20Gayteen Going Strong

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To quote a friend: “I’m gay so I’m contractually obligated to talk about Love, Simon.

Even if that’s true, I want to talk about it anyway. For all the reasons you might expect and several you might not.

Allow me to take us back to June of 2016: when I first picked up the book entitled Simon Vs The Homosapien Agenda. (Which is an amazing title I’m still bitter they changed in the movie adaptation.) I’d heard good things about this book, I was supposed to be meeting the author at Geekycon in a few months time, so I bought, read, and loved it. You can read my review here.

I did not know when I read the book that it would be picked up by a major film studio like Fox. I read a lot of queer lit. A lot of it is cute and relatable and fun. None of them, so far, had been made into major motion pictures. Into blockbusters. The gays had been sidelined into Indie films and that was the world we lived in.

Then came the announcement: this book was going to be a movie.

I was happy! I liked the book, I trusted the author. I thought it would be a good movie.

I did not realize at the time the scale this movie was going to be released.

I saw promos for this movie. On TV. On commercial breaks on the CW and VH1 and even professional wrestling. There were billboards and posters and signs in Time Square. This was a movie. About gays. And you were going to know about it.

This was honestly groundbreaking to me. Sure, there had been Glee which had reached a certain amount of mainstream commercial success but this was a film. This was a romcom. This wasn’t a tragic Brokeback Mountain deal where they’re gay but it’s sad the whole time. This was a normal, teen, coming of age movie where the MAIN CHARACTER is GAY and GETS A HAPPY ENDING. In Hollywood?! Unheard of.

I’m being 100% serious here: there is a theme in Hollywood referred to as “Bury your gays.” Where you can have gay characters but they must be a) nuetered, meaning they’re not allowed to be Actively Gay on screen (Think Eleven from House or Dr. Wong on Law and Order: SVU) and/or b) get a tragic ending. Look at Tara in season 7 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer back in 2003. Or poor Poussey in season 4 of Orange is the New Black. Literally right when Poussey gets a girlfriend she gets fridged. Typical.

We don’t get silly movies. We don’t get campy teen comedies. We never have.

But now we do.

Love, Simon (I still hate that title) was not like the book. It strayed so far from the book’s original plot, I sat in the theater hands fully covering my face because I did not know what was going to happen next. And I’d read the book twice. So I guess I can forgive the title change if there were changing the source material so much.

Some of them were good changes (I liked the addition of Ethan who was another gay kid in school Simon could be platonic friends with) some of them were neutral changes (I don’t know why Nora needed the hobby of cooking but okay no big) and some of the changes made me legitimately angry (there was no reason to write out Simon’s big sister Alice and Simon’s friends should have been groveling after abandoning him like that.) But, changes or not, this movie did what it meant to. It told a teen gay love story in mainstream Hollywood. Which is insane.

Sitting in that theater, I got emotional. Not because of what was happening on the screen (I liked the book better, I’m sorry.) but because of the full theater’s reaction to what was happening on screen.

I see movies by myself a lot. I don’t mind it – you don’t really need someone to sit quietly in a dark room with, right? And I mostly see movies with mostly empty theaters, which I actually prefer because I don’t want people near me. But on Friday, March 16th, I went with my sister to a crowded theater to see Love, Simon and the gasps and shrieks and laughter and clapping in the theater – from my sister, sitting next to me – were so…

It’s one thing to know people are excited for the stories and narratives that you like. I obviously know people like the same kinds of stuff I do. I have friends and people on tumblr who are all roughly excited about the same things as me. But it’s different when you’re surrounded by strangers who all lose their entire minds when the big gay kiss happens before their very eyes.

I’ve been told a lot growing up, and even now, that I can be A Bit Much. I get very excited, very passionate, about the things I like. The things I care about. The narratives and characters and stories I see myself in. I have been told more than once to shut up and stop talking about this thing because no one cares or wants to listen to me. Seeing people react to this movie was like validation. People do care. People get excited about things I’m excited about too.

But more than that: it wasn’t just gay white boys in that audience. Hollywood has been telling us since the beginning of motion picture that if it doesn’t star a straight white man, people can’t relate to it. The backlash against Ghostbuster (2016)  underscores that. Pushback against Get Out and Black Panther pushes the point further. We’ve always been taught to view the world through the lens of a straight white man, and if we don’t fit into that mold, try and fit yourself in, because you just can’t get general audience to relate to a not-straight, not-white, not-male protagonist.

