Embracing My Gender Fluidity with Animal Crossing

I realized that I wasn’t exactly my gender when I was in high school, around 16 or so. Then and even now, I was fine with my biological sex as female but the presentation of said biological sex and the presentation of the associating gender as woman was something I waffled on. I was mostly fine with presenting as female, using female pronouns and living my life as a female; but during those formative high school years there was a quiet storm starting to rumble, one that was not decidedly female or feminine. For the longest time, I thought I was transgender but I didn’t experience any dsyphoria. I didn’t feel wrong in my body; just not entirely a female. There was a male part of me that the longer I tried to deny, the more stark and apparent he became. 

I found out what I was about a year or so into my journey: genderfluid. Gender fluidity is under the umbrella of being non-binary, rejecting a strict binary of gender slotting people rigidly into male or female. There is a distinct difference in every part of me while presenting as female and presenting as male and both sides are different but united under one roof being my human meat shell. But I still present as female almost every day of my life. I don’t have an issue with being seen as and perceived as a woman and those close to me know about the male side of me that I don’t hide when in more intimate spaces. 

Recently I started playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons; yes, I know I’m late to the party, I’ve been playing Pokemon Sword for hours in a fugue depressive state. When I finally started the island slice-of-life game, I immediately tried to win over my villagers through gifts (as you do); mostly trying very hard to fit gifts to their personalities. But I quickly started simply regifting gifts I had received or items that I didn’t want to keep but also didn’t feel like selling back to the capitalistic tanukis. I would give male characters dresses, tank tops, skirts and female characters all sorts of sports memorabilia and it was all okay. Rocco accepted lacy tanks, Sheldon was fine with dresses, Clay was okay with getting cute pink items and is perfect in every way. 

I spent a great amount of time trying to get my house looking just right and for a while I was greatly troubled with how girly my home on my fictional island looked. Lots of floral wallpapers and pink and a galaxy floor for some reason. I worried that it wasn’t gender neutral enough or masculine enough but then I remembered something about my own gender: it’s fluid. I am both at the time, I am one or the other, a mix of the two, perfectly unbalanced and wonderful for it. 

I am a lot of things that are in contradiction: a goth, a pastel girly girl; a charming prince and a doting princess. That binary, that duality has always been part of me and I’ve always found it beautiful. I’m no less a goth because I like pink and no less a masculine because of it in the same way Rocco is no less male-coded if he’s in a frilly dress. That’s the funny thing about gender; it’s all a social construct. Pink was a masculine color until society just one day decided it wasn’t. Dresses were for men until society just one day decided it wasn’t. Clothes aren’t inherently gendered; nothing really is. Humans decided what is gendered and the arbitrariness of it has impacted the lives of trans and non-binary people for far too long. Capitalism made gendered products and thus created this artificial concept that products can be for some or for others.

Animal Crossing has been a game that lets me be unabashedly girly while not feeling like I’m sacrificing any of my masculinity and reminding me that, in fact, such a notion is a fool’s errand. Liking pink and flowers and nice clothes and rooms to coordinate with a sense of flow and purpose is not inherently gendered. Liking men’s clothing and dresses at the same time shouldn’t be so revolutionary. And the fact that Animal Crossing is so gender queer is just wonderful, even down to the character design. Looking at my little avatar running around depending on the haircut; very few gendered clues are provided as all character models are flat-chested and without difference in hip shape. It means that building what we know as male and female is entirely down to filigree; decoration that is added to a human body but with a simple swap can mean radical difference. 

For a while, I had attempted to strive for something that would look like gender neutrality: favoring lots of black and white, signing off letters and emails with a simple non-gendered “A” and thinking that despite the ample bust and wide hips that if I just tried hard enough I could pass for male and thus provide my gender fluidity. But even then all I was doing was trying to perform at gender. I was trying so hard to make people see something that truthfully, I didn’t need them to see. What matters is and forever will be, how I feel. Gender is a tricky thing; all at once very real and also very tenuous and fleeting and even though I am lucky enough not to feel much dysphoria ( I do sometimes when being labeled as female is used inherently as a means of condescension or with certain hormonal imbalances caused by the curse of being a biological woman); I have to give some thanks to a video game about capitalism, colonialism and terraforming for helping teach me a valuable lesson about my gender identity. 

