Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lift Up Your Hands

The missionary at my brother's church read this scripture from The Message translation: (Ephesians 3:4-6) "As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board."

She went on to explain how at this time "outsiders" were considered Gentiles and "insiders" were considered Jewish Christians. It got me thinking in a new way about the mystery of Christ and His Message. As his life showed, he was not concerned with the "insiders" of the Jewish faith and very much interested with the "outsiders"-those on the fringes.

Finding myself somewhat on the fringes of the mainstream Church may partly explain why I like the musical/movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch so much. When I first saw this movie I was in Seoul, Korea with another gay friend. I was blown away by the witty risque humour and the accessible music. Then later my cousin and her husband took me to the musical in Portland and I liked it even more than the movie. Then my cousin-in-law bought me the tribute benefit album and managed to get John Cameron Mitchell (the star, director and writer) to sign it. It was a very cool gift! Finally just this weekend I put the DVD on while my friends were over getting their hair cut and one of them had worked on the movie (it was filmed right here in Toronto) and had never seen it!

The story Hedwig is about feeling excluded from the mainstream of society and seeking acceptance. First there is coping with ambiguous gender identity, then being a foreigner living in another country, then using the rock and roll medium (that many don't enjoy) to communicate who and what you are about. Finally there is a rebirth as a new person whose wounds have healed enough to walk vulnerable and alone.

For a long time, I didn't understand men who were transgender or drag queens or even cross dressers. But I've learned from Hedwig and movies like Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, this is a way for men (and women) to embrace parts of themselves that do not conform to traditional stereotypes. This can be very liberating. For example last night I was in Planet Aid trying to find some groovy pants to go with a shirt my partner wanted to wear to the Halloween festivities on Church Street. Everything was the wrong size or just plain dull. It felt really good to be able to go over to the women's side, find an amazing pair of pants (geisha print!) that fit him like a glove AND NOT CARE that they were women's!

I love that Hedwig starts out stuck in Junction City, Kansas! My homestate can be difficult for a gay person to feel at home at, although it's much easier if you are a native. I also love that Korean war-brides made up Hedwig's first band. I like how Hedwig seems oblivious and undaunted to the low attendance at her shows and it's almost as if she's singing more for herself or to connect with just one person than anything else.

The rock and roll aspect is great because it's not a medium that, until recently, many gay people have used. Traditionally gays have used lots of opera, Broadway musicals, pop songs, diva numbers and techo/house/dance music to express themselves. The rock music in Hedwig has some pretty amazing lyrics though that I think many of us can relate to. One lyric I especially like is: They cut me up into parts, I gave a piece to my mother, I gave a piece to my man, I gave a piece to the rock star, He took the good stuff and ran. We all (metaphorically speaking) give pieces of ourselves to the people in our lives and often feel "taken" at times.

Another song that really impacted me was the unique creation story in The Origin of Love. When I told my fellow Kansan in Seoul about this, he rolled his eyes and pulled Plato's Symposium off the shelf and suggested I read it. I was amazed to find the source of this creation story was so old!

So to belatedly honour October as GLBT History Month, I'd like to recognize all the movies like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, that challenged me to see the outsiders in a different way. In so many ways, they ARE us. In the lyrics from another Hedwig song, "We are freaks....That's the way God planned it."


Jolie said...

Origin of Love is a perfect song. There aren't that many in the world. I'm inspired every time I hear that song.

I LOVE boy clothes. I always have. I am more than comfortable shopping in the boys section, especially for pants. Sizes are understandable and not made up like the women's clothes. I was sad last week in Target when I found a boy's polo shirt that I wanted, but they didn't have my size. An added bonus to the men's section is that I usually wear a medium. I never wear a medium in women's. It just makes me happy.

I've always felt excluded from main society. I've never felt that I truly fit in anywhere. A lot of that was choice, but mostly it's because I usually feel awkward and don't want to bother anyone; I'm content to stand on the side lines. The older I get the more I embrace this difference. I like who I am and don't make apologies for the norms I don't feel the need to keep up with. Some of theses norms are: answering my phone, having people over to my house, being social, buying new, having kids, going to the movies... the list goes on and on.

I think that once people are comfortable in their own skin (or being), they can be open and understanding of all people. Hedwig was on the journey to find him/herself. In the end, it wasn't the physical transformation that made Hedwig whole; It was the mental transformation.

Thanks for the great post. It got me thinking. Of course, when I see reference to "Outsiders", I can't help but think of the movie. What a great movie it is.

connie said...

How did you and Jolie (loved her comments, too) come to figure out this basic truth in life at such young ages? (young to me, anyway) It took me almost 50 years to be comfortable and not apologetic or embarassed about the person I became over the years. I don't want to change anybody else and I don't have time for people who want me to change.

Record Store Geek said...

Have you seen Transamerica and Breakfast On Pluto?