Clarkisha Explains: My Brother and His Lessons on the Necessity of Anger

Watching the second season of Luke Cage this past week did some interesting things for me. With one of the constant topics on the show being about anger and how useful it is, and what it has to do with family (boy, do I have a piece for that), I started to think about the role of anger in my life.

In short: I’m angry all the time.

This is an objective fact and people asking me about it in variations all the time. Usually, in the form of “Why are you so wound up about X?” I used to get upset about that very question until I figured out where it all stemmed from, and you know, why.

And, well, my younger brother is pretty much why.

My brother, who I’ll call Craig, and I are pretty close. And that closeness mainly has to do with having shared interests on one hand and having shared living experiences on the other — the latter of which includes having grown up in an abusive home with an abusive and despotic father present. My brother tells me all the time that he couldn’t have survived all that if I wasn’t there with him and I usually brush it off and say it was the other way around. But of course, I think about this shit all the time. Because we’re not just saying that for shiggles.

You see, without going into the grisly details, what made my father’s abuse of all his children pretty despotic is the fact that he tailor-made said abuse to each individual child. Yes. He was very talented at picking up on a person’s potential insecurities, what they shrink back from, and what they wanted to hide in general and he always used that to his advantage.

Most of his abuse in my case fell into two categories: either zeroing in on my fatness or zeroing in on the fact that I was dark-skinned. On the other hand, my brother became a target because he was more effeminate. So he’d call him “sissy/sissy boy” or a slew of other virulently disrespectful things but still counted himself “progressive” because he never outright called him a faggot.

Ha.

And unlike my present self, I rarely fought back against insults and taunts that were directed at me back then. If anything, I’d internalize them and be like “you right” or would internally tell them to “fuck off,” but didn’t dare utter those words out loud until I was grown and had moved far, far, away from my “childhood home.” Because let’s face facts, having someone bigger and stronger than you (and someone who was SUPPOSED to protect you) be your tormentor kind of discourages the development of any self-esteem, backbone, or courage.

But I found that my reactions were different whenever my brother was targeted. Ironically, my brother had the same attitude in regards to the abuse, but that didn’t exactly sit well with me. I say this because Craig was often more aggressively targeted by not only my father but also by my older sibling and mother (both victims of abuse — but that never excuses using another victim as a punching bag) for being effeminate and girly and sensitive or whatever.

And I am aware that they did it to discourage the potential of him being “a gay”— which makes it all the more ironic that I am in fact the flaming gay one. They spent so much time making sure “the gay” didn’t suddenly leap out of him that they overlooked me and conveniently forgot that you couldn’t force anyone’s sexuality to merely go away. 

But their torment of my brother taught me some things. The first of them being that people despise feminity a lot and are femmephobic in general. And while it is generally worse for cis gay men, trans folx, and etc, it is very much despised in cis women too. I remember casually observing the ways in which my mom shat on other, more “feminine” women and I remember my older sibling proudly proclaiming how much of a tomboy she was with the same energy and fervor she would yell at my brother to “man” up. I had tomboyish tendencies too for a while, but I eventually didn’t have enough energy to pretend that I hated the color pink or that I didn’t pioneer the Love and Hip Hop series before LHH was even a thing with my fairly diverse collection of Barbie dolls.

The second thing I learned is that some bigots, even if they are family, cannot be reasoned with. Anger (or consequences) is perhaps the only thing that can make them shut the fuck up. In the case of my brother, seeing him be a punching bag for two GROWN ass adults and a much older child broke the rather “civil” part of my brain. I remember being a pretty quiet and meek child, but all that meek shit went out the window whenever they would start up on him again. It made me irrationally angry. It still does. I despise when people conveniently don’t target people who are the same size as them. Who has as much cojones as them. Who can actually fight back. I see red. And I see even more red when it comes to family members who do this and then lean on the concept of “family” to then avoid accountability. Who seek to gaslight your anger—no matter how justified or righteous it may be.

But joke’s on them, because anger gets shit done. No matter how uncomfortable it makes folx.

So now, I am angry. And I use it to fight back. Is it tiring? Yes. But it’s necessary. And it’s way more useful to me and folx like me than civility will ever be.

Why The ‘Coven’/’Murder House’ Crossover Will Be The Queerest Season Of ‘American Horror Story’ Yet

When producer Ryan Murphy created American Horror Story, the worlds of horror and queerness fully collided on the small screen in all of their blood-soaked glory.

