The Right Entrance

The Right Entrance

the girls

had their own school

a Catholic separate school

we’re talking 60’s – 70’s

Cape Breton

 

I don’t know if there was one

for Catholic boys

but the girls had their own

to protect them 

from the unruly attentions of boys

 

schools I went to were mixed

but there was

boys’ manual training

girls’ domestic science

separate entrances for boys for girls

mixed classes

but boys’ gym

girls’ gym

 

the best way to control

those masculine urges

was segregation

guys who got laid were men

girls who got laid were easy

girls who didn’t were teases

guys who didn’t 

bragged about doing it

or salivated endless about pussy

boobs

because they were men

 

never once

never

was there a sense

that the guys were in the wrong

it was only the girls 

who need to be protected

guys weren’t taught

to think differently

in fact

we were encouraged

to get a little

get laid

get into her panties

 

find’em

feel’em

fuck’em

forget’em

 

this was masculine prerogative

entitlement

a natural urge

that resented any attempt

to curb it

do you want your sons

to grow up to be fags

yeah sure

free and easy access

to pussy

is the cure for queer

 

yet I grew up

gay queer a fag

full of fear

yet sure of who I was

& who I wanted to have sex with

 

I tried dating

getting a little

getting a little wasn’t enough

to cure me of anything

so I forgot’em 

but I did learn 

which entrance

was right for me

This piece is a documentary. All of it is my high-school experience though some of the facts go back even further in my history. When my family moved to Cape Breton I was enrolled in a nearby school with a mixed gender & to a degree religious population. Entirely white as well I might add. Protestant with a scattering of Jewish students – who we knew were Jewish because of the many holidays they had.

It wasn’t until I got to high-school that I realized there was a separate school system for Catholics, particularly girls. Rather it was a high-school run by a teaching order of Catholic nuns. It wasn’t limited to Catholic’s as I think one of my sisters went there because it offered better secretarial training. A class that was never offered to boys – we did get an introduction to basic accounting though.

Beyond this religious segregation there was a gender divide in the rest of the school system for sports, non-academic vocational options – boys got manual training & shop; girls got domestic science & shopping. Most of the academic classes were mixed but there was separate entrances for grades & genders. 

Sydney did have a sizeable black community, as well as a large Native community – but we only saw them if our teams were playing against them. As best as I can remember there was no racial mix in my high school except for one, lone Japanese girl.

 

The four f’s ‘find’em’ was a real mantra usually used by ‘guys who didn’t but bragged about doing it’ The piece also reflects how gender doesn’t equate sexuality – that even though I had all this male behaviour example I turned out queer, having no queer male behaviour example to lure me into the unnatural side. 

The ‘entrance’ that was right for me? I’ll leave that to your imagination 🙂


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The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life

I am a man

in a man’s body

there was a time

when I doubted this

a time when gender was fixed

by cultural controlled behaviours

men felt this and only this

women felt this and only this

 

to explain

variations in object desire

people were reduced

to data that was used to explain

what didn’t fit

so that men

in men’s bodies

who desired other men’s bodies

were actual women in men’s bodies

genders misplaced

trapped and looking for release

 

that a man would desire another man

could be explained

in terms of heterosexual norms

because only a woman

could would should

have sexual desire for a man

 

when I realized I desired men

I accepted that theory

I was a woman trapped in a man’s body

though it never made sense

but it was deemed more reasonable

than man to man attraction

the data proved that

yet my human experience

refused to conform to that data

 

I tried on the dress

I pushed my butch button

swagger not sashay

I couldn’t conform

or commit 

to prevailing theories of the time

 

I changed

accepted that I am is this

undefinable entity

such is life

I am a man

in a man’s body

who is attracted

to men’s bodies

I’m not a theory

merely a fact of life


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Never The Man

Never The Man

if you don’t ask

you won’t get –

no one says no

if you don’t ask –

often what you get

you didn’t ask for

 

I felt

I was never the man

my father expected me to be

I was never the man

I saw on TV

in movies

I would never be up to scratch

I would always be less than

all those guys who were real men

 

I would never be a real man

with sweaty rough-and-tumble garb

of that sort of pride

would never be mine

even if I wore that garb

it would a costume

a disguise

to hide my heart

 

the man I was 

was someone 

who strove not to be defined

contained by definition

so I lost

the comfort of the acceptable

an acceptability

I never asked for

 

