Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Social Issues Archive

Wednesday

1

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

Avengers: Endgame’s Gay Moment Is an Insult to the Notion of Progress

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Social Issues

Note: This article contains minor spoilers for Avengers: Endgame

Like many, I enjoyed Avengers: Endgame. The movie was a well-executed send-off to the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, directors Joe & Anthony Russo decided to include a moment of seeming LGBTQ inclusion that highlighted the broader diversity issue that has hovered over the MCU for much of its existence.

If you missed Endgame’s gay character, it’s probably because he wasn’t on the screen for very long. The character, nameless in the film, appears in the grief counseling session with Captain America, where he mourns the loss of his lover. This character just happens to also be played by Joe Russo himself, an openly gay man. The MCU’s first cinematic gay character (there have been a few on TV) appeared via blink-and-you-miss-it cameo.

What are we supposed to celebrate about that? Joe Russo gave a lengthy explanation to Deadline, saying, “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them.” Apparently, the “somewhere” in this broad multi-film landscape is more in the vein of Where’s Waldo than as a matter of genuine, thoughtful inclusivity.

Russo also added that, “It is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel Universe moving forward is its focus on diversity,” perhaps highlighting the core issue with this creative decision. He’s correct to note that Marvel has made significant improvements on the diversity front. It was only last year that we got Black Panther, the MCU’s first film with a predominantly black cast. It’s only been a few months since Captain Marvel became the first in the MCU to have a female lead.

While it’s clear that Marvel is becoming more inclusive, how much praise Disney deserves for that is an entirely different question. Black Panther and Captain Marvel are the eighteenth and twenty-first entries in the series respectively. It’s hard to call Marvel trail-blazing when it took that long to cast someone other than a white man in the lead role. Now isn’t really “a perfect time,” as Russo notes, considering the rather needlessly long route Disney took taking diversity seriously.

Russo’s sense of self-gratification for his cameo appearance as a nameless sad gay man comes across strikingly tone-deaf for a franchise that hasn’t found space for a single other LGBTQ character in its near-two dozen films. It is, quite literally, the least he could do while still being able to say he did anything at all. The idea that this moment should receive praise is utterly laughable.

It would be unfair to suggest that Joe Russo alone could force Disney to add an inclusive superhero against their will. The Russo brothers may be responsible for directing a few of the most profitable films in history, but that doesn’t mean they have complete autonomy over their work. Joe Russo’s personal success is a great story for the LGBTQ community at large and it’s a good thing that people like him occupy positions of power in a place like Disney.

Simultaneously true is the notion that Joe Russo has not brought meaningful LGBTQ inclusivity to the MCU, at least not yet. The best he could do from his great position of power is to include himself in a throwaway cameo appearance. We can understand why these circumstances exist, but we shouldn’t celebrate these pathetic attempts at forward motion either.

Massive corporations like Disney forces LGBTQ fans to embrace a culture that fundamentally rejects the normalcy of our existence. I’ve visited Disneyland over a dozen times this year, treated with respect by their staff on almost every single occasion in that timespan. It is one of my favorite places on the planet earth, and yet that’s also a place where I can’t find a single character who looks like me, a transgender woman in a homosexual relationship.

Of course, I don’t have to support a corporation that does stuff like this. I could divorce myself from a mass culture that projects inclusion through events like “Magical Pride,” but keeps LGBTQ characters locked away, the storytelling equivalent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I hardly belong to the only marginalized group that’s been shunned by Disney over the years.

I could let my inner Disney princess go and move on with my life, but I also genuinely believe that popular culture matters. These stories make profound impacts on people’s lives, from children to adults. Look at the reactions to Endgame. People weep in theatres over the loss of fictional characters. There is, in fact, magic in the air.

Movies like last year’s Love, Simon, distributed by a studio recently bought and shuttered by Disney, are important because they help show a generation of LGBTQ youth that there’s nothing wrong with who they are. Gay kids deserve stories that empower them, not ones that try and ignore their very existence. Cameos like Russo’s only seek to shed light on Disney’s failure in this regard.

There will come a day, likely in the next few years, when the MCU finally features a gay superhero. Such a moment will undoubtedly be cheered as progress, just as Joe Russo wishes to celebrate Avengers: Endgame’s gay moment. Disney didn’t introduce a single noteworthy gay character in the first twenty-two movies of the MCU. Anything above that is a step forward, but that doesn’t change the embarrassing legacy of Marvel’s pathetic effort at LGBTQ inclusion. Table scraps aren’t a cause for celebration.

