Category Archives: interview

Queer Ghosts and Those Who Find Them: An Interview with Queer Ghost Hunters

When you think ghost hunting, the first names that come to mind are usually Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters. Zak Bagans, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. The majority of popular ghost hunting shows are male dominated, and rather pervasively straight. Men yelling at ghosts and never quite learning much about the ghosts and their lives.

In comes Queer Ghost Hunters and the Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunter; a group of people all across the LGBTQ spectrum with one goal in mind, to find queer ghosts and tell their stories. This group of ghost hunters in the focus of the Queer Ghost Hunters web series, set to broadcast on YouTube in mid-October. Stu Maddux is hard at work placing the finishing touches on the series, so I had the opportunity to talk to three members of the Queer Ghost Hunters team: Scott, Shane, and Kai. These people are only a small sample of the members on the Queer Ghost Hunters team.

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Monsters Of Our Own: Monster Symbolism in the Trans Community

“Scary monsters, super creeps
Keep me running, running scared
Scary monsters, super creeps
Keep me running, running scared” –David Bowie, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

 

Grotesque. Violent. Terrifying. Misunderstood. Sympathetic. These are some words people use to describe monsters, depending on who you are asking and what the monster is. People’s perception of monsters and their existence is ever changing. Monsters often take the shape of the times, evolving to show the current fears and terrors of the world they come to life in. Frankenstein’s monster is much different than the slashers of modern age. The werewolf from an American Werewolf in London may share similarities with the teenagers of Ginger Snaps, but their raison d’être is quite different.

Stephen T. Asma, in his book On Monsters, describes monsters as “extraordinary beings”.  Monsters encompass everything from phobias, to societal woes. They are both unimaginable and plausible. They encompass both the inhuman and human. Monsters are both literal and symbolic. The idea of a monster goes from one pole to the other, captivating and horrifying us. Society holds a very love-hate relationship with monsters and their attractive natures.

This duality of monsters, their appeal on a physical, psychological, cultural, and emotional level speaks to people. Monsters are seen across ages, across time, across the globe. However, the meaning of monsters for people are as varied as the monsters themselves. Even the same monster can mean different things to different people, all based on cultural and personal factors. For some people, monsters hold a deep connection to their very identity and how they see themselves and the world.

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An Interview with Transgender Faith Leader Stephanie Mott

I first met Stephanie Mott in May, 2011. We were fighting for the Manhattan, Kansas commissioners to not repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance passed back in February that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. You read that right, only three months after passing the ordinance the new Manhattan commission was working on revoking the rights of queer Manhattan residents. The anti-discrimination ordinance had made Manhattan, Kansas the second place in Kansas to add not only sexual orientation but gender identity to protected classes of citizens with Lawrence, Kansas being the first. In three short months, we saw these rights being ripped from under us.

We heard arguments from both sides, watching as ministers and fellow residents saying the protection was unnecessary because they had never seen someone discriminated on these bases. These responses came after person after person recounted tales of discrimination based on their gender and their sexual orientation, one of those people being me and another being Stephanie Mott. I remember coming down from speaking, shaking like a leaf. I was red, scared, and nervous. Stephanie hugged me and told me I had done an amazing job and handed me the card for her organization, KSTEP (Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project).

This experience of being given rights and then watching them ripped out from under you and meeting Stephanie are experiences that have changed my life and have shaped many things in the years after. They are stories I recount often as the fight for basic protections continues across the United States and across the world. Stephanie, her kindness, and her story, and her dedication are something I look to frequently as something to strive towards.

What strikes me most about Stephanie is her unwavering faith. Stephanie is a Christian transsexual woman who frequently posts about her religion and its influence on her life. She even has a book titled God Doesn’t Have a Penis, and Other Writings by a Transsexual Christian Woman. She does not let those who question her identity and its intersection with her religion get in her way. This is most evident in her Trans Faith Tour she is currently doing across the country, talking about her experiences as a Christian trans woman.

I recently interviewed Stephanie about her Trans Faith Tour, KSTEP, and several other things.

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Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones

“Prepare to have your assumptions and comforts challenged a bit, and remember that queer people are a part of your human experience,” Philip told me when I asked them what they wanted their non-queer viewers of Gaming in Color to take from the film. Of course the film, which focuses on the experiences of queer gamers in video games, from developers to simple fans, is meant to be about educating others. Philip wanted there to be an easy to consume resource for those who may not be able to influence every gamer they meet to understand the issues queer gamers face.

“Your gaming tendencies will probably feel a bit poked at and criticized, maybe even deconstructed in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that’s often how queer people feel just getting past the hurdle of even turning on a game, assumptions are made and questions are asked and you’re never allowed to just exist in a culture that is hostile or at best neutral but aloof to you.” As Philip states here, gaming is not always perfect when it comes to dealing with queer characters, let alone dealing with queer people within gaming experiences. However, not everything is negative when it comes to the intersections of identity and gaming.

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#CognitiveCissonance

Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, transmisogyny, cissexism

On September 2, the hashtag #CognitiveCissonance made its way around twitter, mostly from trans* people. Started by @AmyDentata, the obvious word play on cognitive dissonance was made to point out the hypocritical and double-standard that many cis people have towards the identities, presentations, and lives of trans* people. For example, the idea that trans women must present en femme to really be women and that trans men must be masculine to truly be male. Cognitive cissonance was a witty way to expose every day trans*phobia and cissexism.

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Cognitive Cissonance became a trend through accident. Being a writer, who enjoys bringing comedy into what she writes, the original tweet was based in snark and wordplay (obviously). What started as an off-the-cuff joke turned into a massive twitter following in the trans* twitter world. Something about the simplicity and catchiness of #cognitivecissonance caught on like a wildfire. People began basing their own tweets off of Amy’s original tweet. “I guess maybe the phrase just happened to describe that phenomenon succinctly enough to drive the point home”, she mentioned when asked why she felt the hashtag became so popular, “I think trans people, myself included obviously, are sick of the double-standards, hypocrisy, and two-faced behaviors that result from cissexism and all the beliefs that go with it.”

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