Sweetened Suicide

I suppose that I am supposed to see it as a victory that trans* feelings are just another form of teenage angst, ready to be babbled about and fixed with a hug.  If this is true, then the teens of today will be able to explore gender non-conformity in a much less strife filled and intense way than queers of the past did.

As someone who never felt part of the norm, going to peer support groups and burbling about my nature, I have to admit that it all feels a bit odd to me.   The dark places that even my straight friends used to go, those Sylvia Plath and Camus places, seem to have been replaced by Facebook blurbs and indulgent YouTube babbling.

The power of suicide has been taken away by letting everyone have it, not just those with real scars and pumped stomachs.   Bringing the darkness into the light could be seen as a good thing, removing its power, but it leaves me with one question.

What about those of us who really do feel the darkness in the world and in our lives?    What happens when pleasant angst ridden teens see us as “just like them,” only needing a warm hug to feel more connected and seen?

Kinsey had a scale for sexual orientation from 0 to 6, where 0 was perfectly straight and 6 was perfectly queer.   Most people, of course, fall somewhere in the middle.   When sexual expression and gender norms were strictly enforced, it was only the 6s who actually came out, only the 6s who felt the urge to do it or die.

Now that the pressure is off, 5s and 4s and even 3s are coming out, for many reasons.   They just don’t have the intensity of 6s, with such a powerful drive that they will face real threats to claim themselves.   They have much less skin in the game, much less passion, much less passion.

The history of the queer movement is a history of going towards the mainstream, of barriers dropping in a way that allows more assimilation.

In some ways, of course, this is a good thing.   In other ways, though, it beats us a path towards mediocrity, towards banality which ends up marginalizing the very intense and driven people in a somewhat different way.   Their overwhelming intensity is seen as sickness, something to be tamed with medications and social pressure to be nicer, sweeter, less queer group members.

My personal stories of facing the kinds of challenge, having the kind of pressure that I have are almost incomprehensible to those coming out today.   When Kiki DuRane (Justin Vivian Bond) rages “Don’t Get Too Comfortable!” they can’t imagine what the hell she is on about.   Isn’t the goal always to be more cute, more assimilated, more comfortable?

It is easy to feel like a nugget of turd jewel at the food court in the mall when you hear the young people speak out in a way that doesn’t make the parents around them sweat very much at all.    I am aware how much I still bust boundaries even in the midst of a sea of sweet kids who like to call themselves genderqueer.

Just pulling out a poem written with intelligence and passion would seem like dropping your panties and urinating in front of the audience, a hellaciously rude gesture in the face of cherubic charm.

It amazes me how much passes by those who aren’t rubbed raw by chafing on social conventions.   The red flags and twisted thoughts just pass by people who are more focused on the cloying pudding than the toxic bits contained within it.  It’s all about comfort consumption, not holding the intense flavour as a memorable and potent moment.

When queer kids who actually kill themselves are explained to us by another kid who describes their darkest moment, their suicide attempt, as holding their face underwater for ten seconds until they claimed life, I suspect that the point has been missed.   Ask any kid who got a swirly for being too gay, their face held down in a toilet bowl until they believed they were going to drown.

The language of suicide has been co-opted by youth leaders who love statistics — “41% of queer youths have attempted suicide” — but who shrink from the real darkness and intensity that comes from needing to break free, break out or die.  This combination of political games and candy is understandable, but to me, it feels it devalues those whose queer darkness is still intense and palpable, the kind of energy that drove bold, transgressive and breathtaking art.

The rage of claiming has always been a driving force in adolescence and I am not at all sure that taming it in a permissive and politically correct world is a solution that leads to breakthroughs and excellence.  It all feels quite mushy, quite mediocre and quite dismissive to me, one step on the road to PowerPoint.

As a marketer, though, I get the LCD premise, trading the challenging and potent with the pleasant and digestible.  Adding sugar to taste has always been a strategy to expand market share.  My work doesn’t find an audience because it isn’t simple or easy.

Telling truth to power used to be a bold and energetic act, claiming your own in the face of oppression.   When telling that same truth now feels like taking a dump in the face of a bunch of sweet, kind liberal do-gooders, the energy is changed.   The push to give them just the expression they expect, to lace your bile with convention becomes overwhelming.

Scream FUCK! or be a sweet kid claiming niceness in the face of a few bullies.  I know which one is prettier and I know which one unleashes more power.

There are still 6s out there, filled with such amazing energy that they have to, have to, have to do or die.  I just hope they don’t get erased by the nice, clean 4s.

Story Bother

If no one is going to understand your story, is it worth all the bother to tell it?

As TBB feels more able to claim her own life after a decade and more of struggling to get it back, able to relax and follow her dreams of building and flying her own plane, she and I can recall the challenging twists and turns of her extraordinary life.

She’s been up and down and over and out and she knows one thing. Each time she found herself flat on her face, she picked herself up and got back in the race.

To TBB, that’s life.  To me, that’s an amazing story, worthy of song.   To her, though, she knows that people who haven’t been through what she has been through won’t understand the depths, the cost, and people who are facing the same things don’t want to hear her story unless she can give them a quick, easy shortcut.

Those blind spots are not just in straight people.   Even transpeople don’t want to have to engage the idea that the only way out of hell is through, that you have to actually do the work rather than just whining about the world or looking for a shortcut.

The stories of the real price of the journey are not what they want to hear, not what they can engage.   Anyone who is handicapped knows this process, where people just want to know that nothing is contagious and that we are OK now so they don’t have to engage our real struggle.  We become nice symbols, not messy stories.

If no one is going to understand your story, then why bother trying to tell it?

If no one is going to understand your story, does it even really exist in the world?