Share Button

Monday

15

April 2019

0

COMMENTS

John Boyne’s Lazy “Support” For Transgender Rights

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Social Issues

The letters that make up the LGBTQ community suggest a sort of unity among the various gay & gender diverse subsections. This of course, puts aside the fact that a white cisgender gay man lives a fundamentally different experience than a transgender woman of color. Intersectionality is vital toward understanding that while we may all be part of the same umbrella term, each of us faces different levels of inequality.

Irish author John Boyne, a gay cisgender man, has recently written a novel titled My Brother’s Name is Jessica about a boy who discovers that his sibling has a gender identity different than the one assigned at birth. One could take umbrage with the title, which misgenders a transgender woman, or the idea that Boyne is writing about transgender issues despite not being transgender, but perhaps more concerning is an op-ed Boyne recently published. The piece which decries the use of the word “cis” in its title, defends tennis star Martina Navratilova for comments she herself has apologized for, and equivocates on the bigotry of TV writer turned obsessive anti-trans keyboard cowboy Graham Linehan among other things is far more concerning.

The word cisgender has been used by the scientific for decades despite Boyne’s claim that it’s “given by trans people to their nontransgender brethren.” In fact, “cis” draws its origins from Latin, meaning “on this side of,” to refer to people whose gender identity matches the sex they were designated at birth. “Cis” is to gender identity what “straight” is to sexuality. It’s kind of a clunky word, one that I criticize in The Transgender Manifesto, but thankfully for cisgender people, society at large doesn’t really expect them to use it very often, almost always in relation to transgender people.

Naturally, “cis” has received backlash from many anti-transgender people, who created the #cisisaslur hashtag to protest the scientific term. Boyne seems totally on board with this mentality, writing, “I don’t consider myself a cis man; I consider myself a man.” On the surface level, one can kind of see his point, cis being an unnecessary term that doesn’t fundamentally change the way society views him. Trouble is, this mentality perpetuates the notion that cisgender is the “default setting.” It’s not fundamentally any different from a white man demanding that no one refer to him as white or a straight person insisting that people only refer to them as normal.

Similarly tone deaf is Boyne’s defense of Navratilova. Navratilova, seen for decades as a champion of gay rights, published an op-ed in The Times where she referred to transgender athletes as “cheats” and regarded the very notion of allowing them to compete as “insane.” Navratilova later apologized for her remarks after being dropped as an ambassador for Athlete Ally, an LGBTQ nonprofit.

Boyne presents Navratilova’s narrative as something completely unworthy of criticism, writing, “For anyone to suggest that a person of her courage is phobic about anything is to deliberately ignore her history.” Such a mindset presents a strange either/or scenario. Navratilova has quite obviously been a champion of gay rights, but that doesn’t change the prejudiced nature of her mentality toward transgender athletes who are frequently portrayed as imposters seeking to game the system. The recent media obsession with transgender athletes ignores the fact that not a single transgender athlete has competed in the Olympics since the IOC started permitting trans athletes back in 2003. While anti-transgender pundits frequently warn of a transgender take-over in sports, they seem decidedly unsure of when such an invasion is actually going to occur.

It’s one thing for Boyne to continue supporting Navratilova, an iconic tennis star and someone who has done a lot of legitimate good for gay athletes, but such praise does not need to diminish the hurtful words that she rightly issued an apology for. Boyne’s words talk over the transgender community who face plenty of discrimination in sport, and pointlessly attempt to frame transphobic comments as something other than bigoted. A person who cared about intersectionality might have left well enough alone, but Boyne felt the need to chime in on a matter than didn’t call for comment from a gay man completely unaffected by her words.

Boyne’s reaction to his op-ed has further perpetuated the idea that he doesn’t actually care about the transgender community he writes about. Boyne tweeted that he would engage with comments that weren’t “rude” or “aggressive” but most of his replies were aimed at people praising him, including a few anti-transgender accounts.

My own reply, which received over a hundred likes, went unanswered.

 

This wouldn’t be much of an issue if Boyne hadn’t found the time to apologize to noted obsessive transphobe Graham Linehan for including him in the op-ed. Linehan. Oddly enough, Boyne’s apology was later deleted, preserved by screenshot.

 

The idea that he made time for Linehan, who tried to strip funding for a transgender children’s charity and has been warned by the police for anti-transgender harassment among other things, suggests that Boyne doesn’t have much regard for the community he spends his time writing about. Anyone wondering where Linehan’s heart is located doesn’t need to look further than his Twitter feed.

I can get that Boyne is upset about the reaction to his op-ed. No one like to feel piled on, but instead of introspection, Boyne has instead dug into the notion that his critics are merely rude or aggressive. Such tone-policing ignores the broader issue, that Boyne’s words were misguided, hurtful, and ignorant of a community he’s currently attempting to represent in his own work.

