Vegetables Are Fun?

Dramatis Personae
Nezu — A nerdy, bear-shaped guy who would much rather write stories, watch anime, and surf Tumblr than cook or exercise.
DK — A taller, slenderer nerdy guy with similar preferences to Nezu. Nezu's housemate and close friend.
Ki — A fit and active woman, good friends with DK and Nezu, who despite her own fondness for writing and watching K-dramas and surfing Tumblr, manages to make time for and enjoy exercise and cooking. She generally despairs over the tragic bachelorness of Nezu and DK's daily diet.

[scene: a conversation]
Nezu: Ki, you will be so proud of me! I have eaten a large bowl of vegetables. Well, lettuce and cabbage and carrot and cilantro salad. Does that count as vegetables?
Ki: I'm very proud. Those are all vegetables.
Nezu: Yay! I wasn't sure if being in a salad invalidated them somehow.
Ki: Salad is generally composed of vegetables?
Nezu: I guess this is true!
DK: ... Nezu, what do you think salad is?
Nezu: Well, lettuces and stuff. I wasn't sure lettuce counted because it's not very nutrient-rich. And carrots taste nice, so they might not count, either.
Ki: Lettuce is like the preeminent vegetable.
DK: This explains much.
Ki: Although iceberg lettuce is not very nutrient-rich, it's true. Romaine is much better and much tastier.
Nezu: This was bibb lettuce, I think, and the salad did have cabbage. Cabbage is inarguably a vegetable. Maybe I need to rethink vegetables. I defined "vegetable" as "food that doesn't taste all that nice that you have to eat anyway" when I was a little kid, and never managed to redefine it.
Ki: Yeah, vegetables are fun!
Nezu: I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far, but at least if I am allowed to define salad as vegetables, I'll stop feeling like I never eat vegetables.
[end scene]

So really, what's my deal with vegetables? I was one of those kids who disliked most vegetables. In fact, I found out as an adult that I'm a supertaster with more tastebuds and a greater sensitivity to bitter flavors than the average person. Supertasters generally don't care for vegetables much. When I was a kid there were a limited number of plant-based foods that I liked, most of them sweet fruits and bland veggies.

(The exceptions were, strangely, spinach and broccoli. Ordinarily those two veggies are anathema to supertasters, but my mom allowed me unlimited lemon juice on those. Despite my aversion to bitter, I am an absolute fiend for sour, always have been. I'll delightedly eat lemons and limes out of hand, and used to beg for those little lemon-shaped squeeze bottles of juice as a treat.)

But in general the vegetables I liked as a kid, my mom explicitly told me didn't count. Corn? Not really a vegetable, but a grain. Celery? a snack, not a vegetable. Potato? Starch, not vegetable. Baked beans? Starch again. Only things like green beans and peas and squash (ewww squash) counted, and I detested them. (Still detest peas and squash - yuk!) Salad, when we had it, which was rarely, wasn't called a vegetable. It was salad, its own special class of food, and again, because it was made of lettuce, didn't really count.

So I've spent my life with the belief that I disliked vegetables, and that if it comes from a plant and I like it, it's not a vegetable. But recently I've encountered vegetables in several settings where I really enjoyed them. Edamame and oshitashi at a Japanese restaurant, baby bok choy in some Chinese takeout, roasted green beans with bacon at a friend's house, lightly steamed carrot coins mixed into mashed potatoes at home. (Ok, that was bachelor food again, but it was healthy bachelor food, and we made the mashed potatoes from scratch.)

So I'm trying to rethink vegetables. Also servings. The package of salad mix I used for the aforementioned meal claimed it had 3.5 servings. It made one meal for me. Add in the half-pint of raspberries I'm eating now, I'll have almost my whole five recommended servings for the day. If I made a smoothie with the strawberries in the freezer and a banana, I'd be over quota for the day, all on things I enjoyed eating.

This is revolutionary.


SitM—Jared Leto Won an Oscar and I'm OK with That

New short post up at Somewhere in the Middle: Jared Leto Won an Oscar and I'm OK with That, about the kerfuffle some people are raising over a cisgender straight man winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a gay trans*woman.

Also recently posted there: Trans* Language in Brief, a primer on basic trans* terms in response to the new gender options available on Facebook.

