Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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lilerthkwake Asked Me Questions

1. If you could invite any person from the 19th century to leave the "afterlife" and spend an afternoon with you, who would it be?

I hope I'm allowed to hire a translator for the occasion, because I don't speak any German. If so, I would like to invite Adolf Brand, the founder of the first multi-issue queer periodical in the world (Karl Heinrich Ulrichs founded the first queer supposed periodical, but his never got past the first issue) and the second queer-rights organization in the world (after Magnus Hirschfeld's Scientific Humanitarian Committee). While Ulrichs and Hirschfeld were busy advocating the idea that queer people were queer because they had been born as members of a third gender, Adolf Brand vehemently opposed this notion and instead cited the ancient Greeks as proof that heterosexuality was not the norm in all human societies, and that everybody would be queer if only they'd get over their silly homophobic denial of their queer potential. Adolf Brand's queer journal, Der Eigene ("The Self-Owner"), and his queer-rights organization, the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen ("Society of Self-Owners"), were both firmly based on these ideas of Brand's. You can find English translations of 21 articles from Der Eigene, along with commentary on their historical context, in the book Homosexuality and Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany: The Youth Movement, the Gay Movement, and Male Bonding Before Hitler's Rise: Original Transcripts from Der Eigene, the First Gay Journal in the World, edited by Harry Oosterhuis and Hubert Kennedy.

If I'm not allowed the services of a translator, I'd like to invite Emily Dickinson. She was queer too, and seems to have had a lot in common with me - neither of us are exactly socialites - and I like how she signed some of her letters "Brother Emily" and "Uncle Emilie." And I feel a need to offer her my condolences on how the woman she was in love with went and married her brother instead. She definitely needs condolences for that.

2. What would you want to do that afternoon, or what would you want to talk to him/her about?

In the case of Adolf Brand - queer by choice issues, of course! I'm sure he'd want to know how they're going these days. But unfortunately I'd also have to talk to him about sexism, because his journal and organization were both only about male-male love, and women were specifically banned from joining his organization. So first I would have to cure him of his sexism to persuade him to take me seriously, and then he could advise me on how to promote choosing to be queer. Well, except that he might also hold a grudge against me for being American, if he's managed to figure out during this hypothetical afterlife that the cause of his death was Allied bombs being randomly dropped on his house during World War II. I'm not sure how much we'd be able to accomplish in just one afternoon.

Talking to Emily Dickinson would be much easier, but much less substantial. I like her, and I think she'd like me, so we could just enjoy each other's company.

3. Since you and I have similarly subversive ideas about what it means to be attractive, I want to know: When I say the word "beautiful", what person comes to your mind? Why?

Late in my senior year of high school, I became friends with two of my classmates who had been each other's best friends for years, but whom I had never known very well before. They were the first two queer friends I ever had, and their queerness was the reason we became friends. Their names were John and Renna. John wrote poetry - good poetry, at least a lot of the time - and Renna painted pictures. I did both. Anyway, one of the first things I noticed about Renna was that she used the word "beautiful" constantly, to describe anything wonderful in the whole world, whether it was a visual phenomenon or not. So what comes to my mind when you say the word "beautiful" is the image of Renna spreading her arms wide to gesture at everything in sight and telling me how beautiful everything was, in a tone of voice and with a look on her face that made me immediately see the visible world around me, at least for a fleeting moment, the way it would look if she painted it, in the style of painting she tended to use. Bright colors, not necessarily the colors that things actually were, and shapes emphasized and simplified in a way that made everything easier to sort out and comprehend than it normally is.

4. And when I say the word "ugly", what person comes to mind, and why?

The fact that you placed your comma outside the quotation marks. It makes me want to mark up my computer monitor with editorial red pen. If you were British you could get away with it; however, I know you're American, so you can't. But that aside . . .

Gnarled stick figures in a cartoon-drawn back alley, plotting vicious cruelty to inflict on someone else who is around the corner, out of sight and out of earshot. Why? I don't know. I haven't actually met anyone who looked like a stick figure, nor have I ever wandered through an alley that looked like it was drawn in a cartoon.

