Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Year in Review: Fourth Anniversary

Let's celebrate the fourth year of this blog's existence! You can see recaps of Year One, Year Two, and Year Three here. Now it is time to reflect back on Year Four.

Last year's anniversary post was published on March 24, 2013. I began this blog in March 2010. That is why we always celebrate each anniversary in March. So let's begin this year's wrap-up with March 24, 2013 and the days that followed...

It was Passover season.

My seder plate. March 26, 2013

In early April I traveled to Toronto to attend the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History. My blog post was mostly about how I was stopped by the Canadian border police and interrogated about what my true intentions were in entering Canada. A very interesting and chilling experience. But I also wrote about what a cool place Toronto is!

And then it was May. 
May Day, to be precise. I did not blog about our Stony Brook May Day Celebration on May 1, 2013, but there is ample media elsewhere on the web that is left over from that event. You can see our 2013 homepage here, and from there link to other pages such as our media page which includes a link to lots of photos and video from the event!

Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU / CWA Local 1104) rally at May Day Stony Brook. May 1, 2013

March on the President's Office, May Day Stony Brook. May 1, 2013

Soon I was off to Ithaca, New York, for a week to attend Cornell University's Summer Institute on Contested Landscapes. I wrote about my experiences, and especially about our field trip to northern Pennsylvania to investigate fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and its social impacts. It was an eye-opening trip.

 In late May 2013 I attended the large March Against Monsanto at Union Square (march to Washington Square). As usual, I took tons of photographs and video of the event, which attracted a crowd of several thousand participants.

March Against Monsanto, entering Washington Square Park. May 25, 2013

March Against Monsanto, New York City. May 25, 2013

On June 1, I was back at Zuccotti Park for an #occupygezi demonstration in support of the protests in Turkey.

#OccupyGezi Solidarity Demonstration, Zuccotti Park. June 1, 2013

What did I do in June?
I house-sat in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, for two weeks, and thus paid my obligatory (and first) visit to Fort Greene Park. (Little did I know that I would end up living in Brooklyn just nine months later.)

Fort Greene Park. June 14, 2013

On my wedding anniversary I went upstate to the Catskill Mountains. Went camping. :)

Our Camp at North-South Lake, Catskill Mountains. June 23, 2013

July 4th: the anniversary of American Independence. I attended the big Restore the Fourth (Amendment) rally at Union Square and marched down Broadway. This was in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations about the NSA.

Restore the Fourth, march down Broadway with banner "Yes We Scan." July 4, 2013

A few days later I got back to blogging and wrote this update to my series on "Planning the Dissertation."

And then I was off to California, and then to Hawaiʻi, for a long summer away from home...
As always, I wrote about my California Research Adventure, this time in eight segments:

San Marino, July 2013 (part I of narrative)

Los Angeles, July 2013 (part II of narrative)

Los Angeles, July 2013 (part III of narrative)

San Marino, July 2013 (part IV of narrative)

Ventura County & Channel Islands, July 2013 (part V of narrative)

Pasadena, July 2013 (part VI of narrative)

San Marino, August 2013 (part VII of narrative)

Orange County, August 2013 (part VIII of narrative)

After returning home from Cali in mid-August, I was off, almost immediately again, to Cincinnati for a wedding.

Cincinnati Art Museum, August 17, 2013

Then, the morning after the wedding bash, I was on a plane to Honolulu for my Hawaiʻi Research Adventure, in seven segments:

Honolulu, August 2013 (part I of narrative)

Honolulu, August 2013 (part II of narrative)

Windward Coast, Oʻahu, August 2013 (part III of narrative)

North Shore & Central Oʻahu, August 2013 (part IV of narrative)

Central Oʻahu and Mānoa, August 2013 (part V of narrative)

Waiʻanae Coast, Oʻahu, August 2013 (part VI of narrative)

Koko Head and Waikīkī, September 2013 (part VII of narrative)

Although I returned from Hawaiʻi in early September, I did not write up those last two Research Adventure reports until mid-October. Meanwhile, in late September I visited home and spent some time with a good old friend, an old creek that I once loved as a young man:
The Lisha Kill, Niskayuna, New York, September 29, 2013

In early October I visited Tucson, Arizona, to attend the annual meeting of the Western History Association:

View from my hotel patio, Tucson, Arizona, October 9, 2013

In late October, on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, I wrote a post to remember what it was like—at least what I experienced—as I encountered devastation amid the relief effort.

Then, in the last days of October, it was off to Cali for another California Research Adventure! This time in the Bay Area, and this time in nine parts:

Berkeley, October 2013 (part I of narrative)

San Francisco, November 2013 (part II of narrative)

Berkeley, November 2013 (part III of narrative)

Fort Ross & Point Reyes, November 2013 (part IV of narrative)

Oakland, November 2013 (part V of narrative)

San Francisco, November 2013 (part VI of narrative)

Monterey, November 2013 (part VII of narrative)

Berkeley, November 2013 (part VIII of narrative)

Berkeley, November 2013 (part IX of narrative)

I returned from California around Thanksgiving. Then I moved to Harlem on December 1st. 

View of Central Harlem from the 135th Street YMCA, December 1, 2013

I lived in Harlem for two months. I witnessed quite a few beautiful snowstorms, and I otherwise fell in love with the new neighborhood.

Snowstorm in the North Woods of Central Park, December 10, 2013

Come late December, I began to reflect back on the year—and on my entire life, actually. I decided to buy my name [dot] com and have my own website all about me! And I also wrote about this project: my effort to celebrate all of my life, not just the academic side. What I call "The Human C.V."

