Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thirteen Years of Terror

Always practice proper care and storage of your valuable comic books.

  • Ten years ago, it was cold. It was bitter cold. I was living in a shack on the outskirts of Rutland, Massachusetts - and I say shack because that's what it was, really. The cabin was sixty or so years old. It didn't have any heat or insulation. It broiled in the summer (central Massachusetts can be very humid and there was a swamp in the backyard) and froze in the winter. We didn't have a bathroom - just a toilet on a bare wood floor. All the other bathroom fixtures had been torn out because they were rotten. We bought a gym membership in Worcester so we could drive 20-25 minutes to bathe. A wing of the house was closed off because it had been destroyed by water damage. (Link)
I wrote those words three years ago, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of this site. At the time ten years seemed like an immense amount of time. But the days keep tumbling down. Now we’re a teenager.

I am happy to report that in the year since I last contemplated this site’s birthday, not a lot has really happened. It’s been a very quiet year, not much to report.

Yeah, about that. 

  • January 2004 was a very cold month. (Did I mention it was cold?) The temperature never rose above freezing for the entire week of the 17th. My wife (now ex-) had been hospitalized, and I was alone, freezing, with just our dogs for company. I read Journalista! every morning and followed every blog to which Dirk Deppey linked. I was bored, depressed, lonely, looking for something to keep my mind off the cold. I don't remember the exact moment I made the decision. But somewhere along the line on Saturday, January 17th 2003 I registered for a Blogspot account and began The Hurting. The name fit my attitude at the time, and I guess it still does - even though I'm no longer living in a shack in the woods and my life has improved by every conceivable metric, I'm still as mordant and droll as ever. When will the hurting stop? Good question.(Link)
 Funny thing.

If you haven’t checked in for a while, you might not have caught that there was, uh, a pretty big change around here. Massive. I mean – big.   

So this is a thing that happened. You won't be seeing that name again. That guy’s gone, save for legal ID and documentation (such as the above excerpt) and credit cards. All that stuff takes time, and I’m motivated to move quickly. There’s no reason to wait another minute. 
  • One of the more distinctive - perhaps to its detriment - attributes of this blog is that over the years I've settled into a pretty peculiar rhythm. I don't post a lot, obviously, but sometimes I post more than others. On a good week I'll manage a full essay and maybe a couple other smaller things. I may bewail my unproductiveness, but that's where I'm comfortable, and trying to push for more than that never seems to work out. I got out of the habit of doing shorter text posts a long time ago, for whatever reason - it's easier for me to write at length, as opposed to producing something more concise and pithy. I've been told point-blank that writing such long essays turns off as many readers as it may attract, but I think that's changing - one side-effect from so many established media companies colonizing the internet (and so many start-ups replicating that format), is that the length of articles and the attention span required to read them online appears to be expanding. That's fine. I do this as much for myself as anyone else, and that's the format in which I'm most comfortable writing. Why have a blog if you can't do what you want with it? (Link)
Early on the morning of Tuesday, October 11th 2016, I posted my essay “One Hundred and Sixty Four Days.” To say the essay provoked a response would be an understatement.

I wasn’t trying to make a statement, really. It made sense to me that since it had been a long time since I had posted anything, I should probably come back with something good for anyone sticking around after (almost) thirteen years of diminishing returns. The problem was that I had more than a couple good ideas about how to go about doing so. I worked through each idea in its turn and couldn’t make up my mind which to use. The original draft of the essay began with far more modest goals, simply to announce the big news, maybe in passing come up with something cool and memorable.

Oh, hmmm, I wondered throughout, should I say that? I have a good idea for a bit about that. I could spin off the Star Wars sections to their own essay. I could split it up to run over a week. It keeps getting longer, Jesus. How honest should I be? My mom will probably read this. Everyone I know could potentially read this. Fuck. I don’t see any way out of just putting it all up at one gulp. If I cut it up people would try to guess and given the nature of the revelation that’s not a good idea. I guess if I’m in for a penny I am in for a pound, I am cutting nothing. I'm playing fair: all the clues will be there right in front of the reader – if they know what to look for. If you knew the ending, you read with that awareness. If you didn’t? You had no idea and got to be surprised. 

