We are staying at home for Christmas. Mom has been talking about a facetime call, but that’s a lot less grueling than being in the actual room with folks who cheerfully try to claim that they aren’t homophobic because they love me despite my lifestyle and that I’m clearly going to hell and that allowing us to get married is going to destroy the world.
For many years what we did was alternate which holiday we spent at Mom’s, while staying home for the other. When Mom was still working (she worked in retail for decades), which holiday she didn’t have to work dictated which one we came down for. Now that we no longer have that issue, we’ve tended to stick with Thanksgiving there and Christmas at home. One reason I do that is because, well, there’s a lot less god-talk on Thanksgiving.
Despite the fact that I can still recite from memory the entirety of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, and can sing “O, Holy Night” in three languages, and love to sing along to Christmas hymns such as “Angels We Have Heard On High,” I don’t look at Christmas the way my Bible-thumping relatives do. I’m taoist, now, and Christmas is the season of twinkling lights and mistletoe and brightly wrapped presents and eggnog and ginger cookies and times laughing with friends. My husband is pagan, and has an even lower tolerance for the “baby Jesus stuff” than I do. I expend a bit of effort crafting Christmas music playlists that don’t contain any of the religious music to play around him. I still listen to the hymns and such, I just use headphones or listen when he’s not around.
So what is our Queer Christmas like? How does a gay taoist and his pagan bisexual husband celebrate yuletide? We put up a tree every year. We usually have a theme. This year’s is Up In the Air, built around a tin zeppelin toy my hubby got last year. So the tree has all my Star Trek ornaments and all his Star Wars ornaments, and a bunch of or My Little Pony pegasus figures, plus birds and flying reindeer and several Santas, my Marvin the Martin ornaments, lots of moons and stars. One plastic flying Santa sleigh & reindeer was a table decoration that belonged to my great-grandmother. There are also three glass ball ornaments (one pink, one lime green, and one red) with glitter that also belonged to that grandmother. They go onto the tree somewhere every year no matter what the theme is.
I make two wreaths every year. One goes on the inside of the front door, and one on the outside. We have lights that go in the windows. I have too many lights, so I have to decide which ones to put up each year. We also have some lights for the shrubbery outside, and some cheesy decorations that go on the lawn. We sometimes wear Santa hats at social gatherings during the season. We send presents (and some years Christmas cards) to friends and relatives.
We own a lot of Christmas movies and Christmas specials. I watch some of them during the weeks leading up to the holiday. I could do a multi-day marathon of just my adaptations of A Christmas Carol. And I may very well have done exactly that at least once. We frequently watch a bunch together on Christmas Eve.
Every year we host or co-host a holiday get-together with a particular set of friends. The annual party includes the Ghost Story Challenge: I pledge to have an original Christmas Ghost Story to read each year, and challenge other people to bring a story, or sing a song, or otherwise share something with the group. There’s a lot of food, a lot of laughter, and there’s a gift exchange.
On Christmas morning we check our stockings to see what Santa brought. We open presents from family members and each other. We spend the day either watching more Christmas movies, or playing with our new toys, and making dinner. We have this bad habit of making way too much food for just the two of us, but we each have some traditional dishes we like to have, and we also like to experiment with new foods. At least we always have leftovers!
In other words, our celebration of this mid-winter holiday probably sounds an awful lot like everyone else’s. We don’t have drunken orgies. We don’t decorate our Christmas tree with sex toys. We don’t perform weird anti-Christian rituals. We don’t call for the oppression of our more overtly religious relatives or neighbors. We both say “Merry Christmas” at least as often as we say “Happy Holidays!”
We’re not making war on Christmas. We’re not trying to ruin anyone else’s holiday.
So why are anti-gay groups posting pictures of the White House lit up in rainbow lights from a couple of years ago with captions saying, “Trump should project Merry Christmas on the White House! That will show them!”
