LGBT

Happy Gay Anniversary to me

Today marks the anniversary of my coming out – 12 December 2012.

I have lost track of how many times I’ve written that sentence.

I’ve probably used the same sentence to commemorate my coming out every anniversary since that day. One would think as I writer I’d come up with something more poetic and eloquent, but it’s always been that sentence.

Weirdly enough, the weight of that sentence has somehow started meaning more to me as time goes on, not less.

That doesn’t really make sense to me because I thought it would have less significant, but if anything I’ve realise just how powerful of a moment it was in life. In some ways I see my life pre-coming out and everything thereafter.

It’s not that way for everyone, but for me that day I came out was a seismic shift in my reality and perception of the world.

It wasn’t the first time I had come out actually, because I had come out to friends months prior, and I was struggling with it. I had even had a four part counselling session, at the recommendation of a friend, which really helped.

The reason why my coming out on 12 December 2012 carries more weight was because it was the day I told my mother that I was gay.

It was the scariest AND bravest decision I ever made. It changed my life.

A lot went down that day, and I remember a lot of details about that day. It will be burned into my memory and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that evening.

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Getting a tattoo in February 2016 to honour the day. Picture: David Ritchie

On the night I told my mom that I was gay, I couldn’t stay at  home because my mom feared what she might to do me. Her reaction was something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Currently, while she’s not fully comfortable with my homosexuality, I know she loves me.

Every year since coming out, I’ve found myself having difficult time in the last quarter of the year.

I felt a sadness start settling in my soul during September leading into October (my birthday month) and just find myself strugglling – feeling like all the colours from my life and the vibrancy of it had been muted.

It had been particularly difficult this year as for the whole of November, I was hypersensitive and feeling raw. I didn’t know what was going on, and I was scared. I was constantly seconds away from crying whenever someone asked me how I was doing, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

It felt like I was back in the weeks leading to my coming out, which was a particularly dark time for me.

I can’t recall exactly how I discovered the correlation, but I was able to get to get a better understanding once I realised that how I felt had to do with my coming out.

At it’s discovery, I was left feeling confused.

A part of me is worried that my increasing melancholy heading into the festive season is connected to my tumultuous my coming out experience.Bottom of Form

Almost like none of the vast growth I’ve done since then will impact on my mood because of the deep feelings of rejection which come from it.

There was one day that I was feeling very lost and confused, and I needed to get away from my desk at work, because I was seconds away from crying at my desk or in the work bathroom.

I am not the biggest fan of crying – well not true, because I do not mind crying during a TV show, but when it comes to real life situations and feelings, I try to avoid it.

I left my desk, and took a 20 minute walk to visit my friend at her offices nearby.

Even that walk was a challenge, because I almost started crying along the side of the road. I had to pull myself together a few times and give myself a talking to like “Stop being stupid and pull it together. You’re a man, and this is a dumb”.

I got to her offices, and she was surprised and delighted to see me, but she could sense something was up.

I gave the non-committal blanket answer – “I’m fine and you?” – when she asked how I was doing, but she pressed.

Eventually everything spilled out and as I explained why I wasn’t in the best space. I barely made it a sentence when tears were running down my face. She gave me a tight hug.

When I explained my theory behind my feelings, she said something that stuck with me.

“Of course it’s coming up out now, I am surprised it took this long if I’m being honest. What happened to you was an emotional trauma…”

When I argued that I felt dumb because I was stuck on something that happened years ago she replied.

“When you break your arm, of course it’s going to take time to heal, what you’re going through now is the same. Something inside you broke, and it needs time to heal.”

What she said gave me context and greater understanding for my feelings because I realised that I had never really dealt with what had happened that day, or rather, not in any helpful way. I had instead gone into survival mode because it was a sink or swim situation.

My life was up in the air at the time, and for the longest time I had been so proud of having just survived it, that I didn’t recognise how much pain I felt.

Looking back over that time, I hadn’t actually cried as much as I should’ve.