How do you get people to sit through a 6,000 word personal essay about Star Wars, gender, and suicide? Admittedly it was about Star Wars only on the surface, gender pervasively but subtly, and suicide – well, yeah, that’s right there. You turn it into a murder mystery where the reader gradually discovers that for months they’ve been talking to a dead man. 

I used the opportunity to write a coming out essay as an opportunity to reshape my life. Everything leading up to that fateful evening of April 30th felt like it could be formed into a story, a life told in shards, incident and observation all leading inevitably to –

Why am I doing this?

Why am I writing about my life?

It felt remarkably important that I produce something good. Something that might in some way explain my recent absence. As the essay grew however it became a means of explaining quite a bit more, years and decades of regret and uncertainty all leading inexorably towards the kind of once-in-a-lifetime earth-shattering epiphany that they write about in those modernist novels on which I’m supposed to be writing a dissertation. It’s seemed, on a moment’s consideration, that it was actually a remarkable story.

I don’t really get the option of living a private life anymore. If you know I’m trans you already know my most intimate secret – so secret even I didn't know. I’m also stuck carrying around this corpse of a dude I used to inhabit, animated for brief moments by the able ventriloquist team of Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman. I have been writing either in the pages of the Journal or online in some capacity or another (most prominently this site) for sixteen years. I have to live with the fact that it will always be a keystroke away. So – why the hell not? I have nothing to lose. After the essay goes out? There’s no putting that genie back, ever. I am what I am. I’m a woman.
  • Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm poor. Before I went back to school in 2007 I spent much of the previous decade shuffling around a handful of low-paying, dead-end jobs, getting some degree of satisfaction from working part time as a freelance writer but generally dissatisfied with the shape and direction of my life. In hindsight it's obvious that I had no one to blame for this state of affairs but myself - I made a few precipitous decisions in my early twenties that had great, far-reaching unpleasant consequences. Usually this is the part where someone says, "I made some mistakes but I don't regret anything!" That's bullshit: although I have learned to regard my past with something resembling a sanguine wistfulness (for the necessity of my own fragile mental health, if nothing else), that doesn't mean I don't live every day with a sensation of definite regret hovering somewhere in the vicinity of my conscious thoughts. (Link)

It’s interesting to read old blog posts and see all the urgent warnings my subconscious sent up the flagpole. Descriptions of vague unease abound, the kind of open-ended descriptions that scream across the years for some kind of resolution – “a sensation of definite regret hovering somewhere in the vicinity of my conscious thoughts.” That’s from an essay wrote on November 21st, 2011, soon after the famous incident on the UC Davis quad where student protestors were assaulted by police with year gas. I knew a few of the protestors and had in fact been sitting in class with them earlier in the day, but I was home napping when the incident occurred.

It’s been a weird year. It’s been a weird decade. It’s been a weird lifetime.

Almost from the moment I knew I was trans I knew that I would need to one day write a blog post to explain that fact. I knew that sooner or later I was going to be called to account for my life and to explain – for my own benefit, if for no one else – just what had happened. It’s very upsetting to see that your life to date had been building towards one massive “Shyalaman Twist.” When that happens, everything gets reevaluated. Everything. Every incident, relationship, misadventure, success, failure, love, hate, loss . . . it’s all different now, like it happened to a different person. Which it did, in more ways than one. Someone else started this blog on January 17th, 2004, and that someone was me but also not and no longer.

We all change, we’re all changing all the time. Look at a picture of yourself from the last year, from the last decade. Sure, it’s you, but it’s not. You’ve changed, too.
  • But the image I remember most from Episode III isn't one of the battles – it's the last shot. Obi-Wan gives the baby Luke to Owen and Beru and wanders off into the desert. Even after everything has occurred and Anakin has become Vader, you know that Owen and Beru are relatively safe because of their connection to Anakin's mother - and hiding the child with them is the safest choice, the proverbial "hiding in plain sight". Of course, eventually things change - the Rebellion comes home after those strange droids are found wandering the desert, and when people start asking questions about Ben Kenobi everything starts to fall apart and people die. But that last shot, in the wake of the storm of the Jedis' defeat and the fall of the Republic - drawing the explicit parallel between Luke's arrival and later Luke's departure from home at the beginning of Episode IV – that's the shot the whole prequel trilogy was building to, the bridge between the past and the present. It's the crux of everything that happened and everything that will happen - a moment of bittersweet triumph, but a triumph nonetheless, A New Hope for the future of the Republic cradled in the arms of his family. It's, basically, the apogee of Star Wars in one single shot, all the bluster and sentiment, epic scope and cheesy serial origins, the melodrama and the ham-fisted intellectualizing, the emotional pull of childish nostalgia and the legitimate gravity of melancholy adolescence. It's all there. (Link)
Coming out isn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it just isn’t. But it has still been a long, complex, and exhausting process, a process that isn’t over yet. It feels like I am dragging my ass when in fact I am going remarkably fast by any standard. I'm not getting any younger – except for the strange fact that I am? I feel now younger than I have ever felt. I have found an enthusiasm for life I could never have imagined possible. The first thing I feel when I wake up in the morning is no longer regret at being alive. 

