Friday, June 26, 2009

Lovers At The Station [fiction fragment]

"When people say, "I didn't ask to be born," they are wrong. I think we did. That's why we are here. We have to do something nurturing that we respect before we go. We must. It is more interesting, more complicated, more intellectually demanding and more morally demanding to love somebody. To take care of somebody."-- Toni Morrison.


For the young girl, and so many others, who knew how to love. For a song that I did not sing.


The bus station: Lovers waiting.

No tears of joy. No impassioned kiss from starved lips. No hug intense like making love. No two bodies merging, holding on, in that instant where they'd become one. No "Good to see you!" No "I missed you so much" either. No reuniting embrace.

Those two lovers, at the station. Waiting.
Those two lovers, at the station. Parting.

I watched as he held her tight. I watched her white fingers on his hairy nape. I saw his brown t-shirt absorb her wet eyes. I saw her head buried in the square of his shoulders: An animal begging, in a coffin.

I smelt the cologne off his throat. I smelt the sweat off his armpit. I smelt her tears on the brown fabric. But above all, I smelt her grief like the dead roses on her grand-ma's grave: "Is this the end?" I felt his arms tighten around her body. I heard him soothe her with entangled fingers and whispering words: "I'll never forget you." I felt the stubble on his cheeks, the warmth of his nose and I watched them kiss, those two lovers.

His embrace became tight: "I will never, never let you down." But through her tears I saw her doubts. She, the young woman who loved: she knew. She could hear the embarrassment in his pulse, she could see words in his eyes resonating like bullets in a cold night: "Stop crying. Stop embarrassing me. People. People are watching."

The bus came, and they parted. She climbed in and he left. On his way home, he sent her an SMS: "I'm gonna miss you so much. Raspberry mango coconut pear honey kisses." A tear on the screen of her cell-phone. And then, another and another... The bus moved.

All this while, I watched those two lovers, at the station. I watched and I spied on her feelings, I listened to his mind and disturbed their embrace by putting myself between their loving bodies.

All the while, I watched, I listened, I smelt and I thought.

All the while, I felt like singing to her... The song that I did not sing:

"Please run away, young girl, please fly away!
For me too had a lover, with whom I parted.
Me too had a lover who went his own way.
He left me as well: teary, broken-hearted,
Though he promised, young girl, always... never...
But I trust you, young girl, for you could smell
And so could I! Sense him gone... Forever....
He will forget you, young girl, and that I can tell.
So here's his answer to your dreaded question:
This is the end, young bird, this is the end."

A Wound Like Your Love [an unfinished poem]

[I found this poem that I had started a few weeks ago. It was supposed to be of 26 lines (i.e. three stanzas of 4 cut by one line, and another three stanzas of 4, ending with one line.) But then I never got to finishing it; actually I forgot about it! The last line of the poem was supposed to be about how his love is/was like that wound. I read the unfinished poem this morning and decided to leave it this way. I lost the sense of how it should go. But may be that's because the wound is healing?!]


It started with a small cut: A line, a scratch?
Almost! Barely perceptible on my brown skin,
Like ethereal silver pressing on a pound of flesh
To stab or not to stab? To cut or not to cut?

A year later it stretched opened like a crack
In soil dead and dried, begging for water,
Imploring mercy, knee-bent, beseeching
To be covered, to be hidden under bandages.

The grotesque wound was of two minds,
Of two bodies, of two skins: My body partitioned
By the thick taste of blood and the purple of pus.
Over it I wrapped alcohol impregnated bandages:

Sterilized, clean: An act of forgetfulness.

But wounds under a bandage do not heal,
They simply hide like monsters under ones bed
And come out on full-moon nights and tug
At a hand left hanging, dangling from a sleeping body.

With the same fingers, I ripped the bandage off my skin,
I looked at the wound, deep inside, licked its beauty
Along with its pain, its pus, its rot like leeches in my flesh

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I'm OUTRAGED, almost out of breath.