From the bisexual love affairs of Hotel to the powerhouse role of Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) in Asylum, Murphy’s trademark show has been unmistakably queer from the get-go, bringing us a variety of three-dimensional characters who aren’t solely defined by their sexuality.

Now that he’s toppled even more barriers with the trans-inclusive cast of Pose on FX, the openly gay producer is busy working on the upcoming Coven/Murder House crossover, which could very well turn out to be the queerest season of American Horror Story yet.

On the surface, Murder House was the most heteronormative season out of the show’s entire run so far, but once you take a closer look through the curtains, it’s easy to see how this first chapter actually laid the foundation for a queer aesthetic that would come to the fore in later installments.

The most notable queer characters in Murder House were Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears), a gay couple who spent half of their time fighting on screen before a twinky psycho called Tate (Evan Peters) murdered them both while wearing an S&M rubber suit. That in itself wasn’t particularly progressive, but what came to define the season as a whole was the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning performance from Jessica Lange that struck a chord with queer audiences worldwide.

Channeling the evil camp of iconic Hollywood characters like Norma Desmond and Baby Jane, Lange’s role as Constance Langdon quickly positioned her as the main draw of the show, particularly among those who enjoy identifying with older matriarchs who refuse to take anyone’s shit. Lange would go on to perfect this archetype over the following three seasons, most notably in the third installment, Coven, which is arguably the queerest chapter of American Horror Story so far, despite the comparable lack of openly gay characters.

With names like Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), and Misty Day (Lily Rabe), the cast of Coven sounded like contestants vying for a spot on the next season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and they each possessed the sickening personality to match. Of course, none of them compared to Lange’s own fierce diva, Fiona Goode, whose unhealthy obsession with eternal youth mirrored the gay community’s own damaging obsession with body image. Goode further reflected the queer experience by passing down occult secrets to her chosen family, just like drag queens teaching their daughters about the art of tucking.

In a season that opened with an episode titled “Bitchcraft,” Coven actively avoided subtlety in favor of savage takedowns and deliciously evil dialogue that rivaled even the most vicious John Waters character. Between this flamboyance and the show’s obsession with both Stevie Nicks and gratuitous male nudity, Coven was custom built to be enjoyed by the gay community. With that in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised if the upcoming Coven/Murder House crossover turns out to be the queerest season yet of American Horror Story, especially if Langdon appears with the antichrist in tow.

Even if Lange doesn’t return in either the role of Fiona Goode or Constance Langdon, Murphy has proven recently with his work on Pose and AHS: Cult that his desire to reflect real-world politics is stronger than ever before and a crossover featuring the Coven witches would be the perfect vehicle to continue telling stories in this vein.

After all, Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies has always been a safe haven for outsiders of the witchy variety, something which a number of LGBTQ viewers will personally long for. The witches even “outed” themselves at the end of Coven, so it’s clear that their future will hinge on how the outside world accepts them. It’s likely then that this thinly veiled metaphor for the LGBTQ experience will become a focal point of Season 8, dramatizing the struggles that are still common today in Trump’s America.

Aside from how the crossover will unite characters from both Coven and Murder House, little has been revealed yet regarding plot specifics for Season 8. However, with a cast that includes gay icon Joan Collins and LGBTQ stalwarts such as Sarah Paulson, Billy Eichner and Cheyenne Jackson, it’s safe to say that Season 8 will continue to champion the “other” in all its forms, perhaps even more than any other season to date.

Let’s just hope that Ryan Murphy does right by us and brings back the supreme gay icon that is Jessica Lange. If he doesn’t, then the famed producer will soon be embroiled in a feud of his very own with the fans who made American Horror Story a hit in the first place.

Kiss My Astro: Your July Horoscope

With Mars in retrograde this month (and all summer!), expect more thwarted desires than easy connections. Mars, planet of lust and anger and self-assertion, helps us get what we want. When planets move retrograde, it’s like losing our keys and needing to retrace our steps to find them. Depending on the choices you’ve been making, that could bring you back in touch with a long-lost love or an abrasive one-night-stand you’d hoped to never see again. A few eclipses this month—a solar eclipse in Cancer on the 12th, and a lunar eclipse in Aquarius on the 27th—keep things interesting. Whatever you start this month, expect it to surprise you! Keep your cool and keep your eyes open, as there’s a lot going on under the surface that won’t be clear yet. 

