BROKEN

Bullying can be defined as an aggressive behaviour that is intentional and implies an imbalance of power and strength between the bully and his victim, and comes in repeated, sometimes relentless, forms. As a child, I was a victim of bullying, although I suppose in many ways we could all say the same.

For me, it was never a chronic thing. I wasn’t afraid to show my face on the school, or worried to leave my very own backyard, for fear of whatever cruelty might await at the hands of my tormentors. But I was different, this I knew, even back then. I stood out, even in the most subtle of ways. As a child, I was small for my age, skinny, awkward, with thick glasses, and a cow lick that, despite repeated ongoing coaxing, would never stay put. I remember the start of the school year in Grade 2, stepping onto the school yard, my shy and quite nervous younger sister clutching my hand at my side. On that particular day, I’d worn new overalls to school, one’s I’d chosen with my mom from the local Kmart where she worked late evening shifts so she’d be home in the day to drop off and pick up my younger sister and I from school. I was proud of that stark, crisp, rough blue denim, the straps snug over my shoulder as they secured and almost protected me in a way from whatever unexpected things this new school day might bring. I felt happy, comfortable, confident, ready to take on Grade 2 in all it’s wonder and glory, and then suddenly….a small group of kids, mostly older, surrounding me, taunting me, calling me Old MacDonald (you know, he of the farm) and laughing at my bold new “look”. And before long, a tap to my shoulder, a slap to my back, a push to the side, and hands seemingly flying everywhere, boys jeering in my face, singing about cows and ducks and laughing….and then one curly haired boy in particular, direct in my face, snarling and laughing the most, and my little sister, frightened and tearful by my side. And then, with some primal instinct I barely recognized, I felt my hand fly out, in some semblance of a punch I didn’t know how to throw, and pain shooting through my knuckle and wrist as I connected with a nose, a nose soon bloodied, and then a shocked cry and a stinging slap across my face, resulting in my also recently acquired and quite expensive new glasses flying off my face and skittering across the pavement, to the sound of broken, tinkering glass. And next… silence. Followed by the sound of little bodies scurrying away, and the fast approaching and booming voice of the vice principal, a giant of a man, his strong hand clamped tightly on my arm and that of the bloodied boy next to me, dragging us off to the office, my sister inconsolable and screaming my name, with a duty teacher trying to comfort her, left far behind.

As an A + student, this was a rather traumatic moment. Not so much listening to the painful howls of the boy who teased me most (at the time, I wished I’d knocked out a tooth or two as well), but rather visiting the interior of the dreaded principal’s office. I’d never been in trouble at school before….I didn’t KNOW what trouble was…but I did soon come to realize (possibly after seeing the hurt, disappointed look on my parents faces later that day) that my actions – my aggressive, irresponsible actions – were in no way a solution to the problem. As I grew older, however, the school yard bullies came calling much less. I won’t say it’s because of that incident, although at the immediate time I’m sure it made some think twice. With all due modesty, as I grew older I simply looked different, and when it came to the part of the victim or the “geek” let’s say, I didn’t quite look the part, even if inside it was how I sometimes felt. Now I’ll never be mistaken for a Greek god, not even close. However, I like to think of the way I look as the equivalent of the performer with the heart of a small indie actor but with some of those leading man looks. Or, truth was I became taller, with strong, broad shoulders, a quick wit, and very soulful puppy dog eyes, and suddenly it seemed girls (and, in retrospect, boys) LIKED me, and wanted to be around me, and so the invites to parties or the junior high dances became more common. But still, I was something of a gentle soul, nothing so much rough and tumble about me, and smouldering glances aside,that was something I could not so easily hide. My brothers could be mean, not out of hatred or viciousness but more out of ignorance…..they loved Rambo and Rocky, I loved Footloose and Flashdance, and that, it seemed, was simply that. And to make matters even more difficult, I was somewhat in awe of my pretty, popular and ever so worldly seeming older sister, and modelled myself after her in a way, so they’re hockey lovin’, beer sneaking, girl chasing ways seemed rather foreign to me, and to me that seemed just fine.

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Big Gay Superheroes Part 2 – The Dangerous Lives of Queerish Heroes!

