He might just make it after all!

Nick. 21. Queer Jew Queen. Rants and musings. The usual.


1) Gender roles are established and reinforced in many different ways and usually on a daily basis. Within the familial structure, society has deemed the female to be the “mother”, the one who bears children, and is expected to care for those children. The male has been assigned the role of the “father” who is supposed to play a different role, similar to that of the hunter-gatherer, who provides shelter and food for the family. When the couple chooses to reproduce, we assign a “gender’ to the child based on their genitalia (which we now understand can be entirely harmful.) In a quickly changing society, however, we may note that gender roles (specifically within the family) are changing. Female identified persons are no longer expected to stay at home and raise the child, nor are men expected to be the sole providers in terms of finance. These are all decisions that must be made between the two (or three or four, don’t forget those who are polyamorous!) individuals deciding to start a family together. Who will work? Who will do what chores around the house?

2) I personally have been working to shift attitudes within the gay, male community regarding gender expression (as well as in the larger society.) In the gay community we often label each other “masc” and “femme”, privileging the “masc” identified individuals and making them the most desirable. I, however, embrace my “femme” side fully by painting my nails often and dressing in drag. I politicize my identity and label myself a “Queen.” I have also done some work by writing on this issue, both for a limited audience (via blogposts on my personal tumblr) and for a wider audience (by publishing articles for “The Feminist Wire” and “Gay RVA.”)

3) For this question I thought best to start out by defining exactly what “institution” means. Institution can be defined as “an established law, practice, or custom” or “a structure or mechanism of social order governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given community.” Institutions, in turn, are influenced by religious, educational, governmental, or social organizations. Marriage is an institution, heavily influenced by religious communities, and in this country determines who has access to certain rights and privileges, and within our current culture gives the most agency to heterosexual couples.

It is certainly a “personal” issue for many, as they are effected by the issue. For members of the queer community who desire marriage rights, many are influenced by their desire to commit to another being. This may influence their decision to create a family. For those opposed to same-sex marriage, the issue becomes personal because they feel that is goes against their beliefs and certain “moral standards” they uphold.

It is also a “political” issue because as it currently stands, marriage in this country is very much a privilege of the heterosexual community that gives access to certain benefits that those who are not married are not eligible for. By denying a certain subset of the population certain rights, when they desire to have a legal partner of the same-sex, the law is making certain citizens “second-class.” For example, two men or two women who are in a same-sex relationship may face complications when trying to make medical decisions, or if one partner dies the other may not have rights to inheritance.

It can also be viewed as political issue for queer folk who are against same-sex marriage because they feel it is an assimilation tactic. I somewhat agree with this statement, mostly because the same-sex marriage movement has been labeled as a “fight for equality” and I am concerned that once all people in this country have marriage rights, to many the queer struggle will have ended and other issues that effect the community will receive little attention (and let’s be honest, a lot of issues in the queer community are already swept under the rug because big, typically heternormative organizations such as the HRC have massive sway and choose to focus their attentions on one particular issue (marriage) rather than other, more pressing issues.

"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think."

"You should check out Fiona Apple’s newest album, Extraordinary Machine. It definitely has a more theatrical feel that most of her older work.” Those were the first words she said to me. She had come into the classroom clumsily, almost as awkward as most of the freshmen in my 9th grade English course. English, at the time, had been my favorite subject. I’ve always carried a list of high expectations for English teachers (something I’ve carried into college, carefully inspecting each English professor’s CV before taking their course) and when I looked into her eyes I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. What I didn’t know was the impact she would have on my life. 

This woman, affectionately known as Ethel (her name is Laura Ethel, but I’ve always been a huge fan of Ethel Merman and my dear friend and mentor has graciously allowed me to call her by her middle name) was one of the first people (and I know this is tired, and cliche, and Bette Davis would say ‘I detest cheap sentiment!’) who I feel truly saw me for everything that I am. As a flamboyant freshmen in high school, it was rather easy for her to understand that I was gay. 
This was something I had accepted rather early on in life. I’ve always known I was different. I was lucky enough to grow up in a supportive household where I was able to tell my mother at the age of eleven that I was gay without the threat of violence or abandonment. I even came out to most of my peers in the sixth grade (this was also the year that I ended up losing all of my male friends, and is probably a key moment that has always lead me to be closer to women). In this sense I was very lucky. Unfortunately, coming from a small town I had limited access to other people like me.
 But when I met Ethel, I instantly knew. I knew she was different too. It wasn’t her short hair or a physical quality that is so often attributed to lesbian identified women through stereotype. There was something different. We felt a connection to each other, but a connection neither of us could understand or vocalize. She had to protect her job, which could be at risk if her sexuality were open. Many might have said our friendship was inappropriate, considering she was a teacher in her 30’s and I was a freshman in high school.
Since she couldn’t directly tell me she was a lesbian, she found other ways. We connected through our mutual passion: the novel. I remember distinctly the day when Ethel asked me to visit her after classes had ended, and when I showed up to her classroom she had a bag full of books. Books that would change me in so many ways and open my mind to new possibilities and new hopes. I remember my favorite titles were “Fall on your Knees” (a sweeping, dark family saga that includes a queer love story) and “Trans-Sister Radio” (about an MTF trans-individual, that had an ending I entirely disagree with, but it was still beautifully written.)
During my high school years, Ethel would be a confidante and mentor, always offering advice (with some reservation) and upon graduation she immediately invited me to dinner at her home. From there we revealed everything to each other that we had been dying to say.
Ethel intrigues me because of her background and her many layers of life. She grew up in the small town of Pound, Virginia. It is a town that barely takes up a centimeter on the map, five minutes from the Kentucky border, and consists of one school, two or three restaurants, and a few homes. Driving through the town feels one with a sense of abandonment, as they travel through the small coal town. 
In high school she had what most would view as the perfect relationship. She dated a star athlete and won the title of Homecoming Queen. But she didn’t feel right in the relationship, especially as growing pressures for marriage emerged from both families. 
In college, two towns over from Pound, VA, Ethel explored her sexuality, discovering her identity as a lesbian. While at a local gay bar (aptly named “New Beginnings”) she met her partner, Vanessa. They have been together for nearly fifteen years and are still very much in love with each other (in a more mature way, that I can’t necessarily grasp at this moment in my life, never having been able to maintain a relationship for more than a year), and together form a family with Vanessa’s two children and one grandchild.
Recently, Ethel has quit her job and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in creative writing, an adventure she has always wanted to embark on. In my current life, we speak often and encourage each other as we pursue our passions. She often tells me things she wishes she could have told me in high school. That she knew, even as big of a social butterfly that I was, I had my own insecurities I would have to face, but I would always come through. She supports me in every decision, and encourages me when I dress in drag with tall wigs and fluffy tutus. She has humbled me, showing me a more private view of life and a different side of the queer struggle. While I have grown up with the knowledge that my family would accept me and that society was changing, she has shown me that the queer struggle and coming out narrative has been much more difficult for other people.