I hope it lasts.

Aside from my dealings with close family, the most critical step of the process of transition is coming out. You only get to come out once, and I wanted to do it right. I knew from the very beginning that I would be using the blog to do so. One reason it’s so long is that I had almost half a year to draft it in my head. No detail seemed superfluous.

I knew it had to be good. And I knew it had to be honest. I’ve never lied to you.

Go back and read my tenth anniversary post. That piece has a good potted history of the blog, such that I probably don’t need to go over much of the same material again. It’s still accurate. Funny how hindsight plays us for fools. Much from the my life now reads as perversely ironic.

The gist is that this blog was started at the lowest point in my life. Literally, the precise exact lowest moment – nothing since and nothing before comes close to the despair and helplessness I felt in that moment. I reached out to start a blog because reading other peoples’ blogs at the time was the only thing that distracted me from the fact that my life had completely fallen apart and I was trapped in a terrible situation. And I started The Hurting and that gave me something to do. Something to look forward to.

Back when Dirk Deppey shuttered Journalista! 1.0 I spent some time doing heavy linkblogging myself, just like he had done. I managed a few months until I realized that doing the job right took multiple hours a day. Even though there was still a need for a content aggregator in the comics blogosphere, it was too much for me, and would soon be too much for anyone. The first year of this blog – as with most blogs – was pretty intense. Lots of writing, lots of talking back and forth. I answered letters! Remember that? People used to send in e-mails to my blog and I would reply to them on the blog. What a fucking concept.

People who come here, if you’ve come here long enough, know that the reason I have my own website is that I need a place to write the kind of stuff that literally no other venue would ever touch. Not just many thousands of words on Star Wars or Secret Wars or any other kind of fictional war. When I was in the throes of my divorce in 2005 I even wrote about that on here, a bit. I was losing my mind so I didn’t stop to think whether or not I should. I probably shouldn’t have, but I did.

I’ve written about povery, and I’ve written a bit about politics. There’ve been periods where I talked about music exclusively, periods where I go in crazy deep on one topic until I’ve completely exhausted it, probably dozens of abandoned series by now, abandoned due to lack of interest on my part or yours. Now I’ve written about being trans. Will continue to write about being trans. This site remains what it always has been: my site. My life. And I’ve never lied to you.
  • Things weren't supposed to be this way. I quite college after my first year partly because I wanted to become a writer - a real, professional writer. (That wasn't the only reason, but it was what I told myself.) I worked at it - maybe not as hard as I could have, but I did. I wrote stories that were never bought. I wrote a few novels that were never published. I didn't realize until many years later that I had done the absolute worst thing to myself I could have done if i honestly wanted to make it as a writer: you can't write anything good at the age of twenty, and the effort will instill terrible bad habits that can take years to break. You just don't know anything. I never sold a novel, although I can at least say I got as far as a couple agents reading my books before deciding not to follow-up. (Link)
So what’s the takeaway?

I’ve thanked a lot of people, expressed my gratitude in many different ways for the many things people do for me every day. I now believe that being helpful to others is the most important thing we can do. I spend a lot of time helping people, although you probably don’t see it unless you’re in the trans community. I help people outside the community, too, don’t get me wrong – but that’s where much of my attention is, and will likely remain fixed, for the foreseeable future.

