By Christopher Curcio (Staff)
Growing up in the seventies, the boys department at Sears was, to me, about the dullest and most depressing place in God’s creation. So I guess it’s only fitting that amidst that foreboding landscape of black, brown, grey and navy blue I learned one of the hardest lessons of my so-called boyhood—being a boy sucks.
My first memory of that dark, dismal back-alley where color goes to die is from my summer before the second grade.
The year was 1971. Dad was called away to do a second tour of Vietnam and for some reason Mom and the rest of us relocated from western Maryland to the sunny eastern coast of Florida.
Totally ignorant of the enormity of my father’s situation (it never once occurred to me that he might not come back), I was excited and thrilled at the prospect of moving to a place where the sun shone year round and the beach was a mere 10 minutes away!
A few weeks before school started, my mother decided to take us on a back-to-school shopping trip. I had never been clothes shopping before and was thrilled about the idea of wearing shorts all year long! Well, that excitement was short lived when I got a glimpse at the limited choices available to me. “Is this it?” I remember thinking. “Is this all there is?”
Shocked and numbed by the plainness of the selection (2 styles of shirts—pullover or button down; 2 styles of pants—short or long) and that almost complete lack of color, I finished my shopping in about 15 minutes. My only treasure was a pair of red, white and blue sandals with stars on them left over from a Fourth of July display.
Looking back, I really can’t say what I was hoping to find. The colors and styles of the clothes on the racks were pretty much the same as the ones I was wearing. But for some reason, I was expecting more—a lot more.
Now, if the boys department could be compared to the sepia-toned bleakness of the Kansas prairie, entering the girls department with my Mom and sisters for the first time was like dropping 10 tabs of the best acid and being blasted into Oz.
A galaxy unto itself, the girls department boasted every color in every shade and hue known to mankind (and a few Mother Nature never intended). Purples, oranges, yellows, pinks, greens and blues brighter than the sky smiled at me from every corner. Dresses, blouses, skirts, shorts, hats, sunglasses, necklaces, bracelets, shoes (and even socks!) in every style and color imaginable hung from every rack. Over the rainbow? Honey, I was inside the rainbow and had absolutely no desire to go back. Fuck Kansas.
And so it was, in the middle of that glossy, sparkling, glitter-and-sequined universe, that the faintest glimmering of an idea started to take form that would eventually blossom into the most important lesson of my American childhood: somehow, I don’t know how, I had ended up in the wrong body.
Of course, as a pint-sized 6 year-old, I didn’t have the words to articulate this. All I knew was that as I grew, something wasn’t quite right. Sure, when I looked at my body I was definitely a boy, but everything my heart wanted and desired screamed “Girlfriend!” Easy Bake Ovens, LiteBrites, tassels on my handlebars, bell-bottom flares, Sun-In and Bonne Bell Lipsmackers—all denied me simply because I wasn’t born with a vagina. So, with my head down and my mouth securely shut, I allowed society to create my sterile, colorless existence as a “boy”.
A little over a decade later, the moment I realized my ever growing attraction to men was not a passing phase, I started to self-identify as gay. And in the eighties, there weren’t that many labels to choose from: if you were a guy who liked guys, you were gay; if you were a girl who liked girls, you were lesbian. If you liked both you were…well, a slut.
However, knowing what we know now about the amorphous nature of gender, I wonder if it would be more accurate to start identifying myself as transgendered.
I mean, even now, rapidly approaching 50, I can honestly say that there has never been a single moment in my life when I have ever identified with the gender assigned to my sex. For example, as a boy, I avoided other boys like the plague. Their rough and tumble nature frightened me so much that I hung out with the girls, people with whom I actually had something in common.
And except for a brief stint in Little League Baseball—an exercise in humiliation I vowed never to repeat—everything I was expected to love as a boy (sports, camping, and anything remotely involving physical prowess) I found intimidating and impossibly dull. And everything that was considered girly (jumping rope, hopscotch and just about anything involving yarn) attracted me like bees to honey.
As a “man,” I look at the aggressive, macho, one-up behavior of my fellow bunkmates and say “WTF?” I just can’t, and probably never will, relate. Except for sharing the same genitalia and clothes, the similarities are pretty much non-existent.