Comments (and disagreements) are always welcome and encouraged, as long as you keep it civil. :)


Why Is There So Much Gay in My Fandom?

I write fanfic. Epic, world-expanding, side-character developing, backstory-building, alternate-universe exploring fanfic. Something I hear with fair regularity from people both in and outside fandom is, “Why are so many of the characters in your stories gay or bisexual? Why are you making this canon character gay or bisexual? Why are all his friends gay or bisexual? That’s totally unrealistic.”

[TLDR: It is so realistic. Queer people form social groups; deal with it.]

There are a lot of potential answers here, among them the fact that I’m queer and I want to write about (and read about and look at artwork portraying) characters like myself. I could go on at length about how queer fic subverts the cultural bias against male intimacy, and is a direct result of a sexist system that casts almost all the interesting characters as male. I could discuss heteronormative bias in mainstream media, and the vast reservoir of het fandom that exists in parallel to queer fandom. I could point out that actually, I write quite a few straight characters into my stories, too.

But there’s another answer that’s just as, if not more, important: It’s totally realistic.

I’m queer in real life. And in real life, so are the majority of my friends. I have straight friends, for sure, but I have a lot of queer friends. Lesbian friends, gay friends, bi friends, trans* friends. You know why? Because people with similar interests and life experiences tend to form social groups. We hang out together because, in part, we have queerness in common. In a world where our queerness makes us the “them”, when we’re together, we’re the “us.” That makes a huge difference to our psychological and social well being. In many cases we know each other because we are queer. That’s how we met—at an LGBT event or social gathering place. And then we found out we shared other things in common, and we became friends. Or we met at work, and found each other because we shared queerness, and that led, again, to a discovery that we had other things in common, and we became friends.

When I write about a bunch of queer characters all hanging out together and being friends, dating, and having sex with one another, I’m not inventing a fantasy social structure that doesn’t exist in the real world. Queer people really do hang out, form social groups, date each other, have sex, and set their other queer friends up with dates with each other. The fantasy element is that it’s these characters, in this particular world. And that it’s not such a big deal. It’s not just tacitly assumed that everyone is straight until proven otherwise.

So why is there so much gay in my fandom? Because just like in real life, there’s a fair amount of gay everywhere, if you look in the right places.

genma swear

Morning Page: Discipline

Discipline for doing daily journaling, it turns out, is something I don't have. I have, instead, occasional bouts of intention and follow through, followed by long spans of distracted spending of my time on other things.

But you know, they say the thing about trying to cultivate good habits is not to beat yourself up for your failures, so instead of wringing my hands over the number of times I've started and stopped the habit of morning pages, I figure I'll just get on with things and try again, while motivation is with me.

They also say to make goals specific and achievable. So my goal with morning pages is to write them weekly. And if I manage to do more, yay, but if I achieve at least one a week, I'll have succeeded.

Also I intend to ignore the whole "morning" thing. And to let myself write whatever the heck I please. And to be aware that I have an audience, and not care. So there, discipline.

So on my mind today is health, Or lack thereof. I'm on the next to last day of a two week course of prednisone, and while it was a huge win in terms of being able to breathe, I am feeling so inflated it's not funny. My belly is protuberant like a beach ball and my cheeks are chipmunkish. And while part of me knows it's a side effect and that I've been ill, another part feels indolent and unattractive. Especially because darksideofstorm, my much loved housemate, started a new fitness program the very same week I got so sick, so while he's off exercising and slimming down and looking fabulous, I'm blowing up like a puffer fish and wheezing and lying around being pathetic and envying him his athleticism.

Which adds to my unattractiveness. Petty jealousy is hardly the stuff dreamboats are made of.

Maybe if I can make myself go to the gym during the day while he's at work, I'll stop feeling so pathetic. There's that discipline thing again, too.

I wish I was one of those people for whom exercise is its own reward, but it's just not. I don't enjoy it. I want to enjoy it. I want to be one of those people who says they feel emotionally better when they exercise regularly. I want to be one of those people who can tell a difference in their health and energy when they exercise regularly. I'm not. From what I can tell, when I exercise regularly, I get a tiny boost of emotional well-being from being able to say "I am doing this thing I don't like because it is good for me, see I am a responsible adult," and that's it.

Maybe I need to get back into Fat Acceptance and adjust my thinking that way.

