Queer Christmas & How I Had One

Merry Queer Christmas and Happy Various Other Celebrations, depending on your belief system!  This post comes to you at the tail end of a wonderful Christmas day involving honey-baked ham, my amazing family, being given a Dean Spade book by my partner’s parents, and watching the Merchant-Ivory version of Maurice an unnecessary amount of times.

Ah, Queer Christmas. You go home and there are all these people who you know from childhood, some of whom are relatives, and they are like, “I think Glee is not a problematic show!  Are you sure the word tranny is a slur?  Hey, is that your testosterone?  Do you like, mix that into coffee to get it in you?  Is your special friend doing well?”  (Two of those sentences have actually been said to me in the past two days; I invite you to guess which.  My special friend, by the way, is doing great.)

And sometimes if you’re trans people fuck up your pronouns, or call you by your old name, which can be extremely triggering and painful.  Of course, it can get a lot worse than just pronoun fuckups or name slip ups, whether you’re a trans queer or a cis queer.  If you’re in that situation at the moment and you’d like someone to talk to, contact me and I will try to make you feel better.  Not kidding.  Email me.  I am not a mental health professional but I am a pretty nice kid I guess.

If you’ve chosen to make your own home in a more politically radical environment, it can also be a huge culture shock.  Like, I always forget that outside of my circle of fabulous radical queers, some people don’t find the yellowface in the Sherlock Holmes movie problematic, and they sometimes think that “heteronormative” isn’t “a real word.”  And if you’re me, which not many people are, there are suddenly paparazzi following you around, doing really dehumanizing things!  For example, recently my family and I went out to dinner and a paparazzo got all up on us as we were walking to our car. The next morning an article came out purporting to know what we’d talked about at dinner.  Some reporter literally made up an account of our dinner conversation!  Out of whole cloth!  (There was also a picture of me really needing a haircut and looking shellshocked.)  So yeah.  Queer Christmas: stressful, especially if people are trying to take your picture because they are interested in the confluence of your gender identity and your parentage.

Obviously, though, let’s be real, Christmas is great.  Our Lady J just wrote a great post about this in which she talks about finding unexpected allies in conservative places, and that’s something I really believe in.  (There’s an unfinished post still sitting on my hard drive, actually, that started out being about how to be an effective cisgender ally and became a soppy dissertation on how wonderful a cis ally my grandma is.  Maybe you guys will see it someday.  My grandma is fucking amazing.)  I am not hating on Christmas!  I would never do that; I fucking love Christmas.  I love It’s a Wonderful Life, and I love ugly sweaters, and I love the story of Christ’s birth even though I am not actually a Christian, and I am really into this whole thing where people give me stuff.

I’m also really into Audre Lorde, as you may know, and specifically the parts in her essays where she talks about incorporating anti-oppression work into one’s daily life.  Lorde believed that in order to liberate ourselves and others, we have to reexamine how we walk in the world with everyone, not just people who we’re in explicitly political discourse with.  Our partners, our parents, our children, our aunts and uncles–everybody.  She believed that there was a way to reinscribe everything in life so that we could use it to make a better world.  I think Christmas is ripe for that kind of redefinition, and in a tiny way I have tried to do that this year.  Queer Christmas!

My room at home is pretty bare, because my family moved into a new house right before I moved out, but I made a tiny Christmas altar on my windowsill.  There are two votive candles with la Virgen de Guadalupe on them.  She’s my favorite manifestation of the Virgin because she’s symbolic of resisting cultural imperialism.  Between the candles I have a picture of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney during their days as child stars.  I realize that this is not the most gay icon-ish period of Judy’s life, but because of how she was mistreated by adults during that period of her life, it seems like it’s laden with Queer Christmas spirit.  In front is an object that, it occurs to me, is really symbolic of the numerous things both wrong and right with me: a Batman Pez dispenser that has been reappropriated as an incense burner.  You stick the little incense sticks into the gap where the Pez is supposed to go!  It works surprisingly well.  Plus, for me, Batman is all about defining yourself as strong and powerful when you’re thrown into a horrible and unjust world, and that’s very much in line with the Queer Christmas spirit as I’m imagining it!

