Posts Tagged ‘alternative’

Venus on Valentine’s.

February 14, 2009

necco-human-heart

(Crazy-Talented Nathan Sawaya’s Candy Heart, Care of 37 Days.)

Every February 14th, I become a bit (more) of a rare bird, being as I am, one of those few people who — all told — has fairly neutral feelings about Valentine’s Day.  To be fair, it’s more a balance of passions than actual neutrality:  My passionate adoration of Necco hearts balanced out by the irritation I feel when friends in relationships complain of the added expectations placed on them by the day.  Or the thrill of decorating a shoebox restored to balance by the annoyance when single friends whine about their incomplete lives, even though they were equally incomplete (or, cough, — not) last week, and it didn’t seem to matter. 

I made a few decisions this year, which located me more firmly as the Ambassador for an Alternative Valentine’s Day than I necessarily intended.  The first was an arm extended back into my childhood, when those candy hearts and shoeboxes were really all that mattered.  For starters, while running errands the other day, I made sure to pick up some cheap paper Valentine’s.  (The cheesier the better.  Although, I will admit that, unable to bring myself to the High School Musical level, I personally went with My Little Pony.)  Next, of course, is the grade school process of designating who gets which card, and (later today) delivering them.  I’ve decided to throw in some added randomness, by leaving a few in choice places, where I have no clue who will stumble across them, or when… Maybe someone will open a library book next August and discover a smiling pastel pony inviting that (s)he “have a rainbow day” — and maybe (s)he will smile.  Paper valentines, after all, can make remarkably good bookmarks.

Last night, my brother and I had a two-person housewarming for his new apartment, and I made sure to hand him his pink-and-purple “Friends Forever” pony card on the drive over.  He laughed and thanked me.  As it turns out, the woe-is-me single friends (even more so than the schmoopy lovebirds) had been getting to him as well.  What surprised me most was that, while giving props to my child-centered solution, he offered an alternative that can only be described (to his surprise, I’m sure) as thoroughly asexual.  His theory?  Valentine’s Day would not be the bane of our existence, honestly, if it were really about love.  If we could make the decision to really honor love, all love, on Valentine’s Day (if only for that day), it simply wouldn’t suck.  If it were equally about your love for your grandma, your love for your friends, your love for Dr. Drew Pinsky (cough), and your love for rock-climbing, and the point was to focus on, remember, maybe even acknowledge, all that love?  It would no longer suck harder than a vacuum.  So in honor of my bro, I propose this as alternative number two (which, fyi, can completely be integrated with my own inner-child-oriented solution): Think of the nine million different ways you could finish the sentence “I love __.”  And then go do something about that love.  Maybe you’ll finally write that fan-letter to Dr. Drew, or maybe you’ll take your grandmother rockclimbing.  If you refocus on love, and make your own rules, it’s bound to be a good time.  (Not to mention a thoroughly asexy one.)

In fact, NPR seems to be with me on this.  As I was decorating valentines (or was it doing my statistics homework?) the other day, I heard a thoroughly asexual story about a man basically playing The Bachelor, with one relatively simple twist: The twenty-five aspiring actresses who may or may not receive a rose?  … are actually significantly more than twenty-five languages, and this blogger/ bachelor is in search of his perfect linguistic match.  Told almost entirely in dating and romance rhetoric, the story –(which I can’t for the life of me find a link to) — was a well-crafted twist on how the mainstream media — (NPR can almost be thought of as mainstream at this point, right?) — conceives of love and the objects of our affection. 

Personally, I think re-focusing on fun and nonromantic love is likely to be more than enough to resurrect Valentines for us.  However, if you’re neither linguistically or childishly-oriented, and you’ve yet to make much progress on that list of 9 million “blanks” you love, I’ll leave you with three bonus Valentine’s options before I get back to decorating my shoebox.

  • Option #1: Love Your Body.  Care of the National Organization for Women (NOW), this option provides some ways for you to work against the onslaught of hate-your-body messages and act on a love rarely (if ever) included in the Valentine’s Day schema.
  • Option #2: International Quirkyalone Day.  Proof that my bro and I are not the first people to think these things, IQD calls for a “do-it-yourself celebration of romance, friendship, and independent spirit. It’s a celebration of all kinds of love: romantic, platonic, familial, and yes, self-love.”  Good times.
  • Option #3: V-Day.  For the activists out there, Valentine’s provides a great opportunity to reconnect with Eve Ensler’s “global movement to stop violence against women and girls.”  Seriously, do you need a better cause?

Now, I must return to my duties as an admittedly offbeat Goddess of Love.

Is It Worth It?

October 26, 2008

(A helpful reminder — care of teachushistory.org — that this ain’t the first revolution.)