Intersectionality reminds us of the importance of engaging with people whose perspective differ from one’s own. Boyne doesn’t seem to care to engage with the transgender community over his comments or his book. A man who displays more concern for the critics of transgender people than the community itself is probably not the best person to be dramatizing our lives in novels. His lazy concern for trans rights has no place in the public discourse, a pathetic attempt to monetize a group of people he otherwise demonstrates nothing but disdain toward.

Share Button

Tuesday

13

November 2018

0

COMMENTS

Transgender Storytime: The Rules of Attraction

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Transgender people have their lives policed in countless ways, from agency over our own bodies to the perception that our presence in places of public accommodation puts an undue burden on others. We see this narrative played out time and time again, despite the utter lack of evidence to support the idea that transgender people, or the act of transitioning itself, present some existential threat to society at large. The idea of “lesbian erasure,” a term used by anti-trans extremists to justify their bigoted behavior, even in the absence of any coherent definition, stands out as particularly absurd.

The subject of attraction to transgender people remains a popular talking point, even in the relative mainstream. Victoria’s Secret Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek has created quite a stink for a number of hateful comments about transgender and plus sized people, suggesting that his brand is “nobody’s third love, we’re their first love.” The implications that transgender people are only desirable in a secondary capacity to the rest of the eligible dating pool is persistent, dangerous, and quite untrue.

What are the laws that govern attraction? The question doesn’t lend itself to an easy answer, no matter how many think pieces are written about why human beings feel the way they feel. I can tell you that there’s certainly not some kind of caste system, where people are ranked by their relative attractiveness in order to match with similarly tiered companions. Life doesn’t work like that, even if some people think it should for transgender people.

No doubt, there are systematic prejudices in place that make it harder for transgender people to date. Many people subconsciously write off trans people as partners because of the discrimination we’ve faced throughout recorded history. Such thinking seems to be what people like Razek have in mind when they suggest that transgender people cannot be part of someone’s fantasy, putting aside the success of numerous transgender models and the immense popularity of transgender pornography. Obviously transgender people are part of many people’s fantasies. Not exactly a leap to suggest that transgender people would then be naturally part of some cisgender people’s dating considerations as well.

The origins of nonsense like “lesbian erasure” stems from this strange mentality that outside of dating fellow trans people, we can only find love by forcing ourselves onto cisgender people. That idea is stupid, and certainly not rooted in reality. You can scroll through hundreds of transgender social media accounts for evidence of perfectly happy relationships. I myself am in a wonderful committed relationship.

Do these relationships suggest that our partners tried options one and two before settling on a transgender alternative, as Razek suggests? That question might seem silly, trying to apply an exact science to a completely inexact process, but that’s the point. We don’t typically ask people if they came to love their partner only after seemingly superior options were pursued. Love is never supposed to seem transactional in nature.

Transgender people deserve a chance to love and be loved in an environment that isn’t constantly suggesting malfeasance when one of us actually finds happiness. Contrary to what many in the media think, a lot of us are doing perfectly fine in the dating department. Coming out is a process of accepting yourself on the inside before presenting that truth on the outside, to the world around you. It should come as no surprise that those who have embarked on that journey make viable partners, individuals who know how to love in part because they lived for so long without loving themselves. That kind of self-love comes organically, unlike say, the kind that stems from an article of clothing purchased from Victoria’s Secret. Maybe that’s why the company is so detached from reality.

Share Button

Sunday

21

January 2018

1

COMMENTS

Transgender Storytime: Electrolysis Woes

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Transitioning changes your life in many ways, both on a grand scale as well as the smaller stuff. For transwomen, facial hair represents an obstacle that requires attention on a daily basis. I used to be a big fan of night showers, but the stubble presents a constant roadblock best dealt with in the morning hours. I’ve recently started electrolysis treatments to end this war between follicle and razor once and for all.

Electrolysis is the process of permanent hair removal by electrocuting the base of the hair follicle, destroying it at its root. Essentially tweezing using a cattle prod, or destroying a Death Star by firing a proton torpedo through an exhaust port. Not fun.

The hour-long zapping sessions aren’t really the worst part of the experience either. In order for the process to be successful, there needs to be enough hair growth for the cattle prod to be able to tweeze, a conduit that allows the mother lode to reach its target. Given that my hair growth has slowed due to HRT, I need to abstain from shaving for about four days prior to treatment.

In order to speed up the process since, I’ve been doing two sessions a week, usually on consecutive days. Each session only covers a small area of growth, and most follicles need more than one session before permanent removal is achieved. To sum up, this process is painful, expensive, lengthy, and requires me to be unshaven for most of the week. Oddly enough, that last one has been the worst part of the experience.

