Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dream of Wings

I entered this contest some time ago (I did not win) in which we picked a picture from a group of dead Amanda Palmer pictures and then we must write a story about it. Here's what I wrote.

Once a long time ago, people flew in the sky like birds with giant wings on their backs. This was later agreed to have been a very bad idea, as they were very likely to forget to come down to the earth to feed and falling emaciated winged people are a very nasty sight indeed. The problem was taken care of, the wings removed, and people started walking on land. There was nothing left in history mentioning the time when people could fly, except for the memory in people’s bodies. This memory came out in dreams.

What people don’t realize is that there are certain times when a dreamer’s will is strong enough that their dreams come true. One person with such a strong will was a woman by the name of Amanda Palmer, who one day dreamed she could fly.
All it took was that vivid dream and the body’s memory and Amanda Palmer grew wings. Perhaps still thinking that she was dreaming, or perhaps because her definition of reality was much larger than others, Amanda took her sudden change at face value and jumped from her balcony to go for a midnight flight.

It did not bother her that she was naked, flying with clothes on is next to impossible and the cool air felt lovely along her skin. She remembered quite clearly how to fly and it was not long before she was doing summersaults in the air.
It was not to last, however. While the moon was out and dreams ruled the world, Amanda had wings. As the sun rose that began to change. Dreams were chased from the air and in the world of waking wings are not gifts humans can receive. Invisible hands grabbed her arms and legs and as the sun touched her wings they began to melt. Although she thrashed around, trying to fly with what little of her wings was left, the hands held her steady. Once the wings were gone, her skin as smooth as it had been before, the hands disappeared and she began to fall. She landed on a hotel balcony not far from her own room. The fall, and maybe even the shock of these events, had killed her.

The sun, now high in the sky, showed a woman with dark red bruises on her arms and legs in the shape of hands. There was not a feather in site. It was not the first time someone had died in such a way, and it will not be the last.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Case You Are Wondering

I decided to write this after my previous note about gender and orientation. Basically it's a note explaining what I identify as and why.

I identify as Queer and Genderqueer.

For the most part, I'm really wishy-washy when it comes to orientation. I find everyone attractive, but because I'm very uncomfortable with people it's very rare that I'm actually comfortable enough with someone to be intimate with them. My comfort level and my orientation are very different things though. Most people identify me as lesbian. That's for the most part incorrect, I am just as attracted to men as I am to women (and everyone in between) I'm just more uncomfortable with men. People freak me out in general, men are just another level of freak out.

As far as my gender, I'm also pretty wishy-washy. No one ever calls the fact that I am female into consideration. However, I dream I'm male just as often as I dream I'm female. Sometimes I forget my gender and am very surprise do find that I have boobs and my penis has disappeared. I know this sounds strange with my apparent phobia of men, but myself as a man doesn't freak me out. I think the reason my gender would be the biggest surprise is because I act very feminine, I mean I barely ever wear pants! However, the reason I wear skirts is because that is what fits best on my body. Pants either fall off, ride up, or cut into me. I can't find a pair that fits as well as skirts. I also know quite a few men who like pink frilly things and like doing their hair and make-up. Only a few are gay.

I really don't care what you call me. I can be a female, male, gay, straight, whatever. I'm me. That's all that matters.

The Grey Area of Sexuality and Gender Identity

Warning: Contains Language

We've been told our whole lives that the world is divided into male vs. female.

This is wrong.

Nothing in the world is just black or white, there is every spectrum. I'll try to explain

First off there is Klinefelter's syndrome, people who have both XX and XY chromosomes, which denote gender. Some people have both male and female genitalia. This isn't to say that they have both a penis and vagina, usually it's something like having the outward appearance as a man, but having ovaries. Many people have ambiguous genitalia, because of a genetic abnormality, hormone imbalance, or chromosomal difference. This is referred to as an Intersex or Middlesex.

