Missing MySpace

8kqibqh

I was on Facebook the other day, and a feeling of frustration hit me. I was bored. Bored of the site, bored from the sameness of every one of my friend’s walls, bored of the algorithms in place pushing posts I didn’t care about to the top of my feed. Bored of the “trending news” topics that when compared to Twitter, seemed to be trending on Facebook and Facebook alone. I sighed remembering the pure excitement another site used to generate. That website of course, being MySpace. If you were a teenager in the 2000’s a massive chunk of your life was spent switching back and forth from AIM to MySpace.

I remember using third party search engines on the school computers, trying to beat firewalls so that I could check my MySpace inbox. We didn’t have smartphones then, making the hours at school feel truly feel endless. At home, online, there was an entire world waiting. A world our parents lived in fear of. “Don’t meet people off the Internet” seemed to be the sentiment heard out of the mouths of anyone of our parent’s generation. My dad would have probably died, had he known how strongly I ignored his warning. I had, met, and continued many relationships with tons of kids I’d met on MySpace.

Facebook feels like checking my Gmail. It feels like something necessary. It doesn’t feel like something special. MySpace was special. There were so many portals on MySpace, endless amounts of groups, endless amounts of profiles, numerous bands, and the freedom to do whatever you wanted to your profile. You could simply never outgrow MySpace, because it grew with you; you were the driving force of your experience.

As a young lesbian, MySpace provided an LGBTQ universe that was unfathomable in my suburban world. I had gay friends all over the world, I could flirt with girls openly, and talk to older queer folks about their experiences. The 2000’s was of course the time of The L Word, and there was no greater place to talk about the show then in the numerous groups devoted to the show on MySpace. I to this day still have friends that I met in The L Word forum.

All the creativity it seems, has gone to Tumblr. Ello tried, and failed to recreate the magic that MySpace had. Facebook feels like Craigslist. It exists. It works. But it lacks any form of creativity. No matter how much you put into either, they will still exist as the very 2D structures that they are.

I used to spend hours perfecting my profile on AIM, my away messages, and my MySpace. These I felt, were all extensions of myself. Similar to the clothes I wore, my online presence was a clear indicator of self. And at a time when my style could not reflect who I truly was, MySpace saved me. Hours were spent gossiping on AIM, subtle shade was thrown on your top 8, shout outs were made to those “worthy” on away messages. You got to choose where you sat in this online cafeteria. The person I was at school, was nothing like the proud, sometimes cocky, flirtatious lesbian I was on MySpace.

I came out on MySpace years before I did in person.

Lenovo just released their teaser commercial for their upcoming June launch of their newest phones. In it, a relic of every 20 somethings past is on full display; the Internet went crazy. And of course we did, The Razr was the phone of a generation. If Lenovo is indeed releasing a 2016 worthy version of The Razr, well I must say well played. We are a generation that lives for nostalgia. We were born at the odd time where the technology of yesterday was still holding on strong, yet rapid advancements were occurring it seemed every moment. We grew up using floppy discs, CD’s, and flash drives. I had a cassette player, a Walkman, an MP3 player, and finally an iPod. We were a generation of constant and fast adaption. And maybe because of that, we were it seemed almost nostalgic from the beginning. Our online profiles, playing homage to the things we loved, the celebrities we admired, the soundtracks of the moment, the people in our lives; they were one of the only things we were in control of.

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The Party

It’s like constantly showing up late to a party; my life that is. A party where everyone else already knows each other. They have inside jokes and stories, have known each other’s partners, had dinner with each other’s parents. A party whose guests accept you yet don’t really know you past the game of flip cup you just played together.

I have always felt late to the party.

My family is my family. There is no confusion in my heart or head that the people who adopted me as an infant fill the roles of mom and dad, of aunt and uncle, of grandparent. They talk of a past that isn’t mine. My ancestors weren’t Russian immigrants. My birth family were never called kykes or denied jobs because they were Jewish. They knew no Holocaust.

They looked like me.
Black like me.

My parents divorced when I was still a baby, and both remarried. Two new families where I felt the outcast. My dad and his wife had a child together and suddenly my life at home was divided. I was a tag along. The third wheel of a family whose house I happened to share. I was a target, and on my own. I threw myself into friends, people who had known each other since they were babies. This was the suburbs, you had your friends from childhood but I was new. I came from the city, wide eyed and mystified by these tight knit circles.

