#1941

Queer Club: I Wanted To Do The Thing, So I Did The Thing! (Is this how you adult?)

A few months ago, I was lamenting the lack of local queer meetups while my fiance and I were grocery shopping. Living far from major cities like Seattle and Olympia makes it hard to take part in queer culture – being on the wrong side of a toll bridge and in a town full of old people makes it even worse. I don’t feel unwelcome in my hometown of Gig Harbor, but neither do I feel like my queerness is necessarily nurtured here. Besides the occasional Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker or the cool Safeway checker with the queer pin, it’s difficult to identify and connect with my own kind.

This wasn’t the first time I complained about being too far from the queer city hubs, and I’m sure it also wasn’t the first time my fiance suggested I start my own meetup. Here’s what made this time different: When we got home I actually did it. I sat down and made a Facebook group and invited the few local queer friends I had. I posted on Craigslist and Tumblr and Twitter. And when we went grocery shopping the next weekend, I nervously asked the Safeway checker if she wanted to come. After just a week or two, we had a total of 15 members – not bad, considering I was pulling from what is likely a small pool. The group was a nice mixture of people I knew, people who knew someone else in the group, and people who didn’t know anyone. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the results.

And then I realized I was in charge and would have to plan the first meetup, and I panicked.

Okay, not quite. But I was definitely SUPER nervous as I waited for people to arrive at that first meeting. I had a million worries buzzing in my head. What if no one came? What if no one knew what to say and it was really awkward? What if I forgot someone’s name or pronouns or didn’t have anything for a vegan to eat? What if everyone liked everyone else except for me, and they decided to kick me out of my own group? What if we just didn’t really have anything in common and the group fell apart immediately and I never tried to do anything like it ever again and became a recluse and my fiance had to cover all our windows with newspaper? You know, the usual fears of a totally normal person.

As you can probably guess, none of those things happened. The meetup went better than I could possibly have expected and people stayed until after midnight (for reference, I’m usually in bed by 8:00 PM). After our guests had left, I was too exhilarated to sleep and practically bouncing off the walls with relief and happiness. I had made a thing! That people had attended! And had liked enough to make plans for the next one (and to form a D&D group)! I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, I had managed to gather together a group of local queer folks who were all amazingly nerdy and hilarious. I liked them all. They seemed to all like each other. Was this how you made friends? Who knew it could be so easy!

I have no idea what the future holds for Queer Club – honestly, I didn’t plan past “make a Facebook group” so I’m 100% playing this by ear. It seems to be going well so far, though, and there’s already talk of attending SakuraCon together, so I’m feeling hopeful. At the very least, Queer Club is an excuse to get myself (and my fiance, who’s along for the ride) out of my antisocial comfort zone and interacting with, well, anyone. If I can help create a little network of local queer folks for attending prides and playing D&D together, even better.

We’re an open group and love meeting new people. If you live in the south Puget Sound area of Washington state, consider stopping by one of our meetups! You can find us on Facebook under the name “Gig Harbor/Kitsap Queer Club” – and no, you don’t have to live in those areas specifically. Anyone who identifies as being somehow under the queer umbrella is welcome, along with significant others of whatever definition. :)

#1940

Do you ever experience a piece of media – a book, a song, a movie – and get hit with the knowledge that this thing would have totally spoken to your younger self? That if you had experienced it at, say, sixteen or seventeen, who knows how it might have changed you?

Flashback to myself in high school, circa 2006. I hadn’t yet discovered asexuality and assumed, for all intents and purposes, that I was straight (despite having zero interest in dating). If you had asked me then why I so adamantly adored Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled, Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil, and Clea Duvall in The Faculty*, I would have said it was because they were so cool, so badass, so confident. I might have said it was because I wanted to be like them in some way, or just tag along on their adventures.

Um. Yeah. I was pretty oblivious to things. In my defense, though, my peer group didn’t use labels like sapphic, homoromantic, or really anything besides the L, G, and B. I didn’t know it was possible to like girls without, well, LIKING girls, so I never analyzed the feelings I was having at the time. Even after I learned about asexuality at the age of nineteen and officially adopted the label for myself at age twenty-one, I still spent several years agonizing over what my strange attraction to girls meant. It wasn’t until I was almost twenty-six that I finally opened that door a crack – just enough to let in the girl who would become my fiance.