I just read this article (link here.) Please read it. The article says that the Youtube video has been removed, but I found it here. I couldn't watch it. I feel physically sick. Literally physically sick. I'm just shocked.

And what is it? We are two days away from Pride?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm The Only Gay in The Village [muahahahahahahaha!!]

"I know that my children in later years, my transgender community will understand: We have to stand up and speak for ourselves! We have to fight for ourselves! We save their lives. We were the front line of the so-called 1969 rebellion of the Stonewall." — Sylvia Rivera from the documentary: Sylvia Rivera, A Trans Life Story


This post had to have the title it has. In my mind, it had this title for more than two weeks already, except I never got down to writing it. I have a lot on my mind in way of writing these days, except your mind and your writing, like the subtle scent of raspberries, gets crushed by surroundings and bigger events, and more powerful smells. Right now, as I sit in the evening shade at a table on the patio giving onto our backyard, as I type on a laptop that is not even mine, I think of alternative titles: "Post from a borrowed computer," "News of The Village and The (Other) Village," "I am broke and need money for a new computer," "Pride or Shame?" or better "Date no. 1-- The details!"

Last week, I spent my Friday afternoon in the (gay) village of Toronto with date No. 1 (again!!) So I guess it is high time to speak of the famous village of Toronto (and speak of date no. 1-- Yes, I will. So Ladies and Gentlemen, and Queers and Queers, please stop harassing me about it!!) What bothers me is that this post is not unfolding the way I wanted it to. My laptop screen has gone blank for days now, I feel handicapped, blind-folded almost, and totally out of place: I miss my virtual space, I cannot get work done properly, this makes me a tad stressed and I am too broke to even find a way to get my laptop repaired. It's funny (or may be not?) how an object gone can actually function like a phantom limb pinching through nonexistent life-tissues.

But the single mother has been nice enough and courteously offered me to use her old laptop (that her 8 years old generally plays on) till I am done with my paper-- for yes, I am on major research mode at the moment. All that to say that the pictures that I had taken to illustrate this post cannot be put up here since they are all on my (broken) computer, but I shall try my best to draw in broad strokes and finer ones, to conjure words as powerful as pigment so that you have an idea of my trip (now trips) to the village.

It may come across as rather surprising that I had never set foot in the gaybourhood of Toronto before. I mean how does a guy like me, who, throughout his teenage years, was force-fed with mouthfuls of the utopia idea of the gay villages in Montreal and Toronto not rush there when I've been here for 10 months already. (Ten months, doesn't it sound long? I've been here for 10 months already!) Well the answer may just be that I grew out of it, or that I am not a teenager anymore... Or, am I becoming too politically queer and too queerly political, or too radically queer and too queerly radical?! [The answer by the end of this piece if you keep on reading.]

Anyway, the (gay) village in Toronto is situated in the whereabouts of Church and Wellesley (which is very much downtown Toronto) and it has nothing to do with The Castro of sorts of the 70s as a ghettoized, politicized, out-of-the-norm urbanized space, as I had painted it in my mind. Not at all! Instead, as I paved my way through Church street, I was overwhelmed by a ridiculously gentrified space with the loathsome smell of consumerism. If disgust of the corporate there can be, the village in Toronto is where it reaches its climax. (Though there's the Pride coming up, but that's another story and we'll get to it soon.)

In order to be able to give structure to this post, I shall without further ado introduce date no. 1, for as a character (with whom I've had numerous arguments already) he seems central to my discussion of the gay village and the Pride. Date no. 1 is a graduate sociologist at the U of Toronto in Women and Gender Studies and he works on the class and race divisions (and citizenships) as represented within the Toronto Pride (ha! here you go!) To add to that, he is charming, gentlemanly (most of the times!), funny tall dark handsome bla bla bla... Well, no, actually, he is tall blond handsome, but that doesn't really matter, does it? The point is that Pride is the site of study for his thesis. Did I say that he actually lives in the village?!

