Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thoughts About Transparent.

This article gets at something I was trying to articulate recently about Transparent: one of the things I love most about it, besides that it's just great story-telling, is that LGBT politics and history, even queer theory, are presented in a way that's smart and specific but doesn't set them apart from the characters and the story. The push and pull of those ideas drive the story in the same way that they shape the lives of queer people. Theory and politics as they are actually lived.

It's exactly the opposite of how I felt watching Sense8, a very different piece of work (which I mostly enjoyed) that also used queer theory as a narrative element, but in a way that felt didactic and academic in a sort of cringey way.

Who Are They?

If it's in the Times style section, you know it's not news anymore. I put up a fight, but I'm resigned now to the singular "they," and I make a real effort to use it though I still find it very awkward. It's the same feeling to a lesser degree that I had when I was studying Spanish recently. For someone who prides himself on his skill using English with subtlety and precision, struggling to say something as simple as, "I like blue chairs," is humbling.

But my resistance is not solely about my ego. Besides the practical confusion it invites (wait, how many people are you talking about?) -- to my ears the singular "they" is, like "roommate" and "friend" the lexicon of the closet.

I don't hear it used this way any more (which is not to say that it isn't -- we get so used to the idea that everything is different and better now we forget that for lots of people in, say, Mississippi, it's not exactly safe yet to be out), but the people I remember using the non-specific singular "they" were older homosexuals who wanted to refer to their life partners but weren't sure if they were safe coming out to the person they were talking to. As in:

"You should bring your roommate to the party."

"I'd love to but I think they're busy that night."

Just one of the aches and pains of aging: words -- awesome, hobo, they -- gather new meaning, and no one cares anymore about the old one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I sometimes say that I don't dislike dogs, it's just some of their owners I can't stand. Or children and their parents. Or Bernie Sanders and his supporters.

I thought I was just mad because they're forcing me to say nice things about Hillary Clinton, but I think maybe I just zeroed in on what is irritating me about his defenders.

The debate between Hillary and Bernie's fans has seemed, in the last few weeks, to boil down to whether it's best to elect someone we're less than crazy about but who has a chance of getting some work done as opposed to someone who we agree with about everything. Hillary's supporters tell us that Bernie stands little chance of implementing any of his plans, that his candidacy is pie-in-the-sky with such a conservative Congress. Bernie's fans tell us Hillary represents crony politics at its worst and we need to sweep the crooks out.

It's an interesting debate, interesting especially because there is some real, practical contrast between candidates. But here's the thing that sticks in my craw. Bernie has framed his campaign as a "political revolution." His fans say, "Do you want business as usual, or do you want a revolution?" Vote for revolution! But leaving for work 10 minutes early so you can vote doesn't make a revolution. Revolutions don't happen in presidential elections. Revolutions take a lot more time, a lot more sweat, a lot more personal commitment, sacrifice, loss. Revolutions happen on the street, and people devote their lives to revolution-making. I won't speak for myself -- my days of street activism, limited as they were, are over now. I'm not willing to camp out in Zuccotti Park for weeks, but there are people who are and thank god for them. If you want a revolution, start going to school board and community board meetings. Join a union, escort women into abortion clinics to keep them safe from the assholes out front. Picket, protest, chain yourself to somebody's desk. The reason the revolution is not going to happen is because there are far too few people doing these things. Not because people voted for Hillary instead of Bernie.

Bernie Sanders is a career politician. He's an admirable, passionate public servant and has a lot of very smart things to say. But he's not a revolutionary, and neither are most of his supporters.

I'm not a big fan of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders more closely aligns with my politics, but I'm sure liking her supporters more than his lately.