Hello there, I’m Dylan! I’m a genderfluid queer artist with a love for vibrant colors mixed with disgusting or unsettling visuals. I like to pull from my dreams and nightmares to create my horror pieces, and this illustration is no different. I have been having a lot of dreams involving rodents and the feeling of wet skin brushing against my own. I made this piece to showcase that uncomfortable feeling.
Horror fiction, ghost stories, monster movies: they’ve always summed up my uncomfortable relationship with my body and my gender in ways that other genres don’t quite touch on. In horror bodies are shown as they can be: strange, often gross, malleable, fascinating, uncontrollable, constricted by the pressure of meeting arbitrary rules and standards where a misstep can seem, or can be, dangerous. Queer is coded as uncanny, seductive, violent. Under these circumstances a ghost disassociates; a monster lashes out; a person turns inwards or outwards but always away from themselves.
When people critique femininity, they proclaim that femininity is weak, unnatural, and artificial. Many of the traits that people associate with femininity are seen as inferior, such as emotional, sensitive, grace, innocence, feminine styles of dress (such as colorful attire), especially when compared to their masculine counterparts. However, I find this kind of absurd when compared to how fragile masculinity actually is. It is threatened and questioned, potentially even destroyed, by being near femininity. Even associations with femininity cause chaos in the stability of masculinity.
Masculinity, especially the masculinity of cisgender straight men, is constantly under threat from femininity. Masculinity is something so fragile, that they fear to breathe the same air as someone who is feminine, especially someone they perceive as male (whether this is correct or not). For something seen as so weak and so inferior, masculinity is certainly on shaky ground. This ground becomes increasingly shakier the more masculine a person becomes. It becomes increasingly fragile the closer someone gets to hypermasculinity or idealized masculinity. It becomes threatened by something as small as painted nails.
In an attempt to stop biting my nails, I wore fake nails with sparkling purple nail polish on them. People stared at my hands. They refused to touch me. They acted as if touching me would somehow have them catch The Gay. People would take bags from me at work, avoiding at all cost touching me. The overwhelming majority were men. They were threatened by my blatant display of femininity, seen as more over the line than my long hair. It’s absurd that we see femininity as weak when masculinity is defeated and threatened so easily. How can femininity be seen as weak when masculinity is threatened by a dude with painted fingernails? A small dude, nonetheless, with painted fingernails who is 100lbs soaking wet. Yet we see masculinity as strength?
Fire is destructive. Fire is consuming. Fire is all encompassing. Fire utterly destroys and devastates. When you complain about people fighting fire with fire, you are complaining that people are fighting destructive forces. It implies that, like the fire we are fighting, it consumes and destroys. It implies that the fire we are using has the power to utterly destroy at a massive scale. It doesn’t. At most, you get a burnt fingertip, like when you snub out a candle with your fingers, or you touch a too hot tea cup. We are not fighting fire with fire, we are fighting a blazing inferno named society with lawn sprinklers, the kind kids play in.
We are using these sprinklers to clear out whatever small semblance of safety we can claw together for a brief time, because as fire does, it intrudes and forces its way back in, only to engulf that space once more. We are clawing through the ash in an attempt to make a small comfortable bed among the rubble. It’s us trying to make this burning building somewhat comfortable for a mere second. Even if we all grabbed buckets and pails, fighting this fire together, our numbers would not be enough. Our efforts are but small and useless in comparison to the raging inferno we are facing. You don’t try to put out high rise with buckets and pails. You need more force, you need more power.