I felt was was never the man

my father wanted me to be

not that he wanted me to be like him

but to be the man he wanted to be

 

I was never asked

if his expectation a good fit for you

I wasn’t aware

that I could say no

or that once I started to choose

the definitions 

that I hoped would suit me

that I’d have to constantly be adjusting

to make the shoulders fit

to make the pants crease properly

but by losing the comfort of the acceptable

I found the ease of being me

 

This starts with with a variation on the internet meme – if you don’t ask the answer is always no – an exhortation to less fearful in making our hopes clearer. What troubles me about this is that it is too easy to ask for what we think our culture wants us to ask for – things that supposedly make it comfortable for everyone – or at least more comfortable for the majority.

 

I grew up with the cultural narrative of what boys are & what they want to be is men – not ‘want,’ because ‘want’ has a sense of freedom of choice. The dominating narrative is too narrow to allow for choice. Even as laws changes, morals change, the majority is so uncomfortable with changes they feel attacked not enlightened.

The man my father expected me to be was not his fault – he fought a war that defined his masculinity in a culture that equated masculinity with physical prowess. You faced violence with violence – bullies were bested & defeated. As a kid I never questioned that equation but never could face violence with violence, hence I would never be a real man. I probably hated myself more for being a ‘coward’ than for any other reason.

So growing up has been a process of recognizing, questioning and putting those heteronormative notions of masculinity in perspective – the constant adjusting of shoulders. Not something I asked for but something I couldn’t refuse to deal with either. Today I have the ease of being me, most of the time. But I know enough ‘real’ men to know even they don’t have as much ease as I do.

 

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Taking the Fourth at 40

Someone asked me recently “What keeps you in these rooms after forty years?” They asked because this month (July 6) I hit the forty year point in my recovery. I get asked various forms of this question often enough & I try not to give an overly glib answer like ‘where else can i wear this shirt.’ But there is no simple answer.

Part of the why is that each year my understanding of the power of the steps deepens. Even if I ever feel bored, judgemental of members who wallow in their misery, or who quote the literature rather than share on a person level I know that those thoughts are better than being dead drunk somewhere. Actually it’s better than being dead period.

 

In Step 4 we are encouraged to make a moral inventory of ourselves (not of others). I’ve done this step a few times as a part of the process. One thing that I recently realized is that I have no morals merely a set culturally encoded behaviours that lead to acceptable behaviour – things I have conformed to without questioning. My notion of ‘moral’ was coloured, or is it discoloured, by heteronormative concepts of relationships, privilege, race, gender and consumerism. Not to overlook being labelled (or rather libelled) by a bad, but universally accepted Bible translation, as being an abomination unto the Lord.

 

So a part of recovery has been, for me, looking at how I’ve absorbed these cultural imperatives – some of which are so subtle they are absorbed without awareness – sort of like getting a tan but not seeing it until one sees the line been tanned & untanned skin. 

When I did my early inventory work things such as privilege or entitlement were certainly not on the list. That list was stuff like procrastination, lying, theft – things clearly disapproved (at the time). These days a politician can lie outright & when confronted with it become the victim of being held accountable – which is the essence of entitlement. Or expect their apology to get them off the hook for any consequences.

Sermon On A Mount of Plastic Bags

the plastic bag shall inherit the earth

it already owns the wind

the sea the shore claimed

by our need to carry crap

these bags choke India’s sacred cows

fill their intestines

but cows spew so much methane

they cause global warming

so it’s a fair trade off

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet 

 

why bother reduce reuse reclaim

as much as I reduce my electric usage

my bill keeps going up

while energy honchos

make bigger and bigger profits

as they drive in fuel-efficient SUVs 

I’m told to take public transit

that if really care about our planet

I’ll only use plastic bags made in nations

that have paid carbon displacement fees

environmentalists make me sick

if they really wanted to save the planet

they’d stop shitting, breathing, breeding

 

I love the plastic bag

what would life be without it

Christ only knows

and he’s looking for one

that’ll hold lumber without breaking

won’t tear at the first rough patch

one that can handle any sharp edge

then reuse a shroud later

 

the next time that granola book store guy 

with the corporate logo on his hemp shirt

asks me do you want a bag for that

printed-on-reclaimed-non-chemically-treated-paper-with-soy-based-ink

book

I’ll say – sure buster, double bag it

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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Hip To Be Them

