So, two pieces of media have recently come into my life and have been interacting in interesting ways:
The first is, as I mentioned last post, the new anthology of comics about non-binary sexuality from Northwest Press: Anything That Loves.
The second is the Netflix Originals show Orange is the New Black.
Anything That Loves is a collection of comics that explores the sexual territory that falls between black-and-white concepts of “gay” and “straight.” Some of the material in this is reprints of classics, like Erika Moen’s Queer, as well as brand spankin’ new content by the likes of Amy T. Falcone, Bill Roundy, and Roberta Gregory. (New content. Roberta Gregory. For the maybe one of my dedicated readers that got how cool that is, you’re welcome.)
Some of the issues that are addressed in Anything That Loves include:
- A bisexual woman who’s androgynous in appearance (Leanne Franson)
- A gay man who gets blowback from the gay community when he starts dating trans*men (Bill Roundy)
- An adolescent boy whose only source of information on sexuality is Loveline… “You had sex with a man? Or a crush on one? You’re gay!”
- A staunchly lesbian warrior who ends up in an unexpected situation (Leia Weathington)
- How women seem to be more “allowed” to have a fluid sexuality than men. (Kate Leth)
Overall, the book is a damn fascinating examination of bisexuality, queer sexuality, biphobia, and the myriad ways one can be a human with desires. The various comics specifically address discrimination and ick that come from the “straight” world as well as the “gay” (“lesbian” “queer” etc) world. Some people will connect with this book, or at least one piece in it, on a personal level. (I just want to high-five Leanne Franson, for example.) For those that might not connect with these comics regarding yourself, please read this for all the folks you know who may deal with not fitting into neat little boxes of policed sexuality. Also, read it so you can have critical feedback and discussion about portrayals of queer sexualities in the media. Like, for example, when watching Orange is the New Black.
Orange is the New Black I find a fairly satisfying combination of problematic and actually good. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s about a privileged white woman, Piper Chapman, who ends up serving a prison term in a low-security facility for being part of a drug deal ten years ago. Like a fashionable-suitcase-carrying-in-other-countries-with-hot-girlfriend type drug deal. The show is highly fictionalized version of a real privileged white woman’s memoir about her stay in the notoriously “cushy” low-security prison, Danbury, i.e. the prison where Martha Stewart went. There are plenty of differences between the show and reality, because it would be a crap show otherwise. One of them is the frequent women having relationships with, sex with, and/or crushes on women. Actual prisoner Piper Kerman says in her memoir, also entitled Orange is the New Black, that she was “struck by the fact that there did not seem to be any lesbian activity…A lot of the romantic relationships I observed were more like schoolgirl crushes, and it was rare for a couple to last more than a month or two.”
The show has many cringeworthy discussions of identity and orientation, especially given my mindset after reading Anything That Loves. Almost any time that Piper Chapman (or anyone else) talks about her past relationship with a woman, it’s through the lens of “lesbian.” “I was a lesbian,” she says. Which makes sense. But there’s a lot of discussion of Will She Revert To Her Lesbian Ways and “What, are you lesbian now?” This is at one disheartening and hilarious because it would seem that Chapman was never actually, to my understanding of the word, lesbian. She was always bisexual, it’s just that sometimes she was in a relationship with a woman and sometimes she was in a relationship with a man. And sometimes she was engaged to a man, in prison with her ex-girlfriend, and real awkward. Y’know. Like happens. It makes sense that the weirdo prison counselor would talk about “lesbian activity” as his anaethema, because he is a scumbag with a mail-order Ukrainian bride. It makes less sense that not one other character on the show seems to think of the word “lesbian” as a woman who exclusively has relationships with women. The de facto definition seems to be a woman who has sex with another woman. I fear that there is a large portion of the country who have only this much of an understanding of sexuality. (Actually I fear that there is a portion of the country that is more or less Pennsatucky.)
In any case, naive as this may be, I have a hard time understanding why bisexuality, or at the least relationships with a variety of gendered people, is so damn hard to grok.
(Of course, for every time I say “Come on now! It’s 2013!” something tends to slap me upside the head and remind me that some people are living decades ago.)
In conclusion, this was less of a review, and more a ramble about sexuality. That being said, absolutely go pick up a copy of Anything That Loves. It’s a monumental collection about an under-discussed topic, and well worth a read. And heck, watch Orange is the New Black. It’s pretty good, it’s got some problematic aspects that serve as chewy food for thought, and it’s got some supreme acting talent. Laura Prepon, a.k.a. Donna from That 70s Show, as a drug dealer! Michelle Hurst! Samira Wiley! Lots of amazing PoC actors that I haven’t seen much of before because damn the Hollywood machine! And…drum roll please…
KATE. FREAKIN. MULGREW.
That’s right. Janeway runs the kitchen and will totally cut you.
Ideas about nonbinary sexuality? Reactions to the show? Put ’em in the comments, y’all.