I hope you all have been watching Strip Search! It’s Tuesday, so that means a new episode is up. I’m a little behind, myself. If you’re somehow not familiar, Strip Search is a reality tv (web) series created by the folks at Penny Arcade’s PATV to find the next big thing in webcomics. It’s like Hell’s Kitchen or America’s Next Top Model, except that I enjoy it. It is seriously my favorite show to watch right now. I love every contestant (who knows how many times I’ve raved about Erika Moen, but you should check out every one of them!) , and the production company, Bionic Trousers, is a brilliant collection of show producers and comedians who created CheckPoint, another thing you should be watching if you like video games.
To put into words what comics mean to me is a series of old, fuzzy memories. I was making comics before I could even read or write. Filling in panels with bright colors of crayons, word balloons that were either empty, or filled with scribbles. I tried to emulate what I saw in the Sunday paper. Later, I would pick up every vibrant issue released by Marvel, DC, and Image that I could get my hands on. In my teens, I worked in a comic shop every summer. I kept drawing, every bit of spare time that I had.
I went to conventions and met my idols as a stammering fanboy. They changed over time. One year I was nearly speechless while meeting Erik Larsen. Then, I was stunned at what a nice guy David Mack was. Chynna Clugston made me believe that I could make stories that weren’t like the ones I grew up with. I was too nervous to talk to Josh Lesnick at an anime convention. Randy Milholland is the nicest person I’ve ever met in comics, and one of the most prolific. Erika Moen remembered me from the start of my comics. I could have fainted. Lucy Knisley made the art that became my wedding invitation.
I don’t mean to name-drop, because I don’t know these people. I met them, briefly, and passing, and followed their works passionately. They just kept on making comics, and showed the world that any number of stories could be told. We didn’t need the old publishing methods, and comics could be whatever we wanted. Their comics helped shape me as a cartoonist.
I neglected Deckle Fetish for a long time. Nearly two years. Comics have been a constant in my life that provided more than I can even put words to. It means a lot to get back to making my own.
What follows is something I’ve wanted to say aloud for a while, and also a shameless promotion for Queerly Beloved.
I don’t do a lot of long-form stuff; most of you probably hear from me in 140 characters or less. Today, however, I’d like to say a little something, because I’m one of the lucky queers who are located in the beautiful bubble that is the San Francisco Bay Area, right at the cusp of Pride weekend.
For most of my adult life, Pride has been an event for me to stand next to a parade, wave and cheer, and possibly have some drinks. It was not unlike Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day when I was in New Orleans. Just with a different crowd. Of course, most of my adult life was spent in areas where the predominant LGBT(etc.) community was actually just GL. I never really had a community of my own. The LGBT community served as a massive umbrella I could exist under, with some shared history, but I didn’t belong to any close-knit community with a shared narrative. I never identified as gay, and for many years identified as bisexual. If you are a bisexual person who has found a bisexual community, I envy you. They are few and far between.
I do not mean to disparage any given community (this is Pride, after all!), only to state that I had a lot of trouble finding the right one for me, where my sexual orientation and identity would fit nicely, and without hesitation. I felt welcome at Pride, but I didn’t feel like I was celebrating anything about myself.
Now to a more cheerful statement: In coming to San Francisco, I discovered a community that I immediately fit right into. Queer porn is a group of supportive, fun people who share much of my own narrative. It’s where I became comfortable in my identity as genderqueer. Where I can be an outspoken, sex-positive, and male-sexed individual who does whatever feels right, and it’s just Queer. Whereas in the past, I’ve cheered from the sidelines and watched other people celebrate their own pride, this weekend, I’m going to El Rio and I’m going to be a part of the celebration.