Much of the past 2/3 of a year has been spent being considerate of others. For all the major people and activities in my life, I’ve had to formulate a strategy of disclosure that would accomplish my goals of (heh) a peaceful and orderly transition. I’ve spent a lot of time thanking people, which I like to do more often now, as I think it’s very important to express gratitude however and whenever possibly. It’s easy to avoid saying “thank you,” but it pays significant dividends. Smile when you do it.

So it’s time for me to thank someone else.

Thank you.

When I posted my coming out letter on October 11th (National Coming Out Day, the link to which I obviously could not advertise in advance and still keep the secret a secret), I had no idea what to expect. I had told a few people in advance – basically, if I told you in advance of that date, you’re someone I trust and someone I knew would have my back. But the reaction? No clue. I had an idea that I’d get some positive reactions and maybe it might cause a ripple in the corner of the comics world where my name still carries some small currency. Maybe. 

Early in the morning on that day I pressed publish on the most important essay I have ever written. I made a Doctor Who joke (“It is the end, but the moment has been prepared for”) and threw a match to light the bonfire of my life. I left social media for the rest of the day – the longest I’d been off Twitter in years. I didn’t want to know what was happening. I had a couple agents report back that everything was going well, the reaction was positive. I wasn’t too worried. But every time I’d peek at the website the comments section grew bigger. My Inbox was filled with e-mails. I got DMs from people I hadn’t spoke to in years. People I barely remembered, but who remembered me. 
All told, hundreds of people reached out to express their support and love in one of the most stressful moments of my entire life. I can’t reply to everyone individually, I just can’t, and I'm sorry. There’s too many of you, and too many wonderful, heartfelt comments. It was too much. Too much positivity shut down my system just as cleanly as too much negativity. I got spooked, overwhelmed. Could not process.

How do you react to something like that? What do you do the morning after the world – or at least your world, your friends, your peers, colleagues, and coworkers – come together to tell you not just that you are appreciated, but that you are loved and respected and considered important by hundreds of people across the world whose faces you have never seen?
  • I've been reading comics for almost as long as I've been alive - literally, some of my very first memories are buying Batman comics on family car trips and staring at them in my car seat. I study, write about, and teach literature for a living. If I don't have at least some ability to judge the aesthetic merits of a comic book after all this time, then I honestly don't know who does: there's my sense of entitlement for you. I write a comic book blog with a 9 1/2 year paper trail - you can look back through the archives and find every stupid thing I ever wrote, every creator I ever needlessly antagonized, every sweeping generalization I popped off and then painfully retracted. I know a few things about how comic books work. (Link
When I wrote above that, “the most critical step of the process of transitioning is coming out,” I wasn’t exaggerating, at least for me. My life changed on the evening of April 30th, but it also changed on October 11th. Because that’s the day every last illusion I still held regarding my old life was shattered into a thousand pieces.

I believed that I was forgotten. I was a name that appeared in a pile of old issues of The Comics Journal, another in a long line of asshole bloggers who came online to bloviate about superheroes and rock music. I had a few people I knew who liked my work and always spread the links around – you know who you are, because I’ve thanked you in person. But I didn’t think anyone cared.

I was a spent force. I was exhausted. I was a blogger who didn’t blog, a writer who didn’t write, a critic who stopped caring years ago about “good” and “bad.” My site was a ghost town, surely just two steps away from that final, irrevocable concluding post, you know the one – “well, it’s been a while since I posted last, but . . .” I’m sure there were a few of you expecting to find that on October 11th.

And then suddenly, in an instant, I wasn’t any of those things. I wrote a 6,000 word coming out letter that went semi-viral. It ended up on Metafilter, and especial thanks to Martin Wisse for that gift unasked. What was the final tally for the piece?

As of 01/17/17

Almost 11K.

There were two things that made me realize that the essay maybe was pretty good after all, against all my low-self-esteem-fueled expectations:

One, the essay circulated for an eternity on the internet – at least a day – without anyone on social media giving away the ending. Think about that: people actually read it, and the reason I know they read it is that they knew how important preserving the final twist actually was.

Two, the essay continued to circulate, via Twitter and Metafilter, among people who didn’t know me from Adam or, heh, Eve. I expected people I knew to be kind, but I wasn’t expecting total strangers to say things like: 

That’s just a sample. All those people I never knew, pulled together by the intense emotional experience of reading me talk about Star Wars.