Then comes gender identity. With transgendered or some intersexed people, they identify as either male or female. Others refuse to identify as either male or female, or genderneutral. Others feel like they are both male and female, this is known as bigendered. Some people identify themselves as just androgynous, something in between male and female. Some people say that there is a third gender. Others not only reject gender norms but defy them, that is known as genderfuck. A good term for anyone who does not want to identify as either male or female is "Genderqueer"

Where does sexuality come into this? The most common sexualities are Heterosexual, Homosexual, and sometimes Bisexual. However, these terms only take two genders into consideration. Many people choose to just label themselves as queer, people who love people. It's odd though, that a word for weird would take on the connotation of pure love. There is also Pansexual, people who love all genders, and polysexual, people who love many genders.

I personally hate labels. We are people, that's all. We love who we love, we're attracted to who we are attracted to. That should be all there is to it. I don't like being labeled, but even I find myself labeling people. I guess I figure the least I could do is know more about the labels out there, and not try to fit people into the black and white labels many are familiar with, but all the beautiful grey labels too.

What it means to be Poly

Imagine for a second you love everyone. There are different kinds of love of course, but unless someone does something to hurt you you know you'd do anything to help them. Once a person gains your trust, well then you know you'll love this person forever.
Even the prospect of the person being upset with you breaks your heart. Imagine that you feel this intense love and devotion to each one of your friends.

Now imagine society telling you that you can only feel this way for one person, that you only have one special someone. Imagine trying for 7 years trying to fit that mold, knowing that the person you're with is only one of your special someones. Now imagine having a complete mental breakdown after another breakup because you know you're just doing the same things over and over again and you know you're never going to be happy this way.

Imagine finally accepting yourself and being brave enough to say 'despite the social stigma I'm never going to be monogamous again. It doesnt fit with me and its unfair to both myself and my partner.' That's what it's like to be poly. That's what it's like to be me.

Exposition on Fertility

I love children. Like seriously, every time I even see one my mothering urge goes through the roof. Within five seconds of entering a room I will have spotted all of the children, they will have seen me, and we will smile at eachother. I pretty much would do anything for a child, seriously doesn't matter if they annoy me all they have to do is ask me to do something and I'll probably consider doing it. I can't be around a child and not want to pick up a mother's role. Actually I even do that with adults. I am Mommy with a capital M.

But I don't want children. We're overpopulated, natural disasters occur every day, people get gunned down, there's a greater devide between the rich and poor; the world could end at any moment. I don't want to bring a child into that mess. There are millions of trillions of children without homes, who are subjected to fostercare. They are abused, oftentimes starved or misstreated and they definitely don't get the love and attention they diserve. The "lucky" ones who actually find a home are sometimes used just for the pay check, they might recieve even a worse treatement. The extremely "lucky" ones who actually recieve a family who want a child might still get a family who doesn't understand or love them enough. I am not selfish enough to want my DNA in another being to ignore this fact.

Having a child is extremely selfish. Yes it is what we're "made to do" everything we experience is to make sure we procreate, from the hormonal rush we get when in a relationship to the pleasure we recieve from sex, but we've evolved to the point where we don't have that need anymore. Some people believe that that's the reason why there are so many gay people these days, evolutionally speaking we just don't need that many people having babies. I believe that also this is why so many people have trouble getting pregnant, why there are so many sexual and reproductive disfunctions. It is an attempt by nature to curb the population. Unfortunately we have outsmarted nature with our fertility drugs, our turkey basters and our suragote mothers. We'd rather pass on OUR DNA than take care of our children.

I talk about getting a hysterectomy a lot. People always wave me off as crazy, either because I'd willingly subject myself to early onset menapause or because they don't believe I'd really never want a child. I don't have a strong will. If I got pregnant today I doubt I'd actually be able to get an abortion and a part of me would rejoice at getting this oppurtunity. I wan't to make sure that there is absolutely no way for me to back out of this. I want a hysterectomy TODAY. However, doctors wont do this procedure because I'm "too young". If I'm old enough to have a child I'm old enough to make the decision to never have one. That's just my opinion.