Aries

What have you done in order to not be lonely? What do you want to do next time that feeling comes on so strong you’d do anything to drive it away? I’d suggest you start by releasing any shame you feel about being, as Morrissey sang, a human who needs to be loved, just like everybody else does. The Cancer eclipse on the 12th is an especially good time to take a long look in the mirror and welcome all the hurt and lonely parts of yourself with open arms. Welcome to being human. Welcome to loving yourself enough to let someone else really know you. 

Taurus

Though you tend to move slowly, this is a month when you could be chatting up a storm. Your interest is piqued by more people than you’d expect—and you may be more interested in verbalizing things you usually leave unsaid. Stay open to surprises, and don’t take anything too seriously just yet. And if you’re getting too caught up in making a good first impression, remember that you don’t need to impress everyone. Trust that the ones that matter will see be anxious to make a good impression on *you.*  

Gemini

All kinds of new things begin for you next month—what are you doing right now to help them grow? This is a time to be slow, thoughtful, and intentional about who you want to give your time to. Try not to be all things to all people right now, or keep too many backup plans in play at once—it’ll be more relaxing to focus. Don’t waste your time second guessing or overplanning things—trust that if you act in good faith you’ll be able to spot someone who isn’t on the level. Meanwhile, enjoy some simple pleasure this month. They should be ample! 

Cancer

With the eclipse in your sign this month, you’re getting a taste of what 2019 will feel like for you. Expect July to rock your world in a few different ways! You’re discovering something dramatically new about yourself, and everything else will have to change accordingly. Don’t be impatient to know what’s coming next, though—you’re still feeling your way into it. Especially on the 12th, take some time to envision where you’d like to be in six months. Dream it now so you can be it later.  

Leo

You can never get enough of what you don’t really need, and honey, you’ve been getting so much of that lately you’re starving for what you do need. This month helps you get unstuck. Delete those old text messages. Throw away your ex’s shirt. Forget about whatever social media is telling you is important right now. You know what’s sacred in your life. Who shares your dreams and visions? Who helps you feel like anything is possible? Be a little choosier about who you grace with your presence this month, and remember that if it’s not making you sing Allelujah it’s not worth it.  

Virgo

July promises to be a full-throttle rodeo of possibilities, and luckily for you, it’s not your first rodeo. You’ll want to be where the action is, even if you’re not sure you want to be *doing* whatever the action is. Workaholism is your worst enemy right now, so go ahead and schedule a few sick days into your summer calendar so you’ll have to take some time off.  Get out there and get into something! Even if you wallflower your way through every party of the summer—you’ll be happier amongst your people than at home wondering if you still have any friends. It’s time to make some new friends. 

Libra

Do you know what an incredible catch you are? Does some part of you doubt it? This is the time to confront those fears, and not by obsessing over what you can improve about yourself. There’s a big difference between seeing your limitations clearly and comparing yourself to people who seem to have what you don’t. Take your strengths seriously, and use the eclipse energy on the 27th to let go of all your doubts about what you deserve. 

Scorpio

There have been so many endings in your life recently, but this is a month of new beginnings. On a certain level, you’re more comfortable with endings—when things fall apart you can stop worrying about things falling apart! Beginnings can be a lot trickier. How much do you risk? How much do you let yourself want? Get adventurous on the 12th, and let the second eclipse on the 27th help you release whatever’s holding you back from moving forward.  

Sagittarius

Everyone reads their horoscopes hoping the stars will be like “Gurl, you’re on fire and nothing can stop you right now. Everybody wants you and that’s a fact.” This month is the closest you’re going to get to that kind of free pass, so use it well. Think of your sexual nature as a superpower that you have to use for the good of the ordinary citizens all around you. Be responsible, play safely, and for extra credit consider what sexuality can help heal (in you or your partners) that’s been broken or neglected for too long. 

Capricorn

How much pressure are you putting on yourself in your relationships? How much do you expect from yourself in general? Too often, you might be taking on more responsibility for the success of failure of a relationship—whether it’s a first date or marriage. It might even be satisfying, being the one in control and with a clear sense of what needs to happen. But this month, you get a chance to go a little deeper. Especially on the 12th, figure out how to be a little more vulnerable—just enough to feel more seen, recognized, and cherished. You deserve it. 

Aquarius

I know you hate a mess, but this month will be a little messy. You like to think your way out of problems, but people never act as rationally as you hope they will. Try to roll with it. You’ll need a little extra patience, but you’ll also get more opportunities to really connect. Whatever you do, don’t volunteer to clean up other people’s messes. Let them learn from their mistakes, and see what you can learn when you trust people to figure things out on their own. 