Then it was 2014. As I continued to think about life on a more existential level, and I took a few months off from academic research and writing, I did not write anything here on this blog.

On my birthday, in late January, I walked fifteen miles from Central Harlem to Williamsburg. It was a birthday march, and it symbolized my imminent move from Harlem to Brooklyn...

 Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, January 24, 2014

 On February 1st, I moved to Brooklyn!

Welcome to Brooklyn! February 3, 2014

February. February. I traveled to Kansas for a week. I traveled to Vermont for a week. At one point late in the month I calculated that I had spent only about 50% of the nights in February in my own (new) bed in Brooklyn. It was a month of movement—of change—of transition.

In early March I published my first post of 2014, a post about gender and sexuality. A very personal post. But one that certainly continues the themes that I raised in "The Human C.V."

March 2014.

Greenwood Cemetery in snow. March 8, 2014.

It is a tradition of these anniversary posts to suggest a few things about the future. That is, what will the year from March 2014 to March 2015 look like? Well, here goes:

I will still be in school and still be a doctoral candidate through March 2015.

I will live in Brooklyn at least through January 2015 if not longer. If I am not living in Brooklyn as of March 2015, I will still be in the New York City area, as I will not graduate with my doctoral degree until May 2015. 

There will be at least one more research adventure: another trip to Hawaiʻi, probably sometime in the fall just before job hunting season turns to its in-person interviews (and hence, the potential need to be in the mainland United States with some regularity... unless I look for work overseas). The in-person period of the job hunt seems to be January through March, so I should plan my Hawaiʻi Research Adventure for late fall 2014. 

Yes, job hunting will be part of next year's program of activities. So will my dissertation defense. So will, basically, wrapping up my dissertation. Life will twist and turn into 2015. By March I may know where I am living and working in 2016... but perhaps not. 
 To another year: hear hear! rah rah!

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Very Own Closet

The phrase "coming out of the closet" is generally reserved for those who previously identified as "straight," or they didn't identify as anything (because society just assumed them to be straight), and then, turning a corner, they chose to publicly identify as "gay."

But what about everyone else who doesn't go from one side of this sexuality binary to the other? What about all those for who the binary of gay/straight is meaningless, or at least hollow? What about those who "come out" in different directions, who start from unusual starting points and end at equally unusual endings?

I have long believed that most people are neither "straight" nor "gay." Riffing on Kinsey here, I think that most of us fall somewhere in between hetero and homo. Indeed, although I am generally attracted to female-bodied persons, that has not been true 100% of the time in my life. I am generally attracted to people with feminine qualities, but not wholly so. The same goes for gender: most people are neither wholly male nor wholly female in my reckoning; most people are neither wholly masculine nor purely feminine. I myself have always had a feminine streak: in middle and high school I wanted to wear women's clothing, but I kept myself from doing it; in high school I sometimes wore glitter to school, which was, dare I say, fabulous. But more to the point: I'd rather talk about my feelings and relationships all day than watch or play sports or video games. But these are just crude gender stereotypes, and at worst I am just reinforcing that useless old binary that holds that some things are "masculine" while others are "feminine" and never the twain shall meet. But they do meet. They meet in me. In my heart. In my head. In my body and in my desires.

I think that everyone is "in the closet," really. But we each have our very own closet, a closet of our own making—something we built up around ourselves, under societal, familial, ideological, and moral pressures, to make life "easier" for ourselves. A grand delusion, in fact. Because performing "straight" and performing "gay" are easy enough in that the stereotypical behaviors and ways-of-being are so commonly known and almost universally accepted and shared throughout our society that it is easier to just be one of those things than to be something different. I know, because I've been performing "straight" for the great majority of my life. I have also long performed "male." These were and are my closets. These are the boxes that I have made for myself—boxes that limit my experience of the world and of this one special life that I get to live.

Although I have been perceived as "gay" by friends and acquaintances at least since high school, and I was even the victim of a minor hate crime in college based on my perceived sexual identity as "gay," the truth is that my closet wasn't made by those who assumed things about me, who bullied me, and who wanted me to feel bad about myself because of my gender expression and my perceived sexual orientation. No, I made my very own closet by pressuring myself to do the very opposite of these assumed things: to be more male, to be more straight. I've always been down on myself for not being masculine enough, for not being straight enough. I always worried that I would never be successful in a heterosexual relationship because I just couldn't get myself to perform the male/straight role in a satisfactory way. I put these pressures on myself. I have long believed that either I must succeed at being a "straight man" or else I will not be happy.

It is strange to find myself grasping in the dark for the doorknob of this closet. I have no idea—and I'm frankly a bit scared—of what I will discover on the other side. But I know that I want to smash this closet into pieces. I want to smash the gender binary. I want to smash the sexuality binary. I want to love every part of myself, all 100%, and not feel bad or embarrassed about any part of me that fails to conform to any one prescribed way of being or another.

In his History of Sexuality, did not Michel Foucault argue that the concept of being straight and being gay was a relatively modern phenomenon? That in the past people engaged in heterosexual or homosexual acts, but the idea of being one way or the other was not commonly understood? I wonder if we might not want to go back to that older way of thinking about sex. I understand that there are many, many labels out there, and that many of these labels are empowering and liberating to those who adopt them. But, personally, I don't want a label. I don't want to be any kind of sexuality except my own. I don't want to be any gender except my own. What am I? If you ask me that, I will say: I am Gregory. I am a beautiful person. I am full of love. What else is there to know?