I think that was because It was easier to feel numb and nothing, than feeling that pain, and heartache of being rejected for something I had tried to change, but was unchangeable. I never had that cathartic sob, and in all honestly, I still haven’t.

I can still feel my hurt.

I try to not sit in it or give it my full attention because it doesn’t feel healthy, and I still have my current life to live.

However, I know better than to just fully ignore it. I don’t know if I will ever fully be healed but I know that I am getting better. It will be a process, but one that will take time.

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The before and after

12 December 2012, will always be special to me. I got a tattoo in memory of the day because of its significance.

Coming out isn’t easy, and while I’m still battling with my internalised homophobia, it does get better.

I am reluctant to think about where I would be if I didn’t come out.

I am proud of my younger self for doing the scariest and bravest thing he could have done. It wasn’t easy, but we’re better for it.

If you take anything away from having read this – be gentle with yourself, and there is no timeline to healing. Sometimes pain never goes away; we just get better at handling it.

I am so grateful to all the people in my life for being my support structure. Thank you for being there for me. I appreciate your love, compassion and kindness.

Theo. Over and Out.

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Dear Marvel, stop telling us about LGBT+ characters, show us.

Dear Marvel

I have a bone to pick with your movie studio.

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With Thor: Ragnarok, we’re roughly 17 movies into Marvel Studios’s historic cinematic universe, and we’re set to get a culmination of this universe building with the arrival of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 not long thereafter.

Marvel Studios has given us exciting adaptations of it’s properties. This year, they’ve delivered with Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Spiderman Homecoming, and recently Thor: Ragnarok.

While the movies have been unending fun, something which isn’t necessarily the best in the long term, they have been methodical at building the cinematic universe, but it has ultimately paid off for the studio.

I do know the studio has had their three phase plan, and stuck to it with an impressive level of devotion.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have given us a vast array of movies, choosing to go with quality over quantity, with 2017 being the first year they upped their output from two movies a year to three.

The thorough process, despite its successes, has not come without its failures – namely that the MCU has been slow on incorporating diverse voices and actors into it’s world.

While Marvel had a bigger head start over DC, it was Wonder Woman who made it to screen as the first female led superhero movie – overlooking Elektra and Catwoman – going on to become the top origin story of all time.

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Marvel has its first female lead in Ant-Man and The Wasp, in 2018 before following that up with Captain Marvel, who will be the studio’s first solo female heroine in 2019.

The first black female lead character came with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, and while her introduction was badass, it’s a little frustrating that it came now only.

The Marvel stable however, are forgiven for this slow delivery because they are in fact blessing us with a predominantly black cast in Black Panther – which is the first movie with a predominantly black cast to have a big action superhero blockbuster budget.

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(The Blade trilogy did exist, but Wesley Snipes was always surrounded by predominantly white actors)

Black Panther is a pretty big deal because there will be disenfranchised and disillusioned young black boys and girls, who will get to see themselves represented on screens as heroes, and while to some this may seem trivial, it’s actually a huge deal.

Representation matters. Seeing yourself represented in the various media you consume matters.

Which is why as a member of the LGBT+ community, it’s frustrating when in interviews directors speaking about queers characters existing in the MCU but not showing that, or saying characters are bisexual, but having them acknowledge that on screen.

James Gunn, director of both Guardians of the Galaxy films was asked about this, in a previous interview, and then later again clarified his remarks saying:

“You know, somebody asked me will there by any gay characters in Marvel movies, and what I meant was there’s a lot of characters in the MCU and very few of them have we delved into what their sexualities are – whether it’s gay or straight or bisexual,” Gunn said.

“We don’t really know. So, I imagine there are probably gay characters in the Marvel Universe, you know. We just don’t know who they are yet.”

While his remarks seem harmless, it is frustrating when all you hear is about these fictional LGBT+ characters, but you never see them.

It’s an empty gesture. A form of tokenism to allow the studios to appear more queer friendly without having to put action to their words. It creates false hope.