For anyone out there wondering: Fagbug was a huge success.  We had nearly 50 people attend (significantly trumping our previous record attendance of seven), our academic dean apparently teared up talking with Erin, and Erin herself blogged that it was “one of the most powerful days” she’s had in awhile.  It was pretty powerful from my perspective, too.  The weeks leading up to last week’s two events haven’t been easy ones, as readers of this blog well know, and I’ve found myself asking the “Is it worth it?” question more often lately than I would like.  The sponsor for the GSA has apparently been asking a similar question (about whether she hurt me, in encouraging me to resurrect this group from the dead).  I don’t think either of us realized what we were taking on when we first set out to do this, and now that we have a better sense of the battle, we struggle trying to weight that against the tiny revolutions we’re seeing on campus, to determine which wins out: the progress or the pain.  And actually, more than the notion of taking something hurtful and turning it into something good, and more than the specific issues of hate crimes and homophobia, that question — “is it worth it?” — is what struck me, spending that Thursday with Erin.

One of the hardest things to grasp about Erin’s story is that its outcome (to the extent that it has one, yet), is so complicated.  Her own community, back in Albany, has largely turned against her.  Even as she gained support internationally, she was losing it back home.  The majority of the people leading the “boycott” against Fagbug were at one time friends of Erin, and if I remember correctly, 99% of the negative response has come from within the gay community, not the rest of society.  Watching the bits of her film that she shared with us, listening to her speak, and talking with her more personally throughout the day, I found myself wondering more and more whether she felt it had been worth it.  It was clear, despite her commitment to the cause, that what she’s done and continues to do has taken a toll on her, has worn her down in some regards, and it was hard for me to see that.  Although I hesitate to think I’ve been through anything close to what she’s experienced, I feel I can relate to some extent.  My choice to restart the GSA, like her choice to continue driving the Fagbug, has had some fairly serious and “uncomfortable” consequences, and as many reasons as I have to love my university, I often consider transferring almost solely because, as a queer person, I feel so out of place.  Each time, people push me to remember the positive changes I’m helping to enact here, but it’s difficult — sometimes — to believe that social progress is worth such personal loss.  Is it worth being tokenized, ostracized, misunderstood, or simply mis-fitted?  Is it worth having my college experience transformed, even partially, into a battle to drag my school kicking and screaming into the 21st century?  More often than not, when professors or staff here attempt to suggest I have a responsibility to stay and help the community progress, I shake my head and struggle to explain that isn’t what I set out to do.  I came to school for the same reasons anyone else would: to go to class, to learn, to meet people, to have a social network, to further challenge and become myself.  Revolution, with all its casualties and mess, was not on my to-do list.  So, is it worth it?  Is this revolution worth my loss?  Is Erin’s?  Or anyone’s?

More and more, what I realize — at least for myself — is that there’s no existant answer to that question.  The initial choice — to start the GSA, in my case — was a relatively long time ago, and many other choices (and unexpected consequences) have sprung out of it.  There’s no way to look back now and wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t done that, because so many “thats” have taken place.  I would have to break it down to every meeting, every person we’ve involved, every event we’ve held, every argument we’ve made about why to hold them, and further even than that, further than I can conceive here to dissect things.  Even if it were possible to imagine, clearly, what my life would be if I had done things differently — gone to a different school, re-closeted myself for college, been less vocal than I am — there’s no weighing the gains against the losses, life after against life before, or the university’s progress against my own sense of angst.

The more I think about it, the more I think my desire (or any “radical’s” desire) to second-guess such choices is a critique of the wrong issue.  I think what we’re experiencing, actually, is not the result of poor decisions, but a problem of poor alternatives.  As I told Erin after she left, as grateful as I am for what she’s doing, and as much as I admire her for keeping at it, it makes me sad that she’s been presented with a situation that calls for it.  It bothers me that there’s any reason for us to keep fighting this battle, to keep sacrificing our personal needs in favor of public ones, or ignoring public ones to take care of our individual selves (as we have every right to do.)  It’s not that the battle isn’t worth it; it’s that the issue isn’t worth being an issue.  Fighting homopobia is a valid cause, but continuing homophobia (for instance) is a mantle that should long since have been given up.  Until it is, the individual suffering that corresponds with a battle for change, has to continue.  The more I think about it, the more I realize it’s the problem, not our attempted solutions, that are really wrong.  For me, that’s reason to continue the fight, but it’s also reason to be vocal that this is a choice no one should have to make.  We should not live in a society that’s so divided, that presents us with choices like “college or social acceptance,” “community or increased awareness.”  Like any good multiple-choice test, we need that final option, that additional alternative marked “all of the above.”