The whole “transition” element in this journey can be a bit of a misnomer in the sense that while many of the physical aspects of my body are changing from male attributes to female, it isn’t really this Pokemon-style evolution. I am female and go about day to day to life as such, with breasts that would be difficult to hide, if I ever wanted to. There is no “boy on some days, girl on others,” even when I’m wearing ratty old clothes I owned before this journey started. Since coming out and undergoing HRT, the feelings of gender dysphoria have almost entirely subsided. I can be myself.

Facial hair makes feeling like myself much more difficult. It’s why it gets shaved off in the morning, or zapped with a cattle prod so it can’t come back. Facial hair is not welcome in my life, yet it gets to cohabit my face with the few makeup products I can use that won’t irritate the areas that have already been treated.

To set the image, Ian in a dress with blush, mascara, shadow, eyeliner, and a load of stubble and patchy skin. Charming isn’t it? That’s the new normal for the foreseeable future. I’m only on session six, and we haven’t even gotten to the chin yet. Whole neck area to deal with, plus additional touchups for the areas with surviving follicles.

I’ve never been too concerned with the concept of “passing,” which is one of many reasons I kept my birth name. My life is spent in accordance with my own comfort, not with an arbitrary set of societal guidelines dictating the person I’m supposed to look like. I am an unapologetically proud transgender woman.

And yet, I feel bad being in public with stubble on my face. I hate it. My version of “passing,” or whatever you call it, does not involve facial hair. You get a certain look, however subtle, from Starbucks baristas when you say “Ian” for the order, or bartenders when you hand over your ID. I could change that, by changing my name, but I don’t because that doesn’t bother me. Facial hair does bother me. It has no part in the future I envision for myself, even if it currently plays a larger role in my present that I would like. There will come a day when it doesn’t, and I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I can undergo this expensive treatment.

I want to make the intentions for this article very clear, in case comments pop up accusing me of whining about my situation. This has nothing to do with wanting to vent or complain. I accept that, for the next few months or so, my face will not look the way I like it to look for most of the week.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. It does suck. The kind of suck that is in service to a greater good, but is still a kind of suck.

The feedback I tend to receive the most comes from allies who urge me to keep being vocal with these uniquely transgender experiences. There are plenty people out there who genuinely believe that transgender people are a bunch of phonies who live this way to fulfill a fetish or to become internet celebrities. I didn’t write this article for them.

Self-esteem is a lifelong process. Transgender people often face a steep learning curve in that realm, as feeling trapped in the wrong body tends to not be very helpful toward establishing one’s own sense of worth. Transitioning marked the beginning of a journey that sought to correct that error. The act alone cannot be the sole solution.

Temporary facial stubble does not make me depressed. Part of the benefits of undergoing HRT is that it puts your mind in the position of being able to differentiate the shitty parts of life from the catastrophically horrific. Not being able to shave falls under the former category and that’s okay. A girl with visible breasts is allowed to be annoyed that she has to walk around in public with prickly little hairs sticking out of her face. That sucks, and that’s okay.

Share Button

Saturday

19

August 2017

14

COMMENTS

That Time Uber Kicked Me Out for Being Transgender

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Transitioning in Southern California has been a mostly positive experience. Despite the Republican Party’s efforts to scapegoat transgender people for the nation’s problems, life generally goes on without anyone trying to give me a hard time. That is, until I got in an Uber.

The incident happened early Friday morning at 1:30 am. I was traveling with a friend from Sunset Boulevard, where we’d seen a concert, to her apartment close to USC. From there, I planned to take a separate Uber back to my apartment in Long Beach.

Being a popular night to go out, it wasn’t difficult to find an Uber for either trip. The second Uber pulled up to my friend’s apartment less than five minutes after we’d exited the first. I got into the backseat, excited to be in my own bed in a short period of time.

The driver seemed flustered from the moment I walked up to the car. He grew flustered as I said hello, his breath making heavy sounds. He put his foot on the gas, but stopped about two hundred feet or so down the road and abruptly said, “Actually, I’m not going that far.” His tone displayed both firm aggression and clear discomfort, speaking fast while continuing to take heavy audible breaths.

This puzzled me, as Long Beach is not generally considered far from USC, especially with no traffic at that time of the day. The eventual trip, with Lyft, took 24 minutes. I’ve lived in the LA area for two years and have never met anyone here who would consider 24 minutes a long period of time to spend in a car. It’s also unclear why an Uber driver who appeared to only want to make trips shorter than a 24 minute duration would select a trip out of the 90007 zip code.

I replied, “Okay, but Long Beach isn’t really far at all.” At this point, he said, “Get out faggot,” speaking in a similar sharp and aggressive tone. As I opened the door, he added, “Fucking tranny.”

There I was. Kicked out. The street was not very well lit. It was late. My friend hadn’t even gone inside her apartment yet, so I did not feel particularly unsafe, except for the fact that I’d been kicked out onto a city street at 1:30 am while an Uber driver hurled derogatory insults at me. That part sucked.