What do you even say to something like that?
  • Even after everything has fallen apart, there is still life enough to fill a universe, hope enough to rage forever against the brutality and ignorance of the worst evils. (Link)
In 2016 I learned that everything I thought I had known about myself had been a lie, and then a few months later the same thing happened again.

I truly believed that I had no talent. I truly believed that my effectively quitting writing in 2007 was a good thing, and that getting “realistic” about my limitations as a writer was necessary and important. I truly believed no one but a few nerds here and there even remembered who I was. I truly believed I was better off teaching writing than actually writing.

And then, after October 11th, I learned that all of this was rubbish. The lesson came abruptly, violently, and without any possibility of appeal. There was just no way for me to get around the fact that every ounce of low self esteem I had cherished over the years, every argument and critique and dismissal, every enemy I had made and every monumentally stupid and ill-informed opinion I published had not, in fact, made me a pariah.

I still don’t know how it happened. I don’t know where 10,794 clicks came from. I don’t know where all these people who remembered my writing and remembered me were hiding. All the people who must have read the essay and urged it on to their friends, family, and coworkers. I had no good answer, I have no good answer, and there is no possible way to spin the situation from an unflattering angle. People liked the essay. They liked me. They like me. You like me.

What a world. 
  • Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time might be thinking that I've gone soft in my old age. I mean, this blog used to provide at least a modicum of comic culture commentary, now it's just leftfield indie reviews buffeted by weird photoshop projects. I can definitely see why I may have slipped down a notch from the ring of "A-List" bloggers -- not that I'm bitter, no. You kids today, with your Dave's Long Box and your When Fangirls Attack. Why I remember when all we had was Neilalien, and a rock, and sometimes when we were really lucky Neilalien would link to the rock and it would make a hollow "ponk" sound like someone tapping a coconut with their finger. (Link)
I will begin by thanking the person I always thank first; he who must always be thanked first in any lineup of comics bloggers. Neilalien “retired” years ago but you wouldn’t know it from his website, still your best one-stop-shop for Dr. Strange news. He was the first of us, and in many ways the best of us. The earliest community of comics bloggers was composed of people who either knew Neil or had been helped by Neil. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for the behind-the-scenes stuff he did to keep other peoples’ blogs working. I know because he used to give me technical help in the earliest days, and I’m not the only one. He cares about blogging, really cares about the medium in a way that was inspirational to every single one of us “foundational” comics bloggers who first congregated around Journalista! 1.0 way back in the day. Thank you, Neil.

Mike Sterling is one of a handful of people named in my coming out essay. He was a good friend before I came out to him, and I believe he was the first person outside my immediate family to whom I came out. The reason why is that he is the kindest person I know, an opinion that has only been reinforced a hundred times since then. When it was time to announce my new name publicly, I asked him to do it on his blog because it’s the one place I know where our old community still comes together. He makes it look easy, even if it isn’t. I’m happy to report that I’ve been three times to Sterling Silver Comics, and each time the store has looked more prosperous – more stock and more customers. I sincerely hope it will remain so for many years and decades to come. Thank you, Mike.

Bully the Little Stuffed Bull – and his pal John, of course – is someone I have grown to care about a great deal over the years. His site is the kind of site you used to see all over the place: knowledgeable, funny, with a distinctive editorial voice and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of comic book trivia. It’s also extraordinarily labor intensive, such that it is a rare visit to Bully’s site when I don’t marvel to myself, “how the hell does he find all the time in the day?” I am glad Bully exists and believe he serves a necessary function in our lives: no matter how bad or weird or unpleasant things get, Bully is always there to remind us that comics oughta be fun. It’s been a rough few months for Bully, just like all of us. I’ll always remember when I first saw his little ear peaking out of the dresser drawer where he’d gone to hide out from the world after the election – that’s the first time in those awful first weeks of this Brave New World I felt a surge of real hope. If a little stuffed bull can find it within himself to face the world, what excuse do I have? Thank you, Bully.