Pisces

Don’t look away from what’s happening right now—even if it’s hard to face. Especially if it’s hard to face! If you’re going through heartbreak or betrayal or just an existential crisis about who are you and what is love, remember that the only way out is through. There’s something you need to learn right now and distracting yourself will just keep you in the same old rut. Luckily for you, you don’t have to do this alone. Flirtation, romance, and parties can help you heal, as long as you don’t lean too much on them as an escape. 

I am Pansexual. Why Is Saying It So Damn Hard?

I’m pansexual. Saying that leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Saying that makes me feel like I’m prying open a can of worms with my bare teeth. And once the can of worms is open, it can never be sealed again. Calling myself “pansexual” leaves me vulnerable to numerous questions, all Googleable questions. However, our lazy generation requires everything to be spelled out for them, just so they could ask stupider questions.

For example, my best friend asked, “Does being pansexual mean that you have sex with pans?” I’m not sure that he was joking, either. He stared deeply into my eyes, genuine concern etched on his face. He thought that pansexuality was a strange fetish, and who doesn’t love to inquire about strange fetishes?

Though he was probably joking, many people are certain that pansexuality is an awkward fetish, one that does not discriminate against animals, inanimate objects, or even children and elders. A blog, which has over 1,000 reads, refers to pansexuality as an “organized, activist-driven perversion.” And while this particular blog was probably written by some white Republican who believes in cowboy hat-wearing aliens and masturbates to A Bug’s Life, this is a well-known stigma. And this stigma, like most, is harmful to pansexual people, especially pansexual men.

I can’t speak for all pansexual people, but I am not a pervert. I have not pledged allegiance to some kinky cult that has orgies with vacuum machines. I am not a pedophile. I am a pansexual human being who loves other human beings, regardless of their gender identity.

A day before my birthday, I came out to my aunt as pansexual. To her, anything that isn’t heteronormative is gay. And to her, anything gay is completely unacceptable, even though she was in a seven-year-long relationship with a woman named Cynthia, right before she “found Jesus.” However, Jesus didn’t lead her to the green pastures of our promised land. He led her to crack pipes and cheap wigs, but I digress.

Anyways, after telling her that I was pansexual, she demanded that I pray the “spirit of homosexuality” out of my body, then she called me a “faggot.” Then, I ended up reading her so bad that it made headlines. It’s what she deserved, but I digress again.

Ignorance directed at pansexual people is nothing new, nor is it exclusive to my aunt. People don’t care about us. We are the pennies of the LGBTQ community. It feels like people only care about us on the internet. Most of the time, I feel like I can only exist as a pansexual person on the internet because my existence is denied anywhere else I go. I blame stigma, ignorance, and the people who only pretend to care about pansexual people behind their computer and smartphone screens. I just want to find my flock. Is that too much to ask for?

Here’s another frequently asked question about my pansexual identity: “Why don’t you just call yourself bisexual?” If I had a nickel for each time someone asked me this question, I would be the one percent, sipping mimosas with Beyoncé on a yacht, gossiping about her cheating-ass husband and about how musty Kanye West’s clothing line looks.

I’m a person who can see and appreciate the beauty of gender fluidity and non-conformity. I’m someone who is more than willing to stay in a relationship with someone who chooses to transition 15 years into our relationship. I’m someone who is attracted to the complexity and profundity of gender. I’m someone who refuses to look past gender—like color blind white people do to my Blackness—because every gender is beautiful, even the ones I don’t know about yet. I’m pansexual.

I will not have my sexual identity altered to satisfy society’s laziness. Nor will I continue to lazily call myself “queer,” in order to avoid explaining my sexuality to people who don’t really care. I’m pansexual.

I admit, my sexual identity makes me feel like a zebra with no stripes, a horse with a camel’s lump, and Beyoncé with Tinashe’s neck. My sexuality may be seen as a perversion or a fetish for non-consenting entities. My sexuality may be similar to a simple math problem that some people just can’t seem to solve, but it’s my sexuality, and I’ll keep saying it aloud until it doesn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth anymore.

Hi, my name is Arkee, and I’m pansexual.

Looking Like a Suburban Mom and the Lose/Lose of Trans Feminine Fashion

“You look like a suburban mom.”

Under other circumstances, it might have been a compliment. For some trans feminine people, looking like a suburban mom would be the ultimate symbol of passing, a sign that you no longer stand out as something different. Except, it wasn’t meant that way.

