Tag Archives: lgbt

4 Weird Things That Happen To You When A Love(d) One Kills Themselves

4 Sep chloe sagal suicide

chloe sagal suicide

Someone I used to be in love with and lived with for two years took her life. Depending on the sort of story you were expecting, this could be seen as a beginning or ending. For me it still seems like some sort of limbo, moments and feelings trapped in amber that I can see but not touch. Hopefully writing about it will help me move forward.

This isn’t news to anyone that follows me online through either my own social media and posts, or filtered through your favorite online stalking/roasting site/FB group. From Fall 2014 to Fall 2016 I was in a tumultuous relationship with video game designer Chloe Sagal, and we lived together for much of that time. We separated during a particularly tense eviction, where I moved to downtown Portland to prepare for an impending surgery and she moved elsewhere with another of her partners. I ceased contact shortly afterward, and heard little from or about her until she hobbled into a downtown Portland park and set herself on fire to protest her lifetime struggle with inadequate and unsympathetic mental health care.

And then things got weird.

I found myself lamenting that there really isn’t a whole lot of advice out there for this sort of situation. What do you do with yourself and your thoughts and your pain? Everyone has hot takes about why this happened, but you don’t hear many stories from/about those left behind. So here we are.

I figure this could be a good resource for a lot of people, even if you don’t literally have Washington Times journalists openly wishing on Twitter that you would also commit suicide.

chloe sagal suicide

1) Your Memories Are A Fuck

I mean, this isn’t the first time I lost an ex. A guy I used to date when I was much younger drank himself to death around his 30th birthday. Another ex of mine (another trans woman in the video game industry) passed away peacefully during a camping trip. This isn’t even the first time I lost a loved one to suicide; I’ve brought up more than once on this blog my uncle that killed himself when I was a pre-teen over his inability to reconcile being gay with his Christian faith. It’s not like I don’t still have unprocessed and complicated feelings about them all, most of all about never being able to say goodbye.

This one is different, because my relationship with Chloe was… not great a lot of the time. She screamed and hit walls and could be very threatening. She broke a lot of my stuff, specifically targeting things she knew had sentimental value like childhood possessions. She would send harassing messages to people I cared about and in the end was sending nasty messages my way as well. It got to where I woke up in a panic when I heard her typing in the wee hours of the morning creating a new manifesto. I wondered who was targeted next, what damage control would I have to devote my day to rather than my own life.

But she also wrote songs about me. Not just full romantic ballads, but little ditties she would make up while I was cooking dinner or cleaning the room. She would riff off of themes songs of shows we watched together, cuddled under the covers, when things were good. We had a whole language of in-jokes and references. She always looked better in my clothes than I did. I still remain convinced she was one of the most effortlessly brilliant artistic minds I was ever blessed to spend time with and be inspired by.

I fell in love with her while she sung “The Calendar Hung Itself” by Bright Eyes to me. Honestly that should have been a red flag this would not end well, but I was starry eyed. This shit is complex.

I don’t think she was a bad person, or a martyr. I think she got so accustomed to online abuse from the fallout from her GoFundMe incident that she compulsively sought out negative attention over positive. She was so terrified of ever completing a project because of anticipated backlash she just devoured herself like a snake eating its tail.

2) People Show Up Out Of Fucking Nowhere

chloe sagal suicide

I found out what happened on my birthday, when a reporter contacted me for a statement. I was on my way to a date with a guy at a club so I said I would give a statement first thing tomorrow. He got me so drunk I overslept and never contacted the reporter.

I got an email from him the next day giving his condolences. I hadn’t told him during the date, he had Googled me and found mention of it on a roasting site. He concluded by admitting he had a wife he didn’t tell me about. That meant, he insisted, that future dates would have to be more discreet since he was now aware of people watching my social media. I deleted his number from my phone.

Happy Birthday To Me.

Those first few days I got messages from probably a thousand people. Limiting it to supportive messages, it was still broad swaths of individuals with widely varying connection to me. People I was on good and bad terms with. People I hadn’t spoken to in months or years, and some I honestly never wanted to speak to again well before this.

The messages came so frequently I barely had time to formulate how I was feeling, much less summarize it. A lot of vague offers of “support” “if I needed anything” that I had no idea how to respond to. Even a handful of folks that genuinely seemed to be looking for an odd sort of absolution. Like I could pat them on the head and be like “well fine I forgive you,” and give them closure.

Fuck that, when do I get closure?

3) The Narrative Becomes A Disaster

People are still actively talking about her on Twitter. Everyone has their pet story about what happened. I see articles written in like Portuguese that have photos of a completely different ex of mine in them because a right-wing blogger fucked up the Google Image Search for her in a hitpiece. People use her death to make a point scolding other people using her death to make a completely different point.

