All my Antics, Mostly Reviews

Category: LGBTQ+

Sunset over river, in trans pride flag colours

Two Queer Stories

I wrote the following two short excerpts in the last week at the time of writing. I’ve rarely felt as much need to put down something essential about the queer experience as this.

The first part, Uselessly Queer, is my own attempt to describe a queer person, whom I find attractive without employing anything that felt to me like cishet male gaze.

The second part, Small Town Boy Inside, fights with the loneliness inherent to the queer experience and heavily leans on associations to Bronski Beat’s single Small Town Boy.


Uselessly Queer

She wasn’t particularly short, nor was she exceptionally tall. She was just of average height. Her hair was short, interrupted by streaks of blue. Her hair would have been gay enough to light gaydars on fire even without the glowing accents, but they seemed very fun to her. She liked her hair short, and she had kept it that way ever since she had left home for university.

Now, she was wearing a comfy hoodie and a black pair of shorts. It had been warm in the afternoon – hence the pants that only covered half of her thighs -, but as it was September already, the evenings started to cool down. Soon it would be too cold for her favourite pair of shorts. They were light and kind of baggy, and her absolute favourites even if they had without a doubt seen better days. She didn’t look forward to eventually replacing them, but unfortunately, that was an inevitability; the fabric was already running a bit thin.

Her hoodie was newer, but she had picked it for utility’s sake. She was wearing a white crew-neck t-shirt with black stripes and short sleeves, but it remained hidden underneath her hoodie now, as she was sitting on the banks of the river Neckar now.

She was discussing queer theory with her friends, in her left hand a cup that might have been filled with wine for any other university student, but in her cup, there was just juice. Her legs were unshaven, because who really cares. Her sneakers that once had been brilliant white were sitting off to the side of the picnic rug she was sitting on. Now that the sneakers’ soles were wearing thin, they exhibited their age with a curiously grey patina.

The short socks covering her small feet were grey and stained by the grass and goose shit around her. They had a small rainbow ornament near the hem. Had she been wearing her sneakers it would have barely stuck up above her shoes.

She was proud to be queer, and she liked to be visibly queer. She didn’t call herself a lesbian; being queer was enough in her head. Her gender was a puzzle to her. She liked to be called by traditionally femme pronouns, but she didn’t mind if you switched up which pronouns you used for them.

They looked out over the Neckar at the setting evening sun that was making the water look like a giant sheet of glass. Their eyes always seemed a bit dreamy. Someone once had compared them to Patrick Dempsey’s in Grey’s Anatomy, but as much as they liked to play with presenting butch, they didn’t like to be read as a man.

They weren’t wearing much makeup today, only the bright blue eyeliner, a friend had given to them for their birthday only a few days ago, and a bit of concealer and mascara. Sometimes they liked to go all out on makeup. Bold looks were fun, but tonight was a lazy evening with friends, that all were too lazy to hit the clubs that would have been waiting for them downtown.

They scratched their left knee. The healing wound  they had sustained in a stupid skateboarding accident was itching. They really should have worn those nifty knee guards, but they kinda were too cool for that. They frowned a bit. Their eyebrows were bold, had a small piercing on one side and a deliberate gap on the other.

Suddenly they slapped their slightly hairy forearm. “I hate those pesky bloodsuckers.” She left her hand on her forearm for a bit. It looked small and her fingers looked stubby. Her nails were kept shortish. Her black nail polish was starting to chip a bit, but this certainly wasn’t the worst she would let her nails come too.

She was sitting cross-legged on the rug. Her left hand was now resting on her ankle and with her right, she was taking a sip from her cup. She couldn’t imagine a nicer place to be tonight, and I couldn’t have imagined one either. 

Instead of jewellery, she was wearing cheap bracelets on her wrists. A few of them had come from music festivals she had been to, but one was a rainbow bracelet from her uni’s LGBTQIA+ association. 

One of her friends pushed a kiss onto her cheek, that had acquired a rosy glow from the evening cold that was drafting over the river. Now, the kiss left a slight lipstick mark. She didn’t care to remove it. She cherished having her queer friends and her girlfriend.


Small Town Boy Inside

There is a particular loneliness that comes with being queer. It might even be there while you’re amongst your closest of peers.

You leave in the morning. You go to work, you go to school, and deep down you know, you aren’t understood. 

Everything you own is in a little black case, and with it, are your thoughts. You know who you are, and yet you can’t leave.

Alone on a platform, the wind and the rain on a lonely face, you stare into the world, and it stares back, not like it knows you, more like it doesn’t, more like you are an “other”.