Years ago, I subscribed to a FA magazine that I don't think is even published anymore. It had photos and essays of fat people doing active things, being happy, wearing clothes they liked, and generally not bowing to a culture that says fat is pathological.

In the last ten years, fat has become the new boogie monster. It's medicalized and stigmatized like crazy these days. Newspapers decry the "obesity epidemic" but always with that edge that says it's the fatties' fault—they make bad choices, eat bad things, don't try hard enough, don't care enough, and while we're at it, they're bringing the rest of society down and costing us money. A thin lifetime smoker who gets lung cancer and emphysema gets more sympathy than an active but fat person who gets diabetes. Nevermind that more than two-thirds of North Americans are considered "overweight or obese". Seriously. Two-thirds. What that means is that "normal" weight isn't the norm. The norm is to be fat.

I look at my round belly and feel disgusting and hopeless. And I look at athletic people and think: I can never be that. I feel less than. A second-class citizen at best.

Aaaaand now I've depressed myself. Maybe stream-of-consciousness writing is not such a great idea after all.

I'll remind myself that I once thought it was unattainable to transition, and that turned out to be false. It took money and effort and time, but mostly what it took was a willingness to believe that I could be a man if I wanted to be. And now I am one.

So there's that.

Maybe when I stop being so wheezy. Maybe even if I don't stop being so wheezy. Maybe next week. Maybe I will try one more time to make exercise a habit.

Alive and an Uncle!

I stopped writing here because of... reasons. Reasons I'm currently unsure of. I suspect laziness. Also busyness. Anyway, here's a synopsis:

January and February: Lived in Orange County temporarily and directed the workshop production of Upstairs. Also did graphic design for the production, created the logo and t-shirts, created the original wordpress website (now supplanted by the above) and learned to deal with LA traffic.

March and April: Got sick, recovered, and started planning for the New Orleans premiere of the play. Worked on website, reviewed script changes, did some casting, etc. Also watched Game of Thrones.

May: Started ANBU Legacy, a new collaborative writing venture with Fallen Leaves writers DK (darksideofstorm), Ki (kilerkki), and GM. It's an AU set in a Konoha where the Yondaime defeated the Kyuubi— and lived. Like Fallen Leaves before it, Legacy is focused on the young men and women of ANBU, who took the vow to defend the Hokage and their village at all costs. It is my new shiny happiness.

May and June: Lived in Hollywood temporarily and directed and co-produced the full debut production of Upstairs. Traveled to New Orleans, LA for the premiere, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the fire at the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans, that the play is a memorial to, followed by a one-night-only encore performance in Los Angeles.

Awesomely, DK, stalwart housemate, writing companion, and best friend, accompanied us to New Orleans as our general dogsbody and hassler. He ran box office, helped organize everything, and made the whole trip that much more awesome.

July: Finally got to come home. Celebrated by going to Comic-Con in San Diego with DK, and two other friends, and then getting spectacularly sick with bronchitis, which I still have.

July 31, 2013: Became an uncle! Congratulations to my baby brother Chandler and his wife Leah, and welcome to the world, Harvey Mohr McCallum!

Harvey and Leah
rainbow flag

Please Support My Work, Help an Emerging Playwright, and Right a 40-Year-Old Injustice

Dear readers and friends,

Before I was ever a writer and editor, I was, and continue to be, a theatre professional. Specifically a director and stage manager. For the last month I've been in Los Angeles to direct a workshop production of a new dramatic musical. I've been immensely privileged to work on all three of Wayne Self's original musicals, including this latest work, Upstairs, about the 1973 arson fire at the Up Stairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans. It’s rare in musical theatre to be able to address such weighty themes; the Up Stairs Lounge fire is as much a part of the LGBTQ rights story as Stonewall, Harvey Milk, the AIDS Quilt, and Prop 8. It is a story that needs to be told, and it needs to be remembered.

Today I am asking for three things:

1. Donate to the Upstairs Kickstarter. We need to raise $10,000 by February 17, or we get none of the money pledged so far. Every little bit helps, even just a dollar or two.
2. If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area 2/12-2/14, come see one of the three workshop performances of Upstairs.
3. If you know anyone who might be interested in helping us make the New Orleans 40th anniversary performance and an L.A. production a reality this summer, pass along the Upstairs website and Kickstarter information to them. Signal Boost this everywhere you can.