The driver did not cancel the ride. He kept driving for a few blocks, racking up a $5.35 charge in the process. The real trouble with this is that it prevented me from being able to call a different transport, though fortunately there are competing companies. This really could have been a dangerous situation, if he’d driven a few more blocks before his disgust for LGBT people overwhelmed him.

I made it home okay. A Lyft driver came, who somehow managed to make the “long” 24 minute drive back to Long Beach without using any homophobic or transphobic slurs. I reported the Uber driver as soon as I was able to, describing that I’d been kicked out and that the driver had used multiple derogatory insults.

It took about an hour for Uber to respond on the app. I’d also tweeted about the incident, including Uber’s handle, which earned a response in a little under 40 minutes. Uber asked for my e-mail via DM, which I provided.

Uber’s response in the app noted, “Sorry to hear about the experience you described on this trip. We will be reaching out to the driver to investigate this matter and take appropriate actions.” Does that sound like a company that’s actually going to do anything? The message indicated no intent to follow up with me.

I returned to Twitter to voice my displeasure at their indifference, especially since Uber had sent a mass e-mail titled “Standing up against hate,” earlier that day, vowing to “act swiftly and decisively to uphold our Community Guidelines.” You’d think a company taking that strong a stand against Neo-Nazis would want to find out all the details regarding an incident where their own driver was accused of using hate speech. Guess not.

An Uber representative, named Rolando, did leave a voicemail expressing an interest in hearing what had happened. Rolando did not return my voicemail indicating when I’d be available, which included the entirety of his remaining shift that day, and closed down our message thread, preventing me from replying further. Rolando also included the rather presumptuous, “I am hopeful that your next trip with Uber is as hassle-free as it should be,” as if it was a given that a person who’d experienced that kind of hate from their service would ever use it again. One thing is clear, Uber does not actually want to hear from me. I told them I was writing this article and wanted to talk. It would have been easy to do so.

Uber’s “Report an issue with this trip” section doesn’t actually have a feature that allows you to report a trip that didn’t actually happen. You’d think it would, since this sure seems like a major reason people would contact Uber looking for a refund, but apparently not. The closest comparable option under the “I would like a refund” section is “Someone else took this trip.” The difference might look like one of semantics, except the issue isn’t really that “someone else took this trip.” The trip didn’t even happen at all.

Uber has a lot of problems lately. That corporate rot appears to infect the whole tree from the top to the bottom, the roots through the trunk, all the way to the branches. I don’t write this account because I’m hurt by what happened. I’m not, but I’ve been devastated in the past when people have attacked me with that kind of language. It has taken me years to get to a place where I can brush it off as a petty attack by an equally petty person. The suicide rate for transgender people is many times higher than the general population. That situation could have ended up very badly, very easily, given the circumstances. That is not okay.

Uber is a bad company run by bad people. There are too many red flags to ignore. Companies like Uber talk a big game when events like what happened in Charlottesville occur, putting out memos pretending to care. That’s all it is. Pretend. Uber doesn’t care about bigots. It just doesn’t want you to know that.

Share Button

Wednesday

5

July 2017

1

COMMENTS

About That Footnote

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

If you picked up a copy of my latest book, June: A Month in Characters, you may have noticed a footnote where I revealed that I am a transgender woman for the first time, at least in publicly available writing. The idea that this sort of news is not typically addressed via footnote led me to pen this article as well, addressing said “announcement.” I’ve been in the process of transitioning for about a year now so I’m hardly an expert on the subject, but that’s kind of what transitioning is supposed to mean.

Coming out has always been a strange concept for me. The truth is, I am out. Many people here in California know this detail of my life. There are plenty of people who don’t know I’m transgender, either on social media or my native East Coast, but I resisted the urge to make a “I’m transgender” post for a few reasons.

The whole coming out to friends and family conversation is horrible and I hate having it. Not because it’s negative, but rather because it’s awkward and fairly monotonous. You’re guaranteed to get a few of the following responses:

“I’m so proud of you.”

“I’m so happy you can be yourself.”

“You must feel so relieved.”

“Thank you for confiding in me.”

“I’m honored that you felt comfortable telling me.”

Often followed by various awkward questions. Granted, these are things people are supposed to say, are sweet and supportive comments to say to someone going through a major change, and are way better than, “I now hate you, we can’t be friends anymore because you’re mentally ill,” but those two outcomes weren’t my only options. I’m a huge fan of the third option, where the conversation doesn’t happen at all and I get to go about my day not having discussions about my gender identity. I appreciate the support and all the kind words, but it’s a less daunting journey than you’d imagine. At least compared to the arduous task of keeping up the façade.

