My Musical Evolution

Music is magical. There is something about it that can transport me anywhere. I takes just a moment for me to get lost in the past, present, or future.  If the soul exists, music is the purest form of communication between different souls. Listening to music (sadly, I have yet to find any musical talent within myself) has always been important to me throughout my life, though the genres that I listened to have varied widely.

Growing up I was only allowed to listen to Christian and Country music. I guess this was to prevent me from being dirtied by the secular world. In a way this makes sense, my home was “god and country”, Christian music reinforced the religious foundation and Country is very American nationalism. I didn’t mind country but I was more in tune with rock during my teenage years. My cassette tapes were mostly Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, Petra, and dc Talk. I proudly wore their t-shirts to high school which, in retrospect, probably didn’t help my decidedly unpopular and nerdy persona.

Aside from occasionally listening to the radio (KNRK Portland – The New Rock Alternative!) I didn’t have a lot of secular variety in my music until I discovered MxPx. MxPx is a punk band that was (is?) also Christian. Their music had some religious aspects but they weren’t in your face about it. God may be mentioned but the focus was on being a teenager and surviving the world. The lyrics spoke to me at a time in my life when I was trying to figure things out as a Christian teen. By listing their influences on the back of their CD cases MxPx also introduced me to non-Christian punk bands like NOFX, The Ramones, and Misfits. I started to realize you can be influenced by artists who have different political and religious views than you. At this point I was no longer young enough for my parents to control my music.

When I joined the Army I had shifted pretty strongly into punk, pop-punk, and emo. Again, I think this is a reflection of the lyrics. The words always came first to me, regardless of musical genre. Bands like Fallout Boy, Tsunami Bomb, Blink-182, Green Day, and The Ataris filled my harddrive (thanks Napster!). While I was still pretty conservative at the time these musical influences were decidedly not. Around this time there was a lot of anti-war sentiment within music, particularly when Bush sent troops into Iraq. My only interaction with non-Conservative thought at that time was within music. It was a strange time, I would be listening to American Idiot by Green Day while reading a book by Sean Hannity.

Punk was my primary influence for most of college until I was introduced to EDM. EDM was more than just music, it was a community. Being at a rave with tens of thousands of other people dancing and enjoying life was a surreal experience. It was pure, beautiful anarchy. I particularly love artists like Krewella who mix lyrics I can relate to with music I can dance to (Dance, much like playing an instrument, is an art that is traditionally lost on me). I have come to believe that EDM is the newest example of music reflecting the newest generation of a culture. It is often hated by “old” people who see it as noise instead of music. There is always a view that music “used to be good”, but really it is all good for the people involved in it. Music is how youth show their independence and create something unique. It adapts new technology, criticizes old institutions, and is an outlet for frustrations and love. It is how we connect and create a new world.

At this point in my life I love EDM and Kesha and music that inspires revolution (Rise Against, Flobots, et al). I love female voices and lyrics I can relate to. I love being in the crowd, feeling the sweat and tears of a thousand friends, and making eye contact with strangers that express pure love. I love when music allows my soul to talk to another soul. I’m sure my musical tastes will continue to change and evolve with the times (at least I hope so), and I’m excited to see what new generations create.

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How Pure Must Allies Be?

I’ve been active in several different political movements in my life. I was raised conservative, became a libertarian, and am now a “left” libertarian who is passionate about LGBT issues, the drug war, and social justice. One common thread throughout the movements on the left, right, and libertarian is that many people demand a certain amount of purity in their allies. Personally, I think that is destructive. Particularly when that purity is demanded of someone’s past actions. Take Dan Savage, for example.

I like Dan Savage*. He did a lot to open my eyes to gender and sexuality issues and I think he is right a lot of the time. Though, in the past he made some harmful comments about transgender individuals and he contributed to the idea that bisexuality doesn’t really exist (Spoiler: We bisexuals exist). Since making those comments years ago he has become more educated and changed his mind. He has even apologized for making the comments. In reality, Savage has done more for the equality movement than most people… but he is often demonized because he wasn’t perfect in the past. Hell, he probably isn’t perfect now by anyone’s definition, but I’ve seen people say he shouldn’t be supported, his posts shouldn’t be shared, and that he shouldn’t be considered part of the equality movement because of the things he said in the past. It raises the question, how pure must someone be for them to get our support? And how long to we ostracize someone who has since apologized and changed their mind?