Happy Pride, everyone. Be open, be kind, be empathetic and most importantly; when applicable, be yourself. And never forget that gender is entirely a social construct. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 59 – Orlando

This week, hosts Tori and Amanda cover Virginia Woolfe’s gender-bending novel: Orlando in honor of LGBT+ Pride Month while discussing gender as a social construct and shamelessly shill for LookHuman’s bisexual pride merch.

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 38- RENT

Happy It’s Still Pride! Join your hosts as we drink Stoli, mostly complain about RENT and talk about what it really mans to be an ally and the merits of getting a real job.

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 37- Giovanni’s Room

Happy Pride, everyone. Let’s talk Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, drink a cocktail consisting of ginger ale and bourbon and Amanda tries to run from the pain by talking about Kingsman: The Secret Service.

I Call Her “Mother”

_A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, an.png

My Mother is a 6’7’’ statuesque, African-American blonde woman who is an Emmy-winner television host and award-winning singer, model and actress.

Now, for those of you who know me and my family: you are probably confused on a few things when it comes to that statement. Firstly, my mom was short with dark hair and my mom is currently in her eternal rest.  

My Mother is RuPaul and today we’re going to talk about how important it is for so many queer people to have a person that they can call “Mother”.

Some background: I have been watching Drag Race since Season 4 (which was around the time the dinosaurs still roamed). And back then, I was a high school student and still fairly in the closet. Any time I tried to discuss such a nuanced topic I was told that I was either just confused or seeking attention. So my enjoyment of Drag Race was mostly for the drama, extravagant costumes and the music.

And in the years since Season 4, my opinions on the show have shifted. And those shifts have also been related to some of my feelings with the LGBT community, my own personal identity and how Mama Ru herself has softened in her age.

Now, some history on RuPaul Charles. Mama Ru did not spring forth from the cleavage of Michelle Visage in the early 2000s. RuPaul made her name as a model, performer and entertainer in the 1980s and 1990s. For a while, you probably saw her everywhere but you’d likely never attach the majestic woman to the equally handsome man. Many likely didn’t even know that Ru was biologically male for many of those early years and many just never questioned the unnaturally tall beautiful model. In the 1990s and 2000s, RuPaul could be seen as a guest on many television shows: she was even on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, for heaven’s sake.

RuPaul started her drag Hunger Games in 2009 and the show did…fine? It was fine. Not many got to see the mythical first season and things didn’t really pick up until Seasons 2 and 3. All the while, RuPaul the person was just that: she had stopped a few of her cameo appearances and while she was still making music: her biggest role was as host to the show. She didn’t have much of a public presence and didn’t weigh in on the political matters pertaining the LGBT community. She had an empire to build.

This seemed to shift around Season 4: a season that famously had a challenge that centered around the theme of “Hope Floats” in honor of the brave LGBT members we lost during the Stonewall Riots. During that episode, many of the older drag queens took their time to explain to the younger queens that drag isn’t just about going on the Internets and looking fish: it is political and was not always socially accepted. It was moving hearing Latrice Royale and Chad Michaels discuss drag herstory to younger queens who only saw the art of drag as a means to celebrity.

And from Season 4 on: Ru only got more political. Her music has always been a jab at current politics and policies and when marriage equality passed in 2015: she and the show celebrated. But the show continued to face issues that mirrored the LGBT community.  While per season, at least one queen came out as a trans woman: the show didn’t really know how to handle a trans woman who still is a drag queen or what that line even is between gender identity and playing a woman for tips. Ru famously stayed quiet on such matters for years and we didn’t get an open and proud trans woman as a queen until Peppermint in Season 9.

But the transformation hit around the time of the Pulse Massacre. In 2016: a domestic terrorist took aim at a pinnacle of the Florida LGBT community and many lives were tragically lost. There was the RuPaul that many of us have come to know: vocal, angry and an advocate for LGBT people of all ages, races and creeds. Famously, during an awards show, RuPaul came on stage to discuss the shooting and said proudly “Don’t f*ck with my family.” It’s a moment that still brings a tear to my eyes watching the proud figure we always needed take shape. She gave a platform to queens to tell their stories: most seasons now feature new queens and older ones because the younger girls seem to have all forgotten their herstory. She brings together mostly diverse types of queens, though they do often skew towards her own tastes: she favors dancers, models and the occasional comedy queen.