You know they are out there — the people who feel the same. You know, they write music and poems. You heard their songs, but your parents never understood what they meant to you, and neither did your friends, your peers. They know you from childhood, and yet they don’t understand.

You know they are out there, ready to be your friends, but now you’re just a sad and lonely face. You’ve been wearing a mask all your life, and the rain drips off. It will need stronger things than rain to wash this mask away.

Run away!
    Turn away!

That’s what you want to do: run away from those who never understood to those who’ll understand you, but where are they?

Not in this small town. Wouldn’t 20000 people be enough? But no! This loneliness is pernicious. The people, who came before you, have been driven away just like you. 

Run away!
    Turn away!

They were just as lonely, they stood on this platform just like you, waiting for the train to take them out of this small town.

You aren’t a boy, and yet this old song echos through your head.

Run away!
    Turn away!
    Run away!
    Turn away!

Sometimes, you wish you could hide, but you’ve tried hiding all your life. Even when you came out of the closet, you hid away. You dressed like them; you talked like them. You made your existence palatable. You hid your lonely face.

But you can’t anymore; you’ll have to live, you’ll have to leave. 

You were the one they’d talk about around town, as they put you down.

And again this song is in your head, pushing you to go on. Pushing you, yes, you know, there are people like you out there, but how to find them? They are not here; you’ll have to leave. You’ll find them, you are sure. You’ll find the people who accept you. You’ll find the people to whom you won’t have to justify your queerness, your existence.

It will be like they already know you. They’ll know your struggle before you’ll even talk to them. Because, just like you, they were searching for someone like you. 

It might not be easy to find them. They might not be safe where you are, but what can you do but try? A sad and lonely face still. You can do it! You can find them, and you’ll never have to run away.

They’ll already know you.

The river Dreisam in Freiburg, Germany

FIRST!!!

Well, that’s a new category. This is the first time I could have commented this on a YouTube video as a content creator and I’m proud of it. Now, this video wasn’t published on my channel, but among a series of daily videos for a project of the wonderful Nerdfighteria Discord Server. All the videos can be found on their channel. And this? This is it. This is my contribution to the 28th of July in the Secret Siblings 2.0 project:

And this is also my first published video ever. There are many things I would do differently the next time around, but this was a great experience and trial run for other video projects that I might come around to eventually.

Of course, this video has flaws incurred by the lack of professional gear, but those are minor. Yes the video doesn’t look as crisp as it could have, but calm down I shot this on the camera of my smartphone, and to be honest I don’t have a clue what half of the export setting in Adobe Premiere even mean.

I also didn’t have an acceptable microphone on location, so I had to do with voice-overs on my frankly terrible headset. Considering these technical limitations, I think the audio went reasonably well. I used Adobe Audition to record most of my voice-over lines except for those for the talking gorilla at 0:48. At this point, my lack of experience with Premiere shows again, and the audio I recorded with Premiere recorded both the input I gave but also the feedback audio it returned to my headphones. I’m sure this would be fixable with either a more sophisticated microphone or a dive into Premiere’s settings, but alas, this is how it is.

In generally this video and the Secret Siblings 2.0 project, in general, has taught me to be less perfectionist. The project came about in the spirit of Hank and John Green‘s early YouTube project Brotherhood 2.0, that started their own YouTube channel and was a jumping-off point for many other video projects amongst which there are hits like CrashCourse and SciShow (subscribe to SciShow Pee, please). In hindsight, their videos look kinda terrible, but what could you expect from 2007 camera technology? In the end, that doesn’t matter though. It is the content that counts.

Though there are some genuine things, I would do differently the next time around. And I don’t just mean throwing money at the technical problems. I mean things like filming more footage to have B-roll and to be less constricted by the footage I have. I would also like to put more time and planning into it. Though with my habit of procrastination, I am less than hopeful that I could actually achieve that, but who knows?

I’ll leave you with the words of Hank and John Green: Don’t forget to be awesome!

Red Nail Polish

The Happiness Colour Coordination

Sometimes we need a bit of colour in our lives. We need the light to find our own way out of the darkness. And, yes, we need to find our own way. Expectations crush us, our lives seem predetermined and our mind recedes into the grey. Maybe a dash of colour will lead us the way.