Show us what? That their ability to make false equivalencies knows no bounds? That they think being asked to treat people who believe differently than them with respect is oppression? We’ve known that for a long, long time.
We’re not the ones disrespecting the message of the Prince of Peace, who told his followers to love their neighbors as themselves, to love their enemies, bless those that curse the, and do good to those that hate them. In that way, our queer Christmas is a lot closer to the message of Christ than anything they’re doing.
We both agreed that Maria and the little bird from “The Gift” (this is the song that ends with the line, “As her offering was lifted to heaven
By the very first nightingale’s song”) or the poor little boy in “The Christmas Shoes” don’t fall into this category. I even argued that the Little Drummer Boy shouldn’t be included. Frosty and Rudolph are anthropomophized—non-human characters given human-like traits, or at least a human-like story line. Whereas the bird in “The Gift” never does anything that a real bird wouldn’t do.
And characters that were originally created in other media who happen to have subsequently been given a song when someone decided to try to make a television special or direct-to-video show about the character shouldn’t count, either. So as wonderful as The Grinch is (and how could he not be, having been created by Dr. Seuss?), he shouldn’t be offered as an example of a Rudolph competitor. And while Jack Frost appears in a couple of songs, (“Jack Frost nipping at your nose,” and “Little Jack Frost Get Lost”) he first was mentioned in poems back in the late 1700s, and often as simply an allusion to the cold rather than a full-blown personification.
Once you listen these other songs, it’s not much of a surprise why they’ve never caught on. For instance, “Chrissy the Christmas Mouse” has no story. I mean, “Frosty the Snowman” doesn’t have much of a plot, but compared to Chrissy, it’s practically Crime and Punishment! Chrissy is a mouse, who lives in Santa’s house, and she wants to go with Santa on Christmas Eve. So Santa asks Mrs. Claus if Chrissy has done her chores, and Mrs. Clause says “yes,” and Chrissy goes.
“The Little Blue Bell” has a plot, sort of. There’s this little blue bell in a church steeple, right? Except the little blue bell can’t ring. No matter what, it’s silent. How can it be a bell if it can’t right? And why is it still up in the steeple if it is broken? So the song tells us over the course of three verses, that the blue bell is sad up in that steeple every Christmas Eve because it can’t right. If I were a bell that couldn’t ring, it would seem to be that it would bother me more than just one night a year, right? Anyway, in the final verse, an angel appears and tells the bell it’s there to dry its tears. And then the angel does some angel-y magic, and transforms the bell into pure gold, and now the bell can ring. And the bell is so proud! And that’s the song.
So apparently the reason the bell couldn’t ring was because blue metal is somehow silent? What’s the moral? Suffer long enough but otherwise do nothing and an angel might come and transform you into a different race or whatever (what else is the blue can’t ring, but gold rings beautifully supposed to be a metaphor of?)? It’s just weird.
Not that Rudolph is much better. As I pointed out last week, it can persuasively be argued that Rudolph’s moral is that nonconformity will be punish until it can be exploited. Not exactly uplifting.
Of course, if you think too hard about the story line of just about any song out there it can be pretty crazy making.
So maybe I should stick to characters like Scrooge and leave the songs to songwriters.
My favorite parts, from the security video: The moment the woman behind the register sees the gun, she starts angrily shouting at him. We can’t hear what she’s saying, because the security video has no sound, but look at her pound that counter! She is not taking this guy’s nonsense! Next! Next the other woman working in the shop saunters into the frame with her hands on her hips. I know that pose! She’s not panicking about that gun. That body language is all, “I do not have to put up with this!” The dildos don’t happen until he reaches across the counter to grab the woman, some how having no already discerned from their reactions that he is not intimidating them at all.
It’s only then that the second woman start’s thowing the dildos right at his head. And hitting!
