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.
*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!