No Fat, No Femme: The Politics of Grindr

In case anyone is following this blog and is curious about me! Here’s a piece I wrote for “The Feminist Wire” in November.

  • Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American author, who primarily writes on themes surrounding national identity, mother-daughter relationships-, and diasporic politics. This says a lot about how she understands her Haitian identity in relation to her American identity.
    • braiding hair, dark rough - very focused around the physical appearance.
    • panty-hose card board - reinforcing femininity
    • carded fish wrappers - implies someone in the family buys fish from a fresh market
    • coarse, unruly - way of describing her hair as ethnic
    • Dusty grave
    • burnished branches

  • Terry Tempest Williams is a Utah native and a Mormon. A lot of her writing is focused around ideas of nature.
    • Landscape, feminism, ablaze, bright light, burning match, pink light, purple mountain, rainbow trout swimming, lapis sky, Great Salt Lakes, large boulders
    • Leo - fire, hot, confident, generous, loyal, pretentious, domineering
    • Pisces - compassionate, adaptable, accepting, devoted, oversensitive.
    • Virgo - analytically, observant, precise, skeptical, fussy, cold.

  • Sherman Alexie - Native American poet, writer, and filmmaker. Grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and  currently lives in  Seattle, Washington. Identifies with the indigenous nationalism literary movement.
    • sixties, hippes, Indians, Native Americans, Jimi Hendrix, color, red, white, black, ferocity, snowy fields, destructive, painful,

Gender Roles in my Family

The first time I truly questioned gender roles in the context of my own family was when I was six and my family started changing. My parents had decided to separate after eighteen years of marriage, and suddenly my mother who had been a homemaker her entire life was thrown into new and entirely different circumstances that she had never been faced with before. In terms of her own life, my mother got pregnant for the first time at fourteen while a freshman in high school.  My father, who was a senior at the same, had the luxury of graduating with a high school diploma. My mother, however, became a full time mother while still adjusting to the ins and outs of puberty. She would have three more children, giving her little time to focus on any form of formal education. 

I remember being acutely aware of this difference when my mother had to find a job and wasn’t home as often as my friend’s mothers. In my small, southern, suburban neighborhood the majority of mothers I knew were homemakers. Suddenly my family felt different and strange. A certain standard had been drawn for women like my mom. As the one carrying a child at fourteen she was asked up to give many opportunities solely based on her gender. My father was allowed to continue with his education and succeed. 

Be the Best Queen You Can Be

“What if he laughs with a horrible, wicked, high-pitched fey cackle, like a wicked witch, while he’s got his hand in Dad/boy, doing awful things to him?…Where do these faggots fit into the dropdown menu?” -Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?

In Tuesday’s class we were asked many questions. I find the question of how our various identities influence how we experience gender to be particularly compelling.

I myself am a self-identified faggot queen. And my object? Well…

…..naturally a queen needs inspiration! This was a photo given to me by a dear friend (and her mother, who happens to be a Yoga instructor!) before I left for college after high school graduation. Nearly three years later and it is still on my bedside table and is one of the first things I see in the morning.

So why is this important? Well, my favorite daily reminder to myself is “Be the best Queen you can be!”

Growing up I was called flamboyant, a sissy, and a fag (among other things) by my peers (mostly the male population of my middle school.) These names were hurtful, and I thought when I immersed myself in the gay male community I would find solace and a place of comfort. In many ways I did, but I still found challenges.

Even relations within the gay community became binary. On a typical gay dating profile it isn’t unusual to find terms such as “Masc only”, “no femme”, “top only.”

As a Bette Davis loving, nail painting, friend of Dorothy who loves to dress up and cackle (better than any ol’ Wicked Witch of the West, I might add) I understood early on that I didn’t exactly fit this “masc only” requirement that so many men were desirous of. And like the many essayists who contributed to Why Are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform I decided to take a different path. A path of openness. I decided to be unapologetically Nick, the self-described tired old Queen who embraces his “femme” side, as well as many other identities that have been devalued by the society I exist in.

Even my mother digs having a queen for a son (in a totally playful Joan Crawford-Mommie Dearest way):