Thursday, May 24, 2012

Memorial Service, Hop Against Homophobia Winner

The memorial service I went to was pretty intense because I had tried to put aside my emotions to deal with later, and that was apparently the later. The part that got to me the most was the fact that she had been cremated and her jewelry had not. So, in the pitcher of ashes was a watch that I had always seen on my Nana's wrist. That made it real. The presence of her watch made it undeniable that those ashes were once a body, and not something I could explain away as something else.

Other than that, I've been trying to finish a few projects this week, and had a job interview. During my current job hunt, it struck me that something massive has changed about me as a person and I'm not sure what it is. It's good, but interesting. If the current incarnation of me had met the me from about ten years ago, I wouldn't have liked me.

In my giveaway for the Hop Against Homophobia, wulf was the winner. I will get that sent out Friday or Saturday.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hop Against Homophobia: Giveaway, Iran, The Suicide Grove

Hi. Thanks for stopping by. I'm J. Lannan and it may not be the best time to host my first giveaway and be involved in a blog hop when my first m/m romance-type story won't be out until later this year-- I also have a job interview this morning, and will be out of town for a memorial service for a couple days-- but this is the time I have so I might as well use it.

May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and this blog is participating in the Hop Against Homophobia.Click on the picture in order to visit the other blogs involved.

Each blog is doing a giveaway of some sort and here is mine. Since I don't have any extra copies of magazines with my poetry and essays in them I am giving away some random LGBT swag. (Note: I'll probably find something else to add before the hop is over and will add that to the list, or just include it as a surprise)

One Pack of Meiji Hello Panda cookies--they're cute, strawberry-flavored and could be considered snacks that pair well with reading-related activities...
One Rainbow Wristband--I notice a 50% increase in flirting when I wear my rainbow wristband so it must be imbued with magical powers of some kind. (Blog owner not responsible if your wrist band does not have magical powers)
Two Badges--One has a hot dog in a raincoat with "always protect your weenie" printed on it, and the other says "Deal With It" in rainbow lettering

That list almost made me sound orderly...almost. So, in order to be entered to win my giveaway leave a comment on this post and include your e-mail address, or twitter info so I can contact you. When I get back in town on the 21st I'll randomly pick someone and send you a message to get your info.

Here are my two comments on homophobia since the blog hop tackles that issue. The first section discusses Iran's death penalty for homosexuality, and the second is a look at bullying and suicide through imagery I pulled from Dante Alighieri's Inferno. Intermission is exactly as it sounds.

Iran Executes Gay Men 

I've been told that I have a gift for shining a different kind of light upon dark subjects, but as I write this I realize that I have trouble bringing my kind of light to a situation that is so horrific and extends far beyond the harassment, name-calling and rock-throwing that I've personally been on the receiving end of.

In college I majored in History and studied Iran's judicial system. It's a sad and corrupt system that often forces confessions via torture. I've always found myself drawn to the study of injustice because I have grand schemes about making the world a better place for everyone. I know that's a Miss America World Peace kind of statement, but it's true. One of the only things I kept around from being raised Catholic was the concept of do unto others as your would have done unto yourself, but even that is a pretty common sense concept.

Several years ago Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that there were no gays in Iran. His American audience laughed. While his delusional nature may be amusing sometimes, the treatment of gays in Iran is no laughing matter. It may surprise you, or may not if you know the region, that consensual sex between men is punishable by death in Iran (and in other parts of the world). During my research I even watched an interrogation video in which a man had kidnapped another man to keep as a sex slave. One was obviously a victim (his teeth were bashed out), but when punishment was handed out both men were executed.
The Iranian judiciary just determined that four men will be executed for consensual sexual activities. The Jerusalem Post has that article.
In 2005 two gay teenagers were executed for the same crime.

These events are happening in this day and age, and I feel stranded on an island of inability because I can't do anything substantial about it other than pass the information along wherever I am able. So this is the information I give to you.


Being a Historian left me with this empty feeling of inability. I've heard stories about Historians being epic alcoholics for this very reason--well, that, and no one listens to Historians and History repeats itself if left's a frustrating field. So, where does an angsty, detail-obsessed person who harbors a compelling case of nascent alcoholism turn? Yes, become a writer. It was so obvious.

I still write essays, but now I write other things as well because I want to explore topics instead of theories. Writing gives me a platform, and if you're going to stand on a platform you better have something that you want to say.

The Grove

As I've mentioned before, I was raised Catholic and you can probably guess where I'm going with this...or not. Where earning a History degree left me frustrated with my lack of ability to change History the conformity of Catholicism I attempted to force upon myself left me with a lack of identity. It took me a long time to figure myself out after being told that everything I did could send me to the hell fire. Catholics are a little more subtle than other denominations, but the hell fire is still there. And it can give you quite a sense of hopelessness to live in a constant state of internal and external scrutiny that is simply incompatible with what you feel is true about yourself and the world. I now bring you to the universal topic of bullying and suicide that plagues so many kids in the LGBT community as well as those kids who are just different. I was twelve when I first attempted suicide. I don't really want to discuss the why, or how, or what right now because they're not part of this story, but this next section is the story.

Due to my long-term intimate relationship with suicidal thoughts, the Catholic belief system, and my Italian heritage I took a morbid solace in Dante Alighieri's Inferno. In the middle ring of the 7th Circle of Hell the people who committed suicide exist as gnarled and bleeding thorn bushes that are terrorized by harpies. The suicidal will never regain their bodies after The Final Judgment, but will have their corpses hung from their thorn bushes. (I told you it was morbid) This is the imagery I always return to when thinking about suicide, but I think of it differently because my relationship with nature is stronger than my relationship with the concept of hell.

I invite you to walk with me through the grove of the suicides. At first I feel peace because there is the notion of a quiet comfort in death. The struggle is over, it's true, but that's it...death is the end. We can just keep walking, though. We're not staying. The trees are all thorns and scabs. It's a sign of obvious pain, and the trees now bleed when injured, but in life the pain is not as obvious as a twisted mass of bleeding thorn branches. The scabs reopen old wounds, and the thorns harm those who get too close. It is a desperate situation. Depression puts up barriers or causes people to lash out, but suicide creates a death with painful memories for those who longed to be closer to the victim. Each memory doesn't simply contain the sadness of loss, but also an added nuance of pain because they could not reach the victim.

To me the harpies represent the reasons and torments that lead people to take their own lives, but as you'll notice the harpies are alive and still active to continue their torment. And even trying to understand this torment assails those left behind. Schools do too little, people don't care enough, and pain goes unrecognized, but after another life is lost everyone looks back and points to incidents and people. What good does it do now? Maybe we can stop them from tormenting anyone else, but I think the most important approach is to teach love and compassion. I think people don't love enough.

I want you to know that if you've wandered through the grove of the suicides you should know that you're not alone even though the path seems empty when you're there.

Wow, that was more of a downer than I expected... and I wanted to end with some love.

Here's "Pure" by The Lightning Seeds