I refused to accept the idea that not explicitly mentioning my gender identity on social media mattered. Such an idea gave the whole concept of social media way more power than I felt comfortable giving it. What matters is how I feel about it. I feel great. It’s not as if I posted trying to “act male,” whatever that means.

There are plenty of people close to me who will find out this news for the first time via this post. If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a huge fan of that conversation and I’d grown pretty tired of having it. I’d apologize, but that also means you didn’t find out from the book which probably means you didn’t buy it. Shame on you!

I chose a footnote because it innocuously got it out there, on the record. It’s done. The footnote and this blog post are the so-called “big reveal.” Ian Thomas Malone is a she, and also keeping her birth name. I’ve grown attached to it over the years. Plus, people have told me time and time again that it’s a great author name. Never, it’s a great male author name. I understand that this is pretty guaranteed to cause confusion down the road, but I’m happy to explain when the time comes. That’s what words are for.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of things I wouldn’t change about this rollout. I waited longer than I would have liked to write this post if I could go back and do it all over again. Months ago I made the decision to wait until I started HRT, which I began in May. That proved problematic due to some unfortunate doctor’s visits and the sad state of the American healthcare system, but that finally happened and all is well.

It seems silly, almost painfully obvious, to suggest that my career and my gender identity are two separate things or that transitioning isn’t a process that occupies my thoughts 100% of the time. There have been plenty of days where I’ve wondered if anyone would care about my work after the news dropped, with that tidbit of my life instantly becoming the singular notable detail of my existence. I’m proud of who I am, but the idea of being labeled as the “trans author,” or really any labels for that matter. I’m sure Mark Hamill loved playing Luke Skywalker, but didn’t appreciate the typecasting that inevitably followed.

That’s about all I have to say on this topic for now. I wanted to avoid some kind of “big announcement,” complete with new Facebook pictures and a complete scrubbing of my former self because that’s not how life works. I don’t have all the answers yet, but this journey has taught me a lot more than I’d be able to explain in a single blog post. I suppose that’s why we have these things called books.

Until then, here’s a picture. Enjoy it, because that’s hopefully the last time I wear heels.

 

Share Button

Thursday

19

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

Utilizing The Meisner Technique in Crafting the College Dialogues

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

When I was faced with the decision as to how to spend my summer in 2010 after my freshman year at Boston College, I decided I wanted to do something a little different. As I say in Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues, those four years are best spent outside one’s comfort zone. On the recommendation of a friend, I enrolled at the Ted Bardy Acting Studio in New York City.

The Ted Bardy Acting Studio is world renowned for its curriculum, The Meisner Technique, named for its architect, Sanford Meisner, who was part of the legendary Group Theatre back in the 1930s, which also included Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. Repetition, a core pillar of The Meisner Technique, ended up drastically transforming the way I approached writing.

It’s a bizarre and practically unexplainable concept, so here is a video of repetition in action with Sanford Meisner himself, courtesy of Contemporary Arts Media:

 

Repetition is simple in nature and yet painfully difficult at the same time. It requires the participants to be fully active in the exercise, but not in a way that artificially steers the course of the “conversation.” Laughter is common and perhaps crucial to understand the concept.

One bit of advice offered by Ted Bardy and fellow teacher Glen Vincent in practically every class was to avoid using “tit for tat,” in repetition. I found this bit of advice to be crucial in writing my dialogue. People and characters need to respond to what’s been said to them. They don’t need to spit it back in the other person’s face.

That’s the inherent difficulty in writing fictional conversation. Unlike practicing repetition, scripted dialogue is created with specific purpose. The dialogues in FCD and FMCD are thematic in nature as the characters are there to discuss a specific topic. The flow of conversation needs to serve the purpose of the dialogue, but it needs to be real. When characters speak to each other, they need to process what’s been said.

Writing and acting are obviously very different, but they share one important similarity. Both mediums set out to make the inorganic real. When an actor is performing, it is their job to extract genuine emotion out of a scripted scenario. When I set out to write a dialogue, I need to take my characters on a purpose driven journey that resonates with the readers.

FCD & FMCD are unusual books because they’re all dialogue. I found that what I’d learned from Meisner Technique played perfectly into Socratic Method as I could implement repetition in my efforts to create authentic contemporary Socratic Dialogue. The characters constantly question each other but they aren’t merely working to advance the subject matter. Repetition helped me to avoid something that came across as stale and inorganic, even if you may not commonly find students walking around casually conversing in Socratic Dialogue.