For decades I’ve joked to my friends and referred to myself as a woman trapped in a man’s body. But maybe it’s not a joke after all. Perhaps, for whatever reason, it’s the God’s honest truth. And while I have no plans to surgically alter my body, I do have plans to reincarnate. And I’m hoping next time Mother Nature will get it right.
By Spencer Spotts (FGS ’17)
In first block’s “Intimacy” issue of the Cipher magazine, Brooks Fleet wrote an article titled, “Man to Man: Confronting the Fear of Coming Out.” Although it is always refreshing to read queer writing in any of our campus publications, a response to this piece is needed for those (regardless of gender) who are in the closet or questioning their sexual orientation.
First, you don’t have to come out just yet. The process of coming out is in fact a process. Remember that this time is for you to explore yourself for you. Depending on your situation, there may be a little or a lot at risk when deciding whether it’s an appropriate time to come out. So you don’t have to rush it, and remember that you know yourself and your situation the best. The sexual frustration of your fellow queer peers is not a valid reason for you to come out.
Second, remember that everyone’s experiences are different. Colorado College may be a great place for some queer students, but it may be a living hell for others. Regardless, maybe your fear does not root from being scared to be out on our campus or that “homophobia [will] suddenly reveal itself.” One flaw in the article at hand is that the argument never de-centers itself from the mainstream view of the stereotypical white gay male and exhibits an essentialist view of identity. There are other factors that may strongly influence your decision to come out, some of which may not be typical or prevalent for the privileged majority in your community. As a first-generation student who grew up in a conservative household, my financial stability and future were huge factors in my decision to come out. Although I work two jobs and am on financial aid as well as scholarship, it still isn’t enough to cover the full cost of tuition. While my parents contribute a miniscule amount towards my tuition, I could not afford to risk losing any financial help they were providing. If I didn’t carefully take the time to come out, I would not be at Colorado College, or any other institution for that matter. I would still be living at home with an even less likely chance of escaping to a more accepting community. It is also important to consider the implications of different cultures and racial backgrounds. The possible consequences of coming out for some gay black men are much different than those of white gay men. I myself cannot and will not speak on behalf of gay black men nor will I generalize them into one group, but there are plenty of opportunities to educate yourself through printed text or online publications.
As a student body, we always need to engage in reflection when publishing student writing. We all come from different backgrounds and cannot generalize identities. I’m not discouraging students from writing; in fact, I strongly encourage more students to write in some form or another. However, we need to acknowledge the responsibility that comes with publishing a piece of writing and act as true scholars, which means reflecting upon our work before submitting it. Think about your perspective and acknowledge it in your writing. Avoid generalization. No work is value-free or objective, so own up to it.
What was an attempt to bring the queer community together and provide comfort to the coming out experience only added more pressure to those who are in the closet. If we want “a greater diversity of gay men…on campus” like the article states, then we first need to be comfortable with diversity and what that actually means.
By Stefani Messick
It would feel more realistic to say that it was six months ago that I stepped off the plane to find myself in Germany’s capital; as I blog, however, it has been 21 days. The experiences I have shared with my peers in this short amount of time will remain pertinent and influential in my memory for years to come. As bittersweet as it is to already be leaving, I think it is safe to say that the FemGeniuses are experiencing stimulus overload, exhaustion, and maybe even a touch of homesickness. Nevertheless, our final day in Berlin was brimming with adventure, laughter, and reflection.
Despite the weather forecast, we woke up surprised to find gloomy skies followed by bursts of rain. The apartment was buzzing with nostalgia and delight, and after we said our first goodbye to Blaise, several of us headed to Hackescher Markt to seek out some last-minute Berlin memorabilia, perhaps for our family members whom we promised souvenirs or maybe as a last-ditch effort to spend the rest of our “monopoly money” euros. The tourist atmosphere was stifling, and after a while, we headed to BBQ Kitchen to grab some lunch, minus Casey, who was determined to find schnitzel before she left Germany. With our stomachs full, we easily traversed the bustling cobblestone streets and navigated various forms of public transport. We’ve come a long way since first arriving in Berlin with wide eyes and frantic expressions (at least I have).
