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The Metaphor Translations: Terrorists

This is an occasional series on metaphors in narrative. Earlier editions focused on doomsday scenarios, androids, and monsters.

They are everywhere, plotting, planning, building in the moldy recesses of basements and garages where apparently they are never discovered until there are mere minutes left on the digital timers, receding separation between life as we know it and cataclysm. If there’s one big difference between narratives about terrorists and narratives about the previous topics in this series, it’s that terrorists really exist in the world (vampires, seriously, vampires do not exist, folks). And while I suppose it’s technically feasible that a volcano could rise up from an unstable fault line, it’s not likely to happen in the middle of Los Angeles, so although some doomsday scenarios (The Day After Tomorrow, asteroid stories, for example) are a remote, remote possibility, they’re not realistic in the same way terrorist and terrorism stories are.

Judging from the scripts, some of these narratives have wrestled with the news reports of terrorist activity and the attacks that occur across the world. The attacks on September 11, 2001, basically ended The West Wing’s idealized portrayal of White House politicking and policy making. These days Homeland articulates a reasonable take on the way in which government analysts sort through data on terrorist cells and actors, even as it occurs within a larger paranoid fantasy (i.e., anyone could be a terrorist, even your Congressman!). NCIS, and Covert Affairs cover plotlines that stretch much further from this approach, including stories with terrorists as more like love-torn stalkers with a political interest.

Whether the narrative at hand is an attempt at realism or further afield, it still presents a threat to our culture, which makes it similar to narratives that feature attacking monsters, zombies, aliens, and the like, but there is a notable difference to the fantastical tale. Typically terrorism narratives include a lot about our response as nation-states, as governments with caring and dedicated employees who are working against all odds to stop the threat (think 24, A Most Wanted Man, Spooks), and in this way they reinforce the idea that the tactics our actual governments use are good, be they waterboarding, phone surveillance, or the near-omnipresent security cameras in our cities. The sheer number of plot lines across terrorist-themed shows and movies that include phone tapping, police stakeouts, computer programming to listen for terrorist plots, face recognition software, partnerships between the CIA, MI-6, and Interpol, and so on become a kind of system of justification for presuming our government is on duty for its citizens. Sure there may be a bad apple here or there (and always the double-crossing agent to watch out for), but the narrative of the fight against terrorism nearly always ends with the agents from the government thwarting evil. Read More…

Humor as Discomfort

A couple of years ago I picked apart Seth MacFarlane’s performance as emcee of the Academy Awards for his blatant and frequent sexist and racist comments. I wondered openly why anyone expected he’d do anything different, given his history as the “offend everyone” writer behind Family Guy and other television shows. Late last year I was somewhat surprised and ultimately disappointed when Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson came to Walla Walla to deliver an uninteresting and Islamaphobic lecture, and I remembered that Seth MacFarlane was the executive producer of the Cosmos: A Space Odyssey series on Fox that featured Tyson. For in the Hollywood universe, there are a few individuals who drive cultural production under the guise of many studios, production companies, agenting firms, and talent. It’s the old boys’ club of popular culture at work.

Last weekend we saw something a little different. I wouldn’t climb up on the soapbox with Maggie Gyllenhaal and proclaim it “revolutionary” (and evolutionary) as she did, but it was a crack in the edifice that Hollywood normally supports. At the Golden Globes, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Margaret Cho, Lily Tomlin, and even Jane Fonda (in a brief turnabout from her foray into conservative political stances) poked fun at this boys’ club and made those boys decidedly uncomfortable. Here is the Fry-Poehler opening monologue:

Tina’s very first line, calling everyone in the audience a bunch of “minimally talented brats” signaled a critique of Hollywood culture and production. The line about Joaquin Phoenix calling award shows a bunch of bullsh*t and then the well timed, “Oh, hi, Joaquin!” was a direct calling out of his hypocrisy (and pointed at a performer who once pretended to not care about Hollywood anymore, all for the publicity). From here they made a segue way into the North Korea threats around The Interview which would form the frame of a running joke in the form of Margaret Cho as a North Korean dictator and culture aficionado. From the mention of North Korea there were more jabs at the film and fellow actors that looked at first like the usual stuff of celebrity roasts: Read More…