A month ago, a Canadian balladeer I hadn’t heard of previously wrote a song with her name in the title and I realize this is bigger than I can comprehend. Like, she’s not the person I lived with and woke up next to and she’s not the person I had to separate myself from. This whole thing is bigger, even to people that never even met her. She’s now a symbol, a metaphor. A horrible, grisly death turned to legend that means whatever anyone wants it to mean.

In a way, kinda got what she wanted; people talking about what she went through. People taking it seriously. For the rest of us, however,

4) You Never Stop Wondering What This Means

chloe sagal suicide

Stories have a beginning, a middle, and end. Something bad happens, and you learn something and grow stronger. Ghosts haunt you, and you put them to rest and you both benefit.

Otherwise you just… sit there.

Do you let go? What does “letting go” mean? Is it better, is it required of me, to preserve the good she has done over the bad? How much responsibility do I have for sustaining her legacy?

Why did this happen? What’s the lesson here? What’s the next step? How do I put this ghost to rest?

Do you ever get to find out?

Does this story ever actually end?

Article Feature Image: Tristen, Flickr

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A Cannibalistic Dissection Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

28 Oct Rocky Horror Picture Show

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A week before the writing of this, FOX aired a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, subtitled Let’s Do The Time Warp Again. I’m not averse to the idea of seeing it, but I’m not going to go out of my way either. Not for any particular reason politically, just simply because the original is so clearly and deeply rooted to a particular time period it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to update it. I’ll have more on that in a moment.

The main (and only) thing I need to know about the remake is that it showcased front and center a black trans woman, on the same channel FOX News is broadcast from, during a time when the right wing has dedicated themselves to a war against trans bodies. Regardless of any other merits or flaws in the project, I still find that deliciously subversive in a way the original never dared.

If you were hoping for more talk about the remake, I do apologize. There are plenty of other people talking about it, I swear. I’m not writing yet another thinkpiece about how problematic or transphobic or whatever the movie is. Plenty of other folks covering that ground. I’m not interested in RHPS creator Richard O’Brien’s bizarre and absurd notion that he can decide how much of a woman he is but nobody else can. Just yet another tired old has-been queen desperate for attention and latching onto trendy notions of “edginess” and “anti-political-correctness” as far as I’m concerned. The fact that he hates the remake makes me want to enjoy it out of spite tho.

What will I be talking about then?

Well lets start by talking about the Hays Code (and later rating systems) and the role of pulp sci-fi on queerness. Stories of alternate sexualities and gender explorations were all over the place in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but due to publisher restrictions had to be formatted in a certain way. It was honestly surprising how far they were capable of going, as long as they didn’t directly show intimacy and all queer characters were punished at the end for their transgression from conservative mores. Here’s a sex-change sci-fi story from a 1953 comic book that covers the bases pretty well, with an exception I will elaborate on in a moment.

Rocky Horror Picture show even opens with the song “Science Fiction/Double Feature” which waxes nostalgic about shiny underwear and phallic Triffids, name-checking classic titles and names from films that would have been staples of a sci-fi obsessed 1975 audience’s childhood. Self-aware nods to these tropes echo throughout the film.

Lets line them up and see how the beats play out, shall we? We have aw shucks traditional protagonist(s), an audience insert for voyeuristic heterosexuals or questioning/curious queer folk:

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The protagonists find themselves stranded from the values and culture they took for granted, in a lawless anything goes environment:

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This leads to an awakening where deep, transgressive desires are brought to light and actualized… but at what cost?

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And at the end all transgressions are punished and the moral is driven home that some doors should never be opened:

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The spectre of conservative Americana glares disapprovingly at the dissolution of traditional values throughout the film. Not just figuratively, but directly and literally symbolized by multiple repeated vignettes evoking the sullen stoic gaze of the iconic Grant Wood painting American Gothic (a now campy and frequently satirized artwork that history forgets incited Rural Iowans to send the painter threats of violence).

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However, you will note that there is something missing from this one-to-one comparison between the sex-change comic book and Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is because in sex-change stories, the antagonist is the clothes or the transformation itself. This is as true in Glen Or Glenda in the 1950s as it was in The Danish Girl in 2015. This story has an antagonist with a distinctly more visceral presence, a hyperqueered fantasy to Brokeback their mountains and tempt them away from their traditional lives.

Enter Frank.