Our main attraction for the day, the Lesbian and Gay Festival, was 13 U-Bahn stops from “home.” The streets there were colored with lesbian and gay pride, the air boisterous with affirmation and eccentricity. The product of small town Colorado, I could count on one hand the number of LGBTQ people I knew and had met while growing up. During my time in Berlin, however, I have seen more couples and met more LGBTQ activists than I’ve known in my brief 18 year existence. Nollendorfplatz brought more immediate comfort and relief than I was expecting. Before the rain started again, our group navigated the colorful streets in childlike awe and happiness, collecting brochures, stickers, and buttons—text in English not required. We all wished, however, that we had at least a basic knowledge of German language in order to enjoy a drag queen’s stage performance or read informational pamphlets of various activist groups. For me, the experience was valuable even without total linguistic comprehension. Although it soon began pouring, the weather couldn’t rain on the parade—there were enough rainbows around to keep the people smiling.
On the train that afternoon (after we left the festival) and again that evening (after we returned to check out the night scene), I exchanged social discomforts with other passengers. Kadesha told me about the rude commentary of a couple, which included the German term for lesbian, “lesbisch,” followed by laughter. And later, I was pressed to boldly stare back at an ill-mannered man whose eyes couldn’t seem to be separated from my new Amnesty International t-shirt and short hair. Throughout the trip, I had heard from several of my classmates that they felt particularly Black in Germany, and before these incidents, I hadn’t fully understood what they meant, since my whiteness, at least, helped me blend in. Discrimination and loathing isn’t always overt, and I find this to be a dangerous issue. When those with the “normative” privileges can instill discomfort in the “other” without laying claim to its problematic subtleties, oppressions scoot under the radar, beyond basic discourse and action. That’s why I find the experiences we had in Berlin with activists and authors who are at the front of various socio-political movements so significant. Where awareness is lacking, intersectionality and kindness suffer.
Our late afternoon and early evening was peppered with unique experiences as well. In the lively Alexanderplatz station square, we found ourselves in the midst of another cultural event, the Afrika Festival. We instantly wished we had come here in place of our visit to the Hackescher market, but that didn’t stop us from purchasing several hand-crafted, distinctive products from the kind vendors. In our interaction with an eager salesman and musician, Kadesha managed to acquire two free hand-carved creatures, an elephant and a hippopotamus she promptly named “Hippa.”
A short walk away, we found ourselves craning our necks in order to see the tip of the TV Tower. We entered Berlin in style with our meal at 368 meters (1,207 feet), and our exit was no different. Our accommodations the entire trip never failed to disappoint. 147 floors above the ground, we ate a three-course meal on a revolving floor that allowed us an exquisite 360-degree view of Berlin. Together, we shared tasty delicacies and laughable memories from the trip. Although we all came from different places, including Peru, Turkey, Malaysia, and the United States, we were collectively one unit from Colorado College. We embarked on an adventure with an esteemed professor who helped introduce us to the revolutionary activism in Germany surrounding race, gender, sexuality, class, and migration. Each of us left with some new perspectives, whether on an international or personal level, and for that, I feel eternally blessed. As a child, when I dreamt about travel, I never imagined it occurring so soon in my life or that I would also be meeting and conversing with the authors of the books I studied for this course, the front-runners of a historical movement. Now, as we enter the air to go back from whence we came, we have new knowledge in our minds and new outlooks in our hearts.
Stefani Messick is a rising sophomore at Colorado College and hopes to major in English and Education. She also runs for the cross country and track and field teams, and has been finding time to run laps around the block near the apartment where she lives in Berlin, rain or shine. She prefers shine.
No, the “A” in LGBTQIA+ doesn’t stand for “Ally.” It stands for Asexual. No, we shouldn’t have a straight pride month. Every month is straight pride month. No, Macklemore isn’t the only artist in hip-hop who cares about gay people. There are a plethora of hip-hop artists who are actually queer and have lots to say on the matter.
Being a good ally doesn’t mean you will tolerate two men kissing in privacy, it means you actively fight the hetero and cis sexist power structure under which we all live. Don’t expect extra points from queer people just for putting up with us.
The people who are actual allies do amazing work for the queer community every day. That being said, they still belong to a privileged class. They never have to explain their orientation or gender to anyone. People assume correctly that they are straight. They don’t have to live within a system that discriminates against them based on their sexual identity. It’s not a bad thing that some people are straight. It’s a bad thing that heterosexuality has benefits everyone else doesn’t get. And, just because an individual works to alleviate that problem, doesn’t mean they are no longer privileged. Hopefully, the future will bring more good allies who can check their privilege and help the world become a better place for everyone.