whistles in the same pitch as an Alex Jones rant, because that sounds more productive than having to be silent while you excuse my own family telling me that I’m not a human being because I don’t agree with them.”

Fuck you, fuck your bigotry, and fuck your tolerating intolerant apologetic bullshit. Fuck your guilt trips, fuck your gaslighting, and fuck your attempts at holiday peace by always giving in to the loud, bigoted bullies just because they’re the ones who yell the loudest and have to be the ones placated or they won’t come.

Maybe, for once, THEY can be the uncomfortable ones. Until then, I’ll have my queer-only holiday party and have a much better time, kthxbye.

Inciting Incident Blog #8 – Guilty Pleasures

Yesterday, I was sitting in a class that had an emotional discussion about guilty pleasures. in this context, I mean along the lines of, “you should like what you like” in reference to things that you know are bad but sometimes you need to just not think for a while. Real Housewives, reality TV, Eat Pray Love, stuff like that. It was a passionate debate, with my fellow classmates arguing that something that makes them happy shouldn’t be bad because it’s mindless, with the professor saying that the election of Trump means we have to pay attention to all these things now. I didn’t speak up because I hadn’t yet formulated my statement, but I think it’s something that’s worth delving into.

Our society is one of immediate gratification. It’s hard not to be, what with the instant access to information and entertainment at your fingertips. Our brains are functioning like they never had before, and it’s a scary combination of increased interest and compulsion. Leave your phone at home one day and see how long it takes for you to panic.

Immediate gratification, unfortunately, has a darker side to the concept. If we only focus on the immediate, we don’t see the context in which it thrives. All we’re focused on is the now: this is mindless garbage entertainment, but it’s an escape from having to think all the time. The life of a college student, I know as well as anyone, leaves us in desperate need of getting away for a while.

That, however, does not mean that these decisions do not have consequences. Nothing exists in a vacuum. That’s not to say that some guilty pleasures aren’t harmless, but it is to say that we have to look at the ramifications of having some of them all the same.

Take for instance the argument about garbage reality television. Does it hurt anything to like it, even knowing that it is, in fact, garbage? Not on the surface, probably not, but only if you look at it in the Now. What if we show the attachments of that tangled web that brings you trashy entertainment though?

First, there are only so many hours in a day, and only so much time to be delegated for purposes of entertainment. Budgets are not limitless, space is prioritized, and decisions have to be made on content and material. A view of Real Housewives may not seem like it has those attached, but that half hour you give to something is a half hour you’re not giving to artists. A decision that supports something mindless equally doesn’t support something that it could’ve.

Second, it’s impossible to say that our sources of entertainment say nothing about us. If you’ve ever heard that the five people you spend the most time with are the ones who influence you the most, entertainment has that kind of subconscious influence too. Besides reality TV being just as fake as anything else, most reality television is cruel, mean people treating other people like shit. It’s terrible human behavior, and the glorification of terrible human behavior, and the decision to find that as a source of entertainment, regardless of your reason, gives weight to more decisions to focus on more sources of entertainment like that. Andrew Torrez wrote recently that your vote is not a message, it only counts toward the initiative one way or the other. In a similar vein, entertainment sources don’t care if you’re watching ironically or from genuine interest, it counts as time spent. Your view is an endorsement, even if it’s out of hatred. That’s why I don’t mind getting hate mail and comments, as all I can really say is “thanks for the view!”

We all have things that we like that we shouldn’t. I watch The Room every Valentine’s Day, so I have no room to talk. But let’s not pretend that getting any kind of enjoyment out of them at all is an endorsement of that type of behavior and has consequences that run deeper than that half hour of mindless consumption.

We have to be able to expect better from each other and ourselves. Reality TV has been nothing but one long dose of Schaudenfreude, and whether or not the viewers become influenced by that kind of shitty behavior, our views nonetheless are an endorsement of it. Escapism is something we all need, but we can find better ways to fill that need than downright ugliness and cruelty to each other and ourselves.