I was at a Pride watch party in DC chatting with a trans man I vaguely know, when he said his goal for the day was to find a cute boy to make out with. I replied that an anonymous makeout session was likely not in the cards for me, since I’m terrible at flirting with people in real life. Being non-binary, I started to explain, it can be difficult to know if I’m what any particular person is into. So sometimes it’s safest to just not flirt at all, even when surrounded by queer crowds.

Oh, he said, there are definitely people who would be into me, I just needed to switch up my style. And then came the dreaded words: “You look like a suburban mom.”

It probably shouldn’t have bothered me, but I actually tried to look good that day. I wore a cute rainbow unicorn romper, carefully did my eyeshadow to recreate the Pride flag, and was even wearing a pageant sash in the colors of the non-binary flag that read “They/Them.” (Plus, my ever-present purple hair.) It was an outfit that literally read queer.

It was my lipstick that did me in. After deciding that my eyeshadow was a bit extra, I opted for something more subdued for my lips—a pink lipstick finished off with Too Faced’s Fairy Tears lip topper, which gave them a pearlescent shimmer. But, apparently my lips were a bit too pink, and “the blush pink palette lipstick has associations,” as he later told me on Twitter.

The conversation stuck with me all day, as I wondered what I should have worn instead, or if it would have been better to forgo makeup entirely. But every option I thought through had a downside: more makeup or less, romper or t-shirt and jeans, sash or no sash, there was no way I could have won.

Not when clothing and makeup choices are weaponized against trans feminine people.

One of the persistent critiques of trans women and other trans feminine folk is that we are a caricature of women, upholding gender normative roles and fashion. While this is based more on dated stereotypes than on reality, it is still regularly used as an attack on any trans woman who dares show her face in makeup or a cute dress.

On the other hand, if we don’t wear makeup, if we just show up in jeans and T-shirt, we are criticized for not trying hard enough. “If you were really a woman, then why are you dressed like a man?”

Faced with this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation, many trans women and other trans feminine folks end up leaning into femininity for the simple reason that it seems to offer a better chance to simply blend in, to — dare I say it — pass.

For many trans feminine folks, it’s an outright necessity. It can take a lot to overcome the not-so-subtle ways in which bodies read as male, especially for individuals who are not able to or have decided not to medically transition or have only recently started hormone replacement therapy. Everything from the shape of our hips to the contours of our faces scream “MAN!!!” to the people around us unless we layer on culturally-accepted signs of femininity.

I discovered this the hard way when I first came out as non-binary. I had been putting off getting my hair cut for a while as I debated what to do with it, and it had gotten long and shaggy (at least by my pre-transition standards). I finally decided on what I thought was an incredibly cute pixie cut that I thought would play off my androgyny.

It didn’t work out that way. The stylist did a fantastic job, and my hair ended up pretty much exactly how I wanted it, but I didn’t really read androgynous. I just looked like a man with short, well-styled hair.

A big part of the problem is that with rare exceptions, our culture defines androgyny in terms of women adopting male fashion, not vice versa. Whether it’s short hair, pants, suit jackets, or ties, androgynous fashion is still largely male. Even when retailers release “gender neutral” lines, they all-too-often leave feminine fashion behind. Unless we just want to look like men, AMAB trans folks have to buy into some version of femininity.

The medical profession has also played a significant role in enforcing gender normative fashion on trans women. There is a long history of trans women being denied care because they did not present feminine enough, and while clinics working on an informed consent model have mitigated the issue in some places, many trans feminine people still face a reality where their access to care may disappear if they do not look the part.

And, to top it off, there’s also the horrific level of violence against trans women, which can make many of us simply want to fade in as best we can.

Even if all of that weren’t true, though, there’s still nothing wrong with wanting to look feminine. Cis women wear flowery skirts, awesome eyeshadow, and, yes, even pink lipstick without people blinking an eye, and yet when trans feminine people do the same thing, we’re seen as caricatures, as trying too hard to be women.

That’s what I found most frustrating about my experience at Pride. I have tried to find a style that works for me, something that is feminine, but geeky; fun, but vaguely age-appropriate. And yet I was still criticized for looking too normative. It made me feel like there was no way to win, that no matter what I wore, someone would always be ready to criticize.

I should probably get used to that…

On the bright side, though, there are worse things than looking like a suburban mom. I could look like a suburban dad.

Image via Getty