5. Suppose you met someone who was all the things that you wanted in a person. Suppose they were intelligent and interesting, kind and funny, had similar tastes in music and literature without having the EXACT same tastes as you, and their political ideas were close to yours but just different enough for you to have interesting debates. They even like cats and Stardust seems to like them as well! So the two of you fall in love and decide to move in together. What little day-to-day living together things would cause you to question the sanity of being with this person? What sort of domestic issues are make-it-or-break-it for you?

This is an excellent question, and a very difficult one for me to answer, since I haven't lived with anyone but my parents and my brother. I would like to start by mentioning, however, that I don't really require much similarity in musical tastes at all (I'm generally satisfied as long as people don't intensely hate David Bowie's guts), and that although when I find someone who shares my literary tastes I tend to appreciate this immensely, I have also been known to date people with substantially less interest in literature than I have - as long as their idea of great literature does not include John Grisham, Danielle Steel, or the like. Politics are by far the thing that I require the most similarity about.

Um, let's see. If this person is very outgoing or social, or even just not Internet-addicted, we will probably have a lot of culture shock over that. I only have one friend whom I've seen in person repeatedly already and expect to continue seeing in person repeatedly in the future. (This friend is rhekarid. I might also see Juliet in person repeatedly in the future, since she lives within a three-hour drive of me, but so far I've only seen her in person once.) I do not generally even see rhekarid in person more than once or twice per year. There are many people who might interpret this fact as meaning that I have no friends and that I need to be introduced to a bunch of new people and dragged around to social occasions regularly to be encouraged to be more social. This would irritate me considerably. I already have what I perceive to be a perfectly adequate supply of friends; they just happen not to live near me. Even if my friends did live near me, I doubt that I would actually feel any desire to see them in person more than a few times per year. (Except I suppose if they were going to date me; there would be certain advantages to seeing them in person then. But the hypothetical scenario here was that I've already found someone perfect for me. Considering all the difficulty of finding one person who's perfect for me, it seems to me that the odds are rather against my ever finding two of them simultaneously, especially both in the same geographic vicinity as me.) And depending on exactly how social this hypothetical perfect-except-not-quite-perfect person was, and what sorts of people they tended to socialize with, it's possible I might start to question their sanity just on the basis of their own social habits, even if they didn't try to change mine. But I think this would depend a lot more on the types of social events they went to than on the frequency with which they went. Socialization that involved alcohol consumption would be far more likely to get on my nerves than any other kind. If the person just played team sports regularly or something else alcohol-free whose appeal I found similarly incomprehensible, I'd probably just find that charmingly bizarre instead of annoyingly bizarre.

Then there are the usual differences over housekeeping styles. Starting with furniture rearrangement! Some people are compelled to rearrange their furniture rather regularly, just to give themselves a sense of variety. I tend to arrange my furniture in a way that seems to me objectively best, and then leave it that way permanently, or at least for many, many years. If someone else keeps rearranging my furniture every six months, this will probably get on my nerves. And if the other person is seriously obsessed with cleanliness, well, they'll probably leave me in fairly short order. I have no need to win awards for having the most perfectly dusted home in the neighborhood. However, if the other person is merely somewhat less messy than I am, then I have resigned myself to the fact that most people are and that this is something I'm probably just going to have to try to accommodate. In fact, there is a lot more of a problem if the other person is more messy than I am, because that prospect sounds quite frightening and seems to me to quite possibly really merit questioning their sanity. There is a reason I am not any more messy than I already am, and it is that being any more messy than I already am would be completely intolerable and would make it impossible to ever have company over without devoting a week to cleaning the place up first. I prefer to think that currently I only require a weekend of advance warning.

Oh, and food! As long as the other person doesn't mind the fact that we'll probably need to each make separate dinners a lot of the time, we're fine. But I don't think eating the same dinners would work on a particularly consistent basis. Other people tend to like foods with green things in them, or tongue-burning spiciness, and they tend not to like eating Pasta-roni about 250 to 300 days per year. I had enough of picking yucky green things out of my dinners when I lived with my parents to last a lifetime, so now that I know how to cook (um, adequately enough for my own limited needs, that is), I think it would be easier for me to just make my own separate dinner in 10 minutes than to spend 20 minutes picking all the green things out of a dinner that someone else made.
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