A younger blogger, but one who has become very dear to me in the last few months, Odai Quaye has already distinguished himself for his thoughtful and perceptive writing. He did me the ultimate honor a little while ago by actually writing something about me! I didn’t have the words to thank him for such a kind gesture, and I still don’t. The idea that someone, anyone, would think enough of my writing to see me as an actual influence – I could never have imagined that. I anticipate a bright future for him. Odai, my friend: things will improve with time and perspective. I know that sucks to hear, but the best thing you can do is just start writing now and never stop. Then by the time the perspective arrives, you will have the necessary skill to use it. You will have to write a million bad words before you will be able to write something you are proud of, but trust me, you’ll get there. Please look at all the bullshit I’ve done over the last fifteen years and avoid those mistakes – go make your own. Thank you, Odai.
  • I don't have anything particularly thoughtful or poignant to say, so I'll just say thanks to everyone who reads, and thanks to everyone who doesn't read; thanks to everyone, period. Extra special thanks to every other blogger in the world. So I'll just put out a blanket thank-you to everyone, even the people I hate or find annoying, because hey, we're all one big happy family. (Link)
Looking back at my life I realize I haven’t always done a good job supporting the people who supported me. Milo George is the first person in a position of power at any publication who liked my writing. Hell, I don’t even know if he liked it so much as he liked the fact that I usually turn in relatively clean copy, even if I’m usually also (always) late on my deadlines. It’s been over a decade since you worked at The Journal, but you’ll always be the only editor I ever had who I respected enough to let monkey with my copy and not feel huffy about it. You were also a good friend back in the dark days of 2004-2005, a period that I believe was very difficult for you as well. Your life has improved considerably since The Long Road Home, and I regret that we don’t talk much any more, but you were one of the earliest and most vocal supporters of this blog. Thank you, Milo.

I have in the past thanked the two patron saints of this blog, Abhay Khosla and Jon Morris (including being mentioned in The Essay), so I don’t think I need to say more other than to say I still consider you both to be far better writers than myself and remain profoundly humbled by every compliment you have thrown my way. You two don’t have much in common other than the fact that I always thank you both in the same breath – hell, I don’t even know if you even like each other. But you were both formative influences on me as a writer, and that has not changed in the decade-and-a-half-ish since I first discovered Title Bout and Gone and Forgotten. Thank you both.

Of all the blogs I follow and all the bloggers I feel privileged to know, Andrew Weiss is in a class by himself. The writing I’m doing now is something I picked up from reading your example: confessional essays structured around pop-culture musings, personal memories accreted around music or comics or TV shows that open up little windows into scenes from our lives. Sure, you’re not the first person to do it. But in our little corner of the blogosphere there is no one quite so uncompromising or unflinchingly honest. You’re also a walking bullshit detector, and one of the few people I pay attention to when you call me out on something (which has happened a few times and will surely happen again, me being me). And you’re funny, too, when you want to be, as well as being the only person who can make me care about video games just by describing some badly localized 30-year-old JRPG that had a limited print run on the Sega Master System. Thank you, Andrew.

I am going to officially label Tucker Stone as my #1 fan. I thought about embarrassing you by putting up one of your early gushing e-mails to me, but suffice it to say they exist, I have them, and you better not piss me off. You gave me without necessarily even realizing it the great gift of being my closest reader. You read what I write and you actually think about it. You give it the exact same weight and consideration as you do anything else you read (and you read quite a bit). Sometimes you tell me things about my writing that I didn’t even know. I would also like to state, publicly and for the record, that if you ever published TV of the Weak again, I’d drop everything else to once again write about Grey’s Anatomy for you. Thank you, Tucker.

I don’t have space to fully thank everyone I want to thank. If I didn’t thank you here, it’s not because I don’t love you, but because this is a list of the bloggers and writers who, knowingly or not, helped me on my way to thirteen fucking years of erratic bullshit, AKA The Hurting. There are tons of Twitter pals who have excelled over the years in showing their appreciation and support – Cormac, Mario, and Cole spring to mind, although if memory serves me well I believe you all got started as commenters on my site. Jog – Joe McCulloch – you’re the dean of our generation of comics writers, and the respect I have for you based on your limitless font of knowledge and enthusiasm about the medium is pretty much unequaled. Justin - we'll be seeing more of each other in the coming years, I'm fairly certain. Megan – well, I’ve thanked you elsewhere but I’ll say it again: you were his good friend but my great friend.