One of my favourite writers (comic book or otherwise), is Gail Simone, a woman whose grasp of dialogue and nuances of character is so sharp she begs few parallels amonsgst her contemporaries – yup, she’s that good folks. In the late 1990s, Gail created a website with the rather disturbing title “Women in Refrigerators”, a site that took a rather sharp and disparaging look at the ill-advised treatment of female characters in the comic book industry, many of whom had been injured, killed, raped, sexually assaulted or depowered as some form of “plot device” to “further” some story. Her unblinking view of the portrayal of women in the medium encouraged both creators and fans, for better or worse, to reevaluate the effect and impact of these stories, and encouraged and spearheaded some widespread, positive change for the better throughout the industry in regards to the respect and treatment of these important female characters. And so, inspired as I’ve been by Gail’s quiet but forceful movement for change, I couldn’t help but ponder over the treatment of LGBT characters in this industry that I’d loved since my childhood.

And first of all…can I just say it’s 2011. And times, they are a-changing. And that’s not to take away by any means from the gay rights movement and the many issues faced by gay, lesbian bi and trans people on a day-to-day basis. But in my mind…really, who CARES at this point? Hasn’t gay culture saturated the media enough, with at least a handful of recognizable to most real life role models of actors and singers and athletes now loud, proud, and out…and yet still loved and admired by their adoring fans? Knowing this, how bad could the comic book landscape be?

Pretty bad it seems.

And if you belong to Marvel, downright dangerous to your being.

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Big Gay Superheroes Part 1 – Where Are All The Sisters??

I’ve been a comic book fan, or more precisely, a super hero fan, most of my life. As part of my pop culture oeuvre, I am a reigning expert in most things spandex-y and superheroic, and my vast knowledge of these amazing creatures in capes and tights dates back to one icy cold December day in the late 1970s, in the beautiful seaside town of Baddeck.

At that time, I, along with my parents and younger sister, were visiting my great aunt Jessie, who lived in the neighboring community of South Haven. It was almost Christmas, and we were delivering presents to this woman who was like a grandmother to me, and at the same time running about this small town doing errands and stocking up on winter supplies for her modest, turn of the century farmhouse. Because I was so helpful carrying bags and boxes and holding doors for others, I was rewarded with a whole dollar – a king’s ransom at the time I assure you- to splurge on anything that caught my fancy at Stone’s Drugstore, our final stop for the day, and the closest thing to a shopping experience in this sleepy little town. Wandering the aisles, my eyes darting up and down and all around, as I considered candy treats and coloring books, yellow parachute men and silver slinkys, until finally I came, face to face and dead in my tracks, to a large “spinner rack”, full to overflowing with brightly colored and ever so inviting comic books. As I scanned the various titles starring Spider-man and Fantastic Four, Superman and Batman, I found myself drawn to one called the Justice League of America, and within a story titled “2000 Light Years to Christmas” (I’m not even kidding!) Being the holiday season, I took the whole story theme as a sign, and snatched the book up and ran off to the counter to pay the massive cover price of 60 cents, not caring to spend my left over change on candy or chocolate bars, but instead jumping up and down pleading COULD WE PLEASE GO so I could snuggle up in the back of the car and begin to consume my new treasure. But instead of consuming it, it seemed the book, and the very comic book world itself, was about to consume me.

I had seen comic books before of course, and was familiar with most of their costumed adventurers, but never had I seen them gathered together before so gallantly, fighting for truth, justice and the American way (whatever that meant!) Superman! Wonder Woman! Batman! The Flash! Green Lantern! Green Arrow! Black Canary! Firestorm! It was a pantheon of heroes, eager to transport me away on their noble adventures. And truly god like and heroic they seemed….not the Marvel everyman that Spidey represented, or the cutting edge sci fi technology of the Fantastic Four or Iron Man, the utter Id run wild of the Incredible Hulk or the rah rah Americana of Captain America himself. No, these mythical creatures seemed to watch over and protect all mankind, to walk among us but not be one of us, and I was truly captivated by that very divide and distinction in their nature.

But then I grew up. Sort of.

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The Story of Stuff – Part Deux!