But my favorite is some that’s in the news footage but no one comments on. This crime occurred at a quarter to ten on Wednesday night, right? Notice the sign on the door of the store: “Cashless Store After Dark. Credit, Debit, and Checks Only.” That should tell the robber that all the cash from the cash register has been put in a safe around sundown. By 9:45pm there is no cash in that register for them to give him.
Of course, what do you expect from a robber who isn’t paying enough attention to notice security camera outside the store, and puts his face mask on right in front of one? That isn’t a very high resolution pic of his face they got, but they did get it.
There’s also more serious stuff that we probably should be more worried about: China ‘seizes US underwater drone’ in S China Sea, China accuses US of ‘hyping-up’ seizure of underwater drone. If we’re going to be worrying about what China’s doing in international waters, we probably should be paying attention to things like South China Sea: Satellite images appear to show weapons systems on artificial islands, which the U.S. and other governments have been protesting for some time. But I’m a bit more concerned that Orange Julius Ceasar, a man who claims he’s so smart he doesn’t need intelligence briefings, is not only too dumb to spell unprecedented, but also thinks that sending angry tweets in the middle of the night to a country that has nuclear weapons is the proper way to conduct diplomacy: US President-elect Donald Trump misspells ‘unprecedented’ in a tweet on China, Twitter roars.
Meanwhile, Voting Rights Roundup: North Carolina Republicans execute legislative coup against democracy itself. Yep, North Carolina voters ousted anti-gay, anti-queer, anti-civil-civil-rights-for-anyone-he-pleases, as well as some of the more extreme members of the legislature, and what do they do? Hold a special session behind closed doors, pass a bunch of laws taking away the newly elected governor’s powers, have capitol police arrest protesting citizens and reports at the capitol, and get the outgoing governor to sigh these acts (that well may be unconstitutional) before the terms end. Lame duck politicians always try to rush things through before a change in administration, but usually never anything that is so blatantly not just an attack of the will of the voters, but an attack on the idea of voting itself (among the laws are changes to the election system in the state).
A lot of people are justifiably upset to the extent that it’s being revealed that Russia played in out recent national elections. But U.S. Republicans at both the state and federal level have been working diligently for years to purge voter rolls of voters likely not to vote for them, taking power away from elected officials, municipalities, and so forth when voters make choices they don’t like, and so forth. It’s not merely that the Republicans have been waging a war on queers, women, and people of color for years, but they’ve also been waging a war on our system of government itself.
But what else do we expect from a party that keeps equating having to treat other people with respect as being oppressed?
A lot of people think that writers are obsessed with rules of grammar. They also think that good writing requires an extensive vocabulary of obscure words. Similarly they assume that anyone who has ever had the job title of editor is perfect at spelling and is even more obsessed with grammar. Those are copyeditor skills, which is different.
Don’t get me wrong, understanding how language works and having a facility with words are important skills for a writer, but words aren’t like gears and pulleys and cogwheels, and writing isn’t like assembling a machine. Words aren’t even the fundamental tool of a writer.
It is true that I am fascinated by dictionaries and have quite a collection of them. But open up a good dictionary and skim down the page and you will notice that just about every word has multiple definitions. Words have meaning, yes, but they have lots of meanings, and not always terribly precise ones at that. For example, let’s take the word “bear,” and imagine for a moment that you were explaining our language to an alien. If you told this alien that the word refers to a large omnivorous mammal with thick fur and plantigrade feet, what would that alien make of these sentences:
- The petitioner will bear the cost of the investigation.
- My manager is a real bear.
- Before accepting the offer, bear in mind the responsibilities that come with it.
- And then the bear flashed his lights, and I knew I was going to get a ticket.
That’s only four of the six definitions of “bear” that are listed in one of my dictionaries. Now at least one of those uses is metaphorical, but the verb “bear” meaning to carry something is spelled and sounds exactly like the noun “bear” which refers to an animal. The only way you can know which meaning of the word is meant is to hear it in a sentence.