What's this about?

tells the long-forgotten story of a tragic arson fire in a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973. Thirty-two people, many of them members of the then-fledgling New Orleans Metropolitan Community Church, which had been meeting at the Up Stairs Lounge, were killed, in what remains to this day the single deadliest crime against an LGBT population in US history. At the time, the story was almost completely ignored by the news media. Though a suspect was identified, no arrest was ever made.

Wayne's play is an elegant, haunting tale of damnation and salvation, telling the stories of several of the victims of the fire. The characters include Buddy (based on the real Buddy Rasmussen), a bartender who led 35 people to safety, and Buddy's partner Adam. Mitch, the associate pastor of the NOLA MCC, and his partner Horace. Drag performer Marcy and her dresser Reginald. And Agneau, a tormented and self-hating gay man. It is a morality play with a twist, told with sensitivity and dark humor, with a catchy and modern jazz and blues influenced score.

The cast is amazing: professional, insightful, and just tremendously talented. This Q&A with some of the cast members will give you an idea of the caliber of people I am working with.

In two weeks we will be premiering this workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Performances are scheduled for 2/12 in San Mateo, 2/13 in Berkeley, and 2/14 in San Francisco, and tickets are still available. We hope to bring an expanded production to New Orleans this summer, in time for the 40th anniversary of the fire, and to bring the show to Los Angeles for a two week run after that. But that will only happen if the workshop performances and our Kickstarter are a success.

As I said at the opening, here's how you can help:

1. Donate to the Upstairs Kickstarter. We need to raise $10,000 by February 17, or we get none of the money pledged so far. Every little bit helps, even just a dollar or two.
2. If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area 2/12-2/14, come see one of the three workshop performances of Upstairs.
3. If you know anyone who might be interested in helping us make the New Orleans 40th anniversary performance and an L.A. production a reality this summer, pass along the Upstairs website and Kickstarter information to them. Signal Boost this everywhere you can.

Thank you so much for any support you can give.
Zach McCallum (aka Nezu)
Director, Upstairs

Owldolatrous Press: Nezu's New "Job"

I've been devoting my time for the last several months to a new project: I'm Managing Editor and a contributing author at Owldolatrous Press, an LGBTQI-positive webzine. As editor I'm doing a lot of management and behind the scenes work, as well as copy-editing and some graphic design. And as a contributor, I'm writing, mostly from a trans* perspective.

Here are my articles to date, I'd be honored if you read them, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and responses. Feel free to leave me feedback here or on the Owldolatrous site if you are so moved.

Transgender Narratives: Why We Lie
The media myth is that all transgender people share a common story, but the truth is much more complex and rich. Some of us didn't know from birth, but the pressure to pretend we did is immense.

Tranarchy in Pacifica
Graffiti in a sleepy seaside town seems to indicate there's more to Pacifica than meets the eye.

Wait, I’m Back in the Closet? Coming Out Transgender
By the time Zach started coming out as transgender, he'd been out as queer for so long he'd forgotten how scary the process was. He found the stakes were even higher this time, as he came out again to family, friends, and co-workers, and to a whole new set of people. This time he wasn't just asking them to accept his queerness, he was asking them to change what they called him and how they interacted with him: to think of him in an entirely new way.

Taking on a Full Grown Bully
"If you want to live in a world where bullying doesn’t happen, it is your business to try to make it stop." Zach’s long-held resolve never to stand idly by when someone is being bullied was tested when he and a friend intervened in a street altercation and found themselves the bullies’ new targets.

Nonpliments: How Not to Give a Trans* Person a Compliment
When is a compliment not a compliment? When it's a nonpliment. Editor Zach McCallum dissects that unfortunate old standard, "You pass so well," gives several examples of the nonpliment in disguise from his own experience, and offers a much better alternative. The most important thing to remember is that a true compliment never needs a qualifier. Here’s my favorite: “You look great!”

What's Wrong With Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20 is a day set aside to honor and remember transgender victims of hate crimes. The statistics are appalling, but what does it say about trans* people that the only day we have on the calendar as our own is a day of grief? Zach McCallum looks forward to a day when we celebrate our trans* siblings lives rather than mourn their deaths.