I say all this with a purpose, I promise. See, a couple months ago I started a local queer meetup. We happen to all be in one way or another attracted to women, so when we held a movie marathon last week, we watched sapphic movies. One of these, But I’m a Cheerleader (BIAC), was a late 1990s comedy featuring Natasha Lyonne as a closeted lesbian sent to a conversion therapy camp by her parents. It’s a very silly movie with an undercurrent of dark realism that makes the friendships and romances all the more poignant. It also, to my embarrassingly giddy surprise, features a Clea Duvall who looks exactly like her Faculty character Stokley. On whom I have had a raging crush since high school. Oh, and should I mention this is a movie where you get to watch Stokley make out with another girl? How the internet didn’t let me know this movie existed sooner, I will never know. And I will always be bitter about that. You let me down, Tumblr!

Anyway, all this is to say that the ending of the movie made me cry. Not Carol, which we watched first, oh no. BIAC made me cry. Why? Partly because the ending is so sugary sweet (a sapphic movie with a happy ending? yes please!), but also partly because I watched the whole movie thinking This came out in 1999? I could have watched this as a kid? As a confused teen who had no idea why she got so mad that Stokley wasn’t a lesbian after all? You mean I could have had an actual queer Stokley to obsess over all these years??

I mean, SERIOUSLY.

I’ve read and watched a lot of queer media since I was a teen, but none of it quite hit me like this movie did. I sincerely think that if I had watched BIAC as a teenager, I would have known ten years earlier that I was sapphic. Ten years! Ten years I could have spent learning to embrace my identity, instead of agonizing over it. Ten years I could have spent making friends with other queer people, instead of feeling unwelcome in those circles. Ten years I could possibly have spent dating and exploring my desires and boundaries. Ten years of angst and loneliness that could have been ten years of friendship and pride parades.

That thought kinda hurts, to be honest. I’m in a good place now – proudly ace and proudly sapphic – but I wasn’t for a long time. I struggled, especially in college. There are songs I can’t listen to because they’re just filled too much with that old longing. When I see queer representation in media these days, especially in shows like Legend of Korra and Steven Universe, I feel simultaneously joyful and jealous. Joyful that representation like this might save someone years of hurt; jealous because I could have used that representation, too. As a kid, I was too deeply in the closet to even think of seeking out queer media. I can’t imagine how much seeing queer relationships in “regular” media might have opened my eyes. I know being a queer kid today isn’t easy, but I’m still so happy to think that even one kid might be saved the emotional bog through which I had to wade.

*and Michelle Rodriguez and Gong Li and Fairuza Balk…

#1927

I’m a member of the Dead Dads Club. It’s a shitty club and you don’t get to choose to become a member; one day it just happens, congratulations, you’re a member for life now. At first I didn’t dream about him at all, or if I did he was always in the periphery, silent, watchful. Then it was dreams where I didn’t know I was dreaming and he was back – he had never died, he had been resurrected, he just walked through the door one day and didn’t know years had passed. Then it was dreams where I didn’t know I was dreaming and we were just hanging out together – riding in his truck, baking chocolate chip cookies, me telling him about Assassin’s Creed. Then it was dreams where I knew it was a dream and he didn’t understand why I’d hold him hard and sob into his chest. Now it’s dreams where I know it’s a dream but I still tell him over and over and over again how much I want him to come to my wedding. I cry, hard and ugly, and the dream never lasts long enough. In the dream it feels unbearable, the thought that he’ll miss this, too, just like he missed so much else. When you’re in the Dead Dads Club, the list of things they miss just gets longer and longer, and yet you’re continually blindsided when something new comes up.

#1923

We anthropomorphize what we do not understand and deify what we fear. Perhaps, therefore, I should call this terror and awe Cascadia and give it a name, a form, a realm to rule. Grand Cascadia, She Who Slumbers Uneasily, She Who Builds Mountains and Destroys Cities. Ancient Cascadia, who sleeps beneath the earth’s crust and whose every toss and turn rattles the land above. Cruel Cascadia, whose laughter stirs tsunamis, whose anger detonates stratovolcanoes and sends shockwaves of destruction through two thousand miles of rock and earth. I see her body made of the fine silt of the ocean floor; her eyes glow the hot white of magma; her hair is ash and smoke and seaweed and minerals. She is a uniquely Pacific Northwest goddess, one link in the great ring of fire through which she and her sisters transform the world.