Queer people don’t want to see ourselves represented as token characters because in our everyday lives we are the heroes of our own story. We aren’t tokens that exist for people to brag about showing off how accepting they are.

We battle our own demons, villains and face our own challenges. Sometimes we are the villains of our own story, but in reality we live complicated queer lives.

On film screens, we’re sorely lack the same level of complicated portrayal.

We’ve been so starved for on screen heroic representation, it’s why the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend social media campaign galvanized so many people.

It was their way of expressing their desire to see the lead hero, Captain America get a on screen boyfriend.

The request, which isn’t unfounded or unreasonable when taking into account the high level of queer baiting which exists between Steve Rogers and James “Bucky” Barnes.

[Queerbaiting is the practice to hint at, but then to not actually depict, a potential same-sex romantic relationship between fictional characters. The potential romance may be ignored, explicitly rejected or made fun of.]

It’s also alarming when your lead character has more romantic chemistry with his best friend than that of Sharon Carter – whose romantic development was so rushed in screen it’s comical and not in a good way.

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There is however a bigger picture to consider – global audiences and their conservatism…especially in big profit areas such as China and India.

Marvel is a movie studio, and movie studios need money to continue making more movies. The more money the better for them. It’s why they’ve started paying attention to releasing their films in the international markets.

Within some of these countries, they have restrictive guidelines about what may or may not be shown, and with Hollywood eager to captalise on the vast profit potential that these regions offer, they will certainly stick to these guidelines.

In China, the biggest film market outside of America, the The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) board pulled and banned LGBT related shows, which were successful as these shows went against what they perceive as normal.

An example of this was a show I have watched called “Addicted” – which deals with the development of a relationship between a teenage same sex Chinese couple.

To quote a Guardian article the show was banned as:

“The government said the show contravened the new guidelines, which state that “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.”

The ban also extends to smoking, drinking, adultery, sexually suggestive clothing, even reincarnation. China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television told television producers it would constantly monitor TV channels to ensure the new rules were strictly adhered to.
The clampdown follows an increase in cultural censorship in China since Xi Jinping came to power in November 2012

The same goes for it’s films.

In India, another big film market, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) besides, having banned a gay film, Ka Bodyscapes – they also had Oscar winning film, Moonlight allegedly recut removing pivotal scenes from the film which directly reveal it’s handling of homosexuality.

In India, homosexuality is still seen as a taboo.

It is for this very lucrative reasons that one can understand why Marvel has been so slow and been dragging its feet when it comes to LGBT+ representation, and giving vague answers, trying to appease those who want to see LGBT+ representation.

It’s also maybe for this reason why the Valkyrie scene in which it was suggested that she was bisexual was removed.

So in closing…

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Dear Marvel, If you’re not interested in tackling or adding LGBT+ characters then please say so.

It’s your prerogative to do as you wish, and decide if you will tackle LGBT+ characters or not, it’s also our prerogative to decide what movies I am going to spend my money on.

Who knows…maybe DC will be the first movie studio to do that too…

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Regards,

The Lion Mutters.

PS: I know your TV shows have been delivering some LGBT representation, but let us not get started on how TV and film differs. Also how they had to separate y’all because you couldn’t place nice.

Call Me by Your Name – Twitter Book Review

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Read “Call Me by Your Name” and I was frustrated. At the start it was just another gay romance being about how characters don’t even get to enjoy the romance.

I did a live-tweet reaction to the book which I will post here:

After finish reading Call Me By Your Name, I realized that it was a beautiful piece of text. Plot got iffy in the middle but the way it was written was beautiful.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experienced.

Loved the touch of melancholy and “the better to have loved and lost than never loved at all” thing was sweet. I still am tired of this type of narrative though…where all queer men just get unhappy endings but Aciman gets a pass because the story that he told was beautifully done.

At least no one died for the romance to end. It was just life.

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Film adaptation review: http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/call-me-by-your-name-review-1201966646/

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