I wan't a child very much. I have to battle myself every day not to go out and get knocked up. Thank the Goddess I have a little brother that I can mother all I want, if it weren't for him I probably wouldn't be able to control myself. I've made this personal decision because I believe with all my heart that it is the right one. It's hard to see everyone I know getting pregnant, because it makes me think "What's one more baby in this sea of infants?" but I know I couldn't deal with myself perpetuating this behaviour. You guys can go increase the population all you want, but I'll be here counting down the days till I can get my operation to insure I never do.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 to sell flags for the fourth of July. Today it is idolized and in some schools students are forced to stand with their hands over their hearts and recite it. Originally children stood with their right hands raised forward and up, but that was discontinued once Americans saw that Nazis did the same thing to their prized idol, Hitler.
Possibly because of that, in 1954 the words “Under God” were added to the pledge. Even before that, the pledge had come under fire in court. In 1940s Jehovah’s Witnesses challenged the pledge because it is one of their core beliefs that swearing loyalty to any power than God was wrong. This makes sense for any Christian and it is stated in the Commandments that there shall be no idol other than God, and to worship and pledge loyalty to any other is a sin.
Other people may have a problem with “pledging their loyalty” to the flag. To pledge ones loyalty to their King and country was a common thing, it was discontent of that fact that drove certain people to colonize America to begin with. As Americans we fought for freedom, casting off the bonds that came with pledging to obey in a monarchy. Many countries still are forced to pledge loyalty to their Dictator. In a Democracy it is the people who rule.
Many court proceedings have been fought over the pledge, most of which fought because of the phrase “Under God”, many of which ruled in favor of the parent wishing for their child not to be forced to say the pledge. Many have cited that it goes against the first amendment of the Constitution. Of course, this amendment states that there will be no established religion or prohibition of worship of any religion. In fact, many states have ruled that it is illegal to force children to say the pledge. Also, in 1943 the Supreme Court ruled that schools cannot punish students for refusing to recite the pledge.
American’s are known for their love of their country. Nothing can change that. However, they are also known for their love of freedom. It is what this country was built on. The pledge talks about “liberty and justice for all” but where is the freedom? Is it really all that liberating to be forced to pledge to a flag every day? The greatest way that we can stand up for our country is to use our rights. Our greatest right, or maybe I should say privilege, is that of freedom.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Harry Potter and His Controversies

Everyone has the fantasy that some day they will escape their horribly boring lives and their horridly unfair parents, as every child thinks their parents are unfair, to find a world of their own creating. A world where they are special, in control, and maybe, just maybe, they can be a hero. This is perhaps the biggest draw that people, young and old alike, have to the Harry Potter series.

The Harry Potter series was written by J.K. Rowling, the first book being released in 1997 while the seventh and last book was released in 2007. In that decade the books had been translated into sixty-seven languages and had sold over 400 million copies. It also quickly became one of the most controversial, and most often banned, book series in my lifetime (so far). It is also one of the few books I’ve encountered that incurs a very wide range of opinion. It has been both condemned and praised for everything from content to writing style. It’s been brought to court many times, as well as featured in conventions and local literary events.

The American Library Association states the reasons most people have for banning the Harry Potter books is for occult subject matter, religious viewpoint, violence, and anti-family content. However, other criticism has been made of the book series based on the quality of the writing. The most common criticism on the books have been plagiaristic qualities, sexism, nonsensical plot, lack of character development, and even on Harry Potter’s portrayal in general. That being said, Harry Potter has also been a favourite (or at least a well liked) book for many years. Many people have said that it has good character development, a brilliant plot, is well written, and is a mirror for our society. Taking into account that these opinions are completely contradicting, it is only safe to say that Harry Potter has had a big effect on our culture.