Which is crap and has always been crap.

But this movie had audiences of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, skin colors, religions, whatever stoked out of their skulls when this gay white teenage boy got his happy ending. People were so happy to see the gay kid happy. And I teared up because that’s not a response gay kids usually get. That’s not an ending gay kids usually get.

And I’m thinking about all the gay children and preteens and teenagers who are going to grow up into this world with this mainstream piece of media as a shining light – as an example – of the story they can have. They don’t have to settle for a couple high-altitude f***s a year. They don’t have to lose their lover to a zombie or prison guard. They can get a kiss on the ferris wheel. They can have movies written for them.

Hayley Kiyoko, singer and queer icon, coined the moniker in a tweet on January first of this year.

And you know what? It is. It really is.

-JM

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RIP Stephen Hawking

This post is only tangentially related to social justice. It’s related in the same way a post about any marginalized person is related: the personal being made political and all that.

Stephen Hawking, legendary man of science, died today, March 14, at the age of 76. He died at 76 when is was predicted he wouldn’t even live to see his 25th birthday.

His work in theoretical physics insured his survival. His work in theoretical physics benefited from his ALS, leaving him free to explore alternative pathways and consider all options. There will never be a mind like Stephen Hawking again.

That isn’t to say that there won’t be similarly incomparable scientific minds. In fact, I hope scientists take Stephen Hawking as an inspiration: to find paths others wouldn’t.

And I hope other people with illnesses take inspiration. That there path may have changed but that just means they can go where others haven’t before.

And isn’t that exciting?

-JM

International Women’s Day 2018

Today I have, for you, a thing.

We’ve talked about the history of women’s fight for equality, intersectional feminism, identifying your white privilege in your feminism, and how to fight back under the current regime. All of these are pretty big concepts – pretty hard to contextualize.

This year, allow me to add some context in the form of an anecdote.

Since last posting, I’ve begun working at my local UPS store. I’m actually there right now! Everyone wave to my UPS store which is currently empty because students are on Spring Break. Excellent.

In this job, there are a lot of microaggressions directed at women. There are men who bring in a heavy box and ask me if I want them to move it for me because it’s kind of heavy (thirty pounds is not heavy, sir.) There are times a man comes in to ship something for his girlfriend showing little to no regard for the things he’s shipping (‘How much is this makeup worth? Nothing to me! Haha, I’m a man.’) And then there are men who, when I tell them something they don’t want to hear in regards to their shipment, insist on talking to my manager Allen. Note: I have two managers. Allen and Mary. No one wants to talk to Mary.

More than that, there are the names.

Nicknames, pet names, diminutives, whatever. This is always a problem in the service industry: customers feel entitled to call you ‘sweetheart’ or ‘honey’ or ‘girl’. When you’re a woman in an industry not known to be ‘for women’ it gets… exacerbated. I’ve had a customer give me a ‘good girl’ once. It was not fun.

Those, while unsolicited and not appreciated, are not at least intentionally cruel. Today, however, on International Women’s Day, someone called my manager Mary a not very nice name. Rhymes with ‘punt’.

She started telling me this story. Mary is not the most agreeable woman in the world – she’s older, conservative. Backwoods. She’s got the thickest Pensatucky accent I have ever heard.

My point is that when she says someone was rude to her on the phone, I believe it. Our customers are not understanding on the best of days and Mary certainly doesn’t make it better.

But she didn’t deserve to be called that.

I was already angry . But then she used the pronoun ‘he’ and I was immediately five times as mad.

Any time sexist language is used is bad. I don’t enjoy women calling each other sexist slurs either.

But a man doing it is completely unacceptable.

That man didn’t care it was International Women’s Day. He didn’t care about women at all.

You think that’s a stretch? You think, sure, he called this woman a terrible name when she was just doing her job, but that doesn’t mean he hates women. He has a mother, probably. Might have a girlfriend or sisters. How can I say he doesn’t care about women?

Easily. If you can’t show a certain level of consideration – a baseline of respect – for a woman you don’t know, how can you say you care about women as a whole?

