Whenever I tell people about my study abroad experience, I blush a bit. I spoke three European languages in college and was a major Francophile, but for my semester abroad I went to English-speaking Cork, Ireland to study the tin whistle. Why the tin whistle? Well, in a roundabout way, it was about a boy–but not in the way you might think.
I’ve recently started rethinking a period of my life that I’ve found embarrassing for a long time. The whole experience sounds like a familiar story of a kid with a crush on a cute rock star, but I’m starting to understand that it was actually about finding permission to explore my own gender identity.
As I near my thirtieth birthday, I’m becoming more and more familiar with intermittent bouts of insomnia. Sometimes I’ll sleep great for a week or two, but other times I have difficulty falling asleep or (more new for me) staying asleep. I’m even writing this post at 2:30 in the morning after five hours of sleep. In other words, my life has turned into one of those sleeping pill commercials. But I’m not particularly keen on pharmaceutical remedies, other than the occasional dose of valerian root when I have something really important in the morning, so I’ve turned to whatever my iPhone can offer to seek assistance in turning my brain off and catching some zzzs. This post isn’t a comprehensive review of all the apps and podcasts out there in this genre, but it’s a sampling of some of the things I’ve tried. Let me know about your strategies in the comments!
The house I grew up in is cozily cluttered, bookshelves lining many of the walls. My mom, a voracious reader, liked to tell me about her love of Solzhenitsyn and Tolstoy even as a teenager, and many of those shelves were stuffed with Russian classics. It was about my junior year in high school when I first became interested in them, and for a year and a half I carried around a battered paperback copy of The Brothers Karamazov with its work burgundy cover everywhere I went. Ten or fifteen pages at a time, I fell in love with Dostoevsky’s language and characterizations, and came to call the novel my favorite for about five years. It still ranks in my top five classics, but I will admit here something I never told a soul: I never actually finished the novel. Like Les Miserables, another brooding and beautiful master work, I fell in love with the language but couldn’t quite see the relationship through to its bitter end. As a college Freshman eagerly starting Russian 101, I told the class I was studying Russian to be able to read Dostoevsky in the original, when in fact it had more to do with my recent ex-girlfriend and I’s obsession with fake lesbian pop duo tAtU.
I’m currently taking a MOOC on Understanding Russians, and I’m reminded of this theme in my Russophilia: a fascination with the language, the culture, the style, the pathos, alongside an utter lack of commitment to actually delve deep into what Russia is. I’m a Russian dabbler: when I meet a Russian person, I’m as excited as an Anglophile is hearing Tom Hiddleston’s accent, but then I hit the embarrassment of not being able to respond to a simple inquiry in Russian about my studies. Re-learning Russian is somewhere on a to-do list along the 13 other languages I’ve studied, and I have to admit that the Russian culture is not very suited to dilettantes.
After about three years of considering similar ideas, I am so happy to finally be able to announce the launch of Queer & Now, a new blog for 2014!
Queer & Now is a space to discuss life in the 21st-century from a queer perspective. I’ll be getting into all the things about which I’m totally geeky, from games to TV to fashion to work to technology. You can expect to see app reviews, awkward beauty tutorials, my first impressions of movies everyone else has seen, and a first-hand account of the non-profit work life. But unlike other modern life and pop culture blogs, this one will be written from the perspective of a queer, sex positive, trans disability justice and racial justice advocate who’s trying really hard not to be a dick. So no fat-shaming when I talk about health, awareness of casual sexism when I dive into MMORPGs, and a zero-tolerance policy towards transphobia and transmisogyny. If I make a mistake, then I want to hear about it and make an effort to change!
This blog comes from you from the author of Radically Queer, an activism blog more than five years in the making. This is a platform for me to write from a more casual personal perspective, outside of the tighter focus of Radically Queer. I’ll be actively maintaining both projects in 2014 and look forward to your feedback! Leave comments here or find me on Twitter @queeractivist.