Drag has been inherently political for as long as there has been drag and RuPaul is very aware of that. So she has now been spending her time using her voice and platform to build up queens, queers and other members of the LGBT family while also being very careful with how and who she supports. She quickly shunned Willam Belli after he was outed as a bit of a transphobe and was quick to disregard PhiPhi O’Hara after her bullying and diva behavior: but she did accept PhiPhi back into her loving arms after the drama queen PhiPhi pulled queens together for several benefit shows.

And over time, around the start of Season 5-6, we started seeing a change in Ru herself. She started referring to herself as “Mother” more and more. Now, for drag queens, you often do have a drag mother. Your Drag Mother is the person who teaches you how to tuck, gets you gigs and makes sure no one steals your tips. This role is not one to be taken lightly, think of it like a Gay Fairy Godmother. For so many LGBT folks, family is not always just the one you were born into. Family often means the people that add value to your life and it is often times a family that you choose. Which is why it’s so important to have someone public facing, ideal and supportive. In her…older age, Mama Ru is supportive, kind, loving but still unafraid to tell it like it is. It’s inspiring to have someone like that to look up to at any age: someone willing to tell you to love yourself because they know how hard that can be.

And it is because of that, I am proud to call Ru “mother”.

 

At the Intersection of Fish and Fab

 

“And now, I'm just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time.” ― Lady Gaga.jpgThis may be a surprise to literally no one but I love drag culture. And while I have my issues with the LGBT community and even my issues with RuPaul’s Drag Race, I am proud to call Ru “Mother” and I love the roots and history behind what drag is today. I love the steps between Tandi Dupree and Sasha Velour. I love that when faced with a mainstream culture that would not yield that so many LGBTQ folks just built their own culture. And while drag culture has been influential it has only recently been mainstream. All of that mainstream limelight has now become an influence to so many other creators. So today I want to talk about cosplay, fashion and how I connect to being a better cosplayer and person through drag, music and high art.

I love fashion. Clearly. I cosplay. You don’t get into cosplay and not want all eyes on you. And that being said I also do love fashion in general. It’s no wonder that Paradise Kiss is one of the few shojo animes I can tolerate. I love watching a good garment come together. I love the styling and the efforts people have to do so an outfit comes together. I’ve been watching a lot of Marco Marco shows online. Marco Marco is a designer who specializes in men’s underwear and leggings but that also extends to conceptual dresses and avant-garde body pieces. If you’ve never seen a Marco Marco show, you should. Like seriously, it’s all on Youtube. Just watch one. I’ll wait.

Are you done? Awesome, back to the show. I love the way that Marco Marco plays with gender, body shape and uses elements so foundational to the LGBT culture like voguing and ballroom couture as parts of his show. The way music plays into every show and every look is pivotal. But you already know that since you watched at least one show now, right?

But let’s take a step back. Let’s go back to a simpler time. Let’s go back to the 70s. Voguing in the drag community is a dance style. Depending on who you ask Madonna did it first but most drag mothers will say she took it from the drag scene. And it’s exactly what you think it is. It’s serving fierce looks and fierce dancing mostly with your hands and arms but a good Vogue routine should be a full body experience. Think disco ParaPara. And being able to pull a look together that you could lip sync and serve face to was vitol and influenced drag culture for decades. Things didn’t get impractical until the Club Kid era in the 80s-90s. And that has continued even now. We’ve seen mainstream fashion take cues from drag and LGBT icons like Grace Jones and RuPaul. We’ve seen fashion shows become pop culture spectacles again as opposed to these haughty affairs for the upper crust. The way music plays into fashion is huge for me and as a kid who grew up with things like DanceDance Revolution and ParaPara where your clothing can actually impact your score. ParaPara is what got me to always end in a pose when it comes to cosplay and having to remember that your gender affects your score in ParaPara links it back to music, fashion and form. There’s nothing like cosplaying while dancing and having your friends cheer you on or egg you on so you either graciously succeed or comedically fail.