Bad Dates

I meant to construct a web site to announce this, and I meant to announce it with more pomp and circumstance, or fanfare, or something, but whatever, I’m busy and you all know how to respond to a call for submissions. So, without further ado: bad dates screen shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark I’m honored to announce that I’ll be editing a nonfiction anthology entitled Bad Dates: Hilarious Tales of Queer and Trans Romance Gone Wrong. We’re talking mortifying but funny, like flipping off a person on the subway who cut in front of you and then realizing they’re your blind date for that night. Or learning the date you thought was a fellow vegan has brought you to a pit barbecue fest, or the old school queer standard, winding up on a date with your ex’s other ex and trying not to let the conversation get swamped into shared tales of those relationships. Submissions should be:

  • In .doc, .docx, or .rtf format, using standard manuscript format
  • Maximum of 5,000 words, but shoot for 3,000-4,500 (and yes, 5,100 words is over the maximum)
  • Free of sexism, trans misogyny, homophobia, racism, classism, ableism, just generally not douchey or reliant on offensive stereotypes of people on the margins
  • Showing your name and contact information (which is in the standard manuscript format, but whatever, it bears repeating)
  • Focused on queer and/or trans people as the main characters in the story
  • True stories that happened in actual life, or like, we can’t call the book nonfiction
  • Funny or have a humorous aspect to the story, or else the subtitle won’t be very accurate

No reprints, please. Unpublished work only.

Submitters should also include in their submission a maximum three-sentence bio with any relevant publishing credits. Submissions are due by February 14, 2015, because… oh come on, I don’t need to explain why that’s the deadline, right? Please send in your best work! I’m so excited to read your stories. Submit your stories to:

BadQTDateBook@gmail.com

Life Hazards, Or, How I Learned to Argue with Doctors

Yesterday at 1:22pm, after coming into the office from lunch I had to deal with someone at my syringe exchange and in the process I received a needle stick injury. I am not going to write about the details of how that happened, certainly not online, but enough people have heard about my injury that there’s little sense in not talking about it at all. I’ve known ever since working for this nonprofit that working in the exchange carried some risks, and I’m proud that after fifteen years in operation, this is the first accident in the program.

However, if I thought there was a readily accessible and understandable protocol for dealing with needle stick injuries that I could work through in the hours after the injury, when it is most critical to get care, I was sorely mistaken. For a town known to have a great number of medical personnel and a nursing program, I had to work through six different care organizations and several staff who were close to incompetent, who had poor patient listening skills, and little cultural competence. Here is what happened after I washed my wound out in my office rest room.

I called the health department, saying I had a needle stick event and needed to talk to the infectious disease nurse, who knows me professionally because of my position at the nonprofit. She told me that I needed to contact Occupational Health at the hospital beause those are the folks who deal with needle sticks that have occurred in the workplace. I pulled up their web page and called the number at 1:30pm, eight minutes after the event, and got a recording saying their normal working hours were 8:30am until noon and 1:00pm until 5:00pm, but I could leave a message and they would call me the next day. I hung up and called again. Same thing. I texted Susanne, knowing she would be in class until 2:20pm.

I drove to the emergency department, got a bracelet, and was ushered back to a bed by 1:50pm. I texted the president of my board who offered to join me. I accepted. The nurse on my case told me her computer said to send me to urgent care because they are associated with the occupational health department. She cut the bracelet off my wrist and I drove half a block to urgent care. My board president met me there. At 2:30pm they brought me back and a nurse took my vitals. She was concerned that my blood pressure was 148 over 90, but I said given the circumstances it wasn’t going to get much better. I tried to relax; but my BP readings were just borderline high, which is atypical for me.

