and Thor said, “I’m gonna kill ’em all with my hammer, like I killed the giants.”
As part of our Business of Blogging course with Epiphora and JoEllen Notte (The Redhead Bedhead) this past spring, my fellow bloggers and I were given the task of coming up with an origin story…something that encapsulated our desires to blog about sex, sexuality, identity, toys, and all the other delightful things we write about on a regular basis. I loved this assignment so much; it gave each member of our cohort such unique opportunities to express our backgrounds in so many different formats. It was a delightful way to learn about each other and I had tons of fun writing it. So here it is, in all its unedited glory:
The concept of an “Origin Story” has put Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s “Origin of Love” in my head on a loop all week with the simultaneous imagery of Weapon X from the Marvel universe (Uncanny X-men story arc ALWAYS). And I’ve sort of been traversing head and heart for my story. Do I illustrate a mosaic of snapshots from my life with a lens covered in more vaseline than RuPaul’s Drag Race seasons 1 and 2? Do I pick one cathartic moment and deconstruct that in order to respect its own value as life is full of origin stories? And then I realized my “Origin Story” had been staring me in the face the whole time. Hedwig and X-men. So what’s the connection to blogging, toys, my passions for sex education, sexual self-discovery and exploration?
First of all, I had discovered both Hedwig and the Angry Inch and X-men comics at hugely transformative stages of my life. I was around 7 years old when X-men entered my life. It was one of the first cartoons I ever really engaged with, the first arcade game I punched rolls of quarters into, the first comic series I began reading, and Goddess help me, when that 1994 Fleer Trading Card Series came out, the first thing I had ever began collecting feverishly (I still have every card, mint condition, in a plastic binder on my bookshelf).
I understood the higher value of the foil cards that shimmered with their metallic colors, the importance of collecting every card for the triptych stories in order to get the full picture, and I also loved talking about collecting these cards with other kids. It reminds me a lot of my sex toy collecting now. Between my highest quality “gets,” to fawning over other collectors’ toy displays, to wishing for those “rares” that were in such limited production that even if I didn’t want them, I NEEDED them, my appreciation for the different artists and aesthetics in the ’94 Fleer Set was really precocious for a 9 year old kid.
The characters in X-men have also been an evolving (see what I did there?) inspiration throughout my life. As a child, I dressed up as Storm for Halloween one year and Jubilee the next. In my preteen years, X-men gave me an immense respect for powerful women, but simultaneously allowed me to eroticize them, as my first fantasies as a kid were Psylocke and Polaris. Purple and green is still my favorite color combination, go figure. As I got older, and began to understand the political context behind X-men as mutant “others” and my own morphing (again, X-men puns) LGBTQ identity, I saw these characters less as fictional impossibilities and more as realistic role models than most celebrities in early 2000’s culture.
When the live action movies began coming out, I sort of twinged at their “artistic license” with the canon, but was really excited that they were getting more people interested in X-men…people that previously may not have considered themselves “comic folk” or “superhero affiliated.” It’s sort of like how Sex and the City and Fifty Shades of Grey are all types of frustrating and problematic as introductions to sex toys, but they create dialogue among audiences that might never have happened, and that is something of merit. I was also really jazzed that Bryan Singer, one of the directors for several of the movies, was openly bisexual until I heard about all the cases of sexual abuse filed against him. My heart dropped. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it created a lot of conflict as to whether I wanted to continue supporting X-men films, where that would compromise my ethics, or if it might trigger me along the way.
I liken this a lot to my immediate knee-jerk reactions to companies like JimmyJane affiliating themselves with larger, “morally corrupt” corporations like Pipedream or concurrently wondering why She-Vibe continues to stock JimmyJane products. I see that when inserting my own personal narrative into someone else’s decisions without understanding the individual perspectives of everyone involved, it is really difficult to control my emotional reactions. I couldn’t rationalize any positives in the X-men films, for example, Anna Paquin, who is also openly bisexual and a proactive figure within several advocacy groups, and I was quick to write off an X-men movie if Bryan Singer had any affiliation with it. So this is definitely an ongoing battle of mediating my own impulse to “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” which is something that will require extensive work if my blogging aims to explore sociopolitical subtexts behind the production and promotion of sex toys.
Where the X-men had jumpstarted my sexual exploration in childhood and LGBTQ affiliations in teen years, Hedwig and the Angry inch engaged my sensitivity to self in terms of love, mental well-being, and using my “rebel roots” to connect with people instead of isolating. My early angsty teens were fueled by punk rock, Ani Difranco, and a complete transformation into masculine-leaning androgyny. I hadn’t begun identifying as genderqueer, but after seeing Hedwig in my best friend’s living room my sophomore year, I learned that just like my fluid understandings of gender, my ideas of appearing “hard” and “soft” to people were equally blurry. It became the pitch for my sex education from undergrad onward: because I looked “alternative,” I was actually “accessible.” People would understand that I wasn’t judging them because I was probably always being judged. Hedwig taught me to embrace my vulnerabilities in praxis, that I’m not going to get anywhere in life without taking risks, and that mistakes are a part of the process.
But most of all, Hedwig taught me love in a profound way. I learned about love as a spiritual process, love as a means of connecting to people, love as a foundation for creation, love as the element that runs through everything we do as humans. And today, it still holds true. Every paper I have written, every thesis, practicum, or capstone I have ever worked on has emphasized the importance of love in your work. It is the great equalizer in that it is indefinable and yet always felt in some form. I use love in how I teach students, how I work with clients in therapy, I am using love right now in how I write this entry. It is nebulous, explosive of time and space, heady yet simple, spectral beyond anything narrowed down to a “concept.” I still write anonymous letters to randomized addresses I find from whitepages.com telling people “I have no idea who you are, but you are beautiful and I love you.” It’s worth doing. Love makes this all worth doing.
Reflecting on X-men and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I think not only of Stan Lee and John Cameron Mitchell, but everyone else that has had input in the creation and writing of these stories. These stories are rich with value, complexity in symbolism that are universal enough that almost anyone can connect with them, but nuanced enough that they are not two-dimensional and individuals can take away different messages. These writers are absolutely brilliant at their craft and it takes a network of support and years of effort to achieve such excellence. But they are also unique as human beings, they had their own “Origin Stories” to bring them to writing.
Everyone has an origin story, if not one, than many, or even infinite. Some may say every moment is a new opportunity for an origin story. I am curious to hear yours, if you’d be willing to share. If you click on this entry, it will take you to the post where you can add your comments, or you can email me or even chat with me in real time via IRC.