I’m not talking about doing The Most. Holding open doors, carrying groceries, helping old ladies across the street. That’s more than anything I’m asking. All I’m saying is DON’T act like a horrible person. DON’T call women names. It’s that simple!

This should be a practice put into a place every day. But ESPECIALLY on a day that is supposed to be celebrating women.

If you’re thinking ‘But it was one time! Just a name! It’s not like he hit her.’

Okay, but how many times do you think she’s been called that name? Different names? Different microaggressions? (Have we done a post on microagressions yet? I don’t think so. I might get on that.) She shouldn’t have to deal with it ONCE but after all the years she has, you want her to just get over it?

No. Eff that. Be better.

Happy International Women’s Day.

-JM

Update on the MODs.

Well this is embarrassing.

I promise neither of us forgot about this blog. Really. Things have just been… kind of crazy.

Jessie B graduated undergrad and is working on her duel masters. Which is like… wowamazing. I’m so proud of her and how she’s killing it. But, unfortunately, with her school and internship and all of these amazing things she’s doing, that doesn’t leave much room for writing. She’s fallen off a bit. And we forgive her.

As for me – Jessie M – I can’t say I’ve been doing a much. I got a part time job in retail while I search for a big-girl job that actually utilizes my talents. I’ve also been doing a lot of fiction-writing which has been good for my soul but unfortunately not conducive to social justice writing. Unless it is. I’ve gone on several unstructured rants on my tumblr that I could potentially turn into blog posts… I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I realized today was International Women’s Day and that, therefore, means I must post on this blog that I saw how long it’s been since either of us has posted. I’m going to try and remedy that, maybe building in at least a post a week into my schedule. I’m sure I can manage that.

But anyway! Enough about us. I came here to post about International Women’s Day and that’s what I’m going to do!

Sorry if you missed us but we (or at least I with probably pop-ins from Jessie B) am back!

-JM

Guys, Gals, and Non-Binary Pals

Happy Trans Visibility Day!
*blows party blower*

Please check out my post from last year, as it establishes that I, as a cisgender person, am not the final word on any of this. I just like to bump the voices of people saying important things.

I’m like Darius:

But! Even though I can’t really talk about the experience of being trans, since I haven’t had that experience and don’t know much about it, I can talk about something else I know: media!

*gasps of shock from the crowd*
Yes, I know, very outside my usual wheelhouse, but I’m trying something new.

As with most posts involving media I write on this blog, I will echo this statement: Representation matters. I’m not going to delve too much into this, as I talk about it literally all the time, so I’m just going to feature some creators and content that normalizes trans identity in media.

Now, I don’t want to get into the history of trans identity or ancient Egyptian trans mummies (which totally exist)* because that’s a post for another time and this is supposed to be light-hearted and about the present. So.

I don’t have to list the most visible trans personalities in the world right now (Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, Caitlin Jenner) but here is a trans author I like, Katie Rain Hill, reading things she wrote when she was a kid. It’s Jonas Brothers fanfiction and I love her.

That loud “YES!” after she says ‘Jonas Brothers’ is me. I was very excited.

Chris Colfer’s new Young Adult novel, Stranger Than Fanfiction, features a trans protagonist! You can read my review of the book here. Or just buy the book yourself, I’m not your mom.

We all know how I reacted to Alex Fierro in Rick Riordan’s novel, The Hammer of Thor.

And there are so many youtube and social media personalities encouraging people not to assume gender!

From this vine:

To Thomas Sanders ending every vlog with “Take it easy guys gals and non-binary pals.”

Trans identities are accessible in media now more than ever. And we can only improve from here!

-JM

*Please excuse my lack of sources, I’ve tried looking, but I’ve literally been writing this blog post for five hours and I’m tired. I would never lie to you guys though, I swear.

A Return to International Women’s Day

Well.
We certainly are in a different place than we were last year, aren’t we?

I guess, first of all, happy first birthday to this blog! It seems crazy we’ve been going at it for a whole year. But, seeing the posts we made on this day last year, it certainly gives us an opportunity to reflect.

Everything Jessie and I said last year still applies: we still need more inclusive feminism, we still need more visibility, we still need to know more about women’s struggles in history. This year, we also have the additional struggle of our current POTUS.

