Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Open Letter To The Ghost Of Lou Reed

Dear Lou,
I heard yesterday morning that you had died and it saddened me not just because you were one of my favourite songwriters but also because you influenced my life for the better and I never got around to thanking you for that.
You see, Lou, I am Trans.
And, yes, Lou, it was Walk On The Wild Side that struck a chord with me and, yes, Walk On The Wild Side was the song that got me into your music and encouraged me to rent out, and subsequently buy, the Transformer album.
But I didn't stop at the Transformer album. I also got your greatest hits and the Coney Island Baby album and the Berlin album (which, for me, is your masterpiece) and the New York album (The Great American Whale and Strawman are still some of my favourite songs) and the Magic And Loss album (You should've seen my gran's face when she heard the lyrics of Harry's Circumcision!) and then I investigated the Velvet Underground recordings and then I checked out some more of your other recordings like Metal Machine Music and The Raven and The Bell and...
Every single one of them gave me a feast for my ears and also my brain!
But the song that always stood out above all the others from the moment I heard it; the song that struck a chord, lit a lightbulb, and knocked me sideways(!) is a song on the Transformer album.
No, not Walk On The Wild Side or Perfect Day or Satellite Of Love - all undoubtedly great songs - but a song you entitled, Make Up. 
You see, Lou, where Walk On The Wild Side was a document of gay and Trans culture in New York, to me, Make Up is more than a document - it is a song of love. A love of being feminine; a love of wearing make up; a love of wearing pretty clothes.
And, Lou, when I heard that song as a 15 year old boy, I understood the love of being feminine, wearing make up, and wearing pretty clothes...
But I did not understand that I could also be loved. 
I believed I was a freak, at best a curio, but on Make Up, you, Lou Reed - one of Rock's infamous tough guys - sang about your desire for a Trans girl!
And then, for the chorus, you sang
Now, we're coming out
out of our closets
Out on the streets
yeah, we're coming out
So not only could I be an object of affection but I could also stand proud in the spotlight as well!
You did more than rock my world with this song, Lou. You gave me hope! You gave me a dream!
And now I'm living that dream and I feel, in some way, I owe you my life because you let me know my life didn't have to be a dream but could, in fact, be real!
So, Lou, I am sad that you are no longer able to create music that I can hear but I am indebted to the music you've already created and can still hear.
I am also thankful that your music has been recorded for posterity for others, a little bit like me, to discover and be similarly rescued from the darkness.
So thank you, Lou. Thank you!

Claire xxx

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

In Peace And Intolerance

This letter makes me sad. It makes me sad because a mother has chosen to disown her son. It makes me sad because her father has followed her example and chosen to disown her. The hurt and anger contained in this letter makes me sad.
However, as part of the human existence we will be hurt. Things will happen to us that we find painful to endure. I don't believe that will ever change.
Some of those things will leave us powerless. We will not be able to change them no matter how much we try.
My husband's death is one of those things. I can not bring him alive no matter how I try. So what is the point of me being angry at his death? What does my anger achieve?
Well, the fact is, not everything in life has a point to it. Some things are downright senseless! But just because they are senseless does not mean that they do not exist.
My anger exists and I can either contain it or release it. As I would rather not hold onto my anger, I allow myself to release it. 
However, my way of releasing my anger in the wake of my husband's death hurt my friends which in turn hurt me. I am fortunate that my friends are forgiving and that I also discovered a more positive way of releasing my anger through art journaling.
Through my art journaling I am able to release my emotions without harming anyone else.
Through my art journaling I am able to use my emotions to create "pretty pictures" which people can admire for their aesthetics and perhaps, also, for the message they contain.
Through my art journaling I am able to be "peacefully intolerant"; I am able to refute what I know to be bad without resorting to anger or violence.
"Peaceful intolerance" is not a new concept. Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr were fine exemplars of it. But we need not be human rights campaigners; there are many ways for us to be "peacefully intolerant".
We can choose who we socialise with, which political causes we support, which activities we partake in. The options are infinite.
For example, if we wished to protest at Guido Barilla's homophobia, instead of, as has been encouraged, spending our money with one of Barilla's competitors, we could perhaps learn to make our own pasta and increase our self-sufficiency.
Or, returning to the letter above, why has it's author not opted to enact a course of action other to one he states he does not approve of?
There are always choices to how we deal with life's events no matter how challenging they are and it is thus important that we choose the right one.
We do not create peace by creating war and we do not create love by creating hate. So we need to be mindful what kind of intolerance we wish to impose.
I would prefer an intolerance of war and hate but I can not sway the whole of humanity by myself.