To all the comics industry figures who forgot about me over the years, well, that’s OK, I kind of forgot about myself too. Still, after writing a long coming out essay with a lengthy digression about the history of comics criticism over the last couple decades, it was interesting to see on whose radar I still registered. I burnt some bridges over the years and that’s not always something that you can fix with one well-timed personal revelation. Oh well. I’ll get ‘em next time.

  • I'm not living in a garret yet, but I haven't had a shower in over a month, we have no heat besides space heaters (during the coldest New England weather in decades, no less), this house is falling apart, our life is falling apart and my wife is in the hospital. Again. What keeps us going? Besides our love (which is something that I am certain you do not wish to hear about [fucking ha ha ha I say from 2016]) it’s a dogged belief that life matters, that its important to keep living and keep striving. This is not where I thought I'd be at this point in my life and for this I am grateful. Pain and turmoil can only make us stronger, can only strengthen our commitment to those things in life that do matter. (Link.)

I began the year a mess, on a downward spiral, eating myself to oblivion and content to let every important thing in my life slip away. My blogging output in that time was epic Tweetstorms about the Joel Schumacher Batman movies – yeah, I watched those a couple weeks before I figured out I was trans, so draw the line yourself. I think, in hindsight, that this was the work of someone who was on the way to losing their mind.

(But, you know, they’re still funny: here’s Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. I did one for Superman Returns but I found that movie so depressing – and it was literally the day before April 30th – that I do not want to revisit that moment in time or that headspace, ever.)

I ended the year – well, a woman, for one thing.

But also somehow 1/3 of the way into writing a book?

It’s been quiet for the last couple months but I am already resuming work on the next chapters. Between the election, the end of the academic quarter, the holidays, a trip to LA in December, and of course, the stress of coming out and getting ready to live publicly as a woman, there wasn’t a lot of writing time. But that changes – well, now. Life won’t wait.

For those who may have come in late, I have written five chapters of something that will end up as a series of essays about my life. It’s not a “memoir,” let alone a “trans memoir” – there are already enough of those. It’s just my life. I’m trying to come up with a dozen sequels to “One Hundred and Sixty Four Days” – maybe that’s a fool’s game given the response that one received, but I still have to try.

I do think “Gimme Some Truth” is a better-written essay even if the emotional connection may well be more recondite for most readers. I wrote that one for all the folks who stood by me all those years when my output was little more than the occasional dribble. If you’ve been following me long enough to develop a taste for my writing, this one is for you. I purposefully eased the safety brake on all the wonky shit that I sometimes try to minimize for a more general audience – so that was one for the Tuckers in the audience. 

“I Am Not A Good Person” got a good response from people who recognized themselves in my own self-hatred – a surprising amount of people. “Trifles, Light As Air” is about Donald Duck, Carl Barks, and failure. The election happened halfway through the writing thereof, so if you detect a bit of a response to Current Events it’s probably not a coincidence. Speaking of which, “Someday We Will AllBe Free” is not an essay I wanted to wrote nor believed I would need to. But it was necessary to find some hope in the midst of a very hopeless time.

I even managed to set up a Patreon – and don’t think the money isn’t greatly appreciated, and even if you only contribute a dollar, that’s one more dollar than I had yesterday. It also makes me feel accountable: people are actually waiting to get what they paid for. Best get on the stick.
  • The only possible reason you would have to be blogging about comics in the first place is the fact that you have a special interest in comics above other arts. In all seriousness, why would you bother writing about comics if you didn’t really care for them and about them, or liked them far less than you did, say, movies or novels? Why not just write about movies or novels or poetry or pottery or whatever, if that’s what holds your interest?

    So the assumption is that if you’re writing about comics at all – especially with the low signal to noise ratio inherent to the medium and the extremely low rewards involved – you must hold comics in a special place in your heart. If not, well, why bother?
Some of you may be wondering how long this website will continue. I used to toy with the idea of shuttering it, especially during one of the periodic low points, but I never actually pulled the trigger. There was always something that held me back from lowering the curtain. And now, look at that. Long after almost every blog that started thirteen years ago has shuttered, I’m still around – why?

I think the answer can be found in the fact that as soon as I knew I was trans, I knew it was something I’d end up writing about on The Hurting. I knew that I needed to eventually write something to make sense of . . . everything . . . and I needed a place to put it. Why not here?