The most publicized flack the Harry Potter series has gotten is it’s featuring of witchcraft. Not only have many Christian groups been outspoken on this issue, but also Islamic (though strangely enough not Jewish). They claim that because the bible says that “thou shall not suffer a witch to live” and denounce working with devils and spirits as evil that this book series must also be. They say that children reading this book will be tempted and confused, making them become Satanists or Wiccans and therefore damning their souls. Some complainants go so far as to say that J.K. Rowling’s work is much worse that C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien because J.K. uses actual occult concepts like numerology, astrology, and clairvoyance. Ignoring the blatant religious intolerance involved in that claim, a rebuttal often used has been that nowhere in these books are demons or any type of spiritual being even mentioned with the usage of “magic” in the Harry Potter world. There is no spirituality or theory involved in Harry Potter’s wizarding world, just vague mythological references and pseudo-Latin. As to the subject of the occult subjects featured at Hogwarts, most of them are just mentioned in passing, none of which are actually explained in any great detail. Yes, if children were actually interested in such subjects they could research them but last time I checked the pseudo-mathematic belief that there is a relationship between numbers and physical objects and living things (numerology) or the belief that celestial bodies have an effect on our personalities and lives (astrology) had nothing at all to do with either demons or Gods.

Even J.K. Rowling herself has stated that she is a Christian and that she has no identification whatsoever with Wicca or Satanism. In fact, quite a few people have drawn parallels between the last Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, and The Bible. A good example of that (spoiler alert) is Harry dying, meeting some sort of God-like figure, and then being reborn to go on and vanquish the evil. J.K. Rowling also commonly puts in what could be called Christian values; good triumphs over evil, treat others with kindness, and gaining courage to do what you know what is right even though the way may be difficult.
Although some criticize how the children are allowed to break rules, and lie and defy elders, for the most part all of the heroic characters are very moral. They only break the rules to save people’s lives or if rules were created by people who didn’t have their best interest in mind. There is a common theme of authority figures, in the form of the Ministry of Magic, being corrupt and destructive towards Hogwarts and the students there. Even quite a few teachers are portrayed in a slightly evil light, ironically usually those who teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Some people might be afraid their children will rebel against teachers they didn’t like or even their own parents because of Harry Potter’s example. However, in the books there are adults who the children may dislike earlier on and then come to find that they are very admirable. Teenagers are going to rebel, that’s a given, but Harry Potter shows that one must be careful to make sure that the people you don’t like are actually bad people. The lines between good and bad are shown to be blurred and sometimes hard to recognize.

One of the greatest things about this book series is it grows up with the audience. In the first book, there is very little violence and no talk of relationships or really much of any adult issues. Harry Potter has a brush with the antagonist of the series, but it’s very short and not all that graphic. The fact that Harry’s parents are dead, and we learn they died in a not very pleasant way, isn’t cause for alarm when you take into account that many children have family members that have died. The abuse he suffers at the hand of his aunt and uncle is also startlingly common for kids, and it would be good for them to know that they aren’t the only ones going through that. In Star Wars, one of the most iconic movies of our parent’s generation, both of the main character’s parents “died” and we see the family he grew up with die too. The first movie is ahead in the inappropriate department already and we haven’t even gotten to the incest yet! The books later on in the Harry Potter series do get more graphic, and romantic relationships do develop, but fight scenes aren’t really described in my detail and displays of affection are limited to “snogging”. There isn’t any talk of STDs, drugs, or gang activity, so as far as graphic material it is kept pretty PG. As far as controversial material goes, many people may have a problem with Dumbledore being revealed as a gay character. However, this is NEVER talked about within the book. Very few adults are shown to be romantic in any way except for married couples, and there is no talk about sex at all. The only indication that Dumbledore is gay is a quote from J.K. from an interview saying “My truthful answer to you … I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. … Dumbledore fell in love with Gellert Grindelwald, and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was.” Besides that there is no proof he is gay, and there is no other gay character despite this being a boarding school with boy and girl dorms being kept separate. The fact that this school is filled with hormonal teenagers with little to no adult supervision; I am greatly surprised by the lack of any sort of mature behavior. This school must be filled with saints.