Next I decided that Queer Christmas needed a tradition, and I decided that a good tradition was to watch the Merchant-Ivory version of Maurice* on Christmas Eve.  I think a big part of being queer during the holidays is that if you’re with your family, often your partner can’t be with you, if you have a partner.  Obviously that’s also a part of being young like I am, whether or not you’re queer, since you and your partner are still pretty much required to spend the holidays with your respective families, but there’s another layer specifically for queers.  If your family won’t acknowledge your relationship, for example, or worse, if your partner doesn’t feel safe around your family because of their queerphobia, it may be impossible to have them near you at the holidays no matter what your age.  Maurice deals a lot with the issue of family, and the knowledge or lack of knowledge straight family members have about a queer member’s relationship.  This movie is a big touchstone and bonding point for me and my boyfriend, as we both read it while coming out and were very affected by it, so I thought this tradition would work perfectly to get me into the Queer Christmas spirit.

Then I figured that since Christmas is about selflessness, and I’d gotten some Christmas spending money from various loved ones, I’d do some queer charity.  So I said to Twitter:

And Twitter said:

And a bunch more things that you can find by searching “@supermattachine” on Twitter.  So I’m giving my Christmas cash to a couple of different ones, as well as the TransYouth Family Allies (TYFA) and the Trevor Project, both of which I have a particular soft spot for because when I was in high school some of their folks helped me out.  It would be awesome if you decided that this particular Queer Christmas tradition was one for you too–I particularly encourage you to donate to TYFA, because oh my god they save children’s lives and I know several of the moms involved in the project and they are the best.  One is a Sarah Lawrence alum!  (Hi, Betsy!)

I am a big believer in adding sexy bits to things. Queer Christmas is no exception.  So I decided Twitter deserved a spam of pictures of hot trans people from the blog TransQueersXXX, which you should go look at and be ridiculously excited by.   This spam is now a Queer Christmas tradition.  I encourage you to join in, as the night is young and you have several hours to post hot trans people until it is no longer Christmas.

I’m going to watch Maurice again, because this is a tradition I take very seriously.  I wouldn’t want to spend an inadequate amount of time looking at Rupert Graves’s bottom and then watching and rewatching the scene where he and his boyfriend decide to basically get married, you know?  There are consequences to that kind of thing.

Merry Queermas!

*If you’re not familiar with Maurice, it’s a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by EM Forster.  Forster is kind of my hero, and Maurice was his only book in which he directly addressed homosexuality.  He published it posthumously, even though Christopher Isherwood asked him to publish it while he was still alive so that Isherwood “wouldn’t be the only one.”  When he died, he left a note on the manuscript that said “Publishable, but worth it?”  And it’s dedicated to “a happier year.”  And he was inspired to write it by being groped.  Look, I have a lot of feelings about this novel.  And the movie was made by queers!  (The fact that Merchant and Ivory were a couple is one of my favorite things that has ever happened.  It is why I believe the world is good.)  Ben Kingsley plays a hypnotist in the movie.  You should probably go read this book right now.

ETA: After I made this post, my friend Joe said this, which I’m going to quote because he said it so well:

I really like your post! I really do! But I don’t think it’s valid to say that la Virgen de Guadalupe is “symbolic of resisting cultural imperialism”. Beyond the obvious “she is an icon of a religion inexorably linked to European imperialism in the Americas”, her story concerns a vision given to an indigenous priest who has just been converted to Catholicism. While her image incorporates obviously indigenous/precolombian symbols, this strikes me more as a method for insinuating her into the native culture by seeming familiarity rather than paying respects to the religion being superseded. Taken together with the fact that the first chapel dedicated to her was built on a destroyed Aztec temple and for a time she was conflated with the original goddess worshipped there, this becomes a classic “Catholics assimilate a native culture by turning their deities into saints” story. I have no doubt that this particular Virgin is integral to the belief systems many millions of people, but neither do I doubt that she was instrumental in erasing the native religious practices of Mexico.

 

While I do still think that Our Lady of Guadalupe is a subversive figure because of the anti-colonial way she’s been used in culture by Latinos and Latinas, what Joe has said here is important!

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17 Responses to “Queer Christmas & How I Had One”


  1. 1 Alex December 26, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Stephen this post is super awesome. I am currently full of feelings and I miss you and school and everyone. We should talk sometime

  2. 2 Alex December 26, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I am actually super full of feelings tonight for personalish reasons. I wish you still had a tumblr because it was the only reliable way of contacting you.