The doctor came in and asked what happened. I told him I run a syringe exchange and that I received a needle stick injury through my rubber glove. He asked me the name of the “source patient,” science-speak for the owner/user of the syringe. I said I didn’t know his name as this is a confidential program. This began a strange discussion in which I outlined: Read More…

Goodbye to Kitt

My first move toward transition was to explore online, mostly on LiveJournal, MySpace, and a now-defunct bulletin board called strap-on.org. It was split into discussion rooms that resembled the identity politics of the new millennium—a POC exclusive space, a transgender umbrella board, an area to talk about popular culture and feminism, a space for survivors of violence, a femme area, as well as specific discussion rooms for BDSM, a wide open anything goes space, and I can’t even remember what else. If a dozen years earlier I’d gotten obsessed with online gaming (known as MUDs), now I was headlong in the waters of my own subjectivity. It was fascinating, in that terrifying way. I was nothing but my persona. But wait, I was my persona? I had to ask large questions of myself that were way more vulnerable-making than the entirety that had come before. I was afraid of my own narcissism, but my foray into hyperspace was already a leap, and I couldn’t force myself backwards because I falling somewhere very deep.

Then real people emerged from the brightly lit pixels on my screen. I drove five hours to New York City to meet people I would never have to see in the material world again if I didn’t want to (read: if I was a big transgender flop). That went okay, even as it provided evidence that I was very much out of the politically correct loop for how to interact with other trans people. I struggled in my romantic relationship with a person who was himself transitioning and who was strangely territorial about the process. He declared that I wasn’t allowed to go to DCATS, the transmasculine group in DC, even if he’d gone only to a couple of meetings himself. So I stayed away. But I learned of another group that met in Glen Burnie, Maryland, of all places. It was way too suburban for my boyfriend to be caught dead there, so I drove out the dark highways to a Friendly’s restaurant, and met half a dozen trans men who liked to chat over fried clams and sundaes. And that is where I met Kitt Kling.  Read More…

But What About Science?

NASA image of ring around the cosmosIt’s not often that a bonafide famous person steps into Walla Walla, much less a celebrity known for being an intelligent, interesting thinker and speaker, specifically Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of the redux of Cosmos. Rather, living in a town as conservative as Walla Walla it was pretty unsurprising that Susanne and I would jump at the chance to see him give a ninety-minute talk, even if the tickets cost $50 each. The seal on the deal was the reality that we don’t go on dates all that often, what with two children under the age of three—so between presumed smart lecture on science, sitting in a hall with other less-than-Tea-Party people, and Date Night, it was a no brainer (see what I did there?) to spring for the tickets. And just like I thought would happen, we saw all manner of acquaintances and like-minded comrades. There were many school-age kids there, which was nice. At least at first.

I admit I felt some excitement rumble through the auditorium when the lights were lowered and an older man rambled onto the stage to give Dr. Tyson’s introduction. Except it wasn’t an introduction, so much as a self-congratulatory speech about bringing Dr. Tyson to Walla Walla. Of course we were all happy to see the good doctor—we’d bought $50 tickets to prove it, after all. He called up Dr. Maxood, a local cardiologist, to the stage, and then that good doctor told us about his “long shot” plan to get Dr. Tyson here to speak. I looked at my watch, mostly ignoring their remarks, but increasingly annoyed that we were listening to this and not either opening comments about the host of Cosmos nor the speaker himself. And then a third man took the conch, I mean, microphone, to tell us about his grand work raising $20,000 so that 356 local students could come and hear the lecture. Wait. Someone had to raise money for the students to attend? They weren’t simply let in? If the money hadn’t been pulled together, they wouldn’t have been let in?

Susanne and I opened up the programs we’d been handed in the lobby. While the event was a production of Main Street Studios, it was actually coordinated within the nonprofit arm of the Main Street Studios organization, which has only been in existence since late 2013. Now we had questions about how the math worked—what was Dr. Tyson paid to speak, and who got the proceeds from the speaking engagement? If Man #3 on the stage had raised $20,000 to send 356 students to the lecture (which comes to $56.18 per child, so the ticket cost plus the fee, which appears not to have been waived in order to send a higher number of students to the lecture), where did that $20K go? To the nonprofit arm of the organization or to Main Street Studios? And what are the ethics of using a nonprofit organization to support a for-profit venture, if that’s where the money went?