There were times when my connection to this blog were stretched so thin as to almost break, but I’ve always come back. If I’m down on comics I write about music, and if I’m down on music I write about movies. I always need to be writing, and I’m not very happy when I’m not. But I also needed to disabuse myself of the idea that I would eventually return to daily-or-near-daily posting and linkblogging – something I think about time to time and beat myself up for not being able to do like I used to. Mike still does it, and he does it better than I ever could.

This site is . . . well, it’s home. I’ve moved a lot. I’ve had different jobs, different relationships. Lived all over Massachusetts and California. (Lived in Oklahoma for a couple years there, too, but that was in the days before this blog). Was married, didn’t take. All throughout I’ve kept the same ugly (and my god is it ugly) orange blogger template, the very same template I set up on that fateful day thirteen years ago. I’ll never change it. (I changed it once – to white text against a black background. Heidi MacDonald specifically singled it out as ugly and difficult to read, which was cool.)

I can no more get rid of this blog than I could cut off a part of my body. It’s who I am. It’s a mess, irregular, erratic opinionated, digressive, hyper-verbose to a repulsive degree, insular, poorly coded (I mean, I let dead links pile up in the sidebar for years between cleanings), sometimes simply infuriating. Just like its owner. But also just like its owner, there’s something here that keeps people coming back year after the year, long after most similar websites have faded into the digital dust. I need to stop questioning it. I stick around. I’m still here. I’m still alive.

If you’re still reading? Thank you, sincerely. I don’t know what I did to deserve the things this blog has brought me – the friends I have made, the colleagues I have connected with, the violent arguments and the terrible jokes. The one constant remains a devotion to comics trivia that manages to be as scattershot as it is far-reaching.

I don’t know what the next year, what the next five or thirteen or thirty will hold. It’s a weird time to be alive. But I am optimistic. I am always optimistic these days. I have a new lease on life, and that’s no hyperbole. In the last eight months I have begun the process of changing everything in my life, and will continue to change my life until it is eventually unrecognizable. There is always continuity, though, and for me the form this continuity takes is The Hurting, my home and my heart.

Sometimes I’m gone for months. Sometimes I post three times in a week. I’m happy where I am now – periodic serious essays and maybe, once I establish more of a rhythm in the new year, other updates as well. I don’t know. The Hurting has no other function than to reflect my life and my thoughts, and as those change the site will continue to change as well.

But whatever happens, don’t worry about me coming back, eventually.

I always have, and I always will.


bitterandrew said...

The feeling is mutual, Tegan.

I recall following back one of your Fanboy Rampage comments to the site, saw shelter animals and that you were MA-based at the time, then added you to my bookmarks.

I'm glad I did.

nomatrix12 said...

I feel that if it were possible i could gush about this

but the most i can honestly say is

holy shit thank you

Unknown said...

In an Internet where many people are wary of even giving out their (actual) first name, this is awe-inspiring.

Congratulations on all you have achieved with your year and your writing.

William Burns said...

Happy blogiversary, and many more!

Mikester said...

You're a swell cat, Tegan.

Bully said...

I am absolutely touched by the so-very nice things you have said about me, Tegan. I will strive to continue to bring the fun!

Happy Blogoversary, and many many more!

Words Seem Out of Place said...

I'm one of the folks you don't know who commented on the October post, Tegan. I said it then and I'll say it again: your blog has long been a favorite of mine, even if I haven't commented much (or at all?) in the past. I'd dip in and out, catching up on months of posts at a time, just living inside your words and finding myself thinking about things in new and exciting ways after each visit here. Your blog was most definitely one of the most important influences on own blog when I started it almost two years ago. Not to say we write similarly, just that you're style--brutally honest and endearingly self-effacing, among other qualities--is one I've always striven for myself. Years ago when I discovered your blog I though, "Ah! A kindred spirit."

So, thank you for all you've written and will continue to write. As an avid follower of the AV Club's comics coverage (I comment quite a bit over there, in fact), I always love seeing your work there, too. I wish you the best with this twelve part series, and beyond, of course.

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

Loved your writing when we knew you as Tim, will continue to love it as we know you as Tegan. You, Tucker Stone, and Abhay Kol...Kolsahs...Abhay K. are my favorite past-and-present writers on the form of comics without a doubt.