Which is why I recommend that all artists dabble in forms outside of their comfort zones. I haven’t done many auditions since my time at the Ted Bardy Acting Studio. If that doesn’t change, I’ll still be forever grateful for the lessons I learned. Creating emotion requires immersion. To achieve immersion, you need depth and that’s only possible if you push your limits. I’m of the belief that creating art must at least be a little scary. Whether or not I was successful with that is up to you, the reader.

The ebook versions of Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues are still just .99 cents for a few more days. Pick up your copy today!

Share Button

Friday

27

February 2015

0

COMMENTS

Kanye West Should Not Be Blamed For Stealing Beck’s Spotlight

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Social Issues

Kanye West apologized to Beck on Twitter last night. Why? Most likely because the story was dying. Maybe he was sincere. I doubt it, but that’s hardly the point.

The point is, he shouldn’t be blamed. Yes, you’re reading that right.

He shouldn’t be blamed, not because he’s a sociopath or suffers from too extreme a case of crippling narcissism to tell right or wrong, but because he did what was expected of him by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He wasn’t up for any awards since he didn’t have a new album out. He has a length track record of behaving poorly at awards shows.

So why was he there? More importantly, why was he in a position to steal the spotlight away from the most important award of the night? Shouldn’t he have been kept away to ensure the integrity of the night stayed intact?

He was there because no one cares about the Grammys. People do care about Kanye West. Insert him into the equation and then suddenly, people care about the Grammys. Simple, right?

Many people were horrified by his actions, as they were when he cut into Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech back in 2009 at the MTV Video Awards. He also did it back in 2006 at the MTV Europe Music Awards. He loves to behave poorly at these things and people love to watch it.

That’s why the blame shouldn’t fall on Kanye for this latest media circus. Blame the Grammys for orchestrating this publicity stunt. They took no measures to prevent the inevitable.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a hundred more time, who’s really to blame?

Not Kanye West.

The man is doing his job. He generates buzz. His wife is better at that than most people who have ever walked this earth. Good for them.

If you’re truly angry by this, I suggest a new course of action. Stop caring. The Grammys are stupid. They represent a fraction of the recording industry, a point accurately reflected in the award show’s dismal ratings. If people cared, they wouldn’t need Kanye.

The Grammys got free buzz weeks after the show all whilst allowing Kanye to take the fall. This isn’t right. They let him prance on stage to do his bit knowing exactly what would happen and they’re the ones who should be blamed. Kanye West is a brilliant marketer whose actions demonstrated his complete dominance over mainstream media. Beck was the unfortunate casualty, but I doubt his fans really care. I know I don’t.

 

Share Button

Saturday

27

December 2014

2

COMMENTS

The Case of the Cutter at Dunkin Donuts

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

While much of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s humor is derived from the predicaments that Larry David gets himself into as a result of his inability to keep quiet when in the presence of a faux pas, we should take note that the world needs more people like him. Too often, we find the internet to be a dumping ground for instances where a person was wronged yet took to social media when the battle should have been waged in reality. Never being much of a hash tag activist myself, I decided to live the Larry David mantra and engage a man who wronged me at Dunkin Donuts.

The incident occurred at the Old Greenwich Dunkin Donuts, my personal favorite franchise of the popular Northeastern chain. I was second in line to a woman, who had finished her order and paid for it. The employee made the coffee and handed it to the woman, signifying a completed transaction to most who understand how businesses operate. Unfortunately for me, someone thought otherwise.

A man walked into the Dunkin Donuts and proceeded to the front of the counter. Being a regular at the establishment, the employee shot me a confused glance as I starred at the man, disdainful at the thought that this man had clearly not paid attention in kindergarten on the day that the concept of lines was explained. Before the employee could explain the breach of etiquette, the man said, “I’m with her,” pointing at the woman, who was presumably married to this rude piece of existence.

He proceeded to order a bacon, egg, and cheese. Patrons of Dunks know that these sandwiches are not only gross; they slow down the line especially when only one person is behind the counter. This being around noon and Old Greenwich not being a peak location at all hours of the day, this sandwich meant that it was going to be another couple of minutes before yours truly could get his large iced dark roast with a splash of milk and one sugar.

The problem was, being “with her” no longer signified anything for this man. The woman had her coffee and had already paid for it. This was a separate transaction. Sharing a bed with the woman who had just ordered does not represent a sense of ownership over all future orders at a business. But this man was either not aware of this or did not care. Perhaps a mixture of both?

Now I found myself in a predicament of my own. The employee had clearly demonstrated that she too, felt this man was demonstrating an abuse of power over his wife’s limited domain. But she’s a coffee shop employee. Not Pontius Pilate. This was my battle.

The man was pacing around Dunkin Donuts in the long duration between ordering a gross breakfast sandwich and receiving it. When we made eye contact, I decided to air my grievance at this abhorrent human being. Little did he know he was in for a bout of social justice.