The fundamental unit of a story isn’t the word, it’s the sentence. Yes, to understand a sentence you need to know the various meanings of the words in the sentence, but not necessarily all of them. You can often understand a sentence which uses a word you never heard before. Lewis Carroll composed a poem, “Jabberwocky,” in which nearly every sentence contained at lease one nonsense word he made up for the purpose:
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
Nobody knew what galumphing meant when Carroll wrote the poem, but everyone who read or heard it at the time inferred that it meant to move or run in some manner, perhaps similar to a gallop or maybe more of a loud blundering through the woods. In any case, an image of the triumphant hero making haste toward home carrying the head of the defeated creature was conjured by the sentence with the nonsense word. Never mind that vorpal was also a word that Carroll made up. Most nerds know exactly what it is: a magically sharp sword, right?
Anyway, being a writer isn’t about making text pretty. Nor is it about mastering the rules of grammar to somehow hypnotize readers with the mystic powers of predicates, prepositions, and pronouns. It’s about telling a story. In my day job I may be telling the story of what problems a particular software product solves. In my fiction writing I may be telling the story of how a thief with a cursed artifact will save the world. And here on the blog I may be telling the story of why marginalized people try to find hints of themselves in cultural events. Humans tell stories–we construct narratives–to give things meaning.
You can’t tell a story if you’re obsessing over the proper placement of a comma (the rules of which are infinitely less restrictive than you think). You can’t tell a story if you’re arguing with yourself about which synonym for brown best describes the color of your protagonist’s eyes. You can’t tell a story if you’re writing, deleting, and re-writing the opening sentence of your tale, each time changing just one adjective. Neither can you tell a story if you’re beating yourself up about the fact that you haven’t been able to finish it when you want to. It’s as useful as crying over spilled milk.
Which is about as useful as arguing about so-called rules of grammar. The final test is whether a reader understands it, and whether they care enough to get to the end. If they do, you wrote correctly.
Now, bring me a coffee, pour yourself your favorite beverage, and let’s see what kind of tales we will tell!
I much prefer some of the earlier pieces written on the topic: 2013’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: A Gay Christmas Allegory, for instance. Or 2012’s Coming Out In Christmastown. Then there’s 2011’s I’ll Never See Rudolph the Same Way Again Less involved is 2005’s Is Hermy Gay? Sixteen serious questions raised by the 1964 holiday classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. In Michael Salvatore’s novel Between Boyfriends there is an entire chapter in which his protagonist talks about recognizing at age 6 the gayness of Hermy and Rudolph (and specifically that he was like them).
I even wrote something about it once. I thought I had published it on my Sans Fig Leaf page, but a search of my old archives proved it was even longer ago than that. It must have been when I blogged on Geocities, which means it was sometime before April, 1998! And it also means I don’t have a copy of it any longer. Which might be a good thing.One of the reasons I don’t think of Hermy and other aspects of the 1964 Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer as subtext is because every time my family watched it during my childhood, Dad would make jokes about the “fag elf.” In addition to the annual repeat of crude comments about Rudolph and Clarice when the narrator refers to Rudolph having grown up, at least one year he wondered aloud about the relationship between the “fag elf” and Yukon Cornelius in rather graphic terms.
I was four years old when the Rankin-Bass special first aired on NBC TV. I don’t have specific memories of that first broadcast, but because a few years later I have very distinct memories of being dismayed that one song and scene which I have very clear memories of weren’t in the show, I know that I had to have watched the original broadcast. In the original broadcast, Santa is never shown going to the Island of Misfit toys to deliver them to children. A scene showing that was added in 1965. They made room for it by replacing Rudolph and Hermy’s “We’re a Couple of Misfits” musical number with a shorter song, “Fame and Fortune” and by removing a scene at the end where Yukon Cornelius discovers a peppermint mine. Over the years other changes were made to the original show, including a re-edited and shortened version of “We’re a Couple of Misfits” being added back in. And other techniques to make room for more commercials resulted in the music that remained sometimes sounding warbling and distorted.
