My old friend Shaft was in town and being that he is a unicorn, and that I used to be one with him, we obviously got our horns on together. After a delightful day of catching up and talking shop, we went over to his lovely friends house in the FIDI and sat around making Unicorn horns. It was such a lovely way to connect with an old friend and welcome in the spirit of Samhain.
But this morning I awoke to an innocuous Facebook message in a thread of comments about a picture of us dressed as unicorns from the night before. “NOOOOOO shelton, not you too!!!! (crying image of a puppy) PS, if you have to be a stupid dumb-ass unicorn, you do look sorta super-cute, for a unicorn.” While i’m glad that i look cute, (obvi) I find this idea, that once would feel empowered to yell at some one else for their costume choices, to be a fundamental example of why I celebrate people like Shaft who have decided to claim their identity as other that human. Shaft I love you. I love that you are unashamedly a Unicorn. I think it’s both sexy and fun.
My friend who posted this response, was probably not expecting it to touch a raw nerve of mine, but it did. It got me thinking about all the negative response that Shaft received as comments from his Vice documentary, from death threats, to vague ‘he’s worse than a terrorist’ racist comments. To comments I get for being a faggot, to those comments anyone gets who falls outside of the expected boundaries of being ‘Human’ See my ‘ Facebook friend’ is not alone, my friend is one of thousands of people, whose response when they see something different, is to make fun of it and belittle it. While I welcome freedom of expression, am not looking for an apology, and I understand in a way what they were saying, it inspired me to ask, well if you hate me for being a unicorn, what’s so good about being human? What am I missing? I think probably, the answer is nothing. For if humanity was so great it would not have to police its boundaries so strongly. It would not have to make sure that those who transgressed it ’s boundaries were brought back into the folds of conformity. Well I’m sorry humanity, yelling at me for not being like you, does not make me want to be like you.
All that we are doing is exploring our own psyches. I know that our freedom of expression must serve as a harsh reminder of all the ways you self-sabotage, deny, and occlude your truest expression of self. But join us rather than hate us. I want you to come play with us!
I’m sorry to all those who find it so easy to hate those who are different. It must be hard being you. You must be sad often. I too am often sad. But that is because the world is a cruel place. And yes their are many ways which I fail at being fully me, but at the end of the day, I do make a concerted effort to support myself. To love myself, to forgive myself. It’s cute. It’s Werk. It’s actually a lot of werk. Between that werk, and work, and you know trying to WERKKKK IT, I really don’t have the time to absent-mindedly hate others for being different. I mean it seems like a pretty obvious waste of resources and time.
One of the tricks, and it’s TOTALLY a trick that I have used in attempting to understand myself is to begin by just discarding humanity as a term I identify with. (I mean obvi, in a biological way i’m a human, and culturally too.) It’s a thought experiment I play with while biking around the city, or sitting on the subway. What would it mean to discard all those signifying terms from gender, nationality, race, ect… and just be what ever the fuck I felt like. I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing it for me. To heal my own wounds, to be more fully myself, to just have fun.
I often play with this in a real way by trying to embody the traits that I have self selected as defining a ‘faerie’, or a ‘witch’, or a ‘tree’. I like to dress up as these things, and for the duration of that performance, or time I am in that outfit, discard my own humanity. YAY for liminal spaces of liberation, yay for different modalities of seeing yourself, YAY for questions without answers, yay for trial.
That said, I’m sorry for all the hate we attract for being different. I often wonder what about our disavowal of human as how we define upsets so many people on such a fundamental level? When I think of what defines ‘humanity’ it is a long list of modalities of oppression. Contemporary and historical conversations on queer rights, women’s rights, POC rights and environmental protection, leave me mortified. How we have as a collective of souls allowed war, capitalism, the patriarchy, religious intolerance and national pride to ruin and fuck not only our planet, but each other. It seems what humans are exceptionally good at is fucking things up. Hurting each other.
What is so good about being human. What is it that we do well? What is it about our species that is worth saving? Oh sure perhaps it is our kindness and compassion, perhaps it is our capacity for love, or our desire to tell stories. (all things which I love about humans.) Yet I fear that even those traits are eradicated by our species deep and unfortunate inability to process our own bull shit internally. Instead we project, we yell, we belittle others, we even do such things as innocuously make fun of people for dressing up like unicorn’s on the night before Halloween. What is it that we do right? I’m not sure we do anything right.
We are like a plague. We are trapped in our history, we rarely make smart choices. We are driven by greed. (I’m including myself in this, I often fail and I too can be cruel and unjust.) I often experience this hate directed at me when people choose to go out of their way to let me know that they don’t approve of my choices. Firstly, let me say that’s on them. I’m actually rather pleased with my life, and the choices I have made, and I am happy to have you tell me why you think I’m a failure, ugly, weird, stupid, ect… I don’t expect you to be nice to me, because people are not particularly nice. But I hope that I can be your mirror. I hope in hating me, it makes you question why you hate. I hope our interactions ultimately lead you to question yourself. See, in my experience people who truly like themselves rarely go out of their way to insult others.
(Extraneous example: a few weeks ago I was walking on the streets and these BROS saw me and started pretending to vomit on themselves. I’m not sure they intended to make me laugh, but it was a pretty golden moment. I think the best part of the interaction was that when I laughed at them, because it was funny, they got super awkward. when I asked them what about my outfit they disliked, they got really uncomfortable. and then mumbled lots of stuff and looked sheepish. I mean watching to adults fo-vomit on themselves because of what I was wearing was totally a bucket list moment even if I was not aware of it till it happened.)
Anyway, really what I am getting at, is that costumes, and play, outfits, and performance, embodiment and channeling, unicorns and faeries, dress up and make believe are actually super powerful tools we can use to reshape our world. So much of humanity is shitty, but I really honestly believe we could wake up and live in a different world, a world much more peaceful and glorious, if we all stopped seeing ourselves inside the context of human history and started writing a new narrative. The old narratives are not working, they no longer serve us. Our greatest tool as human’s is language. So lets utilize it and see what happens. Let’s all for a day discard all old oppressions and modes of relating to each other that tell us that we can’t and should not like one another. One to many wars, genocides, acts of enslavement have happened to humans at the hands of humans. Lets all just become mythical. For a moment for a day, witches, faeries, unicorns, fauns, nymphs, dryads, creatures of love, creatures varied and different who see the difference in others as something to learn from, to love, rather than something to hate. I want everyone to be a freak. It’s Halloween. Let’s don more then costumes tonight, let’s all become something new.
(these are rough thoughts written over a cup of coffee, I will inevitably return to them. I’d love your thoughts peoples, if you want to share them with me so i can craft a more articulate piece in the weeks ahead about this theme, but I just woke up wanting to share. Really xx)