Parents aren’t the only ones unimpressed with this series, many critics and authors also have added their two cents. It is worth mention that at the beginning of the series Harry Potter was at a fifth grade reading level and by the end it had been put at a seventh grade reading level. This is about at the same level as The Prydain Chronicles, The Oz Books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, The Earthsea Trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, the series of Tamora Pierce, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Little House Books, Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings and many other books that were personally important to my childhood. Like most books in this age bracket, it is not overtly verbose, it’s easy to understand, and it isn’t the most developed book in the world. It left a lot unsaid, and it wasn’t overly detailed. The characters weren’t overly complicated, some would say they weren’t developed but others would definitely disagree. The fact is that they are iconic characters, of that there is no disagreement. They aren’t necessarily new characters, boy wizards are a dime a dozen (even British boy wizards with white owls), as are know it all girls, fraidy-cat best friends, school bullies, wise old men, and ultimate evils. Harry Potter has the occasional plot hole (Like why did Harry spend most of The Order of the Phoenix trying to find a way to contact Sirius when he had been given the two-way mirror for that exact purpose?) but a lot of books do. It has been known to have a few errors that had to either be corrected in later printings or ignored all together. This is pretty common for books though, editors just aren’t perfect.

As far as content that’s come under fire by critics, it’s most usually based on the characters themselves. Some claim that Harry Potter is sexist, basis for that claim being lack of female characters and the fact that a lot of people in power were male. While it’s true that many main characters were male; Harry Potter, the school bullies, teachers, the leaders of the baddies, and of course many of Harry Potter’s friends and classmates, there are quite a few female characters. Hermione is pretty much the smartest student in Hogwarts, although it does take her quite a while to be respected by Harry and Ron. For the first couple of books she is greatly made fun of and picked on, but later on she proves to be quite the bad ass. Professor McGonagall is second-in-command of the school, and the students often come to her for help. Other strong female characters include Fleur Delacour, Bellatrix Lestrange, Luna Lovegood, Narcissa Malfoy, and Nymphadora Tonks. Although strong male characters may outnumber them, that’s actually quite common in literature. It’s difficult to strike a perfect balance between strong female and male characters, especially when you have more important details to attend to (like plot). Also, we ourselves live in a patriarchal society so it is difficult to see fault in J.K. Rowling for making her imaginary world patriarchal as well. In fact, she even shortened her pen name to J.K. Rowling to appeal to more male readers.

Sexism isn’t the only thing Harry Potter’s been accused of. Some people have accused him of being a very two dimensional character. Some people have found him to be always right, without enough flaws, and to be either loved or hated with no one being neutral about him. Some have even gone so far as to call him a Mary Sue, (a slang term used by fanfiction writers to describe a character who is just a wish fulfillment of the writer). Of course, he is the hero of the story and a celebrity of the wizarding world, so it does make sense that he would be loved or hated by many. However, any writer will tell you that it is very important to make sure that your hero has flaws and can be questioned. This makes the character easier to identify with and to feel emotions for. It seems though, that this is not a problem for many people, since the book is popular and many have been known to get (even overly) emotionally involved in the books.

As I mentioned earlier, Harry Potter has been brought to court quite a few times. A few of those have been on the bases of plagiarism. One was brought up by an author named Nancy Stouffer who has written such books as “The Legend of Rah and the Muggles” and “Larry Potter and his best Friend Lilly”, both of which being written in the ‘80s. However, this was soon dropped because some paperwork had been found faulty. After that, Adrian Jacobs claimed that J.K. had stolen from his book (also written in the ‘80s) “The Adventures of Willy the Wizard: No 1 Livid Land”. He stated that both books included subject matter on wizard contests, wizard prisons, wizard hospitals, and wizard schools. However, many books include such subject matter including Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy (featuring an extremely gifted boy going to a school for wizardry and then going on a quest of self discovery and vanquishing the ultimate evil who has a strange connection to himself), and Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic (in which a young British boy finds out that magic really does exist and he himself is a gifted wizard who is fated to save the world from another ultimate evil). Boy wizards are definitely no new concept.

Harry Potter encompasses many genres including fantasy, a coming of age story, boy wizard, and British boarding school. It has themes of death, good vs. evil, prejudice, oppression, education reform, class distinction, child abuse, and friendship. It is full of references to many myths and stories both old and new. It may not be the best piece of literature in existence, but for many years it has been one of the most talked about. I’m sure it will be talked about, and frowned upon for many years to follow.