I am a straight white male.
It’s awesome, right!? — until you become socio-culturally aware, then… it kind of sucks. I live my entire life in a series of second-guesses and self-doubts, of wondering whether my position in life is granted to me by the fact that I literally work 12-16 hours a day, or if it’s granted to be my pure luck of dominion. I shudder. I suffer. I hate myself and others. I despise the world I live in, and I try to compromise with a world I despise.
My position feels tenuous and bizarre, gifted and cursed, otherwise occupied.
I should clarify, maybe first or second, that I did not grow up with wealth, as if that’s an excuse for whatever I have become. My mother was broke as shit when my father left, but she worked like a dog through every year since, and now she is burdened with success. There were days where if my grandparents did not feed me, I would not have been fed. There was a lot of stress. There was, certainly, gender-politics from Day One, but I was brought up in an environment where if you were willing to sacrifice and willing to put in the time, you could win. The tables weren’t so rigged. Now, I feel, they are. Class mobility is frozen. Gender politics are broken. Race? A joke.
I maybe could also clarify, in terms of the tertiary, that I was never popular. I was constantly bullied, in fact. For having been left, for having a working mother, for looking or acting ‘gay’ (which I feel is preposterous because to put definitions on such a thing is an absurd action, and also because the valuation of ‘acting gay’ is dismissal and gender-biased), for being a nerd, for being too skinny, too scrawny, incapable, unathletic, for having glasses or braces — I was beat up, beat down, stuffed in lockers, held up after school, I was rolled for lunch money; at one point I seriously considered killing someone, at multiple points I seriously considered killing myself. Just to get out, literally, just to get out.
But because of my Straight White Male Status, I feel that none of that is of particular importance. If I were to have offed someone, or to have offed myself, or to have done both simultaneously, I feel that it certainly *WOULD* have gained media attention (as killings in middle-class neighborhoods do), but I do not feel it would have been *important*. I do not feel it would have made a cultural difference. I do not feel it would have made a difference at all.
Best case scenario, video games would have been blamed, instead of those who were persecuting me. Instead of those who belittled me, in my own town, in my own neighborhood. Instead of those who hit me in the face because I sat at the wrong table. In short, I feel such a death would have been meaningless, because no one would have actually read into the damn thing. They would only have argued about the bullshit that the lobbyists wanted them to argue about.
Now that I have grown up, matured, absorbed different tastes and philosophies, had many an interesting experience, et-fucking-cetera… I still feel the same way. See, all of my friends have important messages to send, interesting backgrounds, self-sacrificing tales, or whatnot, and I still feel stuck with this label. Like I have an unwanted “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. Despite being broke (for a spell, because…my mum is badass), despite being bullied, and hit, and broken, despite being fucked with and spat on, despite all of what is actually my history… I maintain the label of Straight White Male, a label I wholeheartedly try to reject in both mindset and behavior, but that I cannot escape, because it is an accurate summation of my person:
I am straight. This is an inescapable flaw in my personality. I love women, mind and body and all, through and through, mentally, emotionally, sexually. I love the arch of an eyebrow, the tone of a joke, the reference of a poem, the confidence of an achievement, the curve of a hip, and the shadow of the jawline, all more or less equally — women, in general and specific, are my raison d’etre (but that’s a subject for another rant). Sometimes, to be honest, I feel guilty even for that. I am sorry, I am straight. That sounds bizarre, maybe, but it’s true. I apologize for it, both to straight women and gay men, I do, I apologize. Such is my lot in this life. I am craven, I am awful, I am addicted.