Fashion’s a tricky subject for a girl like me. At my smallest I was still plus-sized and I did my best to dress my body and dress to my tastes which is always something in between sailing in Martha’s Vineyard and prep who probably took your boyfriend in sophomore year to androgynous vaguely edgy but somehow still preppy bog creature. My style has evolved some from high school to college to young professional. But drag has always inspired me. Playing with shape and proportion. And despite how plain my exterior can be, I do have a serious passion for fashion. I love Project Runway and shows like it but more importantly my heart always comes back to RuPaul’s Drag Race.  The way big girls dress themselves and the way the majority of these biological men can use the power of clothing and makeup to transform into women that are not gonna lie prettier than me.

Needless to say, I watch a lot of Drag Race when I’m working on costumes. It’s good background noise and the beats of the music and the sounds of men as women fighting over who wore it well. And all the while RuPaul’s encouraging words keep me steadily sewing and painting within the lines when required. And when I have to sit down and think about it, I am so inspired by these fashionistas and trendsetters when I work on my costumes. I want to be a better makeup artist because I can see what Kim Chi can do. I want to style and put pieces together because I know Latrice Royale can style her body so well. I want to conquer my anxiety and perfectionism because I know Katya can and did get over hers. I look up to Violet Chacki and Raja for how well they can serve face and I think about that every time I overdraw my highlight line or don’t go far enough with my eye shadow.

We all have plenty of different inspirations and drag and fashion happen to be two of mine. I work hard to be a better cosplayer because I know Mother Ru would want me to. RuPaul is like my patron saint of fashion, a statuette of her sits on my mantle that I have to provide offerings of thread, lace, ribbon and glittered candles. Drag motivates me to try dyeing fabric and painting my nails even though I’m wearing gloves. Drag motivates me to be more aware of my accessories in and out of cosplay. And when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you let that light show to the rest of the world.

 

Pride vs. Performance

 

pexels-photo-211882.jpegI didn’t know how to write this post. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to really write this post. But let’s do it. Let’s talk about LGBT Pride and how 2017 has been one of performance for the LGBT community and those allied with them.

I’ve been vocal about my support of LGBT causes and those affiliated with them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t take umbrage with the way the current American LGBT community behaves. Bisexual erasure is still a huge problem, current SJWs tend to be belligerent when they should be empathetic, and there is still a very problematic vision of what being “gay in America” looks like. But gender and identity questions aside, the pride community despite its flaws does its best to support each other at least in pockets. In pockets, the LGBT community can be loving, supportive, revolutionary. It was on the shoulders of community that Stonewall revolutionized how queer people were treated and it was in the shoulders of community that RuPaul helped shape the world we live in now. In these pockets of community, despite the pain of the less than ideal bunch, we grew and got better.

2015 had a landmark choice in the Supreme Court that paved the way for marriage equality all across this great nation. But that didn’t remove homophobia and transphobia. Shortly after were a string a “bathroom bills” and other flat out awful practices and legal nonsense. But yet the LGBT community  persisted. Strides were made. Idols created. Role models shaped.

And then Trump somehow won the presidency.

With him and his gaggle of GOP goons he could stand to turn on its head all the progress we have made so far. With him, “traditional” views returned to the collective consciousness all the while queer people are even more transparent than ever. So now despite many of the LGBT community already being out and already bring proud now we have to be even more so. I know more than one person who while “out and proud” still don’t participate heavily in pride activities because of some of the hypocrisies within the community.  But now the enemy is at the gate. Hell, he’s inside the gate. The wall has been breeched. The Vandals are inside the walls.

Bob the Drag Queen said it the best: now we have to be even more out and even more proud. Now we no longer have the luxury of hiding in our respectively gay homes. Now we must take to the streets draped in rainbow and clad in glitter to fight the menace that has breached the our inner sanctum. But what about those that who didn’t want to leave their hidden queer residences? Do we have to stand up, too?

Apparently so.

Recently, I took to wearing my LGBT pride shirts out and about. I’m proud to be part of this community. I’m proud of the allies. I’m proud the individuals, but I personally do take issue with some of the concerns listed above. But sometimes extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary support. It feels a little bit like the post-9/11 world. Remember how aggressively patriotic we had to be as Americans? Remember how important it was to be an American? Remember how violently any detractors were treated?

So if this is our Second Stonewall, I will fight at the barricades with you. But know that I am aware of the flaws in this barricade. Know that I am concerned about the hypocrisy. Know that my protest is not in compliance. Know that my support is not blanket. I am here for those who need a voice, but that will not silence my own.

Happy Pride, everyone.