Frank is a transgressive nightmare, a culmination of everything feared about the sexual awakenings of the late 1960s/early 1970s. It goes well beyond the crossdressing and sexualization; Frank was meticulously designed to provoke. He literally hunts down, murders and later cannibalistically devours Eddie, a symbol of naive notions of 1950s “safe rebellion”. Eddie’s entrance, to the song “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul“, reflects an entirely different sort of nostalgia filled with sock hops instead of gruesome horror movies. Frank nonchalantly eulogizes Eddies murder by his hand as “a mercy killing! He had a certain naive charm, but no… muscle.”

Indeed.

When Frank displayed a pink triangle on his labcoat, the symbol was still viscerally shocking and radical. The book The Men With The Pink Triangle, documenting homosexual men’s experience in Nazi concentration camps, had only come out a couple years before. The infamous Paragraph 175 of German Law under which those men had been imprisoned was still on the books.

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Frank also dons a Lewis Leathers Aviakit Plainsman biker jacket adorned with badges from the Hell’s Angels and other recognizable biker gangs (including patches with the distinct Nazi Deaths Head and Eagle iconography of the Angels). This wasn’t the “making toy runs for sick kids” Hell’s Angels, this was the “locked Hunter S Thompson in the trunk of a car for several days” Hells Angels. This also presents contrast to Eddie’s sanitized pompadour-and-motorcycle schtick as the corny posturing it was.

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Frank’s fawning over his Frankenstein Atlas, Rocky, was another uncomfortable tribute/unmasking to the underlying homoeroticism in body-building culture, a subtext simultaneously acknowledged yet dismissed within said subculture. With Rocky as the dense and sweetly naive foil to Frank’s sexual innuendo, it’s presented as yet another affront to the values of yesteryear.

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Enabled through Frank’s brazen transgressions, the protagonists find themselves freed from convention to explore their own desires. This is illustrated in the floor show scene where the players vocalize their inner conflicts onstage. Columbia is full of regret and heartbreak, Rocky and Brad have newfound sexual urges that neither can quite figure out, and Janet feels empowered by the whole experience. Shortly afterwards, Riff-Raff and Magenta stage a mutiny to topple Frank as leader. Riff-Raff’s accusation says it all:

Frank-N-Furter, it’s all over
your mission is a failure
your lifestyle’s too extreme

Ironically, after forty years of cultural advance, a film that sought to deconstruct stifling tropes and liberate expectations has for the most part been relegated to yet another formulaic exploitation. It has a historical place, as a love-letter to the queer-coded villains of Hollywood’s golden age, but at this point Frank has joined them. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a fun ritual for voyeuristic straights, closeted drama club queers and assorted connoisseurs of camp and kitsch and likely will be for at long as movie theaters continue to exist. However, the cultural critique is a bit toothless and obvious now, the references collecting dust, and subtext lost under performative rote.

And maybe the ritual is the point now, a sort of mystery cult initiation for average folks looking for an excuse to buy a corset. But I believe an occasional reminder of what it all means couldn’t hurt either.

Honestly, Who Actually Gives A Damn About Hitler’s Penis? And Why?

22 Feb

hitlerspenis1Above, faked footage of “Hitler’s Jig

So, like, no offence but Hitler is a piece of shit. Cool, we got that out of the way.

He occupies a particular place in history as a reviled and defeated political force, as well as the public face to unfathomably horrible human atrocity. There is an instinct when discussing him to relegate his humanity to some sort of “othered” status. “Normal” people would be incapable of what he has done, people say, somehow missing the irony of assigning aberration to a political regime devoted to exterminating aberration. More curious, however, is how folks choose to relegate Hitler’s otherness.

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The current lascivious sexualized detail is his life folks are gleefully poring over is an atypical urethra formation that affects as many as 1 in every 250 folks born with penises, and an undescended testicle (a commonly associated malady). But why in the world should that matter? The frequent assertion is that it “could explain things”, but what exactly?

Gratuitous exposes assigning various sexual deviancies to Hitler gloss over the devastation his reign had on homosexual and gender-non-conforming people. 100, 000 gay men were arrested during the Nazi Regime, 50,000 of which were jailed and up to 15000 may have died in concentration camps. Records of transgender folks involved in these arrests is difficult to ascertain because they were lumped in with homosexuals, but it was enough to be contemporarily remarked upon. Alongside human cost, the Nazi Regime also destroyed the records of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute For Sexual Science, annihilating invaluable decades of compassionate scientific research and political works on homosexuality, gender-non-conformity and transsexual surgery.

It’s one (fairly complicated and not particularly admirable, tbh) thing to attempt to remove Hitler’s humanity rhetorically, it’s another to disdainfully invite others into the crossfire who suffered under him as well. One would think that after meditating on the man’s horrible quest for ideological, racial and sexual purity through terror, one may choose not to engage in similar demonization of historically marginalized individuals.