I am white. I was not so constantly aware of this until I moved to New York City. In Rochester, I pray I hope I somewhat believe, things are slightly more color-blind in part because there are fewer people, therefore merit is of more import. Or maybe it’s only because, in Rochester, I was friends with and engaged with more people of ethnic background (and what the hell does that really mean?) — either way, coming to NYC has made me hate myself more than anything else in history. I witness simultaneously, on a day to day basis, how goddamn HARD it is just to be white (to be me) in this situation, and how much *HARDER* it can be to be… not me. And I am filled with envy and fury, with rage, with spittle-inducing madness and sputtering helplessness. Hell yes, I get an amount of white privilege. I used it to gain a clientele, a resume, and then quit my job to become self-employed. And yes, you can be white and broke, you can be white and really out-of-money, you can be white, in fact, and homeless (I did it for almost 60 days, don’t tell my mum because she will freak out). And after everything I’ve witnessed, the favoritism, the ease, the work, the grind, the sleeping-on-subways, the couch surfing, the door-to-door, the resume, the smiles, the care, the imbalance, the ghettos and the Uptowns…I can’t even begin. If it’s *this* hard to be a fucking white guy…how hard is it to be black? Or, and this is possibly an unpopular suggestion…how hard is it to be Arabic, right now? Let me tell you, if you beat up a black guy or a gay guy, there are no quotation marks around the words “hate crime” in the newspaper. You beat up an Islamic dude? Even Metro NYC (which is free, by the way, a *free* “liberal” newspaper) will put quotes around the idea. Yep. ”hate crime” against an Islamic guy in Queens. In quotation marks. As though it were up for debate. What country do I live in? How can I help? How can I help without going broke?!? It kills me. Every day, I die. I die.
I am male. This part is, well and truly, unarguable. There are people who argue that sex is a social construction, and I can kind of get where they’re coming from, but also I don’t. There are two major sex organs of homeo sapiens sapiens… and one of them is externally loaded. I often think feminine thoughts, behave in a feminine way, believe “feminine” ideals — all as defined by an ancient codifying of gender-behavioral diagrams that, in this modern time, do not necessarily apply. Frankly, the only things about me that are “masculine” are my body image disorder, my workout routine, and my sadly insatiable libido. Everything else, whatever. I love a mani-pedi. I have six lotions and cleansers I apply DAILY (hilarious because I live in an awful hovel for $700/month). I wear bright colors and have a weird obsession with shoes. But I have a penis, for sure, and I prefer that it involves itself with vaginas. (internet taboo?) So that’s that. Biological and psychologically male. My apologies.
Sometimes, in polite conversation on these strangely controversial topics, I excuse myself by saying “I was born this way!” — but this is not one of those times. I leave because I become dizzy and ill. There is too much. I am born to this, and aware. My mother and grandmother have raised me to believe certain things, and therefore maybe I do not know what the traditional “male” ideal is, nor do I know how to act “masculine,” yet I am both male and straight (BEE TEE DUBS, “masculine” is not the same as “straight” nor is “feminine” the same as “gay” and I am furious about people who buy into that narrow-minded stereotype — the subject of yet another rant). But my mother cannot now make me a woman. And no one can make me suddenly gay — because for all the bullshit everyone puts up with, it’s not a fucking choice at all, it’s an impulse, it’s a feeling, and anyone who says it’s a decision is full of filth and greediness and hatred and there is nowhere clean for them. I prefer women, not by choice, but because I am simply wired that way and there’s not much discussion to be had. Nor vice versa. (Again. Another rant for another time.)
The point is… I *was* born this way… but how I was born doesn’t matter. Your birth doesn’t matter. Nor does your death. These are two inexorable bookends (reference? yeah, it is) that we obsess about despite the fact that all the important stuff happens in between. And I only have half an idea what I’m doing, but I am goddamned trying.
As a Straight White Male, I feel the most important thing I can do with my life is to…get along with other people. To empower, to aid, to tell stories, to back up, to support, to befriend, anything, anything at all — to connect with people that are disenfranchised by, in fact, MY PEOPLE. And I hate writing that. I do. I despise it. MY PEOPLE. I don’t want to be the enemy, I really don’t, I really really do not want that…but I can feel it, I feel it all the way to my bones sometimes, and the stress fractures in them, in the lining of my stomach, the beating of my heart, the little cilia in my lungs… I think every night “God help me” (I don’t pray, but I *think*) — and I don’t think God is helping anyone, but I don’t know what I would do if I gave up — because I hate…myself. Pure and simple.
I can’t be the bad guy. I can’t. I won’t.