 

Hip To Be Them

because of my entitlement

pronouns are irrelevant

but to some 

every he his him

in a text is an attack

on their identity

they feel discounted distanced

 

I could think

don’t be such sensitive

cry babies

who feel every thing in life

that doesn’t kowtow to your comfort

is an attack on your sense of self

but I accept this sense

of being made invisible

being treated as a non-person

not included 

not seeing yourself represented

in a meaningful respectful way

 

I grew up as a queer boy

who never saw otherness of any kind

represented except in a sneering way

that equated gay with feminine

setting the standard

that anything not masculine 

was not valued

 

if it wasn’t represented 

it didn’t exist

or merely wasn’t worth representing

I began to realize

that mens’ fragile masculinity

wouldn’t allow anything

to reflect on that fragile masculinity

so buddy movies always had the

culturally acceptable romance subplot

so no one could sense any homoerotic 

shenanigans were possible

between the men

 

pronouns have become relevant

definition creates awareness & possibly change

but because it’s irrelevant to me 

what pronouns anyone chooses

that doesn’t keep me from respecting

its relevance to you

I sometimes forget who has opted to be a them. I find it awkward to do a review of a poetry reading when there are assorted pronouns to deal with which them is them referring to? I try to stick to names as much possible particularly when it isn’t clear who is a they from the outset. At the Playground Conference people were given stickers to chose from – he, she, they, or ask me. I chose the ask me, but no one did. At my age one is no longer considered sexually viable & are rendered invisible – so pronouns are my irrelevant.

 

Gendered neutral language is still so tentative that using it is a political statement. I wonder if sometimes people are looking to be argumentative rather than self-defining – a sense that use of pronouns covers the itch to get into a intellectual slap fight. If one chooses to use the pronoun that goes with their cisgender, regardless of how supportive they are, they become the enemy for not shedding culturally imposed grammar.

I like the way that gender roles are being challenged by something as simple as specifying a pronoun. The reactions to this have mainly been cisgendered heterosexual men who are intrenched in their right to decide just how you are to demonstrate your gender – i.e. all gay men are limp wristed feminine punch lines to jokes. Any challenge to their entitlement turns them into self-righteous victims of the very people they want to victimize.

Fragile masculinity forces these men to say things like ‘no homo’ rather than express some sort of affection towards another men. They respect a bully and elect proudly womanizing presidents. Imagine if that president wanted to be called they – I half expect him to start using the royal we. Personally I have chosen “it” or “that” for use in my bio, or, when given the opportunity, at conferences or readings.

   

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Re-created

Law 25: Recreate Yourself

this is how I started

a small fear filled child

a bit moved across Canada for a generation

a new home every year

each new home a new opportunity

but never enough time to develop

to make friends

finally settling

the only child

a small fear filled child

discovering things about himself

that weren’t what he observed

in other children

children with rough tumble values

gender roles unquestioned

reinforced by parental and scholastic approval

mine rarely reinforced

opting for invisibility

those moments when I was observed

winning an art prize

flunking miserably at math

art devalued

math venerated

the first invention

the arty poet uninterested in approval

bravado rather than conviction

the shield of music

flowed into the the drunk

the numbed to identity

the first man on man sex

wanting more

but with more to hide

inventing to we did drunk sex

so it doesn’t count

the writer published

the man escapes from

with his life

not another new world

once again the new face in town

remade into the timid bar hopper

manic dancer

reinvented as the sober housemate

the lover for life

the return to the word

the uneducated director

set designer lighting sound tech

discarded to be replaced

by the novelist poet

spoken-word performer

spun into the out spoken queer

This was an interesting law to work with – I did take it rather literally for a change – first by looking at the ways I was reinvented by the culture I was growing up in. There was a fair bit of moving until we settled in Sydney Nova Scotia. Even there we moved at least three times before my dad bought the house I grew up in. All that moving made it hard to learn how to interact with others.

I was also small, blond, a bit spoiled and fearful. My final height growth didn’t happen until after I finished high-school. I’ve written about my east coast growing up extensively but never from this particular point of view. Even then I did feel the pinch of never being the ‘boy’ my Dad would have liked – sporty – my younger brother took that role on.

