Hidden Leopards and Superqueeros

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Reed Erickson owned a leopard named Henry, whom he treated as something between a pet and a life partner.  Legend has it that he once singlehandedly drove down the price of gold with a single real estate transaction.  We know he was the heir to a million dollar fortune, that he made his home in Baton Rouge for most of his life, and that he ended his days in a mansion in Mexico.  His industrialist father died in Reed’s early adulthood, leaving Reed obscene amounts of money.

So Reed bought a leopard, took testosterone, invested in telekinesis research, and funded the creation of one of the first contemporary educational texts on queer sexuality—not necessarily in that order.  He was unabashedly bizarre, presumably at least a little on purpose.  After all, who’s going to ask invasive questions about a trans man’s gender when there’s a more interesting—and much more potentially man-eating—leopard standing next to him?  There are lots of stories like this, lots of people even stranger and more magnificent, but these stories are hard to find.

So you’re a Sarah Lawrence student.  And you are different and so are we.  And you’ve got a lot of feelings probably about justice and love, and maybe you’ve taken a Julie Abraham class or two, and of course you know a bunch of queers because you go to Sarah Lawrence.  And you’d like some more of these stories, naturally, because this is good potboiler blockbuster stuff.

Gentle reader, what can you do?  To whom can you look, gentle reader, as you seek the Erickson-esque life stories of ferociously queer queers?  Some of them are out there, but woe betide you if you’re looking in an easily accessible Human Rights Campaign-funded queer history for Reed or other queers anti-assimilationist enough to own leopards.  You are alone in your quest, gentle reader!  You are desolate without these stories.

Possibly you are queer and you want your own country, because you are unhappy living in diaspora from people like yourself, and you want an archipelago of queer islands connected by boats and ferries.

Possibly you are not queer and you are sick of being lied to.  You are sick of being told that everyone is like you.  You do not want to spend your life exclusively among people like you!

Possibly you are queer but you want to hear from different kinds of queers, maybe queers of color, or trans queers, or working class queers, or fat queers, but you can’t find these stories, and Nickleback is filling your ears to block out the Magnetic Fields, and it’s cold and whether you are straight or queer the dungeon rats will come for your eyes when the sun sets.

Never fear!  Super Mattachine has arrived!  Prompt as your average weekly column!  By day, I am mild-mannered SLC sophomore Stephen Ira, but by night I am the Super Mattachine, trying to dredge up beautiful and hidden lives and stories and display them for your edification and joy.  This is not a sideshow tent!  It is a dinner party.  It is a dinner party with lots of wine where I eventually turn to the editors of The Advocate and Out and say, slurring slightly, “You know what I really think of you?”  These editors inevitably leave before dessert.

There’s nothing queerer than a superhero.  A superhero hides hir stigmatizing powers under day clothes and never knows what family members or villains are lurking invisibly beneath the clothes of others.  So that’s why the title: Super Mattachine—super for obvious reasons, I hope, and Mattachine after the Mattachine Society, one of the USA’s first queer advocacy organizations.  (Established, for that matter, by the same generation of queers Reed Erickson belonged to.)

Here is my message to you, gentle reader: do not fear the dungeon mice.  They are allergic to kindness, and the queer movement is a kindness generator.  All anti-oppression movements are, no matter how angry and ferocious the act of fighting may seem.  When we learn to live in an oppression smashing way, we learn to be kinder to the oppressed people in our lives, and because of the intersecting nature of oppression—there’s class, there’s race, there’s gender, there’s sexuality, oh my god—that turns out to be, to varying degrees, almost everyone in our lives.  When we remember people like Reed, or the men who founded the Mattachine Society, we honor those people with the kindness of storytelling.

When we commit these acts of kindness the dungeon mice’s skin sizzles and their whiskers fall out.  Hopefully, in this way, our lives will become magnificent stories and help to battle any dungeon mice the next generation is left with.

Now, I don’t pretend that I am a limitless superhero.  I do not speak for all queers, not even all queers of my type, which are trans queers.  I’m white.  I’m economically privileged.  I’m binary-identified.  (Don’t know what that means?  Don’t worry. My next column will be a run down of some respectful and useful queer terms, all very good for speaking respectfully.)

I believe all oppressions are connected and that when we talk about queerness we have to talk about race, gender, class, ability, and so many others.  If you don’t think I’m talking about these things in a way that articulates your experience properly, tell me!  Write to SLCSpeaks!  Or just yell at me across campus.  You aren’t obligated to educate me, of course, so if you want to chew me out a little, go ahead.

This is my column, my Fortress of Solitude, except that all of you are invited, so it isn’t the most effective Fortress of Solitude.  Super Mattachine, away!

Stephen Ira is a queer activist whose poetry and fiction have been published in 365 Tomorrows and Spot Literary Magazine. He co-chairs Sarah Lawrence's trans identity group, Trans Action, and keeps a blog as the Super-Mattachine, queer anti-oppression avenger, at supermattachine.wordpress.com. As David Foster Wallace would say, he does things like get into a taxi and say, "The library, and step on it!" He believes there is nothing more radical than kindness.

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