But wondering if I am gets in the way of every decision I make. Whether or not to meet with someone, to take a role, to write a short story, all of it swims in my head, all of the potential and responsibility and obligation, what I could do to help, what could end up hurting, the moral and ethical fallout, the grand scheme, the political and socio-economic strife, and the wonder of whether or not there’s anything I could do to help at all, if anything I ever do will matter… and all of it echoes in my head like a madman’s cannonball, rattling one side of the ship to the other, never connecting with anything but always threatening to destroy it all…
I am haunted. Not by the things I’ve done. Not by the things my father has done, nor the things my mother has done. My family is new to America, relatively. So my history is not what worries me, my history is not attached to this country nor its habits, its outlook, its sins. It is not my history, my family’s history, that worries me. It is my present and my future, and my responsibility therein. I am haunted by things that have not yet happened, and may never happen. I am haunted by things that *MAY* happen, but may never happen, either. I am haunted by visions of futures that I cannot be responsible for, but that I feel *IN PART* responsible for. Because Straight White Males are the Oppressing Class, and despite what goes on in my head, my heart, my soul, this is a fact, a pure and simple fact, that I have to contend with. And I have to contend with it in my every decision. If I don’t, how can I fix this broken system?
How do other Straight White Males go through life without…this? How do they go through life at all? — I wonder.
This all comes from a very simple idea. The Oppressor must choose to stop Oppressing. You can read any statistic of any workforce, bankers to artists to yoga instructors, and you can figure out…definitely, the SWM is the oppressing class. For sure. Of all other peoples. Goddammit. That is major domination, major, I mean…conquest doesn’t even begin to describe the terribly rigged game “we” have set up. (If I was rich, would I feel this way? Or is it only because my family came up from the bottom that I even question it? — more doubts, of course). How do we UN-rig it? How do we…fix the problem? How does anyone? What am I doing? What can I do? Is the best I can do…to stop doing at all?…
As an artist, I have both the easiest job *and* the hardest. The easy part is also easy to explain: I write books that take on the narrative of the disenfranchised, on all levels. All the narrators and supporting cast are varying degrees of exiles, by choice or by birth. I write from the perspective of the losers, for the losers, by the losers — it’s easy for me, because I’ve always been a loser, too. It comes naturally.
Then it’s the hardest. Nothing I write, or act in, or produce…is financially viable. I lose money *literally* constantly. I run a business that loses money every year. I lose money every year. Every single year, I owe more money to other people. Other people, in this case, refers mostly to banks. Banks and the Government. I lose so much money per year, it would actually embarrass me to tell you. So, yeah, I’m broke. I’m really broke, and that hurts, not just financially, but… it hurts to think that people don’t like it. That I don’t matter. That the things I produce don’t matter. So why bother? Because.
Because I hope it all turns out to be worth it. And maybe I’ll die young, guilt-consumed and drunk, lonely and desperate for love and attention, riddled with philosophical thoughts relating to economy and politics and the course of human affairs, maybe I’ll just die…just die young.. and someone else can handle all of this goddamned debt. If I’m lucky. If I’m really, really lucky.
But, in the meantime, I want you all to know…we’re not all monsters. Us Straight White Males. We aren’t. I swear to you. We come in all shapes and sizes, ideologies, beliefs, hobbies, excitements… and, yes, statistically we *are* the enemy; but not all of us are cool with that. Some of us are rational, aware people… and we feel like shit, sometimes, and rubbing it in doesn’t help, because you wouldn’t want anyone rubbing in your mistakes (or your genetics) either. Some of us…aren’t that bad. We want to help. We want to make changes. And we need acceptance to do that, too. Because we can’t *all* want to die drunk and alone and broke (like I do), some of us want to die…with families, or careers, or impacts, or biographies, or whatever. And we can all do it, together, without being enemies, without being against each other, without… all the bullshit that comes with making TEAMS, which is what US politics is all actually about, if you let it brainwash you.
Because we’re all people, and some of us even know it, and some of us celebrate it, and some of us even love everyone for being different from us. And some of us are tired of feeling like the bad guy, and we really want to help.
And, maybe, some of us really *need* help.
Present company excluded.
Via sarahdeluxe, a beautiful place I want to go to.
Corona Del Mar, California
You can keep the portraits. 0_o
Photo by Giovanni Giannoni
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