Sunday, July 21, 2013

Moving in a New Direction

I am sitting here with pen in hand, a writer who has built a fairly respectable reputation as someone rational, and I am struggling to write something better than a mere fan article, but I'm finding it hard. Truth is, I'm tottering on the precipice of becoming .... the horror! ...God ... ahem! ... a Directioner.

But don't get me wrong. It isn't about how cute they are - I am of an age where I look at them and think children. It isn't necessarily even about their slightly-higher-than-usual-quality formulaic music - although I have to admit it is better than I ever expected it to be despite the often inane lyrics (thank God for electronic overproduction and autotune!). It's about something that has taken me by surprise: the sense of daring these five very young men convey, the fearless projection of the new values of a new generation. Values that may change the world for the better.

From the beginning, One Direction has - if not in their music, then in their music videos and stage appearances - played with gender stereotypes and with sexual stereotypes. The humor with which these very young people tease our perceptions is endearing and mesmerizing. The confidence with which they do it is the mark of an upcoming generation of youth that refuses to be boxed in.

In GLBT literature we are beginning to see the trend emerging as well. Perhaps more than any other creative medium, written literature demands the open display of ideas - words may be vague, or cloaked in multiple meaning, but at their core they are more naked than say, paint on a canvas. Words can hide behind simplistic rhymes, commercialism, and the overshadowing of a heavy pop rhythm that a song offers.  But words in a book most often address the realities of social psyche of a given era. Today, we see literature written by individuals who are now enjoying the latter decades of life, and this literature often speaks of past realities such as the horrible isolation of gay individuals even a few decades ago, consequences of coming out in a largely hostile family environment or greater society, of AIDS and homophobia-bred violence.  These elements are still there in the upcoming literature of a new generation of GLBT literature, but to a much lesser extent. Now we see new trends in conversation emerge:  thoughts about the nature of gender, the oppression of traditional roles, of carving an identity as a GLBT community.

This trend toward new questions being asked through art is evident across mediums. Take a look at the world of fashion and the current embracing of androgyny-inspired designs.  Take a look at music, where more lyrics lend themselves to various interpretations across gender lines - it's no accident that "I Kissed a Girl" launched singer Katy Perry into the stratosphere with her first album: it spoke to a generation that is tired of boxes and labels. Take a close analytic look at the art of the music video - my own favorite growing art form - where increasingly we see experimentation toward challenging the presumptions of viewers. Nowhere is this trend more obvious, perhaps, than in one of the videos by the Ukranian pop music act, Kazaky (below).  Here, images stretch gender and sexuality perceptions to the limit and challenge the viewer to a new way of thinking.

One need only glance briefly at YouTube videos posted by teens, or take a look at teens on the street, to see this trend.  But it goes further than appearance. Teens and young adults, feeling the first pangs that something is truly different about their own sexuality, are less and less willing to hide from the larger heterosexual community as every decade passes. But more than this, they are less willing to allow the larger GLBT community to force them into a box. These are kids who refuse a label, who experiment with sexual and gender ideas without apology - and increasingly without shame.

In Gentlemen's Game, I stretched some of the assumptions about sexuality. Although response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive - something for which I have been rather surprised and always grateful - it was sometimes met with some hostility. This came from both the straight community, where a true depiction of the variety and nuances of male sexuality was perceived as threatening, and the gay community, where a character refusing to accept a "gay" label was seen as an unacceptable betrayal of an ideology that has long struggled with legitimacy.

But I feel a certain spirit in today's upcoming generation - an exhilarated freedom and embracing of one's true self in all its shades of colors, that is for me exciting and so long overdue. And so I have to smile when I see that figurative open, unapologetic wink in a One Direction video as they tease their audience's perceptions. It's a myth that their core following is made up of only twelve-year-old girls; I see older teens, moms and dads, and young people of both genders openly enjoying their music (let's not forget those male fans in the gay community!).  I have a feeling that many more are in the closet with their favorite One Directon CDs. Below is the video from "Kiss You" - watch closely for the surprising gender/sexuality-challenging gags.

The five young men of One Direction enjoy the game and the tease, and do it with a lot of humor. These aren't young people who take themselves too seriously, and that betrays an unusual streak of maturity. The very fact that they insist upon these delightful antics despite their handlers - whom I would guess at the first were less than enthusiastic about it until they saw that audiences loved it - speaks to their confidence.  And it also speaks to their membership in a generation that is destined to finally turn a corner for society that has needed turning for some time.  It's a new destination in which all of us - in both the straight and the gay communities - are challenged to look beyond the safety and the inevitable oppression of the labels in which we have in the past found solace, and stretch our minds into a new direction.  Kudos to young people like the guys in One Direction, who are leading the way.

Watch some more serious gender-bending by One Direction below:


And here, a blog illustrating exactly what I just said : http://www.buzzfeed.com/lilyhiottmillis/one-direction-is-really-good-at-playing-gay

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I Love This Idea!

I don't post advertisements, unless I'm talking about a book or film. But I have to talk about this. I recently got a prepaid debit card with Pride colors.  How fun is that?  Plus, it makes a statement when I use it. Interesting how many people comment about it and don't get the meaning, so I get a chance to do my soapbox a little bit. 

If you have never had a prepaid debit card, they are very cool. The idea is that you load it with funds you already have. You can have your employer put your paycheck on it, you can transfer funds from another account, or load it with Paypal.  There is no application or denial.  It's like carrying around a portable savings account. I add a little to mine every month for an emergency pet fund - that way when one of my dogs gets injured at 11 p.m. or on a Sunday, and I end up in animal emergency, I don't have to panic about what's in my account. 

For more info about this card, go to Gay Pride Visas