Late to the party once again.

I squeezed in. Loud, opinionated, but soft hearted and funny; it was never hard for me to hop from group to group at school.

I never opened up about my family. My friends were from cookie cutter homes with moms who cooked dinner and dads who played basketball on Saturday mornings with them in the driveway. But every family is good at pretending. Every kid goes to school with secrets slammed behind their locker doors. In reality so few of our families were perfect. So few marriages were working. But being an outcast at school, would make being one at home too even worse.

What does it feel like to have people tell you that you look just like your brother? Have the face of your mother? Your fathers laugh and your families knack for sports?

Tall and black. Thin and athletic. Emotional and sympathetic. Scared and anxious. An extrovert with overwhelming needs to be alone. They are not like me.

My acting teachers always said that I had excellent projection. My dad and his father are easily better than me. Anger that resides in me results in words on paper. Either reading or writing, for me the fighting gets done between a book cover. I want to talk to you for hours. I want to your voice, your past, your choice, what led you here. Why that thing I did triggered you then. And when and if it happens again, how to deflect the tension. Amend it. Jesus would they yell. To see red in someone face as they storm around and pace. My dad would throw tantrums like a child. Break things and curse like a fuming bull charging through the streets. And then he would break. And sigh and often cry and hold me.

If this is the party, I would like to leave.

We deal with death. But we really never deal with death. If life is a joke, death is the punch line that went over everyone’s head. Everyone should feel the feeling of being on a roller coaster without a harness. Because as you feel yourself falling, grieving, twisting and screaming, you realize that you’re going to be ok.

I don’t know what her last words were. But I can guess her thoughts. Summers spent outside painting each other’s nails. Christmas stockings whose contents overflowed on to the mantle. Trips to bookstores where hours were spent, where I was allowed to roam and explore. The smell of coffee every morning as we shared the bathroom getting ready. Flowers.

Always fresh like Spring. Colors like a Pollock. A laugh that was louder than most car horns. Eyelids that were always ready to shed tears. Arms always willing to cuddle. A mouth unafraid to sound off. Love times a million the kind that radiates from so deep within, that you wonder if their is a trap door.

Fall off that coaster into darkness. But realize that breathing eventually becomes easier and the wind around you dies down. As you finally touch down.

I miss you at the party.

If I ran into one if my siblings on the street, would they notice me?

Have we ever crossed paths?

We have the internet now. This is could be so easy.

But do I want it to be?

Do I want to crash another family? Another group that’s had it’s history. Who know each other inside and out and maybe have always thought about; that baby that left them years ago. Maybe wonder how that kid came to be and if they had grown, tall like their father. If they have laugh lines like their mother. Passing thoughts as they have moments alone. But not enough to press the issue. And what about my other set of parents? The ones whose genetics make me into whatever it is this body can be.

Sometimes I walk for hours to quell my anxiety. If I leave town for a day or two when I get back the mundane will feel new. I often feel like a polka dot. The literal black sheep. I fear that they can’t hear me, that I showed up too late for them to get me. I am a vortex of change in every way. My gender picks up where nature left off and strays. My sexuality is magnetic towards so femininity and beauty. The men of my family are so different than the boi I’ve come to be and we all know there’s love there. But it can be so hard to show it.

The backgrounds of our slide show keep changing so rapidly. The projection of his light and not my light and the colors don’t exactly feel right when they bounce off the wall together. Yet they have been told that they are bound and belong together. So they stay illuminated for the party.

Waiting for the guests to leave.

It’s Ok.