Colours as such are a weird concept. We all have a mental image when we say red or green or blue, but if we dig deeper it is next to impossible to describe a colour without falling back on these basic colours. Can we even be sure that you see the same as I do when I say, “red”? Probably not, or actually maybe. But that doesn’t really matter. At least I don’t think it does. All of our experiences are fundamentally our own and really hard to relay to others. Yes, we have language, but a language is a standardised way to crawl slowly out of Plato’s cave. As a mere model of our world, it necessarily makes abstractions and implies assumptions about our world that aren’t necessarily true or true for us. A great example of how language can mould our perception of reality is grammatical gender like it is used in German. Any occupational noun (except a few that were traditionally associated with womanly work like nursing) is male by default in German. You can add a suffix like “-in” to it to make it explicitly female, but there is no way to make an occupational noun truly gender neutral without an awkward unpronounceable letter-addition or the use of both variants. But is this truly gender neutral? I don’t think it is. German has no good way to include people who don’t feel adequately described by either male or female gender identities. And in my experiences, this lack of the German language makes German speakers even blinder to the world of non-binary or genderfluid people.

But back to colour. We already established that language can make us blind. But what does blindness do to our colour perception? Well, it’s dependent on what we mean by blindness. Let us assume you are totally blind and can’t see even one shed of light. Does colour still exist? The question is really hard to answer. Hey, don’t expect me to know all the answers.

Fundamentally, colour is just different photons with different energies. Does it require these photons to hit our retinas to become colour? I don’t know. But our colour perception is definitely more complicated than it seems at first. We can’t just see orange and that’s it. Our eyes don’t just have a receptor sensitive to any colour there is. Not only have we a limit of what on the electromagnetic spectrum we can see at all. We can’t see ultraviolet light for example. But we also have only three kinds of different colour receptors. So any colour we can see is just made up by our brain as a mixture of the different light levels or cones detect. Human cone cells are receptive to blue red and green. Hence the colours of every pixel on this screen: red, green and blue. This screen works differently than our eyes though. While this screen has the same proportion of red, green and blue subpixels, our eyes generally have fewer cone cells receptive to blue and the percentages of red- and green-receptive cone cells vary quite a bit even in people with quote “regular” vision.

What stands out is that in the end, we in almost any case agree on what red is and what blue is. We have many categories we collectively agree upon, some are more cultural some others are more basic, but even terms for colours have a certain order of appearance in human language and of course that order influences how we perceive the world around us.

Still, this doesn’t answer the question of whether colour exists without perception, but to be honest I don’t have an answer to that. I just know that a dash of colour in the right place can make me quite happy. Why that is? I don’t know, but it might have to do with another categorisation I previously mentioned in this essay.

The category I’m talking about is gender. We’re all automatically sorted into one of these bins at birth or quite often even before we even leave our mother’s womb. We get a pronoun and our allocated room (some people like to call it a nursery) gets either painted in a slight pink or a dashing light blue. Of course, there are cases where this categorisation fails. Not everyone is born with a clear set of genitalia that fits neatly into one category or the other, some people don’t feel like they were sorted into the right box. But most of us are sorted cleanly, sometimes even if this decision should have maybe been postponed until we could make a decision for ourselves. The category itself isn’t the problem necessarily. Trying to categorise everything is human nature after all and usually, a useful shortcut for our everyday mental life. Just our desire to have neat boxes makes things complicated and our expectation, that nobody should change their assigned box makes these to categories appear a bit restrictive to some – maybe even like a mental prison to some …  me included.

I was sorted into the male category at birth. And well at least at first there was nothing wrong with that. A baby doesn’t care about societal expectations of gender. And why should it? Why should anyone, well I don’t know? I only know that people do in fact care. And at least for me, that is a bad thing. It is confining. Granted, I don’t like the male features of my body. Some of them I hate, a few I am indifferent about, and only a single one I really like, but does my body define my own identity? In part of course, but in the end, it is only secondary to my mind. Do I just want to wear nail polish? Yes, I want to wear a dash of colour on my fingertips generally associated with feminity, but it’s only a small part of what I want. I would also enjoy it tremendously if someone would flick the elusive switch that would make my body magically appear more feminine, but to be honest, I don’t care about my name, I don’t care about my pronouns as long as they don’t compromise my safety. My identity isn’t defined by the confines of society. On one hand, I, generally, enjoy feminine fashion more than men’s clothing. On the other hand, I really like me a suit, a tuxedo, or a tailcoat. I like me my Oxfords, but I also love me my high heeled pumps. At some point, I just want my tie to match my nail polish. Want the colour of my shoe to match my skirt. What am I? Male or female? Red or Blue? I don’t know, and I only care because society cares. But I’m captive in society’s expectations. I try to be me as good as I can.

Colour is my way out of it. Colour coordination is my goal. One day in a suit and tie, one day in a dress and high heels. Beneath that preferably a female body. Tie, handkerchief and nails matched.

At least maybe, that would make me happy. Sometimes it’s just small things though: perhaps just a dash of nail polish will suffice to elicit a smile from me. That’s definitely easier to pull off than the whole rest of my desires.

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