  3. 3 urbanmythcafe December 26, 2011 at 11:38 am

    What an insane post, and what an insanely spontaneously honest description of life as queer/trans/transitioning. Especially the comments from family members.
    It is better to be the recipient of strange and inappropriate comments, than to be treated as a dirty family secret. It is better to struggle with some inncorrect names and pronouns (from familiy you are out to), than to spend a holiday at a seaside resort (with family you are not out to), wearing innaporpriate layers of clothing to hide the results of hormones and surgery.
    Great post :)

  4. 4 roostertails December 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Queer Christmas’ are sooo important, I think. I always make sure to have a post-christmas queer get-together to debrief and have love from queer family – to have a space were we are seen and loved, because it isn’t always guaranteed with our biological families.

    This year my partner and I made our own xmas decorations for our very first xmas tree – we made a whole lot of decorations with the faces of our favourite queer icons and pictures – as a way of strengthening ourselves and honoring our important people, since neither of us are particularly invested in the religious aspects of the season. Audre Lorde is consequently smiling at us from our tree :)

  5. 5 iremsen December 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I am convinced you are an Indigo child. While your privacy has been imposed upon, due to your privileged, family name, I believe you were born, into your particular family, for a reason. A gifted writer, you are and will be heard by the masses. Though, on occasion, I do get the feeling, you don’t realize how fortunate you are. From what I have ascertained, you are surrounded by loved ones, a great partner, superior education, intellect, good looks, you’re young and have your whole life ahead of you, with endless opportunities. So many gifts, bestowed upon you, don’t forget that, please.

  6. 6 beckgza December 28, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Merry Queer Christmas and Happy Various Other Celebrations tooo!!!

  7. 7 Overseas Experiments December 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Can you recommend any particular writings by Audre Lorde where she talks about incorporating anti-oppression work into daily life? I’ve looked for her work at my local library but most of it seems to be just her poetry.

  8. 10 Sig December 29, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Hiya, found the link to your blog on a random LJ thread last night and damn, you make me ashamed of being a few years older and on a different intellectual level. I’m currently obsessed with blogs about social and feminist issues so maybe one day I can have a proper conversation about them and not make an utter fool of myself ;) . Anyhow, happy holidays and enjoy forming your new traditions.

    Mmm … testosterone coffee … I’d be all over it if someone made it! My liver would be destroyed, but come one it’s TESTOSTERONE COFFEE! Yes, I’m going to go through your post point by point, ha! Doesn’t ~special friend~ sound kinky? Don’t worry, people over 40 don’t get to have “lovers”, “partners” or any other variation. They have ~special friends~ ! I’ve heard my mum being wished this kind of a “friend” so many times during holidays. Being the bastard I am I ask if they mean a boyfriend, they back off embarassed. Now, onto more boring rants. “Glee” is generally one heck of a mess and one of my guilty, masochistic pleasures. As someone with a motor disability, I sometimes want to smash my (office) TV. Boss wouldn’t be amused.

    I know what you say about family and I’m honestly happy that I left mine in my very Catholic city with a small town mentality. All my relatives live there and we used to be under obligation to gather during every random holiday and backstab each other. I have a cousin who’s a lesbian and they still talk about her getting married to a guy in the future. I tend to blow up easily, so imagine the fun times I had trying to correct them on random issues. Since, I’m not from US (now in UK), I’m afraid I have no idea what to say about Judy Garland (Wizard of Oz scared me as a kid) or her co-star being connected to Christmas. I like your incense Batman holder even if I don’t like PEZ sweets or Batman. I’ve already been banned from film discussions because of laughing like a madman at “Dark Knight”. About the Virgin, I agree with Joe, not a great anti-imperialism symbol from a former Catholic standpoint. What came to my mind after reading this were the violent christanisations of what is now modern Russia in XIth century. On the other hand, being an atheist and a giant hypocrite, I still borrow religious traditions and symbols for my wee Christmas celebrations.

    From “Maurice” I only remember Hugh Grant :P, need to totally re-watch it.
    Okay, done, I have a talent at boring people to death ;) .