Feeling unsettled, Dr. Tyson at last took the stage. Things went downhill from here. Read More…

“That’s My Secret. Holding Still”: A Review of Zoe Whittall’s Novel Holding Still For As Long As Possible

evmaroon:

Nice review, principled criticism.

Originally posted on Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian:

holding stillReading Zoe Whittall’s Toronto-set novel Holding Still For As Long As Possible is kind of like reading a wittier, more exciting version of my urban early-to-mid-twenties queer life in the 2000s.  It was fun and nostalgic for me to jump back into this world, but it is uncanny to read a book featuring characters that are so much like you and the communities you’ve known.  I mean, in a good and a bad way: these are white, bike-riding, middle-class background, artsy, educated, FAAB queers. Unfortunately, both people of colour and trans women are pretty absent from the world of the book, although this is something that was mostly true in my experiences in similar communities in Halifax, Victoria, and London in that stage of my life.

What I’m saying is that what Whittall is doing in this book is limited, but she’s doing it really, really well.  Like, I can’t…

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Fear Weary

police quashing protests at Ferguson, Missouri(This is republished from my Medium.com account, with citations added in this version.)

In 1983, I was 13 when Halloween rolled around, and instead of worrying about the exact placement of my zombie blood on my face, I was listening to my parents talk about the Tylenol tampering cases, and how I needed to inspect my candy wrappers before I ate any of it. It was a lot of discipline for a young teenager, but the message came at such a high frequency of fear that I heeded their proscription.

In 1982, the cover of our Time Magazine subscription screamed about herpes and how many people were walking around with such a horrible, dirty virus. By 1985 the virus emergency had shifted to HIV, replete with all of the horrifying ways in which it possibly traveled to other people. (Mosquitos! Swimming pools! Soft drinks!)

The mid-to-late 1980s had us fearing crack cocaine,* the last throes of the Soviet Union, and what would happen if we elected Gov. Dukakis instead of Vice President Bush. Not a year has gone by that I can remember in my lifetime in which we didn’t have some huge bogeyman to fear as presented in the US media.

PCP. PCBs. Iraq (the first time), and then soon after, Desert Storm Illness. Terrorists, welfare recipients, inner city youth, trade unionists were all out to get us. We couldn’t even celebrate the new millennium without fearing that all of our computers were about to implode with bad programming. Read More…

Reading List of Trans YA

Yes, there are other books out there, but these are good books (my own notwithstanding)! For your edification:

Trans YA Authors

AUTHOR

GENRES

TITLES

Charlie Anders

Literary

Choir Boy

Susan Jane Bigelow

Science Fiction

The Daughter Star, Sarah’s Child

Kate Bornstein

Humor, Self-Help, Memoir

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws

Ivan Coyote

Literary, Short Stories

One in Every Crowd, One Man’s Trash, Close to Spider Man

Calvin Gimpelvich

Urban Fantasy

Wolfmen (online graphic novel)

Nick Krieger

Memoir

Nina Here Nor There

Sassafras Lowery

Literary

Kicked Out; Roving Pack

Everett Maroon

Science fiction, Humor

The Unintentional Time Traveler

Rae Spoon

Literary

First Spring Grass Fire

 

Trans Characters

AUTHOR

GENRES

TITLES

Cris Beam

Literary

I Am J

Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Literary, Experimental

Freakboy

Tanita S. Davis

Literary

Happy Families

Kim Fu

Literary

For Today I Am a Boy

Rachel Gold

Literary

Being Emily

Bryan Katcher

Literary

Almost Perfect

s.e. smith

Magical realism

The Transformations of Tabitha Grey (forthcoming)

Ellen Wittlinger

Literary

Parrotfish

 

Dear parents, you are being lied to.

evmaroon:

Word. As someone who was quarantined along with my family for whooping cough even though we’d all been vaccinated (resulting in a more mild illness for us), I can say that anti-vaccination stances are all based on misinformation and fear. Vaccinate your kids. You may be saving a life.

Originally posted on Violent metaphors:

Standard of care.

In light of recent outbreaks of measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses, and the refusal of anti-vaccination advocates to acknowledge the problem, I thought it was past time for this post.

Dear parents,

You are being lied to. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk.

View original 1,134 more words

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