It is tempting, I’ll admit, to hand the fear of what I cannot control over to a deity I can at least implore. I could light red candles in her honor and leave her offerings of seashells, saltwater, Mt. St. Helens ash. Beneath her altar I could store flashlights and emergency rations. I could write songs and poems for her, about the people she has killed already and those she will kill in the future. I could, I could, I could – but what good would it do? Even if Cascadia were a true goddess, she would not be swayed by offerings or pleading. She would be something more terrifying than Kali and more uncontrollable than Sekhmet, something that gloried in death even more than Inanna or the Morrigan. There would be no appeasing her. She would only sleep, wake, slaughter, and sleep to wake and kill again. All the prayer in the world could not reckon with her, and when she next wakes her death toll will be in the hundreds of thousands.

Sleep, Cascadia. Sleep.

#1918

[ Yo check out my new D&D character, she’s based on several professors of mine and Evie from The Mummy! Speaking of which, I drew her in one of Evie’s outfits (normally she has light leather armor). ]
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Name: Remr’knali’v’sarna’nbat’shi
Nickname: Remr
Age: 30
Gender: Female
Race: Tiefling
Class: Ranger
Background: Sage/researcher
Alignment: Neutral Good
Level: 4
General physical description: Red skin, yellow eyes, black hair (a double sidecut with bangs, usually held up in a bun by several writing implements), two horns on her upper forehead (one above each eye)
Orientation: Oblivious (she’ll end up some sort of queer, but for now she’s too involved in her work to think about it)
Relationship status: Married to her job
Family: Well-to-do mother and father, three older female siblings
Job: Associate Professor of Biology
Dress style: Tends toward comfort over appearance, clothes are often muddy, ripped, ink stained, and covered in bits of melted candle wax, wears a belt from which hang sample bags, a compass, a magnifying glass, and other necessary scientific tools
Companion: A long-suffering mule named Abigail
Religion: Agnostic but very excited about the possibility of meeting a god or gods when she dies, as she has lots of questions to ask them
Hobbies: Geology, ecology, anthropology, climatology, mythology, sociology, learning new languages, translating ancient texts, barely ever sleeping, writing notes to herself on her clothes, skin, or whatever else is at hand
Favorite food: Chocolate covered coffee beans
Catchphrase: “Fascinating!”
Strongest positive personality trait: Very outgoing and non-judgmental
Strongest negative personality trait: Extremely flighty
Sense of humor: Jovial and nerdy, but often accidentally pretentious
Temper: Friendly, upbeat, intense but well-meaning, hard to anger or offend, socially awkward but unaware of it
Consideration for others: Assumes everyone is as excited about learning as she is, has no concept of personal space or privacy
How other people see her: They either love her or hate her, depending on how they deal with such high energy levels and the conversational equivalent of pinball. Additionally, she can come off as pretentious or thoughtless.
Opinion of herself: Best Professor Ever!
Background: Being the high energy, ambitious late-in-life child of aging parents who had already raised three other daughters, Remr was often instructed to “go play outside” or “find something quiet to do”. She spent most of her time alone, either reading every scrap of text available or exploring the natural world. Her parents had hoped she would follow in her sisters’ footsteps and take up the noble family occupation of being a succubus, but it was clear early on that she was destined for the university. She and her parents parted on good terms, though they are wary of the packages she sends home; they sometimes contain dead, or not-so-dead, specimens. She is currently an Associate Professor on an extended sabbatical (the university may perhaps keep extending it in the hope she doesn’t come back).
Philosophy of life: Attainment of knowledge is the noblest pursuit to which one may dedicate their life, and nothing (even the law) should stand in the way of furthering our understanding of the world.
Most important thing to know about this character: She may be a flighty science nerd, but she has a rock hammer and an ice pick and she knows how to use them.

#1904

I feel like I’m going crazy. Literally.