Bringing A Trans Woman To A Men In Dresses Party…

9 May

That stereotype about transsexuals being all wild and criminal and bold and outside the norm and, like, engendering in the townsfolk the courage to break free from the smothering constraints of conformity? That stereotype is about drag queens. Maria is a transsexual and she is so meek she might disappear.” – NEVADA, Imogen Binnie

So, about a month ago I signed a thing about a thing. A couple weeks later it turned into this entirely other thing. I’ll have more to say about that in another blog. In any case, I had a lot on my mind about crossdressing and drag performance and how it relates to myself as a trans woman (who’s had a previous history with crossdressing and drag performance). With this in mind, I found myself heading to a “red dress”-themed party.

I’m familiar with the concept; they’ve had them in Austin as well:

reddress2Except in Texas, it’s too hot to wear a full dress.

In this case, I was invited out by my lovely friend Miranda:

reddress3Who is hilarious and wonderful and an absolute treasure to be around.

This of course meant shopping on my part, of course of the day of because I am literally the worst person ever. Which of course means I should take a moment to do another gratuitous dressing room post in the middle of this meditation, with my sad stringy rain-soaked hair.

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So I show up at this party well past fashionably-late, more like to-the-point-where-my-date-was-sending-me-wtf-texts-late, and yeah we still managed to have a reasonably good time. We ate a *lot* of tiny sandwiches, that’s for sure. Thankfully I made up for being hella late by being hella cute.

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So, like, I promise I had a serious point in here somewhere so I might as well get to it. Anyway, so here are this couple of trans chicks in this party that’s mostly cis gay dudes in dresses, and to say we stuck out would have been an understatement. Like, not even stuck out in the way you would expect a heavily tattooed and pierced transsexual and her date to stick out. Not even stick out in the way you would expect someone who refers to themselves as transsexual at a party full of mostly cis crossdressers to insist they stick out. Wait, what, you seriously thought I was gonna go that direction rhetorically? Even for a second?

You disappoint me, dear reader. Anyway, lets talk about costumes.

So, like, there are all sorts of busted theories and assumptions out there about why people like me (or maybe nothing like me) wear what we do. And, it’s like, I don’t get it. I’ve never gotten a boner from wearing panties or whatever. So, you know, let’s get that out of the way. There isn’t any escapism or anything to it, frankly I’d say it’s almost the opposite. I mean, in a lot of ways I dress *waaaaaaaaaaaaaay* less flamboyant now presenting feminine full time than I did when most people thought of me as a guy.

reddress8someone had to fuckin say it

But like, I don’t know, I’ve never been one that was up for using costumes, at least not in a sense that everyone else seemed to. It’s like, I spend so much of my life feeling like my body as the world saw it was just something I piloted, not inhabited. So I guess I’ve never seen the appeal of trying to take on a different personality or something for myself, because so little of my personality even felt like my own most of my life.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I faked my way through so much of my existence as a “man”, that I never really saw the appeal in dressing that “man” up as someone else to circumvent my inhibitions. For old me, dressing colorfully made me feel more authentic in a way because dressing as a “guy” made me feel like I’d disappear into thin air. In a ratty tshirt and jeans I wasn’t even a person, just a vehicle. An animatronic doll I controlled via a viewscreen buried so deep inside my skull noone could ever find me.

So like I’m at this party in my cute yet conservative Goodwill dress and Miranda is wearing the dress I met her in at the Against Me show a month before, and everyone around us is trashed and partying wearing these amazing outfits and stuff. And we’re just hiding in the back because people are literally stepping on us and we’re eating tiny sandwiches and wondering what we’re even doing here. *That* kind of sticking out like a sore thumb.

And like at one point some cute but very drunk guy with a spaghetti straps laying limp across his biceps and just sort of falling out of his sequined top leans into me to take a selfie kissing me on the cheek, which made me blush. He then tried to do the same to Miranda, and I thought she was gonna stab him in the kidney with her house keys.

And at that point we were just like fuck this lets get a cab.

Schematic Of An Electronic Gay Aversion Therapy Device, 1971.

2 May

gayshocktherapyschematic

I can’t really find much background for this specific image (that I found in this Buzzfeed article), but I found it interesting. If it’s hard to make out the labels, it appears to be a control unit running a pair of slide projectors (one full of images of naked men, the other full of images of naked women) and what looks like a randomizing engine to decide if electric shocks would be applied to either the left or right leg (presumably to keep the subject unprepared). It’s kinda eerie.

BONUS:

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This is an letter sent by notoriously homophobic LAPD chief Edward Davis in response to being invited to Gay Pride Week in 1975, where he responds that he’d rather advocate for “Gay Conversion Week”.

via Letters Of Note.