I want to take you to a place that I used to know well.
I want you to feel what I feel in my bones.
The place that gives me hell.
It takes awhile to get to this place.
It takes awhile to look in the mirror and be ok with the face –
that stares back at you and realize that the person your heart beats for doesn’t make you a sinner.
When everyone is telling you that everything you feel is wrong.
When everyone song you turn to is about heartache and break and holding on –
you lose yourself in the moment.
You lose motion.
Because you are too flooded with emotion.
Please don’t be afraid.
Those voices in your head are just telling you to love.
And in love there is no wrong or right way.
I am so sorry that not everyone sees it that way.
And I am so sorry that you may lose friends and family along the way.
But stay –
stay true to who you are
look into mirror after mirror until you can’t help but smile back.
Opinions of others are opinions of their own.
What is factual is that you are a human full of love.
Who wants to be loved.
And will be loved.
Because there are a million of us out there.
Who you can walk to with open arms.
Look this world can be shit.
I know and so do you.
But it can also be so bone crushingly beautiful.
You can have these moments where you swear some part of you must be in pain.
Must be about to break.
Because everything in that moment is The Most Beautiful.
It can come in the arms of a beautiful girl.
It can come in the arms of a beautiful boy.
It can come from the best meal of your life.
Or realizing that you just met the person that is that.
Is your life.
I wish that I could sit down and show you a crystal ball.
One that shows you the future and how this time will fall.
It will be a distant memory and a hardship that once happened.
But it won’t cut as deep.
When you are laying in bed realizing that you have no more secrets to keep.
You are young.
You are gay.
And baby you are free.

A Closet is No Place for a Queen or a King

On September 23rd 1989 two young parents took home a baby from Texas. Everything was new. And every day would prove to be a challenge. See even though much has changed in our country, when two white Jews adopt a black baby, people will voice their opinions. And they will voice them loudly. Looking back 24 years later, I see how my adoption provided me with the tools to deal with the homophobia and transphobia I would come to face.

On this day, today, a day of celebration for LGBTQ folks and their allies October 11th 2013; this national day of coming out I feel comfort and pride in coming out again.That baby that came home from Texas, that baby girl named Nina, would one day grow up to be a trans* individual named Ryley.

Ryley like Nina would have to hear much of the same things. The same insults, the same ignorance. The same stares of questioning, the whispers of judgement and sometimes even hate. But Ryley much like Nina refuses to let society leave them with a hateful internal dialougue. There will always be allies. For every jackass that mutters anything at you, there is another beautiful stranger that will stand up for you. Who when you least expect them to, will knock you off your feet with their acceptance.

My past is…my past is like the rings of a tree. It will stay with me forever, carved into my trunk of a body. And on those rings lay the friends who have never let me go. The ex’s who have become friends. The friends who have become family.

That is what I love the most about the gay community. The family. What happens when you lose your parents? When you lose the life you’ve always known? Because you were born choosing to love the hard way. Hard because society hasn’t caught up yet. Right because, love is never wrong. It can hurt, it can knock you down, but love should never be pushed back because someone else tells you that who you are choosing to love is wrong. You are the only one who can decide who you want to give your heart to, and hopefully that person wants to give theirs back to you. Two hearts. Two bodies. Multiple limbs. Tied up and tangled together.

You can gain a family. You can grow one. You can choose these amazing beautiful people who will get you. That is beauty. That is love. That is so many absolutely gorgeous things. You will find love. You will find it in unexpected places. You will find solidarity just as often as you will find hate. Heads or tails.

No matter how hard life gets. No matter how alone or empty you may feel. Remember that every summer a hundred PRIDE parades happen. Every night a drag queen takes the stage, and not always in a big city. Sometimes in a dive bar, in a town just like your hometown. Hell it might be your hometown. Every day people go to work at LGBT centers, and non profits, to fight for your rights and protect you. The love is there. The fight is there. The mainstream is just that, it will always be in your face because it demands all of the attention. That is not your mainstream. You are above that and you are more than that. It might be harder to see those in the trenches but they are there. And they are fighting just as hard.

I don’t really live with regret, but the one thing I do wish is that I could have come out to my mom. She died before I had the chance to tell her who I was. I wish that I could tell her about all of the girls I’ve loved. About the ones who have broken my heart; the ones whose hearts I’ve broken. I wish that at all the Pride’s I’ve marched in, she was marching alongside me. In theory she always has. Her picture has been in my pocket for years. Every journey I take she takes with me. I never got to tell her that I wasn’t actually interested in the boys I pretended to like in middle school. I don’t know much about heaven, I don’t know if it exists, or if when we die we linger. But my mom always told me that she believed that after death we never really leave. She promised me when I was a kid, when I would have panic attacks based on what felt like an inconsolable fear; the fear of death, of being left alone. She would hold me and she would say: Your life will feel like forever, and I will be here forever, and after forever is over, another forever will start. She told me that she would never leave. And even though she is physically not here. She is here. Inside of me. And mom, I’m ok. And gay. And a million other things. Maybe one day, in some way, we can talk about it.