Have you ever thought of being submerged under so much gayness such that you sweat gayness, you spit gay saliva and that you shave off gayness like hair off your face every-morning? Have you ever been so wrapped in the rainbow flag that your armpit smells like rainbow, that you take rainbow dirt off your toe-nails in the evenings and that your eyes can't distinguish colors anymore? Well, that's EXACTLY how you feel after an afternoon in the village. It's a traumatic overdose of corporate gayness. And when you're Queer (for I am queer and not gay, my blog is called "The Queer Behind The Mirror" and not "The Gay Behind The Mirror") at the end of the day, you just feel like screaming "I'M NOT GAY!!" and you empty your closet from all your clothes and you get back in and you hide there for the rest of your life till you decide to come out again and take action.

Coincidentally, while I was going through Date no. 1's book-shelf (I swear, I went to his place only to look at his book-shelf and nothing else happened. Erm... Kind of! Wink!), I found this very interesting book edited by Mark Sampson called Anti-Gay (1996) [click here for more, and there are some reviews here as well.] The book is all about the trash gay culture that I've been talking about to some of you over the past months. Far from being a sub-culture, it is more the mainstream middle/upper-middle class, highly pretentious, disgustingly consumerist gay culture that demands that as a gay man, you clone yourself into fashioning your body in a certain way (along with your other activities and above all: what you consume) in order to be accepted and be part of the mainstream. In the end, when you go to the gay village, if you've seen one man, you've seen them all.

What is of further interest here, however, is that if you've seen one "man," I said, you've seen it all! So "gay" in that sense has come to represent a homogeneous community that excludes women, that excludes trans subjects and I learnt from Date no. 1: that includes largely just white men. That's the point where a man like me ends up picking up a book like Anti-Gay and then screams: "I'm not gay!" Nonetheless, I remain queer (unless that gets appropriated as well!) Hopeful we may remain though, for I also found out that there is an entire collective shaping itself up on the west side of downtown Toronto and that they are calling themselves Queers and calling for a Gay Shame (as opposed to a Gay Pride) and their locality is called the Queer Village. I haven't been there yet, but that should be my next stop.

I thus learnt of various small pockets in Toronto involved with re-politicizing the Pride and what the Pride may just mean (Is there any meaning left at all?) The debate was highly ignited a few weeks ago through the public statement from the Toronto Pride committee that reiterated that the Toronto Pride does not have any affiliations to political entities or causes. Are you surprised and reeling of shock and probably wondering whether I (along with thousands of other people) read this bit correctly? If that's the case, you can check for yourself here. So what does that mean to have a depoliticized and apolitical Pride? Could it mean anything at all?

As well, I am still trying to make sense of the "LGBTTIQQ2S": Can somebody please help me with that? Is the act of adding more and more letters to the acronym a simple liberal act of elegance and praise of an inclusive nationalist discourse supporting so-called "multi-culturalism"? How far do we do in ringing our own (fake) bells?

The discussion went on feverishly (way too feverishly actually) with Date no. 1 as we were having a drink in one of the bars of the village last Friday. He argued that the combo "dress corporate+come to the pride+party+support the corporate+get drunk+have sex=how political action is to be seen in the Pride now." Now, for a man like me who claims never to have failed in gay (political) history, who is totally astounded that nobody even remembers Stonewall (it's just been 40 years for fuck's sake! 40 years and forgotten?!) and is shocked that nobody even remembers that the village in Toronto started through the "519" (a community centre which was the meeting place for various social and political groups) and as a reaction to raids that had happened in a Toronto bath-house in 1981; I AM APPALLED!

It enrages me almost. So off I went into the discussion of what constitutes politics and political action to start with (the act of reframing a certain mode of functioning and order, which the Pride doesn't not do but could do), about how the depoliticized and almost-conservative, totally homonormative space that the village is and that the Pride has become could not be called political... And the discussion went on.

