I just read Lockpick Pornography, a short book by Joey Comeau, one of the authors of the webcomic A Softer World. It was a powerful book and packed more emotional impact for me than anything I have read recently, particularly since I finished it in under an hour. It starts out with a bunch of strange and hilarious rants as the main character goes about breaking things, stealing things, and generally causing a ruckus as he strikes back at the straight world that so constantly dumps on him due to him being queer. It is filled with wonderful quotes, like the following:
But I promised myself that if the talking head said "Of course we should be more tolerant of the gays," one more time I would kick in the TV, and if you can't trust your own word what can you trust?
The main plotline involves the main character and three other queer folks deciding to create a book designed to teach children that violating gender and sexual norms is okay and then breaking into various schools to deposit copies of the book in classrooms. Along the way all kinds of sex is had and crazy discussions occur and Comeau writes wonderfully and it is great fun.
But there is also a lot of not fun. The main characters don't limit themselves to a bit of deviant book placement and hassling of fast food workers (This Coke turned me gay!) but also decide to go out and rape a teenager for a combination of political statement and entertainment, kidnap an eight year old to get back at his parents, and randomly punch and kick people they happen upon. By the time the book ended I was feeling just terrible about the world.
I read plenty of books with murder and carnage and much worse things than these characters do and they don't disturb me like this. It clearly isn't the savagery itself but rather the way I feel about the characters perpetrating the violence. That sense that the world hates me and that I am filled with the desire to punish it in return brings me back to my early teens. It was not a good time and there was plenty of desire twisting within me to crush, smash, and inflict suffering upon those who so revelled in tormenting me. Comeau manages to bring me back there through these characters, to make me remember that state, to be in a place where all I want is the strength to hurt them back. Being there is not a happy thing.
I still have that fury within me but the tone is very different now. These days my rage is controlled, directed. Even when people are being awful I think in my mind "I will not make the whole world blind. Revenge accomplishes nothing. Extend the hand." and I bend that energy to my will rather than letting it spill out of control. It is easier to do that of course when you pass as normal, which I do most of the time now. If I didn't have that privilege, if I had to defend myself constantly, all day, every day, I don't know that I could maintain that control. I like to think that I could but you don't know that until you live it.
If you read Lockpick Pornography I can promise you lots of interesting writing and ideas that, for most people, will push your boundaries. I can't promise it will make you happy though, as it sure had the opposite effect on me. Reading it made me remember being thirteen years old and even though that made me both sad and angry it is worth remembering that state as it grants me both compassion and perspective.