Whenever I move I do so with plastic bags. Boxes are too hard to come by, and too hard to maneuver. And when you’re done with them they just become excess, they become trash, they take up spaces even when they aren’t filled with your belongings. Boxes have no place in my life. For too long I tried to place myself in box after box. Never really feeling like one fit. If a label suits you, when you find one that suits you: embrace it. But don’t spend your life searching for one. Nothing is concrete. Nothing. What inspires you one day will bore you the next. Exhaust yourself with your passions, in them your will find your labels, who you are.

Exercise your voice often and freely.
Come out.

Parental Advisory

Remember when you were a little kid, and your parents asked you what you wanted to be and you smiled all dopey and cute like and said something along the lines of: “I want to be an astronaut that saves kittens and puppies and takes over for Santa Claus when he gets too tired to give everyone presents.” And your parents smiled down at you and totally were like: my kid is the most adorbs. And then you grew up, and those teenage years were a total bitch, but you guys got passed it. Somewhere in that time period, from being a toothless toddler to a rebellious teenager you came to your own realizations. One of them being that you were shall we say a little different.

The videos you watched in health class depicted all of these situations that you just couldn’t relate to. In your mind you were like, but wait, what if the two people involved were of the same sex? Can I still get the same STD’s? If I’m a girl having sex with a girl where does the condom go? On my fingers? You looked at yourself naked in the mirror and you could not fathom why on Earth you had been born into this body? When you looked around your high school and saw that the people you were most attracted to, you knew that you would probably get punched in the face if you left a love letter in their locker. You were part of a student body who would not accept you for your true body. If your peers couldn’t understand you, what would your parents say?

Your parents for better or for worse are, your fucking parents, and deep down inside every single one of us wants to be accepted by them. Which, for most of us is like finding a needle in a universe sized haystack.

Will Smith pointed it out the best over a decade ago:


#forreal

This whole parents not getting their kids thing, it isn’t new. Ask your folks how their parents feel about them. Ask your grandparents how they feel about your parents. Your mind will be fucked. No matter how proud a parent is of their kid, they always saw life differently for them. Always.

This relationship is hard enough without adding one monumental thing to the equation. YOU being L,G,B,T,or Q. Your parents seriously did not envision that one. In fact most of them prayed that it would never happen. All of them? No. But most of them. Most of them would prefer straight kids. And a good amount would prefer that not because they are homophobes, but because they see the way the world treats the queer community. No parent wants to know that on top of every other problem their children could face in society, the cherry if you will on top of that “kick me sundae” is being LGBTQ.

I have no tolerance for homophobia. I have no tolerance for someone telling me that who I choose to love, or the way I choose to present myself is bothering them. Because well. I will never see them again. Or as Ru would say:

Now while this attitude flies perfectly well on the street it simply doesn’t hold up inside the walls of “home”. You are still that little kid in the sandbox to your parents. To you, coming out is coming into who you have always been. It is standing on your own two feet and screaming at the world:
I AM WHO I AM AND I AM 1,000% OK WITH THAT. Your parents, well lets just say they aren’t exactly hearing that battle cry.

When you come out to your parents, you have to realize that you have had years to come to terms with, and accept who you are. Your family needs that time too. If there is one thing that has been the hardest for me to swallow it is talking to people about being queer and seeing blankness in their eyes. No matter how many times I try and explain to my dad that I don’t feel comfortable using women’s bathrooms he will always respond with: “Well that’s just ridiculous, you’re a girl.” And every time he speaks those words I want to slap him. But I can’t, because he is my dad. I take a deep breath and have the same conversation in my head every time.
He still see’s you as his little girl. No matter what clothes you are wearing, or how bald you are, or how many girlfriends you have that call you their boifriend, to your dad, you are that little girl who loved Rafi and had a baby blanket until she was 16. You are his Neena Beana (lets not talk about it) infinitely. Frustrating? Yes. Always. But, it’s kind of like how he would yell at me for playing my music really loud in middle school he would, I would lower it, but we both knew that the volume would eventually find its way back up to max. And the conversation would happen again, neither of us really seeing the others point of view, but both of us accepting it on some level.