But to get back to the subtext question: I think you would have to be extremely naÏve not to recognize Hermy, at least, as gay. Certainly my dad thought it was obvious!
Years later, someone asked Arthur Rankin, Jr, whether there was a gay message to Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and he denied it. However, while Rankin and Bass ran the studio and were intimately involved in directing and producing the many shows their company made over the years, the actual scripts were almost always the work of Romeo Muller, a gay Jewish man from the Bronx. Mullee, along with artist Jack Davis, and actors Paul Frees and Paul Kligman are usually credited with the many Jewish allusions and subtexts that are obvious in other Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town (the Burgomeister Meisterburger had toys burnt in a town square in a scene that looks a lot like footage of historical Nazi book burnings, and his guards all wear actual Prussian uniforms, for goodness sake; and don’t tell me that the Winter Wizard isn’t supposed to sound like someone’s Jewish grandfather!) or The Little Drummer Boy. So it doesn’t seem that big of a stretch to imagine that Muller wrote Hermy as gay.
In 1964 and for a few decades before that, movies, television shows, and plays often featured a stock character referred to now as The Sissy. The Sissy was a closeted predecessor of the Sassy Gay Friend. Some people argue that Hermy is just another instance of the Sissy, but there’s one problem with that interpretation. The Sissy was never a hero or the sort of supporting character with his own subplot. He might be a friend and ally of the hero or the heroine (much more often the heroine), but he was merely there to deliver jokes or be the butt of jokes. Meanwhile, I think what made Hermy worthy of commentary by my dad (while he almost never made comments about the archetypical Sissy in other shows) is that Hermy in not comic relief. Hermy has his own subplot. He doesn’t just help Rudolph find acceptance, he realizes his dream. He escapes societal expectations of being a toymaker and becomes a dentist.
You can argue that this is just a parallel to Rudolph’s journey from ostracized freak to valued leader of Santa’s team of flying reindeer, but they wouldn’t have had to give Hermy those Paul Lynde speech patterns, bright pink lips, and that very twink-like swoosh of blond hair (when the only other elves who have hair are definitely women) to do that. Hermy was an obvious, if closeted, queer character. And instead of being the butt of other characters’ jokes, he was the secondary lead. He’s the one who defeats the Abominable Snowman, after all!
I won’t get into all the reasons that the actual villains of this story are Santa, Donner, and Comet. Other people have covered that pretty well. Just as many have argued that the lesson of this special (and the 1949 song, and the 1939 book) is that deviation from the norm will be punished unless it is exploitable. Yeah, there are some problematic aspects to a lot of these old stories.
I still love this version, though, and not the least of the reasons is because the “fag elf” gets a happy ending.
The most important new bit of news about the former Congressman and current sad closet case is: Springfield trial hardly a stretch for ex-Rep. Schock, prosecutors say: Schock has maintained his high-flying ways since quitting Congress in 2015, traveling to Jamaica, Peru, China, Hong Kong, Mexico and Canada, federal prosecutors said in a new court filing. So poor Aaron was trying to get his trial moved because it is so, so hard for him to drive all the way to Springfield. Meanwhile, he’s still galavanting all over the world, presumably financed in part with the proceeds of his shady selling of one of his homes (which was originally purchased with profits from some of the corrupt activities he’s currently under indictment for): Aaron Schock Sells Home Above Market Value to Political Donor.