By the end of the discussion which turned out to me a major argument, Date no. 1 said that he wouldn't mind being friends with me, that he is incredibly turned on by my brains, that he thinks I'm the best kisser he ever met but: "You're just so freaking opinionated. You know what? I REFUSE to date a guy like you!" And we hadn't even discussed things that I really feel for: like the post-colonial, war and militarization, race theory and racism, alternative histories, secularism (and the French laicite) or the one topic that makes me mad: whether women should be allowed to wear the veil or not?

So that's how yet another guy said he would refuse to date me because of my strong opinions about everything! That's how being so rigid in my thoughts, thinking processes and points of view brought about my downfall. I think I actually found my biggest flaw: I am too opinionated. But at the same time, I think that's the part of my personality that I like the most (more than my sarcasm, even!) What I think and what I believe in has been the result of years and years of thinking through the mess that is this world, and opened as I am to new ideas and possibilities and modes of thinking, I do think I am on the right track.

So to go back to the village and the Pride coming up, the feeling still is that we are not looking at the right things. How much more homonormative will we become? How depoliticized and apolitical will all action become? How much of history can actually be forgotten? What does an entire generation retain by watching Gus Van Sant's cinematic rendition of the life of Harvey Milk?

Nonetheless I am heading to the Trans Pride and all the Trans events of the coming Friday. One of the few things that I seem to still connect to. As to the Pride on Sunday... Well, let's see how my work goes throughout this week. If time off I need to take, time off I shall take.

To conclude, you might still be wondering why in the village would this post have the title that it has. Well here it goes: while going through the village the first time, I had an overdose of gayness. I mean, come on, in The (Other) Village, i.e. Peterborough, I am the only gay in The Village, ain't I? And I think I got used to be the only gay in The Village. I feel like a star of sorts and that allows me to always be the centre of attention! In the gay village of Toronto, I become just another HOT gay guy walking around!

That reminded me of Little Britain, that I found out, very few of you know about. Little Britain's adventures of Daffyd Thomas plays with the idea of being the only gay in the village, even when one is not the only gay in the village. (Please read here.)It's a brilliant parody of all those gay men who love to victimize themselves and have as much attention possible drawn to their being. Daffyd Thomas reminds me of Prof. Cao (read here, here and here.) Prof. Cao was a man whom we met in India, and he wanted to declare himself as the gay martyr of India. As a consequence, he always victimized himself and called himself "the only gay of the village." Daffyd Thomas is such a wonderful parody of such behavior.

I am leaving you here with a clip of Little Britain. We all deserve some British Comedy after all!

Drama Queen voice on: "But oh no! I am sure they will sue me and delete my blog! What else could I expect from those homophobes! They hate me. That's because I am the only gay in the village!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Heard of the New Google Wave? [for all the google-freaks and non-google-freaks out there!]

As I discovered and tried new features to my i-google this morning (that I absolutely love!) and as I wonder what my life would be without all the google gadgets (and post-its as well!!) and as I know that many of you are worse google-freaks that I am, here's a small preview of the new Google Wave. I am sure, most of you have heard about it by now, but for those who haven't, here is the full 80 minutes demo-video; for those who don't have time, here are a few small clips taken from the demo video (the essentials really, it's exciting) and here's a sneak-peek of what it looks like.

The basic idea behind the wave is: if the e-mail was invented right now, what would it look like? It comes out later this year. This should be an exciting adventure!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Post-It Love [a video]

Many of you who know me rather well know about my obsession with straight lines (more here) and my other obsession: post-its. I use them always, everywhere, in all shapes and colors. You can find them in my room, in my office, but even in my kitchen, or sometimes on the mirror of the bathroom. It takes a lot (of post-its) for me to get organized! And come on, there is something exciting about post-its, don't you think?