Last year I praised Barack Obama’s outreach and empowerment.
This year we have an orange lizard man in the white house, elected after numerous accusations of sexual assault primarily by white women.

Things are different. Morale is low.

But! Since last year, we’ve also had the Women’s March, the largest outpouring of feminine support the world has ever seen. We’ve had the United States’ first ever female presidential candidate nominated by a major party, even if she didn’t win. The movie Hidden Figures spotlighted remarkable women of color and was a huge smash at the box office. lnhan Omar became the first Somali-American Muslim woman elected to a state legislature with her victory in Minnesota. Young women and girls everywhere are learning that there is no limit to what they can do and they are taking this with gusto, flooding the STEM fields with women and running for their local government to make sure their voices are heard.

Yes, congress is trying to repeal Roe v. Wade and repeal the healthcare that allows women accessible birth control. Yes things are horrifying with a rapist in the oval office. Yes it feels less like we can trust white women since an unbearable amount voted against their own favor and especially against the favor of non-white women.

But we can stand together and continue to make change. We can continue to educate and protest and chip away at this gender bias. We are not defeated yet.

Happy International Women’s Day.

-JM

Magnēt-no

Screenshot 2017-03-06 at 9.25.58 PM

Something we haven’t really covered much on this blog: anti-semitism.

The only reason for that is we, or at least I, think it’s pretty obvious. Nazis are bad. We try and cover subjects we feel don’t get very much coverage or recognition, you know what I mean? Representing the voiceless, those lessons we had to unlearn from elementary school about how Christopher Columbus was a rad dude and white people invented everything except peanut butter. But you learn in elementary school all about the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing. A 13 year-old could tell you that Nazis are bad.

And yet-

You don’t need me to tell you about the rise of the alt-right and increased swastika graffiti and the vandalism of that Jewish cemetery in Philly. You probably already know about Shia Labeouff’s art installation “He Will Not Divide Us,” a live-stream in New York that was supposed to run for the entirety of the current presidency, and how it had to be taken down because there was too much anti-Semitic harassment and it was becoming unsafe. You know about the bomb threats and the punching of Richard Spencer. Punching a Nazi: as American as apple pie. So American, Superman has done it. So American, Captain America has done it.

And yet-

You might not even need me to tell you about comic book writer Nick Spencer (no relation to Richard that we know of), and how, back in May 2016, he released Steve Rogers No. 1 – a comic that revealed to us Captain America had been working for Hydra (a Nazi organization) all along. You might already know about the backlash and the criticisms and actual Captain America Chris Evans being distraught.

But what you might now know is that Nick Spencer has DONE IT AGAIN!

But this time, instead of taking this nice gentile Golden Boy and turning him rotten, this ‘writer’ has taken Marvel’s staple Jewish character, the one that survived the literal holocaust, Erik Lehnsherr or Magneto, and made him a member of Hydra.

There is no literary value in this! There was no literary value in Hydra-Cap, either. It’s shock value. It’s pandering to the grim-dark fanboys. It’s disgusting and terrible story-telling.

I didn’t write at all about the Captain America thing back in May because it already seemed like everyone was talking about it. I didn’t cover it on here because it already seemed pretty well covered. And maybe it’s because the news only broke about Magneto twelve hours ago, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is particularly bothered. Which makes no sense.

Erik is Jewish. Erik escaped Auschwitz. If Steve couldn’t be Hydra because he was an allegory to fight Nazism back in the day and was created by Jewish writers, then Erik definitely couldn’t be Hydra because he was an actual victim of nazi power. It’s not science!

Maybe it’s because Magneto is a villain. Maybe it’s because Magneto’s villainous creed includes his own form of ethnic cleansing by way of a genocide of all non-mutants. This still doesn’t mean he’s a Nazi and definitely doesn’t make it okay to sensationalize the Nazi movement, especially in today’s social climate.

Comic books are important. They have a historical significance that rivals newspapers, because comics were accessible to kids and kids were the ones the built the future. These characters have a historical significance that is just being spit on and disrespected for no other reason than a guy seeing an opportunity to drop some jaws. That’s not art. That’s not entertainment. And anyway, shouldn’t the support of an already oppressed people be worth more than that?

In today’s climate, with anti-semitism becoming more and more prevalent, is now really the time to try and be edgy by making traditionally anti-nazi characters nazis?

-JM