I did want to be a writer from an early age but that was never seen as a viable or suitably masculine role for me & so it was never really encouraged. Learn to spell first was a frequent admonition. No one knew about spellcheck in those days. Oddly enough the ability to spell was seen as girly – maybe that was why I resisted it. Girls could be smart; guys could be dumb.

Things then that I didn’t really question but felt shame around – this cultural coding of what gender meant as a value judgement. All I knew was my fear at being found out, called out & mocked. Some of those fears were realized in high school being designated as a gearbox – one of those olden day terms for queer – fairy was also used but I preferred gearbox as it at least sounds a little butch, right? 🙂

This follows the changes in identity over the decades, the fearful drunk, the quiet rebel who was hidden but resolute all the same. Writing, painting where modes of expression that probably kept me alive. Same with drinking as other hidden gay guys I sort of knew killed themselves. I survived. Some of these changes are way out culture reinvents us from cute young thing to handsome older to doddering dirty old man.

One of the comments about my After The Falling chap book is that there was no clear through line – that each of the pieces, as well written as they were, came from different writers. Which to me says I have a multi-layered world view that reflects a more complex person than my image may project at any given time, or rather, than you may project on me at any given time.

The most recent re-invention is #DadBodHot.

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It = Self or Pronouning Around

nuitLanguages frees and it confines, it is flexible and unyielding. Emojis are replacing words. I’m being asking what pronouns I want to be used when I am introduced at a poetry event. If I chose ‘he’ am I triggering those who find gender specificity oppressive, offensive & restrictive. Will my ‘he’ appear not hip, appear deliberately obstructionist & insensitive.

08ochair01I am gratified that this asking happens – that more & more the taking for granted of the rigid gender forms is being broken down but our language hasn’t been able to keep up with change. I was told it was okay to refer to someone as ‘a person’ but not as a ‘man’ or ‘woman.’ Person frees them of sexual definition but acknowledges them as human.

Many are opting for the non-specific they, them – even Facebook allows people to chose gender neutral pronouns, at least in North America. As the trans community develops a stronger voice more attention is being focused on the use of language to allow inclusivity, to allow non-specificity as well if the that is what the person wants. 08ochair02I grew up with others questioning my gender & my sexuality. Are you a boy or are you girl? I sported long blond hair in high school & got tormented because of that & my fashion sense. I never doubted that I was male, but it was clear I wasn’t a sporty guy, merely someone who didn’t fit in & didn’t work too hard at fitting in either.

It’s been easy for me to stop genderizing people in conversation, in face-to-face meetings. Personally it makes little difference to me but I respect that gendered language matters to those that feel it confines, assumes things about them that aren’t true.08ochair03When I decided to brand myself as TOpoet.ca I experienced how unwilling some are to accommodate anything that deviates from the norm. There is this expectation of a ‘real’ name – one host reading from the open stage sign up said to the effect ‘I don’t understand what this name is so I’m skipping them.’ I didn’t get to perform (nor did I ever go back to that series). Some will drop the .ca or use my ‘real’ name as if I hadn’t signed on with my brand. So I know how taxing it can be to change pronouns or to create a non-genderized name & have people balk at using it.08ochair04So even if people would feel I am mocking them I’ve taken my personal pronoun a step further. I perform as TOpoet.ca whenever I can get hosts to accept that. I now use ‘it’ when asked what my preferred pronoun is. Something that frees me not only of gender but being confined by humaness.

samp03

Black Bile

now that I see you

you are not all that attractive

not that well hung

yet there’s something about you

that I can’t resist

you aren’t that funny

intelligent

or even show any generosity of spirit

it must be that air

of toxic masculinity

that draws me in

like so many people

I find that your machismo

can’t be denied

can’t be contained or controlled

your willingness to go balls to the wall

fuck everyone’s opinions or feelings

has a persuasive quality

I wish the placating

‘you can’t be like that’ sayers

possessed

they lack the sex appeal

of your full steam ahead

make no apologies

for anything

if your dick isn’t perfect

you fuck away without regard

because you know that’s

all anyone really wants

they long for the powerful thrust

of that toxic masculinity

they are eager to die for your attention

they may be critical

but you know

that secretly in the depth of their hearts

they wish they had the magnetism

that drives the black bile of your sperm

 

check out these poets from Capturing Fire 2015: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx5KD1eDccdjdTdQ28kZRNg

money

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ants out of my pants

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