Anyway, this film was screened last week at the Worldwide Short Films Festival in Toronto (link here.) Since it is available on Youtube, I thought I should share it. It's by Simon Atkinson and Adam Townley and it is from U.K. And it is just 3.5 minutes, so you can watch by clicking here. Sorry, couldn't post it on my blog straight away! It's doing weird things to the blog settings.

P.S: I once declared my love to a boy through post-its. It wasn't as elaborate as that, but it was still very creative in its own way. Sigh...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ha-Buah/The Bubble [gay love in times of war?]

"We all live in a bubble."

That's probably the one line that you retain from Eytan Fox's Ha-Buah or The Bubble (2006). "We all live in a bubble," that's the only line that you retain, I said, but then there are so many other images that you retain as well. Sounds and images transpire from the screen and stitch themselves on your skin, tie themselves around your toes while they lick your arm-pit and shroud your hair with a netted hat. You watch the film, and the next day, you wake up with a body and a mind that's no longer the same; a mind that is stomach-full with "food for thought" (probably the only other phrase that you retain from the film.)

So that's how it was: Reena (who wrote something about the film here) has been telling me about it for a long time. Last night we watched it. Today, I woke up with marble-eyes that seem to filter the world out and indulge in a bubble.

So in short, The Bubble is a film by Eytan Fox that's mostly in Hebrew (with some Arabic and English) and that explores the trope of same-sex love in the background of war: in this case the love between a Palestinian refugee and his Israeli lover all set to a background people of my generation have literally grown up with. In terms of technique, the film has a Dogme 95 touch of rawness that combines documentary with fiction, hand-held cameras, limited make-up etc. (Quite interestingly, the only times we have a zoom in any of the shots is when one of the characters is holding a camera and that we get the point of view of what the camera is shooting. Trivia, I know, but I found that interesting.)

Anyway, the entire production has an intense touch of the raw, and yet, a delightful one. The cinematography has the "explosive" impact (expression taken from the film) that only alternative or what is called "third-world cinema" can bring to your attention. The music is ethereal, yet very raw. The plot, often described as a gay and Israeli version of Sex and the City (I don't necessarily agree) is light, it takes in the music and draws it in and out like an embroidery, it has a claim of always attempting to be apolitical while thrusting the reality of world politics at your face and the love story is a simple one: a tale of deep love (you can't trivialize it and you can't glorify it either.) The cultural references range from Boyzone, Britney Spears, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler (which I found thoroughly entertaining.)

Since I am on the subject of the movie, I agree with Reena when she says (here) that one of the most beautiful scenes of the film is when the Palestinian boy asks the Israeli boy to fuck him as he sings Tim Buckley's Song to the Siren. This being said, there are a few other scenes from this film that were so well made that they are likely to flash into my mind for years altogether.

In terms of a sub-text, I read tales of childhood into the film, but when it comes to the text, the film weaves the story of love and war, while at the same time attempting to be apolitical. I see the purpose of seeing such a film within an apolitical frame as what adds the enjoyable dimension to the narrative all the way through to its concluding scene: It is time to move beyond wars and politics... To just love. Love, simply love.

I realized that my favorite same-sex love films so far have been the ones set in the background of war. There's been so much coming from Eastern Europe and the Middle East over the past few years. Am I just another sucker for war romance or do those representations allow me to see beyond the trauma of war in relation to same-sex love? I guess somewhere, such narratives bring back the idea of "displaced mysogyny" as they fascinate me: Is love between races (as "polluting" a pure race) the same as love between same-sexes (as preventing the purity of the race to proliferate)?

But may be I'm digressing. To conclude, if you get the chance, watch it. It is indeed a beautiful film.

We all live in a bubble...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Four Lines From a Poem [Lemn Sissay: Going Places]

This young man whom I regularly read posted a poem by Lemn Sissay on his blog today: Going Places. I won't post the entire poem here, but just those four lines that conclude the verse:

"I think I'll paint roads
on my front room walls
to convince myself
that I'm going places."

-- Lemn Sissay: Going Places.

(Thanks Michael.)