Over the last two years, I’ve frequently felt like my own brain is gaslighting me. At work, I miss red flags that I specifically looked for; I calculate budget numbers but then can’t figure out how I came to those totals the next day; I forget tasks or duties I’ve never had trouble remembering before; I swear I started a project but then find no evidence in my files; my completed documents are riddled with obvious mistakes I thought I checked or corrected; emails I have a vivid memory of reading were never sent to me. I’ve even run two red lights – not because I wasn’t paying attention, but because I could have sworn that the light was green. Every day, I feel tripped up by false or missing memories, by basic math that makes no sense, by this frustrating “Past Elyssa” who keeps fucking everything up for the present me. Sometimes I find her mistakes the next day, when I can fix them before my boss notices, but other times I don’t find her mistakes until months later, when a tiny issue becomes a monster. I find myself apologizing over and over and over again, promising I’m a hard worker, dedicated, detail-oriented, that I’m not who Past Elyssa makes me out to be. But what if I am?

For two years now, I’ve felt like I can’t trust my own mind. This paranoia leads me to second-guessing everything I do. I double and triple-check information I’ve long had memorized; I have shadow systems for everything I might possibly need to track or remember; I leave myself sticky notes for the most obvious of tasks. I read and reread emails and documents before I send them, and I check my math however I can. But it’s not enough. Things still slip through at an alarming rate. And it scares me. It scares me because this isn’t who I am. I am detail-oriented. I am good at remembering deadlines and tasks. I am able to complete complex tasks. Yes, I’m bad at math, but I’m not usually this bad. I’m not usually inept.

When the brain weirdness first started, it had a definite cause. I had just gone on Topamax, a medication well known for reducing the user’s cognitive functions. And boy, did it slow down my brain. I was like a different person at work: forgetful, prone to missing obvious mistakes, and overall just slower at grasping even simple tasks. When I forgot to take another important medication for an entire week, I finally went off the Topamax. I assumed the side-effects would linger for a while, which they did… and did… and did… and do. I still feel like I’m on the Topamax, though I was only on it for a couple months and I’ve now been off it for over a year. At this point, whatever I’m experiencing simply can’t be caused by the medication. My doctor has suggested my migraines (for which I was taking the Topamax, ironically) might be causing my forgetfulness and decreased cognitive function. This is a good theory, but I don’t buy it 100%. This stuff just seems to happen too often to be the result of a migraine.

So what is it, then? None of my other medications cause such side-effects, and they’re all meds I’ve taken for years without issue. My diet and general health are good, so it’s not my body trying to run at half-capacity. The issues happen no matter what my mood, so it’s not anxiety or depression related. I don’t fit any of the other symptoms of adult onset ADD. I don’t love my job, but I’m dedicated and focused, so it’s not just that my brain is checked out. Plus, that doesn’t explain the times I’ve run red lights.

I feel crazy. That isn’t me co-opting an often misused word – I truly feel like I can’t always fully trust my mind or my perception of reality. These things have happened too often for me to just laugh off. Now every time I find a weird mistake or have a memory that apparently didn’t happen, I feel myself unravel a little more. It’s a creepy, frustrating, scary feeling. I don’t like being a bad employee. I don’t like being unreliable. I don’t like putting myself in danger by accident, or questioning even bland, innocuous memories. I already deal with anxiety, depression, and invasive thoughts; I really need my brain to otherwise work okay. If something’s wrong, I want to know so I can treat it with therapy or medication or whatever will work. It’s the not knowing, the not being able to act on a problem, that’s eating away at me.
[ I feel like this sounds really dramatic, and maybe I’m overreacting, but I’m going to make myself post it. Blurhg, brain bad. ]

#1903

I used to wonder, late at night when I wandered between streetlights and shadows on a chilly, quiet campus, what it would be like to sing with you. Listening to the songs that conjured your spirit, if not your presence, I wondered which part you would take; would your voice be higher than mine, light and lilting, or would it reach even deeper notes than I could? I’d sit on cold stone steps and imagine you huddled against me, us sharing scant body warmth as we watched our voices drift away in ghostly breaths of melody. You were for so many years a siren calling to me from third-hand sources, and I the lost sailor traveling sightless in the hopes of finding you at the end of my journey. What I did not know I heard in this music was my willingness to break upon the rocks, should that be my only way to glimpse you. The lyrics did not speak this immutable truth; the notes did not spell it on their staves; yet I absorbed it nonetheless. Thus when you did finally find me, I came to you as the sailor longing to wreck, as the tower maiden eager to jump, as the innocent girl who wanted never to find her way home from Wonderland. And you? You remained as I had imagined you: the siren calling, calling, calling in the dark for the only one who could hear her voice. Now I know exactly what our voices sound like blended together, and all the words in the world can’t describe such beauty.