When I moved in to my first grown up apartment – and no, I don’t mean those 6’x8′ cellar dungeons I used to call home during university days….the small, cramped space where I’d stockpile my expensive and rarely used textbooks and musty vinyl collection, with a noisy refrigerator whose sole purpose for being was to keep the beer icy cold – I literally had an overstuffed and well cat clawed blue couch that travelled with me from my parent’s home in CB, a small TV liberated from my older sister, a 5-year-old Dell computer that worked best depending on how hard I might kick it,  an eclectic and rather obsessively organized CD collection, and a small crowded bookshelf, filled with Stephen King and Anne Rice’s finest, next to classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye from my former English major days. The small kitchen contained a few mismatched pots, pans and dishes salvaged from the aforementioned and ever so helpful big sis….but no kitchen table. There was no need, as work and a fairly active social life left little time or desire to eat at “home”. The open concept living room/dining room contained neither a coffee table or end tables, as it seemed to me that might only collect mess and clutter. And, as you might recall, the misguided words from a kindly ol’ nun from my childhood left me  somewhat deeply  changed, with the undying impression that clutter was somehow… wrong. Bad. Evil , even. And so I’d have none of that. In a sense, I learned to recycle long before it became vogue or….you know…necesarry to save our environment and the future of all humanity and all that.  Mail would quickly be opened, then filed and/or shredded. Empty cans and bottles collected and dropped off on the curb, where some poor homeless dude would quickly make off with them. Countertops sparkled, floors shined, and dishes safely stacked away behind cupboard doors, avoiding any prying eyes. If I needed to take note of something or write it down, I would often need to write it on my hand or home to remember it, as a scrap of paper to simply jot things down was simply nowhere to be found. Things seemed sterile and safe, clean and simple, and I often joked with friends that if I needed to move away quickly for whatever reason – say I finally won a million dollars or decided finally that my arch nemesis of the moment must die and I needed to flee the country quickly -I could probably pack all I needed or wanted in a small box and be off into the sunset.   And I continued this way for years, and my orderly universe continued to spin neatly on its axis, a life lived clean and clutter free.  Where everything had its place, and it’s place was….well,  tidy.

And then….along came Shawn.

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Flirting 101, or How I Learned to Not Love Dating So Much.

Flirting 101, or How I Learned to Not Like Dating So Much

I’m a flirt.  Shamelessly so.  Some might go so far as to say I’m an attention seeking freak really.  I’ve been known to flirt with man, woman, animal, vegetable…I refuse to differentiate.  No one, it seems, is off limits.   I charm waitresses and bartenders into serving me first, I’m known as the dog whisperer as my canine friends come running, tails a-waggin’, through Point Pleasant Park, and it’s ridiculous the things I can make ‘pasghetti and meatballs do.   And trust me, these suave, sophisticated ways are not new.  In fact, for me, I think they practically date back to infancy.  Now, bear with me a minute…I grew up with four siblings, one of which is a mere 14 months younger then me.  It’s hard to get any undivided attention from anywhere with all that noise.  Now, imagine being a toddler with messy hair and drool on my t-shirt and a smelly and likely way too full diaper, and THEN having to compete with a  helpless tiny newborn baby girl all swaddled in pink.  I remember my great aunt Jessie telling me about how, when my sister was born, I’d sit in the corner all doe eyed while all the well wishers paraded past me while I went unnoticed, eager to see the new bundle of joy, and then she, feeling sorry for me, would scoop me up and swing me in the air, and before you knew it was laughing and clapping my hands, with a roomful of rapt followers all of my own.  So nowadays it’s a mischievous smile and a twinkle in my eyes, instead of giggles and clapping, but it all translates to that same attention seeking behaviour.  Now, that’s not to say these um…skills have made my entire dating life easy.  Quite the contrary.  Remember, I said I was as good at attracting ’em, I didn’t say I was necessarily as good at keeping ’em. And keep in mind when the time came that I was finally comfortable with my sexuality, openly gay and actively dating and all that, I was left with, statistically speaking, under 10 percent of the male population – that’s technically not a whole heck of a lot to work with, people! And so, my dating life was still full of highs and lows, of learning experiences and horror stories, of guys just “kinda curious” or so deep in the closet you’d need GPS and a really big spotlight to locate ’em.   And you know what else?  It was a LOT of work.   Having to put yourself “out there” meant BEING out there…and having to socialize.  A lot.  Bars, restaurants, coffee shops, weekend parties with friends of friends you barely know.  That stuff gets expensive!  And then there’s looking the part.  Making sure you’re dressed well and smelling pretty just in case you happen to meet the ONE in the grocery store line.  Or say working out on a treadmill when you’d rather be sucking  back beer and pizza.  And then there’s dating THE ONE and finding out, once the honeymooners over around day 3, that the love of your life is actually a stark raving mad lunatic, who thinks they’re part werewolf or a Martian in witness protection….and so then you decide not to date for awhile, maybe stay in and date “yourself”, which then turns into you watching all the seasons of Friends consecutively while binging on jellybeans and  having deep conversations with your cat.  Now none of that was me EXACTLY, but you get my point.  You see, it’s true, my “powers” didn’t seem to work so well for me in the lucky in love department, that gift to attract attention, that boyish charm to keep it…. So instead, for a time, I decided to play matchmaker for my friends.  To help them find the ONE.  Because I do believe, for everyone, the ONE is out there.  And so as far as that goes, my track record’s stellar.

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