Queers and Misfits and the Arts

Or “Do I love you because you’re Beautiful, or are you Beautiful because I love you?”


So last week I dyed my hair blue.

No really– I did.

Blue Hair

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t been able to do. What stopped me? It wasn’t what you think. I didn’t give a shit about my classmates thinking I was weird (that ship had saa–ailed)  it was my constant involvement in theater. From the time I was 10 until I graduated high school I went from the final performance of one show to the first rehearsal for the next. Shows where I could not have blue hair, or hair of any color other than my own. I did — briefly– have blue streaks in my hair when I was playing the White Rabbit in “Alice and Wonderland” because my hair would be covered by a hood, but that was it. Also my parents threw an absolute fit about it. Like I was somehow announcing my intent to run away, join the circus, be a drug addict, practice witchcraft and become a lesbi…. well… okay so I did that last one… but none of the others!!!

Then once I was in college I was a serious voice major who was going to be a serious opera singer. Life as a voice major was governed by very specific rules. Must keep hair long. Must wear knee-length or longer skirts to all lessons and dresses to all auditions. Must wear minimal natural looking make up. Must look professional. Must not have any tattoos. Must must must. I can’t even imagine what my voice teachers would have said if I had dyed my hair blue. Things might have exploded.

Then I was a teacher. When one barely looks old enough to be put in charge of a roomful of unruly teenagers, one does not compromise the little respect one earns through a lot of hard work by dying one’s hair blue. Plus my principal already hated me.

Then last week I was at Meijer (oh Michigan I love you and your Meijers!!!) and realized that none of those rules currently apply to me!! I’m not actively performing, or teaching, or singing, or directly in charge of children. So I thought eff it! I’m gonna dye my hair blue.

Now I will admit to a moment of trepidation at the thought of my supervisors at this internship. These are people I admire and respect and want to be confident in their opinion of me when I ask them for job recommendations. I did consider what their reaction to my dying my hair blue might be, decided it would probably be fine and took the leap.

And my bosses all love it. No respect lost, no scornful looks. Reactions ranged from a mild, “I like the hair” to “We should take a picture of you for our staff uniform example page.” Most people didn’t blink an eye. My favorite encounter was a woman who was on campus for a performance (I could tell because she wasn’t wearing the uniform) who approached me. She was clearly a suburban mom, a person I would not be surprised to receive dirty looks or raised eyebrows from on the street. Instead she came over and stopped me to say, “I just love your hair! It’s so Interlochen! And it makes your eyes look so beautiful.” So shame on me for judging her on appearance when she clearly didn’t judge me on mine.

All this is to lead up to my topic of the day.

Which is– in case you’ve lost track, and I don’t blame you if you have– Queers, Misfits and the Arts.

It’s one of those common knowledge things (I mean, I guess it’s common knowledge, isn’t it?) that artist/creative type people are a little out there. A little weird. A little strange. We’re the people who cover our cello cases with stickers of alternative bands and calls for world peace and coexistence. We’re the ones who wear odd combinations of clothes, get things pierced and dye our hair strange colors. In the artist’s world (and by artist I mean visual, writing, creative, performing and any other I can’t think of) these things are a totally normal means of expression.

It’s also totally normal, in the artistic world, to be queer. XY chromosomal type humans involved in musical theater, opera and ballet are just as, if not more likely, to be attracted to other XY chromosomal type humans as those of the XX variety. The very first gay people I ever knew I met doing community theater. I started doing theater very very young, and I don’t remember anyone ever explaining to me what it meant to be gay. I just understood that Scott and Mike loved each other the way my parents loved each other. I didn’t find anything unusual or strange about it (cue South Pacific’s “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught”). I didn’t know any lesbians (at least closely, though I was aware that my 5th grade teacher was lesbian) but I knew that they existed. The older I got and the more people in the Arts I met, the more gay people I knew.

From the beginning I remember feeling like that creative, artistic and queer group of people was the only place I belonged. I remember just knowing that this was my tribe. These were my people. People who understood me and accepted me just as I was. When I came out it was my creative and artistic friends who were most enthusiastic and supportive. I was very lucky because there weren’t a lot of people who were unsupportive, but it was my tribe of arts peeps that threw me a coming out party and plastered my facebook profile with “You go Girl!” “Yay for you!” “Congrats and loving who you are!” comments, often from people I had lost touch with long ago.

Everywhere I go, it is the artistic people around me that I am drawn too. They are my closest friends. The ones who inspire me and support me no matter what. It’s one of the most wonderful things about this internship– that I am surrounded by artistic, creative people all the time. It fills my soul to be here– and I know that sounds hokey and cheesy and cliche, but it’s true. I am surrounded by dancers and musicians and visual artists and writers. Campers and staff alike we are all bound by excitement and love for things that most of the world barely tolerates and doesn’t understand. Most of our lives we are alone in a sea of people who simply don’t understand the way our brain works and our heart beats. But here, we are united.

Here I am not the only person with unnaturally colored hair. Strange shoes and accessories are encouraged and applauded. Here it is not uncommon to overhear teenagers talking about Opera singers and film score writers with the same giddiness and reverence as others have for [insert pop culture reference here]. Here all forms of gender identity are embraced and accepted. Here staff instructions about what to do if we find campers making out in the listening rooms include scenarios for all possible gender combinations of the couples. Here it is just as common to see two guys or two girls holding hands as hetero couples. Here when I mentioned having a cat to one of my supervisors, she good naturedly teased “Well, you’re a librarian and a lesbian, so isn’t that like the law? Do you drive a subaru too?” Here it’s not that no one minds that I’m gay, it’s that no one thinks it’s anything other than normal.

I realize that is a fine line of difference my friend, but it makes ALL the difference. There is a big difference between apathy and support. Apathy is ‘it doesn’t directly affect me so I don’t care enough to do/say anything about it.’  Support is ‘of course that is totally normal and awesome and I will defend you if anyone is stupid enough to say it isn’t.’
There. Is. A Difference.
This will perhaps be a separate blog post at some point. Stay tuned.

ANYWAY…this makes me wonder what it is about the Arts and Queers and Misfits? Do we (queers and misfits) flock to the arts because it welcomes us? Or does it welcome us because we flock to it? Is it just that at some point there were enough of us in the arts that there was no choice but to embrace our differentness and welcome all fellow misfits into the gang? Or is there something in our out-of-the-box, differently gender/sexual identifies selves that has a burning need to express it in an individual and creative way? Do we seek the Arts tribe because we have been rejected by mainstream? Or do we reject the mainstream because we are accepted by the Arts tribe?

It’s like the song from Cinderella, “Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?”


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