I didn’t always believe the things I believe now. I didn’t always support marriage equality. I used to think being gay was a sin and I said many hurtful things in the past. It seems that if I was more famous back in my youth I would be shunned by some of the people that I care about today.

All you have to do is watch the GOP debates or read the thread on a Reason Magazine Facebook post and you will see that most political views are filled with purity tests. You aren’t a “real” libertarian if you think a Basic Income Guarantee might be a pragmatic and beneficial initiative. You aren’t a “real” conservative if you don’t want to kill Muslims. Forget all the ways you might agree with a philosophy, if you don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue you are a phone, a RINO, a fraud, and all your opinions are worthless. If you disagree with some people on one issue you become incapable of contributing anything, even if your contributions are unrelated.

It is sad and really ineffective to destroy allies this way. By focusing on our areas of disagreement we only guarantee our movement will get smaller. Pushing people to the margins and cutting them out of the conversation won’t change their mind. Quite the contrary, it will only shrink their circle until they interact only with the people that you disagree with. If someone is wrong on transgender issues, you don’t decide that they aren’t a feminist, liberal, progressive, libertarian, or whatever and ostracize them, instead if you want to change their mind you bring them into the conversation and celebrate the areas you agree.

It is this pursuit of purity that drove me out of most political activism. My chosen identities of anarchist, feminist, libertarian, etc were constantly under fire until I said “fuck it” and just stopped being active. It wasn’t worth the heartache or headache to try and appease everyone. You destroy allies when you demand purity, and eventually you end up alone.

Of the Male Body

Last week I talked a bit about body issues and how I think our puritanical but overly sexualized society has damaged how we view the human form. After writing that post (and reading this) my lack of credibility when talking about body issues for women seemed incredibly strong but I felt I could talk about how we view the form can affect men, namely me. Of course this is all just coming from one person’s point of view but hell, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

As my regular reader knows I was raised in a Christian Conservative home in the relatively puritanical United States. The result is that I was raised with the view that the body is inherently sexual (yay society) and that any appreciation of the male form is a sin (yay conservatism). So I basically grew up with a deeply entrenched fear that if I saw a naked man and didn’t feel disgust on a spiritual level then I was going to hell, and some part of my brain included my own body in this grouping. In fact, I remember being in middle school and having a sex ed class where they showed the penis and I instantly felt light-headed, nauseous, and I think I audibly groaned in discomfort. In case you didn’t know, being a 14 year old male groaning in the back of the class at this site of a penis is not a good social move.

All through high school I had body image issues (mostly due to my weight) and I felt incredibly uncomfortable around anyone who didn’t display the traditional markings of a heterosexual. All the ingrained intolerance of homosexuals had created a fear inside me that I might be gay and if I hung around gay people or saw naked men I would no longer be able to fight it. So, I ended up joining the army terrified of gay people, embarrassed of my own body (including my penis), and lacking any appreciation for the aesthetic beauty that is the human form.

At some point all of that started to change though. In regards to my own body I became more comfortable with myself as I spent more time naked alone and did a little internet research. I always knew pornography was fantasy but the internet allowed me to find out the actual average erect penis size (spoiler: it depends on the study but 5.5″ – 6.5″ seems about right) and become comfortable with what I have. Plus, you can do a lot more with a tongue, fingers, and toes than the actual penis most of the time. Size isn’t nearly as important as a connection with a person, being able to feel their rhythm, and adjust your actions to pleasure them. About the same time I became comfortable with my body I was also rejecting my conservative upbringing and becoming comfortable with non-heterosexuality.

I agree with the always insightful Cathy, sexuality is more of a sliding scale that depends on time, place, and individuals… it is not simply “straight, gay, bi”. While I occasionally get asked if I’m gay (usually in a derogatory way) because I so openly talk about the beauty of the human form, am comfortable supporting equal rights for all, and have become someone who encourages exploration of all things by consenting adults, I define myself as pansexual. By that I mean I am sexually attracted to people on an individual basis depending on the time, place, my relationship with them, and how attractive I think they are. I love individuals, I find them fascinating, and if there is a mutual attraction and desire I have no problem with exploring that… everything else is just details.

Though, on the show KinK someone described their sexual preference as “group” which I found funny/accurate.