I’m lucky. When it comes to my sexuality, my family doesn’t care. They however do not understand. Which for me is equally as frustrating. So what do we do with this frustration? Before I changed my name, I had to come out to people within the first minute of meeting them. You see Nina is quite possibly the girliest name my parents could have bestowed upon my queer ass. I quickly learned that to deal with the looks, and the questions people felt like they were naturally entitled to throw my way I had to ground myself. I had to essentially establish a wall that could not be shot through. In order to build that wall I had to establish the bricks and mortar. Where would those come from? They would come from me reaching deep inside myself. Was I really truly ok with who I had become? Was I capable of facing myself? So I took a step back, and started combing through what was going on inside of me. It is very easy to ignore inner conflict, but that inner conflict will show itself in one way or another if you don’t address it. It is the difference of you hearing fag in a bar and being able to walk away and you punching someone in the face.

So I got in touch with myself. I smiled when I saw my reflection in a window on the street. My skin was finally my own. When ignorant strangers say things to me out of the blue am I still caught off guard? Yes. But I have the dialogue down. Somehow, all of that still manages to go out the window when someone in my family will ask me a question about who I have become. I don’t have the wall built yet for them, but I think that is because I don’t want to have one.

So what do we do of our families? What do we do with their questions? How do we feel equal to our brothers and sisters? When we bring home the person we want to settle down with, how to we act like their eyes of judgement don’t bother us? Too many LGBTQ people lose their families. We establish groups of friends who become our families. People who know what we have been through and accept us for who we are without question. The best thing that we can do in this life is show others the love we have. Is to speak out to those going through things that we have already been to, and assure them that they can get through it.

Last week, I attended Queer Pratt’s Gender Fuck. An open mic night of sorts put together for all of the universities students to attend and essentially spread a ridiculous amount of love and support. A space where everyone is encouraged to come on stage and share whatever it is that they want to get out. Stories of coming out, dance numbers (they are gays after all), acoustic covers (lesbians will not be shown up), and just raw expression. It is in moments like this where I am blissfully happy to be queer. Oppressed people find each other and create community, this has never been more apparent then spending a Friday night with a bunch of college age LGBTQ kids and their ally friends wanting nothing more then to A. Be accepted and B. Show that they have nothing but open arms to anyone going through tough times, or struggling with identity. That is your family. In colleges and high schools, in coffee shops, and living rooms, LGBTQ people are creating families.

I dont’t want to every promote a message of: fuck your parents, but the reality is you and your parents will never 100% be on the same page. The best parents will try their hardest to understand their kids, but they won’t always get it. The worst of them? Well, forget them. As an out teenager with shitty parents, it is no easy task to ignore them. And if you are a teenager reading this, and dealing with parents or peers who refuse to accept your lifestyle please, please, please know that there is a world out there who understand you. Who want nothing more then to make you feel like you are part of something. As alone as you may feel, you aren’t. As you get older, you will meet people who truly don’t care who you love, or how you dress; they will have been there too, and will want nothing more then to show you the love you missed out on. They go home as adults for Thanksgiving and know that they have to bite their tongue when Uncle Frank calls a ref a faggot for a play he didn’t agree with. Growing up means becoming yourself and being ok with that self. It means starting a family of your own and knowing that you will support your kids no matter what their gender or sexuality choices. Is it a tough pill to swallow? Absolutely. But just know that a hundred other kids are swallowing it too.

There are more people in this country that agree with gay marriage and gay rights then there are those who are against it. For the first time in history an openly gay woman is in the senate. The way that straight people see gay people is changing. Anyone who has ever been a minority will tell you that change takes time. To win a fight, you have to be prepared for the fight. Sometimes your opponent is going to land some punches. But if you’re in it for the win, you will prevail, and I promise you that you will look at those battle scars and smile.

No one ever said that your parents were the end all and be all. You did not choose the cards you were given, but any poker player can tell you that you can bluff your ass off and come out a winner. Society wants you to look at the deck of cards in your hand and pull out. Don’t you dare. Up the anti, call every bluff. You are more in control of your life then you may know, and when you fall back or falter let your friends catch you. And when they falter, be those arms for them. Your parents were the start of your life, but life is long. Don’t be afraid to step out from under the umbrella and let the rain hit you in the face.