  9. 11 Dara December 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Stephen,

    I am shamefacedly one of the people who found your blog thanks to the “journalists” who’ve unfortunately outed you without your permission. That said, I have found your blog to be incredibly moving and educational, so I appreciate it very much.

    I handle PR for a non-profit organization that I hope you and your readers will find interesting. It’s called I’m From Driftwood (www.imfromdriftwood.com) and its goal is to collect and share the stories of LGBTQ members of all walks of life so each member is understood and accepted and each straight person is an ally.

    It’s a very young organization and growing rapidly. We need many more submissions, especially from trans people, lesbians and bisexuals and POC. Donations are also accepted and needed.

    Thank you kindly,

    Dara

    • 12 Stephen December 30, 2011 at 9:55 pm

      I’m From Driftwood looks really cool! That said, if you’re looking for submissions from folks who identify as trans, bi, or anything outside the “gay” umbrella, I’d remove the little deal at the top that says “true stories from gay people all over.” I can see that you guys do feature some very touching content from trans folks–I got a little emotional watching this mom talk about her journey to loving her kid the way he needed to be loved–but that non-inclusive language in the top banner did throw me off a little at first.

      I hope you guys keep doing the work you’re doing. I’ll certainly be following it.

      I’m glad you like the blog. No need to feel bad about finding it through tabloid “journalism”–it’s so culturally pervasive, how can a person avoid it?

      • 13 Dara January 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

        Hi Stephen,

        I hope you had a great New Years! Thank you for taking a look at the site. I’m really glad you like it! Isn’t that story great? I love seeing the people you least expect to be accepting really open their minds and hearts. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you really can’t judge how people will react, for better or worse.

        I’m From Driftwood is still a very new organization, so I’m sure a lot will change and improve as time goes on. We absolutely welcome feedback as to how to do so though, so thank you for your comment about the tag line. We are aware of the language barrier of that tag line and are definitely working on it. You have my email address, so if you come across any other improvements or have any other suggestions as a trans voice and advocate, I would love to hear them. I realize you’re a student and rather busy, so please know I’m not expecting anything.

        However, that invitation goes out to all who read this blog. IFD is truly about feedback and community participation and there’s a contact form on the site for that. We do need and request stories from everyone of all walks of life in the queer arena as well as allies.

        Thank you for absolving me of the guilt of how I found your site. It is indeed pervasive and I hope not necessarily a bad thing in the end if it allows people to read and learn. I read this column by Nick Kristof and it made me think of your work on here. I am not equating you to being a celebrity, as that’s not a role you chose, but due to your family, you are in that gray area that puts a spotlight on you regardless. Anyway, here’s the column: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/opinion/sunday/kristof-Angelina-George-Ben-and-Mia.html?_r=1. For your own edification. No comments necessary unless you choose to do so.

        I saw your twitter. Ours is @imfromdriftwood if you’d like to follow us there as well.

        All the best,

        Dara

  10. 14 Kristen December 31, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Beautiful post. My daughter’s friend is 14 and was recently cutting himself. One of his “issues” is his struggle coming out as gay to his family. Thankfully his group of friends, my daughter included, don’t understand why it would even be an issue. I mean thankfully because its one less hurdle for him. He still has a long way to go as far as his process and it breaks my heart that cutting himself was a part of it.
    You were found because of petty gossips but your message and what you represent is something that the world needs to see and hear. Sharing oneself can be so tough but you are such a beautiful, articulate, and compassionate young man. Kids like my daughter’s friend need people like you to help guide them through the ignorant people who make ignorant comments.

    • 15 Stephen January 1, 2012 at 1:37 am

      I hope this kid comes through ok. If he wants someone to talk to who got through queer adolescence recently, you can send him to my contact page, unless that’d be totally weird and awkward. But you know, I’m around.

      • 16 Kristen January 1, 2012 at 2:29 am

        Thanks, Stephen, so much. That’s very kind of you. He’s a great kid and when I have a moment with him that can be a little private over the next few days I was going to suggest your blog to him and let him know whether it is me and his friends or a total stranger, that there are people out there who love and support him. Thank you again!


  1. 1 Taking a shine to the new year. | Overseas Experiments Trackback on January 6, 2012 at 10:05 pm

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