“You know when you pay separately, you’re not really together,” I said to the man. Firm, but non confrontational. I wanted to give the man a chance to right his wrong. Sadly that was not to be.

He looked bewildered at this long haired brightly dressed young chap who called him out on his nonsense. “It’s not a big deal,” he said to me, clearly showing that he has final say on my opinions.

“Well, you ordered a sandwich which takes a couple of minutes to make,” I replied. Pausing for a second, I added, “I could have ordered and left in this amount of time. You sir, are a cutter.”

Those words must have melted into his heart of stone for he did not respond. He walked to the other side of the Dunks, clearly saddened by his bruised ego. His wife stood a few feet away from her, possibly contemplating divorce after witnessing what the public perceives of the man she agreed to unite with in Holy matrimony. We’ll never know.

I got an apology only from the employee, who hadn’t done anything to be sorry for and could not speak for the man, who declined to voice a further opinion of his actions. She and I have joked about the incident several times since. It’s good that laughter could come out of tragedy for I will never get those minutes back. I only hope that when I’m old and on my deathbed, thoughts of bacon, egg, and cheese’s are far from my mind.

I suppose the question you might ask is, was it worth it? Was the man right in saying it wasn’t a big deal? Should I have kept quiet with regards to the injustice?

The answers to those are yes, no, and no.

I feel great about the whole thing. That probably wouldn’t have been the case if I had just tweeted about it. The man did something wrong and now he knows that it didn’t go unnoticed. If the whole world were this vigilant, there would be far fewer things to complain about. Catharsis was achieved. Maybe that man changed his ways or maybe he was kicked out his house. Let’s hope he doesn’t cut again.

If you see something, say something.

Share Button

Friday

12

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

Top 40 Radio Stations Do Not Belong in the Yoga Studio

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Like the countless styles of yoga, there are many choices for music to accompany one’s practice. Being largely a matter of personal preference, it’s hard to really reject certain genres entirely. I know teachers who frequently play rap music and heavy metal and it works. That might not be for everyone, but an instructor that makes that choice typically understands that it must work toward the larger image that they wish to project for their class. If you want to play Judas Priest or Wu Tang, you need to own that decision.

I recently took a class where the instructor put the radio on to a top 40 station to accompany her class. Being somewhat of a countercultural figure, naturally I wasn’t too amused by this decision, which was initially exacerbated by the instructor’s tardiness. This played into the bigger problem that was radiating from said instructor.

Carelessness.

Music is a big part of a yoga class. It sets the tone and is the constant presence that lingers over each student when the teacher isn’t speaking (which should happen at times). It isn’t more important than say, the actual yoga, but it’s easily something that can derail an entire class.

Adam Levine makes headlines for his love of yoga. That’s great. Doesn’t mean that Maroon 5’s “Animals” with lyrics like “You’re a drug that’s killing me I cut you out entirely. But I get so high when I’m inside of you” belongs in a yoga studio.

Which doesn’t mean that Maroon 5 needs to be banned entirely. Just that songs that reference obsessive tendencies, drugs, and coitus should be screened and promptly removed from any playlist destined to be played in yoga. That’s the downside of playing a radio station. You don’t get to pick what comes on and with something like top 40, you can be sure that much of it is inappropriate for your class.

I put a great deal of effort into my playlists, which are generally a mix of 60s rock, 80s New Wave, and Indie music. It’s not effort that every instructor needs to have, but it makes a difference. Over the years, I’ve got as many compliments for my music as the yoga itself (make of that what you will). As a big fan of The Smiths, I know that they only have a couple of songs that can be played in a yoga setting. So “Stretch Out and Wait” gets played while “Some Girls are Bigger than Others” does not.

That’s not to say I haven’t made playlist mistakes. Once I played “Yesterday” by The Beatles, which came on during seated poses which didn’t help matters. Needless to say, I made the room laugh by apologizing for playing a sad song during hip openers.

Each yoga class should in some way, shape, or form reflect the personality of the instructor. What does Top 40 radio reflect? The United States of Generica? Something you can hear anywhere? I think so.

You might at this point think that I’m being too harsh on Top 40, especially the songs that might be acceptable. What if the instructor loves Taylor Swift? That’s fine. The presence of TSwift should be because the instructor wanted her there. Not because she happened to be on the radio (which oddly enough didn’t happen in this class despite the low odds).

Yoga classes take effort. They should also look like they take effort. People are giving you their money and their time for a service. Throwing on the radio shows that you couldn’t be bothered to be in control of your class. Which in turn might inspire a student to stay home with a yoga DVD and Ms. Swift.

When you don’t put any effort into parts of your class, it shows. Who wants to hold a balancing pose while the insufferable Calvin Harris is blasting in the background? Not I!

Share Button