When Schock was a congressman he never missed an opportunity to vote in favor of any anti-gay bill that came along. He gave speeches about how not only shouldn’t anti-discrimination laws apply to gay people, but that employers should be free to fire employees simply because they suspected the employee might be gay, that landlords should be free to evict or refuse to rent to people who they simply suspected might be gay, and so on. Which is the reason a lot of us in the queer community starting pointing out that there was a lot of reason to suspect Schock was gay (still unmarried, has gone through a series of very hunky male roommates who also are unmarried, has taken hunky male roommates on trips–sometimes at taxpayer expense–where they act like a couple, has been photographed and filmed outside gay bars and bathhouses a lot (he once gave a media site a filmed interview while walking around a gay neighborhood a week before Pride in which his gaze was frequently seen being drawn to shirtless queer men walking by, for goodness sake!), spent a lot of time going to Gay Republican fundraisers and such. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So we aren’t attacking him for being queer, we’re pointing out what seems to be a very big instance of hypocrisy in which a closeted queer Republican has (once again) built a career out of attacking and oppressing other queer people.
Anyway, so he’s a douche who doesn’t mind stealing money from the taxpayers and his constituents, who doesn’t mind throwing queers under the bus to get that money, and doesn’t believe he should face any consequences for this. Let’s hope the court system proves that belief false: ANTI-GAY GOP REP. AARON SCHOCK ARRAIGNED ON 24 CORRUPTION CHARGES.
I’ve written before about why this particular crime hits so hard for queer people in general, and me in particular. I’ve also written about why we shouldn’t ignore the hate crime aspect of this act of terror, and why the people who do so are perpetuating and enabling the hate that caused it. I’ve also written about why it is unacceptable to argue there is nothing that we can do about this kind of crime: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either.
All of those things are still true. And with hate crimes on the rise since November 8, even more heart wrenching.
Please take to heart the words in the graphic I included at the top of this post: “Every time you let a homophobic or transphobic joke or slur pass, you tell the speaker that you condone their speech, and you help perpetuate a culture in which hatred of LGBTQIA people is acceptable and in which violence against LGBTQIA people is inevitable.” That’s not an exaggeration. If our very existence is nothing more than a joke, that implies our lives and deaths don’t matter. Those attacks and dismissals perpetuate the lie that we deserve pain and suffering. They perpetuate the lie that we shouldn’t exist. They perpetuate the lie that our love isn’t real.
And all of those lies add up to one message that some angry people are all too ready to take to heart: that beating us, shooting us, and killing us isn’t really a crime.
For some reason, I thought Saturday was the 9th. And I had Friday off as a vacation day, whereas he was going to be working. And I knew I had to finish the Christmas shopping on Friday, so it would be the perfect time to pick up the fixin’s for the breakfast, right?
Well, Friday we got snow, so at about 5:30am when my hubby usually goes to work he woke me up to tell me he’d decided to take a personal day rather than ride his bike on the ice- and snow- covered roads while Seattle drivers were losing their minds because of snow. Fine, no problem, I could still do this. When I woke up later I was working on some writing and trying to decide when I should go shopping when I finally noticed that my calendar app on the computer had a big ol’ 9 on the icon.
Funny side note: on Thursday, that same calendar app gave me a reminder that a former co-worker’s birthday was Friday. But it didn’t remind me that my anniversary was the same day because genius that I am, I have never entered our anniversary into the calendar. D’oh!
Midmorning I realized that our anniversary wasn’t Saturday, but it was that day. So I went upstairs, wished him a happy anniversary, and apologized for getting the days mixed up. He pointed out that he hadn’t said anything about it, either, so I didn’t really have anything to apologize for.
So, we went out to brunch, then we did the Christmas shopping together, I didn’t pick up the breakfast fixin’s. It was okay.
This morning, I woke up and decided that I would proceed with the plan. So I walked to Ballard Market, picked up flowers, picked up fixin’s for biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs, and bacon breakfast, and came home and got to work.
I was about midway through cooking when he got out of bed earlier than usual and came downstairs. He expressed surprised I was cooking a big breakfast. I told him that I was in the middle of making a surprise breakfast for him, and shoo-ed him out of the kitchen saying, “Go look at your late Anniversary Flowers!”
And he said, “They aren’t late. They’re Anniversary-plus-one Flowers.”
I don’t deserve him.